We saw in Chapter 6 that by the end of the ninth century, the Berbers of the western Sahara had largely converted to Islam. It was they who first brought Islam to the western Sudan. Islam provided Berber pastoralists and traders with a certain shared sense of ‘brotherhood’. It also gave additional purpose to their territorial rivalry with the Sudanese farmers of the Sahel. In the forefront of this rivalry were the Lamtuna branch of the Sanhaja Berbers and the Soninke of Ghana. Early in the eleventh century, the Soninke of Ghana extended their control over the Muslim town of Awdaghust and the Lamtuna Sanhaja of the surrounding region. Some Sanhaja leaders viewed this territorial rivalry in terms of a religious war, but they were unable to inspire their followers with the fervour of a jihad (a holy war).
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