During the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (saw) a group of Muslims escaped Meccan persecution (615) by fleeing to Ethiopia, where the Negus gave them protection. The spread of Islam in Africa began in the 7th and 8th cent. with the Umayyads, who brought the religion to the Middle East and to the littoral of North Africa. Along the coast of Africa Islam spread among the Berbers, who joined the Muslim community and almost immediately drove north across the Mediterranean into Europe. In Morocco, Muslims founded the city of Fès (808), which soon thereafter gave refuge to Andalusian Muslims fleeing an uprising in Córdoba (see Idrisids). On the east coast of Africa, where Arab mariners had for many years journeyed to trade, Arabs founded permanent colonies on the offshore islands, especially on Zanzibar, in the 9th and 10th cent. From there Arab trade routes into the interior of Africa helped the slow acceptance of Islam and led to the development of Swahili culture and language.
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