Why did the Muslim empires in North Africa not go deep south across the contient

Nov 2012
3,852
#1
With Islamic empires having consolidated their presence and before the arrival of the European colonial powers, the Muslims up north in Maghreb had enough land and resources to go southwards deep into the African continent. Why is that they did not go southwards of the Saharan desert into places like Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbawe etc. and spread their empire further downwards since they faced no competition from Europeans who were far off from these lands to gain access. Shouldnt this have been a logical strategy to follow?
 
Mar 2013
1,441
Escandinavia y Mesopotamia
#2
They actually did make a try on Ethiopia. Around 1500 Ethiopia was almost surrounded by Muslims states. Later Adal Sultanate penetrated into Ethiopia and defeated the Ethiopian emperor, and a destruction of artistic and literary works and churches started alongside forced conversions. The Ethiopian emperor fled to the Mountain and asked help from the Portugueses, and ultimately a combined force of both the Portugueses and the Ethiopians defeated the Adal Sultanate and ended Muslim domination.

At the beginning when the rulers converted to Islam in the Sahel region, the rulers indeed also preserved some animist belief themselves, on this side animists were indeed tolerated. But around 1700 Islamic revival states woke up and started a systematically forced conversions and enslavement of the animists, like for instance the slaves in the Sokoto caliphate covered more than 60% of its population. In the east coast of Africa they were also Islamized due to an Imam from Oman named Sayyed Said who started a systematically forced conversions and enslavement of the Africans from his base in Zanzibar where the slaves were sold to Arabia and Ottoman.

However all above was halted by European colonialism/imperialism.

Moreover penetrating deep in the middle of Africa requires invention of a specific vaccination which name I don’t remember but in which the Europeans invented it. - I will come back when it pops up or I find it from my bookcase.



EDIT: it was quinine.
 
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Nov 2010
7,648
Cornwall
#3
The Almoravids fought a lengthy war against the kingdom of 'Gana' and other sub-saharan tribes to the south early in their existence, finally bringing them under submission.

But I think that was just to secure their southern borders. The real dream was to conquer what became greater Morocco and then of course Spain (ultimately a mistake). I dont think there was too much to attract them further than the Rivers Niger and Senegal if I'm honest.
 
Likes: Futurist
Aug 2014
195
United States
#4
Probably two reasons, the Saharan desert acted as a barrier and the gold trade. The sources of the gold were not very well known so an attempted conquest could mean a drying up of the flow of gold

Ibn Battuta writes of a nation called Yufi where white men were not allowed to enter and that gold was produced which was transported to the East Coast. Yufi might be Great Zimbabwe

This might be of interest which talks about the early Arabic sources and Ghana

The Conquest That Never Was: Ghana and the Ahnoravids, 107 6. I. The. External Arabic Sources

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...2M2VLXqZX4fFPszTQ&sig2=MIJKy4MocPgjTmwai5tP6Q

More importantly the local oral traditions attribute the decline of Ghana to drought.

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...PfdOP7uGNZ3chvQ_Q&sig2=81H_z9qq4evLoAqmI9oojg
 
Likes: sailorsam
Aug 2014
195
United States
#5
The article in the previous post mentions that when forced conversions were forced the gold dried up. Not totally unrelated is ancient history, Diodorus Siculus mentions that many have attempted to subdue the Ethiopians but failed

LacusCurtius ? Diodorus Siculus ? Book*III Chapters*1?14

And they state that, by reason of their piety towards the deity, they manifestly enjoy the favour of the gods, inasmuch as they have never experienced the p93rule of an invader from abroad; for from all time they have enjoyed a state of freedom and of peace one with another, and although many and powerful rulers have made war upon them, not one of these has succeeded in his undertaking.

3 1 Cambyses,4 for instance, they say, who made war upon them with a great force, both lost all his army and was himself exposed to the greatest peril; Semiramis also, who through the magnitude of her undertakings and achievements has become renowned, after advancing a short distance into Ethiopia gave up her campaign against the whole nation; and Heracles and Dionysus, although they visited all the inhabited earth, failed to subdue the Ethiopians alone who dwell above Egypt, both because of the piety of these men and because of the insurmountable difficulties involved in the attempt.
 
Jun 2013
865
Universe
#6
You forget Sahelian powers like Ghana, Mali and Songhai acting as barriers. But more importantly those three powers DID NOT want foreigners finding out the source of their gold, which was further south.
 
Jun 2013
865
Universe
#7
The Almoravids fought a lengthy war against the kingdom of 'Gana' and other sub-saharan tribes to the south early in their existence, finally bringing them under submission.

But I think that was just to secure their southern borders. The real dream was to conquer what became greater Morocco and then of course Spain (ultimately a mistake). I dont think there was too much to attract them further than the Rivers Niger and Senegal if I'm honest.
The Almoravid destroying/conquering Ghana is known as a myth.

Correcting if I am wrong, but if that's what you're referring to.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,630
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#8
Sahara was not the problem, the problem was tropical / equatorial environment.

Arabs [original Muslims] came from a desert region [Arabic peninsula], so the Sahara wasn't a tremendous barrier, in fact Muslim populations "conquered" the desert and today we see the consequences. Barbers, Tuareg, Arab populations are the majority in Northern Africa, while proper black Africans are more common a bit south.

But south of Sahara there was something they weren't so used to deal with: wet tropical / equatorial environment.
 
May 2013
143
Sweden
#10
Sahara was not the problem, the problem was tropical / equatorial environment.

Arabs [original Muslims] came from a desert region [Arabic peninsula], so the Sahara wasn't a tremendous barrier, in fact Muslim populations "conquered" the desert and today we see the consequences. Barbers, Tuareg, Arab populations are the majority in Northern Africa, while proper black Africans are more common a bit south.

But south of Sahara there was something they weren't so used to deal with: wet tropical / equatorial environment.
While it's true, it feels like an argument that doesn't hold too much water, if it only depended on the climate. This could be seen in the light of nothern europeans who settled in the levant during the crusades.

Isn't it more probable that the Saharan desert was the biggest reason that you could not conduct warfare? You basicly have a huge desert area that separates two very populous areas. It would be quite a feat to send an invasion force through these deserts, let alone fight a war when you reach your destination. And if you lose, you have nowhere to go. I think it was too high of a risk. And even if you would win that war, it would be very hard to keep the control of the conquered area.

The early arabs conquerors knew the areas of the arabian peninsula very well and could reach water holes that the knew existed. I'm not sure of how many water sources there are in western sahara, but they were probably not very well known.
 
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