Islam swept the Mediterranean margins of Africa in the 7th century at the point of a sword. Southward permeation was more gradual: invasions of Christian Makuria were twice repulsed, in 642 and 652. Thereafter, the primary vehicle for conversion was via the trade routes, across the Sahara and down the eastern coasts, with merchants often accompanied by Sufist missionaries. The first sub-Saharan dynasty to convert were the Dya’ Ogo in Takrur (c. 850). Thereafter, grassroots conversion spread in West Africa as a means of acquiring immunity from the flourishing slave trade. A Muslim sultanate was established in the Horn of Africa (c. 900) at Mogadishu, with Islamic trading posts soon beribboning East Africa’s coast. Centres of Islamic learning at the northern termini of the caravan routes (Fez, Tlemcen) fed religious dissemination, then, in the 11th century, a fresh wave of Islamic conquest was initiated by the Almoravids, overthrowing the Ghana empire.
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