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date: 25 June 2022

Ahmed Bâba at-Timbuktîlocked

Ahmed Bâba at-Timbuktîlocked

  • Hamadou AdamaHamadou AdamaDepartment of History, University of Ngaoundéré

Summary

Ahmed Bâba (1556–1627) was among the most prolific and the most celebrated of Timbuktu scholars of the 16th and 17th centuries. During his childhood he was educated and trained in Arabic law and Islamic sciences by his father, Ahmad, and other relatives. His principal teacher, the man he named the regenerator (al-mujaddid), was the Juula scholar Mohammed Baghayogho al-Wangarî, whose teaching he followed for more than ten years.

Following the Moroccan occupation of Timbuktu in 1591, he was exiled to Marrakesh in 1594, jailed for two years, then obliged to remain in the city for many years. He was widely known both for his teaching and for the fatwas (legal opinions) he issued. He was offered administrative positions but declined them all in favor of teaching.

In 1608, he was permitted to return to his hometown, Timbuktu, where he continued to write and teach until his death in 1627, but he held no public office there.

His special field of competence was jurisprudence. He was also recognized for his abilities in hadith and wrote several works on Arabic grammar. He is probably best known for his biographical compendium of Mâlikî (founded by Malik ibn Anas died A.D. 795 is orthodox school of Muslim jurisprudence predominating in Sudanic Africa and the Maghreb) scholars, Nayl al-Ibtihâj bi tadrîs ad-dibâdj, a valuable supplement for the Western Islamic world to Ibn Farhûn’s ad-Dibâj al-Mudhahhab.

His work specifically addresses issues relating to the significance of racial and ethnic categories as factors in the justification of enslavement. In the Bilâd as-Sûdân, Ahmed Bâba influenced the debate over slavery by relying on interpretations of Islamic precedent, which was invoked to protect freeborn individuals from enslavement. By extension, he impacted the transatlantic slave trade on the basis of religious identification with Islam and the desire to avoid the sale of slaves to non-Muslims, especially Christian Europeans on the coast of West Africa.

Subjects

  • West Africa

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