Ramadan in America & The Revolutionary Act of Fasting During Slavery

Imani Bashir
5 min readApr 16, 2021

Written with Muhammad Ibn Bashir.

Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar — the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the month in which all Muslims hope to develop consciousness of Allah through fasting. The fast of Ramadan is an obligation on every able-bodied Muslim with exceptions granted to pregnant, menstruating or nursing woman, men and women who are ill or traveling, and children who have yet to hit puberty. It was the superior education of many enslaved Muslims that allowed them to use the stars and moons to calculate the holy month in the Americas and many would sneak off, risking the whip or death, for prayers and meals directly associated with the fast.

Fasting during Ramadan became part and parcel of the perpetual struggle of enslaved Africans to retain their culture in the face of slavery’s brutality and often became one of the many mechanisms of resistance.

Documents written by Yarrow Mamout 1800s

Although mainstream media configures Islam as a newfound concept in the Americas, its historical roots run earlier than the Transatlantic Slave Trade and deeper than the current immigrant Muslim population. What is seldom discussed or recognized is the impact that Islamic culture had on the New World and especially the institution of slavery.

It is a known historic fact that nearly one-third of those victims were Muslims.

Many of these believers were from West African countries, however some fled the onslaught of the Crusades and settled in the New World prior to 1492. Others came as guides, explorers, and traders when Black Moors, Arabs, and African Muslims ruled the oceans. Many of these “Black” Muslims were highly educated, and developed the civilizations of Europe from 711 AD to 1492 while others were soldiers and warriors who fought against European expansion.

According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “African Muslims were an integral part of creating America from mapping its borders to fighting against British rule. Muslims first came to North America in the 1500s as part of colonial expeditions. One of these explorers, Mustafa Zemmouri (also known as Estevanico), was sold by the Portuguese into slavery in 1522…

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Imani Bashir

Writer & World Traveler IG & Twitter: @sheisimanib!