West African Christians in the 1200s and 1300s?
Yes. Did you not know?
I heard the magistrate Fakhr al-Din, Inspector of the victorious army, say: “I asked the king of the Takrur (ʾāl-Takrwur): ‘What is the source like where the gold grows among them?’ Then he said: ‘It is not in our land which is the property of the Muslims; rather, it is in the land that is the property of the Christians of Takrur (ʾāl-Naṣʾārīy min ʾāl-Takrwur). We send to take from them a collection that is due to us and is required of them. These are special lands that produce gold in this way: they are small pieces of various textures, some are like small rings, some are like carob seeds, and so on.’” The magistrate Fakhr al-Din replied, saying: ‘Why don’t you conquer the land by force?’ He said: ‘If we conquer them and take it, it does not produce anything. We have done this in various ways, but we have not seen anything in it. But when it returns to them, it produces according to its average. This is a fascinating dynamic, and this is perhaps an increase in the dominance (ṭuğīyʾān) of the Christians.’”
— Ibn al-Dawādārī, Kanz al-durar wa-jāmiʻ al-ghurar; translated by Professor Vince Bantu
I thank both Prof. Bantu for translating this and to my friend Van Harris for making the translation available to me. Prof. Bantu is currently working on the first-ever English translation of important Arabic language texts about Christianity in West Africa in this time period.
- Vince L. Bantu, A Multitude of All Peoples: Engaging Ancient Christianity’s Global Identity, Missiological Engagements (IVP Academic, 2020)
- Vince L. Bantu, ed., Gospel Haymanot: A Constructive Theology and Critical Reflection on African and Diasporic Christianity (UMI, 2020)
- Shaw, Mark and Wanjiru M. Gitau, The Kingdom of God in Africa: A History of African Christianity, revised and updated edition (Langham Global Library, 2020).
For more resources, check out my Histories of African Christianity bibliography. Members of the African Christian Theology group on Facebook can find an html version here; a PDF version is available on my (Joshua’s) academia.edu page here.