(part 1 of 3): The Empire of Ghana
Muslim geographers and historians have delivered extraordinary reports of Muslim rulers and peoples in Africa. Among them are Al-Khwarzimi, Ibn Munabbah, Al-Masudi, Al-Bakri, Abul Fida, Yaqut, Ibn Batutah, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Fadlallah al-‚Umari, Mahmud al-Kati, Ibn al Mukhtar and Abd al-Rahman al -Sa’di. Islam reached the region of the savannah in the eighth century AD, the date on which African history began. Islam was founded in 850 AD. adopted by the Dya’ogo dynasty of the Kingdom of Tekrur. They were the first Negro people to adopt Islam. Trade and business paved the way for the introduction of new elements of material culture and enabled the intellectual development that naturally followed the introduction and spread of literacy.
Major Arab historians and African scholars have reported on the history of the empires of Ghana, Mali, Sonrhay and Kanem Bornu. They document famous trade routes in Africa – from Sidschilmasa to Taghaza, Awdaghast, which led to the empire of Ghana and from Sidschilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbikutu. Al-Bakri described Ghana in the eleventh century as a very advanced and economically flourishing country. He also discusses the influence of Islam in Mali in the 13th century and describes the rule of Mansa Musa, whose fame spread to Sudan, North Africa and to Europe.
Spread of Islam in West Africa
Islam reached the savannah region in the eighth century AD, the date on which the history of West Africa began. Muslim-Arab historians began reporting on West Africa in the early eighth century. The famous scholar Ibn Munabbah wrote as early as 738 AD, followed by Al-Masudi in 947 AD. When Islam spread across the savannah region, it was natural for trade links to be established with North Africa. Trade and commerce paved the way for the introduction of new elements of material culture, and enabled the intellectual development that naturally followed the introduction and spread of literacy, and for which parts of Sudan were to become famous in the centuries to come. In the Kingdom of Tekrur, on both sides of Senegal (foot), Islam became 850 AD. Dya’ogo dynasty adopted. This dynasty was the first Negro people to adopt Islam.
For this reason, Muslim-Arab historians refer to Bilad al-Tekrur as ‚The Land of Black Muslims.‘ War-jabi, the son of Rabi, was the first ruler of Tekrur, in whose reign Islam was firmly anchored in Tekrur and in which the Islamic Shariaah system was used. This gave the people a unified Muslim right. When the Almoravids of Al-Murabitun in 1042 AD. their attack on Tekrur began, Islam had left a deep impression on the people of this area. Al-Idrisi described the country of Tekrur in 1511 as ’safe, peaceful and calm.‘ The capital of Tekrur, also known as Tekrur, had become a trading center. Merchants used to bring wool from Greater Morocco to sell there, and in return they took gold and pearls with them.
We have enough documents about the history of this region because it was known to Arab historians as Bilad al-Sudan, the country of the blacks. During the Middle Ages, most of the empires still known today grew: the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay and Kanem Bornu. Important Arab historians have written about the fame of these countries, of which Al-Bakri, Al-Masudi, Ibn Batutah and Ibn Khaldun deserve special mention. Apart from these scholars, there were native scholars whose works have been preserved. For example Tarikh al-Sudan, the History of the Sudan, by Al-Sadi and Tarikh al-Fattash by Muhammad al-Kati.
There are famous trade routes such as those from Sidschilmasa to Taghaza, Awdaghast, which led to the Ghanaian empire and another, which led from Sidschilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbikutu. There were others who connected present-day Nigeria with Tripoli via Fez with Bornu and Tunisia with Nigeria via Ghadames, Ghat and Agades with the land of Hausa. These routes have made all of these locations famous shopping centers. Without exception, these trading centers became Islamic centers of learning and civilization. The visiting dealers in the administration area came up with new ideas. We should briefly study the spread of Islam in each of the ancient empires of western Sudan.
