61. It is important to remember that Muslim clerics had long been ambivalent about government involvement in religion. The sixteenth-century author of the Songhay chronicle, Ta'ríkh al-Fattásh, Mahmúd al-Ka'tí, for example, described the grim fate the 'ulamá suffered under the capricious policies of the king, Sonni 'Alí. The number that survived the ruler's sanguinary repression could be gathered under the shade of an acacia tree, he stated laconically. The lesson was not lost on the 'ulamá of Timbuktu who adopted a policy of religious separation from politics to avoid state enforcement. The city was placed out of bounds to the ruler, except during the annual Ramadan lent when the ruler came for penance.

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