Mali, a West African country is making headlines on international news channels as its president and prime minister were arrested by military after weeks of protests led by opposition and religious protest leaders. The West African country has been in a turmoil situation for more than a decade. It continues to suffer political instability and other issues like many of its neighbors, such as poverty, government corruption and not to forget the West's political and military interference since colonial era. However, very few know that this landlocked country used to be part of one of greatest Islamic Empires called Manden Kurufaba (Mali Empire) also called Manden, ruled by people belonging to West African ethnic group called Mandinka, millions of whom still inhabit the region. This great empire covered the entire region of modern-day countries of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, northern Burkina Faso, western Niger, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and northern Ghana. Some say that its territory was as big, or even greater than that of Holy Roman Empire.
Abu Bakari's Mystery Voyage
Mali Empire was founded in the 13th century CE and was the hub of gold production in the contemporary world. The gold needed to mint coins from Arab region to European lands came from the empire. Despite having so much wealth and land the Mansa (Sultan) of the empire Abu Bakari II was unsatisfied and craved for more land and discovery of new regions especially across the Western region, across the unknown territory of Atlantic Ocean. As the prophetic hadith states: “If Adam's son had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys…” i.e. there is no end to the satisfaction of our desires. Timbuktu, was center of intellectual activity, sciences and learning in the African continent. Muslim scholars and experts of geography were exploring lands in Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and beyond, centuries before Malian Empire was on the globe’s map.
Their findings on what lay beyond the Atlantic were already topics of discussions in various courts of the Sultans and scholarly circles of Dar Al Hikma (House of wisdom) in Baghdad and Cordoba, Muslim Spain, Timbuktu and other learning centers. To name a few by Dr. Youssef Mroueh, Muslim historian Al-Masudi (871-957 CE) mentions of a navigator named Khashkhash Ibn Saeed Ibn Aswad, from Cordoba, Spain sailed from Delba (Palos) in 889 CE, crossed the Atlantic. Historian Abu Bakr ibn Umar Al Gutiyya narrated that Ibn Farrukh, from Granada, sailed from Kadesh (February 999 CE) into the Atlantic, landed in Gando (Great Canary islands) visiting King Guanariga, and continued westward where he saw and named two islands, Capraria and Pluitana, arrived back in Spain in May 999 CE. Famous geographer and cartographer Al Sharif Al Idrisi (1099- 1166CE) in his Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq (Excursion of the longing one in crossing horizons) mentions a group of seafarers (from North Africa) sailed into the sea of darkness and fog (The Atlantic ocean) from Lisbon (Portugal). The Muslim reference books mentioned a well-documented description of a journey across the sea of fog and darkness by Shaikh Zayn Eddine Ali Ben Fadhel Al Mazandarani, who started from Tarfaya (South Morocco) during the reign of the King Abu-Yacoub Sidi Youssef (1286-1307CE) 6th of the Marinid dynasty, to Green Island in the Caribbean Sea in 1291 CE.
Mention of these works coupled with Abu Bakari’s personal desire to discover more, created obsession for the monarch to search for what lies across this foggy and dark sea. He designated a large area near the West African coast for his ship manufacturing project. Ship and boat manufacturing expertise was brought together from all parts of empire to prepare the best sailing ships which would traverse the sea. After assembling a large fleet of 200 vessels and each attached to a mini boat that would carry food, gold and necessities for survival, he set them off to explore the world beyond. After a while had passed one vessel returned to inform him that after traveling for long time they came across a huge river current that was flowing in to the sea, all ships passed the current and got lost from sight while they decided stay back and return. After hearing the story Abu Bakari decided to build even greater fleet, of thousands of ships, equipped with latest high-tech equipment and maritime expertise of the time, experts and scholars in all fields, holy men & saints, men, women, livestock, gold, and whatever necessary, would accompany him in this adventure journey. He appointed his brother named Musa, a very pious and practicing Muslim, as deputy ruler in his absence. Abu Bakari decreed that in case he was not to return after a particular period of time, then Musa would become the Mansa (Sultan) of the empire. When this huge fleet was prepared and ready to sail, Abu Bakari II bid goodbye and sailed off. History informs us that Musa became the Mansa and as long as he ruled, neither Abu Bakari nor any individual from his fleet ever returned.
Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick, a revert to Islam and American historian, claims that the Mandinka made contact with Brazil, the closest land mass to the West African coast and appeared to have used it as a base for exploration of the America. They traveled down South America and up in to Central America. Examinations of inscriptions discovered in ancient cities and stone tables in Bahia and Minas Gerais, Brazil confirm this. Their possible use of Mississippi river to explore present United States can also be confirmed by Mandinka inscriptions found in a cave of Four Corners, Arizona. Abdullah quotes Leo Weiner of Harvard University, who claims through his research, that the early Mandinka not only penetrated Central and North America, but inter-married native Iroquois and Algonquian people. Guyana born anthropologist Ivan Van Sertima in his 1977 book “They Came Before Columbus” provides strong and significant evidence of African arrival and presence in Americas long before Spaniards and other Europeans. He divides the African arrivals in to two stages, first ones reached around 1200 BCE and the next wave was of the Malians around 14th century. His evidence of Malian influence includes worshiping symbols and status such as Quatzacoatl, which is a symbol of rain in Mexico is equivalent to the Dasiri, the spirit invoked for rain by the Bambara, a Mandingo people of Mali. The ritual includes the use of trees and other symbols that are both found in Mexico and Mali practices. Ivan claims that religious practices in Mexico in Mayan culture include hieroglyphs on papers that includes gadwals, symbols used in Arabic and Sudanese cultures, even resembling symbols that carry similarity to Quran verses like Surah Fatiha. He also mentions about a priestly cap of the Magi (fire worshipers) of ancient Iran that was adopted by Arabs called it qu-bil-a and then West African term was ko-fil-a which is now co-pill-i in Mexican. He also mentions discovery of skeletons of ancient magicians of Mexico that have negroid features which indicates that black magicians were honored by the local Mexico population. Additionally Maya language and dialects carry the word na used as root for words like na-at (intelligence), na-ual (to prophecy), na-a (medicine man), na-ual-li (magician) carries similarity with Arabic like na-ba (prophecy), na-bi (prophet), na-ba (intelligent). Extraordinary animal skins entered Mexico from the South including a lion skin on display in 16th century as observed by Christopher Columbus, an animal which is not found in land of Americas. Ven Sertima also quotes Columbus’s writing that people of Hispanolia (Haiti & Dominican Republic) informed him of black people had come from South and Southeast Trading gold-tipped metal spears called guanin which had resemblance to the spears in use in African Guinea. Dr. Youssef Mroueh mentions that, guanin, a word of West African derivation meaning 'gold alloy' is also related to the Arabic word ghinaa which means 'wealth'. This and much more evidence unearthed in recent decades not only challenges and contradicts the Euro Centric historical narrative of America discovery while proving that West African Muslims were well settled here at least 2 centuries before Columbus.
The Epic Hajj of Mansa Musa
Mansa (Sultan) Musa, also known as Kankou Moussa, successor to the Mailian throne, after resuming the throne decided to journey 4000 miles towards Makkah for the yearly pilgrimage called Hajj, with a huge caravan of 60,000 and 12000 servants. Greg Jenner of BBC in her homeschool history class mentions he embarked for Hajj in 1324 CE, travelling thousands of miles across the difficult terrain with 21,000 kilograms of gold (20 tonnes), 100 elephants and 80 camels. His caravan stretched as far as the eye could see and it was claimed that it took a whole day for the caravan to pass from any where. Today it is claimed that Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world, however, Mansa Musa had twice the amount of wealth Jeff owns, estimated around $400 billion, which makes Musa richest man ever to have lived! In fact Rudolph Butch Ware, associate professor of history at the University of California claims that "Contemporary accounts of Musa's wealth are so breathless that it's almost impossible to get a sense of just how wealthy and powerful he truly was,". Its claimed that during this journey he generously gave away so much gold that it deflated the price of gold in Egypt and its environs for several years to come, he practically made the gold worthless! During his journey he built a mosque every Friday. Musa visited Egypt during the era of Mamluk Sultan Al Malik al Nasir (1299 – 1309 CE) in Cairo. Before the presence of Sultan, Musa was asked to bend his knee as a part of the protocol but he