This volume is rich in historic surprises about the fortunes of Islamic in Africa’s experience. Islam first arrived in Africa while the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the religion, was still alive. Ethiopia provided asylum to early Arab Muslims on the run from persecution by fellow Arabs in per Islamic Mecca. Today Nigeria has more Muslims than any Arab country, including Egypt.
This volume explores not just Islam’s impact upon Africa but also Africa’s impact on Muslim history. The book explores the geographical expansion of the religion, and the revival of ancient Muslim rituals, and the politicization and radicalization of Islam in both colonial and pre-colonial Africa.
Is Islam compatible with democracy? Can African Islam peacefully coexist with Christianity? How has Islam in Africa influenced architecture, literature, race relations, gender relations, and cultural interpenetrations between Arabs and Black Africans? In this era of globalization is Islam a positive vanguard force or a trigger for parochialism and backward- looking nostalgia? In this era of terrorism and counterterrorism can Islam be religion been irretrievably hijacked by its own worst radicals?
This volume does not try answer all the questions, but it helps to lay the basic groundwork for understanding Islam much better in this new age.
Ali A. Mazrui
Professor Ali Alamin Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Chair and Director of the Institute of Global cultural Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He is honored in every corner of the world for his astute scholarship on especially, but not only, in the fields of International Relations and Comparative Politics. Prof. Mazrui has published more than 20 books and over 100 journal entries, including his tow most recently published books – Islam: Between Globalization and Counterterrorism (20060 and A Tale of two Africa’s: Nigeria and South Africa as Contrasting Visions(2006).
Patrick M. Dikirr
Patrick Maison Dikirr is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, State University of New or. Dikkirr’s most recent, co authored article, Between the Sacred and the Secular: Indigenous Intellectual Property, International Markets, and the Modern African State is published in the Journal of Modern African Studies.
Robert Ostergard Jr.
Robert L. Ostergard, jr.is ans Assistant Professor of political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Ostergard currently serves as series coeditor of the Ashgate book series, Global Health.
Michael Toler is the Program director of the Al-Musharaka Initiative in Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Cultures of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) and editor of the Arab culture and Civilization Online Resource of the Initiative. He is an active translator of North African literature from French and Arabic into English.
Paul k. Macharia is currently a PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at Binghamton University. His primary area of training and research is in the field of International Relations, focusing particularly on inter-and intra- state conflict and foreign policy.
The Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) at Binghamton University is basically interested in all cultural phenomenons across the world- from Tokyo to Timbuktu, from Mumbai to Mombasa, and from Harlem to The Hague. But the Institute has specialized in the study of three particular and very influential civilizations: the west, Islam, and what we call “Global Africa.” The idea of Global Africa encompasses the African continent itself and the people of African descent, worldwide.
The convergence of these three civilizations- the West, Islam, and Global Africa- constitutes what Ali A. Mazrui has called “the Triple heritage.” Much of Professor Mazrui’s own has focused on how the three civilizations have interacted on the African continent. But this Institute has treated those three legacies as global phenomena and not just Africa’s own experience. The triple heritage should, therefore, be counted as the inheritance of humankind.
Arising out of this agenda of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, several projects have been promoted. One project posed the question of whether globalization was a dialogue of civilizations. A book by multiple authors on the theme has already been published (20080. Another book, focusing more narrowly on Africa and other Civilizations has already been published; so has a book on Islam between Globalization and counterterrorism.
This particular Afro-Islamic volume, by multiple authors, focuses on Islam in Africa. Some of the chapters included here originated in an IGCS workshop on that subject held at Binghamton, while the other chapters are based on papers specially commissioned for this volume. It is hoped that the collection will illustrate not just the impact of Islam upon Africa but also the impact of Africa on Muslim history.
This particular volume is indebted to a wide range of benefactors. Binghamton University has financed many of the preparatory activities, ranging from a workshop on the theme to additional research and manuscript preparation.
There were oral participants at the workshops who did not have papers. This volume is also grateful to them for their contribution of ideas. For the earlier phases of the editing of this volume, we are particularly grateful to Michal Toler, Robert Ostergard, Found Kalouche, Tracia Leacock Seghatolislami, Thomas Uthup, and Ruzima Sbuharara. For secretarial services we are truly obliged to Nancy Levis, Barbara Tierno, AnnaMarie Palombaro, and Nancy Hall.
