Dark Crescent Rising - A timeline of the Mande Empire

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Ibn Chaldun, Oct 21, 2018.

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  1. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    Awesome input. Acutally I had this planned for my next update. Mukhtar is about to realize the impact he and his ideas are causing and will reflect on what brought him here.
    I´ll say the following: His name is derived from Mukhtar al-Kunti, a 18th century Qadiriyya leader based in Timbuktu that was quite influential. So Sufism is clearly on my mind there. Also his Andalusian home had, as you say, quite a wide array of mystics. Especially the question of the Assabiya is interenting (I have honestly not yet made up my mind how exactly he got it). I dont want to copycat Ibn Chaldun 1:1 but clearly the events should be similar. Also Ibn Chaldun himself wasn´t the most conservative muslim, i would argue, as he had to relinquish his position as the grand qadi of the Maliki school quite soon because of his decisions.
    His pessimism (4 generations and your all your mulk is gone basically :D ) is real indeeed, but well. This wont be Mali wank.

    Your questions will be answered soon :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
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  2. AJNolte Life keeps getting in the way of writing.

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    All of that sounds reasonable. Another fellow you might draw on for a parallel is Ibn Batuta, one of medieval Islam's greatest travel writers. I'd say a Khaldunian intellect married to Batuta's breadth of experience could probably get you to assabiya.

    When I say "conservative like Oakeshott", I mostly mean that Ibn Khaldun has a certain respect for tradition as a guidepost for political order, not that he was a particularly conservative Muslim by jurisprudence. In fact, I think he was at least influenced by mysticism and moderate in terms of jurisprudence. By contrast to Khaldun, for example, Ibn Taymiyya was an arch-conservative in terms of jurisprudence whose political ideas were actually quite radical, at least by medieval Islamic standards. [I refer here to his notion of Shariah's supremacy to the ruler, in some respects, and his doctrine of rebellion, both of which were certainly outside the medieval mainstream].

    One other political concept that's of use is, I think I'm spelling this correctly, wassat(?) It's basically the Muslim version of Aristotle's golden mean. While there's no evidence--at least, none I can find--that Ibn Khaldun read Aristotle, Mukhtar may well have done, particularly if he's from Andalusia and, hence, more familiar with Ibn Rushd than Khaldun was. [In some of my own work I've described Ibn Khaldun as the "Aristotle of tribes and tribalism", but that's almost more because he probably hadn't read Aristotle].

    And as for the dynasty: even if it is replaced by "another dynasty with stronger assabiya", as Ibn Khaldun would argue, implementation of even some of Khaldun's ideas will put Mali on a radically different, and more prosperous, course.

    One last note on Ibn Khaldun: he was, by modern lights, a bit racist, but his racism was, also by modern lights, quite peculiar. As he lays out in chapter 1 of the Muqaddimah, Khaldun believed the world was divided into climatic zones, and that only the most temperate zones--that is, those with a Mediterranean climate--were truly capable of civilization. Thus, Khaldun placed black Africans and Slavs on equal footing as people whose climate made civilization impractical for them. [Though he was more sanguine that they could be civilized if they moved].

    This was, I think, almost entirely due to the narrow range of Khaldun's travels; Mukhtar, having probably been further north and definitely further south than Ibn Khaldun ever got--is likely to have much less climatic-determinist notions. I'd expect a more traditional view, that monotheism leads to true civilization and, hence, since Islam is the most monotheistic, it is also the most civilized. [Most Islamic political theorists seemed to have believed this, either explicitly or implicitly; Ibn Khaldun was unique in his emphasis on natural explanations]. Alternatively, if you still want to make Mukhtar a bit of a rationalist, the determining factor, in his case, might be less climate and more geography.
     
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  3. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    The Mansa of Mali was considered the Caliph as well no?
     
  4. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    Im a little hesitant there, because i once read that Chaldun wasnt too fond of Battuta. He didnt seem to believe him everything. Alone by travelling to Mali Mukhtar will develop some of his characteristics though.

    It is indeed sometimes suggested that Chaldun did in fact read Ibn Rushd and Aristotele. Even Wikipedia says so though their source is suspicious enough (an obsure magazin by a US subsidary of the Saudi State oil comany). Hard, trustworthy evidence i couldnt find either.

