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Islam in Brazilmarker was first practiced by African slaves. The early Brazilian Muslims led the largest slave revolt in Brazil, which then had the largest slave population of the world. The next significant migration of Muslims was by Arabs from Syriamarker and Lebanonmarker. The number of Muslims in Brazil according to the 2000 census was 27,239.


African Immigration

The history of Muslims in Brazil begins with the importation of African slave labor to the country. Brazil obtained 37% of all African slaves traded, and more than 3 million slaves were sent to this one country. Starting around 1550, the Portuguesemarker began to trade African slaves to work the sugar plantations once the native Tupi people deteriorated. Scholars claim that Brazil received more enslaved Muslims than anywhere else in the Americas.

Malê Revolt

The Muslim uprising of 1835 in Bahia illustrates the condition and legacy of resistance among the community of Malês, as African Muslims were known in 19th century Bahia. Muslim African tribes are Ful, Mandinka, Yao, and Makonde. Beginning on the night of January 24, 1835, and continuing the following morning, a group of African born slaves occupied the streets of Salvadormarker and for more than three hours they confronted soldiers and armed civilians.

Even though it was short lived, the revolt was the largest slave revolt in Brazil and the largest urban slave revolt in the Americas. About 300 Africans took part and the estimated death toll ranges from fifty to a hundred, although exact numbers are unknown. This number increases even more if the wounded who died in prisons or hospitals are included. Many participants were sentenced to death, prison, whippings, or deportation. The rebellion had nationwide repercussions. Fearing the example might be followed, the Brazilian authorities began to watch the malês very carefully and in subsequent years intensive efforts were made to force conversions to Catholicism and erase the popular memory of and affection towards Islam. However, the African Muslim community was not erased overnight, and as late as 1910 it is estimated there were still some 100,000 African Muslims living in Brazil.

Muslim immigrants in Brazil

Following the assimilation of the Afro-Brazilian Muslim community, the next period of Islam in the country was primarily the result of Muslim immigration from the Middle East and South East Asia. Some 11 million Syrian and Lebanese (mostly Christians) immigrants live throughout Brazil. Oliveira, Vitória Peres de. Islam in Brazil or the Islam of Brazil?. Translated by Jeffrey Hoff. Relig. soc. [online]. 2006, vol.2, Special Edition [cited 25 October 2007]. Available from World Wide Web: />. ISSN 0100-8587. The biggest concentration of Muslims is found in the greater São Paulomarker region.

Architecture and cuisine also bear the trademarks of the culture brought to the hemisphere by the Arabs. Not even fast food has escaped the immigrant influence, as the second largest fast food chain in Brazil is Habib's, which serves Arab food. And the diversity of influence stretches to businesses such as the textile industry, which is dominated by merchants of Syrian-Lebanese origin(mainly of Christian faith). The São Paulo city council even has a Muslim Councillor by the name of Mohammad Murad, who is a lawyer by profession. A number of mosques dot the greater São Paulo area. The oldest and most popular of these is found on Av. Do Estado. Since its establishment over seventy years ago, the mosque has added a Quranic school, library, kitchen and meeting hall for various functions.


Number of Muslims

According to the Brazilianmarker census of 2000 there were 27,239 Muslims living in the country, primarily concentrated in the states of São Paulomarker and Paranámarker. Muslim community leaders in Brazil estimated that there were between 700,000 and three million Muslims, with the lower figure representing those who actively practiced their religion, while the higher estimate would include also nominal members.


As has been the case in many of the larger metropolitan mosques in South America, foreign assistance and individual effort have played major roles in the sustainability of the mosques in the greater São Paulo area. For example the Imam of the Av. Do Estado Mosque is from the Middle East and often Imams are chosen jointly by the Mosques' management committees and the Arab governments that pay for the Imam's services. Ismail Hatia, a South African who came to Brazil in 1956, built a mosque in Campinasmarker two years ago. Hatia, who also runs a language school, felt that the approximately 50 Muslim families in Campinas were in dire need of some community organization to help provide cohesion and direction for the Muslims. The Campinas mosque now holds regular Friday juma prayers and is in the process of establishing regular night prayers on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Rise of Islam in Brazil

A recent trend has been the increase in conversions to Islam among non-Arab citizens. A recent Muslim source estimated that there are close to 10,000 Muslim converts living in Brazil. Indeed, Brazil may have become a hub for Islam in Latin America. During the past 30 years, Islam has become increasingly noticeable in Brazilian society by building not only mosques, but also libraries, arts centres, and schools and also by funding newspapers. The growth of Islam within Brazil is demonstrated in the fact that 2 of the 3 existing Portuguese translations of the Qur'an were created by Muslim translators in São Paulo.


  2. Lovejoy, Paul E., Muslim Encounters With Slavery in Brazil, Markus Wiener Pub., 2007. ISBN 1558763783.
  3. Kent, R K. "African Revolt in Bahia: 24-25 January 1835." Journal of Social History 3 (1970): 334-356. Jstor. UNCC, Charlotte. 24 Oct. 2007.
  4. Reis, João J. "Slave Resistance in Brazil: Bahia, 1807-1835." Luso-Brazilian Review 25 (1988): 111-144. Jstor. UNCC, Charlotte. 24 Oct. 2007.
  5. Johns Hopkins University Press | Books | Slave Rebellion in Brazil
  6. Joao Jose Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia, Johns Hopkins University Press, London 1993
  7. Steven Barboza, American Jihad, 1993
  8. Brazil
  9. Brazil's Muslim Peoples

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