[Al-cUmarī, Masālik al-abār fī mamālik al-abār, 33-48]1

            [Chapter 10] The kingdom of Mālī and what appertains to it

This kingdom is in the southwest, adjoining the Atlantic Ocean.  The king’s capital is the town of Yītī.  This country is very hot; life is rough, with little variety of food.  The people are tall, black and with crinkly hair. Their height is mainly from their long legs, not the structure of their bodies.  The present king is Sulaymān, brother of the sultan Mūsā Mansa.  He controls the land of the Sūdān which his brother conquered and what he himself added to the domains of Islam.  His brother had built places for prayer and central mosques with minarets, and organized Friday prayers, prayer assemblies and the call for prayer.  He brought jurists of the Malikite madhhab to his country and, while continuing as sultan of the Muslims, became a student of religious studies.

The ruler of this kingdom is known to the Egyptians as the king of Takrūr.  If he were to hear of this he would not like it, because Takrūr is just one province in his kingdom.  He prefers to be called ruler of Mālī, because that is the biggest province and that is the name by which he is best known.  This king is the greatest of the Muslim kings of the Sūdān.  He rules over the widest territory, has the most numerous army, is the bravest, richest, most fortunate, most victorious over his enemies, and the best able to distribute benefits.

The provinces comprised in this kingdom are: Ghāna, Zāfūn, Turankā, Takrūr, Sanghāna, Bānbughū, Zaranābanā, Babītrā Dūmūrā, Zācā, Kāburā, Barāghūrī and Kawkaw.  The inhabitants of Kawkaw are tribes of Yartān. The king’s capital, Yītī, is situated in the province of Mālī.  All the other provinces are subordinate to it and all are called Mālī, from the name of the chief province of this kingdom.  The kingdom is made up of towns, villages and districts, in fourteen provinces.

The truthful and trustworthy shaykh Abū-cUthmān Sacīd al-Dukkālī, who lived at Yītī for 35 years and travelled throughout this kingdom, told me that it is square, its length being four or more months’ journey and its width likewise.  It lies south of Marrakech and the interior of Barr al-cAdwa, reaching the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest.  It extends in length from Mūlī to urū on the Ocean. It is all inhabited except for a few places.  The sultan of this kingdom controls the land of Mazāzat al-Tibr, whose people bring gold dust (tibr) to him each year.  They are crude unbelievers.  If the sultan wished he could extend his authority over them but the kings of this kingdom have learnt by experience that as soon as one of them conquers one of the gold towns and Islam spreads and the mu’adhdhin calls for prayer, then the gold there begins to decrease and finally disappears, while it increases in the neighbouring heathen countries.  When they learned the truth of this by experience they left the gold countries under the control of the heathen people and were content with their vassalage and the tribute imposed on them.

In the whole kingdom of this sovereign no one is given the title of “king” except the ruler of Ghāna who is like a deputy to him even though he is a king.

To the north of Māli there are tribes of white Berbers under the rule of its sultan, namely: Yantaar, Yantafrās, Madūsa, and Lamtūna.   They are governed by shaykhs, save the Yantaar who are ruled successively by their own kings under the suzerainty of the ruler of Mālī.  There are also unbelievers owing obedience to him. Some of them eat human flesh. Some have accepted Islam and others persist in unbelief.

The City of Yītī is extensive in length and breadth.  Its length would be about a day’s journey and its width the same.  It is not encircled by a wall and is mostly spread out. The king has several palaces enclosed by walls.  A branch of the Nīl embraces the city on all four sides.  In places this may be crossed by wading when the water is low but in others it may be crossed only by boat.

Building in this city is done by making layers of clay like the walls of the gardens of Damascus.  They do so by first building up clay to the height of two-thirds of a cubit and then leaving it to dry.  Then they add a similar amount and leave that to dry. The same amount is added again, and so on till the end.   Its roofs are built of timber and reeds, mostly in the form of domes or a series of domes. Its earth is sandy soil.

