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Islam and Ghana


This is pro-Islam evangelicism at its best brother. I am sure you were not even pretending to be "impartial" in this post.

"Finally, nearly all of the early slaves brought to the Americas were Muslim (First 150 Years). Secondly, all of the written reports we have during slavery were by the Muslims, because they were the only ones who could write!" - Ansari Mustafa

You mean those Africans stolen from the "Muslim regions" of West Africa were Muslims and they were around 10% of the entire slave population in the United States. You also mean some of those Arabic renditions were subject to translation by European scholars because Europeans were familiar with Arabic whereas Europeans did not start studying indigenous West African writing systems until circa 1850-60 so they assumed that our philology was completely oral.


I suppose you conveniently forgot to mention the Adinkra philosophical writing system that existed in the West African region now known as Ghana before Arabic arrived as well. The Europeans and the Arabs had no understanding of how our writing systems were embedded into our clothing, and artwork, conveying meaning all the time, not just in the form of script. Many of the Africans taken from Central Africa that ended up in South America were not Muslim.

South America and the Caribbean had a larger population of Africans that were enslaved than North America brother Mustafa because they were being captured as early as 1518 by the Spanish and around 40% of all slaves were shipped to Brazil. Only about 4.5% of all Africans captured ended up in North America.


Peace and Blessings,
I have perused the sources of Brother Felix and I understand where he is coming from and thats okay. However, there is another side to Islam relationship to West Africa that reveals that the height of West African acheivement were accomplished during the Islamic dynasties. These dynasties were at the top of the educational paradigm, when West African traditionalist and Europeans could not read and write. These African Muslims created the best educational system in the world and today their books have survived.
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I have worked over the years intermittingly with the www.Timbuktueducationalfoundation.org  which can verify this information. There is also an excellent book by Professor Sylvianne Diouf called "The Servants of Allah", which chronicles in great details the occurrences during the slavery period. These sources plus the contemporary writings of Leo Africanus, Al-Idrissi, and Ibn Khaldun appear to be much more credible than the European writers suggested by brother Felix.
Here is an excerpt from Professor Doi, who you can find by simply googling "West Africa Islam"..
Finally, nearly all of the early slaves brought to the Americas were Muslim (First 150 Years). Secondly, all of the written reports we have during slavery were by the Muslims, because they were the only ones who could write!
Islam in the ancient empire of Ghana
Al-Bakri, the Muslim geographer, gives us an early account of the ancient Soninke empire of Ghana. His Kitab fi Masalik wal Mamalik (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms) describes Ghana of 1068 as highly advanced. Economically, it was a prosperous country. The King had employed Muslim interpreters and most of his ministers and treasurers were also Muslims. The Muslim ministers were learned enough to record events in Arabic and corresponded, on behalf of the king, with other rulers. "Also, as Muslims, they belonged to the larger body politic of the Islamic world and this would make it possible to establish international relations. [18]"


Al-Bakri gives the following picture of Islam in Ghana in the 11th century: "The city of Ghana consists of two towns lying on a plain, one of which is inhabited by Muslims and is large, possessing 12 mosques one of which is congregational mosque for Friday prayers: each has its Imam, Muezzin and paid reciters of the Qur'an. The town possesses a large number of Jurus consults and learned men." [19]


The end of the Ghana Empire came at the hands of al-Murabitun (Almoravids) in the year 1076 C.E. The Murabitun movement had begun among the militant Muslim tribes of the Barbers of the Sinhaja. The word al-Murabitun is derived from an Arabic word 'ibat which means a sufi monastery. In the 11th century, Tarsina, a Lambtuna leader, went on hajj and on his return proclaimed a jihad on the pagan farmers of Senegal river area.


