How Trade in West Africa Encouraged The Spread of Islam

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Islam, a monotheistic and spiritually based religion which refers to the act of giving great reverence to the Supreme Being, “submission to God” was found in the Saudi Arabian countries by the Prophet Muhammad in 610 C.E.1 The religion which was renowned for its triumph, patent power with an open set of beliefs about the Dos and the DONTs so as to gain access to heaven spread spontaneously as people learned of it through trade.1

It is today practiced amongst the 16 countries of the sub-Saharan West Africa which roughly comprise of a population of over 100 million Muslims and the entire African continent at large in varied numbers.2 The Muslim Berber merchants and increasingly more activities of missionaries’ from the sub-Saharan countries with the citizen of the West African countries who traded along trans- Saharan routes constituted significantly towards the establishment of Muslim religion in the western states of Africa.2

The Berber-speaking nomads were well suited to mediate Islamic influence between the Maghrib and the Western Sudan when they reached the southern Sahara touching the Sahel in the pre-Islamic time and occupied the shores of the Sahara.1 Beside this procession they cooperated in creating the termini of the Saharan trade which today cuts across most African states of the Sahel namely, Chad, Mali and Niger which became both religious and ethnic frontier of Muslims.1

The West African states treated the Muslim merchants with great hospitality and admired their trading interlinks, literacy and cosmopolitanism which contributed to the merchants establishing communities and Muslim centers with numerous mosques in the various states in West Africa.1 This i...

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...litating oral communication. Trade therefore, was the major tool that aided the spread of the Islamic religion in most parts of the West African states which today stands as the regions predominantly occupied by Muslims. Some of these countries for instance Nigeria, experience religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims that have caused political instability in those regions.


Conrad, David C. 2010. Empires of medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. New York: Chelsea House.

Falola, Toyin. 2008. The power of African cultures. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press.

Insoll, Timothy. 2003. The archaeology of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Levtzion, Nehemia, and Randall Lee Pouwels. 2000. The History of Islam in Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press.

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