Askia The Great is also known as Muhammad Ture. He was a Soninke king of the Songhai Empire in the late 15th century. He strengthened his country and made it one of the largest in West Africa’s history. He ran his country under policies that resulted in rapid expansion of trade with Asia and Europe, which created many schools, and he made Islam an essential part of the empire.
Anyone who questioned the way Askia the Great ran the country was sentenced to immediate death without question. He also did not make it a secret that he firmly supported Islam, and he came down harshly on any non-believers who were native to Timbuktu. He formed an army that was complete with a reserve, he also formed another army made up of cavalry that was fully armored and equipped with weapons. He was always set on developing advanced education institutions. Children of the Songhai Empire were all encouraged, despite religion or race, to study abroad by attending the Muslim universities in places like Asia and Europe, and scholars from around the world were invited to study in Timbuktu.
Askia went blind in his older years, and was removed from the throne in 1528 by his son when he was around 80-years-old. Askia the Great’s blindness was kept in secret. The only people who were aware of his blindness were only a selected few close family members and house servants. Askia requested that it be kept a secret for as long as possible so his countrymen did not start to think he was sickly and weak. He chose his brother, Omar Konzagho, to act as his spokesperson so that no one directly saw Askia’s face. The residents of Timbuktu were told to Askia had an evil eye, and so they would not look directly into his eyes out of fear of a curse.
The truth did not remain hidden for long, and when word got out about Askia’s blindness, one of his son’s, Faria Mousa, revolted against his father, and forced him off the throne. According to the Tarik ul-Sudan, after around 36 years of Faria ruling, he died, and the throne was succeeded by another son of Askia’s named, Benkan. The truth is Benkan was even more evil to his father than Faria. Benkan exiled his father to an island on the Niger River and took possession of the entire palace. Ismail another son traveled to the island to see his father. He could not understand how Benkan could allow his father to be exiled an eaten by mosquitos. Askia the Great told Ismail about a large sum of gold that he had hidden; he wanted Ismail to go back and work with people who he could trust to help him start a revolt. Ismail did and was victorious in the fight. Askia was brought back to the palace where he died at the age of 96 in 1538.