While Bantu people organized societies on the basis of African tradition, merchants from North Africa and southwest Asia introduced their Islamic faith to Africa. Islam arrived though two routes: it went to west Africa overland by trans-Saharan camel caravans, and it traveled to coastal east Africa over the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean in the vessels of merchant mariners.
Major trade between Islam and Africa started around the turn of the millenium. trade routes were long established, such as Gao, a terminus of caravan routes across the Sahara that offered access to the Niger River valley, which was a flourishing market for copper, ironware, cotton, salt, and grain.
The principal state of west Africa at the time was the kingdom of Ghana. Integration onto trans-Saharan trade networks brought enormous wealth and considerable power to Ghana, and the kingdoms capitol, Koumba-Saleh, flourished. Al-Bakri, a spanish muslim traveler of the mid eleventh century, described Koumba-Saleh as a flourishing site with buildings of stone and more than a dozen mosques.
After the tenth century, the kings of Ghana hed converted to Islam. their conversion led to improved relations with the Muslim traders, as well as Muslim nomadswho tranported goods across the desert. It also brought them recognition and support from Muslim states in north Africa.
As the kingdom expanded to the north, it became vuneranle to attacks by nomadic people who sought to seize some of the kingdoms wealth. During the early thirnteenth century, the raids weakened the kingdom and it soon collapsed, and almost instantaneously, the Mali empire emerged.
The Mali empire was built by prince Sundiata during the first half of the thirnteenth century. By about 1235 he had absorbed many parts of Ghana, as well...