Mansa Musa, Sonni Ali, and Askia Muhammad were all very effective leaders, and led their respective civilizations into golden ages.
Mansa Musa was arguably the greatest Mali emperor. he expanded his empire towards the West and the North. He ensured peace and order throughout his empire. Mansa Musa converted to Islam after being influenced by Muslim traders and officials throughout his capital, and adopted many laws and traditions from the Quran. However, he did not use methods from the Quran that he believed to be unjust, such as the covering of women's faces in public.
Mansa Musa is most known for his hajj in 1324, a pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is expected to make. Along the way, he shared his vast wealth with many people of other countries. This showed the power of his empire, as well as his generosity (though it did cause a fifteen year long rise in inflation). His hajj also made ties with Muslim states, establishing trade routes and creating new opportunities for Muslim traders to visit West Africa.
Mali Empire after Mansa Musa's expansion
Sonni Ali, a soldier king, founded the Songhai and conquered the largest state in West Africa. He followed traditional beliefs, and did not convert to Islam. Ali's greatest accomplishments lie in his military achievements, as he conquered many areas that were previously indomitable. One of these areas was Timbuktu, a city that was located in an ideal spot for commerce and trade. Because Ali was mostly focused on conquest, he left most of the administrative duties to his successor, Askia Muhammad.
The Songhai expanded into the weakened Mali Empire, creating the largest state in Africa
Askia Muhammad, the successor of Sonni Ali, took power after Ali's death and set up a Muslim dynasty. He further expanded Songhai territory. His most notable contribution, however, was the establishment of an efficient government. Muhammad developed a bureaucracy, and formed different departments for farming, military, and treasury purposes.
Like Mansa Musa, Askia Muhammad also made the hajj to Mecca. This strengthened Songhai ties with Muslims, and showed the Muslim states the power of the Songhai Empire. Muslim scholars flocked to Songhai to study, and cultural diffusion allowed for the spread of new ideas. Askia Muhammad opened many schools for people to study the Quran.