For computer and website support we are especially indebted to Senthilkumar mehalingam as the technical graduate assistant. Needless to say, the editors are particularly obliged to the authors for their patience and cooperation over a long period.
The African Impact on Muslim
History: A Prelude
There have been many books about the impact of Islam on Africa’s history but very few studies about the impact or Africa on the history of Islam. While the chapters in this collection are still primarily about Islamic influence in Africa, the chapters should also be read with the reverse impact in mind.
Muslins regard their religion as being partly a refinement and elaboration of the messages of Moses and Jesus, Islam is also regarded as being solidly based on the principle of tawbeed- the singularity of God. Where does Africa feature in this initial configuration?
The origins of Monotheism
It is arguable the Africa is not only the cradle of monotheism in world history, it also provided asylum to the three Abrahmic religions in their infancy. While sub- Saharan Africa is the mother of monotheism. Since Eastern and Suthern Africa were, on present evidence, the area of the world where the human species originated, this sub-Sajaram area must also have been the birthplace of such basic elements of human culture as language, religion, and family. Early humans adopted gods of thinder, of floods, of earth of war and fertility. Ancestral Africa was preparing the ground for the human experience o worship, awe, and belief in the supernaturnal.
It took a millennia before another part of Africa- the North- singularized the deity. The Pharaoh Akhenaton (1369-1332 B.C.) is widely regarded as the father of monotheism, and monotheism later became the most globalizing of all religious principles. Was the Pharaoh Akhenaton a rasul (apostle) or nabi (propher) or neither? The Qur’an tells us that to each Umma, God sends a rasul. Was Akenaton the rasul to ancient Egypt?
Egypt was also where Moses was born. So Egypt was in that sense, also the cradle of Judaism, even if one does not accept the thesis that Moses himself was an Egyptian (a thesis made famous in the twentieth century by Sigmund Freud’s theories about Jewish identity).Judaism became another monotheistic tradition born in Egypt. If Egypt was the country in which the infant Jesus later found asylum from the deadly machinations of king Herod.
…the angle of the Lord appeared to Joseph [Mary’s husband] and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.(Matthew,2:13)
The underlying logic of the story is that without the asylum in North Africa, there would have been no Christianity- for the infant Jesus would have been ‘crucified’ in the cradle. Was North Africa therefore the savior of Christianity? If North Africa was also the asylum of the infant Jesus, what is Egypt’s historic destiny for Islam?
Starting with Egypt, North Africa was the first grand clash between Christian power and Muslim challenge. This was the Arab military conquest of Egypt away from the Byzantine Empire. Some would argue that this was the first blow which set in motion a process which culminated in the fall of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453 by the Turks, inaugurated the Ottoman Empire.
But Islam had a humbler arrival in Africa than its triumphant arrival in Egypt. Just as North Africa had played a part as a political refuge of the infant Jesus, and Ethiopia played a part as a place of refuge for persecuted Muslim on the run from pre- Islamic Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad had just begun to preach his own ne gospel. Muhammad was protected for a while by his tribal; but when, in desperation and anger, Muhammad’s tribe (the Hashemite and Kuris) withdrew their protection, it became open season to hunt down Muslim. That was when Muhammad authorized some of his followers to cross the Red Sea and seek asylum in Christian Ethiopia. It was hoped that the monotheistic Ethiopian Christians would be sympathetic to the new monotheists from Arabia. This Muslim asylum seekers in Ethiopia were led by Uthman bin Affan, who subsequently became the third Caliph of Islam and a major preserver of a single version of the Qur’an.
The subsequent Arab conquest of Egypt and the Maghreb also fertilized the flowering of an Islamic civilization on Africa soil, one of whose institution is Al-Azhar University, a centers of learning which has lasted a thousand years. Can we describe Al-Azhar as the first global university, attracting as it does, students from all corners if the Muslim world? Another North African university in Fez, Morocco, of even older than Al-Azhar.
We have referred elsewhere to technology as another engine of globalization across time. Were ancient Egyptians the first to use technology for grand constructions of eternal durability? Long before the construction of the Aswan Dam, by soviet engineers, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was the construction of the great pyramids, linking the living with the dead. Ancient Egypt was arguably among the first grand civilizations. Technology and empire were linked in anticipation of new worlds to conquer.
Much closer to our own day was a different kind of constructions in Egypt- the building of the Suez Canal in the nineteenth century, led by the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. Hundreds of lives of Egyptian and other African workers were lost in the construction of the canal. The Canal was a product, not just of Western expertise and capital but also of the sweat and blood of the Nile Valley workers. The Canal was a major contribution to globalization since it helped to connect Europe, Africa, and Asia in new ways. But the canal was also a monument to technology and economy as the engine of globalization.
By the second half of the twentieth century, Abdul Nasser, Egypt’s President (reign1953-1970) saw Egypt had, indeed, become a bridge across three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe (a triad of continents). In one way or another, Egypt had nursed four different traditions of monotheism: Akhenaton, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (a monotheistic quadrangle).
Between Islamization and Arabization
The Arab conquests of North Africa unleashed two processes, which subsequently gave Africa a special significance in the history of Islam. The more obvious process was the Islamization of Egypt and the rest of North Africa, as more and more of their populations became converts t Islam. While Egypt and much of the rest of North Africa were Christian religious affiliation in the seventh century C.E., North Africa has since become overwhelmingly Muslim.
In addition to Islamization (the spread of the Islamic religion0, north Africa underwent Arabization (the spread of the Arabic language). Today, the great majority of North African are native speakers of the Arabic language. The big excerptions are the Berber minorities of the Magherb and the Black Nuba minority of the upper Nile, who all speak different tongues of their own.
The process of Islamization in Africa went well beyond the borders of North African states and penetrated further and further south of the Sahara. In fact, Islam arrived in many African societies in different guises. We have already referred to its arrival in Ethiopia as asylum seeker and in Egypt and North Africa as conqueror. In Eastern Africa (from Harar in Ethiopia to the city states of Coastal Kenya and coastal Tanzania) Islam arrived partly as an Arab settler and partly as missionary. Across the Sahara and across the Indian Ocean, Islam also arrived as an Arab trader- including trade in slaves.
On the other hand, Islam arrived in Southern Africa enslaved in chains. These were the enslaved Muslim Malays, who were captured by the Dutch – in or near what is today Indonesia- and imported into South Africa three hundred years ago as slaves and serfs.
In West Africa, Islam was also spread by jihad of Ousmane Dane Fodio, in what later became Nigeria. Much more common was the spread of Islam by evagelization, proselytism, and missionary work.
By the end of the twentieth century, Muslims in Africa constituted either a plurality or an absolute majority of the population of the continent. Nigeria alone contained more Muslims than the muslim population. Is such preponderance a kind of climax for the process of Islammization, which began to unfold after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the seventh century C.E.?
As for the process of Arabization, the language initially spread westwards form Egypt and southwards up the Nile Valley. Over the centuries, more and more people not only learned the Arabic language, but eventually identified themselves as Arabs. Arabization came to mean the making of ore and more Arabs on the African continent.
Today, the African members of the League of Arab States include Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocce, Mauritania, and such semi- Arabized members as Somalia and the Comoro Islands. Within these countries resides the majority of the population of the Arab world.
Islam does not have a doctrine of the chosen people. But it does have a de facto doctrine of the chosen Language- Arabic. It is the language of the five compulsory prayers of each day, the original language of the Qur’an recited by millions every twenty- four hours, the language of the ritual of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. It is also the language of ritual ceremonies of birth, marriage, sickness and health, and funeral services.
Of the total native speakers of this sacred language, the majority are in Africa. What is more, the making of newer and newer Arabs continues as countries with a majority of Arabs assimilate more and more of their minorities into the fold of Arab identity. This includes the assimilation of non-Arab populations of countries like Sudan (Arabizing Blacks), Algeria and morocco (Arabizing Berbers), and Egypt (Arabizing the Nuda mountains).
If Arabic is the Chosen Language of God, it has made its most spectacular spread on the African continent. This is quite apart from those Africans who have learned the Arabic language as a medium of their Islamic rituals rather than in pursuits of acquiring a new Arab identity.
