Timbuktu Manuscripts: Specific Examples

Structure of the Heavens

This text was written to train scholars in the field of astronomy, a science that Islamic tradition traces back to Adam and to the Prophet Idris. The author discusses how to use the movements of the stars to calculate the beginning of the seasons and how to cast horoscopes, among many other aspects of astronomy. 

Displayed is a diagram demonstrating the rotation of the heavens. Nasir al-Din Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn al-Hajj al-Amin al-Tawathi al-Ghalawi. Kashf al-Ghummah fi Nafa al-Ummah (The Important Stars Among the Multitude of the Heavens), copied 1733. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

A Poem on Islamic Law

The author of this poem is instructing students of Islamic law about the rights of orphans and married women. Verse is used as an aid to the student's memory. Sayyid al-Mukhtar ibn Ahmad ibn. Abi Bakr al-Kunti al-Kabir. Qasidah (Poem). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

The Law of Inheritance

Islamic inheritance law is a highly regulated system in which individuals receive legacies depending upon their degree of relationship to the deceased. This work explains that system and elaborates upon its basis in the Koran. al-Qadi Muhammad ibn al-Imam. Uthman al-Wakari al-Tumbukti, Sharh 'ala Amthilat al-Fara'id. (Commentary on the work Examples of Law). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Laws of Commerce in Verse

This volume delineates the obligations of parties to commercial exchanges and contracts. The author focuses on sales and how individuals loaning money are to be protected in commercial transactions. Verse is used to aid in memorizing the text.Ahmad ibn Bud ibn Muhammad al-Fullani. Sullam al-Atfal fi Buyu al-Ajal (The Protection of Individuals in Commercial Transactions). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Songhai Empire and Islam

The Songhai Empire was one of the most important states in West Africa during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Muslims lived in significant numbers within the empire's domains. This work examines the history of the empire and discusses important questions of Islamic law which arose in the empire, including the status and rights of women and children in a Muslim society. Sayyid al-Mukhtar ibn Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr al-Kunti al-Kabir. al-Minnah fi Itiqad Ahl al-Sunnah (The Gift of the Followers of the Path of Muhammad), copied 1809. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

The Law of Slavery

The author discusses slavery as it existed in West Africa during the seventeenth century. The examination of the subject is based on Islamic law and the author notes that the fundamental and original nature of humanity is that individuals are free. They may be enslaved only under certain very specific conditions governed by Islamic law. Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Umar ibn Muhammad. Aqit al-Tumbukti. Miraj al-Suud ila nayl Majlub al-Sudan (Ahmad Baba Answers a Moroccan's Questions about Slavery). Verso. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Islamic Saints

Sufis (Islamic mystics) form an important element in Islamic society. The author provides an explanation of their mystical doctrine and practice. He also discusses recognizing pious and holy mystics as saints and the value of their intercession on behalf of believers. The text stresses the practice of the Tijaniyah order of Sufis. Displayed is a diagram explaining the religious life of the mystics, which revolves around the teaching of their master. al-Hajj Umar ibn Said al-Futi. Rimah Hizb al-Rahim 'ala Nuhuri Hizb al-Rajim (The Spear of the Merciful against the Throat of the Reviled), copied 1858. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Islamic Mysticism

This text explains the basic principles of Sufi practice, pointing out the various stages of knowledge that mystics pass through as their knowledge of God increases through their strict application of devotional discipline. The author further discusses the relationship between belief, Sufi doctrine, and knowledge of God. Sayyid al-Mukhtar ibn Ahmad. ibn Abi Bakr al-Kunti al-Kabir. Jizwat al-Anwar fi al-Dhabb an Manasib. Awliya' Allah al-Akhyar (The Flowers of Light in Defense of the Status of God's Chosen Saints), copied 1858. The Cheik Zani Baye Library, Boujbeha, Mali 

Philosophical Exchange

The author of this work examines the approach to various issues in Islamic law and society by theologians and scholars and offers an explanation of the pronouncements of these learned individuals. Sayf al-Din Ali ibn al-Amdi. al-Mubin fi Mukhtasar Maani al-Alfaz al-Mutadawilah bayna al-Hukama' wa-al-Mutakallimin (A Summary Explanation of the Pronouncements of the Scholars and Theologians). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

The Rise and Setting Auspicious Stars

This collection of writings is based on the Greco-Roman legacy of astronomy with the addition of discoveries made by Muslim scholars. The text is presented in the form of a Platonic discourse. It includes an explanation of how to determine which star is ascendent and what that portends for the world. Ahkam al-Shira al-Yamaniyah wa-ma Yazharu min Hawadith fi al-Alam inda Zuhuriha fi Kull Sanah (Knowledge of the Movement of the Stars and What it Portends in Every Year). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Arithmetic Primer

This commentary by the eighteenth-century scholar al-Rasmuki explains a work by al-Samlali the medieval mathematician. Using charts and examples of problems, the commentator demonstrates the rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. He also discusses the history and development of mathematics. The text was used extensively by students in Timbuktu and North Africa. Ahmad ibn Sulayman al-Rasmuki. Kashf al-Hijab li-Asfiya' al-Ahbab an Ajnihat al-Righab fi Marifat al-Hisab (Explanations of the Problems in Arithmetic with Examples). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Islamic Doctrine

This work concentrates on the doctrine of the existence of God and God's single and unique nature. The writer explains the meaning of the terms referring to the intimate knowledge of God, as well as belief in God, his angels, and his prophets. Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Misri. Bughyat al-Talibin li-ma Tadammanatihu Umm al-Barahin (The Goal of Seekers, a Commentary on the Work The Mother of Proofs). The Cheik Zani Baye Library, Boujbeha, Mali 

Pillars of Iman (Faith)

