10. On Monday 21st October 1492, Columbus recorded seeing a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain off the coast of Cuba. #ColumbusDay
— Mohammed Ansar (@MoAnsar) October 12, 2015
This claim of Mo Ansar’s is easy to rebut. We can go to the source.
Christopher Columbus (d. 1506) kept a journal of his first journey to the Americas. The journal itself is lost, but Bartolomé de las Casas (d. 1566) edited an abstract based on it, which we cannot assume to have faithfully relayed his text (see Zamora’s chapter, below). That aside, it’s clear that Columbus (or his editor) did not say that there was a mosque in the Americas, but rather, a hill that looked like a mosque:
“Señala la disposición del río y del puerto…, que tiene sus montañas hermosas y altas…, y una de ellas tiene encima otro montecillo a manera de una hermosa mezquita.”
“Remarking on the position of the river and port…, he [Columbus] describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful…, and one of them has another little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque.”
Clements R. Markham (tr.), The Journal of Christopher Columbus (1893), pp. 62-3 [link]
I’m not sure where Ansar is getting his information from, but a certain Youssef Mroueh made the same claim in 1996. (Ansar seems to repeat Mroueh’s mistaken date for Columbus’ journal entry: it was not the 21st, but the 29th.) Mroueh is entitled “Dr.”, but I’ve found no evidence for a Youssef Mroueh who holds a doctorate in a relevant field. Says the mysterious Dr. Mroueh:
“Columbus admitted in his papers that on Monday, October 21,1492 [sic] CE while his ship was sailing near Gibara on the north-east coast of Cuba, he saw a mosque on top of a beautiful mountain.”
It’s rather devious to say that he “admitted” seeing a mosque; as though Columbus’ (or his editor’s) charming simile were somehow reluctant. But then Mroueh does not cite Columbus directly; rather, he cites – without specifying where – Nigel Davies’ Voyagers to the New World (1979). Davies was a genuine scholar of the Americas before Columbus, so, although I don’t have access to his book right now, I’m fairly confident that he didn’t misread Columbus so stupidly. If someone does have Voyagers to the New World, I’d appreciate a scan of the relevant pages.
I hope we can lay this baseless claim to rest now.
Richard V. Frankaviglia, “‘Far Beyond the Western Sea of the Arabs…’: Reinterpreting Claims about Pre-Columbian Muslims in the Americas”, Terrae Incognitae 46/2 (2014), 103-38. [link]
Margarita Zamora, “All these are the Admiral’s exact words”, in id., Reading Columbus (1993), pp. 39-62.