webAfriqa Library

UNESCO — General History of Africa
Volume I. Methodology and African Prehistory

Joseph Ki-Zerbo, ed. 1981, 820 pp.

3. — M. El Fasi and I. Hrbek
Stages in the development of Islam
and its dissemination in Africa

General Introduction

Islam — together with Buddhism and Christianity — belongs in the category of missionary religions, i.e. those in which the spreading of the truth and the conversion of “unbelievers” were considered a duty by the founder of the religion and then by the whole community. Muslims employ for the proselytizing activity the Arabic word da'wa, whose literal meaning is “call, appeal, invitation”, in this case to the truth of the Islamic faith.
The duty to invite non-Muslims to accept Islam is contained in many Quranic Sūras such as: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation; and reason with them in the kindest manner” (16:126) or “Say to those who have received the Scripture and those who are ignorant: do you accept Islam? Then, if they accept Islam, they are rightly guided, but if they turn away, then thy duty is only to convey the message” (3: 19). Similar exhortations are found in many other Sūras.
During Muhammad's life Islam became the religion of the Arabs; it fell to his immediate successors, the first caliphs, to carry the new religion beyond the borders of the Arabian peninsula. There the Muslims encountered a different situation; whereas the majority of the Arabs had been adherents of traditional religion before their conversion (Arabic mushrikūn, polytheists) the surrounding countries were inhabited by Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who were, according to the Islamic view ahl al-Kitāb, people of the Book, that is those who made use of revealed Scriptures and were thus adherents of a revealed, even if imperfect, monotheistic religious system. The attitude to these peoples did not entail any obligation on the part of the Muslims either to convert or to exterminate them, since ideologically Islam discourages compulsory conversion. The appeal it hopes to exercise consists in the existence and the availability of the ultimate truth made visible through the life of the Muslim community in which it is embodied. There was surely during the great Arab conquest no attempt to convert the ahl al-Kitāb by force.
Although generations of scholars have already clearly demonstrated that the image of the Muslim Arab warrior with sword in one hand and the Quran in the other belongs to the realm of mythology, this image still persists in popular writings on Islam and is generally believed in non-Muslim countries. This misinterpretation has arisen from the assumption that wars waged for the extension of Muslim domination over lands of non-Muslims were aimed also at their conversion 1. Islamic political theory, in fact, requires control of the body politic for the Muslims, but it does not require bringing every subject of the Muslim state into the fold. The conquests during the first century of the hidjra were made not for conversion's sake but actually for the extension of the Islamic sphere of domination (Dār al-Islam). The Muslims were more interested in the incorporation of non-Muslims into the Islamic state, which in their eyes represented the ultimate realization of a divinely ordained plan for mankind, than in their immediate conversion 2. Conversion was desirable from the religious point of view, but not necessarily from a governmental point of view.
The ahl al-Kitāb were given substantial autonomy in all ecclesiastical matters on the condition that they paid djizya, the poll tax. The Muslims were exempted from this tax and Muslim Arab warriors and their families were paid pensions from the central state treasury (dīwān) and also enjoyed a privileged social position. The obvious advantages of belonging to the faith of the victors were not lost on conquered peoples and many of them went over to Islam.
Under the Umayyads conversions became so numerous that the tax revenue in many provinces had fallen alarmingly low; the answer was an official policy which discouraged further conversions by ordering that the new converts should continue to pay land tax and poll tax as before. Only during the reign of the pious Caliph 'Umar II (99/717-101/720) who is said to have pronounced the famous sentence “God had sent Muhammad to call men to a knowledge of the truth and not to be a collector of taxes” 3, was this policy stopped for a short time, but later the general practice reverted to one of discrimination against newly converted Muslims. It was not until Abbasid times that the neophytes were integrated as full members into the Islamic community and that the Arabs lost their privileged position as the ruling class.
Not until the second and third centuries after the hidjra did the bulk of the Near Eastern people profess Islam; between the military conquest of the region and the conversion of its people a long period intervened. The motives which led to conversion were manifold — some were attracted by the simple and straightforward teachings of Islam, others wanted to escape tribute and taxes, and still others sought to identify themselves with the ruling class and participate fully in the emerging Islamic culture.
It remains true, nevertheless, that the Arab conquest resulted — not immediately but in the long run — in the Islamization of the majority of the Near Eastern and North African populations. The rule of Muslim Arabs created political, religious, social and cultural conditions that favoured conversions to the religion of the politically dominant group without there being any need to employ force.

Islamized areas of Africa, c. 1100
Fig. 3.1 The Islamized areas of Africa by circa 1100

Part I — The Islamization of North Africa
M. El Fasi


Egypt — then a Byzantine province — was the first African country to be invaded by the Arabs. Its conquest did not take long as the Byzantine garrisons were not numerous and the local Copts did not offer any resistance; on the contrary they welcomed the Arabs as deliverers from the Byzantine yoke 4. They had suffered not only from a heavy tax burden and other forms of exploitation but also from religious persecution to which they were subjected as Monophysites by the official orthodox Byzantine church. This oppression had increased just before the Arab conquest through attempts to forbid the Coptic form of worship and through relentless persecution of Coptic clergy.
It may be suggested that this struggle between the two Christian churches in Egypt facilitated to some degree early conversions of Egyptians to Islam. The interminable theological controversies of the most abstruse and metaphysical character must have been unintelligible to the great mass of Christians who were doubtless also wearied and perplexed by the futility of them. Many of the Copts turned therefore to a faith that offered them a simple and clear truth about one God and his Prophet. This helps to explain the rapid spread of Islam in the early days of the Arab occupation 5. Although in later periods the Copts were from time to time persecuted by some intolerant rulers and many of them were thus driven to abandon their faith, such cases were the exception rather than the rule. Paradoxically, it was under the Fātimids and Ayyubids — both dynasties considered to be champions of Islam — that the non-Muslim subjects enjoyed a freedom of religion rarely seen in earlier or later periods; this tolerance, by bringing Muslims and Christians together, led to the gradual disappearance of the Coptic language from everyday use and its replacement by Arabic. In the sixth/twelfth century only the more educated clergy knew the language and it even became necessary to translate liturgical books into Arabic to make them comprehensible to the majority of the lesser clergy and the mass of Christians. The Copts filled many posts in the state apparatus, farmed the taxes and held in their hands financial and administrative responsibilities; in this they were not alone, as numerous other Christians (Armenians) and Jews were similarly employed 6.
The Islamization and Arabization of Egypt was also furthered by the steady influx of Arab Beduins from the Arabian peninsula and the Fertile Crescent who settled down as peasants, mixed with the native Copts and thus increased the number of Arab-speakers and Muslims. Another factor leading to conversions was the increasing corruption and degeneracy of the Coptic clergy from the fifth/eleventh century onwards which resulted in the neglect of the spiritual and moral needs of the people. In the seventh/ thirteenth century whole dioceses became Muslim since there were no priests, owing to a long quarrel between contending candidates to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, during which no new priests were ordained 7.
The Islamization of Egypt was thus a rather complicated process in which many factors — sincere religious adherence, fiscal and social advantages, persecutions, the decay of the Coptic Church, and an influx of Muslims from abroad — played their role. The combined result was that Egypt in the Mamluk period was already a country with a Muslim majority and Coptic and Jewish minorities.

The Maghrib

The religious situation in North Africa to the west of Egypt was at the time of Muslim advance more complex than the one found in Egypt. The Romanized population in the towns and on the coastal plains had for a long time adhered to Christianity, whereas the Berbers in the interior remained largely adherents of traditional religion although some of the mountain inhabitants had adopted Judaism. Already under Roman and Byzantine rule the Christianized Berbers had been given to sectarianism: the Donatists and Circumcellions — sects that professed egalitarianism and a simple creed — revolted many times against Church authorities and refused to pay taxes, thus expressing the characteristic Berber love of independence and an aversion to state authorities 8.
The dramatic story of the Arab conquest and of the fierce Berber resistance is fully discussed elsewhere in this Volume and does not need to be repeated here 9; our task in this chapter is to describe the Islamization of the Maghrib.

Detail of a minbar (in carved cedar) from the Mosque of Kayrawaan
Plate 3.1 Detail of a minbar (in carved cedar) from the Mosque of Kayrawān

