Why do we rely so heavily on Arabic, European, and Egyptian sources regarding West African Islamic states and why is info so spotty?

Aug 2018
20
United States
#1
I understand why this is the case for places such as Benin and Oyo as they were largely illiterate states. However as you move north to Islamic states like Mali and Songhai I find it confusing. I've never once seen any of these places sourced or referenced by an indigenous scholar. The closest I've seen was Ahmed Baba who lived in Timbuktu but was Native to Morocco. There are literally up to 1 million manuscripts in Timbuktu alone. There are also thousands more in Walata, the Hausa states, and other places. Timbuktu had some of the largest libraries in the world. Why don't rely on those manuscripts for accurate sources on West African history? Were they simply not used to record the history? There are tons of holes in the history of Songhai and Mali. Uncertain dates, unknown/uncertain kings, birth years that are estimated etc. Every source I ever uncover comes from scholars like Ibn Batuta and Al-Umari, and of course, European explorers. Does anyone know the reason for this? Thanks!
 
Last edited:
Aug 2018
20
United States
#2
Also, I never hear of any Swahili books or manuscripts either despite the fact that they were Islamic for several centuries. A good Muslim had to know how to read and write in Arabic script in order to recite the Quran. I jsut find it curious how we don't seem to see any sources or references cited from indigenous Sub-Saharan African scholars of the past despite their literacy.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,275
Benin City, Nigeria
#4
The closest I've seen was Ahmed Baba who lived in Timbuktu but was Native to Morocco.
He was not born in or "native to Morocco". He was from Timbuktu and was taken to Morocco initially as a prisoner after the Moroccan conquest. He later was able to return to Timbuktu and died there.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,275
Benin City, Nigeria
#5
Also, I never hear of any Swahili books or manuscripts either
Some Swahili cities were destroyed in the early 16th century. That said there are a few surviving chronicles, such as the Kilwa Chronicle.

Regarding the western Sudan, several important towns and cities were destroyed during the French conquest of the region in the 19th century, and probably some important things were lost in those wars. But there are still some internal sources for that region (some of which are mentioned in the book I referred to in the thread linked above).

One can also find some internal sources in the book Sudanese Memoirs by H.R. Palmer.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2018
20
United States
#6
Some Swahili cities were destroyed in the early 16th century. That said there are a few surviving chronicles, such as the Kilwa Chronicle.

Regarding the western Sudan, several important towns and cities were destroyed during the French conquest of the region in the 19th century, and probably some important things were lost in those wars. But there are still some internal sources for that region (some of which are mentioned in the book I referred to in the thread linked above).

One can also find some internal sources in the book Sudanese Memoirs by H.R. Palmer.
"Some were destroyed during the French conquest" but what about the other 1 million or so still in existence. Are none of them historically significant to the region? Lists of kings? Accounts of wars? Inventions?
 
Jul 2012
2,275
Benin City, Nigeria
#7
"Some were destroyed during the French conquest" but what about the other 1 million or so still in existence. Are none of them historically significant to the region? Lists of kings? Accounts of wars? Inventions?
Did you read the thread that I provided a link to above? Right underneath the second post that I made on p. 6 of that thread, another poster (mansamusa) provided a link to an article which discusses the documentation and cataloguing of many writings from the Islamic parts of western, central and eastern Africa. Read the article he provided a pdf link to at the end of his post and then search for information on the works mentioned in that article. Also find and read the book that I mentioned in my first post on p. 6 of that thread.

As for "1 million or so still in existence", perhaps you misunderstood my post. I was referring to the destruction of many important towns and cities by the French, and the written works that some of these may have held. For example, Kangaba, which was a very important town from a historical standpoint (it had been at the heart of, or in one of the core regions of, the Mali empire) and also an architectural standpoint (the palace of the late 19th century ruler of Kangaba was described by Etienne Peroz as being a "striking" example, in both "construction and ornamentation," of the best of the region's architecture) was destroyed in 1888 by Vallière's forces. I did not say that no written materials were found in the many other towns and cities that were not destroyed, I just noted that warfare would likely have had a negative effect on the quantity of writings that survived.
 
Last edited: