Are interested in learning more about the history of Islam and how it got to Nigeria in the first place? If so, then we have all the answers you are seeking for here. Keep reading.
Basically, opinions on how Islam came to Nigeria differ, as some people that it came there around the first century while others believe that it was centuries later in the 14th. However, we have decided to present all the possible opinions and let you decided whom to believe. So, let’s see what people familiar with the matter say about this.
First of all, let’s understand why this is important to know. According to proper researches, almost a half of people living in Nigeria consider themselves Muslims. The numbers differ somewhere between 48% and 50%. However, no matter what the exact numbers are, this is still a lot of people.
In fact, this is considered as the biggest Muslim population on the African continent in the whole West Africa. On top of that, it is also in the upper part of the nations with the highest number of Muslims. It comes as number five right after Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Now let’s see how Islam got to Nigeria.
Thanks to the efforts of Muslim historians and geographers like Al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Munabbih, Al-Masudi, Al-Bakri Abdul Fida, Yakut, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Fadlyullah Al-Umari, Mahmoud Al-Kata, Ibn al-Mukhtar, Abdurahman Saadi, we have no problems learning more about the origin of Islam on these lands.
The majority of these scholars claims that this religion came to Nigeria in the 8th century. This was the beginning of the history of Africa which was written down. In the year of 850, the dynasty of Diogo (from the Tekur Kingdom) became Muslims. The conventional trade helped them familiarise themselves with the major ideas of this religion, promote intellectual development. As a result of this change, people became literate, unlike the massive illiteracy which was present before.
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Most historians specialized in the history of Muslims point to the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu stating that history of Islam is closely connected to that time. These people mention that there were the most famous for many reasons trade paths through Africa. They were from Sidzhilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbuktu. As Al-Bakri states, Ghana was a highly developed country with a flourishing economy in the 11th century. He also talks about the influence of Islam in Mali Empire in the 13th century and describes the rule of Mansa Musa, whose fame reached Sudan, North Africa and Europe.
Spread of Islam in West Africa
So, most scholars whose works we explored note that Islam came to the tropical Africa in the 4th century. At least, that’s what we know, since that’s when they started writing about West Africa at the beginning of the eighth century: Ibn Munabbih in the year of 738, then Al-Masudi in the year of 947.
However, further on, when Islam got to Africa, sub-Saharan Africa came on stage as they established trade path which took place from the northern part of the continent. Along with the economic relationships, people became more educated than ever before. This also became the case for Sudan, though later. In the Kingdom of Tekur which was situated on both banks of the Senegal River, the dynasty Dyaogo accepted Islam altogether in the year of 850. They were the first African-American adherers of this religion. So, they got very famous for it.
That is exactly why people specializing in this matter called Bilyad al-Tekur "the Land of Black Muslims." Vardzhabi son RABIS - the first ruler who established Sharia laws and made Islam a ruling religion of the kingdom Tekur. By 1042, when Al-Murabitun (Almoravides) attacked Tekur, Islam had made an enormous contribution to the Kingdom. Al-Idrisi describes Kingdom Tekur as a "safe, peaceful and quiet" place to live which they never experienced before in their lives. The capital of the Kingdom (also Tekur) became the centre of commerce. Merchants traded goods they bought in Morocco and sold wool here, and took away the gold and beads.
There are massive amounts of information available on this history. Scholars even called Sudan by its special name "Al-Bilyad Sudan" which in other words meant "Black Country". The most famous empires, flourishing here in the Middle Ages, were Ghana, Mali, Songhai and Kanem-Bornu. The following historians including Al-Bakri, Al-Masudi, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Khaldun once wrote about the kingdom of Ghana with all the developments and events which took place there and influenced the spread of Islam here. Apart from this, there were local scholars, whose works have survived, "Tarikh al-Sudan" ( "The history of Sudan") Al Sadi and "Tarikh al-Fattash" Muhammad Al-Kata.
The paths most traders took included those from Sidzhilmasa to Tagaz which took them to the empire of Ghana and Sidzhilmasa to Tuat, Gao and Timbuktu. There were also paths connecting the present Nigeria with Tripoli via Fez to Bornu and Tunisia with Nigeria via Ghadames, Ghats and to the people of Agadez House. These routes were created in the places as mentioned earlier that used to be the trade centres. Such sites later also became the centre of Islamic civilisation We briefly describe the propagation of Islam in each of the ancient empires of Western Sudan.
Spread of Islam in the empire of Ghana
An early description of the ancient empire of Ghana presented in the book of the Muslim geographer Al-Bakri "Kitab fi Masalit Wal Mamalik" ("The Book of Roads and Kingdoms"). Empire of Ghana in 1068 according to Al-Bakri, was a highly developed and prosperous country. The translators of the King, and also a majority of treasurers and ministers were Muslims. Enough educated Muslim representatives were recording in Arabic, on behalf of the King corresponded with other rulers. "Also, as Muslims, they belonged to a larger political body of the Islamic world, which contributed to the establishment of international relations."
Al-Bakri draws a picture of Islam in Ghana 11th century:
"Ghana - a great city, which consists of two parts. One of them, located on an everyday - Muslim city where live Arab and Berber merchants, scholars of law (fakyhi) and the rest of the civilised society. In this part, there are 12 mosques, one of which is the cathedral for the Friday prayers. In each, there is an imam, the muezzin and a teacher of the Koran. In the city, a large number of religion experts and learned men. "
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