HIS 311 "Islam in North Africa" (2)


by Jim Jones (Copyright 2003, All Rights Reserved)

Mohammed has been interpreted as the last of a series of prophets that included Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. All three prophets were sent by the same all-powerful diety, and each one's teachings led to the creation of a new form of monotheism.

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First, keep in mind that "Berber" is an ethnic distinction, not a political one, so there was no basis for unity between coastal and inland Berbers. Then consider the impact of centuries of Carthaginian, Greek and Roman rule along the coast, which led to increasingly efficient levels of taxation, and consequently, exploitation. After the Romans and their successors, the Vandals, Muslim rule seemed much less demanding and strict to the coastal Berbers. In contrast, to the inland Berbers, the Muslims were just another group of outsiders who hoped to impose their rule on the local people.]

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It made Charles Martel a hero and increased the prestige of the Franks, setting the stage for Pope Stephen II to designate Martel's son Pepin the Short as the king of the Franks. By stalling the advance of Muslim forces, it also bought time for European Christians to organize themselves to defend against the Ummayyids. Less than a generation later, after the Abbassids overthrew the Ummayyids, the new leaders redirected efforts at expansion away from Europe towards India.]

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The Abbassid revolution redirected the focus of Islam's power away from the Mediterranean Sea towards the Indian Ocean. As a result, Islam became more influential along the East African coast, while existing Muslim societies in North Africa became marginalized. That strengthened reform movements that sought to restore the vitality of Islam in North Africa.

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Byzantine Christianity

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A Mamluk knew that he only held his position as long as he was loyal, so unlike a blood relative of a caliph, a Mamluk was less likely to betray his benefactor. As orphans, the Mamluks had no relatives who could help them to resist the caliphs or who might seek favors from them.

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The Ottoman approach merely acknowledged the politial reality that military power was the key to controlling the Muslim world by the 15th century. By seeming not to interfer with the identity of the caliphs, Ottoman rulers avoided one source of potential rebellion.

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Hey, not so fast. Before clicking on the next link, think about in what kind of place Islam began, what enabled Islam to expand so rapidly and what determined the direction that its expansion took.

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  1. Islam originated in an Arabian Desert trading community.
  2. Islam expanded by fighting against the Byzantine Empire. Their early success drove Muslim armies to further expansion.
  3. After a century, divisions developed among Muslim leaders.
  4. By the 11th century, Europeans began to threaten Muslim centers during the Crusades. Muslims reunited in opposition.
  5. The impact of Islam on North Africa was nearly total, but the further one went to the West, the more local culture influenced Islam.
  6. Muslim expansion along the East African Coast was carried out by maritime traders, not armies. Expansion across the Sahara was carried out by caravan traders. We will discuss these developments in more detail in the coming weeks.

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