Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ibn Battuta

Also known as Shams ad - Din, was born at Tangier, Morocco, on the 24th February 1304 C.E. (703 Hijra). He left Tangier on Thursday, 14th June, 1325 C.E. (2nd Rajab 725 A.H.), when he was twenty one years of age. His travels lasted for about thirty years, after which he returned to Fez , Morocco at the court of Sultan Abu 'Inan and dictated accounts of his journeys to Ibn Juzay. These are known as the famous Travels (Rihala) of Ibn Battuta. He died at Fez in 1369 C.E.

Ibn Battuta was the only medieval traveller who is known to have visited the lands of every Muslim ruler of his time. He also travelled in Ceylon (present Sri Lanka), China and Byzantium and South Russia. The mere extent of his travels is estimated at no less than 75,000 miles, a figure which is not likely to have been surpassed before the age of steam.

In the course of his first journey, Ibn Battuta travelled through Algiers, Tunis, Egypt, Palestine and Syria to Makkah. After visiting Iraq, Shiraz and Mesopotamia he once more returned to perform the Hajj at Makkah and remained there for three years. Then travelling to Jeddah he went to Yemen by sea, visited Aden and set sail for Mombasa, East Africa. After going up to Kulwa he came back to Oman and repeated pilgrimage to Makkah in 1332 C.E. via Hormuz, Siraf Bahrain and Yamama. Subsequently he set out with the purpose of going to India, but on reaching Jeddah, he appears to have changed his mind (due perhaps to the unavailability of a ship bound for India), and revisited Cairo, Palestine and Syria, thereafter arriving at Aleya (Asia Minor) by sea and travelled across Anatolia and Sinope. He then crossed the Black Sea and after long wanderings he reached Constantinople through Southern Ukraine.

On his return to Fez, Ibn Battuta dictated the accounts of his travels to Ibn Juzay al-Kalbi (1321-1356 C.E.) at the court of Sultan Abu Inan (1348-1358 C.E). Ibn Juzay took three months to accomplish this work, which he finished on 9th December 1355 C.E.

In order to experience the flavour of Ibn Battuta's narrative one must sample a few extracts. The following passage illustrates the system of social security in operation in the Muslim world in the early 14th century C.E.: "The variety and expenditure of the religious endowments at Damascus are beyond computation. There are endowments in aid of persons who cannot undertake the pilgrimage to Makkah, out of which ate paid the expenses of those who go in their stead. There are other endowments for supplying wedding outfits to girls whose families are unable to provide them and others for the freeing of prisoners. There are endowments for travellers, out of the revenues of which they are given food, clothing, and the expenses of conveyance to their countries. Then there are endowments for the improvement and paving of the streets, because all the lanes in Damascus have pavements on either side, on which the foot passengers walk, while those who ride use the roadway in the centre". p.69, ref l

Ibn Battuta - The Forgotten Traveller
Ibn Battuta's sea voyages and references to shipping reveal that the Muslims completely dominated the maritime activity of the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean , and the Chinese waters. Also it is seen that though the Christian traders were subject to certain restrictions, most of the economic negotiations were transacted on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

One can understand why these great Muslims are ignored by the West. But the indifference of the Muslim governments is incomprehensible. In order to combat the inferiority complex that plagues the Muslim Ummah, we must rediscover the contributions of Muslims in fields such as science, medicine, engineering, architecture and astronomy. This will encourage contemporary young Muslims to strive in these fields and not think that major success is beyond their reach.

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