The inhabitants drink water from the Nīl or from dug wells.  All this country is forested and hilly.   The hills are covered with wild trees, their branches intertwining and their trunks extremely thick.  One tree spreads out enough to give shade to 500 horsemen...

Ad-Dukkālī also said that in the land of the infidels adjacent to their country elephants are hunted by magic. This is literally true, not a metaphor. In all the countries, especially Ghāna, sorcery is very much practiced.  They are for ever litigating before their king over it, saying: “This person has killed my brother, or son, or daughter, or sister, by sorcery.” The killer is sentenced to punishment by retaliation (qisās) and the sorcerer is put to death.

The king of this realm sits in his palace on a big dais which they call banbī on a huge bench of ebony like a throne, large enough for any big and weighty sitterOver the dais, all around, are elephant tusks one against the other.  The king keeps his arems him, which are all of gold: a sword, a javelin, quiver, bow, and arrows.  He wears big trousers cut from about twenty pieces which none but he wears.  About 30 slaves (mamlūk) stand behind him, Turks and others who are bought for him in Egypt.  One of them carries in his hand a parasol of silk surmounted by a dome and a bird of gold in the shape of a falcon.  This is borne on the king’s left.  His amīrs sit around and below him in two ranks to right and left.  Further away are seated the chief horsemen of his army. In front of him there stands a man to attend him, who is his executioner (sayyāf), and another, called “poet”, who is his intermediary (safīr) between him and the people.  Around all these are people with drums in their hands, which they beat.  People dance before the king; he is enjoys this and laughs at them.  Behind him fly two flags, and before him are tied two horses, ready for him to ride whenever he wishes.

Whoever sneezes while the king is holding court is severely beaten; he permits nobody to do so.  But if a sneeze comes to anybody he lies down face to ground to sneeze so that nobody may know of it.  If king ever sneezes, all those present beat their breasts with their hands.

They wear turbans with ends tied under the chin like the Arabs.  Their cloth is white, made of cotton which they cultivate and expertly weave.  It is called kamīsiyyā. Their dress is like that of the people of the Maghrib: a jubba and a durrāca without slit. Their brave horsemen wear golden bracelets. Those who have shown great bravery wear gold necklets also. If it is greater still they add gold anklets.  Whenever a hero adds another deed of bravery the king gives him a pair of wide trousers, and the more his deeds of bravery the bigger the size of his trousers. These trousers have narrow legs but a wide seat.  The king’s dress is special in that he lets a turban-end dangle down in front of him.  His trousers are of twenty pieces and nobody dares to wear the same.

The king of this country imports Arab horses and pays high prices for them. His army numbers about 100,000, of whom about 10,000 are mounted on horses and the remainder infantry without horses or other mounts.  They have camels but do not know how to ride them with saddles.

Barley is completely absent; it does not grow there at all.

The emirs and soldiers of this king have estates and benefices.  Some of their chiefs enriched by the king have revenue up to 50,000 mithqāls of gold every year, besides the horses and clothes he supplies them.  The king’s whole ambition is to give them fine clothes and to make his towns into cities.  Nobody may enter the residence of the king unless barefooted, whoever he may be.  Anyone who does not remove his shoes, inadvertently or on purpose, is put to death without mercy. Whenever any emir comes before the king he keeps him standing before him for a time. Then the visitor signals with his right hand like someone beating the drum of honour in the lands of Tūrān and Īrān. If the king grants a favour to a person or promises him something good or thanks him for some deed the person who has received the favour grovels before him from one end of the room to the other. When he reaches there the man’s slaves or friends take some of the ashes which are always kept ready at the far end of the king’s audience chamber for this purpose and scatter it over the head of the favoured one, who then returns grovelling until he arrives before the king. Then he makes the drumming gesture as before and rises...

It is their custom not to bury their dead unless they be people of rank and status.  Those without rank and the poor and strangers are thrown into the bush like other dead creatures...

