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MALI

Biographical Identifications


ABU BAKR: Ruler of the MALI ENTIRE. Abu Bakr was a grandson of SUNDIATA through his daughter's line. Abu Bakr ruled Mali after the ill-fated reigns of SUNDIATA'S sons WATI and Khalifa. See: SUNDIATA, MANSA ULI, SAKURA.


ABU BAKR (c. 1050's- 1087): Leader of the southern army of the ALMORAVID movement and the chief after 1059. Abu Bakr captured the Koumbi Saleh, the capital of GHANA, in 1076. See: ALMORAVIDS, GHANA.


AHMADU TAL (1840?- 1898): Head of the Tukolor Empire from 1864 to 1890. Son of AL-HAJJ UMAR and his successor. Ahmadu's reign was marked by strife; his half-brothers, Moktar and Igulbu in Kaarta, challenged his authority as did his cousin Tijani in MASINA. In 1890 the French conquered the Segu area of the Tukolor Empire and in 1891 Ahmadu and his followers were driven out. Ahmadu went into exile in Sokoto where he died in 1898. See: AL HAJJ UMAR.


ASKIA MOHAMMAD: Ruled the SONGHAY ENTIRE from 1493 to 1528. When SONNI ALI BER died, his son SONNI BARU succeeded him. Sonni Baru refused to declare himself a Muslim, giving Askia Mohammad, who was a general for SONNI ALI BER, a legitimate reason to rebel. In 1493, Askia Mohammad defeated Sonni Baru. Askia Mohammad proved a highly effective ruler, extending the empire's boundaries westward to lower Senegal, eastward to Air and north to the Taghaza mines of the Sahara. Askia Mohammad created a professional army of slave soldiers. In 1496, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca. During his pilgrimage, Askia Mohammad obtained the title "Caliph of the Sudan" from the last Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, giving his regime a new Islamic legitimacy. Mohammad's ties with the wider Islamic world were closer than those of previous monarchs in the region. He frequently consulted Islamic judges and scholars on how to best govern his empire. One of these scholars, Al-Maghili visited Songhay and is credited with introducing Sufism to the area and spreading the idea of the Mujaddid or "Renewer of Islam" that would become an important theme in the history of the region. Another important Islamic scholar who influenced Askia Mohammad was Jalala AI-Din Al-Suyuti, an Egyptian who advised Askia Mohammad on how to tailor Islamic law to fit the special needs of the Sahara and Sahel. Under Askia Mohammad, Islamic scholarship flourished in TIMBUKTU. Even though Askia Mohammad was a pious Muslim, he retained many traditional aspects of Songhay culture and did not try to convert non-Muslims through conquest. See: MALI ENTIRE, SONNI ALI BER.


BARMANDANA: First king of Mali to convert to Islam. Barmandana ruled Mali in about 1050. Barmandana made a pilgrimage to MECCA; little else is known of his reign. IBN BATTUTA (1304-1378): Author and traveler. Ibn Battuta toured the MALI ENTIRE from February 1352 to December 1353 and wrote a description of his travels that became a major source of historical information for MALI. IBN KHALDUN (1332-1406): Arab historian. Born in Tunis, Khaldun settled in Cairo where he spent fourteen years writing Kitab Al-Ib (The Universal History), a monumental historical work which became an important source of information on the western Sudan. Ibn Khaldun interviewed many Malians who traveled through Cairo and caravan traders who have visited MALI.


MAMARI KULUBALI: Founder of Segu Bambara who reigned from about 1712 to 1755. Mamari Kulubali began his career by leading a handful of followers from his AGE GRADE to form a state. In 1712 he defeated his Bambara rivals, gaining substantial territory along both banks of the Niger from Timbuktu to Bamako. Those he defeated migrated more than three hundred kilometers to the north-west to form the Bambara state of Kaarta. Mamari Kulubali's power rested on a large standing army and navy, largely composed of prisoners of war. The incorporation of slaves into the AGE GRADE system was another major innovation of Kulubali.


MANSA MUSA (KANKAN MUSA]: Ruler of MALI from 1307 until 1332. Mansa Musa presided over the Golden Age of MALI. Mansa Musa annexed the cities of Gao and TIMBUKTU to MALI and greatly expanded the Empire. Mansa Musa was a Muslim; since most of his subjects were not, he allowed diverse religious practices to flourish during his reign. From 1324 to 1325, he went on a pilgrimage to MECCA to repent the accidental killing of his mother. He is said to have brought eight thousand men and two tons of gold with him. The pilgrimage established MALI's reputation as a world power. Mansa Musa brought Ishaq As-Sahilli, the famous architect back from Mecca. Ishaq As-Sahilli is credited with designing the great mosque at Jenne. Under Mansa Musa, ambassadors from MALI were established in Egypt, Morocco, and elsewhere. See: MALI ENTIRE


MANSA SULAYMAN: Ruler of Mali from 1336 to 1358 and MANSA MUSA's brother. Mansa Sulayman succeeded Maghan I, MANSA MUSA! son. During his reign, IBN BATTUTA visited MALI for nine months.


