From the documents the Arab invaders left, we learn of a West Afrika complex of high cultures, arguably a complex that outflanked any in the world, especially those of Europe. From various Muslim writers we are informed of the great wealth and key role these societies played in the trans-Saharan international trade. These writers left accounts of West Afrikan high cultures that are remarkably consistent with accounts left by ancient writers of earlier Northeast Afrikan high cultures. For example, Diodorus Siculus and Stephanus of Byzantium have credited Ta-Seti or Ethiopia (a term coined by the Greeks) as the mother civilization of the Kemeyu (Egyptians). These writers were in accord that the Ethiopians were the most just of men, suggesting a people/society in which moral excellence was one of the highest virtues. Ta-Seti’s progeny, Kemet, provided a wealth of information regarding its high culture. Their wisdom tradition suggested the people lived and maintained a very high ethical code—Maat.
Some Western writers attribute Mali’s greatness to the influence of Islam (a mixed cradle culture). These same writers conveniently overlook the tremendous role Islam contributed to Western intellectual and cultural development, particularly during the crusades, the rise of Moorish Spain, and the European Renaissance. Would these writers dare attribute the West’s development to Islam? Such writers are misinformed, however. Mali was not a clone of an Arabic Islamic society. To the contrary, Mali, unlike other Islamic societies of the times, practiced matrilineal descent. Moreover, Battuta noted the difference in the treatment of women in Afrikan as opposed to other Islamic societies. Women were not secluded from men in Islamic Afrika. Additionally, Afrikan women frequented the markets, were integral parts of court life, and consulted freely with powerful men without wearing hijabs. Battuta found the latter objectionable, along with the fact Malian women frequently went about bare-breasted. These differences are evidence that the Afrikan idea of harmony dictated the role of Malian women rather than the misogyny of Islam. Further it suggests Mali was guided by the Afrikan ideal (harmony). Therefore, we must attribute the genius of Mali to its worldview and culture, particularly to the Mande-speaking people, who previously established Wagadu and contemporaneously give us glimpses of brilliance in Dogon and Bambara societies.
Many of the historical documents regarding the Niger Valley high cultures were housed at the Ahmed Baba center which came under threat last week when invading Arabs (now called jihadists), the Ansar Dine, fled the city and began destroying the center as international forces led by France (the European invaders) advanced. Ansar Dine set ablaze a state-of-the-art library that conserved the brittle, camel-hide bound manuscripts of which some date back as far as the 9th century. This library held about 2,000 manuscripts in Arabic and African languages covering subjects ranging from science, astrology and medicine to history, theology, grammar and geography. But there are other collections of manuscripts, some 28,000 of which were transported to the country’s capital, Bamako, when the insurgents first captured Timbuktu last year. The majority of the 700,000 or so manuscripts uncovered in Timbuktu were safely secured in other locations across and around the city.
Protesting against the “destruction and vandalizing of ancient manuscripts kept in the Ahmed Baba Institute of Timbuktu” African intellectuals meeting in Dakar for the Afrika Nko Symposium to discuss “the African Library” said in a statement that “it is an attack against memory, against the human spirit, against African being, and against the whole of humanity.” Many are at a loss as to why the “helpers of the Islamic religion” or “defenders of the faith,” which is what Ansar Dine means, would destroy manuscripts 900 years old--but they shouldn't be. The Ansar Dine's behavior is typical--it is historically the way Arabs have always treated Afrika and her people. Watch the video below for more on the historical relationship between Arabs and Afrikans.