Islam in the Dominican Republic
|Islam by country|
Statistics for Islam in the Dominican Republic estimate that 0.02 percent of the population (3,000 individuals) are Muslim, but accurate statistics of religious affiliation are difficult to calculate and there is a wide variation concerning the actual numerical amount. Although the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, Muslims have formed local organizations such as the Círculo Islámico de República Dominicana (The Islamic Circle of Dominican Republic) and the Islamic Center of the Dominican Republic (located in Miami). Currently, the Círculo Islámico estimates that Muslims number over 3,000 (most recent statistics), including of a good number of local converts. Most recently, there has been another organization, led by native born Muslim converts, the Entidad Islámica Dominicana or EID (Dominican Islamic Entity).
The Círculo Islámico established the first mosque in the Dominican Republic in the center of Santo Domingo, about a five-minute walk from the Palacio de Policía Nacional and the Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE) where Muslims from around the city would have easy access to reach it. They made an agreement with the owner to purchase the land and the building for an amount of 2.85 million pesos. The mosque is open daily for the five prayers (salat) and offers classes on Islamic studies for ladies and children on weekends. They also provide free medical consultation along with a free pharmacy, Consulta Al-Foutory, which is located in a separate building at the back of the mosque. Masjid al Noor is largely believed to be the only active mosque in the country and receives the bulk of the Muslim population for the two Eids, Ramadan, Salat al Jummah, and the five daily prayers. However, there is another mosque in Los Llanos neighborhood of San Pedro de Macorix, Dominican Republic. This mosque is led by a converted Dominican Imam. Los Llanos is roughly a 30 minutes drive from Masjid al Noor. The Musalla Al-Hidayya provides Jummah services in the city of Santiago de los Caballeros, and the Musalah Al-Nabawi serves local and visiting Muslims in the tourist sector of Bávaro-Punta Cana in the East of the country.
Like other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, the history of Islam in the Dominican Republic began with the importation of African slaves, which first arrived to the island of Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and DR), beginning in 1502. These people arrived with a rich and ancient culture, although brutal repression and forced conversions gradually diluted their original cultural identity and religions. The first recorded instances of resistance were in 1503, when Nicolás de Ovando, Hispaniola’s first royal governor, wrote to Isabella requesting that she prevent further shipments to the colony of enslaved Black ladinos, or persons possessing knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese languages and cultures, but who also often had connections to either Senegambia, Islam, or both. De Ovando had arrived earlier in April 1502 and was already complaining that the ladinos on the island were “a source of scandal to the Indians, and some had fled their owners,” establishing maroon communities in the mountains.
Slave Revolt of 1522
The first large-scale slave revolt recorded in the Americas occurred in Santo Domingo in 1522 and was led by a group of enslaved Muslims from the Wolof nation. Intent on spreading sedition throughout the island, the insurrectionists moved to mobilize an equal number of coconspirators on neighboring establishments. Machetes in hand, they dismembered plantation personnel and livestock as they proceeded, initiating a “wild and bloody expedition under dawn’s early light.” In their wake lay torched houses and fields, while “here and there in the open ground lie the decapitated bodies of unfortunate whites who [the insurgents] were able to catch off-guard.” On December 28, 1522, they reached the cattle ranch of Melchoir de Castro, upon which they may have been planning an assault. By then, however, they no longer enjoyed the element of surprise; a mixed force of Europeans and indigenous persons under Melchoir de Castro’s leadership, both militia and volunteers, attacked the desperate band of Africans, effectively ending the revolt. Those not immediately killed took to the hills, only to be captured within a week. When the dust settled, some fifteen bodies were recovered, including those of at least nine Europeans. Diego Columbus reflected that if the uprising had not been quickly quelled, many more “Christian” lives would have been lost.
Brands of Tasawwuf are becoming more and more manifested in the country from native born Dominican Muslims and foreign Muslims who are murids of the Shadhili, Qadiri, and Ba'Alawi Tariqas. The actual figures of the Muslim population growth has not been officially censused, though some sources give a number of 5,000 to 7,000.
- Latin American Dawah Organization, Muslim Organizations in Latin America, Online http://www.latinodawah.org
- Michael A. Gomez, Black Crescent: The Experience and Legacy of African Muslims in the Americas, New York University Press, ISBN 0-521-60079-0
- Ibid, Chapter I. Ladinos, Gelofes, and Mandingas
- The website of EID http://entidadislamicadominicana.webs.com
- The website of the Al Zawiya Alawiya Husayni Ninowiya http://www.wix.com/eidpersonal/alawihusaynininowidominicana
- Parvez, Mansoor Ahmed Presencia del Islam en la República Domincana Departamenteo de Estudios de Sociedad y Religión, Santo Domingo