Islam in Africa
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Islam in Africa,the development of the Muslim religion on the African continent.
During Muhammad's lifetime a group of Muslims escaped Meccan persecution (615) by fleeing to Ethiopia, where the Negus [king] gave them protection. The spread of IslamIslam
, [Arab.,=submission to God], world religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad. Founded in the 7th cent., Islam is the youngest of the three monotheistic world religions (with Judaism and Christianity). An adherent to Islam is a Muslim [Arab.,=one who submits].
..... Click the link for more information. in Africa began in the 7th and 8th cent. with the UmayyadsUmayyad
, the first Islamic dynasty (661–750). Their reign witnessed the return to leadership roles of the pre-Islamic Arab elite, and the rejuvenation of tribal loyalties. The Banu Ummaya constituted the higher stratum of the pre-Islamic Meccan elite.
..... Click the link for more information. , who brought the religion to the Middle East and to the littoral of North Africa. Along the coast of Africa Islam spread among the BerbersBerbers,
aboriginal Caucasoid peoples of N Africa, called Imazighen in the Tamazight language. They inhabit the lands lying between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea and between Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean.
..... Click the link for more information. , who joined the Muslim community and almost immediately drove north across the Mediterranean into Europe. In Morocco, Muslims founded the city of Fès (808), which soon thereafter gave refuge to Andalusian Muslims fleeing an uprising in Córdoba (see IdrisidsIdrisids
, two historic Muslim families. 1 An Arab Shiite dynasty of Morocco (788–974), founded by Idris I, a descendant of caliph Ali. It was the first Shiite dynasty in the history of Islam.
..... Click the link for more information. ). On the east coast of Africa, where Arab mariners had for many years journeyed to trade, Arabs founded permanent colonies on the offshore islands, especially on Zanzibar, in the 9th and 10th cent. From there Arab trade routes into the interior of Africa helped the slow acceptance of Islam and led to the development of Swahili culture and language.
Prior to the 19th cent. the greatest gains made by Islam were in the lands immediately south of the Sahara. The Islamization of W Africa began when the ancient kingdom of GhanaGhana
, ancient empire, W Africa, in the savanna region of what is now E Senegal, SW Mali, and S Mauritania. The empire was founded c.6th cent. by Soninke peoples and lay astride the trans-Saharan caravan routes. Its capital was Kumbi Salih (in present-day SE Mauritania).
..... Click the link for more information. (c.990) extended itself into the Sahara and the Islamic center at Sanhajah. Mansa Musa (1307–32) of Mali was among the first to make Islam the state religion. By the 16th cent. the empire of Mali and its successor-state Songhaj included several Saharan centers of trade and Muslim learning, such as Timbuktu. In the region of the E Sudan, Islamic penetration followed the route of the Nile. By about 1366, Makurra, the more northerly of the two Christian kingdoms of the E Sudan, became Islamic. The other kingdom, Aloa, was captured (c.1504) by the Muslims.
In the 16th cent. the Somali conqueror Ahmad Gran unsuccessfully attempted to convert Ethiopia to Islam. In the late 18th and early 19th cent., Africa, like the rest of the Muslim world, was swept by a wave of religious reform. Militant reformers, such as the FulaniFulani
, people of W Africa, numbering approximately 14 million. They are of mixed sub-Saharan African and Berber origin. First recorded as living in the Senegambia region, they are now scattered throughout the area of the Sudan from Senegal to Cameroon.
..... Click the link for more information. and the followers of al-Hajj UmarHajj Umar, al-
or Hajj Omar
, 1797–1864, Muslim religious and military leader in W Africa. A chieftain of the large Tukulor tribe of Senegal, he desired to convert the pagan tribespeople of the W Sudan.
..... Click the link for more information. , greatly extended the area over which Islam held sway in W Africa. Usumanu dan Fodio (1809) founded the Sokoto caliphate, which was eventually incorporated under British rule into Nigeria.
The Muslim brotherhoods also gained many new converts (see SanusiSanusi
, Arabic Sanusiyya, a political-religious organization in Libya and Sudan founded in Mecca in 1837 by Muhammad bin Ali al-Sanusi (1791–1859), known as the Grand Sanusi.
..... Click the link for more information. ). European colonialists in many cases adopted Muslim law as a unifying administrative structure, rather than the indigenous and often competing tribal customs of their artificially demarcated colonies. Islam in Africa has to varying degrees incorporated tribal and pre-Islamic practices, and the Muslims of Africa have accepted claims of several self-proclaimed MahdisMahdi
[Arab.,=he who is divinely guided], in Sunni Islam, the restorer of the faith. He will appear at the end of time to restore justice on earth and establish universal Islam. The Mahdi will be preceded by al-Dajjal, a Muslim antichrist, who will be slain by Jesus.
..... Click the link for more information. . In the 20th cent. Islam has gained more converts in Africa than has Christianity, which labors under the burden of identification with European imperialism.
See J. S. Trimingham, Islam in West Africa (1959), Islam in East Africa (1964), Islam in the Sudan (2d ed. 1949, repr. 1965), Islam in Ethiopia (1952, repr. 1965), and The Influence of Islam on Africa (1968); J. and L. Kritzeck, ed., Islam in Africa (1969).