Islam in the old kingdom of Ghana
Al-Bakri, the Muslim geographer, gives us an early account of the ancient Sonic empire of Ghana. His kitab fi Masalik wal Mamalik (The Book of the Streets and Kingdoms) describes Ghana from 1068 as well advanced. Economically, it was a thriving country. The king had Muslim translators and most of his ministers and treasurers were also Muslims. The Muslim ministers were educated enough to report the events in Arabic and corresponded with other rulers on behalf of the king. „As Muslims, they belonged to the larger state of the Islamic world and this enabled them to build international relationships.“
Al-Bakri gave us the following picture of Islam in Ghana in the eleventh century:
The city of Ghana consists of two cities on one level, one of which is inhabited by Muslims and is large, has 12 mosques, in one of which the community prayer is held on Friday; each has its imam, muezzin and paid Quran reciters. The city has a large number of lawyers, advisors and scholars.
(part 2 of 3): The empires of Mali and Songhay
Islam in the empire of Mali
The influence of Islam in Mali dates back to the 15th century when Al-Bakri mentioned the acceptance of Islam by its rulers. It was a terrible period of drought that ended with the introduction of Muslim prayers and ritual ablutions. The Mali Empire rose from the ruins of the Ghana Empire. There were two important names in the history of Islam in Mali: Sundiata (1230-1255) and Mansa Musa (1312-1337). Sundiata was the founder of the Mali Empire, but he was a weak Muslim because he practiced Islam with syncretic practices and was extremely unpopular with scholars. Mansa Musa, however, was a devoted Muslim and is considered the true architect of the Ghanaian empire. When Sundiata died in 1255, a large number of Ghana’s former colonies came under his control.
Mansa (Emperor) Musa came to power in 1312 and his fame extended beyond Sudan and North Africa to Europe. Mansa Musa ruled from 1312 to 1337 and from 1324-25 he had made his famous pilgrimage [Hajj]. When he came back from the pilgrimage, he brought with him a large number of Muslim scholars and architects who built five mosques, for the first time with fired bricks. So Islam had its greatest boom during Mansa Musa’s reign. Many scholars agree that Mansa Musa was able to introduce new ideas to his administration due to his love of Islam. The famous traveler and scholar Ibn Batutah came to Mali during Mansa Sulaiman’s reign (1341-1360) and made an excellent account of Mali’s government and its economic wealth – actually a legacy of Mansa Musa’s policies. Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage protected Mali’s enormous wealth and potential, which attracted more and more Muslim traders and scholars. These Muslim scholars and traders contributed to Mali’s cultural and economic development. It was during his reign that diplomatic relations were established with Tunis and Egypt, and Mali began to appear on the world map. These Muslim scholars and traders contributed to Mali’s cultural and economic development. It was during his reign that diplomatic relations were established with Tunis and Egypt, and Mali began to appear on the world map. These Muslim scholars and traders contributed to Mali’s cultural and economic development. It was during his reign that diplomatic relations were established with Tunis and Egypt, and Mali began to appear on the world map.
Islam in the Songhay Empire
Islam started in the 11th century AD. began to spread in the Songhay realm when the ruling Za or Dia dynasty first accepted him. It was a wealthy region due to its booming trade in gao. It came under the rule of the Mali Empire in the 13th century, but it freed itself at the end of the 14th century when the dynasty was again called Sunni. The Songhay border expanded, and in the 15th century, under the rule of Sunni ´Ali, who ruled from 1464-1492, the major cities of Western Sudan belonged to the Songhay Empire. The largest cities of Islamic education such as Timbuktu and Jenne came under his power between 1471 and 1476.
Sunni ‚Ali was a Muslim by name who used Islam for his purposes. He even persecuted Muslim scholars and practiced customary cults and magic. When the famous scholar Al-Maghilli called him an idolater, he also punished him. However, belief in cults and magic was nothing new in Songhay. It existed in other parts of West Africa until the revivalist movements prevailed in the 18th century. Sunni ´Ali is said to have tried to combine idolatry and Islam, although he prayed and fasted. The scholars called it mockery.
