In previous editions in this section, we had examined the spread of Islaam into Misra (Egypt) and deep into the North African region to the Sahara Desert which included the establishment of the ancient city of Qayrawaan by the eminent Companions of the Messenger (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam). The exploits of these Companions and those after them in the spread of the deen in the West African region and to parts of modern day Nigeria were discussed.
Here Inshaa Allaah, we will look at the spread of the deen in the centuries following those of the companions and their students in the region and some notable exploits of the, Muslims amongst the major peoples and civilizations in the West African region.
The Ghana Kingdom
Ghana Kingdom had been known since the early periods of the deen as an organized entity and it, was popularly known amongst the Arabs at the time as it formed one of the major commercial centers of the famous ancient African trade routes at the time. The vast kingdom included present day Ghana and parts of present day Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.
“The people of Ghana were of the largest communities in the world in the early days of Islaam. In it was a body polity of the 'Alaawee people popularly known as the tribe of Saalih bn Abdullaah bn al-Husayn bn Alee. Their polity later fell in the fifth century.
Perhaps this Saalih was one of the brothers of Idrees of the Idreesee State. Idrees bn Abdullaah al-'Alawee was of Banee Umayyah of the Quraysh who left the Arabian Peninsula after the fall of the leadership of Banu Umayyah. Idrees established the Idreesee state 172 AH in North Africa. (AI-Istiqsaar li Akhbaari Duwali al-Maghrib al-Aqsa in Al-Islaam fee Nigeria).
The Popular Islamic historian Muhammad al-Bakree visited the Ghana Kingdom in 5 AH and described it thus, “The city of Ghana consists of two large sections - the section of the Muslims and the section of the idol worshippers. The section which is inhabited by Muslims is large, possessing 12 Masaajid and in the largest of them the congregational Salaatul Jum'ah is held. Each of the other Masaajid has its Imaam, Muadhdhin (the one who calls to prayer), and an Islamic Teacher.
The town possesses a large number of Jurist consults and learned men. And in the section of the idol worshippers about Six miles to the Seat of the king there was also a Masjid where the Muslims performed their Salaah.” He also noted that, “The King of Ghana at the time when he calls up his army, can put 200,000 men into the field, more than 40,000 of them archers.”
So, the Muslims were known with honour and reverence. They were the people known at the time with the ability to read and write. Thus, they were put in charge of general administration and records keeping. Some were made ministers who assisted the kings. Muhammad al-Bakree said, “The interpreters of the king came from amongst the Muslims. So was his aide in charge of his wealth and majority of his ministers.”
When the kingdom fell to the Muraabitoon (the people led by Abdullaah bn Yaasin who were groomed around Senegal until they became a strong enough entity that).
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited