THE SONGHAY EMPIRE ACCORDING TO
Ta’rîkh al-Fattâsh, Ta’rîkh as-Sûdân
and Leo Africanus
[Ibn-al-Mukhtâr, Ta’rîkh al-Fattâsh, 43-] The successor of Silman Dâma was the tyrannical, wicked and damned sultan Shî cAlî, the last of his dynasty, who had a gang of accomplices in his evil conduct. He was always granted victory; any land he attacked he devastated. His army never failed him; it always overcame and was never overcome. There was no town or village from the land of Kanta to Sibiriduku which cavalry did not overrun, fighting its people and defeating them.
The title “Shî”, according to the imâm Mahmûd, is “koy benendi”, that is, the caliph, deputy or successor of the sultan.
This sultan was harsh and hard hearted. He would command a baby to be thrown into a mortar and then order its mother to pound it. She would pound it alive and then he would feed it to his horses. So wicked and evil was he.
At that time a shaykh of Mûri Koyra was asked whether the man was a Muslim or a unbeliever, since his deeds were those of an unbeliever, yet he used to pronounce the two articles of the shahâda. Anyone who had good knowledge and examined his deeds declared him an unbeliever, since he used to kill the jurists and often destroy villages and kill their people by burning them alive. He used to torture people in many ways, sometimes with fire until they died, sometimes sealing them up in a room until they died, sometimes opening the womb of a woman and extracting the fetus. His evil deeds and evil rule were so much that this book can only give a few examples.
He became ruler of Songhay in 1464-5 and ruled for 27 years, 4 months and 5 days, that is, until the year 1491-2...
Shî cAlî’s persecution of the Muslims became so severe, with his cruelty affecting all their worldly and religious life, weighing their hearts down by the sadness and worry, that they despaired of any relief. Considering the length of his rule, they thought it would never end, until one day Shî cAlî abducted the daughter of a poor and pious man. This man could not take that and complained to the Shî. The Shî thereupon swore that if he did not get out of his presence he would order him to be burned with fire. The man went out crying and lifted his hands to heaven facing the qibla and said, “God and Lord, I pray to you, the Near One who see, know and hear, the Dominant One who have power over this wicked and evil man that you have spared for so long and who is deceived by your patience while he oppresses a pious man. I ask you to hear my prayer and help me who am looking for your help.”
That very day there came to him two good men from the descendants of Mûri-Hawkâru, who was the ancestor of the Mûri-Koyra people. One of them was Mûri a-âdiq and the other Mûri Jayb. They came to complain of the harm they suffered from the Shî, and when he saw them he ordered them to be arrested, bound in chains of iron and dropped off on an empty island. One of them prayed, “God, in your mercy defend us against him and destroy him before he moves from where he is.” And the other prayed, “And let him die outside Islam, as an unbeliever.” At that time the Shî was in a town called Funna in the land of al-ajar. A sudden death met him that very day [TS 6 November 1492.]. When his soldiers learned of his death, they buried him in that place, and no one learned of the place of his grave. —May God curse him.
The soldiers decamped the next day without anyone there knowing of the Shî’s death. Some soldiers went to Mûri as-Sâdiq and Mûri Jayb on that island, took the chains off their legs and brought them back from the island...
Shî cAlî’s son Abû-Bakr, called Bâru, was with him in that expedition, and when the army arrived at Bankay they installed Bâru in his place on 21 January 1493...
On 19 [TS 18] February 1493 Askiya Muhammad ibn-Abî-Bakr, with God’s help, rose against Shî Bâru at a place called Anfac, where they stood and gathered for an attack. [TS Muhammad’s troops were routed and he fled.] Bâru and Askiya Muhammad then met on Monday, 12 April [TS 3 March], and a heavy battle took place with much killing, so that people thought it was the end of the world... God gave Askiya Muhammad the victory, and Shî Bâru fled to Zâgha... Thus God made Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad inherit all the lands of Shî Bâru, from Kanta to Sibiriduku. The Askiya found that he owned fourteen tribes which had been slaves to the Shî and not free men put into slavery... At this time Askiya Muhammad was 50 years old.
[TS ch 13, 72-81] In October/November 1496 Askiya Muhammad left for the hajj with an entourage of the notable men of each tribe... together with 1,500 soldiers, 500 of them on horses and 1,000 on foot. His son Askiya Mûsâ, Huku-Kuray-Koy,cAlî Fulan and others also went. He had 300,000 gold pieces, which he took from the preacher cAmr, which he was holding for Sunni cAlî, but the money that was in Sunni cAlî’s house disappeared and no one saw any of it... The Amîr gave 100,000 of the gold pieces as alms in the two sanctuaries, with another 100,000 he bought a garden in Medina which he left in reserve for the people of Takrûr and it is still known there; with the remaining 100,000 he bought merchandise and things that he needed.
In that blessed land he met the cAbbâsid caliph and asked him to make him his deputy in the land of Songhay. The caliph agreed and commanded him to abdicate his amîrship for three days and come back to him on the fourth day. He did so and the cAbbâsid ruler made him his caliph, putting on his head a cap and a turban that he gave him. The Askiya became a true Islamic caliph. Then he met many scholars and holy men, among them Jalâladdîn as-Suyûtî. He asked them various practical questions and got their decisions. He also asked their prayers, and he received their blessings abundantly. He returned to Kaghu in July/August 1497.
God blessed his rule and helped him to be very victorious. He ruled from the land of Kunta to the lands bordering on the Atlantic in the west, and from the border of the land of Tinduku to Taghâza and the surrounding lands. He forced all to obey him by the sword and by might, as can be seen in the account of his expeditions...
At the end of his 19th year of rule (March 1513) he raided Katsina, returning in May/June... [pp. 39-40] Makhlûf ibn-cAlî ibn-âli al-Balbâlî was a jurist, had memorized the Qur’ân and tavelled,... visiting places like Kano and Katsina, and teaching in those places... He died after 1534. Muhammad ibn-Ahmad ibn-abî-Muhammad at-Tâzakhtî, known as Ayda Ahmad, was a knowledgeable jurist and versatile Hadîth master... He met in Takada the imâm al-Maghîlî and attended his classes. Then he went to the east and Mecca... When he returned, he settled in Katsina. Its ruler honoured him and made him qâdî. He died around 1529/30.
Askiya Muhammad became blind towards the end of his reign, but no one knew it because cAlî Fulan stayed near him and guarded him always. But, because Mûsâ threatened him and vowed to kill him, he was afraid and fled to Kurmina Fârî Yahyâ at Tindirma on 27 September 1527. In 1528/39 the Fârmundhu Mûsâ revolted and went to Kûkiyâ with some of his brothers.
The Amîr then sent for his brother Faran Yahyâ in Tindirma to stop this deviation of the children. He came and the Askiya ordered him to go to them in Kûkiyâ, but insisted that he should not be too severe with them. When he met them, they attacked him and he was wounded and overpowered. He fell to the ground and lay there face down and naked. He spoke to them about what might happen to them, while the Amîr’s son Dâwûd was standing at his head in that state, together with his brother Ismâcîl and Muhammad Bankan-Kiray, son of cUmar Kamzâghu. The latter told his two companions that this was just rubbish and lies, but Yahyâ, in that condition, answered: “Mârun Bankan-Kiray (a diminutive of his name in their language), do you accuse me of lying and think that you will never hear lies again, after breaking family ties?” Ismâcîl then covered him with a cloth, and Yahyâ in that condition said, “I know, Ismâcîl, that only you could do this, because you still maintain family ties.” Then he died, and the Amîr appointed his son cUthmân Yawbâbu as Kurmina-Fârî.
Mûsâ and his brothers then returned to Kâghu and on 26 August 1529, just before the salât of the feast of al-adhâ, Mûsâ deposed his father the amîr. His father was at the prayer ground, and Mûsâ swore that no one would pray until he was installed as amîr. So his father handed over his authority to him and he became amîr immediately; then the people did the salât of the feast. Mûsâ stayed in his own home, while the senior Askiya stayed in the palace and never left it the rest of his life. Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad ruled for 36 years and 6 months.
Tinbuktu under Askiya Muhmmad
[Leo Africanus:] The name of this kingdom is modern. It comes from a town that was built by a king called Mansa Sulaymân in 1213/14, about 12 miles from a branch of the Niger. The houses of Tinbuktu are made of clay bricks with straw roofs. In the middle of the town there is a mosque of cut stone with lime mortar built by an architect from Betica [in Spain], native of the town of Almana, as well as a large palace built by the same architect, where the king stays. There are many shops of artisans, merchants and especially weavers of cotton cloth. European cloth can also be found there, brought by traders from the Maghrib. The women of the town still have the custom of veiling their faces, except for the slaves who sell foodstuffs. The people are very rich, especially the foreigners who reside there, so that the present king has given two of his daughters in marriage to two traders who are brothers, all because of their wealth. There are many wells with fresh water; besides, during the rise of the Niger, water reaches the city itself by canals. Grain and cattle are abundant, so that there is also much milk and butter to eat. But salt is scarse because it is brought from Tagaza, which is about 500 miles away from Tinbuktu. When I was in the town a load of salt cost 80 ducats. The king has a large treasure of money and of gold ingots. One of these ingots weighs 1,300 pounds.
