An unfortunate misconception among today’s American Muslim community is that Islam has only been present in America for less than 100 years. Many American Muslims are children of immigrants who came to the United States from the Middle East and South Asia in the mid-nineteenth century, and thus wrongly assume that the first Muslims in America were those immigrants. The reality, however, is that Islam has been in America for far longer than that. Besides possible pre-Colombian Muslim explorers from al-Andalus and West Africa, Islam arrived on America’s shores in waves through the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. While hundreds of thousands of slaves arrived in America during this time, the stories of only a few have been preserved and are known today. One of the most enduring and unique is that of Bilali Muhammad.
An unfortunate misconception among today's American Muslim community is that Islam has only been present in America for less than 100 years. Many Amer...
We are pleased to announce that pre-orders for the upcoming Lost Islamic History book are now open! You can pre-order from Hurst Publishers by clickin...
Coffee About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily routines. And...
Barmakid Family (600s-900s) The Barmakids were a family of Buddhist administrators from the city of Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan. When the Uma...
An unfortunate misconception among today's American Muslim community is that Islam has only been present in America for less than 100 years....
In Islamic sciences, all knowledge of the religion comes back to two sources: the Quran and the sayi...
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ promised that every century, a re-newer o...
The awakening of Europe from the Dark Ages and the subsequen...
The following is a translation from the opening pages Ibn Kh...
Coffee About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily rou...
Barmakid Family (600s-900s) The Barmakids were a family o...
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ promised that every century, a re-newer o...
One of the most enduring (and incorrect) accusations made ab...
Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim Civilisation From The Past covers the rise and fall of Islamic history from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the rise of modern nation states. Too often books on Islamic history only focus on the Middle East. This book covers all aspects of Islamic history, including Africa, Spain, India, China, Southeast Asia, and even American slavery! Inventions, scientists, and the history of Islamic studies is also highlighted. This book will be more than just a collection of facts and articles from the Lost Islamic History website; it will be a full and balanced history of the Muslim world.
The pre-order price is £12.99, and includes free shipping worldwide! It will be shipped out in May!
Alhamdulillah, I am pleased to announce that a Lost Islamic History book is coming soon! The book is currently in the works and will be published by Hurst Publishers in early 2014 inshAllah (God-willing).
Since I started Lost Islamic History a year ago, the feedback has been incredible. There is clearly a thirst for knowledge about Islamic history that people want to satisfy. A lot of readers have also asked which books can be relied upon as sources for learning more about the history of Muslim civilization. Unfortunately, most books that cover Islamic history are either horribly biased, or focus excessively on Arab/Turkish history and ignore the rest of the Muslim world. A huge void exists as very few books address Islamic history honestly and completely.
You can expect that this book will be a balanced study of the history of Muslim civilization, that will try to encompass as much of it as possible, without being too high-brow or academic. Topics covered in the book will include the life of the Prophet ﷺ, the Muslim Golden Age, the evolution of divergent sects, Muslim civilizations in Africa and Asia, and many others, inshAllah. This will not simply be a collection of Lost Islamic History’s old articles. It will be the full story of the Islamic world, from Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to the 20th century.
As more information about the book is finalized, including the final title, cover art, and where you can purchase it, I will be sure to update everyone, leading up to the book’s publication.
I ask for your dua’a (prayers) that this book is successful and helps portray a side of Islamic history that is rarely seen.
Thank you for everyone’s support of the Lost Islamic History project,
Author, Lost Islamic History
About 1,600,000,000 cups of coffee are consumed every day around the world. Billions of people rely on it as part of their daily routines. And yet, very few people are aware of the Muslim origins of this ubiquitous drink.
After the end of the Rightly Guided Caliphate, in which Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali led the Muslim world, the caliphate came to the Umayyad family in 661. Mu’awiya, the first Umayyad caliph, led the Muslim world from his capital of Damascus, and passed on rule to his son, Yazid, in 680. This marked the beginning of the caliphate being a family dynasty, as it would continue until its abolition in 1924. During the 1292 years of the caliphate, the title has passed a few times between different families. The first time this happened was during the upheaval of the late 740s, when the Abbasid family overthrew the Umayyads and came to power, establishing one of the most powerful Muslim empires of all time.
Barmakid Family (600s-900s)
The Barmakids were a family of Buddhist administrators from the city of Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan. When the Umayyad Caliphate conquered the area in the the mid-600s, the family converted to Islam. After the Abbasid Revolution in 750, the Barmakids rose to prominence as talented administrators. They carried with them centuries of experience in the Persian Empire of how to manage large government bureaucracies, something the Arab Abbasid caliphs were ignorant of.
