The following is a brief investigation into the social life of the societies of Mali and Ghana kingdoms, revealing their similarities, differences and the possible causes of these differences and similarities.
Justice is highly valued by the two societies of Mali and Ghana. In Ghana, the king adorns himself like a woman, with necklaces on his neck and bracelets on his hands, ready to address his audience. He listens to the people’s grievances in a domed pavilion where he is accompanied by the city governor and ministers among other people. The audience is announced by a locally made drum called ‘duba’ (Al-Bakri 79).
In Mali, the sultan addresses the audience in the palace yard, where there is a platform under a tree. The ceremony is preceded by song and dance led by musicians of the land (Battuta 51). The need for the regular meetings is to enhance justice and the rule of law among the subjects. Discipline is administered to offenders in public, and this serves as a warning to individuals with antisocial motives.
Another similarity is the great security provided to the kings. In Mali, the king’s arrival is heralded by soldiers and military commanders, and after he arrives, two goats are brought along, which ‘serve as a protection against the evil eye.’
The army of Ghana has over 200,000 men, to ensure maximum security to the king and all the people in the kingdom (Al-Bakri 80). Religion is another similarity between the two societies. Besides the security provided by the army, they also believe in a Super being for overall security. In Ghana, there are twelve mosques where the Muslims assemble for Friday prayers.
There are salaried Imams who work there. In Mali, the Koran is read before the beginning of most ceremonies (Battuta 51). Security is important because it is a sign of the community’s stability and peace. The army protects the community from invasion by neighbors and enemies. The genesis of training the soldiers must have been witnessing of war or capture and seizure of other kingdoms around them.
While the Muslim religion is highly upheld and recognized in the kingdom of Mali, some people in the kingdom of Ghana practice paganism and idol worship. There is no single recognized religion in Ghana and everybody worships according to their individual preference. In the kingdom of Mali, Muslim is highly valued, even by the king. This is why the Koran is read in the ceremonies where he is invited.
The sultan of Ghana attaches great value to gold and greatly focuses on making his kingdom richer. This makes him charge one golden dinar for every donkey-load of salt that is brought into the land, and two dinars when it is sent out (Al-Bakri 81). He uses gold to decorate his garment and his pets, too. The best gold is found in his land. Gold is his show of might and economic power. As a result, the kingdom of Ghana has a strong economic background and has been able to establish good relations with other communities through trade.
In Mali, the king uses gold to decorate his musicians’ instruments and does not attribute any economic value to it (Battuta 52). He does not mention anything related to economic development. As long as his people are peaceful, he believes his kingdom is stable. The reason why the king of Mali is not open to trade with neighbors may be due to his miserly nature.
Al-Bakri, et al. Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History. Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Print.
Battuta, Ibn. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354. Ed. H. A. R. Gibb. London: Broadway House, 1929. Print.