Ancient African History
Question #1: The Penetration of Islam in Nigeria
The spread of Islam in West Africa began as a result of Da’wah activities, which spread to the state of Al-Muraabitten, Gabon, Mali and to other states. However, in relation to Nigeria, the penetration of Islam can be traced back to the 9th century CE; it occurred during the reign of Jilmi Humme and was established in the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Furthermore, the spread of Islam was limited to the northern part of Nigeria before moving to the countryside towards the end of the 16th century (Nwananju, 2010). Today, statistics indicate that the Islam religion prevails among 50% of the entire Nigerian population who abide by the Sharia law.
Religious scholars argue that Islam was prevalent and predominant in West Africa for a long time before its penetration to the countryside parts of Nigeria. For instance, a renowned Nigerian Muslim scholar Sheikh Dr. Adelabu traces the origin of the Islamic religion in Nigeria to the 1st century, which was practiced by Muslim traders. During the reign of an Arab conqueror, many various expeditions and trading took place in the region, thus leading to the spread of Islam to the Yoruba speaking community in the southwestern part of the country (Nwananju, 2010).
The most predominant Muslims in Nigeria are the Sunni, who are the majority; the Shia, the minority, are also found throughout the country. After the 9th century, when the Islam religion penetrated into Nigeria, king Jilmi Humme advanced the religion by building mosques and entrenched Islam as a religion to all his followers. However, later on in the 18th century, a prominent Islamic scholar Usman Fodio launched what was known as the “Fulani war” against the Hausa Kingdom, which was in Northern Nigeria. This was a battle of supremacy because some people argued that the Islamic religion has spread from the southwest and not the northern part. Fodio won the war; as a result, he established his own empire called the Fulani Empire with its capital in Sokoto. That was a significant event because it helped to spread the Islamic religion to the Hausa people.
Another important factor in the spread of the Islamic religion in Nigeria can be attributed to the “fringe group of radicals.” In the late 1970s and ’80s, a revolutionist from Cameroon Mohammed Maitatsine led a group of radicals in Northern Nigeria to spread the Islamic religion through the guidance of Prophet Mohammed (Nwananju, 2010). Moreover, Mohammed Maitatsine built mosques and established a Sharia doctrine to appeal to existing and potential Muslims. As a result, the Islamic religion penetrated to the villages and countryside as the leaders converted people to follow the teachings of Mohammed.
Today, the Islamic religion is deeply entrenched in Nigeria since it has been fully accepted and fostered. The Islamic religion has become part of the citizens’ daily life since it has brought harmony among the shared beliefs of diverse cultures. For instance, people have various annual ritual obligations such as the sacred journey to Mecca (Hajj); the Islamic religious laws (Sharia) are also an evident example of the impact of Islam on Nigerian culture (Nwananju, 2010). Furthermore, the Islam religion is widely evident in the way people discuss politics, family life and how the community is organized. Most importantly, as late as the 1990s, the Islamic religion has been entrenched in the formation of Alkali courts, which are guided by the basic tenets of the Sharia law. In addition, most of the public meetings begin and end with the Muslim prayer, thus making Islam the most practiced religion in Nigeria.
In conclusion, Islam as a religion is deeply rooted in Nigeria owing to the large population who practice the religion. Although Christians comprise the remaining 50% of the population, Islam is widely and openly accepted and practiced. Nwananju (2010) observes that the existence of various scholars who have a different interpretation of Islam has widely affected its practice, thus making it unorganized. In spite of this, Islam as a religion has been used for political, social and economic gains. Besides, religion is widely practiced in various ceremonies, and people have used it to gain mileage and positions in government. Furthermore, in Nigeria, Islam is regarded as the “true path” to God.
Question #5: The Impact of Slavery and the Slave Trade on Africa’s Evolution
The negative impacts of slavery and the slave trade that occurred between the 16th and 17th centuries are immense. These activities affected the families, the communities and the economies of African countries. Bailey (2005) contends that slavery took 30 to 50 million people from Africa to foreign lands to work as slaves. In all the slavery cases, the captives were able-bodied people, especially men, who were captured and transported forcefully to foreign countries. As a result, the effects of slavery led to civil wars and bloodshed, thus causing poverty and famine due to a lack of food. Therefore, I agree that slavery and the slave trade negatively affected Africa’s evolution to a greater extent.