The royal court is well organised and magnificent. When the king goes from one town to antoher with the peolple of his court, he mounts a camel and horses are led by the hands of his retainers. If they have to fight, the retainers tie the camels and all the soldiers mount their horses. Any time anyone wants to speak to the king, he must genuflect before him, take some dust from the ground and throw it on his head and shoulders. That is how they show revernece, but this is nto demanded of those who have never spoken to the king before or from ambassadors. The king has, along with 3,000 horsemen, uncountable foot soldiers armed with bows made of wild fennel. They shoot poisoned arrows. The king makes war on his enemy neighbours and those who refuse to pay him tribute. When he is victorious he sells in Tinbuktu, all the captives including children.
In this country only small horses are indigenous. They are used by the traders for their trips and by civil servants to go around town. But good horses come from the Maghrib. The come with a caravan, and ten or twelve days later are brought before the ruler who takes as may as he likes and pays for them.
The king is an overt enemy of Jews. He will not allow any to live in the town. If he hears that a trader from the Maghrib has been trading in contact with them he confiscates his goods. There are many judges, teachers and imams in Tinbuktu, all appointed by the king. He honours the learned very much. Also many manscripts from the Maghrib are sold; these bring more money than any other goods. Instead of coins, they use pieces of pure gold, and for small purchases cowries, that is, small shells brought from Persia, 400 of which equal one ducat. One Roman ounce of gold is equalt ot six and two thirds of their ducats.
The people of Tinbuktu like entertainment. They walk around the town in the night, between 10:00 P.M. and 1:00 A.M. playing musical instruments and dancing. The citizens have many slaves to serve them, both male and female.
The town is much exposed to the danger of fire. While I was there in my second trip, half the town was burned within five hours. But the wind was strong and the people of the other half of the town had begun to move out their belongings for fear that their side would also burn. There are no gardens or green space around Tinbuktu.
Kabara under Askiya Muhammad
[Leo Africanus:] Kabara is a large town looking like a village without a wall. It is about 12 miles form Timbuktu on the Niger, and is the port for bringing trade goods to Ghâna [= Djenne] and Mâli. The houses and the people are like those of Tinbuktu. There are Blacks of many tribes, because they come there from many places with their canoes. The king of Tinbuktu has appointed a lieutenant in charge of business with himself, so that people do nto have to make the trip of twelve miles. When I was in Kabara, he was a relative of the king, named Abû-Bakr Pargama. He was very black, but a fine man because he was very intelligent and just.
This town suffers much from frequent sickness coming from the quality of food they eat: fish, milk, butter and mead, all mixed together. About half the food found in Tinbuktu comes from Kabara.
Gao under Askiya Muhammad
Gao is a very large town like the preceding, that is, without a wall. It is aobut 400 miles from Tinbuktu, to the southeast. Its houses are ugly for the most part. But those of the king and his court are beautiful. The inhabitants are rich traders who are always going around the country with their wares. Uncountable Blacks come there with much gold to buy imports from the Maghrib and Europe, but they do not find enough things on sale and have to bring back with them a half or two thirds of their gold. The town is very well policed, compared with Tinbuktu. Bread and meat are very abundant, but there is no wine or fruit. Nevertheless they have excellent melons, cucumbers and squash, with a huge supply of rice. There are many wells of fresh water. On market days there are unlimited slaves for sale, male and female. A girl of 15 years costs about six ducats, and a young man about the same. Small children cost a little less than half. The king has a special palace reserved for an enormous number of women, concubines, slave girls and eunuchs who guard them. He also has a heavy guard of cavalry and infantry armed with bows. Between the public and private gate to his palace there is a large courtyard surrounded by a wall. On each side of this courtyard there is a veranda for his audiences. Although the king manages all his own affairs, he is assisted by a number of assistants such as secretaries, counsellors, captains and attendants.
The revenue of the kingdom is great, but its expenses are also great. Thus a horse which costs 6 ducats in Europe costs 40 to 50 here. The cheapest cloth from Europe costs 4 ducats a canna; fine cloth such as monacchino and minimo cost 15 ducats; fine scarlet, purple or turquoise Venetian cloth costs 30 ducats. The worst sword which costs a third of a ducat in Europe costs 4 or at least 3 ducats here. It is the same for spurs and bridles. Other merchandise and drugs are likewise expensive, and a decima of salt costs a ducat in this country.
The rest of the kingdom is made up of towns and villages of farmers and shepherds. In the cold season they wear sheep skins. In the summer they go naked and barefooted, although they cover their private parts with a piece of cloth and sometimes wear sandals made of camel skin. The people are absolutely ignorant. It is hard to find one in ten thousand who can read and write. But their king treats them as they deserve, for it is right for him to leave them enough to live one, since the taxes he makes them pay are so heavy.
Agadez in the time of Askiya Muhammad
Agadez is a walled town build by recent kings near the borders of Libya. It is the town of Blacks nearest to those of the Whites, except for Gualata [Walata]. Its houses are well built, like those of the Maghrib, because most of the inhabitants are foreign traders. There are few indigenous people, and these few Blacks are almost all asrtisans or soldiers of the king of the town. Each trader has a large number of slaves to serve as his escort to Kano or Borno, through land infested by numerless tribes that roam the desert. These latter are like the poorest Gypsies, and continuously attack and kill traders. Therefore they travel with slaves well armed with spears, swords and bows; they have even recently introduced cross-bows. So these robbers can do nothing. When a trader arrives in a town he puts these slaves to various work so that they can earn their livelihood, keeping only ten or twelve for his personal needs and to guard the merchandise.
The king of Agadez has a strong guard with a palace in the centre of the town. But his army is made up of men from the country and the desert. He is really Libyan, and sometimes these people chase him out and replace him with one of their own. But they do not kill him, and anyone bearing the title “king of Agadez” finds ready welcome among the desert people.
In the rest of the kingdom, that is in the south, the people raise goats and cattle. They live in huts of branches or mats which they tie on their cattle when they move. They set them up where they graze their cattle, just as the Arabs do. The king gets a big income from the duty that the foreign traders pay and also from local products. But he pays a tribute of about 150,000 ducats to the king of Tinbuktu.
[TS ch 14, 81-86] Askiya Mûsâ then began to kill his brothers, but many of them fled to the Kurmina Fârî, cUthmân Yubâbu, at Tindirma, among them cUthmân Sayyidî, Bakr Kini-Kirini, Ismâcîl and others... CUthmân Yubâbu then openly rebelled, and the Askiya’s messenger returned to Kâghu and reported this to him. So the Askiya prepared to march on Tindirma. Thus civil war broke out and hard times came...
Many died in the battle, including cUthmân Sayyidî. Ismâcîl fled to Biru... The Kurmina Fârî, cUthmân, fled to Tumni where he stayed until he died in 1556/7. cAlî Fulan went to Kano, intending to make the hajj and visit Medina, but circumstances prevented him from doing that and he died in Kano.
The Binka-Farma, Balla, went personally to the Askiya. After some discussion he was let in and met Muhammad son of Askiya Mûsâ standing before the Askiya, saying, “Father, do not kill my father Binka Farma.” When Balla approached, Muhammad went up to him and greeted him. But Balla said to him, “My son, I must die, because there are three kinds of things I will never do: (1) I will not call him Askiya, (2) I will not throw dust on my head [before him], and (3) I will not ride in his entourage.” So Askiya Mûsâ arrested him and had him killed...
When the Askiya returned to Kâghu he began to kill his remaining brothers. They were alarmed and were discussing what to do until one day the Askiya arrested the Faran, cAbdallâh son of Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad, the junior brother of Ishâq. The other brothers then all agreed that if he should kill cAbdallâh they would revolt and kill him. Some time later Askiya Mûsâ called Ishâq and placed in his hands a worn turban and tunic, saying, “Your brother the Faran cAbdallâh was a coward. We locked him up somewhere and he died of fear.”
Ishâq then went to the Shâc-Farma cAlû-Sây, son of the amîr Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad. In tears he told him what had happened. cAlû-ây said, “Be quiet. Are you so forgetful? This is his last killing among us. He will never kill another. So they all agreed and plotted against him until they killed him in the town of Mansûr... He had reigned two years, eight months and fourteen days. On the same day the prosperous and good Askiya Muhammad Bankan, son of cUmar Kamzâghu, was installed as Askiya...
Askiya Muhammad Bankan
[TS ch 14, 87-91] The Kûma-Koy arrested the Shâc-Faran [who wanted to be Askiya], cut off his head with a cutlass and brought it to the Askiya. He thanked him for what he did, but after some time ordered him to be killed, along with many others from his people.
Askiya Muhammad Bankan expelled Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad from his palace and occupied it himself, sending him to the island Kankâka, a little to the west of the city, and imprisoned him there... He had his brother Ismâcîl brought to Songhay from Biru, since he was his companion and friend from childhood. He made him swear by the Qur’ân that he would never betray him, and gave him his daughter Fati as wife...
He refurbished his palace in the most grandiose way, enlarging it, decorating it, adding to the number of servants, supplying them with magnificent dresses, providing many kinds of musical instruments, hiring male and female singers, and making gifts and presents go around. [TF 84 He was the first to ride on a river boat accompanied by drums.] Blessings and wealth were plentiful in his days, unlike the time of the Commander of the Faithful Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad, who never cared for worldly things, fearing the evil eye...
