Islam in West Africa
Written by Islamstory
Islam entered West Africa under the leadership of `Uqbah Ibn Nâf`. Ghana is considered as the oldest empire in the continent. The Muslim armies attempted to conquer it but failed in the beginning. However, Islam was spread among the tribes of Hausa, Borno, Sontik, and Doghamba. The empire of Ghana became weak at that time. The forces of Al-Murâbetîn (Almoravids) managed to conquer Ghana and reached to Gabon. They (Almoravids) are considered as the first Moroccan group that established an empire. The founder was `Abdullah Ibn Yâsîn. They managed to conquer many countries in West Africa. Islam spread till it reached Niger Basin. The most prominent figures of this empire are: `Abdullah Ibn Yâsîn Ibn Makûk al-Jazûlî – the founder -, Yahyâ Ibn `Umar – the founder’s student -, Abû bakr Ibn `Umar, and Yusuf Ibn Tashfîn.
As to Mali, Islam was the official religion. It had an important commercial status at that time. As to Timbuktu, its rulers were originally from Yemen. The city of Gao was founded at that time and its King converted to Islam. The Arab and Muslim merchants used to travel to it from North Africa. This city became a center for calling to Islam. Scholars and learners used to travel to it for educational purposes. However, there were some conflicts concerning the rule of this empire. The sultans of Morocco, who used to aspire for ruling this empire, managed to split the empire into two parts by the help of the sultans of Sanghî. Upon this, ignorance and superstitions spread among the people there, and some Islamic movements started to come into existence. Among the names of the leaders of such movements are: `Uthmân Ibn Fûdî, and Sheikh Ahmâdû Lûbû who declared himself as the Emir of the Believers and claimed that he is the last of the Twelve Imams * and he founded the Islamic state of Masîna.
In the area of Toucouleur, appeared the Islamic Jihâd movement at the hands of Hâj `Umar who established his state. He started to conquer the empire of Bambara in Karta and got victory over it. On the other side, France started its expansion in occupation. It was beyond his ability to face the French armies, so he retreated to the east keeping only Bambara and Masîna. Finally, these two areas were taken by the French occupation. Almoravids sent their propagators and merchants who traveled from Nigeria to Guinea. They spread Islam there and also in the tribe of Fang in Cameroon. However, this area was occupied by Spain. Spain worked on eliminating the spread of Islam there. Most of Muslims here live in Rimonî, while Catholic Christians live in Verndobo. The official language of this area is Spanish, but the inhabitants also speak Bantu. Muslims of this area suffer from the continuous missionary expeditions that aim at converting them to Christianity.
As to Liberia, it was founded by America to be a home for the children of the African Americans – who wish to be back to Africa. Islam spread there, but Muslims were forced to speak English and to change their names to English ones. Muslims there face Genocide, and there is a movement established under the name “Save the Muslims of Liberia”.
In recent years, Muslims face some difficulties such as: Missionary works in Muslim countries, being deprived from the fortunes of their countries, getting low education, getting only lower positions, and being tortured and killed. For example, in Ghana the Zionist power and the misguided sects such as Qadianism and Freemasonry had their powerful effects, a matter that caused in many massacres. However, on the other side, some Islamic organizations were established there such as Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, society of Suunah Advocators, and others.
* The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and successors to Prophet Muhammad, according to Shi`a.