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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Great Mosque of Djenné, the largest mud brick building in the world, is considered the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. The first mosque on the site was built in the 13th century; the current structure dates from 1907. Along with the city of Djenné, it was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO
The Great Mosque of Djenné, the largest mud brick building in the world, is considered the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. The first mosque on the site was built in the 13th century; the current structure dates from 1907. Along with the city of Djenné, it was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO

Muslims currently make up approximately 95 percent of the population of Mali. The majority of Muslims in Mali are Malikite Sunni, influenced with Sufism.[1] Ahmadiyya and Shia branches are also present.[2]

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  • ✪ Mansa Musa and Islam in Africa: Crash Course World History #16
  • ✪ The Empire of Mali - The Twang of a Bow - Extra History - #1
  • ✪ The Empire of Mali - An Empire of Trade and Faith - Extra History - #2
  • ✪ The Empire of Mali - Mansa Musa - Extra History - #3
  • ✪ WEST AFRICAN EMPIRES song by Mr. Nicky


Hi there, my name’s John Green, this is Crash Course World History and today we’re gonna talk about Africa. Mr. Green Mr. Green! We’ve already been talking about Africa. Egypt is in Africa, and you haven’t shut up about it the entire course— Yeah that’s true, Me from the Past. But Africa’s big— it’s like, super big— much bigger than it appears on most maps, actually. I mean, you can fit India and China, and the United States if you fold in Maine. All of that fits in Africa. Like any huge place, Africa is incredibly diverse, and its a mistake to focus just on Egypt. So today let’s go here, south of the Sahara desert. [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] [music intro] First, let’s turn to written record. Oh, right. We don’t have very many. At least not written by Sub-Saharan Africans. Much of African history was preserved via oral rather than written tradition. These days, we tend to think of writing as the most accurate and reliable form of description, but then again we do live in a print-based culture. And we’ve already said that writing is one of the markers of civilization, implying that people who don’t use writing aren’t civilized, a prejudice that has been applied over and over again to Africa. But 1. if you need any evidence that it’s possible to produce amazing literary artifacts without the benefits of writing, let me direct your attention to the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were composed and memorized by poets for centuries before anyone ever wrote them down. And 2. No less an authority than Plato said that writing destroys human memory by alleviating the need to remember anything. And 3. You think the oral tradition is uncivilized but HERE YOU ARE LISTENING TO ME TALK. But we do have a lot of interesting records for some African histories, including the legendary tale of Mansa Musa. By legendary I mean some of it probably isn’t true, but it sure is important. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So there was this king Mansa Musa, who ruled the west African empire of Mali, and in 1324ish he left his home and made the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. He brought with him an entourage of over 1000 (some sources say 60,000) and, most importantly, 100 camel loads of gold. I wish it had been donkeys so I could say he had 100 assloads of gold, but no. Camels. Right, so along the way Mansa Musa spent freely and gave away lots of his riches. Most famously, when he reached Alexandria, at the time one of the most cultured cities in the world, he spent so much gold that he caused runaway inflation throughout the city that took years to recover from. He built houses in Cairo and in Mecca to house his attendants, and as he traveled through the world, a lot of people— notably the merchants of Venice— no, Thought Bubble, like actual merchants of Venice— right. They saw him in Alexandria and returned to Italy with tales of Mansa Musa’s ridiculous wealth, which helped create the myth in the minds of Europeans that West Africa was a land of gold, an El Dorado. The kind of place you’d like to visit. And maybe, you know, in five centuries or so, begin to pillage. Thanks Thought Bubble. So what’s so important about the story of Mansa Musa? Well, first, it tells us there were African kingdoms, ruled by fabulously wealthy African kings. Which undermines one of the many stereotypes about Africa, that its people were poor and lived in tribes ruled by chiefs and witch doctors. Also, since Mansa Musa was making the hajj, we know that he was A. Muslim and B. relatively devout. And this tells us that Africa, at least western Africa, was much more connected to the parts of the world we’ve been talking about than we generally are led to believe. Mansa Musa knew all about the places he was going before he got there, and after his visits, the rest of the Mediterranean world was sure interested in finding out more about his homeland. Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage also brings up a lot of questions about west Africa, namely, what did his kingdom look like and how did he come to convert to Islam? The first question is a little easier, so we’ll start with that one. The empire of Mali, which Mansa Musa ruled until the extremely elite year of 1337, was a large swath of West Africa, running from the coast hundreds of miles into the interior and including many significant cities, the largest and best-known of which was Timbuktu. The story of the Islamization of the Empire, however, is a bit more complicated. Okay, so pastoral North Africans called Berbers had long traded with West Africans, with the Berbers offering salt in exchange for West African gold. That may seem like a bad deal until you consider that without salt, we die, whereas without gold, we only have to face the universe’s depraved indifference to us without the benefit of metallic adornment. That went to an ominous place quickly. Right, so anyway the Berbers were early converts to Islam, and Islam spread along those pre-existing trade routes between North and West Africa. Right, so the first converts in Mali were traders, who benefited from having a religious as well as commercial connection to their trading partners in the North and the rest of the Mediterranean. And then the kings followed the traders, maybe because sharing the religion of more established kingdoms in the north and east would give them prestige, not to mention access to scholars and administrators who could help them cement their power. So Islam became the religion of the elites in West Africa, which meant that the Muslim kings were trying to extend their power over largely non-Muslim populations that worshipped traditional African gods and spirits. In order not to seem too foreign, these African Muslim kings would often blend traditional religion with Islam. For instance, giving women more equality than was seen in Islam’s birthplace. Anyway, the first kings we have a record of adopting Islam were