Ahmad Baba al Massufi

Ahmad Baba al-Massufi al-Tinbukti, full name Abu al-Abbas Ahmad ibn Ahmad al-Takruri Al-Massufi al-Timbukti (October 26, 1556 – 1627), (also known as Ahmed Baba Es Sudane or Ahmed Baba the black) was a medieval West African 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]

Ahmad Baba was the son of a noted scholar and teacher, Ahmad bin al-Hajj Ahmad bin Umar bin Muhammed Aqit.[2] Born at Araouane, 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, 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 ofMuhammad Abd al-Karim al-Maghili, a scholar and jurist responsible for much of the traditional religious law of the area. The biography was translated by M.A. Cherbonneau in 1855, and became one of the principal texts for study of the legal history of the Western Sudan.[3] Ahmad Baba’s surviving works remain the best sources for the study of al-Maghili and the generation that succeeded him.[4] 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.