History and Spread of Islam in Western Africa

History and Spread of Islam in Western Africa

The spread of Islam in the today’s West African states, such as Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria and Guinea, took a slow but complex class. Islam foremost reached Africa in the 8th century, or 614AD, on the direction of Prophet Mohammad, who had a figure of Muslims migrate to Abyssinia in Egypt. They spread all over North Africa, suppressing most states, before deriving impulse in West Africa, in the 10th century, with the aid of the “Almoravids Movement” along the Senegal River ( Robinson 64 ) .

Harmonizing to societal scientists, today’s Africa is considered the “cradle of the human species.” However, one forgotten fact is that, some of the greatest lands in the universe, such as Mali and Songhai imperiums, thrived, even before the Europeans reached Africa. The three lands held huge districts across sub-Saharan Africa, and into North Africa, and the Middle East. This paper focuses on the spread of Islam in Western Africa, in relation to the imperiums of Mali and Songhai, while analysing how political, societal, economic and cultural factors, influenced its spread. It farther looks at its impacts, in relation to the formation of these imperiums, on peculiar events in history.

The presence of Islam in West Africa can be described in three stages – containment, blending and reform. In the first stage, African Kings contain Muslim influence in unintegrated communities ; the second is when African swayers began selectively intermixing local traditions with certain appropriated Islam patterns ; and the concluding phase is when African Muslims pressed for reforms to acquire rid of the assorted patterns, which led to the execution of Shariah jurisprudence. These three stages will besides assist us understand how Islam influenced the development of the medieval empires, such as Mali and Songhai imperiums.

Containment –Harmonizing Robinson, theearliest presence of Islam in West Africa was limited to Muslim communities that were chiefly linked to the trans-Saharan trade. He reported that long distance bargainers from Arabia and North Africa came to West Africa and set up Berber Muslims colonies in the part. The merchant-scholar categories so introduced West African merchandisers to utile trade tools and information, such as recognition, contract jurisprudence and information webs. With their cognition of written books, trade values and administrative techniques, some of the West African swayers and male monarchs, including in Ghana, Mali and Shanghai, took some of them as their personal advisers ( Pouwels and Levtzion, 107 ) . In this manner, the leaders began accepting Islam. The extension of Islam largely took topographic point in the forest countries, instigated by the Jakhanke merchant-scholars. Others from Mali, Ivory Coast and the Hausa merchandisers, subsequently joined the Muslim merchant-scholars, in the wood zones, in the 19th century. The spread of Islam faced challenges from some leaders, such as Al-Hajj Salim Suwari. Harmonizing to Pouwels and Levtzion, Suwari discouraged proselytising the Islamic religion on his people ( Western and Central Sudan 224 ) . Get downing in the 12th century, there was increased contact between Muslims and Africans, and Muslims provinces, such as Sahel, began to emerge.Harmonizing to Pouwels and Levtzion, the political, cultural and political differences, among the African Muslims, male monarchs and non-Muslims, led to the dissolution of the Tukruri land into a figure of little lands.

Blending Phase –The Empires of Mali and Songhay

African leaders continued accepting and following Islam, while governing over populations with diverse religions and civilizations. During this clip, the swayers had no option other than intermixing Islam’s diverse civilizations and religions, with local patterns and traditions ( Robinson 84 ) . The locals selectively appropriated certain facets of Islam, while others to the full converted. Pouwels and Levtzionwrotethat the blending of cultural traditions with a foreign religion, led to statements and dissensions among leaders and locals, which caused struggle and paved manner for imperium laminitiss. The presence of skilled Muslim-scholar advisers played a outstanding function in determining imperium laminitiss. Among them was Sunjiata Keita, the laminitis of Mali Empire.

The Europeans records show that, at this clip, Sunjiata himself was non a Muslim. However, in the 13th century, Mali Empire male monarchs, who controlled most parts of Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and the modern twenty-four hours Mali, became Muslim. Mansa Musa, the most celebrated male monarch of the Mali Empire, made Islam the official faith, during his reign. His public show of wealth and extravagancy on his trips to Mecca, led to the deflation of gold monetary values in Egypt for several old ages before his decease ( Pouwels and Levtzion 93 ) . The Saharan Tuareg incited internal resistance and struggles, doing the Mali Empire, which existed from the 12th century to mid-fourteenth century, to fade out after Mansa Musa’s decease.