from Ghana, which was the first “empire” in western Africa. It really took off in the 11th century. As with all empires, and also everything else, Ghana rose and then fell, and it was replaced by Mali. The kings of Mali, especially Mansa Musa but also Mansa Sulayman his successor, tried to increase the knowledge and practice of Islam in their territory. So for example, when Mansa Musa returned from his hajj, he brought back scholars and architects to build mosques. And the reason we know a lot about Mali is because it was visited by Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan cleric and scholar who kinda had the best life ever. He was particularly fascinated by gender roles in the Malian empire— and by Malian women— writing: “They are extremely beautiful, and more important than the men.” Oh. It must be time for the open letter. [rolls with wild, reckless abandon to the caged inferno] An Open Letter to Ibn Battuta: I wonder what’s in the Secret Compartment today. Oh. I appears to be some kind of fake beard... [a hirsute wish is made] Movie magic! [John = L4D Bill] Stan, why did you do this to me? Dear Ibn Battuta, Bro, I love twitter and my x-box and Hawaiian pizza, but if I had to go into the past and live anyone’s life, it would be yours! Because you were this outlandishly learned scholar who managed to parlay your knowledge of Islam into the greatest road trip in history. You went from Mali to Constantinople to India to Russia to Indonesia; you were probably the most widely traveled person before the invention of the steam engine. And everywhere you went, you were treated like a king and then you went home and wrote a really famous book called the Rihla, which people still read today and also you could grow a real beard and I'M JEALOUS! Best wishes, John Green That was a great open letter. Not to brag er anything, but you know, it was. One more thing about Mansa Musa: There are lots of stories that Mansa Musa attempted to engage in maritime trade across the Atlantic Ocean, and some historians even believe that Malians reached the Americas. DNA investigation may one day prove it, but until then, we’ll only have oral tradition. The Malian Empire eventually fell to the Songhay, which was eventually overthrown for being insufficiently Islamic, meaning that centuries after his death Mansa Musa had succeeded at bringing Islamic piety to his people. All of which is to say that— like China or India or Europe— West Africa had its own empires that relied upon religion and war and incredibly boring dynastic politics. Man, I hate dynastic politics. If I wanted to live in an ostensibly independent country that can’t let go of Monarchy, I’d be like Thought Bubble and move to Canada. Oh, come on, Thought Bubble- that’s not fair. Shut up and take back Celine Dion! Alright, now let’s move to the other side of Africa where there was an alternative model of “civilizational” development. The eastern coast of Africa saw the rise of what historians called the Swahili civilization, which was not an empire or a kingdom but a collection of city states— like Zanzibar and Mombasa and Mogadishu-- — All of which formed a network of trade ports. There was no central authority – each of these cities was autonomous ruled, usually, but not always, by a king. But there were three things that linked these city states such that we can consider them a common culture: language, trade and religion. The Swahili language is part of a language group called Bantu, and its original speakers were from West Africa. Their migration to East Africa not only changed the linguistic traditions of Africa but everything else, because they brought with them iron work and agriculture. Until then, most of the people living in the East had been hunter gatherers or herders, but once introduced, agriculture took hold as it almost always does. Unless, wait for it-- --you’re the Mongols. [Mongol-tage horns sound] Modern day Swahili, by the way, is still a Bantu based language, although it’s been heavily influenced by Arabic. On that topic: For a long time historians believed that the East African cities were all started by Arab or Persian traders, which was basically just racist: they didn’t believe that Africans were sophisticated enough to found these great cities, like Mogadishu and Mombasa. Now scholars recognize that all the major Swahili cities were founded well before Islam arrived in the region and then in fact trade had been going on since the first century CE. But Swahili civilization didn’t begin its rapid development until the 8th century when Arab traders arrived seeking goods that they could trade in the vast Indian Ocean network, the Silk Road of the sea. And of course those merchants brought Islam with them, which, just like in West Africa was adopted by the elites who wanted religious as well as commercial connections to the rest of the Mediterranean world. In many of the Swahili states these Muslim communities started out quite small, but at their height between the 13th and 16th century most of the cities boasted large mosques. The one in Kilwa even impressed Ibn Battuta, who of course visited the city, because he was having the best life ever. Most of the goods exported were raw materials, like ivory, animal hides and timber— it’s worth noting, by the way, that when you’re moving trees around, you have a level of sophistication to your trade that goes way beyond the Silk Road. I mean, if you’ll recall they weren’t just trading tortoise shells and stuff--- [Pouf-dodges with cat-like agility] Not again! Africans also exported slaves along the east coast, although not in HUGE numbers, and they exported gold, and they imported finished luxury goods like porcelain and books. In fact, archaeological digs in Kilwa have revealed that houses often featured a kind of built-in bookshelf. Learning of books through architecture nicely captures the magic of studying history. Archaeology, writing, and oral tradition all intermingle to give us glimpses of the past. And each of those lenses may show us the past as if through some funhouse mirror, but if we’re conscious about it, we can at least recognize the distortions. Studying Africa reminds us that we need to look at lots of sources, and lots of kinds of sources if we want to get a fuller picture of the past. If we relied on only written sources, it would be far too easy to fall into the old trap of seeing Africa as backwards and uncivilized. Through approaching it with multiple lenses, we discover a complicated, diverse place that was sometimes rich and sometimes not— and when you think of it that way, it becomes not separate from, but part of, our history. Thanks for watching. We’ll see you next week. CrashCourse is produced and directed by Stan Muller, Our script supervisor is Danica Johnson, The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself And our Graphics Team is ThoughtBubble [Perhaps hanging at the Hoser Hut?] Last week's Phrase Of The Week was Animal Crackers If you want to suggest future phrases of the week or guess at this one, you can do so in comments Also, if you have questions about today's video Ask them, and our team of historians will endeavor to answer them. Thanks for watching and supporting CrashCourse And as we say in my hometown, Don't forget there's always money in the Banana Stand.



