Have you ever wondered who is the richest man ever to have lived? Or, where he might have come from? The answer lies not too far away from where you are today.
Yes, King Mansa Musa, whom historians believe to have possessed a fortune of roughly $400 billion, was the ruler of the Malian Empire, which included all or parts of modern-day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso.
He virtually put Africa on the map, especially for his generosity. In 1324 he made the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, bringing with him thousands of men and hundreds of camels. While passing through Egypt, Mansa Musa gave out tonnes of gold to the poor, bought many souvenirs, and had mosques constructed along the way.
KING MANSA MUSA MADE THE EMPIRE FAMOUS FOR KNOWLEDGE
Mansa Musa made the Malian Empire not just famous for its gold, but also for its knowledge and culture. On his way back to West Africa, Mansa Musa brought with him Muslim scholars and architects. This led to the construction of many religious and educational buildings, including the Djinguereber mosque and the University of Sankore which still stand in Timbuktu today. The latter gathered books from all over the world, becoming one of the largest libraries in the region with a collection of over 400 000 manuscripts. The University of Sankore also attracted scholars from the Middle East and North Africa, and was capable of housing 25 000 students at one time. Books and education were cherished not only by the king, but also by his people, who begun to establish their own private libraries in their homes.
The king’s work did not go unnoticed. Mansa Musa also made an impression on European countries in the Mediterranean, who depicted him on their maps wearing a golden crown, and holding a golden nugget and sceptre. At the time, Europe was suffering from disease and war. The Black Death had wiped out a third of continent’s population, while the Hundred Years’ War between England and France severely damaged the region’s land. Moreover, following the collapse of the West Roman Empire around 500 AD, many people in Europe had stopped learning to read and write. Therefore, the Malian Empire served as a shining example of prosperity, trade, and education to the rest of the world.
THE LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM KING MANSA MUSA
We can learn many lessons from King Mansa Musa’s success. Firstly, it reminds the world that Africa has a proud history, which should be recognized worldwide. Mansa Musa’s success also highlights the importance of trade, which allowed his empire to amass a tremendous wealth.
Nonetheless the king was not just interested in money. He was also passionate about education, shown by the many schools, and universities he built during his tenure. Although Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim, he did not impose the religion upon his people, leaving them free to choose whether or not to follow his faith.