On Defining Africa

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22tanbeehIt is important when discussing the region of Takruur (West Africa) in particularly, and ‘Africa’ in general, that we first examine the origin and meaning of the terms ‘Africa’, ‘takruur’, and ‘as-Sudan’ respectively in order to get a sense of who and what we are talking about.

In examining these two referents it is also important to examine them through our own historical perspective as well as those outside us to get a broader historical picture on the etymology of ‘naming’. The cognomen ‘Africa’ or ‘ifriqiyya’ as it is named in Arabic, was originally a referent to the northern region of the continent known today as Tunis, and was known in ancient times as ‘Carthage’ or ‘Qartaagena’, from which the term ‘cartography’ originates.

There are many interpolations of the name ‘Africa’ by the scholars and earlier geographers. Some of the first interpolations were that the name was taken from ‘Ifriqish’ the name of one of the descendants of Ham ibn Nuuh, who was the first to settle in the region and after whom the region was named.

According to earlier historians this Ifriqish was the son of Abraha bin ar-Raa’ish who rose up in war against the Assyrians in Asia Minor. He was eventually vanquished and he fled with his armies westward until he reached the region of Carthage, whose people he fought and defeated and then constructed a city there named after himself called ‘Ifriqiyya’.

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