Askiya Muhammad (R. 1493–1529)

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ASKIYA MUHAMMAD (R. 1493–1529)

The ruler of the Songhai Empire between 1493 and 1529, Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Ture is also known as Askiya al-Hajj Muhammad, or Askiya Muhammad. His origins are debated. According to the two Tawarikh, or "histories" (Tarikh al-Sudan and Tarikh al-Fattash), he belonged either to the Ture or the Sylla clan of the Soninke. Because they were associated with trade, the Soninke were one of the earliest groups to convert to Islam south of the Sahara. Askiya al-Hajj Muhammad overthrew the dynasty of the Sunni in 1493, and established the dynasty known as the Askiya who ruled the Songhai Empire from 1493 until the Moroccan invasion of the Songhai in 1591. Unlike his predecessor, Sunni ˓Ali, Askiya Muhammad was said to be a pious Muslim, and very supportive of Muslim scholars in Timbuctu, and other parts of Songhai. In 1496, Askiya Muhammad set off for the pilgrimage to Mecca. On his way to Mecca, he visited Egypt, and was appointed by the Abbassid caliph al-Mutwakkil as his deputy to rule Songhai in his name. Askiya al-Hajj Muhammad consulted two major Muslim scholars on how to rule Songhai according to the shari˓a. One of them was ˓Abd al-Karim al-Maghili (d. 1503 or 1504), and the other was Jalal al-din al-Suyuti (d. 1505). Askiya Muhammad extended the Songhai Empire to include tributary lands to the east, west, and north. No further expansion of the Songhai Empire occurred after his reign. He was deposed in 1528 by his son Musa.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; African Culture and Islam .


Hiskett, M. The Development of Islam in West Africa. London and New York: Longman, 1984.

Hunwick, John, ed. Shari˓a in Songhai: The Replies of Al-Maghili to the Questions of Askia al-Hajj Muhammad. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Ousmane Kane