Sunni ‚Ali’s syncretism was soon challenged by the Muslim elites and scholars in Timbuktu, which was then a center of Islamic education and civilization. The famous Agit family, Berber scholars, held the office of law and were known for their fearless opposition to the rulers. During his life Sunni ´Ali took measures against the scholars in Timbuktu (1469 and 1486). But with his death the situation changed completely: Islam and the Muslim scholars triumphed. Muhammad Toure (Towri), a military commander, urged Sunni ‚Ali’s successor, Sunni Barou, to appear publicly and to openly declare his commitment to Islam.
When Barou refused to do so, they removed him from office and established a new dynasty under his own name, the Askiya dynasty was called. Sunni ‚Ali could be compared to Sundiata from Mali, and Askiya Muhammad Toure to Mansa Musa, an advocate of Islam.
When he came to power, he introduced Islamic law and had a large number of Muslims trained as judges. He gave the scholars his generous support and gave them large estates. He became a close friend of the famous scholar Muhammad Al-Maghilli.
Because of this funding, many famous Muslim scholars came to Timbuktu, which became a great educational home in the 16th century. Timbuktu founded the first Muslim university called Sankore in West Africa; Her name has been remembered in Ibadan University to this day, by calling a neighborhood where staff live, Sankore Avenue.
Like Mansa Musa from Mali, Askia Muhammad Toure went on a pilgrimage and came into close contact with Muslim scholars and rulers of Arab states. In Mecca the king paid him great respect; he was wearing a turban. The king gave him a sword and the title Khalif of Western Sudan. Upon his return from Mecca in 1497, he proudly called himself Al-Hajj.
Askia was so interested in Islamic law that he asked his friend Muhammad al-Maghilli many questions about Islamic theology. Al-Maghilli answered in detail his questions Askia announced in the Songhay Empire. Some of the questions were about the fundamental structure of belief, like ‚who is a true Muslim?‘ And ‚who is an idolater?‘ If we read Shehu ‚Uthman Dan Fodio’s works, we can see some of his arguments, cited on Al -Maghilli were quoted. In other words, Al-Maghilli’s detailed discussions of the issues raised by Askia Muhammad played a major role and influenced Shehu.
(part 3 of 3): The empires of Kanem-Bornu and Hausa-Fulani Land
Islam in the empire of Kanem-Bornu
Kanem-Bornu contained the region around Lake Chad in the 13th century, extending to Fezzan in the north. Kanem today forms the northern part of the Republic of Chad. Islam was first founded by the ruler, Umme-Jilmi, from 1085-1097 AD. had been adopted by a scholar named Muhammad B. Mani, who ensured that Islam came to Kanem-Bornu. He started the pilgrimage, but died in Egypt before reaching Mecca. Al-Bakri also mentioned that refugees were staying in Kanem from the Umayyids who had fled Baghdad and were planning to free their dynasty from the hands of the Abbasids [21, 22].
With the introduction of Islam in Kanem, it became the headquarters of Muslim influence in Central Sudan, and relationships were established with the Arab world in the Middle East and Maghrib. Umme’s son Dunama I (1092-1150) also went on a pilgrimage and was crowned in Egypt when he embarked on his third pilgrimage to Mecca in Suez. During the reign of Dunama II (1221-1259), an embassy for Kanem was set up in Tunisia in 1257, as the famous Andalusian historian Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406 AD) reported. Almost at the same time, a college and a dorm named Madrasah Ibn Rashiq were set up in Cairo. Towards the end of the 13th century Kanem received an Islamic center and famous teachers came from Mali to teach in Kanem. In the middle of the 13th Century Kanem established diplomatic relations with Tuat (in the Algerian Sahara) and with the Hafsid State of Tunisia on the basis of messages. Kanem scholars and poets were able to write classical Arabic at a very high level. We have the evidence in a letter written by the chief writer of the Kanem Court from 1391 to 1392.
The historian Ibn Khaldun calls Dunama II the ‚King of Kanem and Lord of Bornu,‘ because his empire had expanded to Kano in the west and Wadai in the east. It was said that Dunama II had a talisman (Munni or Mune) that was considered sacred by his people and therefore brought a period of harshness for his people. Because of his enthusiasm for the Islamic religion, he committed this „abomination“ (perhaps the talisman was a traditional symbol of the divine (royalty) and alienated many of its subjects).
