The impact of Islam
The religion of Islam emerged on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century C.E. After it became established in this area, Arab conquerors spread the word of Islam through a vast territory. Eventually the Realm of Islam extended from the Indus River to the Iberian Peninsula, across North Africa and south of the Sahara. As the religion moved from region to region, a massive trade and communication network was developed, which introduced goods and ideas (Spielvogel, 1998). This paper highlights on some of the impacts of Islam in societies of North Africa and compares and contrasts them with the impacts witnessed in societies of the sub Saharan region.
One of the areas that witnessed radical Islamic expansion in Northern Africa is the area around Mali. In this region expansion of Islam is attributed to one of the great Muslim Sultan, Mali Koy Kankan (Kati, 1987). He had dominion over this region and he did a lot of virtuous activities that made the people of this society to like him. He emancipated prisoners at least every day, he made pilgrimage to the house of God and build several mosque in the region including the well known mosque in Timbuktu.
This effect of slave emancipation was not witnessed in other regions because the laws of conversion of Islam did not allow slaves to be freed until they accepted and owned the faith. For instance in Sub Saharan Africa, there was increase in Slave trade because of the presence of Arab Muslims and the rebellion that they received from natives in this region. In the slave trade, most of the slave came from the regions of sub Saharan and were shipped to the North to work on individual land owners. Slaves were a sign of wealth. Sultan Kankan was wealthy but he used to free slaves every day giving them their rights as human beings. Another remarkable impact he brought to the region is Mali-koy’s Saturday of departure (Kati, 1987). This day is uncommonly honored or regarded in Muslim societies around the sub Saharan region.
Mali Koy, in his travel, built a mosque at least every week. As he moved from region to region in North Africa he made sure that every Friday of his journey, he built a mosque wherever he was (Kati, 1987). This exercise greatly increased the presence of the Muslim faith in the region and has left a lasting mark until today. A similar thing was also witnessed in the sub Saharan region where mosques were built and the leaders including the elite were trained into teaching people the faith.
Islamic expansion in the sub Sahara region and its effect share several similarities to its expansion and effects in North Africa. For instance in both societies, they accepted and adopted Islam because it does not separate the political authority and religious authority (Blakely, 1994). This aspect found acceptance from several ethnic African leaders because it meant that they would have more powers over their territories. They were regarded as both religious leaders and political leaders. This meant rise of many Muslim empires in the two regions. Currently the whole of North Africa is predominantly Muslim while a few countries in the Sub Saharan region are Muslim nations. Another important point to note is that conversion was first witnessed in the elite and leaders of both regions before the subjects and other common people in the society converted.
In conclusion, the spread of Islam in Africa began in the seventeenth century with North Africa as the first region that experienced the first impact of Islam. One century later it had spread to the Sub Saharan region. This spread brought some impacts to the regions’ political systems and religious beliefs. It also impacted on the economy since there was increased trade as a result of the presence of the Arabs. Some of the impacts witnessed in these two regions have lasted for long because even until today the effect is felt.
Blakely, T. D. (1994). Religion in Africa: Experience & Expression. London: James Currey.
Kati, M. (1987). The Chronicle of the Seeker . Retrieved May 27, 2011, from
Spielvogel, D. (1998). The essentials of World History (6 ed.). Cengage Learning.