Conference: « Archaeological Perspectives on Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Africa » — Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, 17-18/12/2019

Why do people convert to Islam? People convert as individuals but also as communities, and various factors can be influential. Assessing issues of genuine belief is difficult, but the impact of trade, of Saints, Sufis, and Holy men, proselytization, benefits gained through Arabic literacy and administration systems, enhanced power and prestige, warfare, facilitating marriage, and the feeling of belonging in the larger Muslim community have all been suggested as powerful influences over time. Equally significant is the context of conversion, raising the question as to why were certain African contexts key points for facilitating conversion to Islam and Islamisation. The interpretation of Islam might also be an important impetus, and adherence to different Islamic sects and schools of law could change over time. Syncretism could also be relevant to the success of Islamic conversion and sustained Islamisation, whilst the chronology of conversion may be immediate, drawn-out, punctuated or staggered.

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