Both with Islam during the Islam conquest in

Islam and Christianity were not initial religions in Africa but they were
adopted later having been introduced by foreigners from other parts of the
world. Both religions entered African continent from the northern side. Islam
entered North Africa from Middle East and spread to western and eastern Sudan
via trade routes. The traders and Islam missionaries followed the Indian Ocean
routes to bring Islam to the Eastern Africa and the coast. Christianity entered
North Africa from Palestine and spread through the Sahara to other areas like
Ethiopia in the first century. However, Christianity in North Africa was replaced
with Islam during the Islam conquest in seventh century and only a few churches
survived this transformation. Later in fifteenth century, African Christianity
was reintroduced to the west coast and east coast regions by Portuguese and
later reinforced by Italian and Jesuit missionaries whose efforts led to
massive conversion to Christianity. Both
African Christianity and African Islam are phenomenal religions having
historically and theologically similarities as well as their own modifications
in their development which is highly significant.


            Both African Christianity and African Islam were viewed
to be theologically similar in that they both preached of a one supreme deity
(Allah for Islam and Jehovah for Christians). Although it took time and various
phases for the teachings to be upheld, it is obvious that both teachings
revolved around One God as the Supreme Being above all. In both religions, God
is said to have direct impact on people’s daily lives and the occurrences they
face in life. According to an ancient poem translated to show the myths of
Swahili people and their understanding of the Islam religion, it says that the
Giver/God created everything including humans, demons, life and even death.
Also, He created destiny to guide the lives of his people from beginning to the
end (Ray 145). 

            African Christians also believed that God was involved in
their lives. A good example is the prophetic and healing powers of Prophet
Simon Kimbangu who was said to heal the sick through the power of Holy Spirit
bestowed upon him by God. Through his actions, people who had traditionally
believed and worshipped various gods were drawn to the new faith of African
Christianity. Many who had initially used protective charms and beads to reach
communicate to their gods abandoned those practices and discarded their
rosaries to adopt the new Christian faith. It is said that some traditional
healers and diviners converted to Christianity after witnessing the powerful
works of God through his Prophet Kimbangu (Ray 174,175).

            While both African Christianity and African Islam
theologies were developed under One Supreme God, there were human intermediaries
who connected God and the people.  People
did not have the same level of faith at the same time but some were more rooted
in the religion and through their strong faiths, others were attracted to the
respective religion. For example, Islam Sheikh Bamba was more rooted in the
Islam faith and he started a brotherhood that restored hope to the Wolof people
of Senegal. He was exiled by the colonial government.  It was believed that committing to an Islamic
religious guide like Sheikhs was a way of committing to Allah. African
Christians believed through the human intermediaries like Kimbangu of Senegal
who performed miracles to remind people that God and Jesus were still thinking
about them. In South Africa, the man seen as the African Messiah was Isaiah
Shembe who also performed miracles like healing the sick thus drawing many
people to conversion.

            Therefore, it is obvious that African Christianity and
African Islam were both introduced by foreigners mostly through trade relations
and missionary efforts. The two religions reached Africa from the Middle East
through North Africa. Both taught of a One God who was above all and who was
the creator of everything including life and death.

            In the development of the two religions in Africa, one
main difference noted is that of the tolerance towards the African traditional
religious practices. It has been revealed that African Islam is by far more
tolerant to the African traditional practices such as those dealing with
misfortunes and fortunes like rituals, divinity etc. In African traditional
religion, people practiced various rituals and ceremonies to appease their gods
depending on the circumstance they were facing. For example, in Kenya,
traditional elders could offer sacrifices of burnt animals under a certain tree
believed to have been holy to call for rain during the draught seasons. In
Nigeria, people conducted a yam festival to ask for favor before the god of
harvest before planting their yams. Others used charms to keep off evil spirits
and avoid bad omen or misfortune.

            When the Islam was introduced in Africa, it did not take
all these traditional practices away but rather found a way to incorporate them
in the religion. According to Abrahim Tahir, African traditional religion and
African Islamic religion co-exists with each been molded alongside the other.
Tahir observes that trying to change the African religion and replace it with
pure Islamic religion could be disastrous. In a novel entitled The Last Imam, he tells of a Muslim Imam
who was against accommodation of the African religious practices and was
determined to abolish it and uphold pure Islam religion. The result was a division
and resistance from the people and later a great storm, lightning and prolonged
drought causing great tribulation to the locals.  Non- accommodating Imam was replaced with
more accommodating ones who allowed the African traditional practices to co-exist
with the Islamic religion (Ray 159)

            This is very different from the African Christianity.
History reveals that once the people converted to Christianity, they abandoned
their earlier ways and fixed their trust in Jesus. A good example is that of
Nigeria where although Moses in Chinua Achebe’s book-Arrow of God could
accommodate some of the traditional rituals in Christianity, the success was
short-term. Also, believers abandoned their traditional rosaries and healers
and relied on Christianity to solve their live problems through people like
Prophet Simon Kimbangu and Shembe of South Africa.


Influence of Christianity and Islam on
African Traditional Religion

            There has been many studies and scholarly work debating
on whether African Traditional religion influenced Christianity and Islam or
whether Islam and Christianity influenced African traditional religions. This
is a controversial topic because different scholars have shown different
inclination and the best way to respond to this question is to look at it
realistically. For example, a paper by Acquah, (2011), states that it is
African traditional religion that influenced Christianity and Islam. On the
other hand, (Ibenwa, 2014) clearly argue that it was Christianity and Islam
religion that influenced African traditional religion.

            Although African traditional religion had some impact on
Christianity and Islam, it is evidenced by most scholars that indeed
Christianity and Islam impacted greatly on the African traditional religion.
The slight influences of the African traditional religion on the Christianity
and Islam could be termed to be facilitators so that the Africans could
understand the message being preached to them using some traditional cues such
as replacing protective charms with holy water. According to Anyeidu, African
traditional religion was a system of rituals and taboos that were passed from
one generation to another to guide the traditional Africans. Christianity and
Islam are on the other hand considered as the foreign religions that were
introduced into Africa from foreign lands (1999). However, looking at the
contemporary African society, it is easy to see how much things have changed
with the people now affiliating themselves with either Christianity or Islam.

            Some of the greatest influence of Christianity and Islam
on African traditional religion is the abandonment of traditional rituals and
customs that distinguished Africans from other cultures. For example, in some
cultures, widows were victimized and forced to sleep with their dead spouses or
even drink the water used to clean the corpse. Other African Traditional
religious practices included killing of twins as they were regarded as a bad
omen but with introduction of the foreign religions, such customs were
abolished (Ibenwa, 2014).


I'm Mack!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out