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Mon, 09.30.1280

Mansa Musa, Mali Emperor born

Mansa Musa

*The birth of Mansa Musa is celebrated on this date in c. 1280. He was a Black African Mansa (emperor) and administrator.

Mansa Musa was the ninth Mansa of the Mali Empire, an Islamic West African state. Mansa Musa's name was Musa, the Mande word for "ruler" or "king." Musa is known as Kanku Musa. In Mande tradition, it was common for one's name to be prefixed by their mother's name, so the name Kanku Musa means "Musa, son of Kanku," although it is unclear if the genealogy implied is literal. In the Songhai language, rulers of Mali, such as Musa, were known as the Mali-koi, koi, the "ruler of Mali."

At the time of Musa's ascension to the throne, Mali largely consisted of the territory of the former Ghana EmpireGuineaSenegal, MauritaniaGambia, and the modern state of Mali. 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 in the world at that time. In 1324–1325, Musa performed the hajj. After completing the hajj, Musa returned to Mali, annexing the cities of Gao and Timbuktu upon his return.

Historical sources

Much of what is known about Musa comes from Arabic sources written after his hajj, especially the writings of Al-Umari and Ibn Khaldun. Musa was the grandson of Sundiata Keita. Mande oral tradition, though a rich source of information for other events in the history of the Mali Empire, contains relatively little information about Musa. Additional information comes from two 17th-century manuscripts written in Timbuktu, the Tarikh as-Sudan and the Tarikh al-Fattah.

The date of Mansa Musa's death is not certain. Using the reign lengths reported by Ibn Khaldun to calculate back from the death of Mansa Suleyman in 1360, Musa would have died in 1332. Alternatively, the four-year reign of Ibn Khaldun may credit Maghan with actually referring to his ruling Mali while Musa was away on the hajj, and he only reigned briefly in his own right.  Nehemia Levtzion regarded 1337 as the most likely date, which other scholars have accepted.


Musa has been considered the wealthiest human ever. Though some sources have estimated his wealth as equivalent to US$300 billion, it is impossible to calculate accurately. Musa may have brought 18 tons of gold on his hajj.


Musa's hajj has been regarded as one of the most illustrious moments in the history of West Africa. Musa is less renowned in the Mande oral tradition. Some regard Musa as having wasted Mali's wealth. The name "Musa" has become virtually synonymous with pilgrimage in the Mande tradition. Other figures who are remembered as going on a pilgrimage, such as Fakoli, are also called Musa. In 21st-century culture, Mansa Musa leads the Malian civilization in the Gathering Storm expansion of the 4X video game Civilization VI.

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