About This Section
Some five hundred years ago prior to the infamous European Atlantic slave trade, Askiya Muhammad Toure` founded the Songhay Dynasty of the Askiyas (or Songhay Caliphate), which flourished for more than a century in Sahelian West Africa. Askiya Muhammad administered his kingdom from the ancient capital of Gao, Mali, although many of his most loyal followers were located in Timbuktu, Mali.
The Timbuktu based scribe and judge al Hajj Mahmud Kati was a close friend of Askiya Muhammad, who accompanied the famous Songhay leader during his well known pilgrimage to Mecca. The Tarikh al Fattash is an eyewitness account of the rise and fall of the Songhay Empire, told from Kati’s perspective as a key participant in many of the most important events in the era of the Askiyas.
Christopher Wise edited this work and along with Hala Abu Talib translatedThe Timbuktu Chronicles, 1493-1599 from Octave Houdas and Maurice Delafosse s rendition of the Tarikh al Fattash, which was compiled from three versions of the text that surfaced in the early twentieth century, and that were edited by Houdas and Delafosse in 1913.
The new edited and translated version includes a new and profound introduction by Christopher Wise, as well as the original introduction and scholarly notes of Houdas and Delafosse. Wise’s introduction and study questions accompanying this translation provide contextualizing information for the non-specialist.
TheTarikh al Fattash is essential reading for all students of African literature and history. But more importantly it falls within those writings which constitute the historical consciousness African Islamic civilization in general and the identity construct for the descendants of enslaved African Muslims in the eastern hemisphere.
I read this work and was quite pleased by the style and flow of Wise’s rendition of Ka`ti’s masterpiece. There are however, many disagreements I have with some of the terms and interpolations made by Wise in his footnotes. For this reason I decided to post a critique of this work on a page on the www.siiasi.org in order to highlight and clarify the problematic terms and issues that I felt conflicted with how I believed Qadi al-Hajj Mahmud Ka`ti and his descendants intended to convey this work.
I am here in Mali and have direct contact with the African academics and scholars of Mali who are intimately familiar with the objectives and aims of this fundamental work. In this regard, i will post my comments based upon consultations I have made with them and their assessments of this work.
Although, this page will be a critical assessment of the work produced by Christopher Wise, yet, I believe it is an excellent work, which should be utilized in elementary, secondary and tertiary levels of education in order to evidence foundation of African Islamic contribution to civilization.
The Tarikh al-Fattash rendered by Christopher Wise and Hala Abu Taleb is a work that the SIIASI highly recommends as an essential element of the library of those genuinely concerned with the sources of African Islamic civilization.
Shaykh Muhammad Shareef bin Farid
Thursday, 9th Shawwal, 1437 (July 7 2016)
The Zawiyya of Shehu Uthman ibn Fuduye`
Zerni, Yerimadio, Bamako Republic of Mali