Home  Articles
Comments
e-mail usearth next

  Islam In Africa (from Voice of America - VOA)  

 
DATE=4/1/97
TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
NUMBER=5-36085
TITLE= ISLAM IN AFRICA - PART 1
BYLINE=HILLETEWORK MATHIAS
DATELINE= WASHINGTON 
CONTENT=

UN-VOICED:

INTRO:  ISLAM IS THE SECOND LARGEST RELIGION, AFTER CHRISTIANITY.
IT IS ESTIMATED ABOUT ONE-BILLION MUSLIMS LIVE AROUND THE WORLD. 
OF THESE, ABOUT 300-MILLION RESIDE IN AFRICA.  TODAY, ISLAM PLAYS
AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE POLITICAL AND CULTURAL LIVES OF MILLION 
OF AFRICANS.  IN THE FIRST OF A FIVE-PART SERIES ON ISLAM IN 
AFRICA, V-O-A'S HILLETEWORK MATHIAS EXAMINES THE ARRIVAL AND 
SPREAD OF ISLAM IN THE CONTINENT. 

TEXT:  ISLAM IS AN ARABIC WORD WHICH MEANS SUBMISSION TO GOD.  IT
IS A RELIGION FOUNDED IN ARABIA MORE THAN 13-HUNDRED-YEARS AGO 
AND PREACHED BY THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD IN 600 A.D.  MUHAMMAD 
PREACHED HE WAS GOD'S MESSENGER AND THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD -- 
CALLED ALLAH.  ACCORDING TO ISLAMIC BELIEF, GOD'S WORD WAS 
REVEALED TO MUHAMMAD ORALLY, AND WRITTEN DOWN AFTER HIS DEATH IN 
MUSLIM'S HOLY BOOK, THE "KORAN". 

HISTORIANS SAY ISLAM FIRST CAME TO AFRICA BY WAY OF EGYPT AROUND 
640 A.D.  BY THE END OF THE CENTURY, THROUGH ARMED CONQUEST AND 
COMMERCIAL ACTIVITY, IT HAD SPREAD TO NORTH AND WEST AFRICA.  
TODAY, THE ISLAMIC FAITH PERMEATES ARAB NORTH AFRICA AND SIZEABLE
AREAS OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA.  

PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN POLITICS AT HOWARD UNIVERSITY, SULEIMAN 
NYANG, IS THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK "ISLAM, CHRISTIANITY AND AFRICAN
IDENTITY."

                         // NYANG ACT //

         ISLAM ENTERED THROUGH EGYPT BY CONQUEST BECAUSE THE 
         BYZANTINES WERE CONTROLLING EGYPT AND A SIZABLE PORTION 
         OF NORTH AFRICA.  THESE WERE WHAT WE CALL IN WORLD 
         HISTORY -- THE EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE.  THE BYZANTIUM 
         CONTROLLED EGYPT, AND OF COURSE AMAR IBIN AL-AZ IS 
         USUALLY CITED AS THE MUSLIM CONQUEROR OF EGYPT, WITH THE
         COLLABORATION OF SOME OF THE CHRISTIAN COPTIC GROUPS 
         THERE WHO WERE NOT VERY HAPPY WITH BYZANTIUM RULE.  THEN
         OF COURSE, ISLAM SPREAD ALONG THE EAST AFRICAN COAST AND
         ACROSS THE SAHARA THROUGH COMMERCE AND TRADE.

                         // END ACT // 

THE ROLE OF TRADE IN THE SPREAD OF ISLAM IN AFRICA MAY BE LINKED 
TO THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD, WHO WAS ALSO A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN.  
HE IS PERHAPS THE ONLY FOUNDER OF A MAJOR RELIGION WHO WAS ONCE A
MERCHANT.  THE "KORAN" ASSURES BELIEVERS IT IS NOT REPREHENSIBLE 
TO SEEK LIVELIHOOD IN TRADE. 

TODAY ISLAM HAS BECOME THE MOST IMPORTANT RELIGION IN AFRICA.  IT
IS ESTIMATED NEARLY ONE-HALF OF AFRICA'S POPULATION OF 
700-MILLION HOLD TO THE RELIGION.  THE GREATEST CONCENTRATION OF 
MUSLIM MAJORITIES EXIST IN THE NORTHERN, WESTERN, AND EASTERN 
PARTS OF THE CONTINENT.  PROFESSOR NYANG SAYS THIS IS DUE TO, 
AMONG OTHER THINGS, NON-POLITICAL ROLES ARAB TRADERS PLAYED AT 
THE TIME.

