The Comoros, located off the eastern coast of Africa, is composed of four islands, the largest of which is Grande Comore. Under French colonial rule between 1841 and 1912, the Comoros and Madagascar were jointly administered; in 1975, three of the islands chose full independence whilst the fourth, Mayotte, abstained to remain under French administration. Politically, Comorian politics has suffered from instability due to a succession of coups and attempts at secession that have led to violence. Since 2001, the situation has improved with greater autonomy granted to the individual islands.
French, Arabic, and Comorian, which is related to Swahili, are the three official languages of the Comoros, which reflects its history and geography. The 12th century Muslim geographer al-Idrisi included the Comoros on a regional map and described it as a centre for trade between Africa and the Arabian peninsula.