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"This historical study is ground-breaking not only in its theme but also its approach, which can be described as pan-Africanist to the extent that it relates the histories of these deported Muslims to the political upheavals of medieval Africa...; forges links between the varied sites of their dispersal from the 16th to the 19th century...; and examines the issue of return to Africa and the lineage (or the absence thereof) of this first American Islam."
--Sylvie Kande;, QBR Jan/Feb '99
"Servants of Allah is constructed in a highly classical manner: the sobriety of its analysis lets the facts speak for themselves, with a minimum of editorializing; it is structured logically and symmetrically in a manner that illuminates the nodal point of the Muslim's distinctiveness within the slave system, namely, their mastery of writing....Servants of Allah has a wealth of arguments that provoke reflection and that will not leave the reader indifferent or lacking in references for further reading."
-- Quarterly Black Review
"Sylviane A. Diouf's book makes a major contribution by focusing on Muslim participation in the slave trade and Muslims' impacts on the Americas. (...) Diouf presents a convincing and original picture of the life of enslaved Muslims, who, she claims, remained primarily servants of Allah than subjects of Christian masters. (...) The chapter on resistance and revolts is especially interesting. According to the author, Muslims, as a result of their literacy and military skills, played essential roles in the Haitian Revolution and the early-nineteenth-century revolts in Bahia.
Diouf's well-written and interesting book opens new avenues of inquiry and research. It will interest and perhaps inspire students of the African diaspora and slavery in the Americas."
--Journal of American History
"Sylviane Diouf's Servants of Allah is a welcome contribution to our understanding of a critical moment in the African Diaspora. Her focus is the collective experience of African Muslims enslaved in the New World. Diouf's premise is that Muslims maintained their religious and cultural integrity, indeed their identity, in the face of daunting odds. (...)
The author's insight into Islamic almsgiving in the form of saraka cakes in the Georgia Sea islands is intriguing. The section on Muslim dress in the third chapter is well presented. Perhaps the most fascinating parts of the work concern the probability that Muslim holy books were transferred from the Old World to the New via networks of black sailors and that the blues are most likely informed by the musical creativity of West African Muslims".
--Journal of Southern History
Despite the explosion in work on African American and religious history, little is known about Black Muslims who came to America as slaves. Most assume that what Muslim faith any Africans did bring with them was quickly absorbed into the new Christian milieu. But, surprisingly, as Sylviane Diouf shows in this new, meticulously researched volume, Islam flourished during slavery on a large scale.
Servants of Allah presents a history of African Muslim slaves, following them from Africa to the Americas. It details how, even while enslaved many Black Muslims managed to follow most of the precepts of their religion. Literate, urban, and well traveled, Black Muslims drew on their organization and the strength of their beliefs to play a major part in the most well known slave uprisings. Though Islam did not survive in the Americas in its orthodox form, its mark can be found in certain religions, traditions, and artistic creations of people of African descent.
But for all their accomplishments and contributions to the cultures of the African Diaspora, the Muslim slaves have been largely ignored. Servants of Allah is the first book to examine the role of Islam in the lives of both individual practitioners and in the American slave community as a whole, while also shedding light on the legacy of Islam in today's American and Caribbean cultures.
Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 1999.