The spread of the Arabic language in Africa is partly a consequence of the spread of Islam. But the spread of the Arabic language in turn help to stimulate the rise of new African indigenous languages. Perhaps the most successful African language on the continent is Kiswahili, dominant mainly in countries of Eastern Africa. Just as the English language, as we know it today, is inconceivable without the impact of Latin, so Kiswahili( as we know it) would not have happened at all without the impact of both Islam and the Arabic language.
The most influential African language in West Africa is Hausa. The impact of Arabic and Islam on Hausa is of comparable magnitude to their impact on Kiswahili. What this means is that three out of the five subregions of Africa have a neo- Islamic language as the major medium of indigenous discourse. Arabic dominates North Africa, Hausa towers over other African languages in ‘west Africa, and Kiswahili in Eastern Africa.
Other neo-Islamic language in Eastern Africa include Somail and Oromo, while other neo- Islamic languages in West Africa include Wolof, Fulfulde, Tuareg, and Malinke.
Southern Africa is the fourth subregion of the continent. There is no highly prominent neo- Islamic language in Southern Africa, but Kiswahili has already substantially penetrated Mozambique, Malawi, and elsewhere in the south.
In addition to Islamization(the spread of the Islamic religion), North Africa underwent Arabization (the spread of the Arabic language).Today, the great majority of North Africans are native speakers of the Arabic language. The big exceptions are the Berber minorities of the Maghreb and the Black Nuba minority of the upper Nile, who all speak different tongues of their own.
The process of Islamization in Africa went beyond the borders of North Africa states and penetrated further and further south of the Sahara. In fact, Islam arrived in many African societies indifferent guises. We have already referred to its arrival in asylum seekers and in Ethiopia to the city states of Coastal Kenya and Coastal Tanzania) Islam arrived partly as an Arab settler and partly as a missionary. Across the sahara and across the Indian Ocean, Islam also arrived as an Arab trade- including trade in slaves.
On the other hand, Islam arrived in Southern Africa enslaved in chains. These were the enslaved Muslim Malays, who were captured by the Dutch – in or near what is today Indonesia- and imported into south Africa three hundred years ago as slaves and serfs.
In West Africa, Islam was also spread by jihadists and religious revivalists, such as the nineteenth century jihad of Ousmane Dan Fodio, in what later became Nigeria. Much more common was the spread of Islam by evangelization, proselytism, and missionary work.
By the end of the twentieth century, Muslims In Africa constituted either a plurality or an absolute majority of the population of the continent. Nigeria alone contained more Muslims than the Muslim population of any Arab country, including Egypt. Africa was emerging as the first continent in the world with perhaps a preponderance of Muslims in its population. Is such preponderance a kind of climax for the process of Islamization, which began to unfold after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the seventh century C.E.?
As for the process of Arabization, the language initially spread westwards from Egypt and southwards up the Nile Valley. Over the centuries, more and more people not only learned the Arabic language, but eventually identified themselves as Arabs. Arabization came to mean the making of more and more Arabs on the African continent.
Today, the African members of the League of Arab states include Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morcco, Mauritania, and such semi- Arabized members as Somlia and the Comoro Islands. Within these countries resides the majority of the population of the Arab world.
Islam does not have a doctrine of the Chosen People. But it does have a de facto doctrine of the Chosen Language- Arabic. It is the language of the five compulsory prayers of each day, the original language of the Qur’an recited by millions every twenty- four hours, the language of the rituals of the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca. It is also the language of rituals ceremonies of birth, marriage, sickness and health, and funeral services.
Of the total native speakers of this sacred language of God, it has made its most spectacular spread on the African continent. This is quite apart from those Africans who have learned the Arabic language as medium of their Islamic rituals rather than in pursuit of acquiring a new Arab identity.
The spread of the Africa is partly a consequence of the spread of Islam. But the spread of the Arabic language in turn helped to stimulate the rise of new African indigenous language, as we know it today, is inconceivable without the impact of Latin, so Kiswahili(as we know it) would not have happened at all without the impact of both Islam and the Arabic language.
The most influential African language in West Africa is Hausa. The impact of Arabic and Islam on Hausa is of comparable magnitude to their impact on Kiswahili. What this means is that three out of the five subregions of Africa have a neo-Islamic language as the major medium of indigenous discourse. Arabic dominates North Africa, Hausa towers over other African languages in West Africa, and Kiswahili continues to expand in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi in Eastern Africa.
