Mustafa Anasari : Timbuktu

Africa, was and still is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In NorthWest Africa were most African Americans were imported from (45-60%) according to the shipping logs was the wealthiest region because of great gold deposits, books, and education. I personally worked on the preservation of the great African “Ink road” that spanned from Senegal to Nigeria, and contained around a million textbooks starting in the 12th century. These books are written in Ajami [the local language with Arabic script] Arabic, and Hebrew. The manuscripts of Timbuktu cover diverse subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, Islamic sciences, history, geography, the traditions of The Prophet peace be upon him, government legislation and treaties, jurisprudence and much more. The Songhai Dynasty was, especially in Mali was 90% or more literate while only the European elite could read and write [less than 5%]. In fact, it was the Songhai Dynasty who spurred the European renaissance and birthed the University system. They sailed to the Americas prior to Columbus, as well as the Egyptians and Chinese.


By the 12th century, Timbuktu became a celebrated center of Islamic learning and a commercial establishment. Timbuktu had three universities and 180 Quranic schools. These universities were the Sankore University, Jingaray Ber University and Sidi Yahya University. This was the golden age of Africa. Books were not only written in Timbuktu, but they were also imported and copied there. There was an advanced local book copying industry in the city. The universities and private libraries contained unparalleled scholarly works. The famous scholar of Timbuktu Ahmad Baba who was among those forcibly exiled in Morocco claimed that his library of 1600 books had been plundered, and that his library, according to him, was one of the smaller in the city.

The booming economy of Timbuktu attracted the attention of the Emperor of Mali, Mansa Mussa (1307-1332) also known as “Kan Kan Mussa.” He captured the city in 1325. As a Muslim, Mansa Mussa was impressed with the Islamic legacy of Timbuktu. On his return from Mecca, Mansa Mussa brought with him an Egyptian architect by the name of Abu Es Haq Es Saheli. The architect was paid 200kg of gold to built Jingaray Ber or, the Friday Prayers Mosque. Mansa Musa also built a royal palace (or Madugu) in Timbuktu, another Mosque in Djenné and a great mosque in Gao (1324-1325). Today only the foundation of the mosque built in Gao exists. That is why there is an urgent need to restore and protect the mosques that remain in Djenné and Timbuktu..

The Emperor also brought Arabs scholars to Timbuktu. To his great surprise, the Emperor has found that these scholars are underqualified compared to the black scholars of Timbuktu. Abd Arahman Atimmi had such a low level that he was obliged to migrate to Marrakech to complete his prerequisites so he can sit in the classes as a student.

Mansa Mussa’s pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 had made Mali known worldwide. The great rulertook 60,000 porters with him. Each porter carried 3 kilograms of pure gold, that is, 180,000 kilograms or at least 180 tons of gold (Reference: Volume IV UNESCO General History of Africa, pages 197-200). He had so much gold with him that when he stopped in Egypt, the Egyptian currency lost its value and as result, the name of Mali and Timbuktu appeared on the 14th century world map.

A relative, Abu Bakar the II, decided to find a way by sea to go to Mecca. Abu Bakar II is said to be Mansa Musa’s uncle. In 1324 while visiting Cairo, Mansa Musa reported how he became the King of Mali. He explained that he became King of Mali, his predecessor, Abu Bakar II (who belonged to the senior branch of the ruling family), decided to sail in order to discover what lies behind the Ocean, he had never come back .What Mansa Musa (who belongs to the Junior branch of the ruling family) said, then, was recorded by Ibn Amir Adjib, Governor of Cairo and Karafa. Abu Bakar and his maritime expedition left the shores of Senegal and sailed in the Atlantic Ocean. They encountered so much difficulties and challenges that they came back to Senegal. Abu Bakar reorganized his expedition, took enough provisions and a huge army with him. This expedition has never been seen again. Today, there is a strong historical evidence pointing to the possibility that this Malian prince was the first one to discover America. In Brazil for instance, there is a presence of the mandinka language, traditions and customs.

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