In today’s political climate, when you hear Islam and the USA in the same sentence, it typically conjures images of minority issues, a terrorist attack, or an urgent need for peace in the Middle East. However, the relationship between this young nation in a distant land and Islam and Muslims dates back to the very founding years.
We’ve compiled nine interesting pieces of information that shed light on this history, which we think you’ll find intriguing. So, let’s travel together to the other side of the world, a few centuries back in time.
The United States’ Oldest Diplomatic Agreement
In 1777, Morocco became the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the United States. This agreement remains unbroken to this day and holds the distinction of being the United States’ oldest diplomatic treaty.
The Mameluke Sword Carried by U.S. Marine Corps Officers
In 1805, after the Battle of Derna, American Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon received a Mameluke sword from a Mameluke chieftain in North Africa. U.S. Marine Corps officers still carry this sword to this day.
The Lead Author of the Declaration of Independence’s Copy of the Quran
It is known that Thomas Jefferson, the lead author of the Declaration of Independence, purchased a copy of the Quran and attempted to learn Arabic while studying law. This copy remains in the core collection of the Library of Congress to this day.
America’s First Muslim
Estevanico, a Moroccan slave, is recorded as the first Muslim presence in America after surviving a shipwreck near what is now the region of Galveston, Texas. This event took place in 1528, long before the founding of the United States, just 38 years after Christopher Columbus set foot on the continent.
Cities in America Named Medina and Mecca
In the United States, there are at least twelve cities named Medina and at least eight named Mecca. An interesting incident occurred in 1818 in Ohio: a city was founded with the name Mecca, but since there was another nearby city with the same name, they named it Medina. The city has been known as Medina ever since.
Muslim Soldiers in the American War of Independence
The records of the famous American Revolutionary War, which resulted in the formation of European colonies, include the names of two Muslim soldiers, Yusuf bin Ali and Bampett Muhamed. It’s quite fascinating to find non-European or Native American individuals on the stage of this war.
The Inclusion of the Prophet Muhammad in Figures of Justice in History
The “Figures of Justice in History” relief on the wall of the U.S. Supreme Court Building features the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). While some view this as a gesture, it received criticism from Muslim leaders in the 1990s for going against the tradition of not depicting the Prophet.
A Description of Muslim Slaves by the Grandson of a Congressman
A significant Muslim migration to America occurred nearly 400 years ago. It’s estimated that this population was comprised of 600,000 to 1.2 million African slaves. The grandson of a congressman described these slaves unfavorably, saying, “Fresh from the darkest Africa, some of them Mauretanian and some Arab by descent; devout Muslims who pray to Allah morning, noon, and night.”
The Place of Islam in the Evolution of Civilization
The dome in the main reading room of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is adorned with a mural called “The Evolution of Civilization.” This mural depicts milestones in the development of civilization, and one era represents the field of physical sciences, bearing the name “Islam.”