The period from the eleventh through seventeenth centuries represents a golden age in Africa with an expansion of trade, commerce and prosperity. On the east coast, Swahili merchants took advantage of trade winds to engage in trade relations with the Middle East, India and China. With the creation of these new relationships came a cross pollination of culture and ideas. One of the most enduring of these contributions from the Arab neighbors was their religion Islam.
Trade has played an important role in the spread of Islam since the beginnings of the religion. Arab traders first introduced Islam to the Swahili coast in the ninth century. Appreciating its religious value, the Swahili people also recognized that adopting their neighbor’s religion would help their trading relationships as well, granting them new access to trade networks.
While the Swahili people did adopt Islam, they also infused it with new traditions and made it their own. From burials to the physical space of the mosques, they create new Islamic traditions that reflect their own African culture.
Islam shaped this region from the development of a new language called Kiswahili to increased literacy for its people. Because of the need to read the Koran, literacy classes were offered, which was extended to a larger cultural advancement.
Trade Winds: The east coast of Africa experiences seasonally trade winds that alter and foster the movement of goods to the Middle East and through the Western Indian Ocean and Eastern Africa.
Islam: the religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah. A religion, founded by Muhammad, as the Prophet of Allah. Members of Islam are called Muslims and follow the teachings of the Koran.
Muslim: a follower of the religion of Islam.
Koran: The Islamic sacred book, believed to be the word of God as dictated to Muhammad
Swahili Coast: An 1,800-mile stretch of the coastal area in Southeast Africa, consisting of Kenyan and Tanzanian
Create a list of the some of the changes that occurred upon the adoption of Islam to cities and cultures in Africa. What were some of the changes in African aesthetics? How did Africa influence Islam as it adopted and adapted it?