Other neo- IsIamic languages in Eastern Africa include Somali and Oromo, while other neo- Islamic languages in West Africa include Wolof, Fulfulde, Tuarege, and Malinke.
Southern Africa is the fourth subregion of the continent. There is no highly prominent neo-Islamic language in Southern Africa, but Kiswahili has already substantially penetrated Mozambique, Malawi, and elsewhere in the South.
If Central Africa is the fifth subregion of the continent, it is also without a prominent neo-Islamic language. However, Kiswahili has already become a major rival to Lingala in the indigenous discourse of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All evidence indicates a continuing expansion of the Swahili language in both southern and Central Africa in the generations to come.
Islam and Ancient African Diasporas
Is there a sixth subregion of Africa? Does it have a prominent neo- Islamic language or some other aspect of culture? The African Union in this twenty first century ha s considered recognizing the African Diaspora as the sixth subregion of African solidarity. Is there an Islamic factor in relation to this Diasporas experience? If language is not relevant here, what other aspect of culture is?
One factor to be taken into account is that was an African Diaspora in Arabian ling before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The proximity of the Horn of Africa had resulted in different forms of contact between the Arabian peninsula and countries in the horn. For example, there is passionate disagreement to the present day as o whether the Queen of Sheba was Ethiopian or Yemeni. Biblical and Qur’qnic scholars place her in Ethiopia.
The Qur’an also refers to an invasion of Arabia by “people of the elephant,(as- babil feel). It is most certain that this is a reference to a fighting force from Ethiopia led by commanders riding two or three elephants. The Qur’an implies a divine intervention which thwarted the invaders on elephants. Did a pestilence break out among the invading foreigners, which resulted in their retreat? Again, this was a pre- Islamic conflict between Arabia and an African fighting force, seemingly long before Muhammad was born.
Another compelling testimony that relations between Arabian and Africa are older than Islam concerns Bilal, son of Rabah. He was a Black Ethiopian, enslaved by Arabs before islam. In fact, it was early Muslims (probably the Prophet’s disciple, Abubakar) who bought Bilal in order to emancipate him. Bilalb was converted early to the new religion of Islam, and he then developed in to one of the closest disciples of the Prophet Muhammad. When the Muslims peacefully re-conquered Mecca in the year 620C.E. Bila was the first Muezzien to call believers to prayer at the newly re-constituted mosque of the kaaba- the Islamic call to prayer from the holiest place in the Muslim world. Bilal symbolized the Diaspora of Eastern Africa in Arabia.
A few generations later, there began to develop a Diaspora of Northern Africa in the Iberian Peninsula. Spain was Europe’s nearest point to Africa. Across the centuries there developed a constant movement of people, goods, wealth, and ideas between North Africa and Spain. Such historic Moroccan religious and political movements as Mourabiteen and Almoravids eventually bestowed the name ‘ Moors’ to the darker- skinned North African Muslims. They were among the very first African ever to exercise sovereignty over the Europeans in Europe itself.
Muslims were in power in Spain for eight centuries. Some of the most spectacularly built monuments to Islamic civilization were constructed in Muslim Spain, Al- Andalus. The most dazzling are the gardens, place, and the citadel of Alhambra.
Granada fell to the Christian onslaught on January 2, 1492. Thousands of masterpieces of poetry, philosophy, science, history, maps and atlases were condemned to the bonfires of the Catholic Inquisition. Over a period of time, three million Moors were expelled from spainor burnt alive or forcibly forced to convert to Christianity. In the words of Jan Carew:
The Burning of thousands of books and the expulsion of the Moors was a terrible loss to the Renaissance..And the glaring irony is that the Renaissance of Moorish scholarship.
Islam’s dazzling impact on medieval Europe was disproportionately through Muslim Spain. The achievements of Muslim Spain are not only a part of European history, they are also inseparable from North African history.
Ivan Van Serbia has argued that it was not accident that nearly all major European universities of the Middle Ages came into being during the flowering of Moorish science and the widespread translation of Moorish treatises from Arabic into Latin. This intellectually fertile period was from the twelfth century right through the thirteenth.
In Italy we have bologna, Padua, Naples, and Rome; in France, Montpelier and Toulouse; in Portugal, Lisbon and Coimbra; in England, Oxford. Several of the Moorish works in mathematics, astronomy, and medicine became standard texts at these universities.