Ibn-Amīr Hājib says that the ceremonial for him who presents himself to the king or who receives a favour is to bare the front of his head and make the drum-beating gesture towards the ground with his right hand as the Tatars do; if a more profound obeisance is required he grovels before the king. “I have seen this with my own eyes,” Ibn-Amīr Hājib says.  He adds that this sultan has the custom of not eating in the presence of anyone, whoever he is, but eats always alone.

It is a custom of his people that if one of them should have reared a beautiful daughter he offers her to the king as a concubine, and the king possesses her without a marriage ceremony as slaves are possessed, in spite of the fact that Islam has triumphed among them and that they follow the Malikite school and that the sultan Mūsā was pious and assiduous in prayer, Qur’ān reading and mentioning God [dhikr]. Says Ibn-Amīr ājib: “I told him that this is not permissible for a Muslim, whether in revelation (sharc) or natural law (caql), and he said: ‘Not even for kings?’  I replied: ‘No! not even for kings!  Ask the scholars!’  He said: ‘By God, I did not know that.  I hereby leave it and abandon it altogether!’

“I saw that this sultan Mūsā loved virtue and people of virtue.  He left his kingdom and appointed his son Muhammad as his deputy and emigrated to God and His Messenger.  He accomplished the obligations of the ajj, visited [the tomb of] the Prophet [at Medina] and returned to his country with the intention of handing over the kingship to his son and abandoning it entirely to him and returning to Mecca of the Prophet and remain there as a dweller near the sanctuary, but death overtook him, may the great God have mercy upon him.

I asked him if he had enemies with whom he fought wars and he said: ‘Yes, we have a violent enemy who is to the Sūdān as the Tatars are to you.  They are like the Tatars in several respects. They are wide in the face and flat-nosed. They shoot arrows well.  Their horses are cross-bred with slit noses.  Battles take place between us and they are formidable because of their accurate shooting. War between us has its ups and downs.’”  Ibn-Sacīd, in the Mughrib, mentions the Damādim tribe who burst upon various peoples of the Sūdān and destroyed their countries and who resemble the Tatars.  The two groups appeared at the same historical time.

Ibn-Amīr Hājib continues: “I asked sultan Mūsā how the kingship came to him, and he said: ‘We belong to a house which hands on the kingship by inheritance. The king who was my predecessor did not believe that it was impossible to discover the furthest limit of the Atlantic Ocean and wished vehemently to do so. So he equipped 200 ships filled with men and the same number equipped with gold, water, and enough provisions to last them for years.  He said to the travellers: “Do not return until you reach the end or your provisions and water give out.” They departed and a long time passed before anyone came back.  Then one ship returned and we asked the captain what news they brought.  He said: “ Yes, 0 Sultan, we travelled for a long time until in the open sea we came upon a river with a powerful current. Mine was the last of the ships. The other ships went ahead but, reaching the place, they did not return and no more was seen of them and we do not know what became of them.  As for me, I turned back at once and did not enter that river.”  But the sultan did not believe him.

“Then that sultan equipped 2,000 ships, 1,000 for himself and the men whom he took with him and 1,000 for water and provisions.  He left me as his deputy and embarked on the Atlantic Ocean with his men. That was the last we saw of him and all those who were with him, and so I became king in my own right.

“This sultan Mūsā, during his stay in Egypt both before and after his journey to the holy Hijāz, maintained a constant attitude of worship and turning towards God. It was as though he were standing before Him because of he always kept Him in mind. He and all those with him behaved in the same way and were well-dressed, serious, and dignified. He was noble and generous and performed many acts of genrosity and kindness.  During his pilgrimage he dispersed the 100 loads of gold which he had brought from his country while travelling among the tribes between his country to Egypt, while he was in Egypt, and again from Egypt to the holy ijāz and back.  Consequenly he needed to borrow money in Egypt and pledged his credit with the merchants at a very high rate of gain so that they made 700 dinars profit on 300. Later he paid them back in fullHe sent to me 500 mithqals of gold by way of honorarium.

“The currency in the land of Takrūr consists of cowries and the merchants, whose principal import these are, make big profits on them.” Here ends what Ibn-Amīr Hājib said.

