Mansa Musa: Evidence Of Great Leadership

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The Mali Empire was a great, wealthy, and powerful empire in Western Africa. It was founded around 1235 by a man named Sundiata. Although Sundiata founded it, the greatest ruler of the Mali Empire is considered to be a man named Mansa Musa. Mansa Musa was the ninth ruler of the empire, and a devout Mulsim. Under Mansa Musa, the Mali Empire became rich and powerful, and Islam spread beyond his empire.

The Mali Empire was one of the richest empires in the world. This is due to many reasons. For one, the area was full of natural resources and fertile soil, the most valuable resources being salt and gold. Salt was very valuable during these times because without a refrigerator, salt was the only way one could preserve food. Gold held much value during the time of the Mali Empire because it was so rare. Its value further increased due to the need for gold coins in the European economies, which were growing as a result of the Crusades. Mali rulers increased their wealth by maintaining a monopoly over the supply of gold. Not only did these natural resources add to their wealth, but the empire’s location did as well. There were trade routes all over the country where cities began to grow along. Caravans bought goods for trade to the empire, and the king put taxes on all trade transactions, adding to the empire’s wealth. All of these elements made Mansa Musa one of the richest rulers of the world- “His net worth would have topped $400 billion in today’s dollar” (Science and its Times). Mansa Musa further proved his wealth and the wealth of his kingdom when he undertook the hajj.

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The hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca that all healthy and financially-able Muslims are required to take by their religion. As a devout Muslim, Mansa Musa decided to commence his hajj in 1324. Mansa Musa brought many followers along with him on the trip- “Sixty thousand bearers carried his supplies and riches, and five hundred slaves went in front of the procession, each bearing a staff of gold. His wife brought along five hundred maids. He brought one hundred camels, each of which carried as much as 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of gold” (Stock). During his hajj, Mansa Musa demonstrated his generosity by giving out his gold to the people he saw along his route; historians estimate that the gold he gave away would be worth more than $100 million dollars today (Anastasia). Mansa Musa and his followers handed out and spent so much money that its value in Cairo went down. The value of this prized metal was affected so much that it took twelve years to bounce back (Anastasia). However, the value of gold was not the only thing that Mansa Musa affected.

Mansa Musa’s hajj impacted both the Mali Empire and Islam in many ways. During his pilgrimage, Mansa Musa commanded his followers to build a mosque wherever they stopped on every Friday, the day of Muslim prayer. This not only impressed many with his wealth, but also left behind an Islamic infrastructure, expanding the influence of Islam. Also, after being told to kiss the ground of an Egyptian sultan, Musa said, “I make obeisance to God who created me!” (Global Events: Milestone Events Throughout History). This bold action shows how devout Muslims should be towards their god and their religion, providing an example for his followers and other Muslims on how they can strengthen their faith. After his pilgrimage, Mansa Musa felt the need to turn Timbuktu, a city his large empire, into a prominent center of Islamic learning and knowledge. He promoted the building of mosques and schools and convinced Islamic scholars and architects to come to Mali. This renowned city of learning attracted and impressed many people- “Professors came from as far away as Egypt to teach in the schools of Timbuktu, but were often so impressed by the learning of the scholars there that they remained as students” (Science and Its Times). This expanded the influence of Islam even further and brought tremendous wealth to the empire. Tales of Timbuktu also sparked the interest of the Europeans and led them to want to visit the acclaimed city. However, the arrival of Europeans in Africa led to the worst impact of Timbuktu’s appeal; the slave trade.

Stories of Mansa Musa’s wealth and generosity spread throughout the world. This made him the first well-known sub-Saharan African leader between western Europeans (Science and Its Times). European cartographers began to depict Mansa Musa on a throne surrounded by wealth in their maps of West Africa instead of just animals. However, his wealth was not the only noteworthy part about him. His devotion to his religion helped to spread Islam greatly. He was also a tremendous leader who made the Mali Empire thrive and flourish in peace for many years. He was such a great leader that his successors failed to reach his potential; their leadership caused the empire to collapse years after Musa’s death. This proves that Mansa Musa was one of the most impressive leaders of the world; his wealth only further demonstrates this statement.  


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