The Pillars of Iman, the fundamental principles of the Islamic faith, are presented in this book. It covers the elements of faith, including belief in God, his angels and messengers, and the scriptures. Also discussed are belief in the last judgement and the inevitability of God's will, regardless of human understanding or desire. Arbab al-Khartumi. al-Jawahir al-Hisan fi Marifat Arkan al-Iman (The Jewel of Beauty for Education in the Pillars of the Faith). The Cheik Zani Baye Library, Boujbeha, Mali 

Law and Politics in the Songhai Empire

This treatise consists of the answers to seven questions asked of the author by the Emperor of Songhai. When discussing political and economic issues the author advises the Emperor that he is obliged to apply Islamic law strictly in these areas of life. Therefore, the Emperor needs to seek the advice of pious scholars. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Karim al-Maghili. As'ilat Askiyah wa-Ajwibat al-Maghili (Maghili's Tract on Politics). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Advice to Governors

The author of this work delineates the authority of governors and rulers and their limitations under Islamic law. He particularly calls attention to the need to understand the responsibility of power and its use. The author presents as a ruler's obligation the provision of social justice and protection of the property of the state's residents. 'Uthman ibn Muhammad ibn 'Uthman ibn Fodyo. Usul al-'Adl li-Wullat al-Umur wa-Ahl al-Fadl wa-al-Salatin (The Administration of Justice for Governors, Princes and the Meritorious Rulers). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Disease and Cure in Timbuktu

This compilation of cures instructs the reader about methods of diagnosing and medicating the sick. The author also explains the use of animal, plant, and mineral substances as medications. Prayers and Koranic verses that are helpful against illness are included. Displayed are instructions for writing prayers, helpful to the sick, for use in amulets. Sayyid Ahmad ibn Amar al-Raqadi al-Tumbukti al-Kunti. Shifa' al-Asqam al-Aridah fi al-Zahir wa-al-Batin min al-Ajsam (Curing Diseases and Defects both Apparent and Hidden). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Ethical Behavior

The ethical conduct of business and government is the subject of the exemplary stories contained within this book. The author takes particular care to impress upon the reader the necessity of ethical behavior when occupying an official position. Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn Ali al-Ahwazi. al-Fawa'id wa-al-Qala'id (Useful Stories and Verses). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

An Argument for Peace

The author, a scholar and religious leader, urges warring factions to make peace and live in peace. He supports his argument with quotations from the Koran and allusions to the practice of Muhammad and his companions, which require the faithful to avoid discord, to reconcile, and to live in peace and tolerance. Sayyid al-Mukhtar ibn Ahmad ibn Abi Bakr al-Kunti al-Kabir. Risalah ila al-Qaba'il al-Mutaqatilin (Letter to the Warring Tribes). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Answer to a Royal Request

This document is a reply to the ruler of Massinah, Amir Ahmad, who ordered the arrest of a German traveler, Heinrich Bart, suspected of spying for the British. The author of the reply cites Islamic law as making the arrest illegal and declines to obey the Amir. The scholar states that a non-Muslim entering the domain of Muslims in peace is protected and may not be arrested, have his property confiscated, or to be otherwise hindered. Ahmad al-Bakayi ibn Sayyid Muhammad ibn Sayyid al-Mukhtar al-Kunti. Jawab Ahmad al-Bakayi ala Risalat Amir al-Mu'minin Ahmadal-Masini (The Response of Ahmad al-Bakayi to the Letter of Amir Ahmad, Ruler of Massinah), eighteenth century. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

The Benefits of Labor and Agriculture

The social benefits of trades, crafts, and agricultural pursuits are discussed in this book. The author describes the contributions to society of various vocations and expresses the fundamental dignity that individuals acquire by working in socially useful employments. Anonymous, Kitab al-Barakah fi Fadl al-Hiraf wa-al-Zar (The Book Describing the Blessed Merits of Crafts and Agriculture). The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Slave Trade

This is an agreement among merchants involved in the sale and transportation of slaves between Timbuktu in Mali and Ghadamas in Libya. Commercial agreement. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Gold as Currency

This commercial agreement focuses on buying and selling in several cities. It also refers to the cost of building houses in the city of Massinah. Gold is used as the standard of value in all transactions, which include the buying and selling of slaves, gold bullion, and gum arabic. Commercial agreement. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

Freedom for a Slave

This certificate gives a detailed physical description of a woman who is being granted her freedom by her owner. The document is drawn in the manner prescribed by Islamic law. Certificate of emancipation for female slave. The Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, Timbuktu, Mali 

To Timbuktu by Land

This map of Africa by the important sixteenth-century cartographer Abraham Ortelius displays a conception of the world that is land centered. West Africa and Timbuktu are shown situated in relation to the rest of Africa, demonstrating a world view that focuses on overland travel and still remembers Timbuktu as an important way station on the caravan routes.

Abraham Ortelius. "Africae Tabula Nova" (New Map of Africa), Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. (Theatre of the World). 

To Timbuktu by Sea

This map from the eighteenth century shows clearly the change in trade and travel that had occurred by 1743. Rather than being viewed as part of the larger continent, West Africa is presented with a focus on the sea routes that had replaced the land caravan routes to the area. Guinea propia, nec non Nigritiae vel Terrae Nigororum maxima pars: geographis hodiemis dicta utraque Aethiopia inferior, & hujus quidem pars australis (Guinea Proper, Not Including the Whole of Africa, but Only that Part Known to the Geographers as Lower Ethiopia). Nuremberg: Homannianorum Heredum, 1743. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress 

These examples clearly show that Africa (Tama-Re, Alkebulan, Kham) had knowlege, culture and heritage going back thousands of years.

Nubian-Melaninite people have to learn and respect our history and ancestors.