Mansa musa1 -ancient Mali
Mansa was a Muslim, so he must have been buried. What I would like to know was what they put on his tombstone. I think I’ll try building his inscription here. I’m gonna have a couple of goes at it. Lets see-
Mansa Musa 1
Richest man in the history of the world
Built a mosque every Friday
Sent a congratulations note to the people who temporarily conquered him,
That looks good. Got the dates right. and Can you believe it? All three statements that are below are TRUE.
But, no, seriously, if I was to credit this seriously important man with anything, and I’m doing it with the lucky vantage point of 2013, it would be this.
Mansa Musa 1
Here begins the Rennaisance.
I know I’m going backwards-starting from his fictional tombstone-but these are the reasons he’s really, really important.
What’s surprising is that he didn’t wage huge wars and win them, he didn’t really invade anyone or actually become invaded long enough for anyone to care. He didn’t have an eternal love, start something immediately that was huge, change literature, art, music, or even have civil wars. I know it sounds boring, but Musa s time was probably a time of peace and prosperity. These things need a deep dissatisfaction or need to change. None of that was there during his time, till, maybe the end of his rule.
He is probably the most important king of Mali, and he and his famous Haj pilgrimage is referred to by several Arab scholars like Ibn Battuta, Al-Uman and Ibn Khaldin. He also had several, several names and titles given at various times, so much, in fact, that it wouldn’t have fit on my inscription, so I didn’t try. Here are some though- Emir of Malle, Futa Jalion, Lord of the Mines of Wangala (beat that, Sauron!), and Conqueror of Clinata.
(Now from the beginning) Mansa Musa was the son of Kankou, his mother. His father is not important. His older brother was Suleyman and his grandfather was Alai-Bakr. There was a tradition in the Ancient Mali empire, of the king appointing a deputy in charge of his kingdom when he was away, sick or on pilgrimage. Later, this deputy would be appointed heir by the king.
The king before Mansa Musa, was plagued by a strange obsession that led to his death. He believed that he could reach the edge of the water. He ordered some ships to set sail for the edge, find it, and return. Only one ship did. The sailors claimed that they kept sailing until one day, they all reached a huge whirlpool and all the other ships fell in while they turned in time and came back, avoiding getting sucked into a death – dark and wet.
The king refused to believe in any of it. He said there must be an edge to the water and he had to see it. So he got several more ships ready and left with them immediately, entrusting Mansa Musa with the empire as the deputy. He never came back.
‘Mansa’ literally means King of Kings, or Emperor. Musa was a very common name in the Mali empire. Mansa Musa more than anything ever, is known for his salt and gold, two things that made him, the wealthiest man in history. In fact in the fourteenth century, salt was literally worth it’s weight in gold, without which no one could travel in the desert. If it hadn’t been for his salt, Musa would have died a terrible, painful death.
Musa’s capital, interestingly enough, was Timbuktu. And, yes, it is very far away. It was also the centre two things very important to this seriously rich king, and by extension, everyone. The first? Musa was, as it can be gathered, deeply invested in religion, or, more specifically, invested in Islam. He spent a great deal of time, and worked hard to foster a growth of Islam in his Mali Empire. He built a mosque every Friday all over his wealthy empire. Some of these mosques which date back to the fourteen century can be seen standing even today, still in good condition. He generously gave to the poor, prestigiously followed all the teachings of this religion and of course, went on Haj. We’ll come back to that. The second was education. He built universities everywhere. Apart from his mosques, the only thing that remained as standing evidence of his rule today are his universities in Timbuktu. They are still here also.
What in heck happened to his wealth?? That was one of my biggest questions. Unfortunately, it’s gone. Plundered. Invaded. After his death, stolen and spent by civil wars. Spent and lost in inadequate administration, because Musa’s sons couldn’t hold on to their fathers wealth. As if that isn’t bad enough, enough treasure seekers to fill Paris couldn’t find them now. But when he was alive, Musa had, around, what was worth, in today’s terms, 600 billion.
Musa, because of his splendor/grandeur became rivaled in power only by Morocco and Egypt. However, he was briefly invaded by outsiders, and they even managed to capture a vitally important city. What did the super wealthy, scary. Mansa do? He sent a note to his captors, congratulating them on their success on capturing his city. However Musa soon got it back, and fortified it, keeping his empire safe for centuries.
Muslims, if they can, must go on a pilgrimage to their holy city, Mecca. This pilgrimage, as I’m sure you know, is called Haj. So when the Mansa decided to go on Haj, he pulled out all the stops. According to Arab writer Ibn Khaldin, this pilgrimage happened in the year 1324. 60,000 men came along with him, 12,000 slaves, 80 camels and (accounts vary) 30-500 pounds of gold, along with heralds, fully robed, horses for everyone, all their bags and enough food, water and salt for all. On the way, he literally handed out gold to everyone he met. He got there, but because of all of this extravagance, the price of gold fell, and there was a strain on the Mali economy. So, this king borrowed as much old as he could from outside traders etc on high interest so save it. He then became the only person in history to control the value of gold in the entire Mediterranean. These acts, or rather all this wealth that he lost hve way or returned ultimately was what funded the Italian renaissance. Without it, they would have never had patrons, power or money.