Askia Mohammed: Tyrant or Hero?

December 28, 2009

The Epic of Askia Mohammed
I came across this epic piece of orature while looking for the epic about Sundjata. Askia Mohammed is one of those giants of African history routinely referred as worthy of emulation and/or respect. However, upon concluding the read, I had the opinion that he was very hawk-like in his promotion of Islam. There is repeated mention of “Every village that follows his orders, that accepts his wishes, he conquers them, he moves on. Every village that refuses his demand, he conquers it, he burns it, he moves on. Until the day-Mamar [Askia] did that until, until, until, until the day he arrived at the Red Sea.” (298-302) I interpret the consecutive “untils” to signify that it was a repeated event that happened over time. Considering how long it took for caravans to traverse the distance from West Africa to Mecca, undoubtedly it happened not only over an extended period of time but also over an extended expanse of land. The devastation left in the wake of such excursions in arson leads me to question the respect paid to this historical figure.

The above statement notwithstanding, I did find the epic interesting in the view it provided of West Africa. It provided me with a basis for doing further research into the era and times and for that and the new perspective, it is appreciated.

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