Pre-colonial Islam in Eastern Sudan
A number of reasons had contributed to the spread of Islam in Eastern Sudan during the pre-colonial period. The term ‘Eastern Sudan’ was used a long time ago to describe what is currently known as Republic of Sudan. This term existed until Sudan gained independence from the British colonialists. Islam had spread to Eastern Sudan because several factors compelled Arab conquerors from Egypt to shift to the regions, situated to the south of Aswan. The paper will study the role of trade and migration in the process of Eastern Sudan Islamization. The position of Islam and Muslims in the area will be also researched. One of the greatest factors that made Arabs move from Egypt southwards was harassment that Arab Muslims experienced from Bejas and Nubians (Gallab). The former were dissatisfied with Arabs, whose invasion of Egypt subjected their Christian counterparts to the Arab domination. Another key reason that caused the spread of Islam to Eastern Sudan was trade, as well as commercial interest, of the trade classes. Many Muslims managed to enter Eastern Sudan and run their trading activities in the area. Eventually, Islam traders began to settle in various parts of the country; their cultures, in turn, started to dominate in different areas of Eastern Sudan. The main aim of the settlers was to influence the culture of the inhabitants, who had been living in these territories for years, in order to make them adopt the Islam culture, as well as the new religion. Another key factor that contributed to spreading of Islam to some parts of Eastern Sudan was their religious desire to create a background for Islam in Beja and Nubia regions According to Yusuf Fadl Hassan, who is a renowned Sudanese Scholar, Islam used three routes to gain access to various parts of Eastern Sudan where they established their residents and hoped to stay in the country for a long time. According to Hassan, one of the main routes that Islam used included entry over the Red Sea, either using the existing Red Sea ports of Badi directly or the Ethiopian territory. Other two routes that they used include, Suakin and Aydhab. According to this point of view, the number of Islam immigrants who used the Red Sea route to enter Eastern Sudan might have been significantly more, as compared to the number of immigrants that took the Egypt route. Hassan further explains that immigrants, who used Aydhab route, were to a great extent responsible for the steady and progressive Islamization of Eastern Sudan. Using this route, many immigrants gained access to the Nubian territory without any consent from the authorities. According to Fadi Hassan, the last route was perceived to be the least significant one. This was the route through North-West Africa, which many religious men used. In addition, this was the path that Sufi men of Islam used to move from Western Sudan to a place called Makkah, or Egypt. This path was also used by people, who took and endeavored to promote their religious beliefs from the North African desert, so as to influence the religious beliefs of people, living in Baja land, and other tribes and communities, which lived along the Nile River. During the pre-colonial period, when these movements were taking place, both Muslims and Nubian Christians maintained peaceful relations. Both parties respected the Baqt treaty, which was aimed at promoting peace and harmony between the two groups. This treaty played an extremely critical role in promoting peace and remained a vital background for healthy coexistence between the two religious communities for over six centuries. The treaty, for example, stated that no citizen of the two countries was allowed to move to the other one for permanent dwelling. According to Fadi Hassan, history provides concrete evidence that many Muslim traders started to enter Nubia after the signing of the Baqt treaty. As a result of this treaty, the number of Islam traders and immigrants increased...
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