This fortunate ruler loved military expeditions and jihad. He was so occupied with this that the people of Songhay became tired of him and disliked him. He personally led an expedition against Kanta [of Kebbi]. He fought with Kanta at Wantarmâs, and Kanta thoroughly defeated him. Though the Askiya fled with his army, Kanta pursued him and met them at a swamp (?). Only God saved them. The Askiya could not cross it on his horse; so the Hî-Koy Bukar cAlî Dûdu came down and carried him on his shoulders. When they passed that area, Kanta’s army turned back... He eventually reached Kâghu;, and no Askiya ever again fought against Kanta...
One night Ismâcîl went to greet his father on that island. After he sat down before him, Askiya Muhammad held his arm and said, “By God, you have such and arm and you leave me for flies to eat me and frogs to jump on me.” That is what he hated most. Ismâcîl said, “I am powerless.” The Askiya said, “Go to this eunuch of mine and touch this part of his body—a sign to let him know that I sent you—and ask him to give you my treasure of gold which he is keeping. Then go and hire men secretly...”
[TF 85] Ismâcîl revolted and was installed as Askiya outside the town of Kâghu. When the news reached Askiya Muhammad Bankan, he fled to Tinbuktu... and then to Mali.
[TF 86-87] Ismâcîl was installed as Askiya in April 1537... As soon as he was installed he ordered his father, Askiya Muhammad, to be brought out of that island, Kankâna, where his brother Muhammad Bankan-Kirya had exiled him... After being installed in the royal apartments, Askiya Muhammad brought Ismâcîl a sack, untied it and brought out a tunic, a green cap and a white turban. He put the tunic on Askiya Ismâcîl, put the green cap on his head and then tied the turban on him. Finally he hung a sword from his neck and said, “This tunic is my tunic which the Sharîf of Mecca, who was then the Amîr, put on me. He also put this cap on my head and tied this turban on me with his won blessed hands in the presence of a large crowd of the people of Mecca and others. He also entrusted me with this sword and said, ‘You are my amîr, assistant and deputy in your region, and you are the Commander of the Faithful.’ So I am his deputy, amîr and assistant. He installed me and made me king. But my son, the wicked Mûsâ, grabbed the kinship from me, and Muhammad Bankan grabbed it from him. Both of them are outlaws. So I install you and entrust to you the caliphate that I received from the Sharîf. You are the deputy of the deputy of the Sharîf, who is the deputy of the great cAbbâsid caliph...”
During the reign of Ismâcîl, his father Askiya Muhammad died, on the night of cÎd al-Fir, 2 March 1538.
[TS ch 15, 94-95] Once a singer shouted at him at the hour of rising and his heart cracked and blood flowed from his anus. He said to his brothers, “That is only because of the Qur’ân on which I swore to Askiya Muhammad Bankan; it has caught up with me and is affecting me. I will not last long in this rule. So look out for yourselves and be men. I decided to depose him for just three reasons: (1) to set our father free from that island, (2) to bring our daughters back to wearing the veil, and (3) because Yân Mâra told him every time she saw him, ‘An ostrich chick is better than a hundred fowl chicks.’”
Askiya Ismâcîl died on 15 November 1539, after sending the Songhay people out on a military expedition,... having ruled two years and six months.
Askiya Isâq I
[TS ch 16] When the Songhay leaders learned of the death of Askiya Ismâcîl they hurried back to Kâghu before Balmac could come, having agreed that his brother Ishâq should be Askiya. They installed him on 27 December 1539. Ishâq was the most majestic and fearsome of all the Askiyas. He killed many army men, and if anyone opposed his rule in the slightest way he would surely kill or exile him. This was his determined way of acting.
As soon as he took power he sent a Zaghrânî man to Bi’r to kill the Karman-Fârî cUthmân, promising him as a reward thirty cows that had never given birth. The man killed him, came back and received all he had been promised. But when he returned to his home the Askiya ordered him to be killed, and he was killed.
In January 1550 Isâq went to Kûkiyâ and became deathly sick there... He consulted a learned man reputed for medical treatment. The man had him prepare a jar of water, and he did so. He then pronounced some incantations over it and called the Askiya’s name. An answer came, and he said, “Come out to me.” A figure came out of the water, by God’s power, that looked exactly like the Askiya. He put chains on its feet and then stabbed him with his spear, saying, “Get away!” The figure disappeared into the water.
While Askiya Ishâq was still strong, Mawlây Ahmad the Great, Sultan of Marrâkish, sent him a message asking him to cede the salt mine of Taghâza. Ishâq sent this answer: “The Ahmad that was mentioned is not the real one. The Ishâq that was mentioned is not myself; he has not yet been born.” Then he sent two thousand Tuareg camel riders to raid the borders of Darca, towards Marrâkish, without killing anyone, and then come back. They raided the market of the Banû-Aba as it opened, took all the wealth that was there and returned as they were told, without killing anyone. That was just to let Sultan Ahmad see his power.
After his death an account was made of the money he took unjustly and by force from the traders of Tinbuktu. It amounted to 70,000 pieces of gold... He took from everyone as much as he could extract, and no one could complain as long as he lived, from fear of his cruelty.
He died on Saturday, 23 March 1549.
[TF 93] Askiya Dâwûd, son of Askiya Muhammad, took over from his brother on [TS 25] March 1549 and ruled for 34 years and 4 months. Things went well for him, enjoying full power and every worldly benefit. His father, Askiya Muhammad, and his brothers did the hard work, sowing for him; all he had to do was come in and reap. They prepared the ground and he came to sleep on it. Not a single province, from Malli to Lucluc would revolt against him; on the day of his accession he found them obedient slaves...
[TS ch 17, 101-112] The Hî-Koy Mûsâ was extremely bold, brave and strong. Askiya Dâwûd plotted to assassinate him, and ordered his sister’s son Muhammad, son of Dalla, to watch for an opportunity; to kill him. One day he did kill him by throwing his spear at him. The Askiya appointed cAlî as Hî-Koy in his place...
In 1552 Askiya Dâwûd came into conflict with Kanta, the ruler of Lîka [Kebbi], but by the end of the next year they made peace. In 1554 he went to Kûkiyâ and sent the Hî-Koy cAlî Dâdu on an expedition against Katsina. The 24 Songhay horsemen met 400 Libti-Katsina horsemen at a place called Karfata. They fought a fierce battle there, which went on for a long time. The Katsina army killed 15 Songhay men, including the Hî-Koy and his brother Muhammad Bankan Kûma, son of the Faran cUmar Kamzâghu, and others. They also captured nine wounded... They nursed them and gave them the best care and then set them free, sending them to Askiya Dâwûd saying that soldiers such as these do not deserve death, because of their bravery and courage. They were amazed at their power and endurance, so that they took them as models...
In 1555 the Askiya went from Borno to Warash-Bakar... In 1556 he attacked Bussa and razed the town. Many died there [by fleeing] into the water...
The Taghâza-Mundhu Muhammad Ikumâ, an officer of the Askiya, died in Taghâza in 1557, killed... by order of Mawlây Muhammad the ruler of Marrâkish. Some Tuareg salt transporters were killed along with him; those who escaped went to Askiya Dâwûd and told him that they would not abandon their job of transporting salt if they were reinforced, and that they knew of a different mine they could work. The Askiya agreed to this, and they began excavating at Taghâza al-Ghazlân that year...
In 1557 Mawlây cAbdalmalik of Marrâkish died and his brother Mawlây Ahmad adh-Dhahabî took over. He sent a message to Askiya Dâwûd asking him to let him take the product of the Taghâza mine for one year; he also sent him 1,000 gold pieces as a good will gift. The Askiya was amazed at his generosity and goodness. This is why there was such a bond of love between the two. At the Askiya’s death Ahmad held a condolence session and all his army officers came to him to offer their condolences...
The Kurmina Fârî asked his father to let him attack the people of Mount Dumma, who had held out against Shî cAlî and Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad, who had no success. The Askiya gave him an army commanded by Huku Kuray Kuray Yâmî, with the strictest orders not to put the army in danger or let it be ambushed. When they reached the mountain... Maca the Fat, a man of that mountain famous for his obesity, looked down on the army from the mountain top. Then Muhammad son of Mawri rode his horse slowly up a hidden path to the edge of the drop near the man. There he hurled his spear into him and he fell to the ground and died. This made the people afraid of the Songhay cavalry. Then the Faran Muhammad Bankan went back without any engagement...
[TF 89-114] There was no town where he did not have slaves working on plantations under a fanfa (master). Some fanfas would have a hundred slaves, some fifty, sixty or forty...
[The Askiya received 500 slaves left by a dead man. An old woman among them requested that her 27 children and grandchildren not be sold or distributed separately but kept together.] The Askiya told her, “Go with your children. I set them free for the sake of God who gave me 500 slaves at once without my having to trade or travel or fight to get them.” The woman threw dust on her head, thanked him for what he did and said a long prayer for him... The Askiya then sent one of his men to tell those of his sons who were in town to come to him that very day... He told them, “I have set them free. Any of you who returns them to slavery after my death, or harms them in any way, even forcing them to bring a drink of water, God will deal with you and take revenge on the day you stand before him, and you will not be blessed in your life.” The eldest son, the Fâri-Mundhu, answered, “May God prolong your life. If you like leave them all for the sake of God. None of your sons will annul your deeds... Look, our youngest brother, Sulaymân, could make an expedition against the territory of the unbelievers and in less than one night bring back 10,000 or more slaves. God has blessed us through you; may he let you live long. Do what you like and God will reward you”...