The information we possess about the spread of Islam in this region is rather meagre; moreover the beginnings of Islamization are coloured in later Arabic sources by the 'Ukba legend that transformed this gallant warrior into a peaceful missionary. It nevertheless remains true that through the foundation of Kayrawan in the year 5o/670 'Ukba ibn Nāfi' created not only a military base but also an important centre for the radiation and propagation of Islam.
Although Ifrikiya (present-day Tunisia) had already become an Integral part of the Caliphate in the course of the first century after the hidjra and the Arab domination here was more stable than in the rest of the Maghrib, the process of Islamization even here went rather slowly. In many regions, mainly in the Sdhil, in the southern parts and in the zone of Mzab, Romanized and Christian Africans continued to represent the majority of the population during the first two centuries after the conquest. In more remote parts, but also in some towns like Carthage and Tunis, small Christian enclaves were still found in later centuries: in Mzab in the fifth/ eleventh century, in Kafsa in the sixth/twelfth century and in some Nafzdwa villages in the eighth/fourteenth century 10. In the town of Tozeur the ancient Christian population persisted until the twelfth/ eighteenth century 11. In the fifth/eleventh century there were forty-seven bishoprics in the Maghrib; and in the city of Tunis a small community of native Christians, quite distinct from foreign Christian merchants, formed the bodyguard of the flafsid sultans in the ninth/fifteenth century 12. But the very fact that these Christian remnants evoked the curiosity of observers in later centuries indicates that already by the fifth/eleventh century they lived among a majority of Muslims. Some papal documents from this century, lamenting the lack of clergy, also bear witness to the decay of Christianity in North Africa at this time 13. This long survival of the native Christians is a strong argument against the supposition of forced conversion; as elsewhere it was general social conditions that led to a gradual change of religion. The conversion was doubtlessly aided by the active missionary activities of Muslim clergy and pious men from Kayrawan and other Islamic centres. And as in other parts of the Islamic world the spread of Islam was more rapid among the townspeople than in the countryside.
Although we are not able — for lack of sufficient evidence — to answer precisely why and how various Berber groups (and there were many dozens of them) adopted the religion of Islam, we can at least discern some general trends characterizing this process in its successive stages.
In the first stage many Berber groups, after offering a fierce resistance to the Arab armies, were subdued and converted. Conversions under these circumstances were largely formal and were probably restricted to chiefs and clan elders, who by this act recognized the sovereignty of their new masters. As soon as the Arab armies withdrew or were expelled — and this happened many times during the first/seventh century — the Berbers revertcd to their traditional beliefs, considering themselves to be free of any political or religious allegiance. This led Ibn Khaldun to his famous remark that the Berbers apostasized as many as a dozen times during the first seventy years of their contact with Islam 14. When in 84/703 the last great Berber revolt under al-Kahina was on the point of being crushed, this intrepid woman sent her sons to the Muslim camp with instructions that they were to embrace Islam and make common cause with the Arabs. Whether this act was prompted by the realization that further resistance was useless or by the wish to retain the chieftainship of the Djarawa Berbers in her lineage, or both, is difficult to decide.
When the Arabs finally learned that it was beyond their capabilities to subjugate the Berbers by force 15, they changed their policies: the famous governor Musa ibn Nusayr started to select young men of noble origin from among the prisoners, liberate them on the condition that they embraced Islam and then appoint them to high commands in the army 16. This policy soon bore fruit as many Berber warriors encouraged by the example of their chiefs joined the Arab armies. The Arabs were aided in their effort to convert the Berbers by the successful invasion of Spain which almost immediately brought to their side large numbers of Berbers eager to participate in conquest and receive their share of booty. The Muslim army in Spain was composed mostly of recently converted Berbers and its first commander, Tdrik, was also a Berber. Thus shortly after the crushing of the last great resistance against the Arabs and Islam, thousands of Berbers joined both the armies and the faith of their enemy of yesterday. These conversions, however, only touched a minority of the population since large parts of present-day Algeria and Morocco remained beyond any effective Arab control and it took a long time before Islam penetrated into mountain areas.
Nevertheless, it can be said that during the first three or four decades of the eighth century Islam made considerable progress among the urban, rural and partly even the nomadic population in the plains and coastal strips. And it was precisely at this time that the characteristic Berber attitude towards the Arabs and Islam began to manifest itself: the Berbers were ready to accept Islam as a religion, or even the Arabic culture, and did so massively, but at the same time they resented being politically dominated by a foreign bureaucracy, representing a faraway sovereign, which discriminated against new converts, exacting from them heavy taxes as if they were unbelievers. To this was added the injustice suffered by Berber warriors in Spain where they were allocated less-fertile lands, although they had played at least as much part in the conquest as the Arabs.
Thus the stage was set for the next phase when the Berbers' struggle against foreign domination found its expression on an ideological level within the Islamic context. As a protest against the oppression of the orthodox Arabs they started to adhere to the doctrines of Kharidjism, the oldest Islamic politico-religious sect.
The Khāridjite political and religious teaching was democratic, puritan and fundamentalist, and in all these respects its adherents were radically opposed to the orthodox and absolutist Caliphate. From their egalitarian principles arose their doctrine concerning the choice of the Imām; (the head of the Muslim community): he should be elected and not hereditary, and every pious believer, irreproachable in his morals and faith, whether Arab or non-Arab, a slave or a free man, could hope to attain the office of Imam 17.
After leading several revolts against the Umayyads, the Kharidjites of the eastern provinces of the Caliphate soon divided into a number of mutually hostile branches — were savagely repressed. Some survivors emigrated to North Africa to escape persecution and to preach their doctrine. There it fell on fertile ground among the Berbers, many of whom enthusiastically adopted it as the ideology of their struggle against Arab domination. The principle of equality of all believers corresponded both to their social structure and ideals as well as to the aspirations of those opposed to the heavy taxation and harsh treatment meted out by the Arab bureaucracy. No less attractive was the teaching that since all Muslims are equal, luxurious living and ostentation by some is sinful and that true believers should live soberly and modestly, practising charity and strict honesty in their personal or commercial dealings. This puritanical element must have exercised profound influence on the frugal Berber peasants and semi-nomads, scandalized by the luxury and immorality of the Arab ruling classes. Nowhere in the whole Islamic world did Kharidjism gain so many adherents as among the Berbers. As Reinhard Dozy aptly put it: “Islamic Calvinism finally found in North Africa its Scotland” 18.
In its two main forms — Ibādism and Sufrism — the Kharīdjite doctrine spread chiefly among the Berber population in the area of steppes stretching from Tripolitania in the east through southern Ifrikiya to southern Morocco in the west, and particularly influenced the Berbers of the great Zanāta family 19. In the middle of the second/eighth century the Kharīdjites created two theocracies: the imāmate of Tāhert which commanded the allegiance of all Ibādites from Tripolitania to southern Algeria, and the smaller Sufrite principality in Sidjilmāsa. These states remained outside the control of the central Abbasid government or of the semi-independent Aghlabid governors of Ifrikiya until destroyed in the course of the fourth/ tenth century by the Fatimids 20.
It is obvious that the adoption of the Khāridjite doctrine by so many Berbers had its roots in the social and national opposition to the domination of Arab ruling classes. The Berber Khāridjism was in no case an anti-Islamic movement, on the contrary it was an expression of Berber acceptance of Islam as a religion. And through the incessant activities of numerous Ibādite shaykhs and scholars a large part of the Berbers became better acquainted with Islamic doctrine and duties, and were genuinely and not merely nominally converted.
Similarly the Berber resistance was not aimed against Muslim Arabs as such, but only against their ruling class. Berbers vigorously opposed any forceful or arbitrary imposition of foreign rule or rulers, but were ready to accept by free choice non-Berber Muslims as their chiefs. This happened in the case of the Persian Ibn Rusturn in Tāhert, the Alid Idrīs in Morocco and the Fātimid 'Ubaydullah among the Kutāma Berbers. In all these cases these men were accepted not only as leaders of the anti-government opposition, but also for their specific Islamic appeal. This fact indicates yet again that the Berbers in question were already acquainted with Islam and sought to give an Islamic character to their opposition, whether Khāridjite (Ibn Rustum), orthodox Sunnite (Idris) or Shi'īte ('Ubaydullāh).
There were also some attempts to found an exclusive Berber religion as a counterpart to Islam, the most famous and durable being that of the Barghawāta, a fraction of the Masmūda, who lived on the Atlantic plain of Morocco between Sale and Sāfi. Their chief, Salīh ibn Tarīf, proclaimed himself a prophet in 127/744-5, composed a Quran in the Berber language and issued a code of ritual and religious laws based mostly on local customs. Although all this put the Barghawāta religion outside the Islamic fold, its Islamic inspiration is clearly apparent and it represents one of the most original attempts to “Berberize” the religion brought to the Maghrib from the East.
This heresy encountered much success among the Moroccan Berbers. Sālih proclaimed himself ruler of a state independent of the Caliphate and his successors continued to dominate a large part of the Atlantic littoral until the fifth/eleventh century. They successfully defended their religion and state against all outside attacks, being finally subdued by the Almoravids, whose founder, 'Abdallāh ibn Yasin, died fighting these heretics.
In other parts of northern Morocco, among the Awrāba, Mlknāsa, Ghomāra and others, Islam had already made some progress in the course of the second/eighth century, but it seems that the real breakthrough and a more profound implantation occurred here during the rule of the Idrīsid dynast 21. The Berbers enthusiastically welcomed the founder, a scion of the Alid family, as faith in the special baraka (blessing power) hereditary in the line of Prophet's descendants had already begun to take root among the masses of believers, both in the East and the West. Invited to lead the anti-Abbasid movement, Idrīs seized the opportunity and after being proclaimed Caliph (in 172/788) launched an offensive to bring under the sway of Islam those Berbers who had not as yet been converted. This policy was continued by his son, Idrīs II, so that in the course of the next century northern Morocco was to a large extent Islamized, with the exception of the heretical Barghawāta. It should be pointed out that contrary to the opinion of some scholars 22, the Idrīsids could not be counted as a Shī'ite dynasty as they never preached the Shī'ite form of Islam. The Islamization of the Berbers in the Idrīsid domain was aided also by the steady immigration of Arabs from Andalusia and Ifrīkiya into the newly founded city of Fez which played a role in the western Maghrib comparable to that of Kayrawān in the eastern parts. The Islamization of the whole Maghrib was substantially complete by the fourth/tenth century; only in some regions and towns did small Christian and Jewish communities still exist and a few Berber groups in remote mountain areas clung to their ancient beliefs while the “heretic” Barghawata were still unsubdued. But in the meantime the political and social conditions underwent many changes that deeply influenced the whole religious situation.
In these changes the role of the Fātimids was paramount, even if highly paradoxical. By sweeping away the Khāridjite states of Tāhert and Sidjilmāsa and by suppressing several Khāridjite revolts, the Fātimids dealt a mortal blow to Berber Khāridjism. But they were, however, unable to attract the Berber masses to their form of Islam, Shī'ism. Rather, the Berbers now turned to Sunnite Islam and especially to the Mālikite madhhab (religious-legal school). The surviving Khāridjites either retired to remote regions (Mzāb, Djabal Nafūsa, etc.) or gradually abandoned their doctrines and went over to Mālikism which was already firmly rooted at Kayrawan in Ifrīkiya and in parts of Morocco. Khāridjism ceased to be the specific Berber form of Islam because at this time it lost its raison d'être as the expression of Berber opposition to foreign rule. There was no foreign domination in the Maghrib after the Fātimids transferred the centre of their empire to Egypt and left the Maghrib under the governorship of the Berber Zīrīds who in due time proclaimed their independence and swore allegiance to the Sunnite Caliph in Baghdad. Shortly afterwards the western part of the Maghrib came under the domination of the Berber Almoravids who exterminated the last vestiges of Khāridjism, Shī'ism and the Barghawāta heresy in this area, and established definitively the domination of the Mālikite school of Sunnite Islam.

Part II — I. Hrbek
The spread of Islam in Africa to the south of the Sahara

Since the Islamization of the northern part of Africa came about as a result of the Arab conquest, it is often thought that the spread of this religion into tropical Africa followed a similar pattern, that is, that the local peoples were first subdued by the Arabs (or Berbers) and then forced to adopt Islam. The Almoravid conquest of Ghana is usually quoted as the most outstanding case of this kind of Islamization but recent research has demonstrated that such an interpretation of Ghana's conversion is not substantiated by available evidence (see below). External conquest by Muslim invaders played a negligible role except in the Eastern Sudan where extensive Arab settlement was of crucial importance for the dissemination of Islam. Even here, however, the conversion of autochthones followed much later. The conquest of African societies by local Islamized states was a significant factor in the Chad region or in southern Ethiopia, although there, paradoxically, the final extension of the Christian Amhara empire in the nineteenth century had a far more profound and permanent effect on the promotion of Islam than the military actions of previous centuries 23. But in various parts of Africa to the south of the Sahara the normal course of the spread of Islam has been quite different as will be seen presently.