The most significant impact of slavery on Africa’s evolution was the permanent removal of people from the continent, thus leading to depopulation. According to Bailey (2005), a permanent brain drain took place in Africa; many children of the captives remained behind without their parents. While America and Europe benefited from the slaves they had forcefully transported abroad, African families were disintegrated because their members were permanently separated from them. Furthermore, the slaves were forced to start new families after many years of slavery in foreign countries, thus negatively affecting Africa’s evolution.
The period of slavery and forceful transportation of people negatively affected the demographic and cultural state of Africa as a continent as well as its legacy. Bailey (2005) observes that the Trans-Atlantic slave trade affected the demographic patterns of Africa because of the disruptions caused by forceful immigration of men from their villages. The slavery period affected the marriage patterns in Africa as a result of the decline in the number of men to marry. Since most of the able-bodied males have been captured and transported aboard, the ratio of women to men tremendously declined, thus affecting the African generation. Besides, the women and children who remained behind died as a result of hunger and famine since there was a lack of manpower to provide food.
According to various historians, over 50 million Africans were subjected to the cruel effects of slavery; this negatively affected the African population. Slavery and the slave trade largely discouraged development in Africa while providing manpower to the West. During the era of slavery, Africans virtually became a “product” of trade since they were sold in exchange for money and other merchandise. Furthermore, most of the slaves died along the way to their captive lands as they suffered from communicable diseases such as smallpox (Bailey, 2005). In addition to the effects of slavery, Africa’s population remained stagnant up to the end of the 19th century when most of the countries gained independence.
In addition to the demographic toil that Africa suffered, slavery also led to profound negative social and political effects. Most of the traditional values, cultural aspects and beliefs were fragmented and restructured, thus affecting the relationship among tribes. Bailey (2005) argues that the slave trade led to the development of predatory regimes, thus making communities relocate far and wide to escape the routes used by the captives. As a result, this greatly hindered the progression of Africa’s evolution because people were running away and hiding to defend themselves from being captured.
In terms of the political development of Africa, the period of slavery greatly affected the political situation. For instance, the Europeans used the method of “divide and rule” to disintegrate the Africans and impose their rule on the captured states. They identified African chiefs and put them in charge of villages and used them to capture able bodied people who were used as slaves. As a result, most of the African centralized states were deeply disintegrated and replaced with new hierarchical structures, which were more rigid. Therefore, the relationship between African kingdoms, religious communities, and ethnic groups was affected, thus leading to a break-down of African values. In conclusion, the period of the slave trade negatively affected Africa’s revolution because the continent was left underdeveloped, disorganized and at risk of another epoch of colonization.
Question #2: The Relations between Africans and the African Continent and the World before the Europeans Arrived
Quite often, the history of Africa before the arrival of Europeans is ignored because it is regarded as inferior. Europeans used this claim to justify their slavery and the slave trade practices, arguing that they were helping Africa. However, historians have disputed this fact, saying that Africa had made tremendous advancements, which was only disrupted by the arrival of Europeans. Therefore, a study of African history shows that Africans were by no means any inferior to Europeans.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Africans were civilized, organized and technologically advanced. Besides, they had an excellent relationship with other African countries through their cultures, beliefs, religion, and kingdoms (Lovejoy, 2011). For instance, civilization in Egypt was 2000 years old before the Europeans arrived, and before the city of Rome was built. In Africa, Egypt was regarded as the most civilized country before the Europeans arrived. This is because the country had made significant developments in the field of medicine, science, and technology.
Before the Europeans arrived, the kingdoms of Ghana and Benin had a cross-cultural relationship since they shared and borrowed a lot from each other. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Ghana and Benin traded gold, bronze, copper, brass, salt, and ivory with other African countries (Lovejoy, 2011). The African continents did not have boundaries in terms of trading as they used it as a model for developing positive relationships. In fact, the concept of barter trade was invented in Africa as communities exchanged goods and products during market days. Furthermore, African continents had powerful rulers who controlled empires with a vast number of military men, thus making them powerful like the Europeans. In addition, African kingdoms had people highly skilled in pottery, gun production and ivory carving. They shared these skills amongst each other, thus making their relations exceptionally harmonious.