The Askiya turned to one of his men and said, “Bring me 27 os the slaves.” He did so, and the Askiya gave them to Askiya-Alfac Bukar, saying, “This is my offering to you for the sake of God.” He selected 27 more and said, “I give these to the central mosque”... He selected 27 more and told another messenger, “Take these to the imâm and tell him that these are my offering to him, that I may be rewarded and the imâm may pray for my health and the forgiveness of my sins.” Then he gave 27 to the preacher Muhammad Jacîti... Then he sent 100 with one of his servants to the Qâdî cAqib with the message, “With these buy for me Paradise from God. Be my agent in this transaction with God by dividing them among yourself, your family and descendants and anyone who deserves them”... He continued distributing slaves that evening 27 by 27 until it was time for the maghrib prayer and none were left.
The jurist Ahmad was sitting and talking with the Askiya and remarked, “I was surprised when I came into your presence. I had the impression that you are mad or stupid, since I saw you spitting into the shirt sleeves [of your attendants] and men were throwing dust over their heads in you honour.” The Askiya laughed and said, “I am not man but am of sane mind. But I am the leader of men who are mad, wicked and proud. Therefore I act as a mad man and possessed myself of jinn so as to inspire them with fear. Otherwise they would act against the rights of Muslims”...
[TS ch 17, 113] In 1582 some Fulani armed robbers from Mâsina attacked one of the Askiya’s ships coming from Jenne and robbed it. Nothing like this ever happened before in the Songhay empire... Muhammad Bankan immediately went out to take revenge against Mâsina, without consulting any royal official... He devastated the land and killed many good students and holy men... When Askiya Dâwûd heard of this he was very unhappy. It was a bad omen for him, because he did not remain long in the world after that event.
[TF 117-119] The Askiya had over 61 children, male and female, more than his father had. It is also said that there were more than 30 other children who died in infancy. Ten of his children became Askiyas after him... Askiya Dâwûd died on 6 August 1583. His tomb is in Kâghu, behind that of his father.
[TF 119-120] Askiya al-Hâjj took power that very day, before his father was buried. Al-Hâjj was a flashy, impressive and brave man with a beard, but he did not last long, being in power only 4 years, 5 months and 10 days. This time was one of prosperity with an abundance of the necessities of life...
Askiya Dâwûd wanted power to go to his son Muhammad Bankan and he took steps to assure this, but God would not have it that way and had al-Hâjj take his place... It is said that he spoke the language of diviners, that he revealed secret things and that everything he said was in accord with what God had destined.
[TF 145-146] A group of Sûdânese were arguing with some Kâghu people, claiming that Kano was greater and larger than Kâghu. The discussion became very heated—this was during the reign of Askiya al-Hâjj—and some excited Tinbuktu boys, along others from Kâghu, got paper, ink and pens and went through Kâghu from one end to the other counting the houses and castes and numbering them one after the other for three days until they reached a total of 7,626 houses, apart from the military cantonment.
[TS ch 18] From the time he became Askiya, al-Hâjj suffered from ulcers on his lower body, and this prevented him from moving as he liked. Thus he could not carry out a single military expedition until the day he died.
When the Faran Muhammad Bankan heard of his father’s sickness, he started off towards Kâghu. But when he reached Tinbuktu he learned that he had died and his brother al-Hâjj had been installed as Askiya... So he mobilized his army and resolved to march on Kâghu. But first he went to greet the Qâdî of Tinbuku without telling any of his soldiers. They heard that he went to ask the Qâdî’s protection, that he wrote to the Askiya yielding rulership to him, and that he wanted to stay in Tinbuktu to study. When they heard this, his troops all fled to the Askiya at Kâghu... Askiya al-Hâjj then sent Amara son of Ishâq Bîru-Askiya with some men to arrest Muhammad Bankan in Tinbuktu and imprison him in Kanatu...
In February/March 1584 the Karmana-Fârî al-Hâdî left Tindirma intending to go to Kâghu, make trouble and take power. It is said that his brothers who were with the Askiya in Kâghu had secretly sent him a message that Askiya al-Hâjj had no more strength to do anything; so he should come and take power. But they betrayed him... Al-Hâdî arrived at Kâghu Sunday evening, 16 March 1584, wearing armour and preceded by trumpets and drums. The Askiya was very afraid of him because he was sick and incapable of doing anything... Some people told al-Hâdî to go to the house of the Preacher with the idea of reconciling with the Askiya. When the Askiya heard that he went there, he immediately ordered him to be arrested there and brought before him. He had him stripped and found iron armour on him... Many of al-Hâdî’s followers were flogged. His uncle, who was the leader of the trouble, died under the flogging; all their goods were pillaged. As for al-Hâdî, he was sent to prison in Cainito...
The Sultan Mawlây Ahmad ash-Sharîf al-Hâshimî sent his messenger to Askiya al-Hâjj with wonderful gifts, but his real aim was to spy on the condition of the land of Takrûr. That is why he resolved to send his messenger to Kâghu. The Askiya received him with honour and send him back with double the gifts that had been brought. Among them were servants, civet cats and eighty eunuchs. Later a report came that he sent an army of 20,000 men towards Waddân with orders to take all the towns bordering on the river and nearby all the way to Tinbuktu. The people were extremely afraid of that, but God scattered that army by means of hunger and thirst and they dispersed this way and that, while only a remainder found their way back to the Sultan without having accomplished anything, by the power of the Creator. Then the Sultan sent a commandant to Taghâza with 200 lancers with orders to capture the people. But they heard of this plan before they arrived and fled, some to al-Hamadiyya and others to Tuwât. When the commandant and his archers arrived they found the town empty except for a few individuals. The Taghâza leaders told the Askiya about this and he agreed with them to stop mining salt there... Some then mined salt at Tanawdara and others elsewhere, abandoning Taghâza. So the commandant and his lancers returned to Marrâkish...
At the end of 1586 the Askiya’s brothers turned against him and went to Karay to get Muhammad Bânu, son of Askiya Dâwûd, and took him with them. On 15 December 1586 they then deposed Askiya al-Hâjj, after a 4 years and 5 months rule, and installed Muhammad Bânu. Askiya al-Hâjj died a few days later.
Askiya Muhammad Bânu
[TS ch 19] When he was made Askiya, Muhammad Bânu appointed his brother âli as Kurmina-Fârî, and Muhammad as-Sâdiq as Balmac...
His brothers hated his rule and his conduct was unacceptable to them and to others, since his rule only brought disasters and famine. So they resolved to depose him and install the Banta-Farma Nûh in his place. They agreed with him and promised that on a night and in a place agreed upon they would the trumpets blown and gather to install him as Askiya. But their plot was discovered without Nûh knowing about it... and those who had arranged it were arrested and removed from office. Nûh came on the appointed night and had the trumpets blown, but saw no one. So he fled. But he was caught up with and arrested with his brother, the Fâri-Mundhu al-Mustafâ, and imprisoned in Dendi.
The Balmac Muhammad as-Sâdiq, son of Askiya Dâwûd, killed the Kabara-Farma cAlwâ, an unjust and wicked man, at Kabara on 6 March 1588. Thus God delivered the Muslims from this man’s wickedness. [TF 130 The student of a master insulted by the Kabara-Farma said, “May the Kabara-Farma perish!” and took a paper and wrote some characters and letters on it folded it, covered it with a black rag and tied it on the neck of a goat. Then he took a sear and stabbed the goat under its front leg and the goat fell dead. At that very hour God put the Kabara-Farma in Balmac Sâdiq’s power and he stabbed him under the armpit.]
Muhammad as-Sâdiq confiscated all that belonged to the deceased and then revolted against Askiya Muhammad Bânu. He asked his brother the Kurmina-Fârî Sâlih to come and become Askiya, since he was most deserving as the senior brother. So he came with his army. But when they came near Kabara, one of his counsellors told him, “Stay here, because the Balmac Sâdiq is treacherous and capable of plotting something and deceiving you. Ask him first to send you everything that he took from the estate of the Kabara-Farma, since you deserve it more since he addressed you as the ruler. If he is honest he will send it to you; if not, he will not send it.” So Sâlih send him this message and he would not agree. So Sâlih concluded that he was not truthful and turned against him. In the battle the Balmac Muhammad as-Sâdiq killed him on the evening of 23 March 1588, 17 days after killing the Kabara-Farma.
Both armies then joined under the Balmac and he resolved to march on Kâghu and overthrow Askiya Muhammad Bânu... The Balmac then set off for Kâghu with a huge army... When Muhammad Bânu heard of that, he was confused but left Kâghu on 9 April 1588 with his army to meet him. But on that very day he died in his tent; some say because of anger... some say because he was so fat and went out dressed in iron armour on a hot day.
