Afrocentrist Myth Busting: Did Arabs Force Islam on Black people in Africa?
Members of the Black conscious community often assert that Islam spread to Black Africa through force, war, and slavery. The Black Dawah Network spoke with Shareef Muhammad, a professor of history at Georgia State University and a former professor of Islamic studies at Spelman University to fact check this particular claim. As to whether Islam spread to Black Africa through war and slavery, Professor Shareef Muhammad explained:
“Islam entered sub-Saharan West Africa by way of merchants via the Trans-Saharan Trade. These Berber merchants attracted West African merchants who converted. The kings converted and then other elites, those under and around him followed suit. The Arabs did not conquer and colonize the Sub-Sahara. The Arab slave trade involved mostly Eastern European slaves not Africans.Black Africa was never conquered by the Arabs. I repeat: Black Africa was never conquered by the Arabs. The sovereignty of black Africa was untouched with the spread of Islam which was an indigenous affair. There was no conquest of sub-Saharan West Africa by Arabs and the Arabs certainly did not have free range to go around slave raiding. Slave raiding for what? The primary commercial item of the Trans-Saharan Trade was gold. So in this fictitious invasion they were so interested in slaves they forgot about the gold mines?
Afrocentrists fail to show how the spread of Islam underdeveloped Africa and fail to show that Arabs invaded sub-aharah. Afrocentrists seem committed to view that portrays Africans as eternal victims. Docile canvases on which outsiders conveniently write themselves on. The Arabs, Persians, and Indians negotiated with autonomous economically, politically, and socially stable African kingdoms south of the Sahara. These kingdoms were never conquered by Arabs and they were not plundered, and raided with Islam forced on the people. This did not happen. Nowhere in the literature does it happen. It remains a figment of the Afrocentrists imagination.”
Professor Shareef Muhammad has taught history at Georgia State University and Islamic studies at Spelman University. He has a masters in history at Kent State University with his thesis on The Cultural Jihad in the antelbellum South: How Muslim slaves preserved their religious/cultural identity during slavery.