refused, saying that he would only bend the knee for Allah ﷻ, the King of all Kings. He then donated a large amount of gold as a gift to the Mamluk treasury. By the time he was on his way back to Mali he had spent everything he had, not to forget that they also got raided few times by bedouins of Saudi Arabia, he had to then borrow money from Sultan of Egypt. While returning to his empire he brought with him scholars, architects, scientists and experts of various fields, supporting them to settle in Timbuktu, with the aim to develop it and make it a hub of learning and knowledge in the world. He succeeded in this project that started with construction of University of Timbuktu, consisting of three mosques and madrassahs (Islamic seminaries), which began during his life and continued after his death. This university attracted students of learning from across the globe, having an attendance of 25000 students at a time. It was news of this epic journey of Mansa Musa that attracted people from around the world, placed the empire on the global map, an example is the Catalan Atlas map from 1375 CE depicts an African king sits on a golden throne atop Timbuktu, holding a piece of gold in his hand. (please see images on top)
Shihab al-Din al- Umari (1300 – 1349 CE), the renown historian of the time visited Egypt and Cairo 12 years after Mansa Musa, claimed that even after passage of so many years, his wealth distribution and generosity was still talk of the town throughout the region. During the caravan’s stay in Cairo, they spend so much, paying 5 dinars (gold coins) for single dinar items, that the people became wealthy. What’s very important to note here is that had it not been for Mansa Musa’s account of his rulership affairs copied in Al Umari’s writing, the world would not have known easily about his predecessor’s historical journey across the Atlantic ocean. An edited version of the original article penned by Late Professor Hamidullah mentions Al Umari quoting Musa:
“The ruler who preceded me did not believe that it was impossible to reach the extremity of the ocean that encircles the earth (meaning Atlantic), and wanted to reach that (end) and obstinately persisted in the design. So he equipped two hundred boats full of men, as many others full of gold, water and victuals sufficient enough for several years. He ordered the chief (admiral) not to return until they had reached the extremity of the ocean, or if they had exhausted the provisions and the water. They set out. Their absence extended over a long period, and, at last, only one boat returned. On our questioning, the captain said: 'Prince, we have navigated for a long time, until we saw in the midst of the ocean as if a big river was flowing violently. My boat was the last one; others were ahead of me. As soon as any of them reached this place, it drowned in the whirlpool and never came out. I sailed backwards to escape this current.' But the Sultan would not believe him. He ordered two thousand boats to be equipped for him and for his men, and one thousand more for water and victuals. Then he conferred on me the regency during his absence, and departed with his men on the ocean trip, never to return nor to give a sign of life.”
 Mali Empire, Manden Kurufaba- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mali_Empire
 Sahih Al Bukhari - (10) Chapter: The Fitnah of wealth should be warded off – Hadith 6439
 PRECOLUMBIAN MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS - C: ARABIC ( ISLAMIC ) INSCRIPTIONS - By: Dr. Youssef Mroueh - http://www.sunnah.org/history/precolmb.htm
 Abu Bakari II – History Revealed, 23 Jan, 2020.
 The African, and Muslim, Discovery of America – Before Columbus, Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick - History of Islam, An Encyclopedia of Islamic History. https://historyofislam.com/the-african-and-muslim-discovery-of-america-before-columbus/
THEY CAME Before COLUMBUS – The African Presence in Ancient America – Ivan Van Sertima, 2003 Random House Trade Paperbacks Edition, New York.
 op.cit. Ivan Van Sertima
 op.cit. Dr. Youssef Mroueh
 Meet the richest person who ever lived: Mansa Musa - Homeschool History: Mansa Musa
 Not Jeff Bezos, or Bill Gates: Mali’s Mansa Musa was the richest man ever – TRT World, 25 NOV 2019 - https://www.trtworld.com/africa/not-jeff-bezos-or-bill-gates-mali-s-mansa-musa-was-the-richest-man-ever-31658
 Is Mansa Musa the richest man who ever lived? By Naima Mohamud BBC Africa
 I Gotta Story to Tell, Episode 8: The richest man in the history of the world
 Echoes of What Lies Beyond The 'Oceans of Fog' in Muslim Historical Narratives - An Edited version of articles written by late Professor Hamidullah "Muslims Discovery of America Before Columbus" Journal of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada Vol 4 Issue 2