[TF 132-134] The chief men agreed to install the Kanfâri Mahmûd, son of Askiya Ismâcîl... and sent for him, telling him that the Askiya is calling for him. He came in a hurry and found them in the tent of the Askiya. They brought him in, told him of his death, pulling back the cloth to show him the dead man’s face. They then said,
Mahmûd, this is a great tragedy and trial that has fallen on all of us... You see how the Balmac Sâdiq has killed his brother the Kanfâri Sâlih and the Kabara-Farma cAlwâ; now he has equipped an army to fight Muhammad Bânu... His brothers are here and not one of them will agree to let his brother take power, since God has set enmity and hatred among them. Each one would rather kill his brother than give him power. We are only their slaves. What is your opinion about this, since al of us want only you and we will agree on no one else, because of your endurance, kindness and good management. Besides, you are our senior and elder. We want to install you in power now before they get to know of the Askiya’s death. We will summon all the rebels and devils and evil men among them, sending each a message that the Askiya is calling them. As each comes, you will command us to arrest him and put him in irons. Anyone deserving death we will kill by your command, until they are finished. Then we will beat the drums for your succession and make you known, and you will be Askiya without any opposition. Then we will go out to fight the Balmac Sâdiq and kill him. This way we will have peace in our lives. But as for the sons of Askiya Dâwûd and their descendants, we want none of them ever to rule over us, because of their evil, oppression and fratricide.
Mahmûd was quiet for some time, then said that he agreed. Among the children, descendants and relatives of Askiya Dâwûd there were more than seventy horsemen present, their senior being Isâq az-Zaghrânî... So they sent a messenger to him first telling him to say that Askiya Muhammad Bânu was calling him. The messenger met him on his prayer mat and intimated to him the death of Askiya Muhammad Bânu and told him what was going on and why he was called, revealing their secrets and telling him to beware of them. Isâq told him to return to them and tell them that he was coming. And that is what the messenger reported back.
Then Ishâq gathered his brothers friends, nephews and brothers and informed them of the plot against them and they were alarmed. Then he got on his horse and his people did likewise about 100 of them all armed and carrying shields and stormed to the tent of the Askiya, where his people were preparing his burial, and surrounded them... They came out humbly, obediently, fearfully and shaking, incapable of doing anything. Ishâq said to them, “We know what has been going on and hear of the plot you made against us... Either surrender to us, or let this be the last day of your lives, with God destroying your homes and making your children orphans and your wives widows.”
They realized that God had dealt with them and threw themselves on the ground. The presented themselves penitent, throwing dust on their heads, Mahmûd along with them. They all said, “God commands, then you; we hear and obey God, then you. You are our commandant and ruler. We obey no one else but you. You yoke is on our shoulders. Pardon us; we seek the protection of Askiya Muhammad and the protection of his foot which stood by the Messenger of God in his sanctuary. Come down now from your horse and we will proclaim you and beat the royal drums that you are our ruler...” Then the army learned of the death of Askiya Muhammad Bânu and all gathered to blow the trumpets for Isâq, making him the ruler, as they threw dust on their heads and swore on the Qur’ân that they would not betray or plot against him.
Ishâq then ordered for the washing and burial of Muhammad Bânu.
Askiya Ishâq II
[TS ch 20] On 10 April 1588 Ishâq was installed as Askiya... [TF 135] The Balmac Sâdiq knew nothing of the death of Muhammad Bânu or the accession of Ishâq. He was in the desert marching with his army and thinking that the hearts of everyone in Kâghu were sympathetic to him because of his great following, and that he was the certain winner. To his surprise forty young horsemen arrived... saying, “Your brother Askiya Ishâq greets you and says that God has taken Askiya Muhammad Bânu by a sudden death and given him the house of his father...”
The Balmac Sâdiq then commanded his troops to set out against Ishâq and fight him... Coming to a certain place, they heard the drums of the Askiya, saw the dust of his horses, heard their own language and saw the Askiya’s picked strongmen preceding the army. At this the Balmac’s men cried out and were convinced that they were lost. The Askiya’s men pounced on them like wolves on sheep. They appeared like wild lions after their prey... The Balmac’s men fell back, not one of them standing to know what happened, leaving the Balmac. Many of them got off their horses and jumped naked into the river to swim across; others entered foxholes or climbed trees... The Balmac fled...
After fighting the Balmac, Askiya Ishâq returned to Kâghu. There the Songhay army accepted his instructions to arrest all the followers of Balmac... Some he bound, others he killed, others he had flogged—and some died under the flogging, others he imprisoned, others he exiled...
Jûdâr and Mahmûd ibn-Zarqûn
[TS ch 21] Askiya Ishâq became annoyed with Wald-Kirinfil, an agent of the Songhay princes, and had him arrested and imprisoned in Taghâza, which was his native place. But by God’s destiny he escaped from prison and fled to Marrâkish, to its amîr the Sharîf Mawlây Ahmad adh-Dhahabî... He told him how the people of Songhay are in such a poor condition with no strength, and urged him to take over their land... Ahmad then wrote to Askiya Ishâq demanding that he hand over the tax on the Taghâza salt mine on the grounds that he was defending the place from Christian unbelievers... The letter arrived in December 1589... Askiya Ishâq did not agree, and answered in abusive language and sent him some spears and iron shoes.. When these arrived, Ahmad resolved to send an army against him. On [TF 29 October 1590] an army of 3,000 gunmen, on horse or on foot, with twice as many assistants, such as craftsmen and doctors, set off for Songhay under the leadership of the Pâshâ Jûdâr,.. with the ex-Christian Bâhasan Farîr heading the right wing and the Spanish Qâsim Warandawî heading the left wing. First, Mawlây Ahmad tod them that the result of his divination was that the Sûdânese would lose power over that land and his army would govern some of it.
So the army set out for Songhay, and when Askiya Ishâq heard of this army he gathered the leaders and elders of his kingdom to take counsel... The Moroccan army reached the river at the town of Karbara... on 30 March 1591... They went on towards Kâghu and in a place called Tankundibucu, near Tundibî they met Askiya Ishâq with 10,500 horsemen and 30,000 infantry... The battle took place on 12 April and in the twinkle of an eye the army of the Askiya was broken... [TF 147 As the Songhay army came near, the Moroccan infantry got on their knees and opened fire with their guns.] Askiya Ishâq and his army turned back defeated. He sent word to the people of Kâghu to flee across the river in the direction of Kurma... When the Pâshâ Jûdâr arrived in Kâghu with his army its inhabitants were all gone, except the preacher Mahmûd Darâmî, an old man, with some students and traders who were unable to flee...
Jûdâr wanted to enter the Askiya’s palace and sent for some men to witness the event. He went in with them and, after looking around and examining what was there, he despised it,.. saying that the house of the keeper of donkeys in Morocco is better than the Askiya’s palace...
After 17 days in Kâghu, Jûdâr took his army to Tinbuktu, waiting for an answer from the Mawlây [on whether to accept the truce proposal of the Askiya]... They entered the city on 30 May 1591. In the meantime everything everywhere deteriorated. Security gave way to fear, prosperity to suffering and distress, well-being to trials and violence... For example, the Bambara unbelievers ravaged the land of Jenne from east to west, north to south. They destroyed all the villages, plundering all their wealth and taking their once free girls as concubines, whose children were unbelievers (“Majûs”)—God save us!.. In the old days no tribal chief would dare attack Songhay, because it was so strong, well supplied and full of brave men that God gave them; rather it was they who attacked these chiefs in their own territory and God helped them to cut them down almost to the point of wiping out their kingdoms,... But now they have repaid God’s favour with unbelief, not refraining from a single sin. They openly drank wine, practised homosexuality, and as for fornication they made this their greatest boast and badge of respect... Because of this God took revenge on them by means of this victorious army, sending it upon them from far away, hitting them with great force, pulling them up by their roots, so that they would be an example to others.
Let us come back to the proposed truce. When the messenger met the Sultan Mawlây Ahmad... he was furious and deposed Jûdâr on the spot, sending Mahmûd ibn-Zarqûn as new Pâshâ, with 80 gunmen,.. with the command to chase Ishâq out of the land of Sûdân... Mahmûd arrived at Tinbuktu on Friday, 17 August 1591... He immediately deposed Jûdâr, took control of the army, and heaped blame on Jûdâr for not pursuing Ishâq. Jûdâr said it was because he did not have boats. Mahmûd thereupon began making them,.. cutting down the trees of Tinbuktu and pulling door frames from the houses to do so... On 9 September Mahmûd left town with all his army, including the deposed Jûdâr and other officers, except al-Mustafâ at-Turkî, whom he left as his deputy in Tinbuktu... They set out on 21 September... They met Askiya Isâq at Banta on 14 October, joined battle, and defeated him for a second time. Ishâq then fed towards the land of Dendi.
Mahmûd then camped at Kûkiyâ with 174 tents, each containing 20 gunmen, totalling around 4,000, a mighty army that no one could meet and defeat except by the power of God. Askiya Isâq then sent 1,200 horsemen, the best of his army who had fled with him, under the command of the Hî-Koy Laha Sorkiyâ, with orders to attack the enemy if they saw a chance to surprise them.
Shortly after leaving the Askiya, this contingent met the Balmac Muhammad Kâghu with about 100 horsemen... The Hî-Koy returned to tell the Askiya of this meeting, but that group went ahead to install Muhammad Kâghu as Askiya. Ishâq then retired to the region of Kubi. The soldiers that were with him after his dethronement then confiscated from him all the apparels of sovereignty... Ishâq then headed for Tunfina in the land of the unbelieving Gurma,.. whom he had fought the previous year. He was accompanied only by the Yây-Farma Bân Ijî and a few attendants. He was not there long before they killed him, his son and all who were with him... He died in March/April 1592.
