2016-06-30
In the 1960s, members of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam taunted African-American Christians, saying they had adopted the "white man's religion." One wonders how they would have responded to Sulayman S. Nyang's "Islam, Christianity and African Identity," which states the obvious: Islam is hardly indigenous to Africa either. This unique study of Christianity and Islam from an African perspective is a fascinating, if flawed, take on a difficult topic. The book looks at the history of how the two "Abrahamic" religions were brought to Africa.

Christianity, of course, is closely associated with European imperialism, but Islam first came to Africa in conflicts with the Middle East around 1000. Nyang's history of the transmission of Islam to various regions of Africa is detailed and lively, by far the best part of the book. Nyang's most serious failing is his tendency to lump all Africans together when discussing "traditional" cosmology; the idea that there is a single African culture is the kind of oversimplification one would hope writers and scholars had abandoned by now.

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