Gibraltar: African Islam

Islam is often only perceived to exist in the Middle East. That's because some people associate it with the terrorism. However, it has spread to the far reaches of the world. One of these places is North Africa. In this paper we will be analyzing the history of Islam in Africa, the general history of Islam, and ultimately whether or not Islam fosters terrorism.

African Islam came to West Africa via trade in the 7 th to 8 th centuries. It quickly spread due to the fact that it helped strengthen the government, was similar to Christianity with only one god, and had as one of its tenets that men could have many wives. Soon after Islam appeared on the African Continent it quickly spread north and south. By the 11 th century, the Mediterranean world was being dominated by it. Even after the Black Death plaque in the 14 th century, it was still going strong, and in the 1880's it had taken over one-third of the African continent. (The story, n.d.)

Islam began in Arabia around 610 to 632 A.D. and was founded by a guy named Muhammad. It has grown immensely over the years. Today, "there are an estimated 5.1 million Muslims in North America and 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide" (Islam, 2006). This large follower base ranks it up there with other major monotheistic faiths.

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, was born in 570 A.D. in the city of Mecca. He belonged to an active caravan trading tribe whose name was Quraysh. On one of his trading expeditions he became quite upset about the "lax moral standards and polytheistic practices of the inhabitants of Mecca" (Islam, 2006). One day Muhammad had a vision wherein he was told by the angel Gabriel, "that he was to be a prophet" (Islam, 2006). When he related this to the leader of his tribe, he was rejected. From that point on he was severely persecuted. He only had a few followers and ultimately fled from Mecca to Medina in 622 A.D. In Islamic terms this is known as Hegira, or migration.

Followers of Muhammad are called Muslims. They believe that Muhammad was the last prophet in a long line of prophets of Allah (God). Included in that list are Jesus and Abraham.

It didn't take long for this religion to take hold. "Islam spread quickly, stretching from Spain in the west to India in the east within a century after the prophet's death" (Islam, 2006). The religious books or sources used in the Islamic religion are the Qur'an (Koran) and the traditions of the prophet. They also believe that you are rewarded for good deeds and punished for bad. Your reward is given at the resurrection and punishment is can be expected in hell.

Over the years not many people have known the true and deep meaning of Islam. It literally means, "Surrender to the will of Allah" (Islam, 2006). Muslims follow primary duties which are called the Five Pillars of Islam. The main goal of these pillars is to let Allah know of their faith and dedication to his gospel. The first pillar of Islam is the profession of faith. The second has to do with prayer, which is performed five times a day facing Mecca. A third duty is giving to the house of worship (mosque) and to the poor. Fourth is participating in the fast that occurs during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan. Lastly, the fifth pillar that Muslims espouse is to take one trip or pilgrimage to Mecca during ones lifetime.

Muslims attend the Mosque on Fridays to worship, pray, and learn about the teachings of the Koran. The man in charge of this teaching and prayer is called Imam. He is usually the community leader.

Within the Muslim world there are two different tribes, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites. These tribes believe very differently who was the rightful successor to Muhammad.. The Shi'ites believe that Muhammad's son-in-law was the rightful leader,and thereby rejected his first three successors. They believed the leaders to be usurpers. The term usurp means "to seize and hold (a position or an office) by force or without legal right" (Random House, 1999). Conversely, the Sunnis believe the first three successors had legitimacy. The Sunnis are the larger of the two tribes.

Since Muhammad, the religion has continued to grow. Today it has one of the highest growth rates of any religion in the entire world. It has become the dominant belief in North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Terrorism is not one of the beliefs of the Islamic religion. However, those who do participate in terroristic practices usually have a background in Islam. Our western mentality believes that Satan can influence the hearts of men. We think he brainwashes terrorists into thinking they are commanded to kill others in order to be saved. From our vantage point, terrorist attacks often seem to directed at people who are God-fearing and are trying to do the right thing. Hence, the reprehensible nature of their actions. The western mentality would point to terrorist actions as confirmation that there must be opposition in all things.

Muslims espouse beliefs that are in many ways like the ones in which we, as westerners, all believe. Islamic reign has spread quickly too many parts of the world. It is not just confined to the Middle East. Muslims believe in rewards for doing good and punishment for doing bad. Islam is not a terrorist teaching religion. Terrorism is the outgrowth of the influence that Satan can on the hearts of a people often with Islamic ties.


Blyden, E. W. (n.d.) The Story Of Africa Islam. Retrieved April 10, 2006, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/index.html

Information Please. (2006). Islam. Retrieved April 10, 2006, from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001468.html

Random House Reference and Information Publishing Group. (1999). Usurpers. New York, NY: Random House Reference and Information Publishing Group.