Mahmûd ibn-Zarqûn against Askiya Muhammad Kâghu
[TS ch 22, 149-151] The army rallied to Askiya Muhammad Kâghu and paid him allegiance. He then ordered the release of his brothers the Fâri-Mundhu afa and the Bantal-Farma Nû, sons of Askiya Dâwûd whom their brother Askiya Muhammad had imprisoned in the land of Dendi. But their other brothers began to rally to the Moroccans, the first of them being the deposed Dacay-Farma Sulaymân. He went to the Pâshâ Mahmûd and was well received.
This made Askiya Muhammad Kâghu afraid; so he sent word to the Pâshâ asking to be accepted as a subject of the Sultan Mawlây Ahmad... The Pâshâ agreed... and asked him to come to take the oath of allegiance. He made up his mind to go, but his counsellors protested, notably the Hî-Koy Laha, saying that the Moroccans are not trustworthy. “If I were planning to go to them, I would send men singly, one after the other. If you agree, I will go alone first. If they kill me no harm will come to you and I will sacrifice myself for you. But if I come back safe the rest can follow until you come last. Then they cannot harm you, because it would do them no good. But the secretary Bakar Lanbâru discredited this advice,.. saying that the Pâshâ Mahmûd is a man of complete integrity and has sworn by God and the Qur’ân. So the Askiya listened to him. Moroccan emissaries then came, greeted the Askiya and conveyed the greetings of the Pâshâ Mahmûd, saying that he welcomed him. They then led the Askiya and his party on.
Meanwhile the Pâshâ had prepared a trap for them. When they arrived, he assembled them for a fine dinner, and as they were eating the arrested and disarmed the Askiya and all who had come into the tent with him. When the Songhay attendants who were outside realized what was happening in the tent they fled. As God decreed, some reached safety; others were killed by bullets or by the sword.
[TF 165-167] The Moroccans then brought a long chain and clasped their necks of the prisoners to it. It was a single chain that bound them all, except the Askiya alone; he was held, but not tied up... If one of them had to get up to urinate, all of them had to get up with him... After ten days he brought them out in that chain... to a boat... When they reached Kâghu, the officer of the boat told the Askiya, “Stretch out your legs, because the Pâshâ ordered us to chain you when we arrive in town.” He did so and the man chained him in front of his men... The Moroccans then led all 63 of them in chains and imprisoned them. After a month they dug a big pit in the palace, killed them all, threw them in and covered them with earth—God have mercy on them! [TS 152 That was forty days after the death of Askiya Ishâq.]
Askiya Nûh in Dendi
[TS ch 22, 153-155] All the Songhay people in Dendi gathered... and gave their allegiance to Nûh [son of Askiya Dâwûd]. All the refugees in other places likewise rallied to him... The Pâshâ Mahmûd, however, appointed Sulaymân Askiya over the Songhay people who remained with the Moroccans...
The Pâshâ Mahmûd then mobilized his army and pursued Askiya Nûh in the land of Dendi. They engaged in one battle that lasted a whole day and gun shots could be heard all around. Nûh first camped in the region of Kucrâw, near the borders of Malli and the land of Kanta. Mahmûd continued after him and built a fort in the region of Kulani as a base for 200 gunmen under the command of cAmmâr. He stayed in Dendi country for two full years, making raids and engaging in some heavy battles. One day he and his army followed Nûh into a very large valley where they entered a narrow path into a thick forest. At a point the officer Bâhasan, being a sharp fellow, halted his horse. The Pâshâ Mahmûd angrily shouted at him from behind, asking why he was stopping and blaming him for his delay and fear. When he came up, Bâhasan said to him, “If I knew of a hair on my body that was standing up from fear, I would pull it out. But I do not want to lead the army of the Sultan into danger or ambush.” So he ordered shots to be fired into the bush. Men then came out fleeing, and many were killed by bullets. Askiya Nûh had hidden them there, since he knew that this path was the only way through...
There were many other fierce battles between them. Askiya Nûh, with his few followers, dealt with them better than Askiya Ishâq with his large army. In the battle of Burnî the Pâshâ Mahmûd lost 80 of his best men. The troops were suffering gravely from the long stay in that land, from fatigue, lack of food and clothing, and sickness from the squalor of the land. The water gave them running stomachs and more died from this than were killed in battle.
Since their hardships in this place had gone on so long, the Pâshâ Mahmûd wrote to Mawlây Ahmad complaining of their great sufferings and that all their horses had died. The Sultan sent him six armies, one after the other... After all that Mahmûd returned to Tinbuktu without achieving his am regarding Nûh.
Tinbuktu and Jenne pacified
[TS ch 22, 157-162. Before this] the Pâshâ Mahmûd heard of the revolution of the people of Tinbuktu against al-Mustafâ and that they had besieged him in the castle, and sent his officer Mâmî ibn-Barrûn with 324 gunmen... Mâmî reconciled the people of Tinbuktu with al-Mustafâ, and everyone was happy...
Then al-Mustafâ sent a single officer on a boat to Jenne to take an oath of allegiance from the people... They agreed to do so... Then Mâmî himself came to Jenne,.. sorted out the affairs of the town and returned to Tinbuktu...
Then the Bâghana Fârî Bakar, son of Askiya Muhammad Bankan, arrived... The Jan-Koy and the Jenne-Mundhu refused to let him in because they feared he would stir up a revolt. But Bakar and his companions insisted that they wanted to come in to take an oath of allegiance to Mawlây Ahmad. So the people of Jenne sent to them Habîb Turqu with the Qur’ân and the Sahîh of Bukhârî for them to take an oath on these books that they came only for that purpose.. They did so, and were let in. The first night they were there they gathered some stupid people and changed their mind, agreeing among themselves to return to allegiance to the Askiya of Songhay... Two or three days later the arrested the Janne Mundhu Bakran and pillaged his house. They also arrested the Moroccan qâdî, put the two in chains and sent them to a village in the region of Kala. They then tore down the house of the jurist-qâdî Muhammad Binba and exiled him, telling him to go anywhere he wanted... Then they decided to arrest the traders who were friends of the Moroccan makhzan and confiscate their property... As they went to arrest Hâmi San Sukar as-Sanâwî, he managed to find a boat in the night and left secretly for Tinbuktu...
When Hâmi arrived at Tinbuktu, he told al-Mustafâ what happened in Jenne, and al-Mustafâ decided to move against Jenne himself, but Mâmî said, “Stay in your castle. I will take your place in this expedition.” So Mâmî led 300 picked gunmen to Jenne... As Mâmî entered Jenne, the Bâghana-Fârî and his companions, concerned for their own safety, quickly left town and fled... Mâmî left 40 gunmen in the city of Jenne... and went after the rebels... They were killed, and the people of Jenne sent their heads al-Mustafâ in Tinbuktu... Mâmî then returned to Tinbuktu, leaving that region free from all disturbance.
Pâshâ Mahmûd back in Tinbuktu
[TS ch 24] After the Pâshâ Mahmûd returned to Tinbuktu he had it announced in town that on the next day there would be a search of houses and if arms were found in any of them the owner would have only himself to blame. Only the houses of the jurists and of the children of Sayyid Mahmûd were to be excepted. The people then rushed to bring their valuables to the houses of these people for safekeeping, since they feared that if they were discovered the soldiers would confiscate them in their greed and hatred. This is just as the Pâshâ had planned. The next day the houses were searched... Then the Pâshâ Mahmûd arrested all the jurists and their companions; that was on 20 October 1593. He sent them in two groups to the castle, one going through the town, another by a road on the east side of the town. Those of the latter group died as martyrs. While on their way, one of the prisoners, a Wangara called Andafu, grabbed the sword of one of the soldiers and hit him with it. The soldiers then killed 14 of the prisoners...
The Pâshâ Mahmûd then entered the houses of the prisoners and looted only God knows how much money, goods and furniture, belonging to them and to other people who had put it there for safekeeping. His men also went after the associates of the prisoners, stripping them naked, raping their women and imprisoning them in the castle for six months. The Pâshâ Mahmûd squandered all the money, distributing it here and there, especially to his soldiers, and only sent the Sultan Mawlây Ahmad 100,000 pieces of gold.
While in Tinbuktu, Pâshâ Mahmûd heard that the young commandant cAmmâr, whom he had left with his companions in the castle of Kulani, had suffered heavy losses to Askiya Nûh. So he sent them Mânî ibn-Barûn with boats to take them back to Tinbuktu...
After keeping the jurists in prison for about five months, Mahmûd began sending them to Marrâkish. A large group of them left, a mixture of fathers, children and grandchildren, women and men, on Saturday 18 March 1594... They entered Marrâkish on 1 June of that year.
The officer Ahmad ibn-al-Haddâd secretly left Tinbuktu for Marrâkish without letting the Pâshâ Mahmûd know about it, going by way of Walâta. He reported to the Sultan Mawlây Ahmad Mahmûd’s excesses, saying that he knows only the sword, and if someone wishes the Sultan victory he bares part of his sword and says, “Here he is.” This made the Sultan very angry...
Meanwhile the Pâshâ Mahmûd mobilized his army and returned to fight Askiya Nûh, who had come out of the land of Dendi to the land of al-Hajar... He reached the land of al-Hajar and conquered Hunbari, Dacankâ and the surrounding area.
The Sultan Mawlây Ahmad sent the commandant Mansûr ibn-cAbdarrahmân to the Sûdân to arrest Mahmûd ibn-Zarqûn and kill and disgrace him. But the son of the Sultan, Bû Fâris, quickly sent Mahmûd a messenger to inform him of what Mansûr ibn-cAbdarrahmân was planning to do to him and told him to take care of himself before Mansûr reaches him. Mahmûd believed this message because he was in the service of Mawlây Bû Fâris and had a special relationship with him above the other sons of Mawlây Ahmad.