As viziers, they exercised great influence on the formation of the empire in the late 8th century. Yahya ibn Khalid al-Barmaki was particularly influential. He was appointed as the tutor and mentor to the young Harun al-Rashid, who would go on to become the caliph during which the Abbasids had their golden age. Under his tutelage, Harun al-Rashid managed to establish peace with the empire’s neighbors, exponential economic growth, the patronage of scholars, and a system of infrastructure that rivaled that of ancient Rome. The Barmakid family as a whole thus had a huge impact on the political shape of the Muslim world that would continue for centuries.
Berke Khan (Unknown-1266)
As the grandson of the great Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan, Berke Khan was an important figure in the Mongol world in the mid-1200s. Like other Mongols, he originally practiced a form of pagan shamanism. As the leader in the Golden Horde – a Mongol army – he was sent to the North Caucasus Mountains and Eastern Europe to subdue the Kipchak Turks. He eventually managed to lead armies all the way into Hungary.
Then during his travels back towards the Mongol homeland, he stopped in Bukhara where he questioned local Muslims about their beliefs. He was convinced of the message of Islam and converted, becoming the first Mongol leader to accept Islam. After his conversion, many of the soldiers in his army also converted, leading to tension with the other Mongol armies, who were ravaging Muslim lands, including the ancient capital of the Abbasids, Baghdad.
After hearing of the sack of Baghdad in 1258 by his cousin, Hulagu Khan, Berke promised vengance, declaring, ”He (Hulagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims, and has brought about the death of the Caliph. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood.” By allying with the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, Berke managed to hold back Hulagu’s army enough to prevent a major invasion (and destruction) of the remainder of Muslim lands in Egypt, Syria, and the Hijaz.
Zağanos Pasha (Unknown-1461)
Of Greek or Albanian origin, Zağanos Pasha was drafted into the elite Janissary corps of the Ottoman Empire as a child. Like other Janissaries, he was educated in Islam, civil administration, and military matters. He was soon appointed as a mentor and advisor for a young Mehmed II, who would later become the seventh sultan in the Ottoman dynasty.
When Mehmed became sultan, he appointed Zağanos Pasha as his second vizier. Zağanos Pasha was commonly consulted on all matters of state, especially the siege and conquest of Constantinople in 1453. During the siege, he was given command of a section of the army north of the city, and his troops were among the first to successfully capture a portion of Constantinople’s legendary walls. His legacy lives today in the numerous endowments (including mosques, soup kitchens, and public baths) in his hometown of Balikesir as well as in Edirne.
Ibrahim Muteferrika (1674-1745)
A common accusation thrown at the Ottoman Empire is that it was intellectually stagnant and resistant to any innovation. A Hungarian convert to Islam – Ibrahim Muteferrika – flies in the face of that idea. He was originally an Ottoman diplomat who managed to cultivate close relations between the Ottoman Empire and France and Sweden. As a result of his diplomatic work, he was exposed to European ideas on the Renaissance and the ubiquitous use of the printing press.
Back in Istanbul, he established a printing press, where he printed copies of atlases, dictionaries, and some religious books. Among his published works was a world atlas made by the famous geographer Katip Çelebi, which illustrates the entire known world at that time in incredible detail and precision. Besides simply printing books, Muteferrika also wrote on numerous subjects, including history, theology, sociology, and astronomy.
Alexander Russel Webb (1846-1916)
In late 19th century America, journalism was beginning to take off as an effective and influential medium for influencing the public. One of the men who helped spur this journalistic wave was Alexander Russell Webb. Unconvinced about his Christian religion, and being a well-read journalist, he began to read extensively about other religions, and was particularly interested in Islam. When he was appointed by the U.S. State Department to work in the American embassy in the Philippines in 1887, he took the opportunity to begin a correspondence with Muslims in India about Islam.
Although he was originally introduced to Islam through members of the unorthodox (and frankly, un-Islamic) Ahmadiyya Movement, he eventually found a path to mainstream Islam. He proceeded to travel throughout the Muslim world, studying Islam and meeting with scholars. In 1893, he resigned his post at the State Department and returned to America. Back in the United States, he published numerous books on Islam and started an Islamic newspaper explaining the religion to the American public. In the early decades of the 20th century, he continued to be a prominent voice for Islam in the United States, even being appointed an honorary Ottoman consul by Sultan Abdulhamid II. He died in 1916 and was buried outside Rutherford, New Jersey.
Malcolm X (1925-1965)
Unlike others on this list, Malcolm X is hardly a man who needs much introduction. Early in his life, he struggled finding his role in the world. After dropping out of school early, he constantly found himself in trouble, eventually landing himself in jail in 1946. During his 8 years in prison, he was exposed to the ideas of the Nation of Islam – a pseudo-Islamic group founded in the early 1900s based on the ideas of black supremacy and the evil of the white race. After being released in 1952, he met with the “prophet” of the NOI, Elijah Muhammad, and became a minister for the group.
