It is hard to believe that the world’s ever Richest man died 700 years ago and up to now, nobody has overtaken him.
Who is he?
Musa I (c. 1280 – c. 1337), or Mansa Kankan Musa the Great, was the ninth mansa (a military title meaning “conqueror” or “emperor”) of the Empire of Mali, an Islamic West African state (West Sudanic Empire).
At the time of Musa’s ascension to the throne, Mali in large part consisted of the territory of the former Ghana Em, which Mali had conquered. The Mali Empire consisted of the present day Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Modern day Mali and Gambia. During his reign, Musa held many titles, such as “Emir of Melle”, “Lord of the Mines of Wangara”, and “Conqueror of Ghanata”.
Musa conquered 24 cities, along with their surrounding districts During Musa’s reign, Mali may have been the largest producer of gold in the world, and Musa has been considered one of the wealthiest historical figures. However, some modern commentators have concluded that there is no accurate way to quantify Musa’s wealth.
Musa is generally referred to as “Mansa Musa” in Western manuscripts and literature. His name also appears as “Kankou Musa”, “Kankan Musa”, and “Kanku Musa”. Other names used for Musa include “Mali-Koy Kankan Musa”, “Gonga Musa”, and “the Lion of Mali.
Lineage and accession to the throne of Mansa Musa
Genealogy of the kings of the Mali Empire based on the chronicle of Ibn Khaldun
What is known about the kings of the Malian Empire is taken from the writings of Arab scholars, including Al-Umari, Abu-sa’id Uthman ad-Dukkali, Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Battuta. According to Ibn-Khaldun’s comprehensive history of the Malian kings, Mansa Musa’s grandfather was Abu-Bakr Keita, a nephew of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Malian Empire as recorded through oral histories. Abu-Bakr did not ascend the throne, and his son, Musa’s father, Faga Laye, has no significance in the History of Mali.
Mansa Musa came to the throne through a practice of appointing a deputy when a king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca or some other endeavor, and later naming the deputy as heir. According to primary sources, Musa was appointed deputy of the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean, and never returned. The Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari quotes Mansa Musa as follows:
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.
Musa’s son and successor, Mansa Magha Keita, was also appointed deputy during Musa’s pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage to Mecca
Mansa Mūsā, either the grandson or the grandnephew of Sundiata (his ancestor), the founder of his dynasty, came to the throne in 1307. In the 17th year of his reign (1324), he set out on his famous pilgrimage to Mecca. It was this pilgrimage that awakened the world to the stupendous wealth of Mali. Cairo and Mecca received this royal personage, whose glittering procession, in the superlatives employed by Arab chroniclers, almost put Africa’s sun to shame. Traveling from his capital of Niani on the upper Niger River to Walata (Oualâta, Mauritania) and on to Tuat (now in Algeria) before making his way to Cairo, Mansa Mūsā was accompanied by an impressive caravan consisting of 60,000 men including a personal retinue of 12,000 enslaved persons, all clad in brocade and Persian silk. The emperor himself rode on horseback and was directly preceded by 500 enslaved persons, each carrying a gold-adorned staff. In addition, Mansa Mūsā had a baggage train of 80 camels, each carrying 300 pounds of gold.
Mansa Mūsā’s prodigious generosity and piety, as well as the fine clothes and exemplary behaviour of his followers, did not fail to create a most-favourable impression. The Cairo that Mansa Mūsā visited was ruled by one of the greatest of the Mamlūk sultans, Al-Malik al-Nāṣir. The Black emperor’s great civility notwithstanding, the meeting between the two rulers might have ended in a serious diplomatic incident, for so absorbed was Mansa Mūsā in his religious observances that he was only with difficulty persuaded to pay a formal visit to the sultan. The historian al-ʿUmarī, who visited Cairo 12 years after the emperor’s visit, found the inhabitants of this city, with a population estimated at one million, still singing the praises of Mansa Mūsā. So lavish was the emperor in his spending that he flooded the Cairo market with gold, thereby causing such a decline in its value that the market some 12 years later had still not fully recovered.
Rulers of West African states had made pilgrimages to Mecca before Mansa Mūsā, but the effect of his flamboyant journey was to advertise both Mali and Mansa Mūsā well beyond the African continent and to stimulate a desire among the Muslim kingdoms of North Africa, and among many of European nations as well, to reach the source of this incredible wealth.
What is he known for?
Mansa Musa up to now is the richest person to ever exist on earth even though he died almost 700 years ago. He had a net worth of approximately $400 billion, more than the present day billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet among others
The Mali Empire at the time of Mansa Musa’s death.
The death date of Mansa Musa is highly debated among modern historians and the Arab scholars who recorded the history of Mali. When compared to the reigns of his successors, son Kaya Maghan (recorded rule from 1337 to 1341) and older brother Mansa Suleyman (recorded rule from 1341 to 1360), and Musa’s recorded 25 years of rule, the calculated date of death is 1337. Other records declare Musa planned to abdicate the throne to his son Maghan, but he died soon after he returned from Mecca in 1325. According to an account by Ibn-Khaldun, Mansa Musa was alive when the city of Tlemcen in Algeria was conquered in 1337, as he sent a representative to Algeria to congratulate the conquerors on their victory. At the end he joined his great grand ancestors