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Askia Mohammed I (Askia the Great)
King of the Songhai Empire
Reign 1493 — 1528[1]
Full name Muhammad Ture
Titles Askia the Great
Born 1442
Died 1538
Buried Tomb of Askia, Gao, Mali
Predecessor Sunni Baru (1492-1493)
Successor none
Offspring Ismail and Haibe
Dynasty Askia Dynasty or Songhai Empire
Extent of the Songhai Empire,
circa 1500.

Askia the Great (c. 1442-1538, also Muhammad Toure) was a Soninke king of the Songhai Empire 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 Mali 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, Mali 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] Legend has it that he gained the name Askia (which means forceful one) after Sunni Ali Ber's daughter heard the news of one of his wars.[3]

History

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 Toure, a reason to challenge the succession.[1] General Toure defeated Sunni Baru and ascended to the throne in 1493.[1]

General Toure, 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 Tooro 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 the Western Africa.[citation needed] In addition, Askia established standardized trade measures and regulations, and initiated the policing of trade routes.

Tomb of Askia

Askia encouraged learning and literacy, ensuring that Mali's universities produced the most distinguished scholars, many of whom published significant books. 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 Muslim scholarship.[citation needed] 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 has been buried in the Tomb of Askia in Gao, a World Heritage Site.

References

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