development trade route from the Gulf of Aden to the interior of the Horn is
one of the most significant factors in the history of all the peoples of the
area. These routes undoubtedly helped to bring about all kinds of interaction
between “local peoples of different cultural, religious and linguistic
role of trade in the fortunes of Islam has to be seen in relation to the
biography of the Prophet of Islam himself. Muhammad is perhaps the only founder
of a major monolithic religion who was once a man of commerce. Mecca itself was
almost as much a center of trade as a religious focus for the Arabs from
distant parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The Qur’an itself assures Muslims that
it is ‘not reprehensible to seek livelihood in trade and exchange in the course
of the pilgrimage’.2
Islam in Africa flourished where there
was some basis of urban culture, together with commercial relations which
ultimately stemmed from ‘towns’ and ‘cities’. Thus, it will not be erroneous
attributing trade as a fundamental cause for the spread of Islam, and further
promoting an organized trade, in Africa. As Lewis wrote;
“Over a thousand years ago, Arab
and Persian trading settlements (where goods came from as far afield as China)
had been established at such coastal centres as Zeila in the north (on the
route to Harar) and in the south at Mogadishu (where the great mosque dates
from the thirteenth century). Further south along the coast Merca and Brava are
of similar antiquity. These Muslim centres of commerce, reinforcing the Islamic
identity of the Somali people, also appear to have given an additional impetus
to population movements towards the west and south.”3
Arabs entered Somalia mainly through the Ports; Berbera, Zeila, Merca, Brava,
and Kismayo and penetrated deep into the hinterland. Particularly, there was the coming of a group
of refugee people from a place near Bahrein on the opposite side of the Gulf,
who are supposed to have founded Mogadishu and Barawa.
1 Tamrat, T. (1984). The Horn of Africa: the Solomonids in
Ethiopia and the states of the Horn of Africa. In GENERAL HISTORY OF AFRICA-
IV. Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century. D.T NIANE, Editor.
UNESCO. University of California Press.
2 Kokole, H. (1984). The Islamic Factor in African-Arab Relations.
Third World Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 687-702. Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
3 Lewis, I.M. (2008). Understanding Somalia and Somaliland: Culture, History, Society. Colombia University Press, New York.