Tropical Africa and Islam - History of the East

15.5. Tropical Africa and Islam

From the above material it can be seen that Islam as a whole played a huge role in the formation of African statehood in the zone of its Sudanese belt (there is no question of northern Muslim Africa) and on the east coast. How should we evaluate the role of Islam, especially in terms of those general principles of analysis of traditional Eastern societies that are used in this work?

The first thing to be said about is an important, in some sense decisive role of the external push. The introductory part of the work already mentioned the complex of conditions and circumstances that ensure the realization of the possible genesis of the primary proto-state in the societies prepared for it. In particular, it was mentioned that the process of the genesis of statehood can be facilitated by the existence of a state already formed alongside the transforming society. This creates the effect of tribalization and leads to a more rapid emergence of statehood than the addition of a primary proto-state without external influence. Islam with its powerful and closely connected with religion, inseparable from it and in general a very simple, even primitive political culture, played the role of such a catalyst in the northern part of Tropical Africa. You can argue a lot about what happened before, an egg or a chicken, i.e. the early purely African proto-state formations or the influence of the Muslim world, but the fact remains: Islam not only actively contributed to a sharp acceleration of the process, but also gave it a Muslim look.

The second thing that is important to note in connection with the problem of Islam in Africa is the uniqueness of African Islam and the frank weakness of the numerous and diverse African state entities created with its assistance and in many ways based on it. This is clearly seen when comparing the African with those states that were created by Muslims outside of Tropical Africa, not only in the Near and Middle East, in India and Malaya, but even in Indonesia, the tropics of which are quite comparable to the African, like the racial type of population. True, for Indonesia an important role was played by the long Indo-Buddhist cultural influence preceding Islam, which, unlike the Malays and Indonesians, did not have a Negro,

The peculiarity lies in the fact that Africans perceived Islam in some measure selectively and in part, ie. African Islam was not equivalent to the original , especially Arabic , which is well represented by the same Maghreb, where the main streams of Islamic culture came to West and Central Africa. In addition, Islam was not perceived by all Africans in those state formations that were formed with the help of Muslim influences and, moreover, were officially Islamic. Muslims, and even then they are far from being fully-fledged; those who followed all the norms of Islam were only the sociopolitical leaders and layers of the population connected with transit trade, and sometimes the nomadic tribes that played the role of mediators. As for the mass of the local population, farmers, it was often almost not affected by Muslim influence and lived according to the laws of their ancestors, according to the ancient Negro norms and traditions, which in no small measure survived and to this day, including in those countries and regions of Africa that have already been exposed to Islam for a thousand years.

Accordingly, the entire sociopolitical base of Islamic states, especially protostates in Africa, was also weak. The process of political genesis here as a rule seems to have frozen itself at its very early stage, and this was not a vexing accident, but rather, on the contrary, a regularity. For a more active and energetic approach to it in Tropical Africa, this vast ocean of primitive primacy, there were no necessary and sufficient conditions. People barely survived and, therefore, simply did not have the strengths and opportunities for a successful and the faster development. Only those who were able to establish regular extraction of valuable natural resources, first of all highly valued gold all over the world, have developed much earlier than others. There was such an opportunity - there were those who were interested in this, i.e. Islamic traders from the north who carried with themselves elementary and therefore easily perceived by the primitive population the norms of Muslim culture, both religious and closely related to it political.

In a word, to appear and even more to bloom, even if only for a short time, in this part of Africa (the eastern coast with its Christian roots can and should be spoken specifically) could only those state entities that were closely related to the Arab- African trade, and precisely at that time, when and as this trade succeeded. During the periods of weakening, decay, defeats from the previous Islamic influence with its culture, including political, there was usually very little, sometimes almost nothing. However, what still remained, could play and sometimes played a role at the next suitable for this case. And although the influence and lost positions of Islam had to be restored anew, and almost from scratch, it was still better than nothing. Islam of Tropical Africa has always vigorously strived to not miss this opportunity. During the late European Middle Ages, representatives of various Islamic movements acted in a similar way, including active Muslims and marabuts who belonged to some militant Sufi orders, the branches of which were generously fortified in different regions of North Africa.


The most numerous and active in this sense were the branches of the Order-Tariqat Kadiriyya. Somewhat later, in the XVIII - XIX centuries, representatives of many other Sufi orders began to act.

It is easy to see that the weakening of Islam as a religion and culture , as well as its extremely easy rooting, is closely related to the general backwardness of that environment , natural and anthropogenic , with whom he had to deal in Tropical Africa. But it is important to pay attention to how this backwardness was adapted to contact the elementary ideological and institutional foundation of Islam. It seems that both sides were literally created for each other. In any case, there is no doubt that Islam strengthened the incredibly weak early political formations at the expense of very strong institutions peculiar to this doctrine. Of course, in Asia, Islam did not always flourish as it did in the ancient zones of the developed Muslim millennial civilization. He also happened to fall into other areas, to turn out to be a religion of relatively backward mountain tribes, for example in Afghanistan, where the situation was objectively close to the situation in the African tropics. However, there, for all other things, Islam remained in the Muslim milieu, which meant a lot to the people who were brought up in the spirit of Islam.

A different matter for Africa, where the constant and powerful impact of Islam, which could play the role of such an environment, remained only in the north of the continent and was, moreover, separated from the rest of its part not only by the Sahara, but also by a racial barrier. In a word, not only backwardness, but also some additional factors did their job. As a result, the Muslim religion sometimes only externally affected numerous communities of Africans, as it were, sliding on their surface, playing the role of some kind of non-binding entourage.

And yet the role of Islam in the history of Africa from the point of view of political, partly also its economic development is enormous. He did a lot in terms of social changes, although here the result is less noticeable. Islam failed to destroy the unusually strong primitive-primitive ethnic and social barriers that separated Africans from each other. He failed to turn the inhabitants of the Islamized regions of Africa into a population of ummah, ie. in a single community of undifferentiated ethnic groups of the faithful. Islam failed to bring to Africa and a high civilization. Following the prophet's commandments, Islam in principle was not inclined to encourage slavery (if a faithful slave, he is not a slave), although the infidel Muslims from time immemorial turned into slaves. Meanwhile, nowhere has slavery ever reached such proportions as in Africa, where Muslim merchants for many centuries before the Portuguese exported for sale dozens, if not hundreds of thousands of Africans. For many Muslim traders, Africa was a slave market, and although they did not have a racial prejudice against Negroes, and the abundance of Negro women in harems led even to a change in the racial type of the Arab-Muslim population of Africa, the African slave trade on a large scale was all the same started by Muslims.

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