According to historians, the richest man to have ever lived was a Malian Muslim named Mansa Musa
With an inflation adjusted fortune of $400 billion, Mansa Musa I would have been considerably richer than the world’s current richest man, Carlos Slim, who ranks in 22nd place with a relatively paltry $68 billion.
His country’s production of more than half the world’s supply of salt and gold contributed to Musa’s vast wealth, which he used to build large mosques that still stand today.
Musa ruled over Mali from 1312 till 1337 and caught the attention of Europeans and Arabs after his renown Hajj to Mecca in 1324.
As a devoted Muslim, Mansa Musa prepared his pilgrimage soon after he took his position from Abu Bakri II in 1312.
In 1324 he took up to a thousand servants with him. They had more than 80 camels loaded with 300 pounds of gold and other needed goods with them for their trip of over four thousand kilometers.
During his voyage he stopped in the Egyptian cities Alexandria and Cairo where he attracted the Arabs’ and Europeans’ interest.
Due to his act of kindness and bounteous (giving Zakat), it is said that he gave away most of his gold to whom he met, especially to the poor on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. But he also helped building mosques each Friday on his way to Mecca.
His act of kindness was felt years later in Egypt, Mecca and Medina as the local economy collapsed and gold prices substantially fell.
Coming back home, Mansa Musa brought with him Arab scholars, architects, and bureaucrats to help him build the historic building we now have in Gao and Timbuktu.
Timbuktu became a famous scholarly, cultural, and flourishing trade city in these years. A city to which people from Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa came to learn, trade, and live.
The legacy of these Arab (Andalusian) architects consists of a few masterpieces like the Djinguereber Mosque, which is a part of the university of Timbuktu.
t contains the Masjid of Sidi Yahya and Sankore. Other notable buildings are the palace of Madagou and the university/masjid of Gao.
The Islamic scholarly was boosted by this trip, as the amount of Madrasas and libraries grew together with the Islamic knowledge. At the same time, Islamic leaders and kingdoms increased the exchange of commerce, scholars, poets… This made Timbuktu the center of Islamic studies and trade in sub-Sahara Africa.
After Mansa Musa’s death in 1337, his son Maghan I became Mansa. But his rule did not last as long. Attacks from Morocco and the kingdom of Songhai soon meant the downfall of this great Islamic kingdom.