Islam in East Africa
Written by Islamstory
Arabs had commercial ties with Africa. Muslims migrated to Habasha (Abyssinia) where An-Najashi (the Negus) was ruling, which formed the first steps of Islam into Africa. By the decline of the Umayyad caliphate some Umayyads fled to Andalusia while others fled to Eritrea where they spread Islam. By the same token, some Arabs belonging to the Qaramitah state migrated to Somalia where they established the city of Mogadishu and the City’s ruling council. The city later turned into a sultanate and thus East Africa became a center of Islam and Islamic civilization.
After the decline of Andalusia, the European campaigns to re-discover the continent began to be active. They occupied the island of Zinjibar (Zanzibar) and later on the whole Muslim world came to be occupied by different European countries. Muslims thus started to struggle to gain independence. By then, Muhammad bin Abdullah Hassan, known as Al-Mulla, rose as a Somali figure who could restore independence for twenty years. In Mogadishu, the Youth League Party came into existence. Djibouti was then a part of Somalia which was occupied by France. In Ethiopia (Abyssinia), Islamic rule lasted for 400 years, after which the occupation handed authority to Christians. Later on, successive governments were keen to retain the Christian character of Abyssinia.
As for Eritrea, it was occupied by Abyssinians although it consists of a Muslim majority. Egypt withdrew from Eritrea being under the British occupation. It was later occupied by Italy, which annexed Eritrea to Abyssinia. Muslims then began to be persecuted and Christian missionary work got very active. As for Tanzania, it was ruled by Ottomans before it was occupied by Germany. In this regard, the Ottoman sultan seceded his possessions along the coast to the German Company. Zanzibar later gained independence and was annexed to Tanganyika. The two states united in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which later the same year was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania. Actually, Muslims there suffered severe persecution to the extent that Muslim girls would be forced to marry Christian men.
In fact, such countries consist of a majority of Muslims who face many obstacles. For example, missionary work is active there especially in Eritrea and Ethiopia as well as Mozambique. Another example is the prevalence of poverty and power conflict in such countries as Somalia. This is in addition to economical obstacles and non-exploitation of internal resources in such countries as the Comoros.
Kenya was occupied by Britain, which wished to end the usage of the Arabic language through having it written in Latin letters with the purpose of keeping Kenyans away from the Qur’an. Affected by reform movements that came on the scene in the Muslim world, Sheik Al-Amin Ali Al-Mazrawi issued many Islamic newspapers, schools and projects. As for Uganda, its official religion was Islam and its king would lead people in Salah. Khedive Isma’il of Egypt sent an officer to explore the Nile riverhead, which later resulted in annexing Uganda to Egypt to be known as the Equator governorate. This had a good impact on strengthening the roots of the Islamic creed among Ugandans. However, Britain, after occupying Uganda, banned Muslims from traveling to Uganda unless previously permitted. Uganda later gained independence to dispute with Tanzania.
As for Madagascar, Islam spread therein for a while. However, the French occupation encouraged missionary work and had Muslims to live in isolation and, therefore, many revolutions against the French were staged. Meanwhile, Muslims suffered a problem concerning education in general and religious education in particular.