From the time I first came to stay in Egypt I heard of the arrival of this sultan Mūsā on his Pilgrimage and found the Cairo people eager to tell what they had seen of the Africans’ prodigal spending.  I asked the emir Abū ‘l-cAbbās Ahmad ibn-al-Hākī, the mihmandār, and he told me of the wealth, humanity and piety of this sultan.  When I went out to meet him (he said), on behalf of the mighty sultan al-Malik al-Nāsir, he did me great honour and treated me with the utmost respect.  He addressed me, however, only through an interpreter despite his perfect ability to speak Arabic. Then he despatched to the royal treasury many loads of unworked native gold and other valuables.  I tried to persuade him to go up to the Citadel to meet the sultan, but he refused persistently, saying: ‘I came for the hajj and for nothing else.  I do not wish to mix anything else with my hajj.’ He used this argument but I realized that the audience was repugnant to him because he would be obliged to kiss the ground and the sultan’s hand.  I continued to cajole him and he continued to make excuses but the sultan’s protocol demanded that I should bring him into the royal presence, so I kept on at him till he agreed.

“When we came before the sultan we said to him: ‘Kiss the ground!’ but he refused openly saying: ‘How can this be?’ Then an ingelligent man who was with him whispered to him something we could not hear and he said: ‘I bow down before God who created me!’ then he prostrated himself and went forward to the sultan.  The sultan rose half way to greet him and sat him by his side.  They conversed together for a long time, then sultan Mūsā left.  The sultan sent him several complete sets of fine clothing for himself, his courtiers, and all those who had come with him, and saddled and bridled horses for himself and his chief courtiers.... He also furnished him with accommodation and abundant supplies during his stay.

“When the time came to leave for the hajj, the sultan sent him a large sum of money with camels, including thoroughbreds, complete with saddles and equipment to serve as mounts for him, and purchased abundant supplies for his entourage and others who had come with him. He arranged for deposits of fodder to be placed along the road and ordered the caravan commanders to treat him with honour and respect.

“On his return I received him and supervised his accommodation. The sultan continued to supply him with provisions and lodgings, and he sent gifts from the Noble Hijāz to the sultan as a blessing.  The sultan accepted them and sent in exchange complete sets of fine clothing for him and his courtiers together with other gifts, various kinds of Alexandrian cloth, and other precious objects.  Then he returned to his country.

The mihmandār said, “This man flooded Cairo with his benefactions.  He left no court emir or holder of a royal office without the gift of a load of gold.  The Cairo people made incalculable profit from him and his entourage by buying and selling, giving and taking.  They exchanged gold until its value fell in Egypt.”

The mihmandār spoke the truth, for more than one has told this story.  When the mihmandār died the tax office (dīwān) found among his possessions thousands of dinars’ worth of native gold which he had given to him, unrefined just as it had been in the earth.

Merchants of Egypt and Cairo told me of the profits which they made from the Africans, saying that one of them might buy a shirt, cloak, robe or other garment for five dinars when it was not worth one.  Such was their simplicity and trustfulness that it was possible to practice any deception on them.  They believed anything that they were told.  But later they formed the worst opinion of the Egyptians because of the obvious falseness of everything they said to them and their outrageous pricing of the provisions and other goods they sold to them, so much so that were they to encounter today the most learned doctor of religious science and he were to say that he was Egyptian they would be rude to him and view him with disfavour because of the ill treatment which they had experienced at their hands.

Muhannā ibn-cAbdalbāqī al-cUjrumī the guide informed me that he accompanied sultan Mūsā when he made the Pilgrimage and that the sultan was very open-handed towards the pilgrims and the inhabitants of the Holy Places.  He and his companions maintained great pomp and dressed magnificently during the journey.  He gave away much wealth in alms.  “About 200 mithqāls of gold fell to me,” said Muhannā, “and he gave other sums to my companions.” Muhannā waxed eloquent in describing the sultan’s generosity, magnanimity, and wealth.