The Sahara

The Berbers of the western Sahara could have got into contact with Islam either through the Arab warriors who had penetrated their country from al-Sūs al-Aksā or through the Muslim merchants whose caravans from Sidjilmāsa or from other towns of al-Sūs al-Aksā had appeared on the western Saharan trade routes just after the Arab conquest of the Maghrib. These contacts certainly led to the conversion of some individual Berbers who served as guides and escorts for the caravans. In a few commercial and political centres along the routes where the Muslim traders had established themselves permanently, the influence of Muslim culture on the local population must have been more strong and profound.
The oldest information about the contacts between the Arabs and the Saharan Berbers is an account of the expedition of 'Ukba ibn Nāfi' to southern Morocco. In 63/682 he attacked the Massūfa Berbers to the south of al-Sūs al-Aksā and after making some of them prisoners, he retired 24. It seems that that expedition had reached as far as Wādī Dar'a (Oued Dra). Although much embellished by the later 'Ukba legend, this expedition seems to have been only a kind of reconnaissance similar to that undertaken by the same Arab general in 47/666-7 to the south of Tripoli towards Fezzan and Kawar 25; it is highly improbable that such short forays would have led to the Islamization of the local people.
Not much different were the campaigns of Mūsā ibn Nusayr, the Umayyad governor of Ifrīkiya who between 87/705-6 and 90/7o8-9 had conquered, pacified and allegedly converted most of the Moroccan Berbers. He, too, entered al-Sūs al-Aksā and even arrived at Sidjilmāsa and as far as to the town of Dar'a on the frontiers of the Massūfa territory 26. But the same sources maintain that the definitive conquest of al-Sūs al-Aksā and the conversion of its inhabitants occurred only as late as the 730s as a consequence of the expedition of Habīb ibn Abī 'Ubayda 27. The Arab army came back with many prisoners and a quantity of gold. Amongst the prisoners was a considerable number of the Massūfa; this indicates that these Berbers refused to accept Islam.
Further Arab military expeditions to the western Sahara stopped after the great Berber revolts in the 740s which had led to the decadence of Arab domination and a general anarchy in the Maghrib.
The first of the Saharan Berbers whose conversion is attested seem to have been the Lamtūna since Ibn Khaldūn wrote that they had accepted Islam shortly after the Arab conquest of Spain, in the second decade of the second/eighth century. On the other hand, al-Zuhrī (sixth/twelfth century) speaks of the conversion of the Lamtūna, Massūfa and Djuddāla during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Hishām ibn 'Abd al-Malik (106/724-125/743 ) 28. Their Islam, however, must have been only a thin veneer for many centuries to come; the whole history of the beginning of the Almoravid movement offers eloquent evidence about the superficial Islamization among these three Berber peoples.

The Western and Central Sudan

Islam had been carried across the desert to the Western Sudan even before the Maghrib and the Sahara themselves were fully converted. According to al-Zuhrī the rulers of the commercial town of Tādmekka, the Berbers of Banū Tānmak, were Islamized seven years after the people of Ghana, being forced to do this by newly converted Ghana 29. It is of course, quite possible that in this case the “conversion” had meant the enforcement of orthodox Almoravid Islam among a people that already professed the Khāridjite faith. Tādmekka had been visited by Ibadi traders from North Africa since the third/ninth century and had become a centre of their missionary activities among the Sudanese peoples. The famous leader of the anti-Fātimid Khāridjite revolt in the fourth/tenth century, Abū Yazīd, was probably born in Tādmekka 30.
This brings us to consider the role of the Khāridjites, especially the Ibādī sect, in the spread of Islam in the Sudan. Recent work by T. Lewicki on the Ibādites in North Africa, in the Sahara and in the Sudan has thrown much new light on the activities, commercial as well as missionary, of these puritanical Muslims. It is quite clear today that Ibādī traders penetrated the Sudan much earlier than orthodox Sunnites and it is likely that some of the first converts among the Sudanese were won for Islam solely by the proselytizing efforts of the Ibadites. The majority of the classical Arabic sources did not mention these activities, as their authors, being orthodox Muslims, were biased against the heretics 31; only sporadically or in an indirect way do we learn from them about the Ibādite presence in the Sudan 32. On the other hand, the writings of lbādī authors from North Africa are full of information about the Ibādī trade network in the Sahara and the Sudan from the second/eighth century on. There is evidence of settlements of Ibādī merchants who came from Tāhert, Wargla, southern Tunisia and Djabal Nafūsa, in various Sudanese towns such as Ghana, Gao, Awddāghust, Tādmekka, Ghayārū, Zāfunu and Kūgha. The Khāridj'ites of the Sufri sect were ruling Sidjilmāsa, one of the most important northern termini of the caravan trade until the fourth/tenth century; the Ibādite dynasty of the Banū Khattāb in Zawīla (in the Fezzān) dominated the northern end of the important trade route from Libya to the Lake Chad Basin. The picture that emerges from recent research shows us the great extent of these trade relations. Although reports about the missionary activities of these merchants are not numerous, it can be surmised that their centuries-long presence in the most important Sudanese centres exercised a religious influence on the local inhabitants. The first converts would have been, of course, their Sudanese partners in trade. On the other hand, no traces of the religious tenets of the Ibādite faith remain alive in the Sudanese belt. It seems that only in the religious architecture can we detect more profound Ibādite influence: the minaret forms extant in many parts of the Sudan came originally from southern Tunisia, whereas the rectangular minbars are copies of those from Mzāb, the main Ibadite centre from the fourth/tenth century onwards 33.
The early Ibādite influences in the southern Sahara and the Western Sudan were eradicated under the impact of the Almoravids who preached orthodox Islam and ensured that the Sudanese Muslims would thenceforth adhere to Mālikism. At the same time, in the fifth/eleventh century, the invasion of North Africa and the northern fringes of the Sahara by the nomadic Banū Hilāl contributed further to the decline of Ibādī communities and the definitive loss of their commercial preponderance in the caravan trade.
There are two curious episodes that could be interpreted as echoes of the former Ibādi influence in the sub-Saharan region. The Hausa legend of Daura contains the story of an Abuyazidu (or Bayadjidda), “son of the King of Baghdad” and the legendary ancestor of the Hausa ruling dynasties. This Abuyazidu legend seems to be somewhat connected with the famous leader of the anti-Fātimid Khāridjite uprising, Abū Yazīd, who was killed in 335/947. Although it is historically impossible to identify these two as one person, it is nevertheless admissible to see in this legend a distant echo of an Ibādi tradition in the Sudan, the more so as we know that the historical Abū Yazīd was born of a Sudanese mother in Tādmekka (or Gao) 34.
Al-Dardjīnī (seventh/thirteenth century), an Ibādite author from the Maghrib, narrates an anecdote about his great-grandfather who about 575/1179-8o travelled to the Sudan and there converted the king of Mali (situated inland of Ghana) to Islam. This anecdote reminds one of the well-known story of al-Bakrī about the conversion to Islam of a king of Mallel; this must have happened before the work of al-Bakrī had been written (before 46o/1068). The chronological discrepancy indicates that what we have here is a pious deceit by al-Dardjīni who has ascribed to his ancestor the success of an anonymous missionary 35. But this does not diminish the value of this anecdote as evidence for early missionary activities of the Ibādites and the awareness of this in later centuries.
How effective or profound this first wave of Islamization was is difficult to assess. Taking into account the situation of Islam in more recent times, it can be surmised that in a general way this early Islam contained many elements of various pre-Islamic faiths known in the Maghrib since the end of the Roman epoch (Judaism, Christianity) as well as survivals from the Berber and African religions. No wonder that the intransigent orthodox (mainly Mālikite) reformers of the type of Ibn Yāsīn were horrified by the survivals of traditional religion and the “mixed” nature of this early Islam in the Sahara and the Sudan. It took many centuries before the genuine Islam preached by a long chain of reformers and revivalists achieved some success.
To the Ibādites belongs the undeniable merit of having been the first to introduce Islam to the Sudanese peoples; even if their success cannot be quantitatively measured — and it seems that it was not very great — they laid the foundation on which later propagators of Islam were able to build a firmer structure.
The association of Islam and commerce in sub-Saharan Africa is a well-known fact. The groups most commercially active in later centuries, the Dyula, the Hausa and the Dyakhanke, were among the first to be converted when their respective countries came into contact with Muslims. The explanation of this phenomenon is to be found in social and economic factors. Islam as a religion born in the commercial society of Mecca and preached by a Prophet who himself had been for a long time a merchant, provides a set of ethical and practical precepts closely related to business activities. This moral code helped to sanction and control commercial relationships and offered a unifying ideology among the members of different ethnic groups thus helping to guarantee security and credit, two of the chief requirements of long-distance trade. As it was well put by A. G. Hopkins: “Islam helped maintain the identity of members of a network or firm who were scattered over a wide area, and often in foreign countries; it enabled traders to recognise, and hence to deal readily with each other; and it provided moral and ritual sanctions to enforce a code of conduct which made trust and credit possible.” 36
Muslims in these early days tended to form small communities dispersed along the main trade routes all over the Sahel and Sudan. In some capital cities like Ghana or Gao the merchants and Muslims — in fact, these categories were in most cases identical — lived in separate quarters, sometimes enjoying a certain political and judicial autonomy. This pattern was repeated until quite recent times not only in the trading centres but also in many villages where Muslims preferred to live separately from the pagan majority under the jurisdiction of their own shaykhs or kādīs.
In their quarters they established mosques and soon acquired a distinctive character through some of their habits and customs associated with the practice of Islam such as the five daily prayers, the mode of dressing and the total abstention from alcohol by some pious Muslims.
Thus Islam appeared first not as a moving frontier of mass conversion in a continuous area but rather as a series of urban enclaves at the centres of trade and political power while the peasants were only little touched by Islam 37. These settlements along the trade routes and in the major centres constituted the nursery for the eventual propagation of Islam.
Of course, not every Muslim trader could have had enough time or inclination to do missionary work among the local people. But in the wake of the traders and with the growth of Muslim communities in many parts of the Sudan came Muslim clerics for whom religious activities were generally more important than commercial ones. At first they performed a variety of clerical functions for established Muslim communities to which they later added healing, divining and the manufacture and sale of charms and amulets. It was in this way that they won respect and prestige among non-Muslims whose religious tenets were not exclusive and who often sought the aid of these clerics in attempts to manipulate the world of the supernatural. The side of their activities that touched on magic and superstition constituted the major appeal of Islam in non-Muslim eyes in the Sudan countries. Interpretations of dreams, healing by faith, divining the future, belief in the power of prayer, especially of prayers for rain, were of great relevance 38.
Since its appearance in West Africa Islam has always had to contend with non-Islamic customs and practices. For most converts, the acceptance of the new religion has never meant a complete abandonment of all nonIslamic practices associated with the African Traditional Religion. In fact, many initially accepted Islam because early Muslim leaders were liberal in their interpretation of what constituted the profession of Islam and were therefore very tolerant of some non-Islamic practices.
The second social group — after the merchants — to be converted to Islam were the rulers and courtiers. Whereas the adoption of Islam by the Sudanese traders through their contacts with North African counterparts went on gradually and unobtrusively for many years, thus failing to arouse the curiosity of the Muslim authors of our written sources, the conversion of a ruler had always attracted their attention, being an event duly recorded as a victory for Islam. We are therefore much better informed about the Islamization of the royal families and courts; moreover the given dates permit us to put this process into a relatively sure chronological framework.
It is generally admitted that the first ruler in the Western Sudan to become Muslim was Wār Dyābi of Takrūr on the lower Senegal. He had adopted Islam even before the rise of the Almoravids in the 420s/1030s. According to al-Bakrī he undertook to spread the new religion into the neighbouring country of Silla 39; and in 448/1056 his son Labī joined Yahya ibn 'Umar in fighting the rebellious Djuddala. Although the Fulbe-speaking people on the lower Senegal are today called Tukulor (but they themselves do not use the name), a distortion of Takrūr, it is not quite sure whether they already inhabited this country in the fifth/eleventh century. It seems more probable that the ancient Takrūr was peopled by the Soninke 40. In later centuries the name of Takrūr tended to designate, in North Africa and in Egypt, all the Muslim countries of the Western and Central Sudan. Whether this usage goes back to the fact that Takrūr was the first West African Muslim country or to the fact that by the eighth/fourteenth century the people of Takrūr, at that time already Fulbe-speaking, had begun to produce the class of Muslim clerics (the ToroBBe) who played such an important role in the Islamization of the whole Western Sudan, remains unsolved 41.
An even earlier, pre-Almoravid, conversion of a local ruler occurred in Gao (Kāw-Kāw), where in about 400/1009-10 the fifteenth Dyā (Zā) ruler Kosoy adopted Islam 42. Al-Bakrī does not mention the circumstances of this conversion but reports that when a new ruler was installed at Gao he was given a sword, a shield and a copy of the Quran said to have been sent from a caliph as his insignia of office. He adds that the king professed Islam, never giving supreme power to anyone other than a Muslim 43.
But the court ceremonial at Gao described by al-Bakrī was clearly non-Muslim. This pattern of Islam as the official royal religion with the mass of the populace non-Muslim and with a largely traditional court ceremonial remained a general fashion in many Sudanese states and is an indication of the very delicate balance which always existed between Islam and the indigenous religious structure.
To this same period also belongs the already mentioned conversion of the king of Mallal, one of the earlier chiefdoms of the Malinke. The ruler is reported by al-Bakrī to have been gained for Islam by a Muslim resident whose prayers brought a long-awaited rain to the country. Although the royal family and court became sincere Muslims, the rest of the people continued in their traditional religion 44.
This king proclaimed his allegiance to the new religion openly, being called “al-Muslimani”; but already his colleague, the ruler of Alūkan, had to conceal his Islam before his subjects. The first establishment of Islam in the Central Sudan occurred in the fifth/eleventh century with the conversion of the mais of Kanem 45. In the mahram (grant of privilege) of Hummay Djilmi (c. 472/1080-490/1097) we read that:

“the first country in the Sudan which Islam entered was the land of Bornu. It came through Muhammad ibn Mani who had lived in Bornu for five years in the time of King Bulu …, fourteen years in the time of King Umme (Hummay). Then he summoned Bornu to Islam by the grace of King Umme … Mānī Umme and Muhammad ibn Mānī spread abroad Islam to last till the day of judgment”. 46

It is interesting that already under the reigns of some of Hummay's predecessors (from the beginning of the fifth/eleventh century) there lived at the court Muslim clerics who even instructed the rulers in Islamic precepts and read parts of the Quran with them; nevertheless none of mais publicly professed Islam. It is for this reason that al-Bakrī, writing a generation before Hummay, considers Kanem to be still a kingdom of “idolatrous Negroes” although exposed to Muslim influences, illustrated by the interesting story of the presence there of some Umayyad refugees who “still preserve their Arab mode of dress and customs” 47. The son and successor of Hummay, Dūnama (490/1097-545/1150) undertook two pilgrimages to Mecca, being drowned on the second occasion 48.
The fifth/eleventh century seems to represent the period of the first real breakthrough for Islam in the Western and Central Sudan: from the lower Senegal to the shores of Lake Chad Islam was accepted by various rulers and chiefs, thus gaining an official recognition in the framework of African societies. The same century also brought about the conversion of the most famous and at the time most powerful of the Sudanese states, that of Ghana.
It used to be thought that this conversion was brought about as a result of the Almoravid conquest of Ghana in 469/1076. Recent research by scholars such as D. Conrad, H. J. Fisher, L.O. Sanneh and M. Hiskett 49 has, however, cast serious doubts on this view and it is becoming increasingly accepted that no such conquest ever took place and that the two powers in fact maintained friendly relations throughout. As a recent authority has concluded, “it seems more likely that the Soninke of Ghana were on good terms with the desert Almoravids, that they became their allies not their enemies, and were peacefully persuaded by them to adopt Sunni Islam as the offical religion in the Ghana empire.” 50 From Arabic sources, principally al-Bakrī, we know about a large Muslim community in the capital in the pre-Almoravid period, consisting not only of merchants but also of courtiers and ministers. The rulers of Ghana had thus already been exposed to Islamic influences for a long time; it is also likely that Islam came to Ghana first in its Khāridjite form. The conversion mentioned by al-Zuhrī — that the people of Ghana were converted by the Lamtūna in 469/1076 51 — could therefore mean merely an imposition of the orthodox Mālikite Islam on a previously Ibādite community as was earlier done in Awdāghust. The most important achievement of the Almoravid intervention was doubtless the conversion of the king and his court 52.
Also rejected by revisionist scholars is the view that the conquest and enforced Islamization of Ghana led to a massive population movement of the Soninke who opposed Islam and preferred to leave their ancestral homes rather than abandon their traditional religious beliefs 53. Since no such conquest or enforced Islamization took place the migration which did occur could not be attributed to these factors.
It would be, of course, mistaken not to acknowledge the profound impact of the Almoravids and the changes that their intervention brought to the Sudan. But these changes were of a quite different order to those supposed by the adherents of the migration theory. The Soninke really started to disperse but it was a continuation of a process that had begun much earlier. The Islamized Soninke merchants — the Wangara of the Arabic sources — gradually established their commercial network in the Sahel and to the south of it, towards the fringes of the tropical forest. Far from being averse to Islam they in fact substantially helped to spread this religion to non-Muslim parts of the Sudan where neither Arabs nor Berbers ever penetrated. The Soninke who moved from Dya (Dia) on the Niger to a new centre at Dyakhaba on the Bafing became known as Dyakhanke. They adopted the Malinke language and developed a closely knit community in which clerical and commercial activities went hand in hand 54. Other traders of Soninke origin, but often linguistically Malinkized, developed other trade networks: the Dyula mostly to the southern parts, the Marka in the Niger Bend and the Yarse in the Voltaic states. Most of their history and their role in spreading Islam belong to later centuries but it was in the period immediately following the Almoravid intervention in Ghana that this process gained its initial momentum.
There is no doubt that after the Almoravid intermezzo Islamic activities south of the Sahara became more intensive. The Islamization of the Mai Hummay of Kānem is sometimes ascribed to Almoravid influence but this is unlikely. There were, as we have seen, other Sudanese rulers who became Muslims before the rise of the Almoravids. It would seem that in the fifth/eleventh century the dynamics of previous development in many Sudanese states had reached a stage in which the adoption of Islam offered a certain set of advantages to the ruling classes and to a widening group of local traders. These advantages became even more apparent in the following centuries, in the period of the rise of the great Sudanese empires, Mali and Songhay.
Reasons of state that led to a degree of Islamization in the formerly non-Muslim empires were both internal and external. The external ones were connected with trade since the function of these empires from the economic point of view was the control and exploitation of the Sudan's trade with North Africa. The ruling class had a real interest in presenting an Islamized front — by the organization of its courts and by performing the pilgrimage — in order to establish and improve good relations with its North African clients and partners 55. In the internal sphere one of the great problems of the imperial rulers was how to secure the allegiance of other subjected pagan clans and peoples which possessed totally different ancestor and land cults from those of the ruling dynasty. A universal religion such as Islam seemed to offer a suitable solution; an effort was made to implant it at least among the heads of other lineages and clans and to establish a new common religious bond. The increasing extent of the empires made the effective administration of the realm more complicated; in this respect the help of Muslim scribes and other literate persons was indispensable for correspondence and control of state affairs. The influence of Muslim clerics at the courts must have been great, thus preparing the ground for the ultimate conversion of the ruler and his family.
This does not mean that the kings were necessarily very devout or deep Muslims. They also had to reckon with the local customs and traditional beliefs of the majority of their non-Muslim subjects who looked upon the rulers as incarnations of or intermediaries of supranatural powers. None of the rulers had the political power to enforce Islam or Islamic law without compromising the loyalty of the non-Muslims. This helps to explain the numerous pagan rites and ceremonies at the courts of Muslim kings like the mansas of Mali and of the askiyas of Songhay, men who had performed the pilgrimage and were commonly considered to be devout Muslims.

