Islam Developing Trade Routes in Africa and Asia Essay

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Spread of Islam in Africa and Asia Along Trade Routes

The Islam religion spread in Asia and Africa mainly due to trade of such goods as spices, gold, as also due to slaves. The advantages of proximity with the greatly profitable and powerful traders of the Islam religion triggered the conversions of merchants and rulers' into Muslims. Islam spread slowly; it took centuries, but in most places where the conversion took place, people still hold on to the religion (Debrouse). This paper explores the reasons of spread of Islam religion along Asian and African trade routes, particularly centering on the success of Islam in Middle Asia.

Early Trade Connections

Since the era of Muhammad, it has been believed that trade is closely related to the religion as well as its development. Inmecca, the people of the Qurayshtribe were leaders in business. They extended their connections and influence to Syria and Abyssania (Cook 271-273). Narratives of the Prophet state that Muhammad was himself a part of Quraysh. He was also a merchant, until he started to preach what God revealed to him. After he overcame the opposition of Quraysh to his revelations, and then conquered the Arab peninsula, his community used the acquired power and influence to build trade networks and assistance throughout and beyond the Arab Peninsula. Gradually, Islam religion spread through diplomatic and economic means, among other activities for empire-building (Laguerta).

Geographic Considerations

The central position of ancient Islamic areas -- between Asia, Africa, and Europe -- helped the Arabians exercise command over the trade routes. A key instance of Islam spread by means of trade is evident with the trade in spice., as the trade routes between Africa, Asia, Europe, and Africa passed through African and Arab Islam territories Muslims controlled majority of the trade of spices -- an important commodity in those times. The portable nature of spices, and their essence in everything including medicine, incense, and food, qualified them as significant trade items. The Islamic direct trade activities gave better experience of the faith: Instead of working through middlemen, Islamic merchants would take trips to the areas of trade, thereby allowing other countries to experience the religion as well (Debrouse).

The European Slave Trade

Apart from of the significance of trade in the spread of Islam throughout Asia and Africa, the slave trade of Europe also had great significance, especially in South Africa and other areas in Southern Africa. During the seventeenth century, the Dutch started to trade Muslim slaves from Southeast Asia to Southern Africa so as to labor in their farms.

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All through the eighteenth and nineteenth century, England made use of Muslim and Hindu Indians as slaves in their sugarcane fields in South Africa, despite the fact that these people usually had been paid a minor salary. Among the slaves that were brought to America, around twenty percent had been Muslims, and some elements of their Islamic faith had been retained in names and songs, amid other conventional customs of life (Debrouse).

Spread to Africa

Islam spread to Africa early, initially through Egypt, which acted as the gateway between Africa and the Arabworld. Islam traders entered Eastern Africa through modern day Sudan. Here, many leaders converted due to the gains they got from their relations with the rich traders. On their way to the south, the Islamic traders started marrying women of higher classes from coastal cities. This brought significant trade alliances as well as a feeling of unison to the people of the higher class, thus making Islam the elite's religion. Through Western African trade, Islam and Arab traditions permeated in the area of Maghreb -- now Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Traders of Gold and salt travelled to West Sub-Sahara, where merchants extolled the virtues of Islam to the rulers of the Islam through their exalted positions of respect on governance and trade. On the western side, Islam found wide acceptance in Ghana. Leaders became Muslims in order to portray good will to the countries in the north; they needed them for tax money and horses (Debrouse).

Since ancient times, wide trade routes were noticeable in Africa. The trade routes acted as conduits; both for barter exchange of material and men, and for ideas. Islam was one of the sublime ideas shared. Africa had greatly endorsed Islam. They created trade areas along their trade routes in order to improve the way goods flowed as well as the merchants' safety. Gold was the main item exported from West Africa. There were other products such as kola nuts, salt and ivory. North Africans in turn provided administrative and religious services. They also came with horses from their area, Asian spices, as well as educational books from Bukhara, Baghdad, and Kairouan. Slaves were not a major trade item between Africans and Arabs, as European authors sometimes state. In fact, Omani merchants began to compete with Europeans for East African Bantu slaves between the 1600s and 1700s (Ahmed).

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Works Cited

Ahmed, Nazeer. Islam in Africa. History of Islam, 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

DeBrouse, Rachael. How did trade help spread early Islam? n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Laguerta, Dianne. The relationship between trade & the spread of Islam - the classroom. 2001. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.

Esposito, John L. Islam: The straight path. Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. pp. 37-67.

Cook, Michael. A Brief History of the Human Race. WW Norton & Company, 2005. pp. 267-294

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