Islam is the third largest religion in the United States after Christianity and Judaism.According to a 2010 study, it is followed by 0.9% of the population, compared with 70.6% who follow Christianity, 22.8% unaffiliated, 1.9% Judaism, 0.7% Buddhism, and 0.7% Hinduism. According to a newer estimate done in 2016, there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, about 1% of the total U.S. population.
American Muslims come from various backgrounds and, according to a 2009 Gallup poll, are one of the most racially diverse religious groups in the United States.Native-born American Muslims are mainly African Americans who make up about a quarter of the total Muslim population. Many of these have converted to Islam during the last seventy years. Conversion to Islam in large urban areas has also contributed to its growth over the years.
While an estimated 10 to 30 percent of the slaves brought to colonial America from Africa arrived as Muslims, Islam was stringently suppressed on plantations.Prior to the late 19th century, most documented non-enslaved Muslims in North America were merchants, travelers, and sailors.
From the 1880s to 1914, several thousand Muslims immigrated to the United Statesfrom the former territories of the Ottoman Empire and the former Mughal Empire.The Muslim population of the U.S. increased dramatically in the 20th century, with much of the growth driven by a comparatively high birth rate and immigrant communities of mainly Arab and South Asian descent. About 72% of American Muslims are immigrants or "second generation".
In 2005, more people from Muslim-majority countries became legal permanent United States residents—nearly 96,000—than there had been in any other year in the previous two decades. In 2009, more than 115,000 Muslims became legal residents of the United States.
One of the earliest accounts of Islam's possible presence in North America dates to 1528, when a Moroccan slave, called Estevanico, was shipwrecked near present-day Galveston, Texas. He and four survivors subsequently traveled through much of the American southwest and the Mexican interior before reaching Mexico City.
"Muslims' presence [in the United States] is affirmed in documents dated more than a century before religious liberty became the law of the land, as in a Virginia statute of 1682 which referred to 'negroes, moores, molatoes, and others, born of and in heathenish, idollatrous, pagan, and Mahometan parentage and country' who 'heretofore and hereafter may be purchased, procured, or otherwise obteigned, as slaves.'"
An early Egyptian and possible Muslim immigrant is mentioned in the accounts of the Dutch settlers of the Catskill Mountains and recorded in the 1884 History of Greene County, New York. According to this tradition, an Egyptian named "Norsereddin" settled in the Catskills in the vicinity of the Catskill Mountain House. He befriended the local indigenous American chief, Shandaken, and sought the hand of his daughter Lotowana in marriage. Rejected, he poisoned Lotowana and in consequence was caught and burned alive.
Records from the American Revolutionary War indicate that at least a few likely Muslims fought on the American side. Among the recorded names of American soldiers are "Yusuf ben Ali" (a member of the Turks of South Carolina community), "Bampett Muhamed" and possibly Peter Salem.
The first country to recognize the United States as an independent nation was the Sultanate of Morocco, under its rulerMohammed ben Abdallah, in the year 1777. He maintained several correspondences with President George Washington.
Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad was a Fula Muslim from Timbo, Futa-Jallon, in present-day Guinea-Conakry, who arrived atSapelo Island during 1803. While enslaved, he became the religious leader and Imam for a slave community numbering approximately eighty Muslim men residing on his plantation. During the War of 1812, Muhammad and the eighty Muslim men under his leadership protected their master's Sapelo Island property from a British attack. He is known to have fasted during the month of Ramadan, worn a fez and kaftan, and observed the Muslim feasts, in addition to consistently performing the five obligatory prayers. In 1829, Bilali authored a thirteen-page Arabic Risala on Islamic beliefs and the rules for ablution, morning prayer, and the calls to prayer. Known as the Bilali Document, it is currently housed at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Between 1785 and 1815, over a hundred American sailors were held for ransom in Algiers. Several wrote captivity narratives of their experiences that gave most Americans their first view of the Arab World and Muslim ways, and newspapers often commented on them. The views were generally negative. Royall Tyler wrote The Algerine Captive(1797), an early American novel depicting the life of an American doctor employed in the slave trade who himself is captured and enslaved by Barbary pirates. Finally Presidents Jefferson and Madison sent the American navy to confront the pirates, and ended the threat in 1815 during the First Barbary War. During negotiation of the treaty of peace which ended hostilities, American envoys made clear that the United States had no animosity towards any Muslim country.
