Askiyah's Questions and al-Maghili's Answers [al-Maghili's Tract on Politics]


Timbuktu, founded around 1100 as a commercial center for trade across the Sahara Desert, was also an important seat of Islamic learning from the 14th century onward. The libraries of Timbuktu contain many important manuscripts, in different styles of Arabic scripts, which were written and copied by Timbuktu’s scribes and scholars. These works constitute the city’s most famous and long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization. This treatise is about the Songhai Empire, which flourished in West Africa during the 14th and 15th centuries. It consists of the answers to seven questions asked of the author by the emperor of Songhai. The author tells the emperor that he is obliged to apply Islamic law strictly in administering the political and economic affairs of the empire. In order to do so properly, he is told that he needs to seek the advice of pious scholars.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

أسئلة إسكيا وأجوبة المغيلى

Type of Item

Physical Description

Manuscript, 42 pages


  • Alternate title: Law and politics in the Songhai Empire
  • The Askiyah was the third and last dynasty of Songhai Empire. It succeeded the Dia and the Sonni, or Sunni, dynasties consecutively.
  • Al-Maghili was a controversial cleric. His campaign to expel the Jews from his hometown of Tlemcen, in northwestern Algeria, and his rigid, puritan interpretation of Islam, rendered him as a firebrand. Yet, other Muslim scholars credit him for having been a renewing figure. His migration south to Timbouctou was believed to be due to his disappointment in Muslim rulers at that time, and their "failure" to implement sharia, in addition to his desire to move to an audience more receptive to his views.

Last updated: September 18, 2015