HOW TRADE IN WEST AFRICA ENCOURAGED THE SPREAD OF ISLAM
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 influenced the inhabitants to shift from their traditional methods of worship to Islam for instance the ancient kingdoms of Songhay and Mali through their rulers who aided the spread of the Muslim religion and culture made pilgrimages to Mecca. The rulers and kings who inculcated the Islam were however, tolerant of other traditional beliefs and never forced people to turn away from their faith to the new religion but instead levied a special tax on the marginal communities who practiced Islam. Islam religion encroached further in the respective kingdoms when Muslim clerics assisted in overcoming extreme drought and famine as in the case of Malal or to secure victory.
However, politico-religious movements that resulted from the formation of the Sokoto Caliphate which afterward became the Tukolor and Mandinka Empire, presently Mali, Guinea and Senegal, was created by a Muslim preacher from Futa Toro named al-Hajj Umar. Umar later begun to trade on non-Muslim captives in exchange for firearms but failed to establish a strong administration which would withstand resistance after his demise and the rule of forced conversion onto Islam.
In the meantime, to the southern Tukolor, Samori Toure who was a Muslim merchant founded...