account of İmam Bağdatlı Abdurrahman Efendi, the imam
of the Bursa corvette, whose focus was on teaching the
Moslems - whom he was surprised to find in Brazil - the proper
tenets of Islam. In particular, as will be seen, the reasons given
for and the details of his departure from duty on the Bursa to
remain in Brazil are at odds with the account given by Engineer
Faik in Part IV.//
First Moslems in Brazil/Brazil Travel Log
By İmam Bağdatlı Abdurrahman Efendi
Brazil Travel Log is the story of an Ottoman man’s discovery of a world he knew
nothing about and his efforts to realign this world in his mind. The story begins
140 years ago with two Ottoman warships on their way to the Persian Gulf that get
caught in a storm and are dragged all the way to the American continent and the
shores of Brazil. The hero of the story is Bağdatlı Abdurrahman Efendi, the imam
assigned to one of the ships.
When the ship Abdurrahman Efendi was on entered the port of Rio de Janeiro the
crowd of people there was quite interested because in their books the Ottomans
were described as “cannibals”. Among the crowd were some people of African
heritage. This unexpected meeting created general amazement and the Brazilians
were surprised to find out that the Ottomans were not cannibals. On the other hand,
when the Ottomans learned that there were Moslems living in this distant land they
were equally amazed. The Africans there were twice as surprised because they
thought that Islam was a religion only for blacks and yet they saw that the Ottomans
were believers, too.
The blacks were more intrigued by the Ottomans and wanted to assuage their curiosity.
They were particularly interested in Abdurrahman Efendi because of his religious garb.
The blacks were forced to appear to be Christians since they were not allowed to live
as Moslems and had hidden their beliefs for centuries. Because of the conditions
imposed upon them, the blacks had grown distant from true Islam, such that a Jew
from the Magrib, who identified himself as a Moslem, was able to change the rules
of Islam as he pleased and make these people believe in him.
After their first meeting with Abdurrahman Efendi, the blacks obtained information
about Islam and asked him to teach them more about Islam. Abdurrahman Efendi
consulted with his ship’s captain and accepted this request. Abdurrahman Efendi
left the ship and began living together with the blacks, working with them for years
to institute a comprehensive renewal of their faith. After staying in the important
centers of black life there and realizing this long and tiring task, one day
Abdurrahman Efendi gave in to his homesickness and set sail for Istanbul.
He did not neglect, though, to write the story that would become the Brazil Travel
The adventure of these African people in Brazil began in the sixteenth century and
despite the fact that over time they came to comprise two thirds of the nation’s
population, their cultural identities have been essentially hidden. Even today, written
sources stress that Brazil’s population of nearly 150 million makes up the largest
Catholic group in the world. Yet, today at least half of Brazil’s population is
comprised of people of African descent and a significant portion of them are
Although the Brazil Travel Log is a short book, it is an interesting work because it
sheds light on the historical period of the adventure of Brazil’s Moslems, whose
existence is still not officially recognized. Since it is perhaps the one and only
written record of this reality, it carries added importance.
The difficult language of the original work, first published in 1288/1871, has been
simplified in this new version 140 years later, to make it easier for readers to
understand. In light of the contents, we also thought it was appropriate to add
The First Moslems in Brazil in the title. While updating the language of the original
work, we may have wrongly written some place names that are no longer in use.
For this we ask your indulgence.
N. Ahmet ÖZALP (Ed. Note: transcriber from Ottoman to modern Turkish)
Translator’s Foreword (by Antepli Mehmed Şerif)
Limitless thanks and praise to great and almighty God, who has adorned our minds
and understanding with the beautiful cloth of Islam. Limitless health and happiness
to the great Envoy and his noble friends who have shown us the path to happiness
by relating the rules of religion that tell us right from wrong.
Until recent times we were unaware that there were any Moslems on the American
continent. But five or six years ago, two Ottoman warships sent to the Persian Gulf
via the Cape of Good Hope, visited Brazil, one of the countries of America, and by
coincidence the mariners learned that there were a good number of Moslems there.