During the 9th century, Muslim Berber and Tuareg merchants brought Islam southward into West Africa. Islam also spread in the region by the founders of Sufi brotherhoods (tariqah). Conversion to Islam linked the West African savannah through belief in one God and similar new forms of political, social and artistic accoutrements.[when defined as?] Cities including Timbuktu, Gao and Kano soon became international centers of Islamic learning.

The most significant of the Mali kings was Mansa Musa (1312–1337), who expanded Mali influence over the large Niger city-states of Timbuktu, Gao, and Djenné. Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim who was reported to have built various major mosques throughout the Mali sphere of influence; his gold-laden pilgrimage to Mecca made him a well-known figure in the historical record.

Muslims in Mali

Islam as practiced in the country until recently was reported to be relatively tolerant and adapted to local conditions. Women participated in economic and political activity, engaged in social interaction, and generally did not wear veils. Islam in Mali has absorbed mystical elements, ancestor veneration and the African Traditional Religion that still thrive. Many aspects of Malian traditional society encourage norms consistent with democratic citizenship, including tolerance, trust, pluralism, the separation of powers and the accountability of the leader to the governed.

Relations between the Muslim majority and the Christian and other religious minorities—including practitioners of African Traditional Religion were reported to be generally stable until recently, although there have been several cases of instability and tension in the past. It is relatively common to find adherents of a variety of faiths within the same family. Many followers of one religion usually attend religious ceremonies of other religions, especially weddings, baptisms, and funerals.

