BBC Online Network Contact Us Help Text Only
BBC World Service
 
 
HOME
 
LIVING HISTORY
 
EARLY HISTORY
 
NILE VALLEY
 
WEST AFRICAN
KINGDOMS
 
THE SWAHILI
 
TRADITIONAL
RELIGIONS
 
ISLAM
 
CHRISTIANITY
 
SLAVERY
 
CENTRAL AFRICAN
KINGDOMS
 
AFRICA & EUROPE
(1800-1914)
 
SOUTHERN AFRICA
 
BETWEEN
WORLD WARS
(1914-1945)
 
INDEPENDENCE
 
PROGRAMMES
 
SEARCH
 
FORUM/
FEEDBACK
INDEX

Women
Practices


FLEXIBILITY AND REFORM

The way  Islam  has been practised has varied tremendously at different times and in different places. In some parts of the continent Islamic rules became modified, tolerating and accommodating traditional customs and practices. In other places, Holy Wars have been launched by Muslims against other Muslim communities, perceived as practicing the faith imperfectly. The most noted example of this being the Holy War of Usman dan Fodio in the early 19th century in West Africa.

RULES

Islam is a very practical religion, offering guidance on all aspects of everyday life, even the correct way to urinate. It is not an obscure religion to follow, with less divisions and heresies than Christianity. There is no complicated hierarchy of priests. As in Christianity, there is much emphasis on charity and simplicity of life style. It is not an exclusive religion, but acknowledges some Judaic and Christian traditions - both Abraham and Jesus are cited as prophets in the Koran. Like Christianity it welcomes all converts.

RELIGIOUS PRACTICE

Islam is very clear about what it demands of its followers. This can be summed up in five essential requirements - The Five Pillars of Islam. They are:

  • Faith: the declaration of faith is called the Shahada, and is expressed in the following words: There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger.
  • Prayer: Muslims perform obligatory prayers, or Salat, five times a day.
  • The Zakat: every Muslim sets aside a percentage of his/her capital, for those in need.
  • The Fast: all Muslims fast once a year in the month of Ramadan, abstaining from food, drink and sexual relations.
  • Pilgrimage (Hajj): every Muslim must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once a year.
Listen hereListen to an Islamic Mosque Call to Prayer, Cairo

PERSONAL RELATIONS
An important aspect of the Islamic faith was that it allowed a man to take more than one wife. Christianity did not. So conversion to Islam did not force a man to choose one of several wives, risking pride, anger and humiliation on all sides. If a man is traveling and can't take his wife, he is also allowed to take a temporary wife through a contract drawn up by the Imam.

IBN BATTUTA'S PRAISE FOR THE GOOD MUSLIMS OF MALI, 1352
HONESTY
"They do not interfere with the property of the white man who dies in their country even though it may consist of great wealth, but rather, they entrust it to the hand of someone dependable among the white men, until it is taken by the rightful claimant."
PIETY
"...they meticulously observe the times of prayer…When it is Friday, if a man does not come early to the Mosque he will not find a place to pray because of the numbers of the crowd."
CLEANLINESS
"... putting on of good white clothes on Friday. If a man among them has nothing except a tattered shirt he washes and cleans it and attends the Friday prayer in it."