The Islamized areas of Africa by c. 1500
Fig. 3.2 The Islamized areas of Africa by c. 1500

In the Mali empire the Islamization of its rulers occurred at the end of the seventh/thirteenth century under the descendants of Sundiata. Although Ibn Battūta and Ibn Khaldūn maintain that this founding hero was converted to Islam 56, the Malinke oral tradition vehemently insists on his character as a “pagan” magician and denies any conversion. But already Sundiata's son and successor Mansa Uli performed the pilgrimage during the reign of the Mamluk sultan, Baybars (658/126o-676/1277). Under his rule Mali expanded over the Sahel and took control of the trading towns of Walāta, Timbuktu and Gao, thus coming into a more direct contact with Islamized peoples than in the centuries before 57. From his reign onwards the royal pilgrimage became a permanent tradition among the mansas. The Islamic outlook of the empire took shape in the eighth/fourteenth century under Mansa Musa (c. 712/1312-738/1337) and his brother Mansa Sulayman (c. 738/1341-761/136o) who encouraged the building of mosques and the development of Islamic learning. Ibn Battūta, an eye-witness, praised the zeal of the Malian Muslims in memorizing the Quran and in attendance at the public prayers. The general feeling one has in reading his account is that Mali in the mid-eighth/fourteenth century was a country in which Islam had already taken root and whose inhabitants followed the main Islamic precepts. He does not mention any pagan religious practices and apart from the nakedness of women he did not observe anything prohibited by Islamic law 58.
The general security reigning during the heyday of the Mali empire was favourable to the expansion of trade in the Western Sudan. Muslim traders operated various trade networks across the entire empire and even ventured beyond its frontiers. More and more Malinke were converted as well as some people from other ethnic groups like the Fulɓe in the Senegal Valley and in Masina. An important development was the emergence and growth of a local clerical class that was concentrated in the main political and commercial towns, in Niani and Gao, but particularly in Jenne and Timbuktu. There is sufficient evidence to show that at least until the ninth/sixteenth century the majority of Muslim scholars in Timbuktu were of Sudanese origin; many of them studied in Fez and excelled in Islamic science and piety to such a degree as to arouse the admiration of foreign visitors 59. All the main offices in Timbuktu (kādīs, immams and khatībs) were held by black Muslims who had come from the interior of the Mali empire. A similar situation obtained in Jenne and also in Dyagha (Dya) whose inhabitants Ibn Battūta praised as “Muslims of old and distinguished by their piety and their quest for knowledge.” 60 The establishment of a class of learned Muslim scholars and clerics of Sudanese origin was an important event in the history of Islam in Africa south of the Sahara. It meant that from then on Islam was propagated and spread by autochthons armed with the knowledge of local languages, customs and beliefs; this knowledge facilitated their missionary work and assured them a greater success than that obtained by their North African coreligionists in earlier times. In the eyes of the Africans Islam ceased to be the religion of white expatriates and, because it was now carried by Africans themselves, it became an African religion.
The influence of this new class of African clerics was felt as far as the Central Sudan. Until the eighth/fourteenth century the region between Lake Chad and the middle reaches of the Niger had formed something of a backwater in the spread of Islam, Hausaland in particular having been barely touched by missionary activities. Then, under the reign of Sarki Yaji of Kano “the Wangarawa came from Melle bringing the Muslim religion” 61. According to Palmer's chronology, Yaji ruled from 750/1349 to 787/1385; but the recently discovered eleventh/seventeenth century Chronicle of the Wangarawa explicitly states that these missionaries arrived in Kano during the reign of Muhammad Rumfa (867/1463-904/1499) having left their original home in the year 835/1431-2 62. The chronological difficulties in early Hausa history being well known, it is not surprising that scholars disagree as to the date of the first introduction of Islam into Hausaland. Notwithstanding the arguments forwarded by the editor of the Chronicle of the Wangarawa it seems more likely that the entry of these Muslims had occurred during the eighth/fourteenth century under Yaji and not under Rumfa a century later. Yaji is presented in the Kano Chronicle as a strict Muslim requiring his subjects to pray; and many sarakuna between him and Rumfa, apart from bearing Muslim names, are depicted as Muslims 63. Under the immediate predecessor of Rumfa, Muslim Fulɓe (Fulani) came from Melle “bringing with them books on Divinity and Etymology” whereas formerly the Hausa Muslims had only had books on the Law and the Traditions 64.
It is, of course, possible that Hausaland received several waves of Wangara Muslims at different times and that their earlier representatives had succeeded in spreading Islam mainly among the traders whereas the group recorded in the chronicles preached the new religion to the ruling classes 65.
It was in the second half of the ninth/fifteenth century that a strong Islamic tradition began to be established. Three major rulers, perhaps contemporaries, Muhammad Rabbo in Zaria, Muhammad Koran in Katsina and Muhammad Rumfa in Kano altered the character of Hausa development by introducing or confirming Islam. Apart from the fact that he was the first Muslim sarki of Zaria, nothing is known about Muhammad Rabbo. The next ruler of Katsina, Ibrahim Sūra, is remembered as a severe master who imprisoned those who refused to pray, whereas his son 'Ali was called murābit (man of the ribāt) [See Chapter 2: The coming of Islam and the expansion of the Muslim empire, note 8b. — T.S. Bah]. Many of these rulers came under the influence of the great Muslim reformer Muhammad al-Maghiri who at Rumfa's request wrote the Obligations of Princes as a guide for the conduct of Muslim rulers 66. There are also accounts of the arrival of shārīfs (descendants of the Prophet) in Kano at that time; their presence led to the strengthening of the faith and the elimination of some pagan survivals. Islam was at that time still permeated by many local customs and practices and some rulers asked guidance for correct conduct not only from alMaglill-i but also from the famous Egyptian scholar al-Suyūtī 67.
Even after these attempts to foster its strength Islam was by no means generally accepted. It became the religion of small communities of traders and professional clerics; the court circles were influenced superficially, whereas the masses of people continued in their traditional beliefs. But gradually Islamic concepts and attitudes became more pervasive creating a situation of “mixed” Islam. Important for further spread of Islam in those parts of the Sudan was the ready acceptance of it by the Hausa traders who became — after the Dyula — the second most active Muslim commercial class. With the opening of trade routes to the kola-producing countries in the hinterland of the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) — where they met with an eastward movement of the Dyula — they carried Islam to the forest fringes.
By the tenth/sixteenth century the position of Islam had been further improved by the policies of Askiya Muhammad of Songhay as well as by the exodus of the mais from Kānem to Borno and the long rule of Idrīs Alaōma. It is supposed that the intervention of that ruler in Mandara in favour of one of his protégés paved the way for the introduction of Islam into that country and it may be that at that time the Tubu adopted the religion. The newly founded Bagirmi became a Muslim state in the same century and some time later, through inspiration drawn from Bagirmi, 'Abd al-Karīm was able to weld Wadai into a state that was at least nominally Muslim.
At the other end of the Sudanese belt, in Senegambia, that period also witnessed an Islamic offensive. At the beginning of the tenth/sixteenth century the great majority of the Gambian populations were already considered to be Muslim 68. In the second half of the century the spread of Islam was even more manifest in connection with the progress of the Tukulor in Fuuta-Tooro. Nearly everywhere on the coast Muslim clerics (called by the Portuguese bixirim) circulated, propagating the faith of Islam, prohibiting the consumption of pork and distributing amulets. Three ribāts on the bank of the Gambia specialized in the formation of clerics who were then sent to proselytize in all neighbouring countries 69.
There were also, of course, some setbacks in the progress of Islam. The Mosi (Mossi) people in the Niger Bend had resisted the spread of Islam for a long time in spite of their having already come into contact with it in the eighth/fourteenth century when they had attacked and sacked Timbuktu and even Walāta 70. In the closing years of the next century Askiya Muhammad launched a djihād against them because of their rejection of his summons to adopt Islam. But not even the defeat of his army could persuade the Most ruler to abandon his traditional religion and the majority of his subjects followed his example. The Mosi kingdoms started to be penetrated by Muslim merchants (Yarse) only after the eleventh/seventeenth century and it was as late as the thirteenth/ nineteenth century that some Mosi were converted.
Another island of traditional religion was formed by the Bambara in the territory of the ancient Mali empire. And even the Islamic culture of Mali regressed after the decline of the empire; having lost their external possessions and being separated from the Saharan trade the Malinke lived in small kafu (chiefdoms) without any central administration and without urban life. Islam, being abandoned by the political class, was represented by the commercial group (Dyula) or by the clerics (moriba) only 71.
But in general, by the tenth/sixteenth century Islam was established all along the Sudanese belt from the Atlantic to Lake Chad and beyond. The ruling classes of all the great states and of the majority of the smaller ones were at least nominally Muslim. In all the towns and in many villages there lived communities of African Muslims of various ethnic origins, sometimes Muslims only in name, but often men of piety and learning with a wide outlook and in contact with the wider world to the north of the Sahara. Although the majority of the peasants were only lightly touched by this universal religion, Islam had become, after so many centuries of its presence, a familiar phenomenon, a part of the cultural scene in West Africa.