Due to his eloquence and incredible intelligence, Malcolm X quickly rose through the ranks of the NOI, becoming a leader of the group by the mid-1950s. As this was the era of the American Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X became one of the foremost voices in America advocating for equal rights for African Americans. Contrary to another great leader, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X believed black people should defend themselves – even violently – if needed due to government oppression.
By the late 1950s, Malcolm X began to see some holes in the beliefs and ideas of the Nation of Islam movement. He left the group and embarked on a journey to find what true Islam is. He went to Hajj in 1964, then proceeded to tour Muslim and African countries. During this time he accepted true Islam and came back to America with a new found determination to spread Islam among the African American community. He also changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, although most people still knew him as Malcolm X.
His public speaking on behalf of Islam and against the Nation of Islam made him many enemies among his old allies, especially when many of his fans began to leave the Nation in favor of mainstream Islam. The result of this was his assassination in 1965 at the hands of Nation of Islam thugs. Although his time as a Muslim was short, he was remarkably influential and continues to serve as a symbol for American Muslims and civil rights activists in the United States.
In Islamic sciences, all knowledge of the religion comes back to two sources: the Quran and the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – the hadith. The Quran is of course considered the un-changed word of Allah as revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and is thus the foundation of all Islamic knowledge. Second after the Quran is the example set forth by the Prophet ﷺ.
But considering that he lived 1400 years ago, how can we be sure that the sayings and doings we attribute to him are real and unchanged? To someone unfamiliar with the science of hadith, the collections of hadith may seem unreliable and susceptible to corruption. However, due to the work of Imam Muhammad al-Bukhari in the 9th century, the science of hadith has been protected from such problems using a systematic and thorough method of verification for each and every saying attributed to the Prophet ﷺ. Thus, in the 21st century we can still benefit directly from the authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The land of Iraq is home to some of the most ancient and precious civilizations in history. In the Mesopotamian valley that encompasses the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Babylonia, the world’s first empire was born. Writing was first developed along the banks of the rivers with tablets made of clay. Advanced government bureaucracies were first implemented here. It is truly one of the cradles of human civilization.
And when Islam was revealed in the deserts of Arabia south of Mesopotamia, the people of Iraq were some of the first to accept Islam outside of the Arabian Peninsula during the caliphate of Abu Bakr. As Islamic history went on, Iraq became one of the centers of the Muslim world, with Baghdad being established in the 8th century as the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. Politics, culture, science, and religion all flourished here in early Islamic history. After the Mongol invasion, however, Iraq’s importance declined, it eventually became a part of the Ottoman Empire from the early 1500s until the end of the empire in the First World War. After the war, it was organized into a British-controlled mandate, which sought to create an independent nation-state in this ancient land.
Which brings us to the question: what is Iraq? The British assumed they’d find a homogeneous people in this land that would easily coalesce into one united nation, but the reality has been much more complicated. When the British drew Iraq’s borders, the people within those false borders were of different ethnic groups, religious beliefs, and languages, yet they were all expected to adopt a new identity – Iraqi – and function as a modern nationalistic European nation. This article will address the origins of these problems of identity in 20th century Iraq.
The evolution of Turkey in the early 1900s is one of the most baffling cultural and social changes in Islamic history. In a few short years, the Ottoman Empire was brought down from within, stripped of its Islamic history, and devolved into a new secular nation known as Turkey. The consequences of this change are still being felt today throughout the Muslim world, and especially in a very polarized and ideologically segmented Turkey.
What caused this monumental change in Turkish government and society? At the center of it all is Mustafa Kemal, better known as Atatürk. Through his leadership in the 1920s and 1930s, modern secular Turkey was born, and Islam took a backseat in Turkish society.
One of the recurring themes of Islamic history is that disunity in the Muslim world has consistently led to weakness and the decline of one-powerful empires. One of the most clear examples of this was the taifa period of al-Andalus – Muslim Spain – in the 11th century. In the 700s, al-Andalus was established as a powerful and prosperous province under the Umayyads. After the Abbasid revolution of 750, al-Andalus became an autonomous state under the sovereignty of what remained of the Umayyad dynasty.
Al-Andalus reached its peak around the year 1000. The Umayyad Caliphate of Cordoba was the most powerful state in Western Europe politically as well as economically. The artistic, academic, and social achievements of al-Andalus rivaled that of any other part of the Muslim world at that time, including the advanced civilizations in Iraq, Egypt, and Persia. However, within 50 years, all that would change. Al-Andalus would go from being one powerful united state, to one that is divided, vulnerable to invasion, and politically dependent on outsiders. This time, known as the Taifa Period, sowed the seeds for the decline of al-Andalus and its eventual fall in 1492.