Shakespeare’s Othello is a Moor of courage and physical heroism, rather than a Moor of learning and intellectual; power. In any case, to avoid complications of an interfaith marriage, Shakespeare did not make his Moor a Muslim. On the contrary, Othello was anti-Muslim- as evidenced by his description of a Turk as “a circumcised dog” whose throat was worth slitting!
It was, nevertheless, significant that Shakespeare could deal with so sensitive a subject as inter-racial sexual mating- and still make the murderous Black man a tragic hero. The idea of a Moor as a dignified and authoritative figure must have been wholly credible to Elizabethan audiences. The reputation of Moorish Spain must have contributed to such an image.
If Ethiopians in Arabia constituted the earliest Diaspora of Eastern Africa and if Andalusia was the earliest Diaspora of North Africa, what is the earliest Diaspora of West Africa? It would be totally defensible to regard the Atlantic slave trade as the major force which created the West African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean. This was the Diaspora of enslavement- of survivors of the Middle Passage.
In the twentieth century there followed the Diaspora created by European colonialism in Africa and its disruptions. Hundreds of thousands of Africans migrated to the Western world to escape the economic and political dislocations of postcolonial Africa.
And yet, long before the Atlantic slave trade, there might have been more voluntary African attempts to cross the Atlantic. The Senegalese scholar, Pathe Diagne, initiated a project in the 1980s to research jointly with Cornell University, the role of Bakari II of ancient Mali in crossing the Atlantic, ostensibly before the year 1312.(Columbus’ achievement across the Atlantic is normally dated as 1492, the same year as the expeditions of the Moors from Spain.) path Diagne’s theise was that the expeditions of Bakari II(a West African Muslim ) Christopher Columbus were inter-related.
Both Bakari II and Christopher Columbus learned of the African navigators of Senegambia and the Gulf of Guinea about (1) transoceanic traffic and trade, (2) the existence of a corridor fed by North Equatorial winds, and (3) the existence of a current that was esy to navigate during the summer and autumn and that led to the rich Maya, Olmeque, Azetec, and Inca Kingdoms and civilizations. Neither Bakari II nor Christopher Columbus were ready to share this geographical secret with rivals..
The case for a pre- Columbian African crossing of the Atlantic is far from complete and may never be fully proven. But alternative explanations of the pre-Christ Negroid stone head sin Mexico have not have convincingly argued either. If the fleet of Mensa Bakari (Abubakar )II did succeed in reaching the New World, this was the earliest post-chirst Black Diaspora originating from West Africa; and the kingdom of Bakari II was, of course, also Muslim.
While Islam and adventurous Africans had gone out of Africa to create new Diasporas abroad, other races and ideologies came into Africa to create new social forces. We have already referred to the arrival of Arab asylim seekers.Conquerors, traders, and settlers. We have already referred to the Atlantic slave trade and the arrival of European traders and adventures. Even more pervasive were, the arrival of European colonizers and the establishment of new empires in Africa.
But form the point of view of the fortunes of Islam in Africa, the most relevant new force was the arrival of Christianity, especially in its European versions. Egyptian Christian era-the Coptic Church. Ethiopian christianityh goes back to the fourth century C.E. But most of the rest of Africa got its Christianity from the nineteenth century onwards, mainly through European colonization. It is this twin arrival of European imperialism and Euro-Christianity which Act now unfolding is Africa’s Triple Heritage.
The arrival of these new Western forces on the African continent carried wide – ranging implications for both Islam and the ancestral religions of African societies. Sub-Saharan African became, almost for the first time, a theater of rivalry between contending religious forces on an almost unprecedented scale. Indigenous African religions did not compete with each other, but Christianity and Islam had competitive universalistic ambitions.
However, is this phase a case of ‘Islam in Africa’ or a phase of ‘Africa in the history of Islam? The phase qualified for both descriptions. While the two monotheistic religions have co- existed and/ or competed in other parts of the world, going back to at least the Christian crusades and continuing in places like modern- day Lebanon and Bosnia and Albania, Africa as a theater of comparative religious experience became very distinctive. Let us look more closely at Africa as a unique religious arena in the modern history of both Christianity and Islam, interacting with the indigenous culture to create a vibrant Triple Heritage.
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