The Sub-Saharan long distance commodity and slave trade as well as the syncretic interweaving of Islamic culture and traditional African culture accounts for Africa’s major influence as a superpower. Traders from all over the world were drawn to Africa’s riches in gold, ivory, and human beings. The fact that Africa was rich in resources posed influence in itself. Considering that a great number of the visiting traders were Muslims and they begin to intermarry and form relationships – economic and political alliances were formed and the adaptation of Islam was wide spread.
This migration of humans in and out of Africa illustrates the African Diaspora at work before the Atlantic Slave trade. Several scholars argue that the long distance trade and the spread of Islam harmed Africa rather than promoted its growth. Others exclaim that Africa was never a super power in the first place. Explicitly witnessed in D. T. Niane’s Sundiata, is the manifestation and investigation of Africa’s power. The Sub-Saharan long distance trade and Islam caused an expansion in the population of Africa – and that in turn inspired a heavier weight materialistic value, intellectual development, and literacy improvement.
In “An Epic of Old World Mali: Sundiata”, it is found that Sundiata becomes Mansa of Mali. In efforts to efficiently organize Mali, he founded the country on the basis of productivity and richness in agriculture. Considering that location is important for structure, he established the Malian empire’s capital at Niani. Niani was located near the upper Niger river. The trans-Sahara caravan was a route from the Middle East & Far west, Europe, North Africa, to the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. That Sub-saharan region included but was not limited to: Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Algeria, and Nigeria.
The long distance trade was chiefly orchestrated by the Wangara people along the Niger River from Timbuktu to Senegal. It was mostly used by agriculturalist, herdsmen, hunter soldiers, and herdsmen. The trading of gold, salt, copper, and humans by African traders in exchange for cowry shells, cotton cloth, and Chinese porcelain from visitors was very prominent. Trader contacts increased by 800-1500 people due to a growing international trade network. As stated in the introduction paragraph, the trading of those goods, animals, and humans caused more people to migrate in and out of Africa.
This was the main link that led to the spread of Islam. The most compelling evidence of this is the fact that the Arabian traders that settled along the coast of the Nile River and were one responsible factor of the spread of Islam by intermarrying within the local population. Similarly, the Muslim merchants could trade with people in many different areas because Arabia was at a crossroads location. Islam was also adopted by the kings and their royal families. Islam was mainly accepted by rulers because it promoted economic and social growth, which in turn made for a better equipped nation.
Seeing that west Africa was made up of stateless societies, authority was also organized around ancestral reverence or other obligations. Because Sundiata was the son of a great leader he was well respected. In his migration from city to city, though he was wanted dead he survived because of resounding power of his father’s reign. Considering that the term ancestral lineage is made up of “a group that can demonstrate their common descent from an apical ancestor or a direct line of descent from an ancestor”, Sundiata’s assumed role as emperor was important.
Carl Max once stated, “The relationship between religion and economics prepared and developed the basis of capitalism. ” Specifically, Sundiata advanced and supported the spread of Islam as he semi-practiced it. However, he believed in syncretism and the combination of Islam with traditional African religions. Later the spread of Islam became so vast that Michael Gomez states, “Many sub-Saharan Africans entered the Islamic world as fellow believers, usually by traveling to the middle east and North Africa to make the pilgrimage, to study or to teach. ” During the fifteenth century, the Muslims took over the institution of trade and commerce.
The spread of Islam was beneficial to the development of West Africa because it helped to unify the people. Most people are unified by religion, language, or excogitation. It was understood that power most gracefully exists when there is (one) central idea. In the western regions of Africa, everything was separated. Those separations included politics, economics, and social issues. Seeing that the region spread over several hundred miles and there were many diversifying factors amongst the different peoples, they sought the (a) missing unifying factor.
The African people realized that political systems were embedded in wide spread religions. When Muslims “advertised” their unifying religion, people felt like they would be more connected. Though residents were hesitant – they were acquiescent in their conversions to Isl1ddqam because Muslims practiced religious tolerance. Africans did not favor getting rid of their own traditional religions for two reasons. The first reason was the fact that they practiced certain spiritual rituals, also known as “magic” that would lose their value if they completely extirpated the original religions.
One example of this magic in work in “Sundiata” is how Sundiata, a crippled man, defeated Sumanguru in the Battle of Kirina by roaring like a lion and scaring Sumangaru’s troops. He then shot a specially prepared arrow hitting Sumangaru causing him to flee. Not only did Sundiata’s upper hand get Sumangaru leave the battle grounds, but later on he burned the town in which Sumanguru was located. This was extremely powerful. In fact, Sundiata’s whole reign was superior because of the combination of the two religions. Magic was also exemplified in every day lives of Africans during the Indian slave trade.
To illustrate, it was apparent the event that an Islamic slave master wronged a slave. That slave could perform some higher power “sorcery” to seek revenge on that slave master. If they were to release those other spiritual powers completely they would no longer have control over what happens to them. The second reason was that relinquishing the powers of syncretism would leave the African people completely vulnerable. Through syncretism if they were ever in need of help, they could still turn to the power of their ancestors and request intervention with God to bring blessings.
Sometimes, they were subjected to a heightened level of oppression if they were to fully submit unto the will of Muslim prophets. They were fearful of the relationship that the dominant Islamic culture would absorb their powers forcing them to be labeled as the subordinate culture. This is especially true of those who did not easily convert. Islam proved to be very beneficial in economic developments; but the West African people sometimes found it a struggle to cooperate with the terms of Islam in every day life.