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Golden Era of The Mali Empire during the Rule of Mansa Musa: Analytical Essay

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Shihāb ad-Dīn Aḥmad ibn Faḍl Allāh al-ʿUmarī, also known as Al-Umari was a Syrian scholar. He was born in Damascus in 1301, June 12th. “Umar” in his name can be understood as the origin of his family and shows that they were from the second Islamic caliph. Al-Umari was part of a bureaucratic family, and his father was head of a chancery. Al-Umari started working as an assistant to his father, but he was the overly independent and free person to work in public services. That is the reason why, in 1337, he was discharged from office and sent to prison. He was released in 1339. After the death of his father, Al-Umari had one more chance to work on his position. But in 1342, Al-Umar was again displaced by his brother. After all this thing, Al-Umar started his career as a writer and scholar, and he spent his remaining life in the search for knowledge.

Usually, Al-Umar’s writings were used to rule territories of the Mamluk Empire of Syria and Egypt. After his works became core sources of Mamluk history. He wrote at-Taʾrīf bi-al-muṣṭalaḥ ash-sharīf, a complete study of the ideologies of Mamlūk government. Also, Masālik al-abṣār fī mamālik al-amṣār is an encyclopedia by Al-Umar, and it is also about organizational performs.

The Hajj of Mansa Musa is Al-Umar’s passage in which Syrian scholar describes pilgrimage of the king of Mali, Mansa I. It is period between 1324-1326 when Mansa Musa traveled from Mali to Mecca. From the source, it is clear that Al-Umar gathered information about hajj of Mansa from locals in Cairo. Syrian writer himself traveled in Cairo to find persons who were associated with this journey of Mansa. Source mainly discusses how Mansa Musa was acting while he was on his journey and especially what he did in Cairo. There is a lot of information about Musa’s property, his attitude toward people and results of his charity.

Description of political, economic and social situation

From 11th to 14th century political, social and economic situation absolutely changed in Africa. It is true that even before this time Africa was not very separated from rest of the world but connection between sub-Saharan Africa and other continents became stronger especially from 1000 to 1300 CE. Cultural, political, and economical integration help this territory to become interesting and attractive for Eurasia. Two main factors led these changes. First it was spread of Islam and second growing trade, especially, in slaves, gold and many other.

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One of the most influential empire in this period of Africa was the Mali Empire. This was a territory in west part of Africa, located between seaside rain forest in the south and the Sahara Desert to the north. Mali was founded by Sundiata Keita after he won the battle of Krina against Sosso. This result led rise of Mali Empire.

Golden era of this empire was during the rule of Mansa Musa who took power in 1312 CE. He was successor of Mansa Abu Bakr II who disappeared in Atlantic. In this period full-time army was defending borders of empire and there were approximately 100 000 men soldiers and 10 000 of them were part of cavalry corps. This force helped Musa to not only maintain the territory of his empire but to double it. Mali became the second biggest empire after Mongol Empire. Gradually, influence of Mali Empire on other territories of Africa was increasing. Soon Mali was controlling Gambia, Senegal, Gao, the Bure region, Western Sahara border region and so. All these territories were ruled by Mansa Musa who was strictly controlling if everyone was paying taxes and if all regulations were conformed throughout his empire. Also, he distributed his power to masters. Musa assigned chiefs of different levels: village or city masters, country masters and province masters.

What helped Mali Empire to become greater was its beneficial strategic location. It was placed between West African gold mines and the agriculturally rich Niger River valley. Big supply of gold, copper and salt, and monopoly on trading contributed to the flourishing of Mali’s economy. Three huge gold mines and taxing of any imported gold or salt played vital role in developing of this empire. All gold nuggets belonged to Mansa. They were part of imperial treasure and no one had right to trade gold nuggets within the borders of empire. All gold particles were turned into form of gold dust which was a unit of exchange all over the empire. However, it was not valued similarly in all provinces. Second thing that made Mali wealthy is salt. South part of empire was lack of this resource, so here salt was even more valuable than gold. In compare, in north there was enough supply of salt. In Sub-Saharan Africa salt was evaluated as valuable as gold, or sometimes more valuable, than gold. One more appreciated merchandise in Mali was copper. Mostly, the north part of empire was rich in copper ores. Especially, Takedda was source of this metal. So, people from the north and the south were exchanging copper and gold.

Society of Mali was divided into classes. In the top of hierarchy there was king. Second the most influential class was priests and they were followed by griots (storytellers). The lowest class of society were slaves. Usually they were women and people with physical or mental problems. In Mali most of the population were Muslims. Islam was well integrated with local traditions and beliefs.

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