Estevanico was an explorer who lived between 1503- 1539 who was reported to have explored the Gulf Coast, some of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Estevanico was a slave of Andres Donates de Carranza, who joined an expedition for the Governor of Mexico to find wealth in neighboring lands.  When several hurricanes hit, the captain of the ship deserted them and left 250 passengers stranded.  Four of them, one of whom was Estevanico, survived and landed near what is now Galveston, Texas.  During their travels back to Mexico, all four were taken as hostages by Native Americans.  While in captivity, Estevanico learned the languages of several natives. He also learned to communicate with them with Native American hand signs. After escaping, he made it back to Mexico by posing as a Native American medicine man.   He came back to Mexico and was asked to tell his stories.  His stories were so remarkable that  he  was asked to lead an expedition north into what is present day Arizona.  He was killed by Zuni Native Americans before he could return to Mexico tell his more stories of his great adventures.

Although Estevanico was a slave, he was not the kind of slave that one typically thinks about when slavery is mentioned in America.  Instead Estevanico was considered to be a Morisco.  A Morisco is a person who is a descendent of someone who lived in Spain under the Andalusian Empire,  but was exiled or forced to become baptized as a Catholic after the Inquisition of 1492.  The Andalusian Empire was ruled by Muslims for about 700’s years and consisted of both light skinned and dark skinned Moors, some of whom came from Arab descent, and some of whom came from Spanish descent, but converted to Islam during the time when Muslims were flourishing in Spain.

When Moriscos were expelled from Spain, most of them went to live in Morocco or Algeria. Some stayed in Spain as galley slaves until they were exported to Morocco in the early 1600’s.  Before the 1700’s any one group of people who lost a war likely became slaves of the people who had won.  Therefore, Estevanico was not snatched secretly from his home in Africa as most would imagine how most African Americans became slaves at the time.   Instead, he came from among a group of Muslims who were first living in Spain and then  persecuted because of their religion and ethnicity.  For this reason, it is difficult to know just how much Estevanico really practiced Islam.  Although, it is documented that he was born in Morocco and was considered to be a Morisco, very little else is known about his personal life.  Such was the case for most Moriscos at the time.


  1. What is a Morisco? Why were most of them slaves?
  2. What skills did Estivanico have that his slave owners did not?
  3. Research the other names of Estivanico by searching the web. List them.
  4. Research the Andalusian Empire. Describe the area it controlled, the names of it’s leaders, it’s rise and fall, and some of the contributions of its people.
  5. Describe the terrain of Arizona and New Mexico and list some of the challenges the Estivanico must of faced as he explored the area.
  6. List the cities or landmarks that Estivanico traveled to in the order that he arrived there.
  7. Why is there little known about Estivanico’s personal life and his religious practices or beliefs?

Is California Named After a Caliph?


The oldest historical documents that refer to the western coast of North America by the name, “California,” come from the records of voyages of two Spanish explorers, Hernan Cortez and Fortun Ximenez,  who sailed up the Baja coast from Mexico on orders from the Governor of Mexico some time between 1550 and 1556 AD.  The explorers referred to the area as an island, and in fact, California appears in later maps as an island. In their journals of their travels, they referred to the area as, “California,” as if the name was commonly used by Spaniards of the time.

Although there is no tangible documentation available to prove how the state of California got it’s name, most historians agree, that the name of the state likely came from the word, Caliph which is the title of a Muslim political leader.  Some theorize that the Moors knew of the New World, perhaps from explorers such as Khashkhash Ibn Saeed (see an earlier blog), and that an Andalusian Caliph claimed it for as his own territory.  While there is no evidence of a Muslim caliph claiming California, several references of a mystical place called California are referenced in French and Spanish literature well before the arrival of Cortez and Ximenez.

