Islam, 7th and 8th century. A group of Muslims, who escaped persecution in Mecca by fleeing to Ethiopia where the Ethiopian King gave them protection, were the first to bring Islam to Africa. The spread of Islam in Africa began with the Umayyads, who brought the religion to the Middle East and to North Africa. Along the coast of North Africa, Islam spread among the Berbers. The Islamization of West Africa began when the ancient kingdom of Ghana (c.990) expanded north into the Sahara Desert.