Mansa Musa Ethnicity?


Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
He was one of the great Emperors of Mali and classified as the richest man ever lived on earth , but what was he looking like ? Was Subsaharian ? or Arab? or North African?

According to wiki I read he was descendant of the Keita dynasty which is described as descendant of Bilal Keita one of the most trusted and loyal Sahabah (companions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He was born in Mecca and is considered as the first muezzin, chosen by Muhammad himself.
So he would be Arab?


Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
I didn't ask if he was black , his skin color can be clearly seen by the portrait, but his ethnicity , if he was of arab descent or berber or mandinka for the like , and what proves are on support of any of the upper possible lineages?
May 2018
On earth.
He descends from the Malian royal family, who were Mandinka. He could've claimed descent from Arabs, which was common in Muslim countries (Arabia IS the homeland of Islam, afterall).
Jan 2018
According to Elijah Shabazz, Mansa Musa was Fulani

Mansa Musa Malk Al Takrur (Fulani) and the ancient Kingdom of Mali, By Elijah Shabazz (Ilyas Shabazz Bah)

Often times historians “back project” current tribal realities and western style geo-political boundaries –complete with rigid border enforcement- onto the past. This is called a “Post Colonial” analysis of Africa’s history and Peoples.

Such is the case with the History of Mansa Musa, Mari Jata (Sundiata) and, the History of the Ancient Mali and Takrur Empires. The Method by which we should judge these empires and peoples are by the empires that succeeded them. Particularly, as it relates to the Fulani and Maninke (Mandika) tribal groups.

Oft-times, these groups co-ruled together. The best examples are the Kingdoms of Futa Toro, Futa Jallon, ancient Gambia and The Wassalou empires.
Albeit, these kingdoms may have been spear-headed by a single tribal group, such as Futa Toro, Futa Jallon, and Sokoto; which were labeled “Fulani Jihads”. If you examine these revolutions closely, the leaders were Fula but in some cases the bulk of the followers were comprised of other tribal groups. The inverse of this dynamic was the Wassalou empire spearheaded by Samori Toure a Mende who was aided by the Fulani.

Ancient Mali seems to also have been no different. In fact Ancient Mali seems to have been the prototype for these mixed tribal kingdoms that came after it.

After examining the primary Sources of Ibn Khaldun and Chibab Al Umari for Mansa Musa, Mali and the Takrur kingdoms; I have concluded that ruling family of Mari Jata (Known as Sundiata Keita) comprised of the same two people who co-ruled the later kingdoms mentioned above. The Mande people and the ancient Takrur (Fulani): whose kingdom was incorporated into ancient Mali.


Takrur is the ancient name for the Fulani people of West Africa. Yet 20th century historians have called this Statement made by ancient chronicler Chibab Al Umari a mistake. They reasoned –understandably so- that since Mansa Musa comes from the household of the Mandingo Family of Mari Jata; ( also Known as Sun jata) who is the Historical figure on whose life the “Lion King” is based. Therefore, on the face of it, it is a simple deduction to conclude that Mansa Musa, being a grandson of Mari Jata- that he too is a Mandingo. Therefore, writers and Griots alike attributed the Mende surname Keita to Mansa Musa’s last name. They also give him the name “Kankan” which is his Mother, who according to some sources is of Afro-Arab origin.

What led me to re-examine these conclusions by historians and Griots was a chapter that I read in a book entitled "Mecca: The Sacred City" written by Professor Ziaddin Sardar who is a Historian and former head of the Hajj planning committee in Jedddah Saudi Arabia.. In this book Professor Sardar gives a comprehensive History of Mecca, from before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) up until now.

Prof. Sardar's Arabic source gives us a physical description of Mansa Musa that is in stark contrast to the typical Manike phenotype. The description is as follows:

The people of Mecca were "particularly taken aback by his appearance: he had a pale appearance. He appeared almost red and yellow, giving the African Monarch a distinctive look."

Reading this, of course made my antennas go up. In all of my research of Takrur (also known as Fulani) people, many anthropologist regard Fulani as "Red People". Their "standard" complexion is said to range from yellow to reddish brown and also Black.

One of the first writings I want to examine is that of Ibn Khaldun’s. Khaldun’s work was for many years the sole primary source for Mansa Musa in the west because his work was translated decades before Chibab al Umari’s. Even though Chibab al Umari’s work is equal in importance, if not more because he was in Egypt at the time of Mansa Musa’s visit and interviewed his hosts directly after. Whereas, Ibn Khaldun’s visit to Mali was after the death of Mansa Musa but he did get a chance to also interview those who knew him.

