The Christian kingdom of Nubia
The organized states of Nubia were converted to the Monophysite Christianity of Coptic Egypt by about 600 CE. The church hierarchy was rooted in Alexandria. This link to Alexandria was important because it required frequent communication between the Nubian kingdoms and Alexandria. Arab invaders conquered Egypt in 640 and soon attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the Nubian kingdoms. While Arab control of Egypt would not necessarily limit Nubian contact with Alexandria, Arab military pressure on Nubia did isolate the Nubian Christians from the Alexandrian church hierarchy.
After the unsuccessful attempts by Arabs to invade and conquer Nubia the Arab rulers of Egypt negotiated treaties which allowed trade and travel. Such treaties governed the relationship between Nubia and Egypt for six centuries. The treaties were generally respected by Arab rulers, but when there were new conquerors who came into control of Egypt the treaties lost force. The Nubians made a few military incursions into Egypt to rescue Coptic Christians from persecution by Muslims.
Trouble began to develop for Nubia when the Mamluks (soldier-slaves) came to power in Egypt. When a dispute in Dunqulah as to the proper claimant to the kingship of Muqurra, the Mamluks took the side of one claimant and deposed the other. Dunqulah was brought within the Egyptian Mamluks’ sphere of influence.
(To be continued.)
The Conversion of Nubia to Islam
The conversion of north Sudan to Islam took place gradually over the course of many centuries. Arab traders married local women and raised families in Nubia. It was during an era in which the Islamic world represented the most advanced civilization so the culture of the Moslems elicited admiration and respect among non-Moslems.
With a substantial population of Arabs in Nubia and the extensive intermarriage it was not too long before the kingship and clan headships fell to Muslim heirs. After that it was not long in historical terms before Nubia was predominantly Muslim. That was about the 16th century.
Developments on the Periphery of Nubia
The southern part of Nubia where the kingdom Alwa once ruled there emerged in the early 16th century a Muslim kingdom around the city of Sennar. This region was significant because it contained agriculturally productive al Gezira (the peninsula). Gezira was where the White Nile and the Blue Nile come together. A leader, Amara Dunqas created a sultanate and put together a confederation of tribes.
In the western province of Darfur (the homeland of the Fur tribe) significant changes were taking place. First it must be noted that there are significant numbers of people of West African descent living in Sudan. Some of these are descendants of ancient migrations from such palaces as what is now Nigeria. Others are pilgrims who journeyed to Mecca and on there way home passed through Sudan and, upon meeting others who were of their culture, decided to stay. From five to ten percent of the sudan population are of West African descent. About 60 percent of the Sudanese of West African descent are of Nigerian origin and of these the Hausa tribe is predominant. Others of West African descent are from the Fulani tribe which is dispersed over West Africa. The people of West African descent are dispersed throughout Sudan but with a heavier concentration in Darfur.
The Fur people are a farming people who reside in western Sudan and in Chad across the border.