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Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar

4 August 2011 General 30 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
Thomas Jefferson's Quran

Thomas Jefferson's Quran

“Ramadan,” said President Obama at a White House iftar dinner in 2010, “is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan — making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.”

The dinner to which the president referred took place on December 9, 1805, and Jefferson’s guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis who spent six months in Washington. The context of Mellimelli’s visit to the United States was a tense dispute over piracy on American merchant vessels by the Barbary states and the capture of Tunisian vessels trying to run an American blockade of Tripoli.

Mellimelli arrived during Ramadan, and Jefferson, when he invited the envoy to the president’s house, changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.

Jefferson’s knowledge of Islam likely came from his legal studies of natural law. In 1765, Jefferson purchased a two-volume English translation of the Quran for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

Original post: Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar

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30 Comments »

  1. DISCLAIMER: (next 7 verses) i’m a weak reader and so as i’ve begun reading the koran 7 verses at a time, it hepls me to cut and paste them after i’ve read them because i then re-read them on this post. they may have absolutely nothing to do with this article. i welcome any input as to historical context or to whom some of the pronouns are refering.
    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/k/koran/browse.html

    [2.243] Have you not considered those who went forth from their homes, for fear of death, and they were thousands, then Allah said to them, Die; again He gave them life; most surely Allah is Gracious to people, but most people are not grateful.
    [2.244] And fight in the way of Allah, and know that Allah is Hearing, Knowing.
    [2.245] Who is it that will offer of Allah a goodly gift, so He will multiply it to him manifold, and Allah straitens and amplifies, and you shall be returned to Him.
    [2.246] Have you not considered the chiefs of the children of Israel after Musa, when they said to a prophet of theirs: Raise up for us a king, (that) we may fight in the way of Allah. He said: May it not be that you would not fight if fighting is ordained for you? They said: And what reason have we that we should not fight in the way of Allah, and we have indeed been compelled to abandon our homes and our children. But when fighting was ordained for them, they turned back, except a few of them, and Allah knows the unjust.
    [2.247] And their prophet said to them: Surely Allah has raised Talut to be a king over you. They said: How can he hold kingship over us while we have a greater right to kingship than he, and he has not been granted an abundance of wealth? He said: Surely Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique, and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases, and Allah is Amplegiving, Knowing.
    [2.248] And the prophet said to them: Surely the sign of His kingdom is, that there shall come to you the chest in which there is tranquillity from your Lord and residue of the relics of what the children of Musa and the children of Haroun have left, the angels bearing it; most surely there is a sign in this for those who believe.
    [2.249] So when Talut departed with the forces, he said: Surely Allah will try you with a river; whoever then drinks from it, he is not of me, and whoever does not taste of it, he is surely of me, except he who takes with his hand as much of it as fills the hand; but with the exception of a few of them they drank from it. So when he had crossed it, he and those who believed with him, they said: We have today no power against Jalut and his forces. Those who were sure that they would meet their Lord said: How often has a small party vanquished a numerous host by Allah’s permission, and Allah is with the patient.

  2. TO bad americans today arent as smart as Jefferson was.

  3. why was the US navy blockading Libya in 1805, anyway?

  4. pamela,

    really? have you read any of jefferson’s thoughts on race. you do know he was a major slave holder?

