Mali’s rival was Songhai, whose capital was Gao. The Songhai leaders were Muslims as well as many of the North African Berbers who traded in West Africa. The Berbers were willing to trade with Songhai because of their shared religion. As the Songhai gained wealth, they expanded their territory and built an empire led by Sunni Ali.He worked to unify, strengthen , and enlarge his empire. He encouraged everyone in his empire to work together to build religious harmony by participating in both Muslim and local religions bringing stability to Songhai.
Askia The Great:
When Sunni Ali died, his son Sunni Baru took over. The Songhai people feared that is he took over they would lose their trade with Muslim lands because Sunni Baru was not Muslim so they rebelled against him. The leader of the rebellion was Muhammad Ture. After overthrowing Sunni Baru, he chose the title askia, a title of high military rank and became known as Askia the Great.
Askia supported education and learning. Under is rule, Timbuktu flourished drawing thousands to its universities, schools, libraries, and mosques. Most of Songhai’s traders were Muslim, and as they gained influence in the empire so did Islam.
To help maintain order, Askia set up five provinces within Songhai. He removed local leaders and appointed new governors who were loyal to him. He created a professional army and specialized departments to oversee specific tasks.
Songhai fell when northern rival Morocco wanted to gain control of Songhai’s salt mines so Morocco sent an army to Songhai in 1591 to overthrow it. Timbuktu and Gao were destroyed and changes in trade patterns completed Songhai’s fall.