    And of course Mali will develop at a completely different speed. They did not even have a currency in OTL. Thats the point of the TL. As you suggest, race issues and racism wont be a factor for Mukhtar.

    I really like your input though. I’d be honored if you kept reading.

    I’m not aware that they claimed the caliphate IOTL. in this timeline however it has been proposed, though not yet implemented.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
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  5. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    One reason correct me if am wrong one reason it was decentralized was that because there were so many different groups so that directly managing them all would be hard and also just because of travel distance and how hard it would be to control so how u gonna solves these problems
     
  6. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    The decentralized Organisation was on the one hand a direct consequence from Sundjatas Conquest. He basically overthrew a Sosso King that had essentially ended the Ghana Empire with the help of multiple Mande factions.

    And on the other hand indeed tribalism is a major concern for the Mande. Basically the empire is still a federation of tribes and clans, partly attributed to history, partly to the aftermath of Sunjata. For example the Gbara clans were descendants of his generals/allies/best warriors.

    Loyalty still goes to the tribe/clan and not to the state. That’s something that’s gotta change and we’re gonna archive that through religion, slaves (and a little bloodshed)


    Also I may give this away, in his past (that will be the topic of the next chapter) Mukhtar acquired some knowledge on how Ghengis Khan solved the tribalism issue to Unite the mongol tribes.


    Regarding the Distance: Mali was huge, so clearly that factored in.
    Longterm we Indeed need better means of communication if we were to centralize efficiently.

    Here again, Mukhtars knowledge of mongol techniques will come in handily (Yam system). The Malian realm essentially is an open plain. That system will work great there.
     
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  7. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    yes but couldn't horse survive in some parts of the empire we need more of a Inca system and also that is huge task to accomplish how do you think you are going to do that
     
  8. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    There was a reason the Mali empire never extended far into the coastal rainforests. They actually relied quite a bit on cavalry (as did most other states in the Sahel) for warfare. Some accounts state that there were up to 10.000 mounted warriors under the command of the mansas.
    The bit overlapping they had with the forests was just south of Niani that could easily accessed by sofa slave warriors that usually fought on foot.

    If you are referring to the tse-tse, iirc they are usually not found north of the 14th latitude what excludes a lot of Mali’s territory. For reference, Djenné is roughly located on it.


    TLDR: Yam system in combination with extensive use of the local rivers can work very well. Tse-tse should not be an issue In the most regions. Where it is, there are enough rivers for travel.

    For the northern Savannah, the Yam systems seems the best option. It would not operate at Mongolian speed of course because of the heat, but still fast enough.
    Much better than the Chasqui-like system you are proposing imo. Climate is just too hot for human runners imo. And it’s much easier to get to Mali (even though it’s still quite a stretch)


    However, we need to bring Malian horse breeding up a notch in the future. Iirc they were relying quite a bit on imports IOTL.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
  9. AJNolte Life keeps getting in the way of writing.

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    Yes, will definitely keep reading; this is very intriguing.

    Ah, so Ibn Khaldun is referring to Ibn Batuta in book 1, when he talks about credulous travelers tales [paraphrasing a bit]? That makes sense.

    I wonder if something like the early Mamluk model--in which a member of the Abbasid Caliphate gave his blessing to the Sultan--might be applicable here. Otherwise, outright claiming to be Caliph might be a bit anachronistic for the 1300s. You're in the age of sultanism, and a caliphal claim, to be taken seriously, would require some form of authority. Now, one way to get said authority was to just gain control of Mecca and Medina [basically how Selim did it for the Ottomans later on]. But I think that might be a stretch for Mali.

    Of course, Sufi political legitimization is one alternative to a Caliphal claim, and one that's pretty popular around this time. Have you read Moin Azfar's study of Mughal and Safavid sacred kingship entitled The Millennial Sovereign? I think something like that, in which the king becomes sacralized in the way Sufi saints were, is probably a better fit for Mali at the time. If Mukhtar forms a Sufi order with the king at the head, all the better.