So I will start with Khaldun’s work and then cross reference it with Chibab al Umari. The History of the Royal Family of Mali According to Ibn Khaldun reads:

“Mansa Wali was one of their greatest kings he ruled for 25 years… his Brother Mansa Wali ruled after him. And then a third Brother khalifa Khalifa was insane and devoted to archery and used to shoot arrows at his people and kill them wantonly so they rose against him and killed him. He was succeeded by a sibt (son of a daughter) of Mari Jata, called Abu Bakr. Who was the Son of his daughter. They made him king according to the custom of these non-Arabs, who bestow the kingship on the sister and the son of the sister (former king) we do not know his or his father’s pedigree.
The next ruler Sakura then Qu, grandson of the Sultan Mari Jata, then after him his son Muhammad b. Qu After him the kingship passed from the line of Mari jata to that of his brother (qu’s Brother) Abu Bakr in the person of Mansa Musa b. Abi bakr. Mansa Musa was an upright man and a great king, and tales of his justice are still told.”

These passages by Ibn Khaldun makes it clear that Mansa Musa indeed came from a different “line” (lineage) and “pedigree” than “Mari Jati” (Sudiata). He and his Brother Sulayman is of the seed of one Abu Bakr.

A Psychological Profile of Mansa Musa

In anthropology work they learn most about a people from what they say. Their manner of speaking, the words they use, their concerns are al links to discover hereditary parallels and behaviors.

So, let’s examine the words of Mansa Musa according to Chbab and see what we can glean from his mindset. According to the writings of Chibab:

“The emir Abu ‘l-hassan ‘Ali b. Amir hajib told me that he was often in the company of sultan Musa the king of this country when h came to Egypt on the Pilgrimage… A friendship grew up between and this Sultan Musa told him a great deal about himself and his country and the people of Sudan who are his neighbors.”

Here what Mansa Musa goes on to say about these topics. (Note: the emphasis is mine).

“One of the things that which he told him was that his country was very extensive and contiguous with the Ocean. By his sword and his armies he had conquered 24 cities each with its surrounding district with villages and estates. It is a country RICH in livestock- cattle, sheep, goats, horses, mules,- and different kinds of poultry – geese, dowes, chickens.”

Think of a man who gave so much gold away that he single handedly disrupted the words economy. However, when they ask him about his country the first resource he talks about is livestock!!! And he says that his country is RICH in cattle. This is a Takruri/Fulani mentality. If you ask a Fulani how does he measure his wealth, he will answer Cattle (Cows). If you ask him what’s more valuable to him gold or cows, he will answer Cows.

Such is the case with Mansa Musa. It's only after he details every type of domesticated livestock in his country, then he mentions gold.

Mansa Musa further says:

“The inhabitants of this country are numerous but compared with the peoples of the Sudan who are their neighbours and penetrate far to the south they are like a white birth mark on a black COW. He has a truce with the gold plant people who pay him tribute. ”

So here Mansa Musa makes a clear distinction between his people and the people of the “Sudan”. Sudan in Arabiyya means “Black”. His people compared to the Black people of the South are like a “White” birth mark on a black Cow. The Cow analogy again is interesting as to his psychological choice of comparison.

Yet, Mari Jata’s (Sundiata/Keita/Mende) line/lineage are directly related to these people of the South that Mansa Musa distinguishes “his people” from. According to Ibn Khaldun:

“Then there came forth from the land of the pagans beyond them a man named Mahmud, RELATED to Mansa Qu bin Mansa Wali bin Mari jata the Great, who seized power and became ruler in 792/1390. His title is Mansa Magha…”

What’s also interesting to note is that the other son of Abu Bakr and Brother of Mansa Musa whose name is Sulayman, also was called “King of Takrur and Lord of Mali” by Chibab Al Umari. This Sultan Sulayman was spoken of in not so pleasant terms by the traveler historian Ibn Battuta who visited his kingdom. Ibn Battuta was upset with him because of the “Gift” that Sultan Sulayman gave him.

