Islam was a modernizing influence in Africa, it imposed order among different societies, strengthened the powers of governments, and broke down ethnic loyalties.
Islam is one of Africa’s most widely practiced faiths on the continent. Almost one-third of the world’s Muslim population is in Africa. During the early 7th century, Africa became the first continent to receive the wide spread of Islam from Southwestern Asia.
How, then, did this religion penetrate the vast continent of Africa?
According to the oral tradition of the Arabs, Islam had its first establishment in Africa as a result of the persecution in Arab peninsula; this made them flee for their lives. During this period, Muslims sought refuge in the present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, after they had crossed Somalia and Djibouti.
Subsequently, many Islamic traders and scholars flooded the continent for greener pastures in search of new opportunities to explore Africa.
Islam in Africa had a turbulent history in the early centuries of its existence. Many societies saw reforming movements, and dynasties clashed and succeeded each other.
Many leaders focused on trade routes security into gold-producing areas in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain power. These leaders also converted to Islam, giving them an advantage and influence in the trade with the Arabians.
Islamic rulers expanded their rule through this influence and took over more African territories. Mansa Musa, The Gold King Of Mali, is an example of one such Islamic leader. Islam dominated the Mediterranean world in the last quarter of the 11th century.
By the 1880s, Islam had fully been established in one-third of the continent.
Most Muslims in Africa are Sunni Muslims. African ethnicities in the North, East and West of Africa consider Islam as their traditional religion.
The practice of Islam on the continent has not been the same ever since, and it is constantly being reshaped by widespread socio-political and economic factors.
Islam in Africa has often been adapted to African cultural contexts and belief systems, forming Africa’s orthodoxies.