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Through the Atlantic slave trade, many Africans were forced into the US and we seldom hear about some of their Muslim backgrounds.
One such person is Ayuba Suleiman Diallo. He was from eastern Senegal, born to a family of religious leaders.
He memorized the entire Quran, was an expert in Maliki fiqh and possessed an immaculate intelligence.
Despite his accomplishments and status in his homeland, he like so many others in Africa, was a victim to the Atlantic slave trade.
Enemies captured him, shaved his beard and sold him to work on a tobacco plantation after his ship landed at Annapolis, Maryland in 1731.
Throughout this difficult time, Diallo upheld his daily prayers and Islamic diet. He ran from the family who owned him because praying became difficult.
When the children of the family would see him pray, they threw dirt on him and mocked him. But soon after fleeing, Diallo was again captured and this time, taken to prison.
This is where Diallo met English lawyer Thomas Bluett. Diallo’s piety, literacy, intelligence, and adherence to faith impressed Bluett, who ended up befriending him.
Diallo wrote a letter in Arabic to send to his father, and it travelled from Annapolis to England.
Eventually, this letter landed in the hands of James Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia colony.
He was touched by the struggles presented in the letter, and he subsequently sent the amount needed to purchase Diallo’s freedom and bring him to England in 1733.
After his arrival to England, he debated theology with the Christian priests and bishops, and they joined the already lengthy list of people who Diallo impressed with his intelligence, monotheism, and morality.
Diallo, after suffering through such difficulties as becoming separated from his family, sold into the slave trade, forced to work in horrid conditions, humiliated by children, and imprisoned, was finally recognized as an equal.
In 1734, Diallo safely returned back to his home. His father died, one of his wives remarried because she thought he passed, and his home was wrecked due to war.
However, he again overcame hardship, lift himself up, and was able to live a prosperous life.
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