Musa I of Mali
Musa I (c. 1280 – c. 1337) or Mansa Musa was the tenth Mansa, which translates to "sultan", "conqueror", or "emperor", of the wealthy West African Islamic Mali Empire. At the time of Musa's rise to the throne, the Malian Empire consisted of territory formerly belonging to the Ghana Empire in present-day southern Mauritania and in Melle (Mali) and the immediate surrounding areas. Musa held many titles, including "Emir of Melle", "Lord of the Mines of Wangara", "Conqueror of Ghanata", and at least a dozen others. Mansa Musa conquered 24 cities, each with surrounding districts containing villages and estates. During his reign, Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world; it was at a point of exceptional demand for the commodity. One of the richest people in history, he is known to have been enormously wealthy; reported as being inconceivably rich by contemporaries, Time magazine reported: "There's really no way to put an accurate number on his wealth." In March 2019 the BBC described him as "the richest man of all time".
|Mansa of Mali|
|Reign||c.1312–1337 (25 years)|
|Died||c. 1337 (aged 56–57)|
Musa Keita was referred to (and is most commonly found) as Mansa Musa in Western manuscripts and literature. His name also appears as Kankou Musa, Kankan Musa, and Kanku Musa. "Kankou" is a popular Manding female name, thus Kankou Musa reads "Musa whose mother was Kankou".
Lineage and accession to the throneEdit
What is known about the kings of the Malian Empire is taken from the writings of Arab scholars, including Al-Umari, Abu-sa'id Uthman ad-Dukkali, Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Battuta. According to Ibn-Khaldun's comprehensive history of the Malian kings, Mansa Musa's grandfather was Abu-Bakr Keita (the Arabic equivalent to Bakari or Bogari, original name unknown − not the sahabiyy Abu Bakr), a nephew of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Malian Empire as recorded through oral histories. Abu-Bakr did not ascend the throne, and his son, Musa's father, Faga Laye, has no significance in the History of Mali.
Mansa Musa Keita came to the throne through a practice of appointing a deputy when a king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca or some other endeavor, and later naming the deputy as heir. According to primary sources, Musa was appointed deputy of Abubakari Keita II, the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean, and never returned. The Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari quotes Mansa Musa as follows:
The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning Atlantic), and wanted to reach that (end) and obstinately persisted in the design. So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, as many others full of gold, water and victuals sufficient enough for several years. He ordered the chief (admiral) not to return until they had reached the extremity of the ocean, or if they had exhausted the provisions and the water. They set out. Their absence extended over a long period, and, at last, only one boat returned. On our questioning, the captain said: 'Prince, we have navigated for a long time, until we saw in the midst of the ocean as if a big river was flowing violently. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me. As soon as any of them reached this place, it drowned in the whirlpool and never came out. I sailed backwards to escape this current.' But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and for his men, and one thousand more for water and victuals. Then he conferred on me the regency during his absence, and departed with his men on the ocean trip, never to return nor to give a sign of life.
Musa's son and successor, Mansa Magha Keita, was also appointed deputy during Musa's pilgrimage.
Islam and pilgrimage to MeccaEdit
–Mahmud Kati, Chronicle of the Seeker
Musa was a devout Muslim, and his pilgrimage to Mecca made him well-known across northern Africa and the Middle East. To Musa, Islam was "an entry into the cultured world of the Eastern Mediterranean". He would spend much time fostering the growth of the religion within his empire.
Musa made his pilgrimage between 1324 and 1325. His procession reportedly included 60,000 men, all wearing brocade and Persian silk, including 12,000 slaves, who each carried 1.8 kg (4 lb) of gold bars, and heralds dressed in silks, who bore gold staffs, organized horses, and handled bags. Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire company of men and animals. Those animals included 80 camels which each carried 23–136 kg (50–300 lb) of gold dust. Musa gave the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa not only gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, but also traded gold for souvenirs. It was reported that he built a mosque every Friday.
Musa's journey was documented by several eyewitnesses along his route, who were in awe of his wealth and extensive procession, and records exist in a variety of sources, including journals, oral accounts, and histories. Musa is known to have visited the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, Al-Nasir Muhammad, in July 1324.. However, Musa's generous actions inadvertently devastated the economies of the regions through which he passed. In the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decade. Prices on goods and wares greatly inflated. To rectify the gold market, on his way back from Mecca, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.