    http://www.historytools.org/sources/Jefferson-Race.pdf

  5. Pam, what does that mean? Have there been mass protests because Obama is currently hosting such a dinner? If you’re talking about the perception of Muslims in America then Muslims are their own worst enemy. Critical comments made about Islam usually just generate, from Muslims, comparisons between it and Christianity. These comparisons do not do any good at all. The case is made that most Muslims are peace loving people, most people agree, I agree. However, excuses are constantly made for Muslim republics as they do not truly represent Islam, but then people will turn around and use them as a positive example such as in ____ we have only had 6 incidents of stealing in 10 years because hands are cut off when they do so. When Crowds of Muslims riot and kill a bunch of people, instead of laying the blame on the Muslims who rioted the Muslims want to blame some old man who burned a Koran. It is said that many of violent sects of Islam are groups of Muslims which have a distorted view of the Koran. If Muslims really believe this then they should be making a BIG DEAL of sending in “educated” Muslim scholars as missionaries to these regions or areas to effect change in their world views. Instead it seems we get excuses for these people and their world views rather than strong action by the Muslim community representing the correct view of Islam. I know some Muslims are trying to change these images but holding round table meetings in various cities are still isolated events and have little news value. In my view, the Muslim community seems to be more about how badly we are treated and misunderstood rather than how they are working to change the elements in Islam that do not belong in Islam and how they are seeking to change and reeducate areas of the world in which faith in Islam does not mean knowledge of how to practice Islam.

    1. How many properly educated Islamic Missionaries have been sent from the United States and other countries with a properly educated Islamic Missionaries to countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan , Egypt, and other countries with the intention of starting new schools, building new mosques and spreading the word of the Koran and how to properly interpret the text so as to fight the spread of extremism and misunderstanding that is so prevalent in those countries?

    2. How much money is supporting these Missionaries on an Annual Basis?

    3. Has a Mission statement with a set of goals and objectives been developed to support these Missionaries and provide a framework for what they should be doing in these countries?

    4. How have these Missionaries been received in said countries?

    5. What are the success rates of said Missionaries in the various areas: If using percentages, can numbers of converts be applied to those percentages.

    6. Are the Missionaries encountering violence against themselves and if so how severe is that violence against them? Have any of them been killed?

    7. In Terms of Adult literature how many pamphlets and books have been developed for these missionary services? How many have been distributed as opposed to simply being shipped? How much of this literature is being used in organized meetings?

    8. In terms of Child literature: how much is being produced and how is it being used with children in these areas. How many schools have been started and how many children currently attend these schools?

    I could continue with questions along this line, but my point is beyond just saying the Muslim religion is peaceful and it is misunderstood by the American Public and extreme Islamic religious elements: what beyond words are you doing about it. If you are doing any of the above that I have mentioned plus other proactive actions, why have I and the rest of the country not heard about it? Why are these actions not trumpeted every time a Muslim leader gets behind a Microphone? I would like to know “What are Muslims in America doing to change people’s view of Islam? and “What are Muslims in America doing to change the views of Islamic people outside America?”

  6. some say we are in the third barbary war now with the somali pirates.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_Wars

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Zinn

    howard,

    perhaps to maintain a strong negotiating postion. kind of like isael is doing now with the blockade of gaza.

  7. ““What are Muslims in America doing to change people’s view of Islam? and “What are Muslims in America doing to change the views of Islamic people outside America?””

    I still don’t understand how people have the nerve to ask this question, when they full well know that it’s the Media who shows the misunderstood and negative perception of the faith and it’s people.

    Your either very close minded, in denial or struggle to understand this basic concept. Muslims are doing plenty to present the real Islam to people, it’s not our fault people rather be slaves to their tv and end up being brainwashed by what the Media has to tell them.

  8. @Mike Fighting is prescribed and only allowed under self defence. It’s human nature to protect themselves or protect something that is important to them.

    I apologise if you rather died than resist and fight for your rights.

  9. Thomas Jefferson along with the other founders of AMerica had a deep sense of appreciation for the religion of Islam. They themselves were Deists and detested Christianity. In fact, they made it clear that they had nothing to do with any kind of war with Islam, due to Christianity.

    Check these out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdhZgyVeg_c

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PntDpcRu0_g

  10. Perseveranze, that is a cop out answer: Which Muslims are doing what to present the real Islam to whom? Answer some of the questions I had above. If Muslims are really doing their best to present then tell me how they are doing it. I am sure of one thing, the Muslims overseas are not glued to televisions what are moderate Muslims doing to change those attitudes overseas. If there is any organized effort then at least some of those questions can be answered. So don’t call me closed minded just answer the questions and see if my mind will open.

