THE GLOBAL AFRICAN COMMUNITY

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The Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu

THE GREAT UNIVERSITY OF SANKORE AT TIMBUKTU
A BRIEF NOTE

By RUNOKO RASHIDI

DEDICATED TO DR. ADELAIDE SANFORD,
DR. ASA G. HILLIARD III & DR. PATRICIA McGRAW


"Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be a hero." --African Proverb   

Timbuktu was more than merely a great intellectual nucleus of the West African civilizations of Ghana, Mali and Songhai--it was one of the most splendid scientific centers of the time period corresponding to the European Medieval and Renaissance eras. Indeed, under the reign of Askia Muhammad I, also known as Askia the Great, it was celebrated as one of the world's most significant seats of learning.  Among it most formidable scholars, professors and lecturers were Ahmed Baba--a highly distinguished historian frequently quoted in the Tarikh-es-Sudan and other works.

The collection of ancient manuscripts at the University of Sankore at Timbuktu leaves us in no doubt about the magnificence of the institution and permits us to reconstruct this side of her past in fairly intimate details. In testament to its glory, for example, an old West African proverb states that, "Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, and silver from the country of the white men, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu."

Once, an aspirant to the throne of the mighty Songhai Empire collected an army with which to dispute the reigning dynasty.  Pausing at Timbuktu, and have toured the university campus, visited the library, met the faculty and conversed with the Head Chancellor of the University of Sankore, the prince requested the Chancellor to write a formal letter to his rival to the throne, saying that he, "Bankouri, renounced the throne that he might follow the life of a student in this city of books."

SOURCES:
African Glory, by J.C. DeGraft-Johnson
Timbuctoo the Mysterious, by Felix Dubois


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Copyright © 1998 Runoko Rashidi. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 10, 2002.
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