The African continent had a rich cultural history before the Europeans arrived. These included their vast political arrangements such as kingdoms, culture, language and shared religion. According to Lovejoy (2011), Africans believed in the concept of “communism.” They shared beliefs, values, and traditions. Although the Europeans thought that Africans were “backward”, the Africans themselves embraced their unique cultures. Before the Europeans arrived, Africans embraced agriculture, and they were largely an agrarian society. Since different communities cultivated different products such as maize, wheat, rice, sorghum and beans, the African community engaged in barter trade where they exchanged these goods.
Before the Europeans captured and subjected Africans to slavery, the relationship between Africa and Europe was minimal. History studies indicate that West Africans traded with Europeans through merchant trading. The Europeans frequented Africa in search of resources and precious metals such as iron ore, copper, bronze or gold. In exchange, the Europeans would give money or machinery for the production of these metals. During the exchange of products, the Europeans would offer to construct factories for the Africans since they had sophisticated machines for processing raw materials. However, with time, the Europeans stamped their authority in Africa and started kidnapping Africans and using them as slaves. Therefore, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the relationship between Africans and Europeans resulted in slavery and the slave trade.
In conclusion, the relations between Africans and the African continent before the arrival of Europeans were communally based. This was because there were no boundaries since they shared various common beliefs, cultures, beliefs, and traditions. Besides, the African communities also used wars as a sign of showing their superiority and protection of their kingdoms. Consequently, African heritage disintegrated as a result of slavery.
Question #6: Did the African Women Lose or Gain with the Coming of Christianity
In most African countries, it was a widely accepted norm that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, or taking care of children and the family. Women in most African countries were reduced to housewives and homemakers. Once they complete their primary school studies, they were not given a chance to continue education on the university level. As a result, they ended up in early marriages and dependent on their husbands who had a better education.
Prior to the 1900s, the role of women in society was limited to household chores, taking care of the house, bearing children and taking care of the husband. Besides, most women did not advance in education, thus limiting their chances of securing white-collar jobs. However, the coming of Christianity revolutionized society through affirmative action. Thus, the role of women in the African continent has significantly changed from homemakers to breadwinners. South Africa provides a perfect example of a country where women immensely benefited after the coming of Christianity.
The introduction of Christianity in South Africa brought about liberalization and affirmative action. Since Christianity came along with civilization, women benefited a lot because they were exposed to equal opportunities like men. As a result of Christianity, women were no longer confined to the kitchen or taking care of children, but took up challenging roles in society. Davenport (2005) observes that prior to the introduction of Christianity; women were not permitted to become leaders in the church because they were regarded as inferior. However, the introduction of Christianity provided for equality in all spheres of life because all human beings are equal before God.
Over the 19th century, the role of women in South Africa significantly changed as they became involved in women’s labor movements. The most notable change in women in society was witnessed in the workplace. This was evidenced by more women who took up leadership positions in corporate organizations. As opposed to their traditional roles of “home producers,” women started competing with men and becoming wage earners.
As a result of the coming of Christianity, a lot of women in South Africa become more empowered and aware of their human rights. Today, a lot of women have ventured into successful businesses and have become wealthy. Research statistics indicate that, by 2025, a lot of African women, especially in South Africa, will have more billionaire women (60%) than men (47%). Furthermore, in South Africa, women investors (47%) are controlling the stock market because their spending power had more than tripled in the last 20 years. Another fascinating fact is that the automotive industry is producing more customized cars for women because they are buying more new cars than men (Davenport, 2005).
Therefore, as a result of Christianity, women continue to play a vital role in society. Since their roles have changed, they are challenging the supremacy of men in various spheres. For instance, men without stable employment are taking up the traditional roles of women such as babysitting and cooking for the family. As observed by Davenport (2005), the higher economic status of women has given them more freedom to venture into male-dominated areas. Today, more women are taking up the leadership of corporate organizations and making them successful. There are numerous examples of women who are regarded as models in society because of their positive contributions. Notable examples include the former secretary of Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf among others.
Since South Africa was among the first African countries to accept Christianity, women in it became empowered and civilized. Therefore, I agree that women immensely benefitted due to the introduction of equality, affirmative action, and preservation of their fundamental human rights. Consequently, women from other African countries also benefited and started taking up leadership roles in their societies. Besides, men also began to accept the status, value, and role of women as equal partners in society.