The political and economic struggles led to the outgrowth of several Muslim provinces, such as the Kingdom of Kanem and Hausa metropolis. The Kingdom of Kanem prospered commercially, and became the centre of trade in West Africa up to the 14th century ( Pouwels and Levtzion 116 ) . The transition of its male monarch, Bornu, played a major function in distributing Islam, and although the bulk of the population blended their traditional patterns with Islam, others did non pattern until late in the century.

The Mande Songhay Empire rose later from the ruins and remains of the Mali Empire in mid 1430s. In Spencer’s research, its boundary lines extended beyond the old Mali Empire and encompassed a diverse multiethnic population ( Western and Central Sudan 214 ) . It retained Islam as the province faith and still assorted Islam with traditional patterns and systems. It is mentioned that the land of Gao was the lone 1 that rose after being conquered by the Songhay Empire. It besides patronized Islam most, through Islamic establishments and sponsorship of public edifices, libraries and mosques, such as the Great Mosque of Jenne, which remains the largest clay edifice in the universe today. This extended to the adjacent provinces, such as Niger Bend, harmonizing to Arab chroniclers. The empire’s multicultural population, Islamic scholarships, every bit good as regional trade, influenced and powered the cosmopolite environment, which led to its growing and the spread of Islam. As Pouwels and Levtzion ( 127 ) record, towards the terminal of 15th century, Morocco was conquered, which mostly affected Songhai ‘s major trading spouses. They included the Mereind dynasty in North West Africa and the Mamluks in Egypt. Finally, the Empire of Songhai fell in 1591 ( Pouwels and Levtzion 134 ) . The acquisition centres dispersed, from urban to rural countries and pastoralists, throughout the Sahara desert. Harmonizing to Spencer, the bookmans from the merchandiser category collaborated with warriors to protect the trade trains in the desert. Songhai’s autumn was followed by the charming Sufi brotherhood, who continued distributing the faith throughout the part up to the Nineteenth century.

Reform Phase

The Jihad motions in Sokoto, Hausa land and Senegambia are the best illustrations of the reform stage of the spread of Islam in West Africa. Most people in the fallen imperiums were divided into bookman and warrior societies. It was besides the period that accelerated the terminal of the blending of Islam with traditional systems and, alternatively, wholly adopted Islamic ethical motives. Spencer noted that these motions led to centralisation of power in the Muslim community, transmutation of jurisprudence and instruction reforms. Jihad of Hajj, a Tukulor from some parts of Senegambia and Uthaman Dan Fodio motions, are some illustrations of 1850s motions that were inspired by the Islamic religion ( Spencer 87 ) .

They formed modern twenty-four hours North Nigeria, and united against a common enemy. After the decease of Umar Tal and autumn of Medina in 1857, the Gallic defeated his boy, coercing his followings to fly westward where they continued distributing Tijani order. The invasion of Sokoto Caliphate, by the Europeans, led to its diminution subsequently in 1903, but did non halt the spread of Islam in the part. Alternatively, modern communicating and transit substructure facilitated the rapid spread of the faith across the part, to the point where the North Nigerian Muslim Society was formed ( Pouwels and Levtzion 67 ) .

In decision, the containment, blending and reform stages, shed visible radiation on the history of Islam in West Africa. Get downing from a little gateway of the trans-Sahara trade, through the benighted imperiums to the 19th century Jihad motion, has seen Muslim communities in West Africa for over a millenary. The communities now represent a powerful political, economic and cultural force in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Senegal, and the African landscape in general.

Plants Cited

David Robinson.Muslim Societies in African History.New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels.The History of Islam in Africa.Athinais OH: Ohio University Press, 2000.

Spencer Trimingham.History of Islam in West Africa.New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Western and Central Sudan, 1000–1400 A.D. InTimeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–

Western and Central Sudan, 1400–1600 A.D. InTimeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000– .