Muslim Women and Charity
Muslim women were few, about 24 percent of the total number of Senegambian captives, but in one place where many were concentrated, they made a lasting impression. On the Sea Islands, a song sung by children well into the twentieth century has kept their memory alive. It goes thus: "Rice cake, rice cake - Sweet me so - Rice cake sweet me to my heart." Everyone on the island called these rice cakes saraka and people assumed it meant rice cake in an African language. But the word actually comes from the Arabic sadaqa (changed into saraka, sarakh, or saraa in Africa) or freewill offerings and refers to a custom derived directly from West Africa where Muslim women offer rice balls to the children on Fridays as a charity, a sadaqa. In Georgia, the women were not calling the cake saraka, they were saying, as they handed them out, it was a saraka (an offering) in the name of God. Their almsgiving was true to the authentic spirit of sadaqa since tradition states that the best sadaqa is the one given by a person who owns little.
Omar ibn Said
© Courtesy of Documenting the American South, University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.