During his long return journey from Mecca in 1325, Musa heard news that his army had recaptured Gao. Sagmandia, one of his generals, led the endeavor. The city of Gao had been within the empire since before Sakura's reign and was an important − though often rebellious − trading center. Musa made a detour and visited the city where he received, as hostages, the two sons of the Gao king, Ali Kolon and Suleiman Nar. He returned to Niani with the two boys and later educated them at his court. When Mansa Musa returned, he brought back many Arabian scholars and architects.
Construction in MaliEdit
Musa embarked on a large building program, raising mosques and madrasas in Timbuktu and Gao. Most notably, the ancient center of learning Sankore Madrasah (or University of Sankore) was constructed during his reign.
In Niani, Musa built the Hall of Audience, a building communicating by an interior door to the royal palace. It was "an admirable Monument", surmounted by a dome and adorned with arabesques of striking colours. The wooden window frames of an upper storey were plated with silver foil; those of a lower storey, with gold. Like the Great Mosque, a contemporaneous and grandiose structure in Timbuktu, the Hall was built of cut stone.
During this period, there was an advanced level of urban living in the major centers of the Mali. Sergio Domian, an Italian scholar of art and architecture, wrote of this period: "Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilization. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated."
Economy and educationEdit
It is recorded that Mansa Musa traveled through the cities of Timbuktu and Gao on his way to Mecca, and made them a part of his empire when he returned around 1325. He brought architects from Andalusia, a region in Spain, and Cairo to build his grand palace in Timbuktu and the great Djinguereber Mosque that still stands today.
Timbuktu soon became a center of trade, culture, and Islam; markets brought in merchants from Hausaland, Egypt, and other African kingdoms, a university was founded in the city (as well as in the Malian cities of Djenné and Ségou), and Islam was spread through the markets and university, making Timbuktu a new area for Islamic scholarship. News of the Malian empire's city of wealth even traveled across the Mediterranean to southern Europe, where traders from Venice, Granada, and Genoa soon added Timbuktu to their maps to trade manufactured goods for gold.
The University of Sankore in Timbuktu was restaffed under Musa's reign with jurists, astronomers, and mathematicians. The university became a center of learning and culture, drawing Muslim scholars from around Africa and the Middle East to Timbuktu.
In 1330, the kingdom of Mossi invaded and conquered the city of Timbuktu. Gao had already been captured by Musa's general, and Musa quickly regained Timbuktu and built a rampart and stone fort, and placed a standing army to protect the city from future invaders.
While Musa's palace has since vanished, the university and mosque still stand in Timbuktu today.
By the end of Mansa Musa's reign, the Sankoré University had been converted into a fully staffed University with the largest collections of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria. The Sankoré University was capable of housing 25,000 students and had one of the largest libraries in the world with roughly 1,000,000 manuscripts.
The death date of Mansa Musa is highly debated among modern historians and the Arab scholars who recorded the history of Mali. When compared to the reigns of his successors, son Mansa Maghan (recorded rule from 1337 to 1341) and older brother Mansa Suleyman (recorded rule from 1341 to 1360), and Musa's recorded 25 years of rule, the calculated date of death is 1337. Other records declare Musa planned to abdicate the throne to his son Maghan, but he died soon after he returned from Mecca in 1325. According to an account by Ibn-Khaldun, Mansa Musa was alive when the city of Tlemcen in Algeria was conquered in 1337, as he sent a representative to Algeria to congratulate the conquerors on their victory.
- Niane, D. T.: "Recherches sur l'Empire du Mali au Moyen âge". Presence Africaine. Paris, 1975.
- Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. 3rd edn. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014, p. 455.
- Knoblock, Kathleen, "An Interview with Ibn Battuta", Primary Source Fluency Activities: World Cultures (In Sub-Saharan Africa), Shell Education, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4258-0102-1.
- Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325–1354, by Ibn Battuta, London 2005, p. 324, ISBN 0-415-34473-5.
- Jansen, Jan (1998). "Hot Issues: The 1997 Kamabolon Ceremony in Kangaba (Mali)". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 31 (2): 253–278. JSTOR 221083. (Registration required (help)). On page 256, Jan Jansen writes: "Mansa is generally translated as 'king,' 'ruler' or 'ancestor.' The Griaulians, however, often translate mansa as 'God,' 'the divine principle' or 'priest king,' although they never argue the choice for this translation, which has an enormous impact on their analysis of the Kamabolon ceremony."