    If none of these questions can be answered and if no one can come up with a different subset of questions that shed any light on the topic then I simply suggest that perhaps Muslims are not doing every thing they can to tackle these problems.

    Some of you have to have dealings with Muslim leaders: get the information and have the administrators of this site to place it guest editiorial section of this paper. I would love to read it.

  11. perseveranze,

    yes i know the founding fathers were mostly deist. (one reason i like them) i’ve never claimed america to be a christian nation. quite to the contrary, i hope it never is, just like i hope it is never declared to any religious affiliation, including islam. i’m familiar with the concept that god put things in motion and then stepped away. i thought you were a muslim. as in you beleive in prophets and divine revelation/intervention? i don’t follow your point. but interesting that the guy brings up the treaty of friendship. at least i think he did, it was a long and slow moving clip.

    nor have i ever professed to be a pacifist. but i do admire the amish being willing to die, without defending themselves for their beliefs.

    no need to apologize. but “self defence” is open to interpretation, much like mischief.

    but to be specific, you do believe that god wants fornicators lashed 100 times? do you think adulterers should be stoned or do you agree with the concept that the 24th surah abrogated stoning? do you speak arabic? if so, how would you translate zina?

  12. “Thomas Jefferson along with the other founders of AMerica had a deep sense of appreciation for the religion of Islam.”

    Links? I have a few that suggest otherwise, but of course your moderator won’t let me post them.

  13. Paraphrasing the article, “President Jefferson’s guest, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis, arrived during Ramadan. When Jefferson invited the envoy to the president’s house, he (Jefferson) changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.”

    “..in deference to the man’s religious obligation.“ I know that Saudi Arabia is not the United States, but can you conceive of a situation where rules are changed in deference to another’s religion in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and therefore the place where you might expect true Islam to be practiced? Quid pro quo?

  14. @Criley “If Muslims are really doing their best to present then tell me how they are doing it.”

    Well mate, if you actually ever been to a Mosque in your life, you’d have a rough idea of what their doing.

    Maybe if you checked up on some statistics, you’d find that almost 75% of all terrorist convictions (against Muslims) have come thanks to Muslim reporting the incident themselves.

    Your just brainwashed by the media, it’s such a shame.

    “Links? I have a few that suggest otherwise, but of course your moderator won’t let me post them.”

    Lol believe me, some of you trolls would’ve been banned long time ago i this place had proper moderation.

    Go and type into Youtube, “USA Founders and the Quran”. Maybe you’ll see the peace treaty the founders had with countries like Morrocco, and the stress they put into that Christianity is something else and America is something else, and AMerica has no war with Islam. Not sure who it was that said it, but they said something like “oh we should get the books of the turks”, implying to see what they are doing right to live in a better society (compared to that of the Christian society). Also click on the link I posted for more info.

    @Mike “i thought you were a muslim”

    I am and a very proud one at that :)

    “but to be specific, you do believe that god wants fornicators lashed 100 times?”

    Yes. That’s if their convicted with 4 witnesses of upright character, which is almost impossible to prove. Just because of this small thought though, were there hardly any teen prenancies, no family breakdowns, no sexually transmitted deseases etc.

    And what’s amazing is how easy Islamic law makes “2 lovers” get married. Your encouraged to marry if you geniunly love someone, and then you can fornicate as much as you like. If you one day don’t like them, then just get a divorce, not hard.

    THere is great wisdom to Shariah law.

    “do you think adulterers should be stoned ”

    Adultery in Islam = Being married, but sleeping with another woman. I don’t need to explain to you the negative implications this has on individuals and society as a whole.

    Refer to my previous answer. And for your info, first 1000 years of Islam, only 3 were convicted of this law, all of them were self confessions.

    Which says alot.

    “or do you agree with the concept that the 24th surah abrogated stoning?”

