African History 3: Islam Spreads Through Africa
Today we'll learn about how people hated taxes so much that they were willing to change religions just to avoid them. And as a result, Aksum became a whole lot less awesome.
|World History||African History|
In the early centuries of the Common Era, Aksum was mega-Christian, and the rest of
North and East Africa was a hodgepodge of religions and traditions.
"Want to pray to Jupiter, or the Sun? [Jupiter approaches the sun]
Why not both?
Aksum was closely connected to the Arab people across the Red Sea in what is now Saudi Arabia. [Aksum and Arabian man high-five]
They shared language, trade goods, and even religious concepts.
Written Arabic was similar to Aksum's classical language of Ge'ez, and it used some
of the same letters. [Ge'ez letters appear
If you were a Red Sea trader, you'd only have to learn like one and a half alphabets to
read stuff on both sides of the Sea.
Well here's a fact that might blow your mind
Ethiopian Christian churches even existed in Saudi Arabia before Islam. [Church in a desert]
By the 6th century, many Arabs were familiar with the ideas of both Ethiopian and Egyptian
But most Arabs still followed local polytheistic traditions, meaning they were into the many-god [Arab approach church]
view of the universe.
Then Islam happened.
In the beginning of the 7th century CE, Muhammad founded the religion of Islam and centered [Muhammad appears with camel]
it in Mecca…
…a bustling trade city just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Africa's east coast.
Soon after, things started getting real.
Islam spread to both Arab cities and Arab nomads. [Islam spreading to Arab cities]
And it united Arabia into a single religious empire called a "caliphate."
Like any good empire, the caliphate started to expand, barging into Africa and conquering
all the kingdoms in its path.
The first caliphate, the Rashidun Caliphate, fought Aksum for control of the
Aksum said "let's go halfsies," and the caliphate and Aksum agreed to split control of the Red [Aksum and caliphate in discussions]
Sea trade routes.
But Aksum's days of dominance were numbered.
When the Rashidun Caliphate collapsed, a new and more aggressive empire took over, the [Caliphate soldiers take over empire]
In the seventh century, the Umayyads invaded Egypt and North Africa. [Soldiers in battle]
The Muslim conquerors got pretty far, too.
By 750 CE, they’d even conquered as far as Spain.
The Muslims had a pretty nifty way of converting people too. [Man preaching to muslim man]
According to the Quran, an Islamic government can’t use force to convert people
But the caliphates found a loophole. [Man running with a book]
While they were officially cool with Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Roman Christianity, as well
The caliphates tried to encourage conversion by giving anybody who was Muslim a major tax [Tax form of caliphate conversion]
Which worked like a charm.
About 90-95% of North Africans eventually became Islamic.
It turns out that, when offered a choice between their most deeply-held beliefs and a lower [People holding their tax forms]
tax rate, 9 out of 10 people will take the lower tax rate.
Islam spread gradually throughout the conquered territories, and eventually the Christian
kingdom of Aksum was surrounded.
Aksum still had biceps at this point, but it was isolated from its neighbors and shut [Aksum flexing biceps]
out of the Red Sea trade routes.
And without its major source of wealth, Aksum slowly started to fall apart. [Aksum explodes]
This would’ve been a good time to break out the Ark and start melting faces...