THE IMPACT OF ISLAM ON THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE OF EAST AFRICAN COAST

THE IMPACT OF ISLAM ON THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE OF EAST AFRICAN COAST

The coming of Arabs with Islam at the E. African coast had a great impact on people’s lives, and re-defined the lives of the people of E.Africa. Among their impacts, the following were outstanding.




With the coming of Islam, there was tremendous development and growth of Coastal city towns into city-states e.g. Mombasa, Malindi, Kilwa, Pemba, Sofala  etc.

These areas developed into city states and city centers which attracted many people to come and settle permanently at the coast.

The following are the impact of introduction of Islam on the east African coast

  • Improved standards of living; The standard of life at the E. African coast tremendously changed whereby there was improvement from primitive way of life to an advanced way of living e.g. people caped the Arab way of life more especially  washing hands before eating, housing etc.




  • Development of trade; With the coming of the Arabs at the coast, trade became an important commercial activity to the extent that the Arabs found no need of going back to Arabia. Through their preaching, the Islamic commercial ethics were introduced i.e use of weights and measurements, not charging ribah etc.  Many expensive trade items were brought at the coast and Arabs established themselves as middlemen at the same time Africans also benefited a lot from this trade.
  • Emergency   of Islam and its spread as a way of life.   It is noted that the introduction of Islam at the coast replaced the primitive religious life of the people at the coast e.g. Some beliefs and culture were accepted and modified e.g. circumfusion for men, polygamy etc while others were abolished like child sacrifice, superstition, idol worshiping etc yet some new beliefs and practices were introduce e.g. the making of ablution thereby promoting hygiene in the society.




  • Introduction of Swahili culture perhaps the most important effect of Islam at the coast was the emergency of Swahili culture. This culture was as a result of the continued intermarriage between Arabs and the Africans. The Swahili became another cultural group with Kiswahili as their language which boosted the progress and development of Islam not only at the coast but also in the interior of E.Africa.
  • Development of Infrastructures:- With the coming of the Arabs and Islam at the coast, most schools, medical centres,  roads etc were constructed. The mosques acted as meeting and worshiping centres, medical centres improved on health care, schools improved on education and roads facilitated the  spread of Islam along the coast with all the above the coast developed.
  • Stopping of evil practices:   Islam is a religion that teaches the doing of good and shunning of evil from the society. Therefore, with its introduction at the coast, primitive practices like the drinking of alcohol, adultery and fornication, witchcraft, etc become outdated in several coastal states and general environment at the coast looked Islamic.




  • Introduction of Arabic language. With the coming of Islam at the coast, there was introduction of Arabic language as a medium of communication.  This is because most of the Islamic Literature is written in Arabic e.g. the Holy Quran, Hadith of the Prophet etc.  With the above, some of the Arabic words eventually got mixed up with African languages.  Arabic Literature became popular at the coast and Arabic language was used in schools and public office as a medium of communication.
  • Introduction of Arabic Architecture:   With the coming of Arabs and Islam, there was development of Arabic art, design and craft. Arabic Architecture of building with stones and sand was introduced. Many Africans liked this way of life and they eventually copied it.
  • Introduction of Islamic Sharia:  With the coming of Islam, there was introduction of Islamic law at the coast. Sharia become a code of legal   code and people started behaving as Islam prescribes many coastal states adapted Sharia e.g.  Mombasa, Zanzibar, Malindi etc and  within these states, law and order were administered purely under Islamic Sharia.




  • Introduction of new farming methods:  With the coming of the Arabs at the coast, they introduced plantation farming e.g. After the taking over Zanzibar by Said Sayyid.  He introduced plantations farming and provided employments to the Africans. On this plantation, new crops were introduced e.g. rice, dates, pineapples, pals, grapes, etc which all improved on people’s standards of living.  
  • Promotion of unity and brotherhood:  The coming of Islam and the Arabs promoted unit y among the people because Islam as a religion advocates for Muslim brotherhood and equality and this two led to unity of mankind. Most of the Africans adopted that teaching through saying Salaam to each other a situation that led to the creation of peace and prosperity within different races and tribes at the coast.
  • Introduction of Islamic way of healing: The coming of Islam the sheikhs introduced new ways of healing whereby they used herbs, thereby supplementing on the already existing medicine. At the same time they abolished the traditional ways of healing which involved sheikh 




  • Introduction of Islamic Ceremonies: With the coming of Islam, ceremonies like the two Iddis, the birth of Prophet, a child birth ceremonies ( aqiqah) , marriage  ceremonies  were introduced at the coast and they were celebrated following the Islamic teachings.
  • Categorization of Acts: With the introduction of Islam, there was identification of acts as Islamic and non Islamic (Halal  and Haram)                                                      The Haram foods and drinks, un Islamically slaughtered meat etc. On the other hand, Halal foods and drinks were made popular to all the people at the coast.
  • Women Emancipation:  With the coming of Islam, the position of an African woman was redefined.  She had to get shares from the Estates   of her dead relatives, she had to dress decently and she became an active member of the society.  In political, social and economic and religious aspects.




  • Improvement on health living:  Islam  introduced  at the coast a life full of better sanitations methods like washing hands,   legs and after eating, eating good foods, fasting, performing ablution frequently etc.  Therefore civilizing the coastal people from primitive ways of life.

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