Nubia and the Nilotic Sudan

The Islamization of Nubia and the Nilotic Sudan has been — and indeed still is — a continuing process. Although Nubia had been in contact with Islam since the time of Arab conquest of Egypt in the early first/seventh century, Islam's spread there was blocked by the existence of the Christian Nubian states and the attachment of the Nubians to their Christian faith. The Muslims from Egypt tried in 31/651-2 to conquer Nubia and even penetrated as far as Dongola but the fierce resistance of the Nubians forced them to seek a truce. The ensuing treaty, commonly called the bakt 72, was a non-aggression pact which allowed the Nubian state of al-Makurra to retain its independent status. It conferred on the subjects of each side the right to travel and trade freely in the other's territory and stipulated also that the lives of Muslims in Nubia were to be safeguarded 73. The treaty remained in force for six hundred years, an exceptionally long term indeed for an international agreement to last. It shows also that the Muslims had abandoned the idea of occupying Nubia; they were more interested in putting an end to Nubian raids and keeping the country as a sphere of influence. Although there were occasionally attempts to convert the rulers (for example at the beginning of the period of Fdtimid rule in Egypt), the general policy of the Muslim Egyptian governments was to leave the Christian kingdom undisturbed.
The friendly relationship between Egyptian rulers and Nubian monarchs opened the doors for the penetration of Muslim traders. In the capital of al-Makurra there existed, from early times, settlements of Arab merchants who inhabited — in accordance with the pattern established in the whole Sudanic belt — separate quarters of the town. Although it does not seem that these merchants actively propagated the Islamic religion, they nevertheless brought the first elements of the new faith into this hitherto wholly Christian region.
The Islamization (and the Arabization, too) of Nubia was the work of quite different agents. Already in the second/eighth century some Arab nomadic groups had started to move from Upper Egypt towards Nubia, choosing mainly the region between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea littoral. In the fourth/tenth century they were already established in the extreme north of Nubia and at the same time some of the Nubians to the north of the Second Cataract had been converted to Islam.
Another gateway for the penetration of Islam, although of less importance than the Nile corridor, was the Red Sea littoral. There the Arab merchants had already started to settle in coastal towns like 'Aydhāb, Bādī' and Sawākin in the second/eighth century. The hinterland was inhabited by the turbulent nomadic Beedja whose repeated incursions harassed Upper Egypt for a long time. The Muslim governments tried to pacify them by treaties similar to that concluded with the Nublans but as the Beedja were without any centralized political organization, these treaties covered only a part of their groups. Nevertheless the Beedja chiefs allowed the settlements of Muslim merchants on their territories, thus opening this region to the influence of Islam.
This influence was strengthened by the immigration of some Arab nomadic groups into the Beedja country where their members intermarried with the Beedja ruling families; their children became chiefs of some of the Beedja groups. This process was repeated over a long period of time and Muslims thus gained prominence. A similar process of intermarriage went on in Nubia, too, and led to the establishment of powerful Muslim lineages. The Islamization of the Beedja was also stimulated between the fourth/tenth and seventh/thirteenth centuries by the development of trade routes across the Bedja country from the Nile Valley to Red Sea ports. The northernmost Beedja groups, the Hadāriba and 'Ababda, gradually became Arabized, even adopting fictitious Arab genealogies, but their ancient beliefs were only thinly disguised by Islam. Other groups did not feel the influence of the Muslim Arabs so strongly but even they in the long run accepted Islam, or at least some of its precepts. It can be said that by the eighth/fourteenth century the majority of Bedja were formally Islamized; that is to say they considered themselves Muslims and were recognized as such by their coreligionists but with many of their traditional beliefs and practices still alive.
In the meantime northern Nubia witnessed an uninterrupted flow of Arab immigrants; until the end of the sixth/twelfth century, as long as the kingdom of al-Makurra still remained independent, this flow took rather a form of gradual infiltration of small Beduin groups. With the Mamluk interventions in the internal strife of the royal family, the Nubian kings became vassals or puppet rulers. In 715/1315 the Mamluks chose as Nubian king a prince who was already converted to Islam; this event heralded the beginning of the decline of Nubian Christianity. The passing of power into the hands of a Muslim turned Nubia from a Dār al-harb to a Dār al-Islam; the payment of djizya (poll tax) to the Muslim rulers of Egypt ceased 74. The Islamization of the rulers also brought an end to the bakt.
The disintegration of the northern Nubian kingdom, to which the earlier penetration of Arab tribesmen had substantially contributed, facilitated the great Arab breakthrough to the rich pasture lands beyond the Nubian desert. Although these Arab Beduins were nominally Muslim, there is no reason to suppose that their Islam was any less superficial than that of other nomads. They can hardly be considered as fanatical proselytizers for their faith. On the other hand the end of the Christian dynasty and thus the end of Christianity as a state religion must have greatly facilitated the acceptance of Islam by the sedentary population along the Nile Valley. Additional factors contributing to the decline of Nubian Christianity included the growing isolation from the outside world, and also the deterioration of the status of Christians in Egypt from where most of the higher clergy came. Christianity was not wiped out at once but it lingered on over a long period and rather died out by internal weakness. Its place was taken gradually by Islam. In the more southerly state of 'Alwa it remained alive until the beginning of the tenth/sixteenth century when it was overthrown by the joint action of Arab “tribesmen” and the Fundj.
At this time the Arab nomads had already penetrated into the Djazīra (Gezira), between the Blue and White Niles, as well as into the Butāna, between the Atbara River and the Blue Nile. There they settled in the metropolitan area of 'Alwa and in Sennār and progressed to the south as far as the island of Aba on the White Nile. In a similar way the Arabs penetrated into Kordof-an and southern Dārfūr.
In the wake of the nomadic Arabs came Muslim clerics and holy men. They arrived from or had studied in the older lands of Islam and they were the first to bring to this country some knowledge of the Holy Law (sharī'a). The earliest of these pious missionaries was a Yemeni, Ghulām Allāh ibn 'Ayd, who came in the second half of the eighth/fourteenth century to the Dongola region; he found the Muslims in a state of ignorance due to lack of teachers 75. In the following centuries the missionaries of sūfī orders began to settle in the Sudan and to contribute to the preaching of Islam. They succeeded in converting the Fundj, a dark-skinned people, whose immediate provenance was the upper Blue Nile. Under the rule of Fundj kings Islam was encouraged and many scholars and pious men migrated to their kingdom. By the tenth/sixteenth century the southern frontier of Islam was stabilized along the line of the 13°N parallel of latitude. The process of Islamization was accompanied by a process of Arabization that left its mark on a large part of the country 76.

The Horn of Africa

The penetration of Islam into Ethiopia followed two major trade routes leading into the interior from the Dahlak Islands and Zaylā'. The Dahlak Islands had become Muslim at the beginning of the second/eighth century and at the same time other coastal places on the Red Sea shores began to be settled by Muslims, mostly of Arab or other non-African origin. From these centres Islam was propagated among the local, predominantly nomadic peoples along the coast, but the impact of Islamization was not strong until after the fourth/tenth century.
Although the great number of Arabic inscriptions found on the Dahlak Islands indicate the wealth and importance of the Muslim community which developed later into an effective sultanate 77, the islands do not seem to have played a great role in the spread of Islam into the interior regions of Ethiopia. The main obstacle was the solid establishment of the Christian Church in northern Ethiopia among the Tigré-speaking and Amharic-speaking peoples. The rulers undoubtedly welcomed Muslim merchants from the coastal settlements — Dahlak being for a long time the only commercial outlet for the Ethiopian kingdom — but they forbade them to propagate their faith. Nevertheless in the third/ninth century Muslim communities had already emerged in the main centres and along the major trade routes. Trade in Ethiopia, and particularly the long-distance caravan trade had been monopolized since these early times by Muslims as the Christian society had always looked down on commercial activities and crafts 78. Traces of early Muslim communities have been found in the fully Christian province of Tigré 79; the merchants presumably had freedom of movement and were allowed to settle with their families and servants in the Christian kingdom 80.
While the Dahlak Islands were certainly the gateway for the founders of Muslim communities in northern Ethiopia, those in the south, in the Shoa province, must have received their inspiration from Zaylā', an important port in the Gulf of Aden. In this respect Zaylā' has been of greater importance than Dahlak and it was in these southern parts of the Ethiopian region that Islam was destined to play a most prominent role.
The situation in the hinterland of Zaylā' was quite different from that prevailing in the north: it was a frontier region for both Christians and Muslims who started a struggle there to win for their respective faiths the souls of the large indigenous population with traditional religious beliefs. Side by side with this religious competition went the struggle for political and economic domination which was to continue for many centuries to come.
During the second/eighth and third/ninth centuries Islam became firmly established in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Aden; during the next centuries its political and religious significance in the whole region and especially in the interior increased. The conditions that allowed the growth of Islamic influence were partly internal, the decline of the Christian kingdom, and partly external, the rise of Fatimid power in the Red Sea followed by a revival of trade. More and more Muslim traders penetrated the southern interior, founding small communities and political units. This created favourable conditions for the arrival of Muslim clerics who began to convert the local people to Islam.
The early Muslim trading cities and principalities on the shores of the Gulf of Aden began to expand along the Harar plateau at the end of the fourth/tenth century. By the beginning of the next century the expansion of Islam had led to the founding of Muslim sultanates among the Semiticspeaking and Cushitic-speaking peoples of the region. A local Arabic chronicle maintains that the first prince of the sultanate of Shoa had already begun to rule at the end of the third/ninth century, but it is more likely that the foundation of this state came about only at the beginning of the sixth/twelfth century 81. The ruling lineage claimed an origin from the well-known Makhzūmī family of Mecca. There were also other non-Makhzūmī principalities of Arab origin in this region.
One of the more important Muslim kingdoms was that of Ifait, whose rulers also claimed descent from the family of the Prophet Muhammad through Abfi Talib; in 684/1285 its greatest Sultan, 'Umar Walasma, annexed the sultanate of Shoa to the Ifāt state.
Arabic and Ethiopian sources indicate the existence of at least three Muslim kingdoms apart from Ifāt: Dawāro (to the west of the Harar region), Sharka in Arusi, and Bāli, south of Dawāro. In later times we find mention of some other states like Hadyā, Arababnī and Darah. Hadyā in particular became famous after the seventh/thirteenth century as a centre of the slave trade 82. Ifāt remained for a long time the leading Muslim state thanks to its strategic position on the important trade route leading from Zaylā' to the provinces of Amhara and Lasta as well as to other Muslim principalities.
Although from the sevcnth/thirteenth century on the Solomonid emperors gradually annexed the Muslim states and principalities in the south, the caravan trade on the plateau remained to a large extent in the hands of Muslims.
How far and deep the Islamization of the local people, apart from the merchants and courtiers, went in these early centuries, is difficult to assess. The chronicle of the Shoa sultanate reports major conversions in the interior only by the beginning of the sixth/twelfth century, especially on the eastern foothills of the Shoan plateau. In the Harar area Arab inscriptions dated to the seventh /thirteenth century bear witness to the existence of well-developcd Muslim communities, thus confirming the importance of Harar as a diffusion centre of Islam in this area 83. During the Christian offensive to the south Islam undoubtedly suffered losses in influence and numbers; it nevertheless continued to be professed by many ethnic groups not immediately touched by the offensive, like the Afar and Somali. When in the tenth/sixteenth century Ahmad Grañ started his djihād against Christian Ethiopia, he was able to recruit into his army Afar and Somali from the plains as well as the various Semitic-speaking and Cushiticspeaking peoples from the plateau, who had long been under Islamic influence. Even if this attempt to found a Muslim Ethiopian empire in the end failed, the eastern and southern fringes of Ethiopia remained firmly in the Islamic orbit 84.
While the early spread of Islam in Ethiopia can be traced with the help of written documents, the beginnings of Islamization of the Somali are more obscure. We certainly have some records of Arab geographers about coastal towns like Zaylā', Berberā, Mogadishu, Brava and Marka, and even some dated inscriptions from these places, but as far as concerns developments in the interior where the great mass of the Somali were living, only some general traits can be deduced from historical traditions. There is no doubt that the Somali groups living along the coast of the Gulf of Aden came very early into contact with Muslims. Arab and Persian merchants seem to have been the first settlers in coastal towns where they intermarried with local women and eventually merged with local Somali inhabitants. They brought with them Islam as a religion, and influenced the Somali living in these settlements and in the immediate hinterland, who gradually became Muslim, too. But it took some centuries before the impact of these Muslims achieved more permanent success. Somali traditions record that Shaykh Darod Ismā'īl arrived from Arabia, settled among the Dir, the oldest Somali stock, married a Dir woman and later became the ancestor of a huge clan family called after him, Darod. This cannot be dated with certainty but it is generally accepted that this event occurred in the fourth/tenth or fifth/eleventh century. There is a similar tradition about the arrival, some two centuries later, of another Arab, Shaykh Ishāk, the putative founder of the Isaq Somali, who settled to the west of the Darod 85. Although many traits of these patriarchs are legendary, it appears that the traditions reflect a period of intensive Islamization among the northern Somali, as well as the growth and expansion of the Darod and Isaq clans at about this time. The creation of big clan families unified by the bond of Islam released the internal dynamic forces and prompted a general movement of these groups into the interior of the Horn in a generally southward direction. It can be surmised with some certainty that during these migratory movements, the already Islamized clan families exercised a proselytizing influence on the hitherto untouched Somalispeaking groups. How long it took is impossible to ascertain.
The Somali living along the Indian Ocean coast became acquainted with Islam from the coastal towns of Mogadishu, Brava and Marka in a similar way to their counterparts in the north. Already in the first half of the fourth/tenth century Arab and other Muslim merchants had established themselves in considerable numbers in these towns. These first settlers were later followed by many successive waves of immigrants from Arabia, Persia and even India. An eventual merging with the local inhabitants gave rise to a mixed Somali-Arab culture and society. It was not uniform throughout the coastal towns but its most important common feature was its Muslim character. These coastal towns, being primarily trading posts, must have been in regular contact with the Somali of the hinterland. Whether they contributed to the spread of Islam in the same degree as did the profoundly Islamized northern groups, remains unknown.
A special feature of Somali Islam is that it was not accompanied by Arabization. Although the Somali are proud of their traditions, which proclaim their descent from noble Arab lineages, and their language contains a large number of Arabic loan-words, they never lost their own ethnic identity, in contrast to what happened in North Africa or in the Nilotic Sudan.
This can be explained by the fact that the Arabs never migrated massively to the Horn of Africa but came rather as individuals, merchants or clerics, who were soon absorbed in Somali society 86.