On the morning of April 4, 1865, near the end of the American Civil War, Union troops commanded by Col. Thomas M. Johnston set ablaze the University of Alabama; a copy of the Quran known as the The Koran: Commonly Called The Alcoran Of Mohammed was saved by one of the University's staff.
Two hundred and ninety-two Muslims are known to have fought during the Civil War. The highest-ranking Muslim officer in the Union Army was Captain Moses Osman. Nicholas Said, formerly enslaved to an Arab master, came to the United States in 1860 and found a teaching job in Detroit. In 1863, Said enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the United States Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. He was later granted a transfer to a military hospital, where he gained some knowledge of medicine. His Army records state that he died in Brownsville, Tennessee, in 1882. Another Muslim soldier from the Civil War was Max Hassan, an African who worked for the military as a porter.
A Muslim named Hajj Ali (commonly spelled as "Hi Jolly") was hired by the United States Cavalry in 1856 to tend camels in Arizona and California. He would later become a prospector in Arizona. Hajj Ali died in 1903.
During the American Civil war, the "scorched earth" policy of the North destroyed churches, farms, schools, libraries, colleges, and a great deal of other property. The libraries at the University of Alabama managed to save one book from the debris of their library buildings. On the morning of April 4, 1865, when Federal troops reached the campus with an order to destroy the university, Andre Deloffre, a modern language professor and custodian of the library, appealed to the commanding officer to spare one of the finest libraries in the South. The officer, being sympathetic, sent a courier to Gen. Croxton at his headquarters in Tuscaloosa asking permission to save the Rotunda, but the general refused to allow this. The officer reportedly said, "I will save one volume as a memento of this occasion." The volume selected was a rare copy of the Qur'an.
Alexander Russell Webb is considered by historians to be the earliest prominent Anglo-American convert to Islam in 1888. In 1893, he was the sole representative of Islam at the first Parliament of the World's Religions. The Russian-born Muslim scholar and writer Achmed Abdullah (1881–1945) was another prominent early American Muslim.
Some of the slaves brought to colonial America from Africa were Muslims whose ancestors were converted to Islam by Arab invaders when they conquered most of North Africa.Between 1701 and 1800, some 500,000 Africans arrived in what became the United States. Historians estimate that between 15 and 30 percent of all enslaved African men and less than 15 percent of the enslaved African women were Muslims. According to 21st century researchers Donna Meigs-Jaques and R. Kevin Jaques, "[t]hese enslaved Muslims stood out from their compatriots because of their resistance, determination and education."
It is estimated that over 50% of the slaves imported to North America came from areas where Islam was followed by at least a minority population. Thus, no less than 200,000 came from regions influenced by Islam. Substantial numbers originated from Senegambia, a region with an established community of Muslim inhabitants extending to the 11th century.
Through a series of conflicts, primarily with the Fulani jihad states, about half of the Senegambian Mandinka were converted to Islam, while as many as a third were sold into slavery to the Americas through capture in conflict.
Michael A. Gomez speculated that Muslim slaves may have accounted for "thousands, if not tens of thousands", but does not offer a precise estimate. He also suggests many non-Muslim slaves were acquainted with some tenets of Islam, due to Muslim trading and proselytizing activities. Historical records indicate many enslaved Muslims conversed in the Arabic language. Some even composed literature (such as autobiographies) and commentaries on the Quran.
Some newly arrived Muslim slaves assembled for communal salat (prayers). Some were provided a private praying area by their owner. The two best documented Muslim slaves were Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and Omar Ibn Said. Suleiman was brought to America in 1731 and returned to Africa in 1734. Like many Muslim slaves, he often encountered impediments when attempting to perform religious rituals and was eventually allotted a private location for prayer by his master.
Omar Ibn Said (c. 1770–1864) is among the best documented examples of a practicing-Muslim slave. He lived on a colonial North Carolina plantation and wrote many Arabic texts while enslaved. Born in the kingdom of Futa Tooro (modernSenegal), he arrived in America in 1807, one month before the U.S. abolished importation of slaves. Some of his works include the Lords Prayer, the Bismillah, this is How You Pray, Quranic phases, the 23rd Psalm, and an autobiography. In 1857, he produced his last known writing on Surah 110 of the Quran. In 1819, Omar received an Arabic translation of the Christian Bible from his master, James Owen. Omar converted to Christianity in 1820, an episode widely used throughout the South to "prove" the benevolence of slavery. However, some scholars believe he continued to be a practicing Muslim, based on dedications to Muhammad written in his Bible.