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Askia The Great
Emperor of the Songhai Empire
Preceded by Sunni Baru (1492-1493)
Succeeded by none
Personal details
Born ca. 1443
Died 1538

Extent of the Songhai Empire,
circa 1500.

Askia Muhammad I (ca. 1443 – 1538), born Muhammad Toure in Futa Tooro, later called Askia, also known as Askia the Great, was an emperor, military commander, and political reformer of the Songhai Empire[1] in the late 15th century, the successor of Sunni Ali Ber. Askia Muhammad strengthened his country and made it the largest country in West Africa's history. At its peak under Muhammad, the Songhai Empire encompassed the Hausa states as far as Kano (in present-day Nigeria) and much of the territory that had belonged to the Songhai empire in the west. His policies resulted in a rapid expansion of trade with Europe and Asia, the creation of many schools, and made Islam an integral part of the empire.

Due to his efforts, Songhai experienced a cultural revival it had never witnessed before, and the whole land flourished as a center of all things valuable in learning and trade.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

After Sunni Ali Ber died, Sunni Baru, his son and intended successor, refused to declare himself a Muslim. His refusal gave one of Sunni Ali Ber's generals, Muhammad Ture, a reason to challenge his succession.[3] General Ture defeated Baru and ascended to the throne in 1493.[3] General Ture, later known as Askia Muhammad I or Askia the Great, subsequently orchestrated a program of expansion and consolidation which extended the empire from Taghaza in the North to the borders of Yatenga in the South; and from Air in the Northeast to Futa Djallon in Guinea. Instead of organizing the empire along Islamic lines, he tempered and improved on the traditional model by instituting a system of bureaucratic government unparalleled in Western Africa.[citation needed] In addition, Askia established standardized trade measures and regulations, and initiated the policing of trade routes. He also established an organized tax system.

Tomb of Askia[edit | edit source]

Askia encouraged learning and literacy, ensuring that Mali's universities produced the most distinguished scholars, many of whom published significant books and manuscripts and one of which was his nephew and friend Mahmud Kati. To secure the legitimacy of his usurpation of the Sonni dynasty, Askia Muhammad allied himself with the scholars of Timbuktu, ushering in a golden age in the city for scientific and Muslim scholarship.[4] The eminent scholar Ahmed Baba, for example, produced books on Islamic law which are still in use today. Muhammad Kati published Tarik al-Fattah and Abdul-Rahman as-Sadi published Tarik ul-Sudan ("Chronicle of Africa"), two history books which are indispensable to present-day scholars reconstructing African history in the Middle Ages.

Askia is buried in the Tomb of Askia in Gao, a World Heritage Site.

Askia in popular culture[edit | edit source]

Askia appears in Sid Meier's Civilization V as the playable leader of the Songhai Empire.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. http://books.google.com/books?id=LaV-IGZ8VKIC&pg=PA764&lpg=PA764&dq=Songhay+astronomy&source=bl&ots=Omy8le0-8D&sig=UAYKMszencNlsBYc_ikQsnGBxkM
  2. Askia the Great from blackhistorypages.net
  3. 3.0 3.1 Biographical information on historical African figures from globaled.org
  4. Vogel, Joseph O., Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa: Archaeology, History, Languages, Cultures, and Environments, page 493 (1997). ISBN 0-7619-8902-1

External links[edit | edit source]

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