Mansa Musa is the most famous leader of the Mali Empire, representing the golden age of its cultural achievement, development, and expansion. Rising to the throne against the background of instability in Mali, he consolidated his hold over the entire empire around 1307. He took the responsibility to strengthen the weak central administration, and to rebuild infrastructure of Mali after its economy was diminished from the costly overseas exhibition of Mansa Abubakari II.Mansa Musa's reign was brief but effective. Accord-ing to Arabian writer Ahmed Baba, Mansa Musa exerted an authority without boundary or limit. He strengthened the army and reconquered territories that had rebelled during the periods of instability in Mali. Then, he proceeded to Islamacize his adminis-tration by giving Muslims prominent positions in his court as interpreters, scribes, treasurers, and advi-sors. Next, he secured the loyalty of his military com-manders by wisely giving them important posts in his royal court. Following that, he assigned new admin-istrative posts of reclaimed territories to some com-manders and left territories in the hands of their tra-ditional rulers as long as they recognized and pledged their allegiance to his central government and paid an annual tribute. Under Mansa Musa’s rule, the administration operated peacefully, and trade flourished in Mali both internally and externally. He instituted a cus-tom duty on all empire imports and export, and a tax on all agricultural items and crafts produced in the empire. After he committed himself to Islam, in 1324 he initiated an act that brought him great acclaim—an exhibition of great wealth and a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. According to Arabian observer Al-umari, Musa took with him 60,000 people, 100 camel-loads of gold at 300 pounds, 12,000 servants, and his royal administration. 500 of those servants each carried a four-pound gold staff. Loaded with these provisions, he crossed the Sahara, entering Cairo. Along the way, he spent lavishly, so much so that he caused a depression in the price of gold in the city of Mecca. This trip brought international attention to Mali, making it one of the most visited places in Africa for the next 100 years. In fact, Mali appeared on European medieval world maps as a major empire. In 1375, Charles V of France had an atlas drawn showing “Rek Melli” or “Musa Mali” in the area of west Africa wearing robes and a crown and holding a gold nugget in one hand and a scepter the other. A Spanish map in particular featured an image of Mansa Musa seated on his throne holding a gold nugget in the palm of his right hand. Another significance of this hajj was that it created a intellectual revival in Islamic education within the Mali Empire as it attracted even more attention. Moreover, upon Mansa Musa’s return from Mecca, he brought back more Arabic literature, Arabian scholars, poets, jurists, and architects. Among the many architects he brought was Abu Ishak Ibrahim as-Saheli, a Moor from Granada, who was also a renowned poet. As-Saheli constructed many of the buildings in Mali, including mosques and a palace for Musa. His most famous building was the University of Sankore at Timbuktu, which became an intellectual center attracting stu-dents, scholars, and professors from all over the world.  Mansa Musa established strong diplomatic relations and cultural exchanges between Mali and Egypt, Syria, and Morocco. Students came from all over Asia and Europe to study in Mali, much like foreign exchange student come to the United States today to study. In addition, he conquered many of the major Berber cites of the western Sahara, expanding Mali from the Atlantic coast in the west to Songhay far down the Niger bend on the east and from the salt mines of Taghaza in the north to the legendary gold mines of Wangara in the south. By the time of his death, Mansa Musa had increased Mali to twice the size of Ghana, and he had not only overseen the improvement of the Mali administrative infrastruc-ture but also had developed a good government, bringing a large measure of stability and peace to his empire through his exemplary leadership.


REFERENCE: Wilson, K. (2012). Mansa musa (mali). Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, & Africa : An Encyclopedia, 66-67.


Mansa Musa Keita I of Mali

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