The East African coast and the Islands

The coming of Muslim Arabs and Persians to the East African coast and the Comoro Islands and Madagascar and their settlement there is discussed in detail in other chapters of this Volume 87. Here we will be concerned only with the spread of Islam; in this respect the region offers — in the period under review — a picture widely different from the parts of tropical Africa already discussed. Whilst in the Sudan belt or among the Somali Islam gradually penetrated entire peoples and influenced more or less the lives of African ethnic groups, no corresponding impact was felt among the Bantu-speakers and other peoples of East Africa. True, Islam flourished here, but only as a religion of immigrants from overseas living in closedclass communities in coastal or insular settlements. Although archaeology as well as Arabic sources provide ample evidence for the Islamic character of many coastal towns stretching from Lamu to Mozambique, at the same time they confirm that Islam did not penetrate into the interior and that neither the Bantu-speakers nor any other ethnic groups were touched by this religion until the thirteenth /nineteenth century. Islam attained success only among those coastal peoples who came into immediate contact with the Arab and/or Persian expatriates in the towns. There are reports that even villages in the vicinity of Muslim settlements were inhabited by 'unbelievers' (kāfirs), victims of slave raids 88.
The society of coastal cities was doubtless Islamic but not Arabic. The immigrants, never very numerous, intermarried with African women and became integrated with the local inhabitants. Their descendants of mixed blood soon abandoned Arabic for Kiswahili which gradually evolved as the lingua franca for all Muslim communities along the coast. But for a long time to come the Islamized element in East Africa was a tiny minority, which looked towards the ocean rather than to Africa itself.
An exception to this general rule was the penetration of Muslim, mostly Swahili merchants, into the hinterland of present-day Mozambique and into Zimbabwe. Chinese and Persian ceramics dated to the seventh/ thirteenth and eighth/fourteenth centuries found in Zimbabwe are indications of commercial relations with the coastal settlements, particularly with Kilwa and its southern outposts like Sofala. Later, from the ninth/fifteenth century on, at the time of the decline of the Kilwa-Sofala gold monopoly, the traders based on Angoche and Mozambique entered into brisk trade contacts with the rising Mutapa empire. The Portuguese sources from the tenth/sixteenth century abound with accounts of the presence of thousands of “Moorish” merchants active in the Mutapa empire whose competition was bitterly resented by the Portuguese. The importance of Muslim traders in the empire is shown also by the fact that the second wife of the mwene mutapa was minister for Muslim affairs. The majority of these traders were black Africans, either Swahili immigrants from the older coastal centres to the north, or local people who had adopted the international trading culture of Muslim urban societies.
The penetration of coastal Muslims into the interior of south-eastern Africa did not leave any discernible Islamic heritage among the peoples of the region. To all intents and purposes Islam failed to be accepted as a religion by the Africans in the interior in spite of their centuries-long contacts with Muslims. The traditional maxim that the spread of Islam followed the activities of Muslim traders seems not to be applicable to this area for reasons still to be investigated.
The coastal Muslims showed a more proselytizing spirit in the Comoro Islands. The “Shirazi”, to whom the Kilwa Chronicle ascribes the Islamization of Kilwa, are said also to have settled on Anjouan, and the local traditions on the islands confirm this in a general way. The chronology of these events is rather uncertain but it is likely that the first Muslims came around the seventh/ thirteenth century; as everywhere they mixed with the local Malagasy and Africans on the islands and gave rise to a people known as Antalaotra (“people of the sea”) whose language is a dialect of Kiswahili enriched by many Malagasy loan-words. According to recent studies the final Islamization of the Comoro Islands occurred in the ninth/fifteenth century 89.
In spite of the considerable progress achieved during the last few decades in the study of Islam on Madagascar, there still remain more unanswered than answered questions. There is no doubt that Islamized peoples, be they of Arab or more likely of Kiswahili origin, were Installing themselves from the fourth/tenth century onwards on the north-western coast and on nearby small offshore islands, as witnessed by archaeology, oral traditions and early Portuguese accounts. The culture of the first settlers offers many analogies with that of the East African coast between Lamu and Kilwa. On the north-eastern coast there flourished between the fifth/eleventh and eighth/ fourteenth centuries a variant of the ancient Swahili culture of the north-west. The Islamized inhabitants of these settlements traded with East Africa, the Persian Gulf, South Arabia and East India exporting, in particular, vessels made from chlorite schists. From the north-east the Islamized peoples spread along the whole east coast as far as Fort-Dauphin. The ebb and flow of the Muslim immigrants seems to have followed in a general way the expansion of the Indian Ocean trade network, particularly of its East African component.
The traditions of some Malagasy groups claim an Arab origin for their ancestors, not only in the north but especially in the south-east. Among these groups the most important are the Zafiraminia, the Onlatsy and the Antemoro. The “Arab” immigrants were gradually assimilated to the local Malagasy population and all that remained of their Islamic civilization was the Arabic script — the sorabe — vague memories of the Quran and some socioreligious practices (mostly in the field of geomancy and magic). The scribes (katibo) and soothsayers (ombiasy), specialists in the writing and interpreting of the sorabe were held in veneration — the veneration of the written word is a typically Islamic feature — but there are traces neither of any Islamic institutions nor of mosques. We could thus hardly speak of these groups as Muslims.
On the other hand, the Muslims in the north, being in continuous contact with the outside Islamic world, and strengthened by waves of new immigrants, retained their religion and even spread it to some of their Malagasy neighbours. The profoundly Islamic character of the settlements is confirmed by early Portuguese visitors in the tenth/sixteenth century, who spoke of many mosques and of shaykhs and kādīs as representatives of political and religious authority. As in the Comoro Islands, the inhabitants of these city-states were known as Antalaotra, an expression still used today to denote a category of Islamized inhabitants of Madagascar.
In conclusion it should be stressed that in Madagascar Islam did not play the same role as in other parts of tropical Africa where in the course of time it became the religion of entire ethnic groups and profoundly influenced African societies. It never superimposed its own culture over the Malagasy one; on the contrary, in more remote parts of the island a reverse process, i.e. the absorption of Islamized people by the local cultural milieu, can be observed 90.


Between the first/seventh and tenth/sixteenth centuries Islam was established through large parts of Africa. Its dissemination had not been a uniform and linear process in all areas since in each part of Africa different methods, ways and agents were employed. We can roughly discern the following patterns of Islamization:

  1. The Arab conquest of Egypt and North Africa. Although it was not accompanied by any enforced conversion of the Coptic and Berber autochthons, it nevertheless created social and economic conditions which in due course led to the acceptance of Islam by the majority of local peoples.
  2. The commercial activities of Muslims, firstly the long-distance or overseas trade, later the regional one, functioned as a stimulus to Islamization in much of tropical Africa. The first agents were merchants of Arab (in the east predominantly from Arabia itself), Persian (in the same region) and Berber (in the west) origin. From the fifth/eleventh century on, the proselytizing was continued through the activities of Muslim Africans: Soninke, Malinke, Fulani, Kanembu, Hausa, etc.
  3. The clerics or holy men were the first to introduce Islam among the Somali, whereas in other regions they contributed to the deepening of faith among already formally Islamized peoples (West Africa and eastern Sudan) and to spreading it further in the wake of merchants.
  4. In the Nilotic Sudan Islamization followed the penetration of Arab nomads, whereas in Somaliland the migrations of some clan families to the south were a contributory factor to the spread of the new faith to other groups.