    One of the reasons Sufism is so darn popular in the post-Mongol period of Muslim history, is that it can localize better than just about any other form of political Islam. Now, this isn't to say that Sufis were all syncretists who didn't care about things like the Hajj--that's a much later western interpretation filtered through some post-enlightenment notions about religion that are probably wrong. However, Sufism did allow for the development of localized sacred space. And when you're a ruler looking for, well, assabiya, Sufism is a really excellent source. Assuming, of course, said ruler doesn't go too far with it. Akbar the Great, for all he's venerated as an example of tolerance by a lot of westerners, is considered a heretic--or the Muslim equivalent--by a lot of Muslims due to his extraordinarily messianic claims.

    Anyway, looking forward to more.
     
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  10. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    I honestly think that Sufism if it even get here will evole into it on form of Islam due to how unique Islam is ever time and won’t you need to get Islamic scholar school started to really get any form legiamited in the Mali Capitol
     
  11. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    As always I really love your input. Regarding caliphal claims, I wouldn’t deny the feasibility outright. For example the Almohad caliphate from around 1150 - 1270 actually had (objectively) the same, non existent theological justification (no control over any holy sites, not even sharif descendence. They founded their claim on the reform of religion - like Ouali would. Only - In their situation, a conservative one.

    My intention in Chapter II was to point out that Ouali didn’t claim it outright, because he was afraid of the reaction in the Gbara to this step.
    Gonna reword the ending to make it more clear
    —-
    I will publish Chapter III tomorrow. Sufism indeed is the way to go. Mukhtars backstory will show that.
    Another interesting fact that favors this preposition: Sufism and his mystic tendencies were really popular in West Africa because it gave the locals the chance to continue some practices of their old ancentral religions. Almost syncretic tendencies.

    Regarding Heresy: I’ve chosen Mali also because there is less danger of an orthodox backlash and locally Islam is rather tolerant already.

    However - the main obstacle to implementing a Sufi king is the god-like veneration of the mansas and their notoriously luxurious lifestyle. Both does not fit well with the Idea.

    Also - the luxury aspect is interesting regarding its implications on the assabiyah.


    Some insight in Chapter 3:
    Gonna drop the names of Ibn Arabi, al-Qunawi and Fakhr al-Din Iraki here. Also Sufis were quite popular in post mongol states.

    Edit: Sorry AJ, you stated some of my points already on your post. It’s Late over here and I’m just typing on my phone.

    University of Sankhore in Timbuktu.
     
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  12. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    why is there such a problem in recording mali history
     
  13. Threadmarks: 3. Mukhtar al-Andalusi

    Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    Chapter 3 — Mukhar al-Andalusi

    As Salif had become old, so had Mukhtar. The tireless scholar was approaching his 50th year on earth. “The western provinces are mobilizing”, Salif explained to him, “and some of the military clans in the Gbara support them. We´re on the brink of civil war”.

    As they made their way to Ouali´s palace Mukhtar became aware of an inconvenient truth: This war. It was his fault. His suggestions to centralize the realm had finally provoked the rebellion. How had he gotten to a point where his words caused the death of people? Never had he thought of himself as a warrior, as a killer. He was just a scholar. Thinking and writing about the world was his task, not wielding swords.

