It is known that the Arabs in the eighth century A.D. had reached North Africa and spread Islam there. They made several attempts to conquer Ghana. Although most of these attempts failed, they managed to leave a clear imprint on these tribes. It was not long before the Islamic principles spread among all individuals and clans of the Soninke tribes. Mosques were built all over the Soninke kingdom of Ghana.

This was how Islam was introduced into the land of gold through peaceful preaching and not military invasion. The Empire of Ghana had very strong and powerful military forces. It can be said that it was the strongest military force in Africa at that time.

(Larabanga Mosque in Ghana)

(Larabanga Mosque in Ghana)

As for the introduction of Islam into the south, the tribes of Mandinka (or Mande) turned towards the south and established the province of Gonja in north-east of Ghana today at the end of the tenth Hijri century. The number of Muslims among these tribes increased significantly and they were among the advisors and retinue of the founder of the country, Jakaba. He depended on them in his wars against his enemies, and his army was led by a commander named Muhammad Al-Abyadh. After the death of Jakaba, the country was divided between his two sons; each of them took a helper from the sons of Muhammad Al-Abyadh. The imprint of Muslims on the country was so evident that they used the Arabic language for writing.

Another group of Mande tribes emerged in the midst of the 11th century and they spoke the Dogamba language. They settled in north-eastern Ghana and founded the city of Yendi. They spread Islam among the Dogamba tribes and perhaps some clans of the tribes of Hausa as well who helped them spread Islam.

At the beginning of the twelfth century, Muslim traders from the Hausa and Borno tribes penetrated into the south in their pursuit of Kola. They spread Islam among the Dogamba tribes in the thirteenth century. Most of the members of these tribes became Muslims and were keen to invite scholars and callers to Allaah from the northern areas to teach them Islam. At the same time, Islam spread among the Mamprusi tribes and the city of Gambaga became an Islamic center. Each of these tribes in the north had its own emirate, a self-ruled province such as: Gonja, Dogamba, Mamprusi, and Ewe, which are all located in the north of modern day Ghana.

Islam was introduced into central Ghana through the traders of Hausa, Fulani, and Borno tribes. Some cities became commercial centers such as Salaga. This resulted in the flourishing of the economy of the Ashanti Tribes in the second half of the twelfth century. By the beginning of the thirteenth century, Islam was introduced to the city of Kumasi (a city in southern Ghana).

Muslim traders headed to the south across the Volta River and reached the coast where they propagated Islam. Even during the days of colonialism, Muslim workers came from neighboring countries to work in gold mines and the exploitation of food resources in Ghana. Traders from Fulani and Hausa tribes also came to the south and spread Islam between members of the Mossi (or Mose) and Kikuyu tribe. This was how Islam spread all over Ghana, though more in the north than in the south.

The Arab traveler, Al-Bakri, described the Kingdom of Ghana, saying that it was divided into two parts: the pagan section and the Muslim section. There were twelve mosques in the Muslim neighborhood where Friday Prayers were held in the largest mosque. Each mosque had an Imaam to lead the prayers, a Mu’aththin to call for the payers, a reciter of the Noble Quran and a caller to Allaah to teach people Islam. In the pagan neighborhood, near the royal palace, there was a mosque where Muslims among the king’s retinue prayed.

The Soninke tribes called the empire of Ghana “the Kingdom of Wagadou”. The Ghana Empire weakened after the forces of the empire reached unprecedented strength. By the year 1054, the troops of the Almoravids attacked Koumbi Saleh, which was the commercial capital of the empire. The city did not surrender easily and continued to resist the siege for twenty- two consecutive years, until it finally fell and the Al-Muraabiteen annexed it to their lands.

(This article was written at and modified by AMYN Staff)