    Would you like to paste the verse? Keep in mind, Islam wasn’t the one who brought in Stoning, it was actually Judaism/Christianity that did. Islam only adopted the punishment as a means of protecting society. Which is fair to say, worked wonders, given the Islamic golden age and all.

    “how would you translate zina?”

    Google is your friend you know. You don’t have to keep clicking on the anti-Islamic propoganda sites to get your info. Just get a few good Islamic websites, look at their meanings and opinions and you’ll easily be able to understand what the word means.

  15. Ok Perseveranze, I am brainwashed: However, that being the case I am still lucid enough to understand that local mosques affect things on a local level. It takes an effort of many mosques on a national level to affect the type of change I was trying to convey. If monies are mostly being spent on public relations and damage control some affect will be seen, but not the major shift in general attitudes that people on this site would like to see. Somehow I doubt a visit to my local Mosque will do much good in answering those questions. Local events are needed and necessary to address issues, but local events are also quiet events, attracting very little attention outside the area. I would just like to know what type of national stratagy Muslims in the United States are using and my questions were designed to address some of the issues I deemed important. I am not trying to hard headed or mean spirited I am just interested. It could be that no one on this site can answer these questions and if so its ok, but if that is the case then how are non-Muslims expected to change attitudes through a better understanding of the Muslim community and its efforts if the Muslims themselves are not aware of what is going on within a national framework.

    As a Christian-Baptist: if asked the same question with little research I could tell you how much is being spent on missions world wide, how many missionarys are being sent out world wide, the types of print sent out to various countries, I could report on schools, list the number of people who have accepted Christ and so on. To me, at least, it seems for Muslims to get ahead in the public arena they need to activly show how they are fighting/subverting these extreme elements, not only at home but abroad. I have beat this horse long enough trying to illicit understanding. If I am still coming across as a brainwashed jerk then so be it, as it is not my intent.

  16. perseverance,

    first i don’t get why you say, “You don’t have to keep clicking on the anti-Islamic propoganda sites to get your info”? do you think defendtheprophet is anti-islamic? please link some sites you find acceptable. the message of the quran: translated and explained by muhammad asad, says: page 594 second footnote. the term zina signifies voluntary sexual intercourse between a man and a woman not married to one another, irrespective of whether one or both of the are married to other persons or not: hence, it does not – in contrast with the usage prevalent in most Western languages – differentiate between the concepts of “adultery” (i.e., sexual intercourse of a married man with a woman other than his wife, or of a married woman with a man other than her husband) and “fornication” (i.e., sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons). For sake of simplicity I am rendering zina throught as “adultery” and the person guilty of it as “adulterer” and “adulteress”, respectively.
    http://www.faithinallah.org/sahih-international-an-nur-the-light/
    24:2

    الزانية والزاني فاجلدوا كل واحد منهما مائة جلدة ولا تأخذكم بهما رأفة في دين الله إن كنتم تؤمنون بالله واليوم الآخر وليشهد عذابهما طائفة من المؤمنين

    The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah , if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.

    wiki says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zina

    you can see why i’m confused. as for: “And for your info, first 1000 years of Islam, only 3 were convicted of this law, all of them were self confessions.” how can you possible know that?

  17. perseverance,

    my other comment is in moderation, had some web links. anyways i noticed your comment, “they said something like “oh we should get the books of the turks”, implying to see what they are doing right to live in a better society (compared to that of the Christian society).” wow quite the implication. how do you figure? so what did they read? why didn’t they convert? why not declare america and islamic state? perhaps they were just reading up on the culture they were negotiating with? maybe they stressed that america isn’t a christian nation, thank god, because they knew the history of the last 500 years. perhaps knowing the history of the crusades (muslim still want to bring them up) they thought it best to distance themselves from the christian europeans, especial england, seems how they where englishmen? perhaps as a new nation on the other side of the world we where looking for all the allies we could get. the US and UK didn’t have a “special relationship” yet. considering that the british controled the Rock of Tariq, perhaps we thought it best to stay as close to the morroccan shore as possible. didn’t the morraoccan sultan come court us for the treaty?

