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Undergraduate course

Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa, c. 1500-2000

Main content

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Teaching semester


Place of Instruction


Objectives and Content

This course will examine the various ways in which Islam has shaped political, economic, and cultural history in sub-Saharan Africa for the past 500 years. The course will also emphasize how African Islamic notions of political governance, trade, and social order have been influenced by local conditions and locally held ideas.

The course will outline the spread of Islam in Sub-Saharan African continent from about 1500 to c. 2000. It will then, with reference to historical examples, discuss the ways in which Islam generated new political entities, and how authority came to be constituted in ways that were both Islamic and locally legitimized. The course will also discuss Islam's potential for military and political activism.

Trade was central to the spread of Islam, and the course will present examples of how Islamic regulations of trade created trade networks across vast distances. The course will also examine how the production and consumption of commodities was shaped by local conditions and concerns.

Finally, the course will examine the ways in which African Muslims came to practice their religion and shape their communities. What intellectual impulses formed the different Muslim societies in Africa, and how were these interpreted and adapted locally? Can we even speak about an "African Islam"?

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course the student should have the following learning outcomes:


The student

  • has an overview of the history of Islam in Africa since c. 1500.
  • has an understanding of what processes drove the Islamization of different regions in Africa.
  • has an ability to give examples of how Islamization led to new political structures, and how Islam inspired political or military activism.
  • has an understanding of the role of Islam in trade.


The student

  • has the ability to discuss the variety found within Islam in Africa and how local conditions form the expression of a global religion.
  • is able to independently read and discuss historic literature and place texts within the current research tradition.
  • is able to understand the history of Islamic Africa as part of the broader Islamic and global history.

General competence

The student

  • is able to reflect on complex processes, such as the relationship between

local and global influences on political, economic or cultural processes.

  • is able to recognize different analytical approaches and understand that conclusions are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Required Previous Knowledge


Recommended Previous Knowledge

Good command of English.

Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap


Access to the Course

The course is open to students at the University of Bergen, based on general admission requirements.

Teaching and learning methods

12 lectures

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

  • Essay

One short essay on curriculum based topic (c. 1500 words). Approved compulsory requirements are valid for two semesters from the teaching semester.

Forms of Assessment

  • 6 hours written exam, maximum 3000 words.

To sit for exam, the student must have submitted and approved one essay on a curriculum based topic.

Fall 2021 the written school exam will be replaced by a two days home exam, to prevent the spread of the corona virus.

Examination Support Material


Grading Scale

The grading system has a descending scale from A to E for passes and F for fail.

Assessment Semester

Autumn. Written exam will also be held in the spring semester. This exam is for students who has valid compulsory essay from a teaching semester.

Reading List

The reading list is submitted by June 1th for the Autumn semester and by December 1th for the Spring semester

The curriculum will consist of c. 1200 pages, all in English.

Course Evaluation

The course is evaluated regularly.

Programme Committee

The programme committe is the course coordinator. The programme committee is responsible for the quality of the programme and all the courses in it.

Course Administrator

The Faculty of Humanities by Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural studies and Religion is the course administrator.


Exam information

  • Type of assessment: Take-home examination

    Assignment handed out
    22.11.2021, 09:00
    Submission deadline
    24.11.2021, 13:00
    Withdrawal deadline
    Examination system
    Digital exam