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the East African Coast

In the discussion of the spread of Islam in the eastern shores of Africa mention must first be made of the Muslim settlements in the coastal regions of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, especially in the two ancient ports of Kulwah and Sufalah, as well as in Zanzibar, whose inhabitants included peoples of Arab and Iranian extraction; immigrants among whom were found the followers of various Islamic sects, such as Shi`ites, Ibadis and, of course, Sunnis. There exist several accounts with regard to the introduction of Islam in the region. According to a local historical work, discovered by the Portuguese in 1505 AD, the first Muslim inhabitants of the Kulwah were the followers of an `Alawite sadat by the name of Zayd, hence the term Amudzikh (the ummah of Zayd) by which they came to be known. Based on another report, an Iranian prince from the province of Fars by the name of `Ali, son of Sultan Hasan Shirazi, ran into trouble with the central authority and fled to Zanj, where he later founded the city of Kulwah. 

In connection with the original founders of the city, one may refer to the immigration of the children of Jalandi, the Ibadi leader of Oman, who headed for the land of Zanj following their defeat at the hands of the `Abbasids, in 134 AH, or a popular tale, current in the early 4th century AH, about the capture of the king of the Zanjis by the Muslims and his, and his people’s, subsequent conversion to Islam. The historians of eastern Africa consider the Islamization of the coastal areas of the region as part of a process spanning the period between the 1st and 4th centuries AH. Notes about the political life of the Muslims of these areas in early Islamic historical works though scarce do exist none the less. For instance, Mas`udi refers to an island in the land of Zanj, by the name of Qanbalu, which was ruled by a long generation of Muslim sultans. 

Ibn Battutah (7th cen. AH) provides important reports about the conditions of the Muslims of eastern Africa, including the powerful Muslim ruler of Kulwah, Abu ’l-Muzaffar Hasan, who had carried out widespread campaigns of jihad against the non-Muslims of Zanj. The 7th and 8th centuries AH saw the peak in trade by Muslim immigrants of eastern Africa, whose increasing influence, according to certain sources of circa 750 AH, led to the migration of some to the Kumur islands.

* source: Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 , pp.540 - 541

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