    A Reminiscence

    That was not what he expected when he had accepted the dying Mansa Sakura´s plea a decade ago.
    His life prior seemed so far away. What did he miss the calm youth in upper class Andalusia, when he had done little more than reading. The works of Aristotle, Ibn Rushd and – particularly – a controversial Sufi called Ibn Arabi had fascinated him. More and more the adolescent had drifted into the mystics. Yet not one of the local thinkers could compete against his exceptional mind. Finally, around his 18th Birthday in the Spring of 1280, he made a decision. No longer would he learn from books, he would look for a master worthy of his mind. So he set sail to Damascus, where Sufi master Fakhr al Din Iraqi thought. Iraqi had been the closest remaining associate of Sadr al-Din Qunawi, most important student of Ibn Arabi himself. The following years he devoted himself to the mystics of Sufism, yet somehow it didn´t seem to fully satisfy him.
    There was so much more in the world than the arcane, hidden secrets his colleagues and he were pursuing. No longer were they like Qunawi or Ibn Arabi. Some had become rather detached from the world. More and more he became interested in mundane subjects like economics or natural sciences.
    But especially he grew interested with history. There everything seemed to repeat itself. There were patterns. The rise and fall of civilizations, of dynasties and societies. Why kept they crumbling? Why could empires not defend themselves against foreign hordes like the Mongols that ravaged the core of Muslim lands just a few decades earlier? Their weapons and techniques, he thought at first. But there were the Berber tribes of North Africa, there were the Bedouin people of Arabia. Both neither were using superior weapons nor superior techniques and still could not be subjugated. Also – these these tribal societies existed for centuries without change. What did they do better? By 1287 Mukhtar al-Andalusi, as he had become known, went to study again.
    This time he set out for the Ilkhanate, one of the Mongolian successor states. For two years he stayed in their capital of Tabris[1]. Religiously, the Mongolian state was a weird one. At the court of Arghun Khan there were Muslims, Nestorian Christians, Jews and Buddhists. Mukhtar studied with the young Rashid-al-Din Hamadani and read the works of Ata-Malik Juvayni about the Mongolian conquest. Soon his Sufi teachings were sought after by the Mongols [2] and later he traveled into Persia proper and beyond accompanying various of their groups. Among the things he learned from them was the legendary rise of the first Mongolian Emperor Çingis hán. What especially stuck out to Mukhtar was how he transferred the extensive loyalty tribal members feel for each other onto a larger group. His warriors didn´t consider themselves members of their own tribes anymore, they considered themselves Mongolians. The great khan than proceeded to use that loyalty for his massive conquests.

    This close connection usually only tribes have, he soon realized, is what bonds them together. Their loyalty & solidarity towards each other makes them so hard to control and so fearsome warriors. Among settled civilizations, this bond would be lost, because Luxury and detachment from their own group would let them grow soft and forget about their roots.
    So it had happened to the Mongolians when they slowly adopted the various civilizations in conquered regions.

    And this process was not unique to the Mongolians. It kept happening to the Chinese dynasties. It had happened to the ancient Roman empire – and even in the Muslim history itself. Bonded together by their group solidarity the ummah had won incredible victories against superior foes during their first wave of expansion. All of these dynasties used the loyalty among their followers to grow, but in the end became decadent as they piled up wealth and glory, leading to their downfall.
    Every society, he concluded, had the goal to archive mulk (royal authority), but no dynasty could hang on to it for an extended period of time. The underlying concept of this circle, the vague loyalty, Mukhtar named Asabiyya.

    When he returned to Andalusia in 1294, he started to write down his experiences: Asabiyya, his life as a Sufi and the worldly knowledge he had acquired. However, he didn't publish it. To strong was the memory of progressive thinkers like Ibn Arabi that were considered Apostates by some clerics. He wanted more proof first. So in spring 1299 he set out again. This time to Arabia, intending to study the Bedouin people after visiting Makkah and completing the Hajj.

    There, in the holy city, he finally would meet the man that would change his life. Mansa Sakura. Initially he only wanted to travel with him for a while, but it had come different.


    Chastening a King


    Back in Niani Salif and Mukhtar had arrived in Oualis palace. What Mukhtar saw, shocked him. The young man had turned into a full-grown despot. The highest nobles in the realm were crawling like maggots in his presence. Never even lifting their eyes to look at him they kept scattering dust on their heads. At the same time, Ouali was sitting on his golden Throne, wearing his golden robes and looking pretentiously over his underlings. He felt like a god – and what was worse, his subjects did so too.
    As soon as Mukhtar happened to be alone with the Mansa in his private gardens, he could nothold his breath anymore:

    Ouali”, he said with an insolence that surprised himself, “what are you thinking? Are you preposterous enough to believe that you are a god?

    There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God“, the furious king replied. If anyone else than Mukhtar would have said that, it would have been his death sentence.

    But you are behaving like one! Your people are afraid of you. They do not even dare to look at you. The scatter dust upon their heads! How do you want to inspire loyalty in people that follow you because they fear you?”