According to Ibn Battuta, after it was announce excitedly by one of the courtiers that the King had his present, he ( Ibn Battuta) was expecting Gold or some other treasure. However, what came to him left him greatly disappointed. According to Ibn Battuta:

“It was three loaves of Bread and a piece of beef fried in gharti and a gourd containing yoghurt (more than likely khossam). When I saw it I laughed at their feeble intellect and their respect for mean things”

This Gourd, which in Takrur culture is called “Horde” and this “yoghurt” which is called “Khossam” is one of the highest of gifts that Takrur/Fulani people give to their guests. It is a gift of high value in this culture.

It's also worth notig that when Ibn Khaldun goes to collect the history of Mansa Musa, of his informants is one Al Hajj Yunus who is known as “the Takruri interpreter”. This Alhajj Yunus acted as an interpreter of “this nation” to Egypt. If Mansa and his people were non-Takruri why would they need a Takruri interpreter?

Takrur and Mali

So after examining these primary source texts, I have concluded that the royal family was made up of two peoples. These two types of people made the Kingdom of Mali a regional super power larger than France and Spain combined.

While, the Takrur who had long alliances with Berber tribes, gave Mansa Musa and his Brother Sulayman great control of the North. Particularly places like Timbuktu which is dominated by nomadic tribes such as Takrur/Fulani, Tuaregs, Berbers, Arabs and the sendentary Songhai. It was here that Mansa Musa decided to build his famous Djinguereber mosque which housed the University of Timbuktu.

Whereas, the Mari Jata line were of the Southern people and gave the Kingdom of Mali access to rich Gold, Copper, etc found in the land of the Sudan.

The Legacy of Mansa Musa in Mali today

When Henry Louis Gates went to Mali he asked about mansa Musa. The response he received was not what he expected. He figured that a man now revered as the richest man who ever lived by Forbes Magazine, and who singlehandedly upset the economy of the world, would be a great National Treasure to Mali.

Absolutely not.

Even though it is 700 years after his death there are Malians who are embittered with Mansa Musa. They are upset for the obvious reason. He took all of the Wealth of Mali and gave it away to others.

It’s clear that Wealth means different things to different people. As earlier stated Mansa Musa considered his country to be Rich in Cattle. While there are plenty accounts of him giving away the richness of his country’s Wealth in Gold. There is no account of him giving away his wealth in Cattle.

Not even a single Cow.
Mansa Musa Malik Al Takrur.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Benin City, Nigeria
I don't know who Elijah Shabazz is. That certainly doesn't sound like a Fulani name. But anyway, Mansa Musa was not Fulani. He was from the Malinke/Mandinka subgroup of the Mande people, as I stated earlier.

Those arguments based on the quotes from Ibn Khaldun and on the use of the word "Takruri" or "Takrur" in the sources are just erroneous. The notes to the book containing the English translation of Ibn Khaldun's information about Mali (the translation by J.F.P. Hopkins) that was used in that article above explain clearly what was actually meant by Takrur in those instances. So the person who wrote that article is deliberately ignoring what the notes to the book that he obtained the quotes from actually say about how the word "Takrur" started to be used.

The actual Takrur (meaning the kingdom, not the larger west African region), just became a province of Mali and Ibn Khaldun explicitly states that the Malians conquered it.

Also, Ibn Khaldun states about Mari Jata that he (Ibn Khaldun) "has not heard the genealogy of this king".

The argument about Mansa Musa's paternal ancestry being non-Mande, and specifically Fulani has nothing to back it. And anyway he is misinterpreting a line. The part which says "After him the kingship passed from the line of Mari Jata to that of his brother Abu Bakr. . ." is referring to this Abu Bakr as being Mari Jata's brother, not Qu's brother. There is no mention of this Abu Bakr being Qu's brother and the statement "(qu's brother)" that he inserted there in parenthesis is definitely not in the actual translation that he is taking these quotes from.

The example about cows is silly. It was a simple figure of speech. He didn't use it because he somehow identified with the culture of some rustic pastoralists from another part of the region.

As for the claim about a pale or red/yellow appearance I have not seen that mentioned in any contemporary or near contemporary source. The only thing mentioned about Musa's appearance that I know of is a statement in Ibn Kathir's universal history book that he was described as a "young handsome man". So the person making the claim about appearance should have provided a source.
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Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Benin City, Nigeria
Okay so I looked up Elijah Shabazz and he is someone that traces his ancestry to the Fulanis and seems to be making claims to try to glorify the Fulanis.
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Aug 2014
I don't understand this fixation of ethnicity. They are pointless. If someone grew up in a culture and is accepted by that culture then that is what he is. His ethnic background is irrelevant.

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