● Started under the Berber Empire
● Capital of Gao on the Niger River
● Dominated by Mali fun at while, by the 1370’s Songhai had established its independence.
● The empire of Songhai was forged under Sumi Ali (14641492)
● Village communities, camps, and many ethnic groups organized many aspects of life
● Absolute Monarchy ruled by a sovereign who was head of State, Commander of the army, and head of Government
● The Central Government was divided into executive ministries with the responsibility of spreading imperial decrees through a system of administrator
● Controlled numerous semiautonomous vassal states at the empire's periphery Songhai Religion:
● The Songhai religion is Islam
● The Songhai people became Muslim when Muslims from the north came in contact with the
Songhai people in the early 1010
● Islam had been introduced to the royal court of Songhai in 1019, but most people remained faithful to their traditional religion
● They also converted foreign traders on the trade trails, and made the new conquered land
● They built mosques across these trade routes and other major areas
● Timbuktu was one of the world’s foremost centers of Islamic scholarship and attracted students and religious adherents from across Africa and parts of Europe
● More than 90 percent of Songhai subjects were nonMuslims, however, and the government adopted a policy of religious freedom, though Islam remained the dominant religion in the government Songhai Society:
● As a result of their advantageous location at the crossroads of western and central
, the Songhai have traditionally prospered from caravan trade
● Songhai society traditionally was highly structured, comprising a king and nobility, free commoners, artisans, griots (bards and chroniclers), and slaves
● In the songhai empire slavery was very common, and they were mainly there to farm for the slave owners
● Slaves were treated lower than the peasants in the Songhai empire
● After Sonni Ali, a great leader of the Songhai empire, Mohammed Askia, also known as Askia the Great, took over
● Mohammed Askia adopted a flexible caste system, which allowed citizens to enter the elite caste through civil service.
○ Below elite were common citizens, and was the most populous caste.
○ Below the citizen caste were the slaves, who were traded for goods and services and were used as domestic servants, laborers, and security.
○ These laws and rules of the Songhai empire was mainly based on Islamic principles.