19 Haziran 2018 Salı

TNT History Mini-Series: Accidental Turks in Brazil & Beyond (1866)/Part VII

//Ed. Note: Herewith the continuation of this story, with the 
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.//

slave trade brazil map ile ilgili görsel sonucu

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)

brazil's slave trade ile ilgili görsel sonucu
                   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.


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