Ibn Battuta

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Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد ابن بطوطة‎) (born 24 February 1304 - year of death uncertain, 1368 or 1369) was a Moroccan Berber scholar and jurisprudent from the Maliki Madhhab (a school of Fiqh, or Sunni Islamic law), and at times a Qadi or judge. However, he is best known as a traveler and explorer, whose account documents his travels and excursions over a period of almost thirty years, covering some 73,000 miles (117,000 km). These journeys covered almost the entirety of the known Islamic world and beyond, extending from North Africa, West Africa, Southern Europe and Eastern Europe in the west, to the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China in the east, a distance readily surpassing that of his predecessors and his near-contemporary Marco Polo.

Quotes[edit]

Travels in Asia and Africa (Rehalã of Ibn Battûta)[edit]

  • Reliable men among the inhabitants of the islands, like the jurist (faqîh) and teacher (mu'allim) 'Alî, the judge 'Abdullãh - and others besides them - told me that the inhabitants of these islands were infidels. Subsequently a westerner named Abul Barakãt the Berbar who knew the great Qur'ãn came to them. He stayed amongst them and God opened the heart of the king to Islãm and he accepted it before the end of the month; and his wives, children and courtiers followed suit. They broke to pieces the idols and razed the idol-house to the ground. On this the islanders embraced Islãm and sent missionaries to the rest of the islands, the inhabitants of which also became Muslims. The westerner stood in high regard with them, and they accepted his cult which was that of Imãm Mãlik. May God be pleased with him! And on account of him they honour the westerners up to this time. He built a mosque which is known after his name.
    • About the Maldive Islands , The Rehalã of Ibn Battûta translated into English by Mahdi Hussain, Baroda, 1967.
  • “One day I rode in company with ‘Alã-ul-mulk and arrived at a plain called Tarna at a distance of seven miles from the city. There I saw innumerable stone images and animals, many of which had undergone a change, the original shape being obliterated. Some were reduced to a head, others to a foot and so on. Some of the stones were shaped like grain, wheat, peas, beans and lentils. And there were traces of a house which contained a chamber built of hewn stone, the whole of which looked like one solid mass. Upon it was a statue in the form of a man, the only difference being that its head was long, its mouth was towards a side of its face and its hands at its back like a captive’s. There were pools of water from which an extremely bad smell came. Some of the walls bore Hindî inscriptions. ‘Alã-ul-mulk told me that the historians assume that on this site there was a big city, most of the inhabitants of which were notorious. They were changed into stone. The petrified human form on the platform in the house mentioned above was that of their king. The house still goes by the name of ‘the king’s house’. It is presumed that the Hindî inscriptions, which some of the walls bear, give the history of the destruction of the inhabitants of this city. The destruction took place about a thousand years ago…”
    • Lahari Bandar (Sindh) . The Rehalã of Ibn Battûta translated into English by Mahdi Hussain, Baroda, 1967, p. 10.
  • “Near the eastern gate of the mosque lie two very big idols of copper connected together by stones. Every one who comes in and goes out of the mosque treads over them. On the site of this mosque was a bud khãnã that is an idol-house. After the conquest of Delhi it was turned into a mosque…”
    • About Delhi. The Rehalã of Ibn Battûta translated into English by Mahdi Hussain, Baroda, 1967, p. 27
  • I arrived at length at Cairo, mother of cities and seat of Pharaoh the tyrant, mistress of broad regions and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the halting-place of feeble and mighty, whose throngs surge as the waves of the sea, and can scarce be contained in her for all her size and capacity."
  • On the bank of the Nile opposite Old Cairo is the place known as The Garden, which is a pleasure park and promenade, containing many beautiful gardens, for the people of Cairo are given to pleasure and amusements. I witnessed a fete once in Cairo for the sultan's recovery from a fractured hand; all the merchants decorated their bazaars and had rich stuffs, ornaments and silken fabrics hanging in their shops for several days."
  • The mosque of 'Amr is highly venerated and widely celebrated. The Friday service is held in it and the road runs through it from east to west. The madrasas [college mosques] of Cairo cannot be counted for multitude. As for the Maristan [hospital], which lies "between the two castles" near the mausoleum of Sultan Qala'un, no description is adequate to its beauties. It contains an innumerable quantity of appliances and medicaments, and its daily revenue is put as high as a thousand dinars.
  • There are a large number of religious establishments ["convents "] which they call khanqahs, and the nobles vie with one another in building them. Each of these is set apart for a separate school of darwishes, mostly Persians, who are men of good education and adepts in the mystical doctrines. Each has a superior and a doorkeeper and their affairs are admirably organized. They have many special customs one of which has to do with their food. The steward of the house comes in the morning to the darwishes, each of whom indicates what food he desires, and when they assemble for meals, each person is given his bread and soup in a separate dish, none sharing with another. They eat twice a day. They are each given winter clothes and summer clothes, and a monthly allowance of from twenty to thirty dirhams. Every Thursday night they receive sugar cakes, soap to wash their clothes, the price of a bath, and oil for their lamps. These men are celibate; the married men have separate convents.
  • [Ibn Battuta’s description of the preparation of samosa would make one’s mouth water even today:] “Minced meat cooked with almond, walnut, pistachios, onion and spices placed inside a thin bread and fried in ghee.”
    • Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 1
  • Ibn Battutah while in Bengal says that a pretty kaniz (slave girl) could be had there for one gold dinar (or 10 silver tankahs). "I purchased at this price a very beautiful slave girl whose name was Ashura. A friend of mine also bought a young slave named Lulu for two gold coins."
    • Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 4
  • “Once there arrived in Delhi some female infidel captives, ten of whom the Vazir sent to me. I gave one of them to the man who had brought them… My companion took three young girls, and I do not know what happened to the rest.”
  • [Ibn Battuta’s eyewitness account of the Sultan’s arranging the enslaved girls’ marriages with Muslims on a large scale on the occasion of the two Ids, confirms the statement of Abbas:] “First of all, daughters of Kafir (Hindu) Rajas captured during the course of the year, come and sing and dance. Thereafter they are bestowed upon Amirs and important foreigners. After this daughters of other Kafirs dance and sing… the Sultan gives them to his brothers, relatives, sons of Maliks etc. On the second day the durbar is held in a similar fashion after Asr. Female singers are brought out… the Sultan distributes them among the Mameluke Amirs. On the third day relatives of the Sultan are married and they are given rewards. On the sixth day male and female slaves are married. On the seventh day he (the Sultan) gives charities with great liberality.”
    • Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they.

About Ibn Battuta[edit]

  • So history has to be studied, it is very painful history. But it is not more painful than most countries have had. ...It isn't India alone that has had a rough time, that has to be understood. But the rough time has to be faced and it cannot be glossed over. There are tools for us to understand the rough time. We can read a man like Ibn Battuta who will tell you what it was like to be there in the midst of the fourteenth century, terrible times. An apologist of the invaders would like to gloss that over. But it would be wrong to gloss that over, that has to be understood. ...But I would like to see this past recovered and not dodged. And I wouldn't like the version of history that tells you: “Ibn Batuta came to India at this time and made interesting observations”.

External links[edit]

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