The imam assigned to the ships, Bağdatlı Shaikh Abdurrahman Efendi, responding to
the requests of the Brazilian Moslems, left his naval imam duties and spent a few years
there, solely for the satisfaction of almighty God, teaching the basic tenets of religion
to the local Moslems. Later, he returned to Istanbul and wrote a travel log in Arabic
providing valuable information about the number and status of the Brazilian Moslems.
As everyone knows, Islam’s shining sun first rose across the Asian continent to
illuminate the environs there and within a short time spread to Africa, Europe and
the islands of the Ocean. Now we understand that Islam reached America a few
hundred years ago. Consequently, there are Moslems on all of the five continents
of the world. According to the latest research, on the islands of the Ocean and
particularly in the interior of Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope, in China and the
region of the North Pole, there are numerous Moslems. But because of the great
distances between them, the various Moslem communities have not been able to
establish contact with one another and, in fact, may be completely unaware of these
distant Moslem communities. Because they are so far from the center of Islam, most
of these communities have to one extent or another corrupted their beliefs. One of
these was the Moslem community at the Cape of Good Hope and to remedy this
situation the Ottoman regime assigned Ebu Bekir Efendi there eight years ago.
As we noted above, we had been unaware of the Brazilian Moslems but based on
what writer Abdurrahman Efendi has told us, they were equally ignorant of us and
did not even realize that there were white Moslems in the world. Abdurrahman
Efendi, after making both sides aware of one another in a detailed manner,
surmounted great obstacles and encumbrances to correct the beliefs of the Brazilian
Moslems. There is no doubt that he will be rewarded many times over by God and
that all Moslems will greet his efforts with gratitude.
Despite my own shortcomings, I have translated Abdurrahman Efendi’s travel log
into Turkish since everyone will be interested in the information he has provided.
In general, I have tried to be true to the original text but ignored some place names
that I deemed irrelevant to the subject.
Success comes from God.
Antepli Mehmed Şerif (Ed. Note: translator from Arabic to Ottoman)
Slave market in Rio, 1824
I am Abdurrahman, the poor, sinful son of Abdullah, and I am originally from
Baghdad. While living in Damascus, some difficulties prompted me to leave there
and I spent some time wandering. Finally, after many hardships I came to Istanbul,
where I entered into the service of Kaptan-ı Derya Ateş Mehmed Paşa, whom I had
met previously, as an imam. A while later, after Mehmed Paşa died, I became an
imam for the Navy.
At that time the Sultan ordered that two ships of the fleet be sent to Basra via the
Ocean route. I wanted to travel to and see foreign lands and this was very much of
an opportunity in line with my desires. At the beginning of September in the year
1865 we departed Istanbul in the aforementioned ships, headed for Basra. However,
en route we encountered countervailing winds that forced us to the coast of South
America and to the shores of the capital of Brazil. In order to teach the Moslems
living there the basic tenets of Islam, I left the ships and remained there.
I thought it would be appropriate to relate some of the interesting things and events
I witnessed while there in this short book. I have given this work the title “Tesliyetü’l
Garib” (Consoling the Poor). I ask that my valued readers forgive my mistakes and
Our Meeting with Moslems
On the second day after our ships arrived in Rio de Janeiro, all of the officers left to
visit the city. I went with them and I was wearing my clerical clothes. A black
Sudanese man who saw me on the pier gave me an exaggerated respectful greeting.
Since the man was in Western clothes, I thought that he was mocking me so I didn’t
return the greeting. When he didn’t understand the questions I put to him in Turkish
and Arabic, my assumption that he was mocking me grew stronger. I left and after
touring the city I returned to the ships in the evening.
The next day, a lot of Europeans came to see the ships and among them there were
some blacks. When they came on board the ship they greeted us by saying
“İyo Müslim” but since no one on the ship understood Portuguese we didn’t know
what they meant. They toured the ships and left. Later, another group came and said
the same thing the others had said. When we got up to say our noon prayers they got
up, too, and we all washed ourselves and prayed. Consequently, we realized that
they were Moslems. We paid them respects and offered them some hospitality. In
the evening they departed very happily. The next day, a larger group came and they
brought an interpreter with them who knew both Arabic and Portuguese. They came
into my cabin, taking off their hats. Through the interpreter, I told them that taking
off one’s head covering was not respectful, according to Islam. The chuckled at
themselves and I succeeded in having them show respect properly.
//END OF PART VII//