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The 2nd Edition
An Introduction by
Robin Walker

Study Guide

africa5.jpg50 Greatest Africans - Professor Ahmed Baba & Sonni Ali Ber


9. Professor Ahmed Baba of Songhai (died 1627 AD)
Greatest scholar of the sixteenth century world

The Songhai Empire ruled about two thirds of West Africa, including the lands now called Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Northern Nigeria and Niger. When the Empire collapsed, due to an Arab and European invasion in 1591 AD, its intelligentsia were arrested by the conquerors and dragged in chains across the Sahara. One of these scholars was Professor Ahmed Baba. The author of 60 books, Professor Baba enjoyed a very high reputation. Amongst the Songhai, he was known as "The Unique Pearl of his Time". In a Moroccan text from the period, the praise for him was even more gushing. He is described as "the imam, the erudite, the high-minded, the eminent among scholars, Abu l-Abbas Ahmed Baba."

In Morocco, the Arab scholars petitioned to have him released from jail. He was released a year after his arrival on 9 May 1596. Major Dubois, a French author, narrates that: "All the believers were greatly pleased with his release, and he was conducted in triumph from his prison to the principal mosque of Marrakech. A great many of the learned men urged him to open a course of instruction. His first thought was to refuse, but overcome by their persistence he accepted a post in the Mosque of the Kerifs and taught rhetoric, law, and theology. An extraordinary number of pupils attended his lectures, and questions of the gravest importance were submitted to him by the magristracy, his decision always being treated as final."

Despite this adulation, Baba was careful to credit his learning to the Almighty and thus maintained his modesty. A Moroccan source tells of an audience he obtained with Al Mansur. It appears that the scholar gave the sultan something of a dressing down. Baba complained about the sultan's lack of manners, his ill treatment received during his original arrest, the sacking of his private library of 1600 books, and the destruction of the Songhai Empire. We are told by the Moroccan author that Al Mansur "being unable to reply to [any of] this, put an end to the audience."

The professor was detained in Morocco for a total of 12 years. Eventually he received permission from Al Mansur's successor to return to Songhai. Just before his departure across the desert, he vowed in the presence of the leading scholars of Marrakesh who had gathered to give him a send off, "May God never bring me back to this meeting, nor make me return to this country!" He returned to a devastated Timbuktu and died there in 1627.
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE




10. Sonni Ali Ber of Songhai (ruled 1464-1492 AD)
World famous founder of the Songhai Empire of West Africa

In 1464 Sonni Ali, the eighteenth ruler of his dynasty, became ruler of the Songhai kingdom. His first notable achievement was the capture of the Malian city of Timbuktu in 1469, with its world famous University of Sankore Mosque. Djenné was the next city to fall after a siege lasting over seven years. An even bigger prize, it had international trading links, a university, and also the most brilliant architecture in the region. He took it in around 1473. To the south, lay the kingdoms of the Mossi, an enemy of the Songhai. In 1480 they launched a raid on the Songhai city of Walata. They besieged the city for a month leading Walata to capitulate. The victorious Mossi seized people and booty. In 1483 Sonni Ali's army successfully drove this menace from the kingdom. Sonni Ali established the Songhai state as the third great West African Empire in this region, after Ancient Ghana and Mali. He became a world famous leader of this time, taking over most of the old Malian Empire. After a distinguished career, he died in November 1492, killed in a military campaign. He was mummified after his death and thus followed very ancient African traditions.
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE



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Creation date : 17/04/2006 @ 20:43
Last update : 28/07/2014 @ 17:41
Category : 50 Greatest Africans


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African Rulers
50 Greatest Africans

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