In the late 14th century a new capital of the empire of Kanem in Bornu near Nigazaragamu was founded by ‚Ali b. Dunama, who was also called ‚Ali Ghazi, founded, who ruled from 1476 to 1503. The capital continued to prosper until 1811. ‚Ali revived Islam. He tried to learn his principles. He used to visit the Supreme Imam to learn more about the Islamic legal system. He convinced the nobles and leaders by his own example to limit the number of their wives to four.
Bornus was Islamized in the time of May Idris Alooma (1570-1602). We know about him from the chronicler Ahmad bin Fartuwa. In his ninth year in government, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and built a hostel for pilgrims from Bornu. He revived Islamic practices and pretty much everyone followed them. He also established Qadhis courts to introduce Islamic law instead of traditional usage law. He built a large number of brick mosques to replace the existing ones, which were built from Röhrricht.
The glory of the Bornu empire ended in 1810 during the reign of Mai Ahmad, but it remained important as a center of Islamic learning.
Islam in the Hausa Fulani state
There is a well-known Hausa legend about the origin of the home state, attributed to Bayajida (Bayazid), who had come from Begh to settle in Kanem-Bornu. The leader of Bornu at that time (we have no information about that time) welcomed Bayajida and gave him his daughter for marriage, but at the same time he robbed him of many of his numerous followers. He fled with his wife before May and came to Gaya Mai Kano and asked the Kano goldsmith to make him a sword. The story tells us that Bayajida helped the people of Kano kill a supernatural snake that prevented them from getting water from the spring. It is said that the queen married him with the name Daura in recognition of his services to him people. Daura gave Bayajida a son named Bawo. Bawo, in turn, had seven sons: Biran, Dcura, Katsina, Zaria, Kano, Rano and Gebir, who became the founders of the domestic states. Whatever the value of this story, it tries to explain how the language and culture had spread across the northern states of Nigeria.
Islam reached Hausaland in the early 14th century. It is said that around 40 Wangarawa graders brought Islam with them during the reign of ‚Ali Yaji, who ruled Kano in 1349-1385. A mosque was built and a muezzin (prayer caller) was determined to make the adhan (prayer call) and a judge was appointed to make religious decisions. During the reign of a leader named Yaqub (1452-1463), a Fulani who had emigrated to Kano and who introduced books on Islamic law. By the time Muhammad Rumfa came to power (1453-1499), Islam was already firmly rooted in Kano. During his reign, Muslim scholars came to Kano; some scholars came from Timbuktu to preach and teach Islam.
Muhammad Rumfa interviewed Muslim scholars on government issues. It was he who asked the famous Muslim theologian Al-Maghilli to visit Kano in the 15th century to write a book about the Islamic government. The book is a celebrated masterpiece and is called The Obligation of the Princes. Al-Maghilli later went to Katsina, which had become a center of learning in the 15th century. Most of the pilgrims from Mecca went to Katsina. Scholars from the Sankore University of Timbuktu also visited the city and brought their books on divinity and etymology. In the 13th century, Katsina produced local scholars such as Muhammadu Dan Marina and Muhammadu Dan Masina (d. 1667), whose works are still available today.
The literature of Shehu ‚Uthman Dan Fodio, his brother Abdullahi and his son Muhammad Bello speaks of the syncretic practices of Hausa Fulanis at the end of the 18th century. The ‚Uthman Dan Fodio movement was launched in 1904 as a revival movement in Islam to eliminate syncretic practices and what Shehu Bid’at al-Shaytaniyya or devilish renewal called.
The spread of Islam in Africa has been subject to many factors of historical, geographic, and psychological origin, as has the distribution of Muslim communities, some of which we have tried to present. Since its first appearance in Africa, Islam has spread continuously. The scholars there had been African from the beginning. Islam had become an African religion and influenced these peoples in different ways.