Gold was at a high price in Egypt until they came in that year.  The mithqāl did not go below 25 dirhams and was generally above, but from that time its value fell and it cheapened in price and has remained cheap till now. The mithqāl does not exceed 22 dirhams or less. This has been the state of affairs for about twelve years until this day by reason of the large amount of gold which they brought into Egypt and spent there...

The countries of Mālī and Ghāna and their neighbours are reached from the west side of Upper Egypt. The route passes by way of the oases through desert country inhabited by Arab and then Berber communities until cultivated country is reached by way of which the traveller arrives at Mālī and Ghāna. These are on the same meridian as the mountains of the Berbers to the south of Marrakech and are joined to them by long stretches of wilderness and extensive desolate deserts.

The learned faqīh Abū ‘l-Rūh cĪsā al-Zawāwī informed me that sultan Mūsā Mansa told him that the length of his kingdom was about a year’s journey, and Ibn-Amīr ājib told me the same. Al-Dukkālī’s version, already mentioned, is that it is four months’ journey long by the same in breadth. What al-Dukkārī says is more to be relied on, for Mūsā Mansa possibly exaggerated the importance of his realm.

Al-Zawāwī also said: “This sultan Mūsā told me that at a town called Takrā he has a copper mine from which ingots are brought to Yītī. “There is nothing in my kingdom (he said) on which a duty is levied except this crude copper which is brought in.  Duty is collected on this and on nothing else. We send it to the land of the pagan Sūdān and sell it for two-thirds of its weight in gold, so that we sell 100 mithqāls of this copper for 66 2/3 mithqāls of gold.” He also stated that there are pagan nations in his kingdom from whom he does not collect the jizya but whom he simply employs in extracting the gold from its deposits. The gold is extracted by digging pits about a man’s height in depth and the gold is found embedded in the sides of the pits or sometimes collected at the bottom of them.

“The king of this country wages permanent jihād on the pagans of the Sūdān who are his neighbours.  They are more numerous than could ever be described.”

Al-Dukkālī said to me: “The people of this kingdom make much use of magic and poison. They take great interest in them and are very expert in them. They have plants and animals from which they concoct fatal poisons, especially from a certain kind of fish and the gall bladders of crocodiles.  They are poisons for which there are no remedies”...

Abū-cAbdallāh b. al-Sā’igh [also] told me that salt is lacking in the interior of the Sūdān. Some people who take risks to bring it to these people who give them in exchange for each heap of salt a like heap of gold.  He said that he had heard that some of the remote peoples of the Sūdān do not show themselves.  When the salt merchants come they put the salt down and then withdraw.  Then the Sūdānese put down the gold.  When the merchants have taken the gold the Sūdānese take the salt.

cĪsā al-Zawāwī said to me that he was told that a certain man entered the Sūdān country with salt and arrived at a town belonging to the pagan Sūdānese.  “I presented to the king of this place (he said) a quantity of salt which he accepted and he sent to me two fine looking slave girls. A few days later I was in his presence and he said to me: “I sent those girls to you; so slaughter and eat them! Their flesh is the best thing we have to eat.  Why have you not slaughtered them?’ I replied: ‘This is not lawful for us.’ So he said: ‘Then what do you eat?’ and I said: ‘The flesh of cattle and sheep.’ Thereupon he sent me cattle and sheep”...

            [Chapter Eleven] The kingdom of the Berber mountains

Az-Zawāwī told me that these Berbers have mountains where they grow much fruit.  The territory of the three kings [of Ahīr, Damūsa and Tādmakka] is a little more than half that of Mālī, but [the king of ] Mālī’s revenue is more because it is close to the lands of the unbelievers who produce gold.  He rules over them; so his revenue is great. He also has revenue from other commerce in his kingdom and from raids on the land of the unbelivers.  The Berbers, on the other hand, have none of this. Their land is sterile and cannot be worked; all they have is their animals.

[Ibn-Battūta, Tuhfat an-nuzzār fī gharā’ib al-amsār wa-cajā’ib al-asfār, v. 4, 399 ff.]