Mahmûd thereupon moved with his army and Askiya Sulaymân to the Almina-Wâlu rocks, camping under the rocks. When night came he wanted to climb the rocks to fight the unbelievers, but Askiya Sulaymân prevented him, saying that this would be impossible, not knowing that he wanted himself and all of them to perish. At the end of the night Mahmûd went out against the unbelievers with 40 soldiers and 10 Tinbuktu mulattos. The rest of the army did not know until they heard the sounds of gunfire at dawn on top of the mountain. His companions who escaped from the battle told the others that he died along with the commandant of Kâghu cAlî ibn-al-Mustafâ and others that God had destined to die with them. When Mahmûd was shot by arrows and fell on the ground, the Tinbuktu men carried him on their shoulders back towards the army, but the unbelievers pressed against them, shot him and cut off his head. This they sent to Askiya Nûh, who sent it to Kanta, Sultan of Kebbi. He put it on a pole in the market of Lîka for a long time. Askiya Sulaymân turned his army back with all possible speed, fearing an encounter with the unbelievers...
The commandant Mansûr entered Tinbuktu on 12 March 1595... After taking counsel, in June he led his army to al-ajar to revenge the death of Mahmûd. He had 3,000 soldiers, including cavalry and infantry. In al-Hajar they met Askiya Nûh with all the elite of Songhay. Mansûr dealt with him as Mahmûd failed to do and he fled with his army. They and the elite escaped, but Mansûr enslaved the rest, male and female, old and young, men and women musicians, and took them all to Tinbuktu. There he gave them to Askiya Sulaymân...
Mansûr died of sickness on 9 November 1596... Then the Sultan Mawlây Ahmad sent the Pâshâ Muhammad Sâbac with an army of 1,000 soldiers, cavalry and infantry. They arrived at Tinbuktu on 28 December 1597... But he died on 11 May 1597...
The Pâshâ cAmmâr
[TS ch 25 & 27, 189] Sultan Mawlây Ahmad commanded Jûdâr to return by the end of the year (July 1599). Jûdâr wrote back asking someone to be sent to deputize for him over the army... because the Sultan of Mali was on the move and wanted to invade this land. Likewise the exiled ruler of Mâsina, Hammad Amina, was planning a comeback. A Pâshâ, with all the renown of that title, was needed rather than a commandant.
So the Sultan sent the young cAmmâr as Pâshâ, alone without an army. Previously he had led 1,000 troops to Songhay, 500 of them ex-Christians and 500 Spaniards. When they got to Awât the split, going by different routes. The ex-Christians arrived safely, but the others got lost and all died in the desert... cAmmar arrived in February 1599 and the Pâshâ Jûdâr left on 25 March.
Sultan Mahmûd of Malli then prepared to attack Jenne... Sayyid Mansûr, whom the Pâshâ cAmmâr had made mayor of Jenne, reported the situation to cAmmâr and asked for help. He sent him and army... which defeated the Malli-Koy and his army in the twinkle of an eye, killing many of them. The Malli-Koy escaped on his horse...
But the Fundunku ammad Amina gathered a large force of unbelieving Bambara together with his own army and marched east stirring up trouble. The people of Jenne sent an army against him under Sulaymân Shâwish... All the Moroccan soldiers were killed except two...
cAmmâr remained in office 1 year, 2 months and some days. The commandant al-Mustafâ overshadowed him so that he held real control. This man was rebellious and stubborn and cared about no one. When the Sultan heard about the two he was extremely angry, at cAmmâr for weakly letting al-Mustafâ override him and at the latter for his stubborn rebelliousness in overriding and effectively deposing cAmmâr. So he sent the Pâshâ Sulaymân to take over, with orders to imprison them both, but the humiliate al-Mustafâ, sending him back to Marrâkish in irons.
The rulers of Mâsina [TS ch 26]
- Maghan, son of Jâjî son of Sâdî...
- Buhum, the latter’s son...
- cAlî Maghan, the latter’s brother...
- Kânata, son of latter’s brother Buhum... killed in battle with the Zaghrâwîs...
- cAlî, the latter’s brother, who beat the Zaghrâwîs and the Mossis...
- Anayâ Kânata, who moved from Mâsina to Janba during the reign of Askiya al-âjj Muhammad; he reigned for 23 years in Mâsina and 10 years in Janbal.
- Sûdi, son of Jâjî, the latter’s brother...
- Ilu Sûdi, the latter’s brother, and Hammad Siri, son of Aniyâ. They had contested for power and brought their quarrel to Askiya Ishâq I, who had them share power, giving them each a royal robe and a horse. He sent them back to their people, saying that the people could follow whichever of the two they preferred. So they divided into two camps, the larger being that of Ilu and the remainder going after Hammad-Siri. They fought and Ilu won, driving Hammad out of the land. He went to Sanqara, asked their help and came back to Mâsina to fight again. Ilu beat him again; so this time he went to the Askiya in Kâghu, who summoned Ilu to come to him. Ilu obeyed and took a boat for Kâghu, but the Askiya had him killed before he arrived, after only 1 and a half years of rule. Hammad then ruled for 4 years. Hammad Fullânî stayed in Kâghu with the Askiya during that time.
- Hammad Fullânî. When some people in Mâsina refused to accept Hammad Siri, the Askiya appointed ammad Fullânî as ruler and he returned to Mâsina as a vassal of the Askiya. Hammad Siri fled... When Hammad Fullânî died,
- Bâbu Ilu succeeded, by order of the Askiya, and ruled for 7 years. He died in Kâghu.
- Burhima Bûy, son of Hammad Fullânî... He ruled for 8 years and died in Jenne.
- Bûbu Maryam, the latter’s brother and son of Hammad Fullânî, who ruled for 24 years. The Kurmana-Fârî Muhammad Bankan, son of Askiya Dâwûd, attacked him and he fled... Later he came back, but, after taking power, was deposed by Askiya al-Hâjj son of Askiya Dâwûd.
- Hammad Amina, son of Bûbi Ilu, succeeded him, installed by Askiya al-Hâjj. He ruled for 6 years until the coming of the army of Pâshâ Jûdâr, and then ruled for 13 more years, making a total of 19 years... When he died, his son,
- Bûbu cÂ’isha, called Yâmî, took over. He ruled for 10 years. When he died, his brother,
- Burhima Bûy, took over, and ruled for 12 years. When he died,
- Salâmaka cÂ’isha took over,.. and ruled for two years. When he died,
- Hammad Amina, son of Bûbu Yâmî who was brother of the latter, took over and ruled for 25 years.
Pâshâs Sulaymân and Mahmûd Lunku
[TS 27] Sulaymân arrived at Tinbuktu on Thursday 19 May 1600... He was the last Pâshâ that Sultan Mawlây Ahmad sent to the Sûdân. The learned jurist Ahmad Bâbâ comments that the amîr Sultan Mawlây Zîdân, son of Mawlây Ahmad, informed him that the total number of soldiers that his father had sent to Sûdân from the time of Pâshâ Jûdâr to Pâshâ Sulaymân is 23,000 from the best of his army. This information was in a chronicle that he showed him. He said that his father had sent them to death uselessly, since none of them returned to Marrâkish except about 500 men. The rest all died in the land of Sûdân.
At this time the amîr Mawlây Ahmad died. Pâshâ Sulaymân heard about it and kept the news secret for a year until Mawlây Bû Fâris, son of Mawlây Ahmad, took office in June 1603. The new Sultan sent Pâshâ Mahmûd Lunku to the Sûdân, and he arrived in July 1604 with 300 soldiers or more...
In 1607/08 Mawlây Zîdân, son of Mawlây Ahmad, took office. He sent Pâshâ Sulaymân back to the Sûdân to take charge, but after he left Marrâkish he was killed by Sacîd ibn-cUbayd...
In 1608 the Hî-Koy Sayyid Karay Îjî, in the name of Askiya Hârûn Dankatiyâ, son of Askiya Dâwûd and ruler of Dendi, led an expedition against Moroccan controlled peoples along the river. On hearing about this, the commandant cAlî cAbdallâh at-Tilimsânî set out with an army in July/August to fight the enemy. In the army with him was Askiya Hârûn, son of Askiya al-Hâjj son of Dâwûd. Pâshâ Mahmûd had given this Hârûn the title of Askiya when Askiya Sulaymân, son of Askiya Dâwûd, died... During this campaign the Songhay people repudiated Askiya Hârûn son of al-Hâjj at cAnkaba. The commandant cAlî asked them to endure him and they did, but when they reached Tinbuktu they rose against him, so that he was deposed... This Askiya remained in office 4 years and after being deposed lived 8 more years.
In 1609, on behalf of the [Dendi] Askiya, the Dendi-Fârî Bâr marched from Dendi with a big army, heading towards Jenne... The Dendi-Fârî reached the town of Kubbi where the commandant Ahmad ibn-Yûsuf had camped his army. These fled to the Kubbi fort, while the Dendi-Fârî’s men looted Ahmad’s tent and everything they left behind. They also captured some boats coming from Jenne, with a large load of gold and other things. In the meantime they besieged the army in the fort.