He was killed in 1023 in this struggle and was followed by Yahya who also went on a pilgrimage and brought with him a famous preacher named, 'Abd-Allah bin Yasin. 'Abd-Allah began to preach Islam among the Goddala. Suddenly Yahya died and 'Abd-Allah felt unsafe. He therefore retired into a ribat where he began to train preachers for spreading Islam among the Berber tribes. Later he used his men of the ribal to launch a jihad. These men of ribat (monastery) are called Al-Murabitun, meaning the ribat dwellers, remembered as Almoravids by European writers. The Almoravids conquered Ghana by 1076 C.E.


Islam in the empire of Mali
The influence of Islam in Mali dates back to the 15th century when Al-Bakri mentions the conversion of its ruler to Islam. There was a miserable period of drought which came to an end by offering Muslim prayers and ablutions. The Empire of Mali arose from the ruins of Ghana Empire. There are two important names in the history of Islam in Mali: Sundiata (1230-1255) and Mansa Musa (1312-1337). Sundiata is the founder of the Mali Empire but was a weak Muslim, since he practiced Islam with syncretic practices and was highly disliked by the 'ulama. Mansa Musa was, on the other hand, a devout Muslim and is considered to be the real architect of the Mali Empire. By the time Sundiata died in 1255, a large number of former dependencies of Ghana also came under his power. After him came Mansa Uli (1255-1270) who had made a pilgrimage to Makkah.


Mansa (Emperor) Musa came to power in 1312 and his fame reached beyond the Sudan, North Africa and spread up to Europe. Mansa Musa ruled from 1312 to 1337 and in 1324-25 he made his famous pilgrimage to Makkah [Hajj]. When he returned from his pilgrimage, he brought with him a large number of Muslim scholars and architects who built five mosques for the first time with baked bricks. Thus Islam received its greatest boost during Mansa Musa's reign. Many scholars agree that because of his attachment to Islam, Mansa Musa could introduce new ideas to his administration. The famous traveller and scholar Ibn Batutah came to Mali during Mansa Sulaiman's reign (1341-1360), and gives an excellent account of Mali's government and its economic prosperity - in fact, a legacy of Mansa Musa's policy. Mansa Musa's pilgrimage projected Mali's enormous wealth and potentialities which attracted more and more Muslim traders and scholars. These Muslim scholars and traders contributed to the cultural and economic development of Mali. It was during his reign that diplomatic relations were established with Tunis and Egypt, and thus Mali began to appear on the map of the world.
Whatever may be said of the expansion of Islam in Mali and other parts of West Africa at that time, the fact remains that Islam was not practiced in its pristine purity. Pagan practices abound in the countries of Western Sudan. Ibn Batutah has given a vivid account of such practices in the Sudan. He says he was shocked by the fact that young women walked naked in the streets, taking food to the Sultan during the month of Ramadhan. He also describes the manner in which one appears before the Sultan:

"When he calls one of his subjects to an audience, the man removes his clothes and puts on worn-out garments and replaces his turban with a dirty skull-cap. Then he enters raising his garments and pantaloons halfway up his shins and comes forward in a submissive and humble way and strikes the ground high with his elbows. He then stands like one bowing in prayer listening to the Sultan's words. When one of them addresses the Sultan and the Sultan replies, the man removes the garments from his back and puts dust on his head and back like one washing with water."

These traditional practices continued along with Islamic ones. Some of the pagan practices were also observed with the Islamic worship. Worship of the local cults and shrines and belief in the local taboos continued in spite of the fact that Islam made enormous progress in the hinter-land of the Western Sudan. Al-Maghilli reports that girls customarily went naked until the time of their marriage, in the city of Jenne in the 15th century, although Islam was firmly rooted in the area by that time. In Hausa land, too, we hear of such practices, as late as the 19th century, when Shehu 'Uthman Dan Fodio launched his jihad to revive and revitalize Islam. We come to know about some pagan customs through the writings of the Shehu, such as covering the head with dust and prostration before the ruler. The monotheistic teachings of Islam frown upon prostrating before any one except one God and considers it as polytheism (shirk).

