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The globalization of West African religion likely began nearly a millennium ago in the nation of Mauritania. Berber traders brought Islam from across the Sahara to coexist with African rituals in ancient Ghana. This coexistence is still evident in the talismans that Muslim occult experts (marabouts) prepare. But in the 11th century, Ibn Yasin spawned the al-murabitun movement—meaning “ready for battle”—and thus, the word marabout made its way into Europe, where Muslims became known as the Almoravids, or Moors. Their expansion into Algeria and Spain coincided with Ghana's fragmentation. From the 1200s to 1500s, Mali (then Songhay) encompassed Ghana, spreading Islam through its Mande-speaking juula trade diaspora. The Bedouins arrived between 1300 and 1500, Arabizing Berbers and introducing the Qadiriyya Sufi order. In the early ...

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