Islam spread to Africa initially through Ethiopia

Songhay_Empire
Songhay Empire
Image:Metropolitan Museum of Art

Islam came to Africa very early in its history. When its followers faced persecution in Arabia, the Prophet advised the community to seek refuge in Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia). In due course, the presence of Muslims in Africa grew and extended as scholars and merchants exchanged their material and intellectual wares with the peoples of Africa. Islam spread to West Africa along the ancient trading route that linked Egypt to the West African empire of Ghana which flourished from the eighth century onwards. Muslim traders and scholars thus became the early transmitters of Islamic culture and faith to the region.

In the mid-thirteenth century, the state of Mali was founded by the legendary Sunjata Kaita. His successors were known by the title mansa; the most famous of these rulers was Mansa Musa (d. 1327). During his reign, Musa invited the finest scholars, artists, and poets from all over the world to live in the city of Timbuktu. As a result of the empire’s wealth and support for learning, the Mali Empire became one of the most powerful empires.

By the late fourteenth century, the Mali Empire weakened and was absorbed into the expanding  kingdom of Songhay, which was founded as a small state centred on the ancient city of Gao in circa 700 in West Africa. The empire eventually extended to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and east into present-day Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

From the early fifteenth to the late sixteenth century, with several thousand cultures under its control, the Songhay Empire was considered one of the greatest African empires, stretching all the way to present-day Cameroon.

During this period of the spread of Islam in West Africa, the region became part of the larger cosmopolitan world of Muslim culture and civilization in North Africa and the Mediterranean, linked by faith and trade. Ibn Battuta, who travelled in the region, visiting Mali in 1352, noted the presence of mosques, institutions of learning, and the widespread tradition of Muslim practices and education among the inhabitants he encountered.

The Great Mosque, one of Mali’s oldest monuments and a major landmark, and the Djingereyber Mosque were restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.”The Aga Khan Development Network’s activities in Mali date back to 2003. Since that time, activities have grown to encompass cultural restoration and social development projects in Bamako, Mopti, Timbuktu and Djenné, as well as economic development projects. These range from investments in the aviation infrastructure to water, electricity and packaging for agricultural products. Since 2008, Aga Khan Foundation has been implementing the Mopti Coordinated Area Development Programme, which combines interventions in health, education, rural development, financial services and strengthening of civil society to improve the quality of life for the people of the Mopti Region.”*

References:
Nyang, Sulayman. “Islam in Sub-Sahara Africa.” The Muslim Almanac ed. by Azim A. Nanji. Detroit, Gale Research Inc. 1996
Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Programme
*AKDN in Mali

Research by Nimira Dewji


subscribe ismailimailBe the First to Know – Join Ismailimail

Get breaking news related to the Ismaili Imamat, the world wide Ismaili Muslim community and all their creativity, endeavors and successes.

Inspired? Share the story

Want to inspire? Send your stories to us at Ismailimail@gmail.com

Subscribe and join 20,000 + other individuals – Subscribe now!


Earlier & Related from the Ismailimail Archives

Today in history: Al-Azhar mosque, designed by Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mu’izz, was inaugurated - The Al-Azhar, a major mosque and institution of learning founded in Cairo by the  Fatimid…
The Aga Khan Development Network is the endeavour of the Ismaili Imamat to enact the ethics of Islam - “… my responsibilities as spiritual leader and interpreter of the faith are coupled with a deep…
Om Habibeh Foundation was established by Mata Salamat in Aswan to improve the quality of life of residents - “Aswan and the people of Aswan have a place of deep affection in my heart…
Mawlana Hazar Imam: “It is on this ethical premise, which bridges faith and society, that I established the Aga Khan Development Network” - “In all interpretations of Islam, Imams, whether they are Shia or Sunni, are required not…
Mawlana Hazar Imam: “The Imamat is a Muslim institution with a history going back over 1400 years.” - “What does it mean to become an Imam in the Ismaili tradition?” “As you know,…
Tahira Karim Tahira Karim’s exhibition titled “Wilka – Sacred in Quechua” - Amazing art work by an inspiring artist Tahira Karim whose work helps disadvantaged children in Peru. A must-see exhibition in Calgary, Canada.
The pursuit of knowledge, instructed to the Prophet, continues to be enforced by Mawlana Hazar Imam - Prophet Muhammad was concerned about the moral and spiritual conditions of the people of Mecca.
Golconda was the early seat of power of the Qutb Shahi dynasty - The Qutb Shahi tombs, the Golconda (Golkonda) Fort, and the Charminar, located in the city of Hyderabad, India, are the landmarks of the Qutb Shahi dynasty that ruled the region from 1518 to 1687.
Countdown to Diamond Jubilee – Snapshots of Imamat – 2009 to 2013 - “The new Museum will have a strong educational vocation: it will be a place for…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s