                        // NYANG ACT // 

         WHEN THE ARAB TRADERS CAME TO AFRICA THEY DID NOT HAVE 
         POLITICAL CONTROL OVER AFRICAN STATES.  THEY WERE MAINLY
         USED AS TECHNICAL ADVISORS BECAUSE THEY HAD LITERACY AND
         THEIR KNOWLEDGE WAS DEPLOYED IN THE SERVICE OF AFRICAN 
         KINGS.  SO THEY DID NOT HAVE POLITICAL POWER. 

                        // END OF ACT //

OTHER ANALYSTS ATTRIBUTE THE SPREAD OF ISLAM IN AFRICA TO WHAT 
THEY VIEW AS THE RELIGON'S EGALITARIAN NATURE.  NOTED AFRICAN 
SCHOLAR ALI MAZRUI IS A PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN HISTORY AND POLITICS
AT STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT BINGHAMTON. 

                        // MAZRUI ACT //

         ISLAM HAS BEEN FAR LESS COMPROMISED BY RACISM THAN 
         CHRISTIANITY HAS BEEN, AS THE RESULT OF THE LEADERSHIP 
         OF EUROPE IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY.  BECAUSE 
         CHRISTIANITY BECAME AT ITS MOST SUCCESSFUL UNDER 
         EUROPEAN HANDS, AND AS EUROPEANS BECAME RACIST THE WHOLE
         RELIGION BECAME COMPROMISED AS A RESULT.  WHEREAS IN 
         ISLAM THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS RACIALLY SEGREGATED 
         MOSQUES.  ON THE CONTRARY, FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, YOU 
         HAD RACIALLY INTEGRATED PLACES OF PRAYER.  SO ON THE 
         ISSUE OF RACIAL EGALITARIANISM, THERE IS NO DOUBT AT ALL
         THAT ISLAM HAS A MUCH BETTER RECORD THAN 
         EURO-CHRISTIANITY.  AND THIS HAS BEEN ATTRACTIVE TO MANY
         BLACK PEOPLE BOTH IN AFRICA AND IN BLACK AMERICA.

                        // END OF ACT //

HISTORIANS SAY THE MOST RAPID ISLAMIZATION OF AFRICA TOOK PLACE 
IN THE 20TH CENTURY WHEN EUROPEAN COLONIALISM WAS AT ITS PEAK.  
THEY SAY EUROPEAN POLITICAL OCCUPATION LED AFRICANS TO SEEK 
ALTERNATE WORLD VIEWS, AND ISLAM PROVIDED ONE OF THEM.  THEY SAY 
VARIOUS ANTI-COLONIAL MOVEMENTS IN AFRICA HELPED FACILITATE THE 
ISLAMIZATION PROCESS.  CHARLES STEUART IS A PROFESSOR OF AFRICAN 
HISTORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS.

                        // STEUART ACT //

         AND THERE WERE A NUMBER OF VERY ATTRACTIVE, VERY 
         COMPELLING MOVEMENTS -- I AM THINKING OF THE MAHDIS IN 
         SUDAN IN THE 1880'S, I AM THINKING OF THE NOTIONS OF 
         JIHAD IN WEST AFRICA THAT CARRIED OVER EVEN IN THE 
         EARLIER 20TH CENTURY -- VERY COMPELLING IDEOLOGIES THAT 
         ATTRACTED INDIVIDUALS WHO THOUGHT THIS SORT OF RESPONSE 
         TO EUROPEAN OCCUPATION WAS FAR MORE ATTRACTIVE, MORE 
         SATISFYING THAN SIMPLY HUNKERING DOWN AND ACCEPTING  
         DOMINATION.

                        // END OF ACT //

ISLAM HAS MADE NUMEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS TO AFRICA, ESPECIALLY IN 
THE AREA OF EDUCATION.  WE WILL HAVE MORE ABOUT THE IMPACT OF 
THOSE CONTRIBUTIONS ON TODAY'S AFRICA IN THE NEXT PART OF OUR 
SERIES ON ISLAM IN AFRICA.    (SIGNED)

NEB/HM/RAE

01-Apr-97 2:56 PM EST (1956 UTC)
NNNN

Source: Voice of America

 UP

Home  Articles
Comments
e-mail usearth next