The Ladder of Ascent in Obtaining the Procurements of the Sudan: Ahmad Baba Answers a Moroccan’s Questions about Slavery


Timbuktu (present-day Tombouctou in Mali), 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 there 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. Ahmad Baba ibn Ahmad ibn Umar ibn Muhammad Aqit al-Tumbukti discusses slavery as it existed in West Africa during the seventeenth century. The examination of the subject in Mi‘rāj al-Ṣu‘ūd ilá nayl Majlūb al-Sūdān (The ladder of ascent in obtaining the procurements of the Sudan: Ahmad Baba answers a Moroccan’s questions about slavery) is based on Islamic law and it is noted 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.

Last updated: January 8, 2018