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The History of Islam in Africa

According to some beliefs, Islam came into existence during the inception of the Arabian peninsula

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Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga is a graduate of Mass Communication and aspiring investigative journalist.

AFRICA: The existence of Islam has been predominant in Africa since a long time. According to some beliefs, Islam came into existence during the inception of the Arabian peninsula. Interestingly, some Islamic scholars argue and consider Islam as a religion of the African tradition.

Islam is usually followed by Muslims. It is the world’s second-largest religion with 1.9 billion followers.

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The concept of Islam is to submit to the will of the Almighty Allah. The religion’s followers believes that there is no other god except Allah and Prophet Muhammad is a messenger of God.

Origin of Islam in Africa

Islam is said to be the second largest region which made up of about 24.9% of the entire world population and they are the highest in 49 countries of the world.

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The commencement of Islam religion in Africa can be traced back to as far as 10th century. This began during the ‘Almoravid dynasty movement’ in Western Africa. During that period, both the kingmakers and the traditional rulers accepted Islamic religion and continued propagating it to the other African countries with the help of trading and delivering sermons. 

As of 7th century CE, Africa was the epicenter and the first contact of Islam practice which originated from the Southwest Asian part of the world. At as this time, about one-third of the world’s Muslim populace were residing in the African continent.

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The golden age of Islam dates back to 8th to 13th century during which many Muslims around the world were facing serious scientific, economic and cultural challenges.

Around 20H/641CE, while Caliph Umar Ibn Al-Khattab was still heading the affairs of Islam, Muslims were able to take over the present City call Egypt and also move to occupied Libya in the subsequent years.

In 27H/647 CE, Muslims started spreading through Tunisia. This was in the regime of the third Muslim Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan. 

Photo Credit: Pexels

However, North Africa now continued to push for its own move of the religion won’t own part while the Umayyad dynasty was still the head. This extended to some parts of Algeria in 61H/680 CE and to Morocco the next year.

After all the above stride, the Muslims from the North and Western part of Africa were identified by the Europeans as the Moors.

Islam continued to spread wider to Malawi, Congo in the second phase of the 19 century under the leadership of Zanzibar Sultanate.

Fundamental teachings of Islam

Islam religion teaches people that the creator (God) is merciful, powerful and omnipotent. In Islam, Sunnah are the traditions and practices of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, that constitute a model for Muslims to follow. 

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be a revelation from God.

The basic teachings of Islam are called the Five Pillars of Islam and comprise confession of faith, prayer, giving alms, fasting during Ramadaan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islam religion belief in the following six items as its ‘Articles of Faith’ which must be followed by every Islam follower.

The Islam articles of faith are; God, angels, books, prophets, the Day of resurrection and providence.

Sufism in Islam

Sufism is a mystical Islamic belief. In this, a person seek the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God, It has large number of followers both in West Africa and other parts of the African region. Those who practice or believe in Sufism are called ‘Sufis’.

Sufis have been practicing the highest form of worship or devotion since the beginning. They strongly emphasize on peace and non-violence. Due to this, Sufis have sometimes received great persecution from other Muslim groups. 

Follower of Sufism. Photo Credit: Pixabay


Quranism is a branch of Islam that holds the belief that traditional religious clergy has corrupted religion, and Islamic guidance should be based only on the Quran. This set of believers are highly criticized by the Shia and Sunni community.

This set delivers its own allegiance to the Quran and Hadiths. There are different types of Quranism which not all of them believe in.

Nondenominational Muslims

Non-denominational Muslims are Muslims who do not belong to, do not self-identify with, or cannot be readily classified under one of the identifiable Islamic schools and branches. According to a survey by Pew, there are thirteen countries in Africa wherein at least twenty percent of the Muslim population adheres to a non-denominational form of Islam, i.e. are non-denominational Muslims.


Sunni Islam is by far the largest branch of Islam, followed by 85–90% of the world’s Muslims. Salafism is a reform branch movement within Sunni Muslims. Salafism begin in Africa when many of Muslim Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) believers such as the World Muslim League, the World Assembly for Muslim Youth, and the Federation of Mab and Islamic Schools primarily funded by Salafi governments in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Also Read: A Look at Nigeria’s Traditional Sports and its Quagmire


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