African Religion and Its Influence on Christianity and Islam

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African Religion and Its Influence on Christianity and Islam

By | October 2008
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African Religion and its Influence on Christianity and Islam
Traditional African religion has been the basis of spirituality for the people of Africa. “Although Christianity and Islam have added distinct elements to African religions, each has been and continued to be adapted to and shaped by Africa’s indigenous religious heritage” [Ambrose Moyo, 2007:326 “Religion in Africa” in G&G. Understanding Contemporary Africa, pp.317-350]. This influence is strongly demonstrated in the films: Wonders of the African World (The Swahili Coast), and Man, God and Africa.

In the documentary, Wonders of the African World, Henry Gates, Jr. travels along the Swahili Coast and examines its people and culture. The Swahili people share many characteristics from African and Arabic cultures. The most popular religion along the Swahili Coast is Islam. Swahili Islam is predominantly Sunni. Islam is not only a religion for the Swahili people, but also a way of life. Most Swahili people accept beliefs from both the Koran and traditional African religion. For example, in the film, a Muslim man had multiple wives and practiced polygamy. In Islam today, polygamy is condemned and not practiced within the religion. However, according to African tradition, polygamy is practiced throughout the continent. Spirituality and indigenous African religions are seen throughout the Swahili Coast. Muslim people of East Africa are deeply influenced by African traditions and customs. For example, Muslims in East Africa rarely follow basic principles of Islam, such as prayer five times a day and fasting during Ramadan.

Christianity in Africa is strongly influenced by the local traditions and customs. The film Man, God and Africa captures the joyous singing and rhythmic movement that is common to the various black churches. It shows the African influence on funerals, baptisms, and weddings. Differences in western Christianity and African Christianity are enormous, but the basis of the religion is the...
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