Ahmad Baba al Massufi

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"Ahmad Baba" redirects here. For the Algerian musician, see Ahmad Baba Rachid.
Ahmed Baba
Born October 26, 1556
Araouane, Mali
Died April 22, 1627
Timbuktu, Mali
Occupation Teacher, Philosopher, Arabic grammarian

Ahmad Baba al-Massufi al-Timbukti, full name Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Ahmad al-Takruri Al-Massufi al-Timbukti (October 26, 1556 – 1627), was a medieval Songhai writer, scholar, and political provocateur in the area then known as the Western Sudan. Throughout his life, he wrote more than 40 books and is often noted as having been Timbuktu’s greatest scholar.[1] He died in 1627.


Ahmad Baba was born on October 26, 1556 in Araouane to the teacher, Ahmad bin al-Hajj Ahmad bin Umar bin Muhammed Aqit.[2] He moved to Timbuktu at an early age, to study with his father and with a scholar known as Mohammed Bagayogo (sometimes spelled Baghayu'u); there are no other records of his activity until 1594, when he was deported to Morocco, after the Pasha invasion of Songhai where he remained until 1608 over accusations of sedition.[2]


A fair amount of the work he was noted for was written while he was in Morocco, including his biography of Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Maghili, a scholar and jurist responsible for much of the traditional religious law of the area. A biographical note was translated by M.A. Cherbonneau in 1855,[3] and became one of the principal texts for study of the legal history of the Western Sudan.[4] Ahmad Baba's surviving works remain the best sources for the study of al-Maghili and the generation that succeeded him.[5] Ahmad Baba was considered the Mujjadid (reviver of religion) of the century.

The only public library in Timbuktu, the Ahmed Baba Institute (which stores over 18,000 manuscripts) is named in his honor.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Timbuktu Hopes Ancient Texts Spark a Revival". New York Times. August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-21. The government created an institute named after Ahmed Baba, Timbuktu’s greatest scholar, to collect, preserve and interpret the manuscripts. ... 
  2. ^ a b Hunwick 1964, p. 569
  3. ^ Cherbonneau, M.A. (1855), "Histoire de la litterature arabe au Soudan", Journal Asiatique (in French), 4: 391–407 .
  4. ^ Batrān, 'Abd-Al-'Azīz 'Abd-Allah (1973), "A contribution to the biography of Shaikh Muḥammad Ibn 'Abd-Al-Karīm Ibn Muḥammad ('Umar-A 'Mar) Al-Maghīlī, Al-Tilimsānī", Journal of African History, 14 (3): 381–394, doi:10.1017/s0021853700012780, JSTOR 180537 .
  5. ^ Bivar, A. D. H.; Hiskett, M. (1962), "The Arabic Literature of Nigeria to 1804: A Provisional Account", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 25 (1/3): 104–148, doi:10.1017/s0041977x00056287, JSTOR 610779 .
  6. ^ Curtis Abraham, "Stars of the Sahara," New Scientist, 18 August 2007: 38
  7. ^ "Islamist rebels torch Timbuktu manuscript library: mayor". Reuters. January 28, 2013. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 


  • Hunwick, J.O. (1964), "A New Source for the Biography of Ahmad Baba al-Tinbukti (1556-1627)", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 27: 568–593, doi:10.1017/s0041977x00118385, JSTOR 611391 

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