            The Sultan of Mālī

He is the sultan Mansā Sulaymān. Mansā means “sultan” and Sulaymān is his name.  He is a miserly king from whom no great donation is to be expected.  It happened that I remained for this period without seeing him on account of my illness.  Then he gave a memorial feast for our Master Abū-l-Hasan (may God be content with him) and invited the amīrs and faqīhs, the qadī and the khatīb, and I went with them.  They brought folios of the Qur’ān and the Qur’ān was recited in full.  They prayed for our Master Abū-l-Hasan (may God have mercy on him) and prayed for Mansā Sulaymān.  When this was finished I advanced and greeted Mansa Sulaymān and the qaī and the khatīb and Ibn-al-Faqīh told him who I was.  He answered them in their language and they said to me: “The sultan says to you: ‘I thank God’.” I replied: “Praise and thanks be to God in any case.”

            Their trivial reception gift and their respect for it

When I departed the reception gift was sent to me and despatched to the qadi’s house.  The qadī sent it with his men to the house of Ibn-al-Faqīh. Ibn-al-Faqīh hastened out of his house barefooted and came in to me saying: “Come!  The cloth (qumāsh) and gift of the sultan have arrived!  “I got up, thinking that it would be fine cloth and money, but it was only three loaves of bread and a piece of beef fried in ghartī and a gourd containing yoghourt.  When I saw it I laughed, and was long astonished at their lack of good sense and respect for trash.

            My speaking to the Sultan after this and his kindness to me

After this reception gift I remained for two months during which nothing was sent to me by the sultan and the month of Ramadān came in. Meanwhile I used to frequent the council chamber, greet him and sit with the qadī and the khatīb.  I spoke with Dūghā the interpreter, who said: “Speak with him, and I will interpret for you as needs be.” So when he held a session at the beginning of Ramadān, I stood before him and said: “I have journeyed to the countries of the world and met their kings.  I have been four months in your country without your giving me a reception gift or anything else.  What shall I say of you in the presence of other sultans?” He replied: “I have not seen you nor known about you.” The qadī and Ibn-al-Faqīh rose and replied to him saying: “ He greeted you and you sent to him some food.” Thereupon he ordered a house to be provided for me to stay in and an allowance to be paid to me. Then, on the night of 27 Ramadān, he distributed among the qadī, the khatīb and the faqīhs a sum of money which they call zakāt, while to me he gave 3,313 mithqāls.  When I departed he bestowed on me 100 mithqāls of gold...

            The self-debasement of the Sūdān before their king and their scattering of dust on themselves before him and other peculiarities

The Sūdān are the humblest of people before their king and the most submissive towards him.  They swear by his name, saying: “Mansā Sulaymān kī.” When he calls to one of them at his sessions in the pavilion which we have mentioned the person called takes off his clothes and puts on ragged clothes, and removes his turban and puts on a dirty shāshiyya, and goes in holding up his garments and trousers half-way up his leg, and advances with submissiveness and humility.  He then beats the ground vigorously with his two elbows, and stands like one performing a rakca to listen to his words.

If one of them addresses the sultan and the latter replies he uncovers the clothes from his back and sprinkles dust on his head and back, like one taking a bath with water.  I used to marvel how their eyes did not become blinded.

When the sultan says something in his session those present remove their turbans from their heads and listen attentively to his words.  Sometimes one of them will stand before the sultan and mention the deeds which he has performed in his service, saying: “I did so-and-so on such-and-such a day and I killed so-and-so on such-and-such a day.” Those who know the truth about this express their affirmation by seizing the string of the bow and releasing it as one does when he is shooting. When the sultan says to him: “You have spoken the truth or thanks him, he removes his clothes and sprinkles himself with dust. This is good manners among them”...

