HI 271; Is the Ibn Khaldun’s idea of class struggles sufficient in explaining the rise and collapse of West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai? Hossea Jaffe, A History of Africa.

Ibn Khaldūn, Abu Zayd ‘Abdi ar-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī; May 27, 1332 – March 19, 1406) was a North African, self-identified as Arab Muslim historiographer and historian, regarded to be among the founding fathers of modern sociology, historiography, demography, and economics.
He is best known for his book, the Muqaddimah (literally the "Introduction", known as the Prolegomena in Greek). The book influenced 17th-century Ottoman historians like Katipo Çelebi, Ahmed Cevdet Pasha and Mustafa Naima who used the theories in the book to analyze the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire. 19th-century European scholars also acknowledged the significance of the book and considered Ibn Khaldun as one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis in 1332 and therefore become a cosmopolitan (a person born in city). He was a scholar and a statesman with political and educational experience serving as an adviser to the kind and a jurist (a member of judicial panel). He left his native North West Africa in 1382 and never returned. He got first Quaranic education where he learnt a number of things including Hadiths, he also learnt jurist prudent, studied philosophy, Arab poems and met with other Arab scholars from other parts of the world. Sometimes Ibn Khaldun is regarded as the founder of history. He wrote a number of books and prominent among them include universal history.

The West African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai were great empires in their own right between the 9th and 16th centuries.

Class struggles refer to conflict between different classes in a community resulting from different social or economic position and reflecting opposed interests. The Ibn Khaldun idea of class struggles state that, “a class does not exist in isolation, through some relationship with the natural means of production if that were so, every tribal society owning the land and working it in common would constitute a class.

 The West African kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai were great empires in their own right between 9th century and 16th century.

It is true that, the Ibn Khaldun’s idea of class struggles sufficient in explaining the rise and collapse of West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai due to the following circumstances.

Trade. By 200 AD trade across the Sahara existed for centuries. This trade which existed was known as Tran’s Saharan trade which influenced much to the rise of West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, due to the goods which were traded such as gold, salt, animal skins, copper, and slaves. Those goods contributed a lot of wealth in these empires. Trans Saharan trade especially trade routes and trade center were controlled by the top leaders of the empires who earned a lot of wealthy through taxation from different traders who engaged in this trade, for instance, Berbers and other Muslims from North Africa. Also another factor in the rise of Ghana is that it controlled the sources of gold.[1] Some have called the Kingdom of Ghana the “land of gold.” The gold trade was largely responsible for the development of Ghana into a powerful, centralized kingdom. The peoples of West Africa had independently developed their own gold mining techniques and began trading with people of other regions of Africa and later Europe as well. At the time of the Kingdom of Ghana, gold was traded for salt that came down from the Sahara desert.[2] Despite that, trade was a factor for the rise of these empires, but also through trade led to the collapse of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires. For instance in 15th century, Trans-Atlantic slave trade emerged which led to the collapse of Trans Saharan trade. This Trans-Atlantic slave trade sometimes known as Triangular slave trade which included traders from Europe and others were native of Africa like Jaja of Opobo who brought the slaves from Africa to South America for various activities. Hence the downfall of these empires since many energetic people were taken to South America as slaves[3].

The population increase. People of Mali increased more than any of the Sudanese nations overrun the whole region. They vanquished the Sosso and took all their possessions, both their ancient kingdom and that of Ghana, this paved to the growth of Mali Empire and fall of Ghana Empire. Hence the idea of Ibn Khaldun of class struggles is sufficient in explaining the rise and fall of west
African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.

Conquest. Some empires of West Africa grew due to the conquest but other failed. For instance Mali conquered Sosso and other small Chiefdoms, also Ghana was conquered by Almoravid led to the collapse of Ghana Empire. More over the authority of Ghana waned and its prestige as that of the veiled people neighbors on the North next to the land of the Berbers grew. Latter triumphed over the Sudanese destroyed their dwellings and country. Levied tribute, forced many of them to join Islam and subjugated. Consequently the authority of the rulers of Ghana dwindled away, and they fall under the domination of the Sosso people. In the same connection, conquest led to the rise of Mali and collapse of Songhai due to impact of a Moroccans invasion in 1591. (N. Levitz ion pg. 124).

Iron technology also contributed to the rise of West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Iron technology improved agricultural activities due to the use of iron tools in cultivation like hand hoe and axes and this agricultural activities created surplus and finally led to the population increase which later on influenced the rise of classes among this population led to the rise of empires. For instance Mali Empire emerged due to agricultural activities and population. Also due to improvement of iron technology influenced the availability of army tools or weapons to conquer other kingdoms. For instance, Sosso conquered Ghana and Ghana become under Sosso domination, but later Sosso was conquered by Mali and led to the growth of Mali Empire.

Strong leadership. The rise of West African Empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai was due to strong leadership which was controlled by strong leaders included Mansa Mussa, Sundiata and Askiya Muhammad who played a role to influence the people of West Africa. Also helped much to the rise of this empires. But due to internal weaknesses, these empires collapsed. Example Ghana fall because of internal weakness such as it constituted people of different cultures and huge empires.
The empire of Mali endured from the early 13th century to the late 15th century. Once a state inside of the Ghanaian empire, Mali rose to power when Ghana collapsed due to invading forces and internal conflicts. When Mali began to wane in power, one of its trade centers, Songhai, established its independence and soon rose to power in its place, becoming the largest kingdom in medieval West Africa, according to Annenberg Learner. Songhai collapsed at the end of the 16th century when Moroccan invaders were drawn by the riches in gold and salt and conquered Timbuktu. Also Introduction of Islam from North Africa, the coming of Muslims in West Africa acted as dividing factor in most of these empires. Al – Bakri wrote his book (1067 to 1068) was a crucial period in the spread of Islam in the Western Sudan. It was after the rise of the Almoravid movement but before the fall of Ghana, also there was a comprise between Islam and tradition religion on the one hand and militant Islam, seeking to impose new religion by force on other hand, more over Sudanese rulers in contact with Muslims usually adopted Islam. Ghana joined with Muslims because it had conflict or hostility towards the Berber people therefore up to 12th century, Ghana was under the domination of Muslims which led to its collapse.

Written by;
1
MAKOBA DAUD
2
MAKUO MUSSA  J
3
MPANDA NEEMA































REFERENCE

Hosea Jaffe and S. Amin, (Eds), A History of Africa (Zed books LTD)

Davidson, B.A History of West Africa, 1000 – 1800, (London: Longman, 1965)

Ajayi J. F.F and M. Crowder, (Eds). History of West Africa, vol 1 (London; Longman 1974)

Exploring Africa, “Studying Africa through the Social Studies – Early African History, Until 16th Century CE. Accessed April 11, 2014,




[1] Conrad, 29.
[2] Exploring Africa, “Studying Africa through the Social Studies – Early African History, Until 16th Century CE,” accessed April 11, 2014, http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/students/curriculum/m7a/activity3.php
[3] Ajayi J. F.F and M. Crowder, (Eds). History of West Africa, vol 1 (London; Longman 1974)
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