Syncretism: Adapting Religious Beliefs to Traditional Customs Essay

Syncretism: Adapting Religious Beliefs to Traditional Customs Essay

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Historically, the major religions of Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism began to spread across Eurasia and Africa from the 5th century through trade routes and conquest. As these ideas and practices traveled to new and distance places, local populations adapted and transformed many of them in ways that reflected traditional beliefs and customs, also known as syncretism. The rise of rulers, such as Sundiata in Mali helps illustrate this process of partial adaptation, or syncretism, in order to get a boost of support from the subjects of the kingdom. The actions concerning syncretism, can be explanation of the rise of kings such as Sundiata. These examples can be seen through the texts “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali”, “Worlds together, Worlds Apart”, and “Account of a Journey to the West”.
As the world of trade developed over time, goods were not the only things that were traded throughout these routes. With the merchants that traveled the world, were the ideals and religions that had learned from foreign lands, and the major religions of Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, spread like wildfire throughout the regions of Eurasia and Africa because of this. The spread of Islam throughout the continent of Africa acted as a major influence both politically and socially. After 1600, Islam began to make its mark on the newly centralized states in Africa and was spread through western land trade, and through merchants on the Swahili coast. The major gold trading center of the Kingdom of Ghana, attracted merchants, and was a center for the Muslim community . By the 10th century, the kings of Ghana had converted to Islam in order to improve the relation between the kings and merchants. The early converts of Central and West Africa did not e...

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...While the society practices Islam, it maintains a polytheistic understanding of the world. Jinns, or spirits, and multiple gods are constantly brought up. Great sorcerers, such as Sogolon and Soumaoro, are in touch with these spirits, and y Sundiata succeeds because he learns to respect them. Sundiata is somewhat bigheaded when it comes to the battlefield, it is somewhat understandable because of his strength and bravery in battle, but when he is unable to hurt Soumaoro, he doubts his own strength. He believes that bowing to the religious and magical powers, will help him, and allow him to defeat the Soumaoro. Religion, magic, and nature are part of the same land in the epic, since they are all part of the Mandingo way of life. In the beginning of the story, the griot tells of "secrets" of Mali not available to all men, the secrets of magic are possibly among those.

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