            What I approved of and what I disapproved of among the acts of the Sūdān

One of their good features is their lack of oppression.  They are the farthest removed of people from it and their sultan does not permit anyone to practise it.  Another is the security embracing the whole country, so that neither traveller nor resident has any fear from a thief or robber.  Another is that they do not interfere with the wealth of any white man who dies among them, even though it be a huge amount.  They simply leave it in the hands of a trustworthy white man until the one to whom it is due takes it.  Another is their assiduity in prayer and their persistence in performing it in congregation and beating their children to make them perform it.  If it is a Friday and a man does not go early to the mosque he will not find anywhere to pray because of the crowding of the people. It is their habit that every man sends his servant with his prayer-mat to spread it for him in a place reserved for him when he goes to the mosque.  Their prayer-carpets are made from the fronds of a tree resembling the palm which has no fruit.   Another of their good features is their dressing in fine white clothes on Friday. If any one of them possesses nothing but a ragged shirt he washes it and cleanses it and attends the Friday prayer in it.  Another is their eagerness to memorize the great Qur’ān.  They place fetters on their children if there appears on their part a failure to memorize it and they are not undone until they memorize it.

I went into the house of the qadī on the day of the festival and his children were fettered so I said to him: “Aren’t you going to let them go?” He replied: “I shall not do so until they’ve got the Qur’ān by heart!”  “One day I passed by a youth of theirs, of good appearance and dressed in fine clothes, with a heavy fetter on his leg.  I said to those who were with me: “What has this boy done?  Has he killed some­body?” The lad understood what I had said and laughed, and they said to me: “ He’s only been fettered so that he’ll learn the Qur’ān!”

One of their disapproved acts is that their female servants and slave girls and little girls appear before men naked, with their privy parts uncovered.  During Ramadān I saw many of them in this state, for it is the custom of the farāriyya to break their fast in the house of the sultan, and each one brings his food carried by twenty or more of his slave girls, they all being naked.  Another is that their women go into the sultan’s presence naked and uncovered, and that his daughters go naked.  On the night of 25 Ramaān I saw about 200 slave girls bringing out food from his palace naked, having with them two of his daughters with rounded breasts having no covering upon them. Another is their sprinkling dust and ashes on their heads out of good manners...  Another is that many of them eat carrion, dogs, and donkeys.

            My departure from Mālī

I had entered Mālī on July 1352 and left it on 27 February 1353.

[Ibn-Khaldūn, Kitāb al-cibar wa-dīwān al-mubtada’ wa-l-khabar fī ayyām al-carab wa-l-cajam wa-l-Barbar, VI, 412-417; cf. I, 93-94, V, 390-392:]

Later the people of Mālī outnumbered the peoples of the Sūdān in their neighbourhood and subjugated the neighbouring peoples..  They defeated the ūū and acquired all their possessions, both their ancient kingdom and that of Ghāna as far as the Atlantic in the west.  They were Muslims.  It is said that the first of them to embrace Islam was a king named Barmandāna, who made the Pilgrimage and was followed in this practice by the kings after him.  Their greatest king, he who overcame the Sūsū, conquered their country, and seized the power from their hands, was named Mārī Jāta.  Mārī, in their language, means “ruler of the blood royal”, and jāta “lion”... I have not heard the genealogy of this king.  It is said that he ruled for 25 years, and when he died his son Mansā Walī ruled after him.  In their language mansā means “sultan” and walī means “cAlī”. This Mansā Walī was one of their greatest kings.  He made the hajj in the days of az-Zāhir Baybars.  His brother Wātī ruled after him and then another brother, Khalīfa. Khalīfa was insane and devoted to archery and used to shoot arrows at his people and kill them wantonly so they rose against him and killed him.  He was succeeded by a grandson of Mārī Jāta, called Abū-Bakr, who was the son of his daughter.  They made him king according to the custom of these non-Arabs, where the sister and the son of the sister inherit the kingship.  We do not know his or his father’s lineage.