- Macbrair, Robert Maxwell, A Grammar of the Mandingo Language: With Vocabularies, London, 1873, p. 5.
- Berkin, Carol, Christopher Miller, Robert Cherny, James Gormly & Douglas Egerton, Making America – A History of the United States, 5th edition, Boston, 2011, p. 13. ISBN 978-0-618-47139-3.
- Goodwin 1957, p. 109.
- C. Conrad, David (1 January 2009). Empires of Medieval West Africa: Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. Infobase Publishing. p. 36-36. ISBN 1438103190. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- Thad Morgan, "This 14th-Century African Emperor Remains the Richest Person in History", History.com, March 19, 2018
- Davidson, Jacob (July 30, 2015). "The 10 Richest People of All Time". Time.
- Mohamud, Naima (10 March 2019). "The richest man who ever lived" – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- Hunwick 1999, p. 9.
- Bell 1972, pp. 224–225.
- Levtzion 1963, p. 353.
- Levtzion 1963, pp. 341–347.
- Al-Umari 1927, Masalik al Absar fi Mamalik el-Amsar, French translation by Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Paris, Paul Geuthner, 1927, pp. 59, 74–75. See also Qalqashandi, Subh al-A'sha, V, 294.
- Mohammed Hamidullah. "Echos of What Lies Behind the 'Ocean of Fogs' in Muslim Historical Narratives". muslimheritage.com. Retrieved 27 June 2015. (Quoting from Al-Umari 1927, q.v.)
- Levtzion 1963, p. 347.
- Goodwin 1957, p. 110.
- Pollard, Elizabeth (2015). Worlds Together Worlds Apart. New York: W.W. Norton Company Inc. p. 362. ISBN 978-0-393-91847-2.
- Wilks, Ivor (1997). "Wangara, Akan, and Portuguese in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries". In Bakewell, Peter John. Mines of Silver and Gold in the Americas. Aldershot: Variorum, Ashgate Publishing Limited. p. 7. ISBN 9780860785132.
- de Graft-Johnson, John Coleman, "Mūsā I of Mali", Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 November 2017.
- Bell 1972, p. 224.
- Mendoza, Ruben G. "Academia.edu | West African Empires, Dates: 400–1591 C. E. | Ruben G. Mendoza". Csumb.academia.edu. Retrieved 17 October 2012.
- Windsor, Rudolph R. (2011). From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of Ancient Black Races Including the Black Hebrews (Windsor's golden series ed.). AuthorHouse. pp. 95–98. ISBN 1463411294.
- Mansa Musa, African History Restored, 2008, retrieved 29 September 2008
- De Villiers and Hirtle, p. 70.
- De Villiers and Hirtle, p. 74.
- De Villiers and Hirtle, pp. 87–88.
- Goodwin 1957, p. 111.
- De Villiers and Hirtle, pp. 80–81.
- See: Said Hamdun & Noël King (edds.), Ibn Battuta in Black Africa. London, 1975, pp. 52–53.
- "Lessons from Timbuktu: What Mali's Manuscripts Teach About Peace | World Policy Institute". Worldpolicy.org. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Levtzion 1963, pp. 349–350.
- Bell, Nawal Morcos (1972), "The age of Mansa Musa of Mali: Problems in succession and chronology", International Journal of African Historical Studies, 5: 221–234, JSTOR 217515.
- De Villiers, Marq, and Sheila Hirtle. Timbuktu: Sahara’s Fabled City of Gold. Walker and Company: New York. 2007.
- Goodwin, A. J .H. (1957), "The Medieval Empire of Ghana", South African Archaeological Bulletin, 12: 108–112, JSTOR 3886971.
- Hunwick, John O. (1999), Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-Sudan down to 1613 and other contemporary documents, Leiden: Brill, ISBN 90-04-11207-3.
- Levtzion, Nehemia (1963), "The thirteenth- and fourteenth-century kings of Mali", Journal of African History, 4: 341–353, doi:10.1017/s002185370000428x, JSTOR 180027.
- Levtzion, Nehemia (1973), Ancient Ghana and Mali, London: Methuen, ISBN 0-8419-0431-6.
- Levtzion, Nehemia; John F. P. Hopkins, eds. (2000), Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West Africa, New York, NY: Marcus Weiner Press, ISBN 1-55876-241-8. First published in 1981.