Since the 2012 imposition of Sharia rule in northern parts of the country, persecution of Christians in the north increased significantly and was described as severe by Open Doors which publishes the Christian persecution index; Mali appears as number 7 in the 2013 index list.[3][4]

Implementation of Sharia in the rebel-controlled north included banning of music, cutting off of hands or feet of thieves, stoning of adulterers and public whipping of smokers, alcohol drinkers and women who are not properly dressed.[5] In 2012, several Islamic sites in Mali were destroyed or damaged by vigilante activists linked to Al Qaeda which claimed that the sites represented "idol worship".[6]

There are foreign Islamic preachers that operate in the north of the country, while mosques associated with Dawa (an Islamist group) are located in Kidal, Mopti, and Bamako. The organization Dawa has gained adherents among the Bellah, who were once the slaves of the Tuareg nobles, and also among unemployed youth. The interest these groups have in Dawa is based on a desire to dissociate themselves from their former masters, and to find a source of income for the youth. The Dawa sect has a strong influence in Kidal, while the Wahabi movement has been reported to be steadily growing in Timbuktu. The country's traditional approach to Islam is relatively moderate, as reflected in the ancient manuscripts from the former University of Timbuktu.

In August 2003, a conflict erupted in the village of Yerere in Western Mali when traditional Sunni practitioners attacked Wahhabi Sunnis, who were building an authorized mosque.[7]

Other foreign missionary groups are Christian groups that are based in Europe and engaged in development work, primarily the provision of health care and education.

Status of religious freedom

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and does not permit any form of religious discrimination or intolerance by the government or individual persons. There is no state religion as the constitution defines the country as a secular state and allows for religious practices that do not pose a threat to social stability and peace.[1]

The government requires that all public associations, including religious associations, register with the government. However, registration confers no tax preference and no other legal benefits, and failure to register is not penalized in practice. Traditional indigenous religions are not required to register.[1]

A number of foreign missionary groups operate in the country without government interference. Both Muslims and non-Muslims are allowed to convert people freely.

The family law, including laws pertaining to divorce, marriage, and inheritance, are based on a mixture of local tradition and Islamic law and practice.

During presidential elections held in April and May 2002, the Government and political parties emphasized the secularity of the state. A few days prior to the elections, a radical Islamic leader called on Muslims to vote for former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The High Council of Islam, the most senior Islamic body in the country, severely criticized the statement and reminded all citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice.

In January 2002, the High Council was created to coordinate religious affairs for the entire Muslim community and standardize the quality of preaching in mosques. All Muslim groups in the country currently recognize its authorize.


Extremist worshippers of Islam have been responsible for some reprehensible acts in Mali, most notably what has been nicknamed the Battle of Gao, in which an extremist Muslim group, Ansar Dine began to destroy various World Heritage Sites. The most significant of these was the mausoleum of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar and in mausoleums around the capital, including that of Sidi Yahya, militants broke in and destroyed tombs.

Many towns in Mali are falling victim to extremist groups’ implementation of Sharia law, by which many African cultures and enjoyments have been denied.[5] A recent report in The Guardian revealed that extremist groups have banned music in certain regions and were known to turn up randomly in villages, armed with weaponry, to burn musical instruments and musical items on bonfires. One guitarist was threatened that his fingers would be chopped off if he ever showed his face in one town again.[5] On 18 May 2017, a man and a woman were stoned to death for living maritally without being married.[8] According to officials, the extremists first dig two holes, one for man and other for women, and the couple were buried up to their necks and then four extremists started throwing stones on them and continued throwing until they died from their wounds.[9] Public were invited to take part in this stoning. The couple were accused of violating Islamic law by living together without marriage.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "International Religious Freedom Report 2015 - Mali". Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 20 November 2016.
  2. ^ "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religious & Public life. August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  3. ^ Report points to 100 million persecuted Christians. Retrieved on 10 Jan 2013.
  4. ^ OPEN DOORS World Watch list 2012
  5. ^ a b c Morgan, Andy (23 October 2012). "Mali: no rhythm or reason as militants declare war on music". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  6. ^ Hughes, Dana (2012-07-03). "Al Qaeda destroys Timbuktu shrines, ancient city's spirit". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  7. ^ "Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - Mali". US Department of State. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  8. ^ "Unmarried couple stoned to death in Mali for breaking 'Islamic law'". The Independent. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Unmarried Mali couple stoned to death for violating 'Islamic law'". The Telegraph. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Unmarried couple stoned to death in Mali for 'violating Islamic law'". The Guardian. 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017.

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