Their next ruler was one of their vassels who usurped their kingship.  His name was Sākūra, pronounced Sabkara by the people of Ghāna in their language, according to shaykh cUthmān.  Sākūra performed the Pilgrimage during the reign of al-Malik al-Nāsir and was killed while on the return journey at Tājūrā. During his mighty reign their dominions expanded and they overcame the neighbouring peoples.  He conquered the land of Kawkaw and put it under the rule of the people of Mālī.  Their rule reached from the Atlantic and Ghāna in the west to the land of Takrūr in the east.  Their authority became mighty and all the peoples of the Sūdān stood in awe of them. Merchants from the Maghrib and Ifrīqiya travelled to their country. Al-Hājj Yūnus, the Takrūrī interpreter, said that the conqueror of Kawkaw was Saghmanja, one of the generals of Mansā Mūsā.

The ruler after this Sākūra [was Qū, grand]son of the sultan Mārī Jāta, then after him his son Muhammad b. Qū. After him their kingship passed from the line of Mārī Jāta to that of his brother Abū-Bakr in the person of Mansā Mūsā b. Abī-Bakr.  Mansā Mūsā was an upright man and a great king, and tales of his justice are still told. He made the Pilgrimage in 1324 and encountered during the ceremonies the Andalusian poet Abū-Ishāq lbrāhīm al-Sāhilī, known as at-Tuwayjin. Abū-Ishāq accompanied Mansā Mūsā to his country and there enjoyed an esteem and consideration which his descendants have inherited after him and keep to this day. They are settled in Wālātan on the western frontier of their country...

Ibn-Khadīja continues: “We returned with him [from the hajj] to the capital of his kingdom.  He wished to acquire a house as the seat of his authority, solidly constructed and clothed with plaster on account of its unfam­iliarity in their land, so Abū-Ishāq at-Tuwayjin made something novel for him by erecting a square building with a dome.  He lavished all his skill on it, having a good knowledge of handicrafts. He plastered it over and covered it with coloured patterns so that it turned out to be the most elegant of buildings.  It caused the sultan great astonishment, since this type of construction was unknown in their land, and he rewarded Abū-Ishāq with 12,000 mithqāls of gold dust apart from his preference, favour and prestigious relationship with the king.”

There were diplomatic relations and exchanges of gifts between this sultan Mansā Mūsā and the contemporary Merīnid king of the Maghrib, sultan Abū-l-Hasan.  Distinguished men travelled as ambassadors between the two kingdoms.  The ruler of the Maghrib esteemed the products and novelties of his kingdom as people spoke of for long after... The successors of these two monarchs inherited these relations, as will be mentioned.

The reign of this Mansā Mūsā lasted for 25 years.  On his death his son Mansā Maghā succeeded him as ruler of Mālī.  Maghā with them means “Muhammad”.  Mansā Maghā died within four years of succeeding and was followed by Mansā Sulaymān ibn-Abī-Bakr, who was Mūsā’s brother. His reign lasted 24 years, then he died and his son Qasā b. Sulaymān succeeded him only to die nine months after his succession.  After him ruled Mārī Jāa ibn-Mansā Maghā ibn-Mansā Mūsā, whose reign lasted fourteen years.  He was a most wicked ruler over them because of the tortures, tyrannies, and disrespect to which he subjected them.  In 1360-1 he presented to the then king of the Maghrib, sultan Abū-Sālim son of sultan Abū-l-Hasan, along with the usual gifts, that huge creature which provoked astonishment in the Maghrib, known as the giraffe.  The people talked of it for a long time...

[Ta’rīkh al-Fattāsh, ch. 2]

It is said that the Mali-Koy Kanka Mūsā [= Mansa Mūsā] had killed his mother, Nānā Kanka by mistake and was very sorry and repentant and feared punishment for it.  He therefore distributed much money in alms and resolved to fast for the rest of his life.  He asked the opinion of a learned man of his time what he could do to obtain forgiveness for that great sin, and he told him, “I think you should flee to the Messenger of God and take shelter with him.  Ask his intercession and God will accept it on your behalf.  That is my advice.”

Mansa Mūsā made up his mind on the spot and gathered much money and equipment for the journey... He went with 8,000 people.

«— Chapter 10

The Spread of Islam
Through North to West Africa

Chapter 12 —»

1The proper names given here, according to the Istanbul manuscript, differ widely from those given by al-Munajjid, Hopkins-Leftzion and Cuoq.