Africa Leaders Magazine

AHMED BABA – The Greatest African Scholar of the 16th century

AHMED BABA - The Greatest African Scholar of the 16th century - African Leaders Magazine

Ahmed Baba was one of the greatest African scholars. Amongst the Songhai, he was known as the “The Unique Pearl of His Time”. According to John Henrik Clarke, “his life was a brilliant example of the range and depth of West African intellectual activity before the colonial era.”

AHMED BABA - The Greatest African Scholar of the 16th century - African Leaders Magazine

Ahmed Baba was born on Oct. 26, 1556, in Arawān, near Timbuktu, to the teacher, Ahmad bin al-Hajj Ahmad bin Umar bin Muhammed Aqit. He moved to Timbuktu at an early age, to study with his father. He eventually came under the tutelage of a great scholar known as Mohammed Abu Bekr, who would have a profound influence on his intellectual development. In his undergraduate days, Ahmed Baba, asked Mohammed Abu Bekr to lend him a rare treatise on grammar. The great master-teacher gladly complied with his request and furthermore searched through his library for other books that would be of service to his pupil.

AHMED BABA - The Greatest African Scholar of the 16th century - African Leaders Magazine

Ahmed Baba’s was the last Chancellor of the University of Sankore, during the reign of Askia the Great.  The University of Sankore in Timbuktu enjoyed high prestige as the intellectual center of Africa and the educational capital of western Sudan, which at its height had 25,000 scholars. Its professors corresponded with and visited other universities in Morocco and Egypt.  Professor Ahmed Baba was a biographer and historian, who authored more than forty books on different subjects. He wrote books on astronomy, ethnography and theology, as well as biography. He was in Timbuktu when it was invaded by the Moroccans in 1592, and he was one of the first citizens to protest the occupation of his beloved home town. Ahmed Baba, along with other scholars, was captured and eventually exiled to Morocco in chains. He was exiled with his entire family (1593 – 1608), and his extensive library was destroyed. He had a collection of 1,600 books, one of the richest libraries of his day.

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