THE COMING OF ISLAM
The coming of Islam eventually changed the nature of Sudanese
society and facilitated the division of the country into north
and south. Islam also fostered political unity, economic growth,
and educational development among its adherents; however, these
benefits were restricted largely to urban and commercial centers.
The spread of Islam began shortly after the Prophet Muhammad's
death in 632. By that time, he and his followers had converted
most of Arabia's tribes and towns to Islam (literally, submission),
which Muslims maintained united the individual believer, the state,
and society under God's will. Islamic rulers, therefore, exercised
temporal and religious authority. Islamic law ( sharia--see Glossary),
which was derived primarily from the Quran, encompassed all aspects
of the lives of believers, who were called Muslims ("those who
submit" to God's will).
Within a generation of Muhammad's death, Arab armies had carried
Islam north and east from Arabia into North Africa. Muslims imposed
political control over conquered territories in the name of the
caliph (the Prophet's successor as supreme earthly leader of Islam).
The Islamic armies won their first North African victory in 643
in Tripoli (in modern Libya). However, the Muslim subjugation
of all of North Africa took about seventy-five years. The Arabs
invaded Nubia in 642 and again in 652, when they laid siege to
the city of Dunqulah and destroyed its cathedral. The Nubians
put up a stout defense, however, causing the Arabs to accept an
armistice and withdraw their forces.
Data as of June 1991