    Ouali was still raging at Mukhtars insolence, but he could not deny the logic. The only men that thoroughly followed him out of respect were the jonow he put into influential positions. And those men that would be nothing without him.

    Remember the concept I told you a decade ago?” Mukhtar continued, “Asabiyya? It is gained through religious authority, but lost through luxury and decadence! The more you and your descendants devote yourself to gold and idleness, the earlier your dynasty will fall.”

    The mansa pondered what he just heard. It was his right as a king. Every Mansa since Sunjata had been venerated like he commanded it. But on the other hand, Mukhtar also had a point. He had lost contact to his people and his land. When he thought back how he earned the respect of his soldiers, of the Mande, Tuareg and Songhai alike in his time as Commander of Gao, it became clear: The throne had changed him – and not for good. “My friend, once more you save me from from myself”, he finally said, “What do you propose? Do you still want me to claim the caliphate?”

    I think I found a better way”, the scholar responded, “the locals practice a special form of Islam. It is still dotted with remains of their old ancestral religions. There is a mystic branch of Islam I followed myself. Sufism. This teaching really spoke to a lot of the people I met here. Maybe because it can allow converts can express some forms of their old religions in it. After we win the war, I think we should found a Sufi order with you as its head. This step – however – would change a lot for you: You would be expected to ditch your live in abundant luxury. Devote a large part of your wealth to the poor. Live by the commandments of the Quran. You must be an example. “

    Ouali thought about it. Surely he was not too fond of giving up his life in wealth. But in the end he decided, he would agree. For the good of the realm and for Islam.

    The Army marches

    When finally the army was assembled some weeks later and they were ready to set off, Ouali had changed. This change was already visible from the outside. No longer was he wearing golden robes dotted with gemstones while riding a horse close to collapse from the weight. When he rode past his men, he only wore a plain white, woolen Djellaba and a white turban. No longer were his men groveling before him.

    The army itself had no comparison south of the great desert. 15.000 of Oualis sofa slave warriors, extensively trained and armed with poisonous arrows, almost 30.000 regular freeman soldiers from the eastern provinces. The northern troops were primarily armed with spears and large shields, while the southern soldiers carried bow & arrow like the sofa.
    And the true core of the army. The almost 10.000 [3]men strong royal Mandekalu cavalry. Armed with high-quality swords and lances and many protected by chain-mail [4] there were not a lot of armies south of the Sahara that could match them in an open field.


    The army slowly passed the goldfields of Bure in the fall of 1311 and then shipped down the Senegal in order to reach the remote provinces of Tekrur and Jolof where the rebels under general Musa Keita, who styles himself as Mansa Musa [5] were fielding their troops supported by most of the remaining relatives of Sunjata
    ---
    [1] in North-West Iran
    [2] Mongols sometimes were quite suspicious of Islam, but usually accepted Sufism.
    [3] number taken from the time of Musa´s reign
    [4]chain-mail was imported so we can not say for sure how many of the cavalry actually used it. We only know that it was present at the Time
    [5] Yes, the beloved Mansa Musa is just a claimant here.


    I would like to devote this Chapter to @AJNolte for his imput.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2018
  14. Wolttaire Well-Known Member

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    watched
     
  15. AJNolte Life keeps getting in the way of writing.

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    Wow: you're going all the way to Ibn-Arabi? Yeah, it's definitely a good thing you're far away from the Arabian Peninsula. :p In his history of Indonesia, Ricklefs argues that Ibn-Arabi was extremely influential on Javanese elites. Ricklefs' comment on Ibn-Arabi's doctrine of God are hilarious. To paraphrase: they may have been questionable as orthodox Islam, but they were "excellent Hinduism". [I unfortunately had to cut that section from the final version of my dissertation, or I'd be able to pull the citation for you].

    On the Malian deification of kings: that's... not necessarily a problem for Sufi politics. Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid Dynasty, was seen as both a king, a Sufi saint, and may have claimed to be the Mahdi. So you could syncretize the pre-Islamic god-king mentality with Sufism, as long as the Malian kings use traditional methods of veneration for Sufi sheikhs on themselves. The luxury is a problem, since many Sufi sheikhs valued austerity. The veneration of the king and monarchy isn't necessarily an issue though.

