Timbuktu University academic learning centers are: the departments of Jingaray Ber, Sidi Yahya, and Sankore. Not only did the students sought knowledge at these centers, but they also purified their souls through the sciences of Islam. Islam brides leaders that are God fearing, just, honest, trustworthy and of excellent moral character. Graduate students were the embodiment of the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam peace and blessing be upon him. Around the 12th century, the University of Timbuktu had an attendance of 25, 000 students in a city which had a population of 100, 000 people. The students came from all corners of the African continent in search of excellence in knowledge and trade. On graduation day, students were given Turbans. The turban symbolizes divine light, wisdom, knowledge and excellent moral conduct. The turban represents the demarcation line between knowledge and ignorance. The knots and circles of the turban represent the name Allah. This means that graduate students know the divine obligations and responsibilities they need to discharge honorably in their communities and toward their fellowmen.
The University programs are:
1. First year or the Qu’ranic school
Students must commit the Holy Qur’an to memory, perfect their Arabic skills and be good communicators. Students were also introduced to basics in other sciences of knowledge.
2. Second year or general studies
The memorization of the Holly Qu’ran is the foundation of Islamic knowledge as all the Islamic sciences are rooted and derived from the Qur’an which constitute
the source of authencity and authority. Students are introduced to the different branches of Islamic knowledge. These sciences are: grammar, commentaries of the Qur’an, the hadiths or the Prophetic narrations, jurisprudence, mathematics, geography, history, Islamic schools of thoughts, physics, astronomy, chemistry, sciences of the purification of the heart and soul, etc.
The students are also instructed in trade, Islamic business code and ethics. The university offers classes in carpentry, farming, fishing, construction, shoe making, tailoring, navigation etc. This is very important because as an Imam or Islamic scholar one has to impart honest and unbiased judgments in settling legal issues. This integrity will be compromised if the Imam or the scholar living expenses are being paid by the rich people. In order for the Imam or scholar to be just and fair in discharging legal decrees, he has to earn his own honest income.
3. Third year
The curriculum is highly specialized. The students sit in classes of renown professors. Sankore was one of the most important departments of the University in this regard.
At this level, the students are doing graduate work comparable to any Islamic university in the world. At this level, students engage in research work. For instance,
the professors will give students questions on different subjects and topics to be researched. Each student, then, will present, argue and defend his position in front of the professors and other students who will storm him with a flow of though questions. Students go from department to department and from professor to professor in search of knowledge. Most students at this stage would find a Shayk or master and study under his guidance. The Shayk will purge the student of all his Shaytanic or lower self characteristics and tendencies and would ensure that the graduate student will be a good Islamic model for the generation to come.
Graduation was based both on the Islamic character of the students as well as his academic excellence.
4. Fourth year or the circle of knowledge
It is here that most of the important and crutial issues of Islam are being discussed. The caliphs or Muslims state leaders such as Askia Mohammad of the Songhai Empire, Mansa Musa of the Malian Empire, Shayk Amadu of the Fulani caliphate of Massina, The Amirs and sultans of the provinces of the Sudan would send crutial questions to the Ulemas or scholars of Timbuktu.
The scholars will make copies of these questions or issues and distribute them among the members of the circle of knowledge. Each scholar will research the issues and then they would all get together to discuss and debate their findings and commentaries and thus put together a manuscript dealing in detail with the specific questions or issues. They then issue a Fatwa or legal Islamic ruling by which the Islamic government authorities will abide.
There was also the case of one Muslim who was wealthy and generous. Whoever was in need in Timbuktu will go to him and secured a loan. As time went by, the Imam of Jingaray Ber noticed that the number of people attending the Mosque was increasingly getting lower each Friday. Jingaray Ber is the only Masjid open on Fridays in Timbuktu. The entire population converges to this famous Mosque. The Imam inquired about the cause of the lower attendance and has found that most people of Timbuktu owed money to the generous, wealthy Muslim man. As a result they decided to stay home for fear of seeing the generous man at the Masjid. The Scholars were facing a dilemma. Should the generous Muslim be prevented from attending the Friday prayers when this is an Islamic obligation? Or should the debtees be forced to pay him back? Or should the generous man be forced to forgive the debts? The matter was submitted to the circle of knowledge who decided that the wealthy man should stay home or forgive the debt. The wealthy man was called in. He forgave the debtees and said he had no idea that the lower attendance was because of him.
A LISTING OF THE IMAMS OR PROFESSORS OF EACH UNIVERSITY
The Professors or Imams of Jingaray Ber
Among the professors and Imams of Jingaray Ber are: Kaatib Musa, Sidi Abd Allah Al Balbali, Sidi Abu Al Kassim Tuwaati, Sidi Mansur Al Fezani, Ibrahim z-Zulfi, Ahmad the father of Nana Surgu ( meaning the father of Nana the tuareg woman ), Sidi Ali Al Jazuli, Siddiq ibn Mohammad Ta’alla,
Uthman ibn Al Hassan ibn Al Hajj at Tishiti, Mohammad Gidadu al Fulani, Imam Ahmad ibn Imam Saddiq, Abd Arahman ibn Sayeed, Baba Alpha and Abderahman Ben Assuyuti the actual Imam.
The scholars, professors and Imams of Sankore
A grant by a wealthy local women made this department of the university one of the most famous and leading learning center in Timbuktu. The Sanhaja scholars settled in the Sankore district around the 13th century. They significantly contributed to the intellectual and commercial life of the city. Among them are: Abu Al Baraaka, Mohammad Bagayogo, Ahmed Baba, And Ag Mohammad, Al Aqib ibn Faqi Muhmud, Abu Bakr ibn Ahmad Biru, Abd Arahman ibn Faqi Mahmud, Mohammad ibn Mohammad Kara and the actual Imam etc.
The scholars, Imams and professors of Sidi Yahya
The Masjid of Sidi Yahya was built by Mohammad Naddi, one of the governor of the city appointed by the Mandika rulers. Mohammad Naddi was a friend of the Saint Sidi Yahya Al Andulusi. Sidi Yahya was the first Imam, scholar, professor and saint of this
Masjid. After him, there were: Mohammad Bagayogo, Saddiq, Mohammad Ben Al Wangari, Mohammad ben Sayeed, Mohammad ben Ahmadu, Ahmadu ben Abdallah,
Saleh ben Mohammad, Salmay Al Wangari, Bagno Wangari, Baba Wangari, Ahmadu
Bagno, Baba Alpha Umar, Al Imam Ahmadu, and the existing Imam Baba Mahmud Hassay, may Allah bless them for their valuable contributions.