2-Pane Combined
Full Summaries Sorted

Religion in Mali

Spread of Islam

Islam spread through parts of West Africa via the Arab merchants who traded there. Noted Muslim travellers and chroniclers like Ibn Battuta (1304 - c. 1369 CE) and Ibn Khaldin (1332-1406 CE) recorded that even Mali’s first ruler Sundiata converted to Islam. However, the Malinke oral tradition, which was kept up over the generations by specialised bards (griots), presents a different story. Although recognising Islam was present in Mali long before Sundiata’s reign, the oral tradition maintains that the first ruler of the Mali Empire did not reject the indigenous animist religion. We do know that Sundiata’s son, Mansa Uli (aka Mansa Wali or Yerelenku), went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in the 1260s or 1270s CE, and this would be a continuing trend amongst many of Mali’s rulers.

Islam in West Africa really took off, though, from the reign of Mansa Musa I. He famously went to Mecca and, impressed with what he saw on his travels, Mansa Musa brought back home Muslim architects, scholars, and books. Mosques were built such as Timbuktu’s ‘Great mosque’ (aka Djinguereber or Jingereber), and Koranic schools and universities were established which quickly gained an international reputation. Studies were actually much wider than religion and included history, geography, astronomy, and medicine. Great libraries were built up with tens of thousands of books and manuscripts, many of which survive today.

As more people were converted, so more Muslim clerics were attracted from abroad and the religion was spread further across West Africa. Many native converts studied in such places as Fez, Morocco, and became great scholars, missionaries, and even saints, and so Islam came to be seen no longer as a foreign religion but a black African one. Despite the spread of Islam, it is also true that ancient indigenous animist beliefs continued to be practised, especially in rural communities, as noted by travellers like Ibn Battuta who visited Mali c. 1352 CE. In addition, Islamic studies were conducted in Arabic not native languages, and this further impeded its popularity outside the educated clerical class of towns and cities. Even the Islam that did take hold in Mali was a particular variation of that practised in the Arab world, perhaps because Mali rulers could not afford to completely dismiss the indigenous religious practices and beliefs that the majority of their people clung on to.

DMU Timestamp: July 23, 2020 19:52

0 comments, 0 areas
add area
add comment
change display
add comment

Quickstart: Commenting and Sharing

How to Comment
  • Click icons on the left to see existing comments.
  • Desktop/Laptop: double-click any text, highlight a section of an image, or add a comment while a video is playing to start a new conversation.
    Tablet/Phone: single click then click on the "Start One" link (look right or below).
  • Click "Reply" on a comment to join the conversation.
How to Share Documents
  1. "Upload" a new document.
  2. "Invite" others to it.

Logging in, please wait... Blue_on_grey_spinner