Omar ibn Said or Umar B. Sayyid was born in 1770 in Futa Toro, present-day Senegal. His family was wealthy and this afforded Said the chance to study under highly respected Islamic scholars. Said was able to learn a range of subjects including mathematics and theology.
Also known as Prince Omeroh, Umeroh, Moro, Morro, Meroh, Monroe and Uncle Moreau, Said was documented to have performed his obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca from 1790-1805. He was also a tradesman and teacher.
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Accused of an unclear crime, Said was sold by the Fula people to an American slave trader. Subsequently, he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina. He then traveled to Fayetteville, North Carolina to escape a harsh master. While there, he was recaptured and sold to James Owen. He was 37 years old.
In 1820, Said was forced to renounce his faith and convert to Christianity. During this time, he was also taught English.
His conversion did not cause a complete abandonment of Islam. He rather became ambiguous in his faith, teetering the lines between Islam and Christianity. The Surah Al-Nasr – a chapter in the Quran was found transcribed in his Bible.
Like the true scholar that he was, Said penned 14 manuscripts in Arabic.
He also authored his autobiography in 1831. The accounts of his life confirm his lifelong allegiance to Islam and his belief that God ruled over all human beings.
Said’s literary works are now on display at the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina and the Andover Theological Seminary.
The Omar ibn Sayyid Mosque in Fayetteville, NC is named in honor of the scholar.
Said remained a slave until his death in 1864 in Bladen County, NC