Mansa Musa: the richest person ever lived in the earth.

If I ask you ‘who is the most richest person ever ?’ what will be your answer ? Your answer maybe Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Warren Buffett, Rothchild or Rockefeller family, or the young billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. Right ? But no, a 14th century’s king, a wealthy West African owned more funds than Bill Gates and other people I mentioned above! How much wealth Mansa Musa Had ? Ok here is an example, suppose the top 5 richest person by 2017 (Annual ranking by Forbes, Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg) decided to create a company and as a plan they invest their all money in the company. And guess what, Mansa Musa still can buy the company by himself. And still another 40 billions dollars will be left in his hand!! Lets learn about Mansa Musa: The richest person ever.

richest person ever
Mansa Musa sitting on a throne and holding a gold coin. Photo: Public Domain Photo
Musa: richest person ever

In 2012 Research company named ‘Celebrities Net Worth’ announced Mansa Musa as most richest person ever in the history of earth. In 2015, Forbes Magazine has also listed him as a richest person ever in the world. By calculating the inflation, if you convert his property to current currency, which will be approximately $ 400 billions, way more than Bill Gates’ 90 billions USD! But it is just calculation, not official. As like Jacob Davidson of Time magazine said “There’s really no way to put an accurate number on his wealth.”  Well that’s the truth.

So who is Mansa Musa ?

Mansa Musa’s real name is Musa Keita I. Mansa is the title of the kings of Mali, which means the king or emperor. He was the 10th Mansa of Mali, means 10th king of Mali. Musa was born in 1280. In 1312, at the age of 32, he ascended to power. Beside the Mansa title he had a dozen more titles including the lion of Mali, Lord of the Mines of Wangara, The Amir of Mali, Konkan Musa and many more. He known to be the the first African ruler who could have widely influenced in Europe and the Middle East.

Emperor Musa ascended to power

According to Egyptian historian Al-Umari, Musa’s predecessor AbuBakar Keita II believed that the Atlantic Ocean is not infinite and it is not impossible to reach to its other end. He sent an army carrying over two hundred boats to explore the Atlantic Ocean, with more than one hundred boats being loaded with water, food and gold coins. His command to the captain was that no one can come back from this journey until the end of the ocean, or until death! After a long time, when they did not return, Emperor AbuBakar himself started an operation in the Atlantic Ocean with a huge force with two thousand boats. There were more than one thousand boats with them, carrying water and related items. Before the journey began, the emperor nominated Musa as his successor. And again, after a long time when AbuBakar and his force did not return, the people of Mali agreed that the Emperor AbuBakar and everyone of his forces have died in the ocean. As a result, in 1312 Musa became the emperor of Mali.

Expansion of the kingdom of Musa and the source of his wealth.
richest person ever
Mali Empire and its important business routes during the time of Musa. Photo source: mrgrayhistory.wikispaces.com (fair use. only for educational purposes)

When Mansa Musa set in power, the Mali Empire was spreading across the present-day Mali and South Mauritanian part. Throughout his reign, Musa has dominated almost two thousand miles of West Africa from the Atlantic Ocean coast to Timbuktu. Musa conquered the vast majority of the present time, including Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Ivory Coast and surrounding countryside.

At that time, West Africa was renowned for the gold and salt. By controlling the trade of gold and salt and collecting revenue from the vast empire ruled by him, Musa established his empire as a wealthy one. His empire also earns huge revenue from the Arab and European merchants. Because of the routes, it was a very important route to the Arab and European merchants. At the same time, when Europe was struggling to survive in conflict with several epidemics including civil war, famine and plague, on the other hand, under the leadership of Musa the entire West Africa was becoming a prosperous, peaceful and stable empire. Those wealth made him richest person ever in the world.

Musa’s historic pilgrimage to Mecca

Emperor Musa came to the center of the discussion of the outside world in 1324, when he went about 4,000 miles to perform Hajj. African researcher Mahmood Kati, quoting another historian Mohammad Kuma, said that Musa had killed his mother accidentally. That is why he always felt remorse and feared of punishment. He used to donate a lot for the expiation and kept fasting throughout the year. Doing all this doesn’t make any change. e kept feel guilty for his mistake. He decided to go to Hajj. He was the first among the Muslim rulers of West Africa to go to Mecca to perform Hajj.

He has been preparing for Hajj for several years. Finally, in 1324, he started his historic pilgrimage with a vast fleet. Due to the huge wealth donation, exhibition of glittering, he drew the attention of Western merchants.

In this pilgrimage, there was a huge fleet of about 60,000 people, including about 12,000 soldiers and slaves. Each of the servants carried  4 pounds of gold bars. He also had 80 camels, each with 50 to 300 pounds of gold on it back! On this trip Musa was also involved his wife, Inari Kunate.

On the journey, he built many mosques in different cities. It is said that he used to build a mosque every Friday. He donate lots of wealth to the poor. He also bought various souvenirs from the traders in exchange of a large quantity of gold coins. On his stopto Cairo he spent and donated so much of gold to the poor that he caused mass inflation in the country! It took several years to recover the crisis.

Emperor Musa’s Hajj journey takes about a year. His Hajj journey literally placed him on the world map. Over the next few decades, European map makers have mentioned about him on the map. One such famous map is the Catalan Atlas of Italy made in 1375, where Musa is seen, setting with a golden coin on a hand.

Musa’s role in promotion of Islam

Mansa Musa was also a very religious ruler. He had special skills in Arabic. He had special interest in the promotion and spread of Islam. While returning home after pilgrimage, Emperor Musa brought with him many Islamic scholars, administrative officials and many famous architect from Andalus and Cairo. By them Musa modernized many cities including Timbuktu, Gao, built mosques, madrasas, libraries and universities, and made extensive spread of Islamic education.

Notable among the architects who came to Mali with Musa were Ishaq al-Taejin. He built a mosque named the Great Mosque of Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu, in exchange of 200kg gold coins, which is still unbroken. Emperor Musa established Timbuktu University to attract Islamic scholars, artists, poets and writers from the entire Muslim world. He also founded Sankoré University, one of the key educational centers of that time. After the University of Alexandria in Egypt, this Sankoré University’s Library was world’s largest collection of books. There were about 25,000 students and 100000 manuscripts in this university. Under Mansa Musa’s rule, Timbuktu became the center of Islamic education in Africa.

Emperor Musa died in 1337 after being in power for long 25 years. After his death, this huge amount of wealth of his empire was destroyed for the incompetence of the rulers, civil war, and from the attack of outsiders.

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