The Muslim Legacy
With a documented presence of five hundred years, Islam was, after Catholicism, the second monotheist religion introduced into post-Columbian America. It preceded Lutheranism, Methodism, Baptism, Calvinism, Santeria, Candomble, and Voodoo to name a few. All these religions are alive today and are followed by the vast majority of the Africans' descendants, but in the Americas and the Caribbean, not one community currently practices Islam as passed on by preceding African generations. Where orthodox Islam exists in America it has been reintroduced by immigrants from the Middle East, southern Europe, Asia, and, recently, West Africa again. The United States is the only American country with a native Muslim population of African descent, but there is no indication so far that the African American Muslims of today inherited Islam from the Muslims of yesterday.
The orthodox Islam brought by the enslaved West Africans has not survived. It has left traces; it has contributed to the culture and history of the continents; but its conscious practice is no more. For Islam to endure, it had to grow both vertically, through transmission to the children, and horizontally, through conversion of the unbelievers. Both propositions met a number of obstacles.
The transmission of a religion to one's progeny presupposes, of course, that there is a progeny. Yet the very structure of the slave trade, with the disproportionate importation of men, the physical toll that enslavement took on the Africans, and the selling off of family members, placed tremendous obstacles in the path of the constitution and perpetuation of families.
There was, to begin with, a significant imbalance between the number of African males and females shipped from Africa. Among the Africans