The commandant cAlî ibn-cAbdallâh heard of this while he was with his army at cAnkaba. So he went with a few picked soldiers to help the besieged fort; left behind were the commandant addu, Askiya Bakar, Askiya Hârûn, the commandant Ahmad ibn-Sacîd and his followers. When the Dendi-Fârî heard that cAlî was coming, he left with his army in the night for the land of Dirma, behind Mount Kura. When they reached the town of Junju he stopped with his army and camped. They asked the people of Junju for provisions and they sent them.
The army that was in cAnkaba came after them, and they fought near the above-mentioned mountain. The battle was fierce and many died on both sides, including some of the best Moroccans... They only stopped fighting near sunset. What frightened the Moroccans most in that place was the sound of the shields on the horses as they galloped. The whole Moroccan army, from greatest to least, fled into the Dabi lake, going in waist deep. When they discovered what was making the noise they came out of the lake. They were at the extremity of fear when they heard the bugle sounds of the commandant cAlî, as he came across the lake to them...
In 1612... the Dendi-Fârî Sayyid Karay Ijî, on behalf of Askiya al-Amîn, left with a big force to attack the Moroccans. The commandant cAlî went to meet him with a large army.. in the month of June. Then met at Shirku-Shirku, a place at the eastern end of the region of Binka. Each army faced the other until they separated without any fighting; each one turned back. Askiya Bakar commented that he never saw two armies each give way except these two. It was rumoured that the commandant cAlî sent gold to the Dendi-Fârî through Askiya Bakar, son of the Dendi-Farî’s sister, so that he would withdraw without fighting and that’s why he did so. Askiya al-Amîn heard of this and in his Council confronted the Dendi-Fârî with this, heaped abuse on him and accused him of taking a bribe to abandon the battle. When the Dendi-Fârî returned home he drank poison and died. Gold was found in his possession, and no one knew of it beforehand; this reinforced the charge.
The commandant cAlî ibn-cAbdallâh returned with his army to Tinbuktu, and there he deposed Pâshâ Mahmûd Lunku and took his place on 11 October 1612... Shortly afterwards Mahmûd died, having ruled for 8 years and 7 months. He was the last of the Pâshâs sent from Marrâkish.
Pâshâs made and unmade by the Tinbuktu troops
The soldiers appointed and deposed the subsequent Pâshâs. The following list is taken from TS 33, 35 & 38, with the dates each took power.
- cAlî ibn-cAbdallâh at-Tilimsânî 11 October 1612
- Ahmad ibn-Yûsuf al-cIljî 13 March 1617
- (cAmmâr visited as Pâshâ from Morocco 27 March - May/June 1618)
- Haddu ibn-Yûsuf al-Ajnâsî (died in office) June/July 1618
- Muhammad ibn-Ahmad al-Mâssî 17 January 1619
- Hammu ibn-cAlî ad-Darcî 4 November 1620
- Yûsuf ibn-cUmar al-Qarî 29 January 1622
- Ibrâhîm ibn-cAbdalkarîm al-Jarârî 6 May 1627
- cAlî ibn-cAbdalqâdir 8 May 1628
- cAlî ibn-Mubârak al-Mâssî 20 July 1632
- Sacûd ibn-Ahmad cArjûd 17 October 1632
- Mascûd ibn-Manûr October/November 1638
- Muhammad ibn-Muhammad cUthmân April 1613
- Ahmad ibn-cAlî ibn-cAbdallâh at-Tilimsânî 10 November 1646
- Yahyâ ibn-Muhammad al-Gharnâî 24 October 1648
- Ahmad ibn-addu ibn-Yûsuf al-Ajnâsî 15 October 1654
- Muhammad ibn-Mûsâ 18 August 1654
- Muhammad ibn-Ahmad Sacdûn ash-Shâzimî 15 May 1655
Tadhkira an-nisyân continues the list, giving a total of 156 Pâshâs up to the year 1750.
The Askiyas in Dendi
[TS 37] The first of the Askiyas in Dendi after the Moroccan invasion was Askiya Nûh. He ruled for 7 years, but never had a month’s rest, always occupied with war and fighting until the Songhay people tired of him because of his long absence from them and their families. So they deposed him and installed his brother Askiya al-Mustafâ son of Askiya Dâwûd. This man ordered his brother, Muhammad Surku Ijî to pursue Nûh and expel him from their kingdom. Muhammad gathered the best troops for this expedition and then revolted and deposed al-Mustafâ. Muhammad did not last long. One night he heard the voices of children playing and thought that the Songhay people had revolted. So he fled.
The people then installed his brother Askiya Hârûn Dancette, son of Askiya Dâwûd. During his reign the Dendi Fârî Bâru went to Jenne to fight the Moroccans at Mount Kara. He died while in power.
The people then gave allegiance to Askiya al-Amîn, son of Askiya Dâwûd. He was a blessed and happy and ruled his people in the best way, so that they were blessed by his generosity. There happened to be a famine lasting for 6 months, during which he took care of the weak and poor, even to the point of slaughtering for them 8 cows, 4 in the morning and 4 in the evening. He distributed the meat along with 200,000 cowries. He likewise assigned to them 1,000 milk cows, distributing the milk to them, until God granted relief. He conducted several expeditions and through them God granted him much wealth. He ruled for 7 years until his death.
The brother’s son, Askiya Dâwûd, son of Muhammad Bânu, son of Askiya Dâwûd, succeeded him and ruled for 22 years. He was unjust, wicked and murderous, putting to death innumerable relatives and army officers. Not a day passed without him killing someone. He conducted not a single expedition, so that his nation became weak and near extinction. He wanted to kill his brother Ismâcîl, but the latter became aware of this and fled to Tinbuktu and asked the Moroccans to help him fight Dâwûd.
Pâshâ Sacîd ibn-cAlî [= Sacûd ibn-Ahmad] wrote to the people of Kâghu to furnish him the soldiers he needed. With these he went and drove out his brother and took power himself. However Pâshâ Mascûd ibn-Manûr, while commanding his army, personally deposed him; so he fled [Details in TS 35].
The Pâshâ then appointed as Askiya Muhammad son of Anas son of Askiya Dâwûd, but as soon as he left, the people of Songhay deposed him and installed Askiya Dâwûd son of Muhammad Surku Ijî son of Askiya Dâwûd. They then deposed this man and he fled to Tinbuktu.
In his place they installed Askiya Muhammad Barî son of Hârûn Dancette son of Askiya Dâwûd. But then Askiya Ismâcîl returned with a large army to fight him. So Muhammad fled to Kâghu looking for help.
The people of Songhay then installed Askiya Mâr Shindin son of Fârî Mundhu Hamâd son of Balmac Hâmid son of Askiya Dâwûd. Barî then returned from Kâghu with an army, together with an army led by cÂli ad-Dûmusî. In a battle with Ismâcîl Barî was killed, but Ismâcîl was likewise killed and his army defeated.
The people of Songhay then deposed Mâr Shindin and installed Askiya Nû son of al-Mustafâ son of Askiya Dâwûd. They then deposed him and installed Askiya al-Barak son of Dâwûd son of Muhammad Bânu. After him they put Askiya al-Hâjj. Afterwards, Ismâcîl son of Muhammad Surku Ijî, who had gone to Tinbuktu with his brother Askiya Dâwûd, came and deposed him and took power himself. Later his brother Dâwûd came from Tinbuktu and deposed him. Dâwûd is the currently ruling Askiya.
The puppet Askiyas at Tinbuktu
[TS 37; dates from TN 180-185] The first and the greatest Askiya put in power by the Moroccans in Tinbuktu was Sulaymân son of Askiya Dâwûd (1591/2). That occurred when Bakr Kîshâc son of al-Funduku son of Faran cUmar Kamzâghu fled from the Songhay people to Pâshâ Mahmûd ibn-Zarqûn. Since he was the first Songhay leader to flee to him, Pâshâ Mahmûd said, “Let us make you Askiya.” But he replied “I am not worthy.” So when Sulaymân also fled to him, the Pâshâ said, “Here is the Askiya.” Then Pâshâ Mahmûd heard of Bakr Kanbû ibn-Yacqûb, who was in prison. He had him released, and when he was brought he said, “Here is the Kurman Fârî...
After Askiya Sulaymân came Askiya Hârûn son of Askiya al-Hâjj (1604/5), then Askiya Bakr ibn-Yacqûb (1608/9), then Askiya al-Hâjj son of Bakr Kîshâc (1618/19), then Askiya Muhammad Bankan, son of Balmac Muhammad as-Sâdiq (Oct/Nov 1621), then Askiya cAlî Zalîl son of Bakr Kîshâc. He was deposed and Askiya Muhammad Bankan came back to power (June 1635) until he died. Then came his son, Askiya al-Hâjj Muhammad (December 1642).
[TN adds] Dâwûd, son of Askiya Hârûn (1656/7), Muhammad Sâdiq, son of Askiya Muhammad Bankan (1668/9), Muhammad, son of Askiya al-Hâjj (1684/5), cAbdarrahmân, son of the Kurîma Fârî cUmar son of Askiya Bakr (17 November 1705), Bakr, son of Askiya Muhammad Sâdiq (1709/10), al-Mukhtâr ibn-Shams, son of Askiya Ismâcîl (1717/18), al-Hâjj, son of Askiya Bakr son of Askiya Muhammad Sâdiq (11 June 1730), Mahmûd, son of the Kurîma Fârî cAmmâr (21 November 1748).
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