Around the year 1510, a Castilian author named Garci Rodreguez de Montalvo wrote romance novels (perhaps based on tall tales of the time) entitled, The Adventures of Esplandian.  In the story, a regal black woman referred to as, “Calafia,” rules a tribe of other black women on a beautiful island guarded by man eating griffins. She is meets a Muslim warrior and he convinces her to join him in a battle against the Christians who are attempting to take Constantinople. Calafia takes her griffins and sails to Constantinople,  but becomes frustrated when she realizes that her griffins attack all men, but not women, whether they are Christian or Muslim.  The story is so legendary that it was made into a Disney film called, Golden Dreams, in which Woopi Goldberg plays the role of Queen Calafia. Cortez referred to the novel when he spoke of the area. Today, the story is so legendary that it was made into a Disney film called, Golden Dreams, in which Woopi Goldberg plays the role of Queen Calafia. Regardless of whether or not black women lived in the west coast of North America, the story is a small piece of evidence that the name of the area was influenced by the culture of the Moors of the time.

This is a picture of a sculpture of Queen Calafia:


Study Questions:

  1. When was the earliest historical document to use the word California to refer to the current day area written?
  2. Why did the Spanish Explorers refer to California as such? Where did they likely get the idea to name it California?
  3. Who was Queen Calafia? Write a basic story of the life of Queen Calafia.
  4. Why do you think people used to think that California was an island?

Mansa Abubakr II

Cabeza_Colosal-n1Xalapa-tombouctou688poAnother Muslim who has been documented to have discovered America before Columbus was Mansa Abubakr II.  He was reported to have given up all power and gold to pursue knowledge and discovery.  His successor,  Mansa Musa, is regarded as some to have been the richest man that ever lived.  Mansa Musa was reported to have become the successor after Abubakr II decided to abdicate his throne to join other explorers who reported to have landed in the Americas, but had returned back after becoming drawn in by a river with a heavy current.

Mansa Abubakr II was of the Mandinkan people of West Africa.  He was the king of the Ghana Empire, which contained over 24 cities and is now Mali, Mauritania, and parts of some other West African countries.  The life and lineage of the Malian Dynasty  was recorded by Ibn Khaldun, a well known scholar of the Ayyubid Empire, Al Umari, and Mansa Musa himself.  A Malian scholar named Gaoussou Daiwara also recorded much of the life of Mansa Abubakr II.

On a trip to Mecca to make Hajj, Mansa Musa reported to Arab scholars that Abubakr II was determined to reach the other end of the ocean.  Abubakr II’s  voyage was reported to have had 2,000 ships, 1,000 for his men and 1,000 for supplies.  He ordered the captain of his ships not to return home until they had reached the other end of the ocean or until they had run out of supplies. However, with such a big fleet and so many supplies, it would be a long time before they need to return.  Considering the size of the fleet, many argue that this voyage was much more significant than Columbus’ fleet of three ships and he did this 200 years before Columbus.


This picture comes from :

According to Diawara, Mansa Abubakr II departed from present day Gambia landed on the coast of Brazil in 1311.  The people of the fleet settled among the local people who were known as Tupis.  The chief of the Tupis was reported to have accepted Islam and married his daughter to Abubakr II.  Abubakr II sent ships back to Mansa Musa to ask for more supplies. Mansa Musa was impressed by the crops that were brought back.   Columbus also reported that he had encountered African traders in South America. To this day, many archeologists report that they have found ancient Mandinkan script in Brazil, Peru, and Arizona.

Alternate provides a timeline of events related to Abubakr II’s voyage and settlement in South American coast of present day Brazil.

Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick also provides lots of documentation of the Mandikan settlements in the Americas. Abdullah Hakim Quick

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Mansa Abubakr II

This picture comes from :

Study Questions:

  1. Where do the Mandinkan people come from?  Which countries make up the ancient Mandinkan Empire?
  2. Describe the relationship between Mansa Abubakr II and Mansa Musa.
  3. What is the legendary title of Mansa Musa?
  4. How did people come to know about Mansa Abubakr II’s voyages?
  5. How do we know that Mandinkan people came and settled in the New World?
  6. How did Mansa Abubakr II’s fleet compare to Columbus’ fleet?

Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn al-Aswad

Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn al-Aswad was a Moorish navigator living in Andalusia. Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Mas’udi in his book, “The Book of Golden Meadows,” and other works, that Khashkhash referred to the new world as the, “Akbar az-Zaman,” or, “the Great Land.” Al-Mas’udi reports that Khashkhash sailed to the New World in the year 889, about 600 years before Columbus. Khashkhash’s accomplishments were well noted by the people of the time was because many attempted to find the New World, but perished. Khashkhash, however, not only made it back alive, but also brought back lots of riches and booty from his trip. Al- Mas’udi reports that Khashkhash’s trip began in Delba (Palos), Andalusia and ended in the Americas in a place he refers to as Ard Majhoola. A map of his trip is included the accounts of his voyage and the New World on the maps referred to show where he landed. This map matches that of the New World in relationship to Spain.

As for pictures of Khashkhash, an author named Gerd Numitor writes a book about Khashkhash ibn Saeed and uses a picture of statue of a Moor who was likely a sailor to give the readers an idea of what he may of looked like. The picture of the statue looks very similar to the people who dress up for the National Day of Valencia which is celebrated today to mark the end of Muslim occupation in Spain. I found the picture of people dressed as Moors in Spain at the festival on this website:


Study Questions:

  1. What was the name of the country that Khashkhash Ibn Saeed came from?
  2. What year was Khashkhash reported to have traveled to the New World?
  3. What title was given to the New World? What does it mean literally?
  4. What happened on the Day of Valencia?
  5. What did the Moorish explorers look like? How did they probably dress?
  6. What was the name of the book and author that wrote about Khashkhash’s voyages to the New World?



Growing Up Muslim in America

So my husband decided to buy a RZR for the kids one Eid.  Once they decided to go camping with some non-Muslim families just to have the company of some other children while out enjoying their new found hobby. After all, this is Texas, and the most Texan thing to do is off roading.  When the kids came home, they shared that it was kind of awkward sitting with the families around a campfire as the other families ate and cooked pork and prayed in Jesus’ name before eating. I asked my kids, “Why don’t you do this kind of stuff with some Muslim families?”  They replied that they thought they were the, “only redneck Muslims that like off roading,” that existed. So I realized my kids feel a lone as Muslim Americans. I experienced this myself growing up as a Muslim in America. I didn’t want this for my children, but what was I to do?

I tried my best to give them a good Islamic education, created Ramadan traditions in my home, and involved them in children and youth activities at the Mosque.  But when they were confronted with having to defend their religion in front of their peers, they said nothing. For example,  my boys came home from middle school complaining that other children were watching “Allah hu Akbar,” video memes.  These are those video clips where Sponge Bob is accidentally exploding himself and someone dubs, “Allah hu Akbar,” right before the explosion happens.  The other children were imitating these at school by shouting, “Allah hu Akbar,” and making exploding noises.  I asked my children why they didn’t say anything to their teacher or principal, and they explained in their teenage way that they felt powerless against a whole social norm of associating Islam with terrorism and the ubiquitous nature of social media.  I hated that my children were still feeling a lack of confidence with their peers when it came to their religion. I realized that a big part of it was the image that the media had painted of Muslims.

So how do we confront this poor and bias image of Muslim Americans? They only way that I can think of is to drown it out with positive images that are more representative of who Muslims in America really are. Muslim Americans have a responsibility to our country and our children to show our fellow Americans who we really are.  The media and even education system would have people believe that Muslims are mostly foreigners and don’t contribute to the strength of this country. As I started researching Islam In America, I found that this is a total miss conception.  Even my mother, who converted to Islam, found Muslims in her seemingly all American heritage.  The Muslims in her family were decedents of Anthony Van Salee, the first settler of Brooklyn, New York in 1622.  He is the same person from whom Cornelius Vanderbilt, Warren D. Harding, and Jackie Onassis, American Icons, were descended from.  Even 5 generations after this ancestor settled in the New World, we found gravestones with Islamic symbols for people with names like Edward Spragg and Thomas Spragg.  The more research and historical information I learn, the more I realize that the REAL story of Muslims in America must be told.