MANSA ULI [OULIN, OULE]: Ruler of MALI from around 1260 until 1270. Mansa Uli was the son of SUNDIATA. After his father's death, Uli violated the tradition of fraternal succession and seized power. He expanded the MALIAN EMPIRE until it bordered on the Atlantic Ocean and went on pilgrimage to Mecca. After his death, his brothers, Wati and Khalifa, briefly ruled MALI. Little is known of their reigns, but they were said to have been weak kings who were poor leaders.


SAKURA: Ruler of MALI from 1298 until 1308. After the death of MANSA ULI, SUNDIATA'S son, the struggle over succession between Sundiata's sons Wati and Khalifa, and his grandson ABU BAKR, threatened Mali's future. Sakura, a freed slave of royal family and general of SUNDIATA, seized the throne from ABU BAKR. Sakura was a strong king who is credited with conquering the city of Gao. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca and was killed on the way home at Tajura, near Tripoli. See: MALI ENTIRE, ABU BAKR.


SEKU AMADU (1773-1845): Founder of the MASINA ENTIRE. An admirer of Shehu Usman Dan Fodio, who founded the PEUL Islamic state of SOKOTO in Nigeria, Seku Amadu spent many years preaching against the lax Islamic practices of the Ardo elite of TIMBUKTU and JENNE. The Ardo was the Council of Elders who ruled TIMBUKTU and JENNE. In 1817, one of Amadu's students killed the son of a council member. In retaliation, the Ardo allied with the BAMBARA King of Segu, who was not a Muslim, and attacked Seku Amadu at his settlement at Runde Siru near JENNE. Amadu won the battle but retreated to form a new city which he named Hamdallahi. From there, Seku Amadu staged a holy war, or Jihad, defeating the BAMBARA, taking the city of JENNE, and establishing a measure of control over TIMBUKTU. Seku Amadu set up a council of forty members to help him run his new state. He banned alcohol, tobacco, music and dancing. Koranic schools were opened. Social welfare was extended to widows, orphans and the poor. See: MASINA


SONNI ALI BER: Founder of the SONGHAY EMPIRE who ruled from 1464 to 1492. Sonni Ali Ber became King of Gao and the SONGHAY lands in about 1464. In 1468 he drove the Tuaregs from TIMBUKTU, which they had held since 143 3, and claimed the city for the SONGHAY EMPIRE. Five years later, he raptured JENNE. By the time of his death in 1492, Sonni Ali Ber had the Niger Bend area under his control. He is best known for his conflicts with the Islamic religious leadership in Timbuktu. Ber was nominally a Muslim, but still practiced the ancestral faith of the Songhay. Further, because he believed that the Muslim establishment in Timbuktu favored the Tuaregs, he persecuted Muslim leaders. By portraying Ber as a cruel tyrant, the Muslim scholars had their revenge. See: SONGHAY EMPIRE, ASKIA MOHAMMAD.


SUNDIATA KEITA [Son-Jara] (Lion of Mali): Legendary founder of Mali Empire and hero of the SUNDIATA EPIC. Sundiata probably lived from around 1200 to 1260. According to legend, he was the son of King Nare Famaghan, ruler of the southern Mandinka region. Sundiata's childhood was shaped by a crippling disability; unable to bend his legs, Sundiata had to crawl on the ground making him an object of scorn. In adolescence, he was cured by magic and became a "master hunter." After his father's death, Sundiata's half- brother became King. Fearing an assassination attempt, Sundiata and his mother fled into exile. In exile, he attracted a following with the help of the Hunters' Association. During this time, the powerful Soso state under King Sumanguru had conquered the Mandinka territory, killing Sundiata's brothers in the process. Sundiata then marched against Soso and defeated them at the battle of Krina in 1235. Sundiata then went on the conquer the aging GHANA ENTIRE, capturing its capital in 1240. He depended on existing social structures to build his empire, choosing generals from his own AGE GRADE, raising the Hunters' Association to the level of an aristocracy, and, whenever possible, keeping the former Kings and chiefs of his subject states in place. Sundiata is also credited with making certain occupations, like leather and iron working, hereditary castes. Sundiata sought to reduce tensions between clans by setting up "joking relationships" between them that obligated their members to treat each other as kin. He made Niani, his birthplace, the capital of his empire.


UMAR TAI, AL-HAJJ: Founder of the Tukolor Empire. Al-Hajj Umar was born in Futa-Toro and lived until 1864. In his youth, he became a member of the Tijaniyya brotherhood. He went on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1836. There he studied under Muhammad al- Ghali, the chief representative of the Tijaniyya brotherhood in Arabia. AI-Ghali appointed Umar head of the Tijaniyya in the Western Sudan. Al-Hajj Umar also spent some time studying in Sokoto. In 1837, he Umar left Sokoto and settled in Futa-Jallon. He was forced out in 1849. Three years later, Al-Hajj Umar proclaimed Holy War (Jihad) against all animists in the Western Sudan. Within a decade, he had built a vast empire stretching from French Sudan to Timbuktu. In 1860, he negotiated a truce with the French that set the boundary between their two domains between the Senegal and Bafing Rivers. In 1863, Umar's demands for tribute from Timbuktu sparked a rebellion and the citizens drove the Tukolors from the city. Bambara Segu joined the revolt and Umar was killed in February 1864 while attempting to break the siege of Hamdallahi, his capital. See: TUKOLOR

 

 


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