  18. Criley..WOW WOW….Too much finger pointing comming from your comments

    SO let me reverse that, WHAT are the christians of the world doing about the brutal, cruel, unhuman, terroristic occupations of muslims majority lands by the brutal military machine of the majority christians Euro/US.

    WHAT are the christians of the world doing about the rapid growth of islamophobia in the christians majority countries…

    WHAT are the christians of the world doing about the rise of the christians right wing fascist ideologies, that in currently eating up western christian majority countries..

    what are the christians of the world doing about the islamophobic high official politicians, islamophobic radio talks host and islamophobic media that are spewing venomous, blind hatred and are calling for oppression of western muslims…

    what are the christians of the world doing about the stuggles for western muslims to build a decent place of worship and the right of muslims woman to wear freely what ever she choose in western christians majority countries…

    were are the christians of the world to stop a men like geert wilders from attaining presidency, because many believe, not just muslims, that if the were to become head of state he would be the new hilter for muslims…and i can go on and on..

    SO instead of pointing the finger at muslims to do their part, where is your part in all if this craziness that the world we live have become????….. Asalamu-Alaikum

  19. There is our miscommunication: you assume I am finger pointing when I am trying to problem solve. I think it is important for people to understand each other. I was not accusing I was simply trying to see if Muslims were being as proactive about their problems as I think they should be, in such a way that the average person could see the effort. Complaining does little but visible effort in directions people understand will make your own case for you. If these efforts are being done then shout them from the mountain tops. Do you not think I am aware that people are just people. They try to raise their families, they want better things for their children, they want to live in peaceful neighborhoods and get along with their neighbors. Most of what we see and hear about is beyond the average person’s ability to control or modify regardless of religion. As groups, however, progress can be made. Those Christians your talking about are as confused as the next person. They may know the Muslims in their area and get along with them fine, but they do not know the Muslims elsewhere or about other Muslim Groups. I and I am assuming some of them would like to see the national and international efforts Muslims are using to fight extremism. I am not the enemy here, I guess I am just looking at the problem from a different perspective.

    Let me say something; When my sister and brother-inlaw moved from South Carolina to Tennessee, my brother-inlaw needed a place to stay as he could not afford hotels every night. Though my Brother-inlaw is a Christian and one of note as he is active in starting churches; it was a Muslim family that gave him a room to stay, at no cost, and made him feel welcome. I do believe Muslims are good people though I believe there are some bad Muslims just like there are bad Christians and bad is spread througout society. This forum is about Islamaphobia and I am assuming how to fight it. To fight anything one has to be truthful, open, and honest. Muslims have a lot to offer society but there is a lot of baggage that has to be overcome and thus there needs to be a strategy to overcome it.

  20. Wimpy Carter,

    “Links? I have a few that suggest otherwise, but of course your moderator won’t let me post them.” well you don’t have to copy and paste them. just type them without the dotcom, or with a space between some of the letters. the moderator is pretty liberal.

  21. @ sahra
    “what are the christians of the world doing about the stuggles for western muslims to build a decent place of worship and the right of muslims woman to wear freely what ever she choose in western christians majority countries…”

    Do any of the Islamic countries let non Muslim women wear what the want and build places of worship? You kill anyone who leaves Islam and demolish temples and churches. So for you to expect something like that in a western country is hypocritical. And if you don’t like our rules, feel free to go back to your own country. People like you make the moderate Muslims looks bad.

    There are enough mosques and burqa clad women in the west and everyone knows that.

  22. sarah,

    wow, you make all westerners – liberal, moderate and conservatives look bad. “love it or leave it” is a poor position to take. i’ll fall back on the old, two wrongs don’t make a right. on a personal note i remeber when the iranian hostage crisis happened. i was in like 6th grade and our teacher said there where 15,000 iranian students in america. she said we should round them all up and hold them hostage. i went home and told my mom that and she put her hand on my shoulder and kind of shook her head, in that way that only a mother can convey both disappiontment and understanding at the same time can do, and said, son we don’t lower ourselves to their level.

