When the Europeans arrived to engage in the slave trade, it is not a simple matter. Part of the reason it is so complex is because Africa had a state system- a series of empires and kingdoms and governments that were strong and vital. Islam made for a more cohesion and stronger state. Islam spreads to Africa very early on- it spreads across North Africa in the eighth century. Contact with Islam happened first through trade. These Arab traders were “super-traders” of the world in this period. They introduce Africa to Islam. It's the African nobility in West Africa that most often converted to Islam and that is crucial. It helped bring Africa into larger trading networks. The Arab merchants incorporated Africa in to a larger trading network. They bought gold and salt from West Africa, as well as slaves. In East Africa, in the zone of Islamic influence, there are archaeological remains- chards of Chines porcelain. The conversion of Islam promotes literacy, and makes for literate elites in West Africa. Schools were established where Islam spread. The relationship of all of this to the states is that it promotes them...builds and strengthens them, and makes them more cohesive. Before the arrival of Islam, there were kings in West Africa and most of the monarchs ruled through a system similar to feudalism. The arrival of Islam and the growth of literacy promoted a bureaucracy democracy in West Africa. Since there are more literate elites since the arrival of Islam, there is now a pool of talent they can pick from. There is a growth in government and it makes for a better monarch, and what you get is stronger and sweeter states. Timbuktu kind of became an Islamic intellectual center in Africa. Ibn Battuta was an Arab who traveled in West Africa, and he kept a travel log. This is important because it is the outsider's perspective. One of the places Ibn Battuta travelled to was Timbuktu. There was a mosque in Timbuktu. The Great Mosque in Jenna in Mali was more of a local, indigenous style. Lots of mosques were instructed.