Mansa Musa (? –1337)

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MANSA MUSA (? –1337)

One of the most famous emperors of the medieval Western Sudanic kingdom of Mali, Mansa Musa reigned from about 1312 to 1337. He extended the kingdom of Mali by bringing under its suzerainty many non-Mandingo people of the Sahel. Many sources, including the Arabic author al-˓Umari (1301–1394), described Mansa Musa as a pious Muslim, and as one of the medieval rulers whose contribution to the spread of Islam in the Western Sudan was the most significant.

One of the most noted events of Mansa Musa's reign was his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1312. On his way, he visited Egypt during the reign of the Mamluk sultan, Nasir b. Qala˓un. Mansa Musa, it has been reported, was accompanied by thousands of peoples and camels laden with gold. He gave huge quantities of gold to the sultan of Egypt. His stay in Egypt was one of the main events of the year 1312. He distributed so much gold that the price of this precious metal dropped. Perhaps because of the notoriety he gained by this pilgrimage, Mali started to appear in maps drawn by European cartographers.

Mansa Musa's reign supported a flowering in Malian scholarship and architecture. He commissioned al-Sahili, the Andalusian poet and man of letters, to design mosques and other buildings in Mali. Mansa Musa attracted scholars and brought back books of Islamic jurisprudence to the libraries Mali. He also began sending students to Islamic universities in North Africa. He built Qur˒anic schools, and established the Friday congregational prayer in Mali.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in .


Clark, P. West Africa and Islam: A Study of Religious Development from the 8th to the 20th Century. London: Edwards Arnold, 1982.

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

Ousmane Kane