  23. Well Mike that was better than my thoughts on the issue. For the life of me I could not figure out why Carter did not simply firebomb the compound and about 5 square miles around it. I have better thoughts now, but it does show why teenagers should not be allowed to make important decisions. Then again, it may just reflect on my decision making process.

  24. ccc,

    that would have killed our embassy people. that’s what makes hostage situations so delicate. but i do remeber when they dragged our guy through the streets of mogadishu. i was 24 and literally pacing back and forth in my living room, thinking we should drop some flyers saying you have 30 days to get out. then nuke the whole city. but luckily cooler heads prevailed. well for now, we’ll see what happens when the iranians develop a nuke?

  25. WEell, to be fair, Muslims are doing a lot. But, the question should be, are Muslims telling the TRUTH about their faith! Definitly not. Folks; it is very easy to know the truth about Islam. READ THE KORAN. However, you must know a little of islamic history and the contradictions in the Koran.
    Mohammad started his idea in Mecca with ‘friendly’ surahs mostly borrowed from the Bible. When he was mocked, he fled (hijra) to Medina and the horrible, inhumane criminal surahs poured in. One important thing most are not aware of and that is all the friendly surahs have been abrogated lleaving the violent surahs in effect.
    So, you can see that the islamists can play the double folding game. In the West they use the abrogated surahs to deceive. Takiyya (deception) is allowed in Islam for the good of this evil system to spread.
    The mainstream media is to be blamed for the misinformed Americans causing the fast spread of the horrifying terrorism in the name of Islam.

  26. one drop of oil make a bottle of milk BAD. one drop of milk make a bottle of oil BAD.

  27. Hello! At Mr/Mrs. Criley: Muslims don’t believe in missionary work. Muslims invite to the way of Allah, putting the information out there, but there is no compulsion in Islam. Many local mosques, as well as national Islamic organizations, have websites with plenty of information on Islam and it’s teachings. I understand what you are saying, and there is no criticism from me!

    Mr/Mrs. Ronvyo

    I take umbrage with the statement “started his idea” but debating the authenticity of the religion isn’t what this post is about. I would, however, like to make a few comments on the history you stated. The prophet Muhammad preached in Mecca for thirteen years before traveling to Madinah. I’m sure he was mocked every day of these thirteen years. So I don’t think it’s as simple as saying “They made fun of him, so he left.” As for the issue of the surahs themselves, while there is similar content in some of the verses, there weren’t really any copied verses. And going to Madinah didn’t produce many “horrible, inhumane, criminal” surahs. In fact, it didn’t produce any at all. There are surahs that, when taken out of context, seem violent. And they are. But when one reads the surrounding verses, things are put into perspective. A commonly quoted verse of the Qar’an is talking about the believers killing disbelievers where they see them. The verses all around it qualifying that talk about the disbelievers attacking first. And how they really shouldn’t kill them. And how they can’t kill women, children, or the elderly. Or livestock. Or poison water and ravage fields, etc. About the surahs. The surahs in Mecca were all about mercy and kindness, inviting to the way of Allah. When the Muslims moved to Madinah, the verses became more explanatory, giving guidelines for how Muslims should live their lives, as well as through adages. I am no Islamic scholar. But I am a Muslim. Also, I’m American, and not even mildly frightening. No beef with you, Mr/Mrs. Ronvyo. I just wished to make some things clear. Thanks!

  28. seriously??
    You write a story about how An American president had a dinner party 200 years ago and a tunisian ambassador was a guest…

    and you conclude that this means islam has always been part of America??

    Ridiculous

  29. This is all very new to me and this article really opened my eyes.Thanks for sharing with us your wisdom.

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