In North Africa, in Nubia and in Ethiopia the incoming Muslims encountered a rival monotheistic faith, Christianity. The resistance of local Christians to Islamization varied according to local political and social conditions. In the Maghrib where the Christians represented only a minority (mostly of mixed or foreign origin), Islamization has been more complete and Christianity died out by the fifth/eleventh century. In Egypt the process took a longer time being accelerated only under the Fatimids; Islamization has never been complete, as about io per cent of Egyptians still belong to the Coptic Church.
In Christian Nubia, by contrast, the impact of Islam until the end of the seventh/thirteenth century was minimal but during the next two centuries Christianity gradually vanished, being superseded by Islam. Only in the Ethiopian highlands were the Christians able to resist. Neither the peaceful penetration of Muslim merchants nor the military campaigns of Muslim states to the south of the plateau shattered the fidelity of Ethiopians to the faith of their fathers. Although Christianity in Ethiopia emerged from this centuries-long struggle victorious, it remained an isolated outpost amidst a Muslim sea.

1. T. W. Arnold, 1913, p. 5.
2. I. Goldziher, 1925, p. 27.
3. Ibn Sa'd, 1904-40, Vol. 5, p. 283.
4. Cf. Chapter 7 below.
5. Even before the conquest was complete, thousands of Copts went over to Islam and later every year witnessed mass conversions. Jean de Nikiou, 1883, p. 56o; Severus ibn al-Mukaffa', 1904, pp. 172-3.
6. Cf. G. Wiet, 1932, p. 199; C. Cahen, 1983, p. 87 et seq.
7. The decay is fully described by J. M. Wansleben, 1677 and by E. Renaudot, 1713
8. Cf. on the situation in the Roman and Byzantine periods, Unesco, General History of Africa, Vol. II, ch. 19.
9. See Chapter 9 below.
10. T. Lewicki, 1951-2, pp. 424ff. See also A. Mahjoubi, 1966.
11. H. R. ldris, 1962, Vol. 2, p. 761.
12. Leo Africanus, 1956, Vol. 2, p. 67.
13. T. W. Arnold, 1913, pp. 126-7.
14. Ibn Khaldun, 1925-56, Vol. I, p. 21.
15. An Arab governor, Ijassan ibn al-Nu'man exclaimed: “To subjugate Africa is impossible”
16. Al-Makkan, 1840-3, Vol. I, p. 65.
17. This doctrine was in opposition both to the Shī'ites who insisted that the Imāmate could be held only by members of the Prophet's family through his daughter Fātima and her husband 'Ali, and to the Sunnite view that only the members of the Kuraysh tribe from Mecca are qualified for this office.
18. R. Dozy, 1874, Vol I, p. 150; see also A. Bernard, 1932, p. 89.
19. T. Lewicki, 1957, and also Chapter 13 below.
20. Cf. Chapter 12 below.
21. On the beginnings of this dynasty see Chapter 10 below.
22. For example P. K. Hitti, 1956, pp. 450-1.
23. I. M. Lewis, 1974, pp. 108-9.
24. Ibn Khaldūn, 1925-56, Vol. 1, p. 212; J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 330; N. Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins (eds), 1981, p. 326.
25. Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, 1947, pp. 63-5-1 J. M. Cuoq, 1975, pp. 45-6; N. Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins (eds), 1981, p. 12.
26. Al-Balādhurī, 1866, p. 230.
27. Al-Baladhurī, 1866, pp. 231-2; Ibn 'Abd al-Hakam, 1947, pp. 122-3; Ibn 'Idhārī 1948-53, Vol. I, p. 51; J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 46.
28. Al-Zuhrī, 1968, pp. 126, 181; J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 121; T. Lewicki, 1970.
29. Al-Zuhrī, 1968, pp. 181-2; T. Lewicki, 1981, p. 443.
30. Ibn Hammad, 1927, pp. 18, 33-4; cf. Chapter 12 below.
31. Among many victims of the Almoravid conquest of the town of Awdāghust, al-Bakrī, 1913, p. 24 U. M. Cuoq, 1975, pp. 91-2), regrets only the death of a Kayrawani Arab, i.e. Sunni Muslim, and passes without comment the massacre of the Zanāta Berbers, in majority Ibādites.
32. Ibn Battūta, 1969, p. 395, mentions a group of white Ibadis in Zaghari. Although the Ta'rīkh al-Sudan,1900, p. 61, describes Sonni 'Ali of Songhay as a Khāridjite, it seems that this term has here the general meaning of a heretic. Cf. T. Hodgkin, 1975, p. 118, n. 3.
33. Cf. J. Schacht, 1954.
34. H. R. Palmer, igz8, Vol. 3, pp. 132ff.; W. K. R. Hallam, 1966, and the criticism of A. Smith, 1970.
35. Cf. J. Schacht, 1954, pp. 21-5-1 T. Lewicki, 1969, pp. 72-3-1 J. M. Cuoq, 1975, PP. 195-6; N. Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins (eds), 1981, pp. 368-9.
36. A. G. Hopkins, 1973, p. 64.
37. P. D. Curtin, 1975, p. 48.
38. H. J. Fisher, 1977, p. 316. But some clerics were less than zealous about spreading Islam to the unconverted, preferring to claim the monopoly of esoteric powers for their own group; cf. Y. Person, 1968-75, Vol. I, p. 133.
39. Al-Bakrī, 1913, p. 172; J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 96; N. Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins (eds), 1981, p. 77.
40. Wār Dyābī is a Soninke proper name, cf. C. Monteil, 1929, p. 8. The immigration of the Fulbe-speakers into the country on the lower Senegal began only later.
41. Cf. U. al-Naqar, 1969.
42. Tā'rīkh al-Sudan, 1900, p. 5.
43. Al-Bakrī, 1913, p. 183; J. M. Cuoq, 975, pp. 108-9.
44. Cf. note 3 5.
45. Cf. D. Lange, 1978.
46. H. R. Palmer, 1928, Vol 3, p. 3; reprinted also in H. R. Palmer, 1936, p. 14.
47. Al-Bakfi, 1913, p. 11; J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 82; cf Chapter is below.
48. Diwan of the Sultans of Bornu; H. R. Palmer, 1936, pp. 85-6.
49. D. Conrad and H. J. Fisher, 1982, 19831- L.O. Sanneh, 1976; M. Hiskett, 1984.
50. M. Hiskett, 1984, p. 23.
51. Al-Zuhrī, 1968, p. 180ff, J. M. Cuoq, 1975, p. 119.
52. M. Hiskett, 1984, p. 26.
53. This concept stood at the roots of the theory that the ancestors of the Akan peoples of the modern republic of Ghana (Akan being allegedly a corruption of Ghana) came from ancient Ghana after its conquest by the Almoravids.
54. On the Dyakhanke cf. L.O. Sanneh, 1979; P.D. Curtin, 1971.
55. C. Coquery-Vidrovitch, 1969, especially p. 73.
56. Ibn Battūta, 1969, Vol. 4, P. 420; Ibn Khaldūn, 1925-56, Vol. 2, p. 110; J.M. Cuoq, 1975, pp. 310, 44
57. Cf. J.L. Triaud, 1968, p. 1329ff. 58. Ibn Battūta, 1969, pp. 423 4; he encountered similar nakedness in the Maldive Islands without doubting the genuineness of the Islamic faith of their inhabitants.
59. Cf. Ta'rīkh al-Sūdān, 1900, pp. 78-84.
60. Ibn Battūta, 1969, Vol. 4, p. 395.
61. Kano Chronicle, in H. R. Palmer, 1928, V01. 3, p. 104.
62. M.A. Al-Hajj, 1968, p. 711.
63. The main weakness of the Wangarawa Chronicle lies in the fact that it confuses the arrival of the Wangarawa with that of the reformer al-Māghilī which happened at the end of the ninth/fifteenth century.
64. Kano Chronicle, in H. R. Palmer, 1928, Vol. 3, p. III
65. Cf. S. A. Balogun, 1980, pp. 213-14.
66. On al-Māghilī see A. A. Batrān, 1973.
67. In his letter to Ibrāhīm Sūra al-Suyūtī wrote: “I have been informed that among the people of Gobir are those who sacrifice a male or female slave if they are ill claiming that this will be their ransom from death.” Cf. T. Hodgkin, 1975, p. 119.
68. D. Pacheco Pereira, 1956, pp. 69-73.
69. M. F. de B. Santarem, 1842, p. 29.
70. It is, however, not sure, in the light of recent rescarch, whether these Mosi were identical with those of the Volta Basin, cf. Unesco, General History of Africa, Vol. IV, ch. 19.
71. Y. Person, 1981, pp. 614, 641.
72. On the bakt cf. Chapter 8 below.
73. Here we deal only with those parts of the treaty which have a direct hearing on the spread of Islam.
74. Ibn Khaldūn, 1956-o, Vol 5, pp. 922-3.
75. Y. F. Hasan, 1966, pp. 154-5.
76. On the spread of Islam in the Nilotic Sudan, cf. J. S. Trimingham, 1949.
77. On these inscriptions see B. Malmusi, 18951- G. Oman, 1974a, 1974b.
78. Cf M. Abir, 1970, p. 123.
79. M. Schneider, 1967.
80. Cf. al-Mas'ūdi, 1861-77, Vol 3, p. 34 on the Muslim families in 'Habasha' as tributaries to the local peoples.
81. E. Cerulli, 1941, pp. 5-14; cf Chapter 2o below.
82. Al-'Umani, 1927, pp. 20ff.
83. R. P. Azaïs and R. Chambord, 193 1, Vol. I, pp. 125-9.
84. On the Islamization of Ethiopia cf, J. S. Trimingham, 1952.
85. E. Cerulli, 1957-64, Vol. I, pp. 6o-1.
86. Many originally Arab families were gradually Somalized; the Mukrī clan, from which the chief kādi of Mogadishu has been always nominated, changed its name into a Somali one, Rer Fakīh. Cf. J. S. Trimingham, 1952, p. 215.
87. Cf. Chapters 21 and 2.5 below.
88. Cf. Ibn Battūta, 1969, Vol. 2, p. 193.
89. Cf. C. Robineau, 1967.
90. The problems of Islam and its influence on Madagascar are discussed in P. Wrin (ed.), 1967; and in Chapter 25 below. See also Unesco, General History of Africa, Vol. IV, ch. 24.

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