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Sundiata Poem Review

Autor:   •  November 30, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,168 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,514 Views

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Stefanie Michels


The poem of Sundiata, told by legendary griot Djeli Kouyate, took place during an epic time of trade in western Africa which brought an immense amount of Islamic influence. There are numerous examples showing evidence that the historical times of the Trans-Saharan trade and Islaminization caused spreading of tangible goods and various cultural characteristics. Many different goods and skills were exchanged and many different cultural factors were adopted in this influential period. Sundiata and Mali are heavily influenced by the Trans-Saharan trade and Islam, his surrounding royals, travels, economy, and kingdoms played an important role during Sundiatas reign.

Islam brought many different cultural traits to Africa and the people. One major and most influential was that of religion. Although Sundiata and his followers did not claim the religion of Islam they picked up on many practices. Several times throughout the poem, D.T. Niane mentions the trip to Mecca which is one of the five pillars of Islam (Niane 2006: xii). Mecca was rich with religion which was sparked by Islamic practices. D.T. Niane adds when Lahibatoul Kalabi, an ancestor of old Mali, took his pilgrimage to Mecca he "brought divine blessing upon Mali"(Niane 2006: 63). Mecca became a very popular and powerful city during Islaminization which is why Sundiata emphasizes Niana being a major asset considering travelers must pass through his city in order to arrive at Mecca (Niane 2006: 82).

Mecca, being the center of religious practices, was heavily populated with Islam that was taken to by many Africans. There is reference to Africans using this religion. Muhammad is spoken about as a prophet and was prayed to in various instances (Niane 2006: 2). Also Allah is thanked by Sogolon, Sundiata's mother, for giving her son the use of his legs. Sogolon cried out, "Allah Almighty, you never created a finer day" (Niane 2006: 21). This statement proclaims Allah was their creator and often prayed to throughout the Mali Empire. Although some did not practice Islam they were welcoming to it and did not punish any for praising the prophet Muhammad. The exchange of culture during the time of old Mali was very open to new these ideas. The people of Mali embraced the fact they could gain knowledge from different religions of the world.

Islam came barring the intelligence of mathematics and a language that was spread throughout Africa. Many words, such as "pennant" and "booty", Sundiata and his followers used originated from Muslims. This created a common language which helped Mali gain knowledge from Muslims. In turn the griots of old Mali knew more about history through Arabic writing and the Koran (Niane 2006: 95). The key term and concept "booty" is frequently brought up in the poem. As learned from class lectures, this


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