    I didn't know that about the Al-Moahids, but it definitely seems like the kind of thing they would have done. Hmm: I wonder if the king might add Caliph to his title, to appease more orthodox elements, while basically using Sufi forms of political legitimacy? This would allow for some dramatic tension later on, if you get an Aurangzev-like would-be Islamic purifier.

    Anyway, looking forward to more.
     
  16. AJNolte Life keeps getting in the way of writing.

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    Well, Sufism definitely played a huge role in West African Islam OTL. On the university point: Sufi brotherhoods aren't really dependent on universities. What you mainly need are localized shrines, people who want to take pilgrimages to those shrines, and Sufi orders that can maintain the pilgrimage routes.

    As a side note: the irony, given the role the Saudis have played in spreading a decidedly, ahem, non-Sufi brand of Islam in the twentieth century, is that, before about 1800, most Muslims got Sufism because of the hajj. The Sufi brotherhoods ran most of the hostelries on the way to Mecca, so incoming pilgrims who wanted to bring back the "latest teachings from Mecca" usually ended up with a lot of Al-Ghazali's work. If I ever do an early modern Islam TL, probably the single biggest butterfly I can imagine is for the followers of Wahhab not to get Mecca in the early 1800s. Brief though that occupation was, it was very consequential in a couple of places.

    Anyway, even without Mukhtar, Sufism in Mali is likely. Given what Ibn Chaldun has hinted at re: Mukhtar's background, I think it's very plausible.
     
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  17. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    I thought about a Mahdi like Figure but actually decided against it. What I could see though in the future is what Usman dan Fodio did in OTL. He claimed to be a precedessor of the Mahdi.
    Regarding the caliphal claim: right now I’m pondering the question if claiming the Amir-al-Muminin would be enough. The title was used by some West African states (specifically: Imamate of Futa Jallon) in the 18th century IOTL and I think it would be a more feasible thing to do.


    Oh for sure I have a Aurangzeb like-figure on my mind. His campaigns on the Deccan could even be resembled with extensive campaigns in the southern rainforests.

    But on the other hand, a massive slave revolt could also cause nice butterflies. Creating as essentially abolist state legitimized by a tolerant branch of Islam south of the Sahara in the 16th century? I’d like that (but I’ll have to see if that is theologically/economically feasible.New goldfields will be discovered, and generally the trans-Sahara trade will lose importance in the future. We can’t just butterfly that away.)

    Frankly, considering the fact that Mukhtar is still a Muslim (even though some of his contemporaries might indeed doubt that) I’m pretty sure, he would be pissed about that god-like veneration.
     
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  18. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Firmly bringing in the Western Provinces, therefore access to the see, is really important to the Empire's well being. I'm guessing expansion will come after centralization takes root? They really need to do something about the Songhai and the Mossi.

    What about language? OTL Mande has spread throughout West Africa but was hamstrung due to it's lack of alphabets, will that change TTL?
     
  19. Ibn Chaldun Commander of the Bolivian Navy

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    Exactly we need that sea access badly longterm
    Mossi/ Songhai bands will soon realize that all most soldiers are gone from the west. And the Mansas really don’t like people infringing on their trade.

    Language is interesting. I have something planned for it. I can only say that Longterm Mande languages will not become as influential as it is in OTL. Mukhtar & Ouali are building a nation though Religion and the religions language is Arabic.

    Edit: Bad wording. Arabic will develop into the governmental language. Commoner will still speak regional languages

    Next update will contain the civil war itself and those pesky groups on the eastern fringes (Mossi/Songhai). Also there might show up some surprise guests from far in the north. Not sure if I can verify their presence though.

    Chapter 5 will finally center around the reforms by Ouali and Mukhtar.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
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  20. Sceonn Peace at a Bargain Price

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    Really? I'm kinda iffy about that, it's harder than making Latin the official language of France or Spain post Reconquista. Mali is like the Ottomans in that they've accepted Islam, not it imposing itself on them. Hell Iran doesn't speak Arabic and they where invaded and ruled over. I can see the elites learning Arabic but the common language being Arabic is pushing it IMO.
     
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