Spread of Islam in the rich empire of Ghana

World 04 Mar 2021 Contributor
empire of Ghana
The Independence Arch of Independence Square of Accra, Ghana at sunset. Inscribed with the words Freedom and Justice, AD 1957, commemorates the independence of Ghana, a first for Sub Saharan Africa. © Demerzel21 | Dreamstime.com

Muslim scholars have provided accurate records of Islamic rulers in Africa. Among them, Ibn Munabbah, Al Bakri , Ibn Batutah and Ibn Khaldun are legenadry. Our peaceful religion Islam reached the grassland of Savannah in the 8th century CE. It was there by the Dya’ogo dynasty of the kingdom of Tekur. These are the first colored people who accepted Islam. After that, trade and commerce created the way for the incorporation of new elements as materials. It also made intellectual growth possible. This logically followed the spread of literacy.

Famous Arab historians have written about the empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and Kanem Bornu. Especially Al Bakri described the great empire of Ghana. According to him, Ghana was highly advanced and economically enriched the country in the early 11th century.

The building of an empire in Ghana

According to Al Bakri, the city of Ghana had two towns lying on a plainland. One of these towns was inhabited by Muslims. It had 12 mosques. One of these mosques was congregational for Jummah prayers. Each of the mosques had its Imam, Muezzin, and paid reciters of Qur’an and Hadith. Ghana was glorious in its own ways.

Ghana was considered the first of the great medieval trading empires of Western Africa. It was situated between Sahara and the Senegal and Niger rivers. Populated by Soninke clans, Ghana gave the Arabs a safe space for trading. The Mande-speaking people of Soninke clans acted as imitators between the Arabs and Amazigh salt traders. They also did trade with the gold and ivory traders of South Africa.

According to Islamic scholars, the origin of the Ghana kingdom dates back to the 4th century CE. But, it was in the 8th century when the world came to know about it. Ghana was very much rich and powerful then.

empire of Ghana

The empirical system in Ghana

Ghana was called Wagadu by its rulers. The king was the supreme ruler. He was able to enforce obedience from lesser clans. Moreover, he can extract tribute from them. Most of the empire was ruled by tributary princes. These princes were most likely the traditional chiefs of these lesser clans.

The Ghanaian king also enforced an import-export tax on the traders. Along with a production tax on gold. Gold was Ghana’s most valuable resource.

Al Bakri stated in his book Kitab fi Masalik wal Mamalik that the king welcomed various north African traders to his capital. And after the 8th century, he himself converted to Islam. The king had employed Muslim ministers and marshals. This improved Ghana’s international relations.

As the state grew richer, it extended its political influence. It conquered some of the gold-producing cities of its south region. The whole empire was influenced by Islamic traditions.

The decline of Ghana

Ghana began to decline after the 11th century when the Almoravids attacked the country. The Almoravids reigned for a few years, but at that time, the golden era of Ghana had ended. In the year 1240, Ghana was destroyed by the Mande emperor Sundiata. He incorporated the rest of the empire in his new empire Mali.