How do you account for the spread of Islam to Africa in the context of cultural interaction and exchange?.
To account for the spread of Islam into Africa, especially West Africa, in the context of cultural interaction and exchange, four things must be considered. First would be the trade routes around the Sahara Desert which provided a vast amount of wealth and power for the African kings. Second, consider the administration that Islam provided another source of power for the African kings with its Madrasas or universities and the Qadis or magistrates. Third, consider the warfare between the Islamic Bedouin tribes that invaded into kingdoms such as Ghana and eventually brought Islam into the country. Finally, fourth, consider the strict moral code of the Koran that eventually brought monotheism to a polytheistic Africa. These four factors must be considered when accounting for the spread of Islam into West Africa into the kingdoms of first Gao, then Ghana, and finally into Mali. But first, let's lay down the foundation for Islam with its originator, Muhammad.
Muhammad ibn Abdullah, Islam's founder, was born in the late 6th century C.E. in Mecca. Mecca, by historical accounts, was a hub of cultural interaction and exchange in itself. Merchants from all over traveled the trade routes that went through Mecca on its way to the Far East. Mecca at that time was a mercantile capital and was full of all kinds of temptations known to man. Muhammad was heavily influenced by the Christian, Jewish, and Bedouin pagans of Mecca in that he tried to learn about each of the religions. Muhammad was troubled by the corruption and moral decay of Mecca and the injustices to the weak and poor. About the year 610 C.E., Muhammad was visited by the Archangel Gabriel in a vision when he received a warning about all of the evil in Mecca. Gabriel taught Muhammad that there was only one God, Allah and that a judgment day would soon be upon the people of Mecca.