Nigeria: Huts

Islam in the Empire of Songhay
Islam began to spread in the Empire of Songhay some time in the 11th century when the ruling Za or Dia dynasty first accepted it. It was a prosperous region because of its booming trade with Gao. By the 13th century it had come under the dominion of the Mali Empire but had freed itself by the end of the 14th century when the dynasty was renamed Sunni. The frontier of Songhay now expanded and in the 15th century, under the leadership of Sunni 'Ali, who ruled between 1464-1492, the most important towns of the Western Sudan came under the Songhay Empire. The great cities of Islamic learning like Timbuktu and Jenne came under his power between 1471-1476.
Sunni 'Ali's was a nominal Muslim who used Islam to his ends. He even persecuted Muslim scholars and practiced local cults and magic. When the famous scholar Al-Maghilli called him a pagan, he punished him too. The belief in cults and magic was, however, not something new in Songhay. It existed in other parts of West Africa until the time the revivalist movements gained momentum in the 18th century. It is said of Sunni 'Ali that he tried to compromise between paganism and Islam although he prayed and fasted. The 'ulama called it merely a mockery.
Sunni 'Ali's syncretism was soon challenged by the Muslim elites and scholars in Timbuktu, which was then a center of Islamic learning and civilization. The famous family of Agit, of the Berber scholars, had the post of the Grand Qadhi (Chief Justice) and were known for their fearless opposition to the rulers. In his lifetime, Sunni 'Ali took measures against the 'ulama of Timbuktu (in 1469 and in 1486). But on his death, the situation completely changed: Islam and Muslim scholars triumphed. Muhammad Toure (Towri), a military commander asked Sunni 'Ali's successor, Sunni Barou, to appear before the public and make an open confession of his faith in Islam. When Barou refused to do so, Muhammad Toure ousted him and established a new dynasty in his own name, called the Askiya dynasty. Sunni 'Ali may be compared with Sundiata of Mali, and Askiya Muhammad Toure with Mansa Musa, a champion of the cause of Islam.
On his coming to power, he established Islamic law and arranged a large number of Muslims to be trained as judges (Qadhis) to interpret Canon Law. He gave his munificient patronage to the 'ulama and gave them large pieces of land as gifts. He became a great friend of the famous scholar Muhammad Al-Maghilli. It was because of his patronage that eminent Muslim scholars were attracted to Timbuktu, which became a great seat of learning in the 16th century. Timbuktu has the credit of establishing the first Muslim University called Sankore University in West Africa; its name is commemorated until today in Ibadan University where a staff residential area has been named as Sankore Avenue.

Like Mansa Musa of Mali, Askia Muhammad Toure went on a pilgrimage and thus came into close contact with Muslim scholars and rulers in the Arab countries. In Makkah, the King accorded him great respect; he was turbanned. The King gave him a sword and the title of the Khalifa of the Western Sudan. On his return from Makkah in the year 1497, he proudly used the title of Al-Hajj [20].


Askia took such a keen interest in the Islamic legal system that he asked a number of questions on Islamic theology from his friend Muhammad al-Maghilli. Al-Maghilli answered his questions in detail which Askia circulated in the Songhay empire. Some of the questions were about the fundamental structure of the faith, such as 'who is a true Muslim?' and "who is a pagan?" When we read Shehu 'Uthman Dan Fodio's works on jihad, we can see some of his arguments quoted on the authority of Al-Maghilli. In other words, Al-Maghilli's detailed discussions of the issues raised by Askiya Muhammad played a great role in influencing Shehu's jihad.
After Askiya Muhammad Toure, the empire began to crumble into pieces. He was deposed by his sons who had shared power with him since there was no fixed law of succession to the throne. During the period of 60 years(1528-1591), eight Askias came to power one after another. At last, in 1591 Songhay fell in the hands of the Moors and the glories of Timbuktu began to decline.