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GHANA. The first Muslims to enter the area of modern Ghana were Dyula (Wangara) traders from the metropolitan districts of Mali. Attracted into the Voltaic region in the late fourteenth century by the gold trade from the Akan forest, these merchants established themselves in the numerous trading colonies that developed on the routes leading to the greater markets of the western Sudan. Their major settlement in the Voltaic region was Bighu. Leading Muslim families of Wa to the northwest also claim Dyula origins. In the fifteenth century Muslim kola traders from the Hausa states also arrived in the northeastern section of Ghana. With the expansion of the trade in the eighteenth century and the conclusion of the Fulani jihad of the early nineteenth century, Hausa immigration into Ghana increased. Contacts with Hausa traders contributed to the growth of Yendi and Salaga as important markets. The Qadiriyah order had been introduced into the region by the second decade of the nineteenth century.

For most of the nineteenth century the Muslim and non-Muslim communities accommodated each other. Farther south in the Asante capital of Kumasi, for example, Muslims even served in the king’s council. By the mid-nineteenth century a more permanent Islamic service group, the Asante Nkramo, had been created as part of Asante institutions. The apparant rejection of jihad as an instrument of change by most Muslims in Ghana, is attributed by recent scholarship to these Muslims’ acceptance of the Dyula-Suwarian teaching that true conversion occurred in God’s own time.

Limited cases of militant Muslim activity occurred in the final decades of the nineteenth century. These included the extension of the jihad activities of Muhmud Karantao of Wahabu in Burkina Faso to parts of northern Ghana. Wa and western Gonja came briefly under the control of Samori Ture’s Mande empire. In the central districts of northern Ghana, Zabarima and the locally recruited forces of Alfa Kazare and Babatu attempted to lay the foundation of an Islamic state. These activities were ended, however, when the French and British brought the areas under their respective colonial control. The ubiquitous presence of Muslims in twentieth-century Ghana, therefore, is the result of extensive migration rather than of mass conversion.

In the first post-independence census, conducted in 1960, Muslims accounted for 12 percent of the national population of 6.5 million; this rose to 15 percent in the estimated 1990 population of 15 million. Compared to the Christian share of 4o percent in 196o and an estimated 6o percent in 1990 the relative growth of the Muslim community was minimal. At a seminar organized by the Center for the Distribution of Islamic Books in April 1989, Ghana’s traditional Islamic education, which emphasized basic reading of the Qur’dn, was described as the leading cause of “illiteracy and ignorance,” thus rendering the religion less attractive to potential converts. A central government effort to improve Islamic education had begun two years earlier in April 1987, when an Islamic Education Unit was created within the education ministry and charged with the responsibility of enforcing stricter educational standards in the nation’s orthodox Islamic schools.

The Ahmadiyah movement has been active in Ghana since the 1885 conversion of Benjamin Sam and Mahdi Appah on the Fante coast. Since 1921 Ahmadi missionaries operating from their headquarters at Saltpond have managed to establish important centers at Kumasi and Wa. Unlike the orthodox Sunni Muslim community, the Ahmadis invested in Western-style schools as a means of spreading their influence. The Ghana Ahmadiyah Movement runs one missionary training college at Saltpond, seven secondary schools, and about one hundred Western-style elementary schools. Their few mission hospitals are also well staffed. [See Ahmadlyah.]

Historical research into the nature of Muslim organizations in Ghana is limited. It is, however, evident that both the Qddiriyah brotherhood, introduced in the early nineteenth century by Hausa intermediaries, and the Tijaniyah order have followers here. Introduced from the Senegambia region in the second half of the nineteenth century, Tijaniyah teaching continues to spread from Meccan contacts. Although their numerical strength is difficult to estimate, the Tijanis are a vocal group. In Kumasi mosque affairs, for example, they appear to counter the influence of the clerical establishment. [See Qadiriyah; Tijaniyah.]

Since Ghana’s post-independence constitutions prohibited political parties founded on religious lines, the only Muslim political party in the nation’s history was the Muslim Association Party, which was disbanded in 1957. The remaining Muslim associations in the country include the Ghana Muslim Mission, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and the Ghana Muslim Students Association. The umbrella organization is the Muslim Representative Council, which oversees matters affecting social, economic, and religious interests, such as arranging for pilgrimages to Mecca.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fisher, Humphrey J. Ahmadiyyah: A Study in Contemporary Islam on the West African Coast. London, 1963. Excellent introduction to scholarly analysis of the Ahmadiyah movement. The chapter on Ghana covers only the rise of the sect in the country.

Kramer, Robert S. “Social and Political Dynamics in the Kumasi Zongo.” Paper presented at the thirty-fifth Annual Conference of the African Studies Association, Seattle, 1992. The most recent discussion of Zongo politics in Kumasi.

Levtzion, Nehemia. Muslims and Chiefs in West Africa. Oxford, 1968. Remains the best overview of the spread of Islam in Ghana from early times to the nineteenth century.

Owusu-Ansah, David. Islamic Talismanic Tradition in NineteenthCentury Asante. Lewiston, N.Y., 1991. Offers an interesting discussion on the use of Islamic charms in non-Muslim Asante, an example of what some scholars have referred to as the accommodative nature of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.

Schildkrout, Enid. Islam and Politics in Kumasi: An Analysis of Disputes over the Kumasi Central Mosque. New York, 1974. Schildkrout, Enid. People of the Zongo: The Transformation of Ethnic Identities in Ghana. Cambridge, 1978. Pioneering work on the internal politics of Muslim communities in non-Muslim Asante. Silvermann, Raymond, and David Owusu-Ansah. “The Presence of Islam among the Akan of Ghana: A Bibliographic Essay.” History in Africa 16 (1989): 325-339. Important historiographical essay on Ghana.

Wilks, Ivor. Wa and the Wala: Islam and Polity in Northwestern Ghana. Cambridge, 1989. Study of an important Muslim community in Ghana; documents the place of Islam in those northern Ghanaian societies in which an Islamic superstructure was imposed on traditional substructures.

Wilks, Ivor, Nehemia Levtzion, and Bruce M. Haight. Chronicles from Gonja: A Tradition of West African Muslim Historiography. Cambridge, 1986. Excellent analysis of the place of Muslims in the important nothern state of Gonja.

DAVID OWUSU-ANSAH

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ghana/
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  • writerPosted On: June 8, 2013
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