Black History Month – How Islām Empowered Africa
October marks Black History Month in the UK. Often the discussion around Black History centres around slavery and then the subsequent artificial narrative of emancipation. However, what we fail to do is to ask the question: what was their history before slavery?
Unfortunately, racism is alive and well in arguably all sectors of society from the political establishment to spectator sports. Examples include Mario Balotelli, who was racially abused on Twitter by a football fan after having made fun of Manchester United’s shock defeat to Leicester City. And of course the infamous videos of the Chelsea fans rampaging though Paris racially abusing Black people. It seems that in spite of all the antiracism campaigning and education, there will always be people who think “I am better than you because you are different to me.”
Since the beginning of human history people have sought to differentiate themselves. The urge to feel superior over another set of people may not be as apparent as it used to be, but one cannot deny that it still exists today; only the manifestation has changed. We see it in everyday life with images of people portrayed as inferior in intellect and morality. In some cases, it is because of their origins and their cultural background and in others simply because of the colour of their skin.
Does this mean that racism is innate and everyone practises it in one form or another? Absolutely not. Racism is a disease that stems from another malady. The disease’s symptoms are not always easy to detect but when manifested, can be enormously devastating not only for the person being subjected to it but also to the person projecting it. It is called arrogance, and this is something to which all human beings have been subjected since the beginning of their history – starting with our father, Ādam (ʿalayhi al-Salām). Satan was, effectively, the first racist when he claimed superiority over Ādam due to what he was made of.
“(Allāh) said: ‘What prevented you [O Satan] that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you?’ Iblīs [Satan] said: ‘I am better than him [Ādam], You created me from fire, and him You created from clay.’”
Having said that, human beings must continuously wish to be better than others but that is in terms of endeavour, whether it is in the form of our vocation, education or it could even be our health and fitness. The Qur’ān tells us that true superiority is only attained through one’s piety and relationship with Allāh:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allāh is the most pious of you. Indeed, Allāh is Knowing and Acquainted.” 
The above verse is the best explanation of what happened in Africa during the 8th century of the Christian Era (CE) and after this. The religion of Islām and its teaching of taqwa (piety) was the recruitment agent that captured the attention of the Africans. West Africa in particular was a commercial melting-pot for sub-Saharan trade. Trade routes from Sijilmasa to Taghaza and Awaghast were the channels through which Islām entered into the Kingdoms of Ghana and Timbuktu.
Initially, Islām did not bring material prosperity to Africa as there were already established empires prior to its advent. It was the morality, sense of justice and the religious rulings on how to manage their Godgiven fortune that impressed Africans. Islām in West Africa attracted generals, chieftains and kings before it filtered down to the poorer members of society.
The high ethical trading standards Islām demands of its adherents was remarkable for the natives of the region. Muslims were settled in their own designated areas close to the indigenous population. In these areas, practices such as leaving the market unattended whilst the prayer time was due, and the level of fairness employed in their trade were strong enough to convince the local leaders to accept Islām.
The influence of Islām spread far and wide. In particular, the renowned historian al-Bakri notes that in the building of the empire of Mali in the 13th century, Islām was accepted as early as 850 CE by the Dya’ogo dynasty of the kingdom of Tekur in modern day Senegal. These were the first people to accept Islām in West Africa. In addition to trade and commerce, the spread of literacy and scholarship were also some of the cultural changes that were imported.
Tekur became known as “The land of the Black Muslim” where, in fact, Warjabi, the son of Rabis, became the first ruler to legislate with Islamic law. In the 16th century, al-Idrisi notes that Tekur not only became the centre of commerce but in his own words was “secure, peaceful and tranquil.”
Mansa Musa, the richest man in recorded history, was a product of such a society. He was known to be a devout Muslim and had performed the Hajj pilgrimage in 1324. On his return to Mali, he brought Muslim scholars and architects who built five mosques for the first time with baked bricks. Scholars agree that his attachment to Islām enabled him to introduce new ideas and catapult Mali far ahead of its time.
It is impossible to discuss the entire history of Islām in Africa in one article. However, one thing we can clearly observe is that righteousness and piety were the deciding factors for Africans to embrace Islām. This led to the further development of empires and civilisations where justice, prosperity and peace were granted to anyone who visited or decided to settle there. This is a far cry from and a stark contrast to what the wartorn continent of Africa is now like, in the postcolonial era.
- Also read in #BlackHistoryMonth:
- Islam is the cure to Racism by Abdur-Raheem Green
- Can Muslims be racist? by Dr Salman Butt
This article was originally published in 2014
 Al-Qur’ān 7:11-12
 Al-Qur’ān 49:13
 Nyang Sulayman, The History of Islam in Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPPdpXKv_CY
 Spread of Islam in West Africa: http://www.islamhouse.com/428702/en/en/articles/Spread_of_Islam_in_West_Africa
Of course black history did not start with slavery, civilisation flowed up the Rive Nile not down it.
But Islam had nothing to do with that history because it hadn’t been born back then.
The Arab slave trade in Africa began almost immediately after the birth of Islam. Arab Muslims enslaved millions – at first both Europeans and Africans. Europeans later bought slaves from Arab traders to transport to the new world.
The same passages of the Koran which Isis is using today to legitimise slavery were used back then for the same purpose.
The Arab slave trade was particularly brutal due to the high demand for eunuchs in Islamic societies at the time. Three out of five boys are estimated to have bled to death in the process of being made a eunuch.
It is now thought that Arab slave traders were deliberately relaxed about spreading Islam in Africa because it would have meant fewer non-Muslims to enslave.
How this author can mention slavery, Africa and Islam in the same breath and then completely ignore historical facts to paint such a completely false picture about ethical trading standards and empires of peace and prosperity? It is just so devious and dishonest. How can abducting a child from their home, mutilating them and selling them on as a slave possibly be described as ethical trading?
Is the author simply hoping to attract uneducated people to Islam by feeding them a sack of lies?
By writing this drivel the author is insulting the intelligence of his readers, insulting black people, disgracing himself, disgracing the religion he professes to love so much and attempting to rewrite history to fit his own twisted little agenda.
Of course the behaviour of those Chelsea fans was appalling and Mario Balotelli or any black person should not have to suffer racial abuse. But those sort of racists are a tiny minority in the UK and their actions were robustly condemned. It’s a sad fact but racism exists everywhere, between all ethic groups and racism against black people is known to be particularly bad across the Middle East.
Clearly your white supremacist/inferiority complex (depending on your own race) has been shaken by some simple facts, for you to respond with such a seemingly uncontrolled and incoherent outburst.
You can try and conflate Arabs with Islam all you want (you did make me literally LOL though by referring to 1000 year gap as “almost immediately after”!), but the video on the side of the page clearly debunks these myths that the “white man” tried to spread when exposed for being—without even a distant silver medalist—the most racist, barbaric and savage in history. As the video shows these slave-practises you mention that were invented and institutionalised by Europeans have absolutely nothing to do with Islamic BILATERAL captivity of prisoners of war. Except of course in the BS you are indoctrinated with in your knuckle-dragging anti-Muzlamic marches.
You have no excuse for continuing to peddle known and exposed lies, as I have noticed you have been directed to this video before on this site. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR50Lw_16zo
Yeah, Islam has really brought Africans out of darkness? Lol!
A good article- Another excellent resource in this regard is “Illuminating the darkness” Habeeb Akande
Excellent article, jazakullaahu khayr! There is a typo though, in the sentence about Mansa Musa’s Hajj..