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Ibn Batoota (1304-1368 AD)

Ibn Batoota (1304-1368 AD)

Born on February 24, 1304 AD Abu Abdullah Mohammad Bin Abdullah Al-Lawati Al-Tanji Ibn Batoota enjoys a special status in the pages of history for exploring the world and his literary work on traveling named Rihla (journey). Fond of Rihla, Ibn Batoota belonged to a rich family of Tangiar (Morroco) which facilitated him to

roam around the world. Desirous of being a judge after completing his studies, Ibn Batoota left for Hajj (pilgrimage) of Mecca which was at 3,000 miles away from his place to be covered in a year. On his way to pilgrimage, the scenes, he saw, magnetized him and the nature called him in its lap. Variety of the beauty of God created in the different parts of the world changed his intentions to go back after pilgrimage and he pledged to reach this variety but he specified his pledge to visit the Muslim world and not to repeat the road once he passed through. Tourist at heart, Ibn Batoota left for his voyage to the Muslim world and the land, seas, and deserts spread before him sprawled over the area of 75,000 miles during his visit of 30 Muslim countries of the world including Southern Europe, Western Europe, Horn of Africa, West Africa, North Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, Middle East, and China. His extensive travelling put him highest in the rank among his contemporaries and even the people of the later ages.

Early life

Born in Berber family in Tagiar (Morocco), Ibn Batoota studied in Sunni Maliki Mazhab and sent to his pilgrimage in 1325 AD at the age of 21. His overland journey took him through the North African coast where he came across the empires of Hafsid and Abdil Wadid. Passing by Bejaia, Telemsin and Tunis (where he wedded a girl in Sfax, city in Tunisia 170 miles in the southeast of Tunis). In 1326 AD Ibn Batoota reached Alexandria and left for Cairo from there which was the capital of Mamluk Empire. From there, he went to the Red Sea Port of Aydhab but came back to Cairo on account of an upheaval thereby. He set off again on his journey through Damascus where he came across, Sheikh Abul Hasan Al-Shadili directed him to go through Syria and he went on his journey through Hebron, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and from there he set off to Medina, the holy city of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and then to Mecca to complete his pilgrimage. After completing his Hajj, he went to the northeast.

Persia and Iraq

Instead of coming back after finishing the Hajj, Ibn Batoota accompanied a convoy returning to Iraq via Arabian Peninsula. The convoy took its way to Najaf to reach their destination. In Najaf, he visited the holy shrine of Hazrat Ali (RA), the fourth Caliph of Islam after the death of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon Him). He changed his course and left for Persia and reached Basra near River Tigris. The route to Basra took him to Isfahan in Persia and then to Shiraz finally reaching Baghdad where he found the signs of the ravages by Halaku Khan. From Baghdad, he headed towards Tabriz, city famous for its trade but he went back to Baghdad after visiting Mardin, Cizre and Mosul and in Mosul he met a convoy on its way to Mecca for pilgrimage though he was too feeble to perform Hajj due to his sickness.

Arabian Peninsula and Somalia

Ibn Batoota stayed for three months in Mecca and left for Jedda in 1328 AD through the Red Sea coast sailed by boats surrounded by fierce winds. He reached Ta’izz where he came across the king of Rasulid dynasty and from there he left for Aden the next year. From Aden, he headed to the coast of Somalia and reached Zeila. His next destination was Cape Guardafui in the foot of the sea of Somalia from where he went to Mogadeshu which was called the “Land of Berber”. It was a city with its fame for its riches, and fine cloth exported to the other countries of the world while its king was splendidly gorgeous with the bounties gifted by God and attained by him.

Swahili coast

The journey of Ibn Batoota went on and he reached Bilad-ul-Zanj in the south of Swahili Coast and stayed in Mombasa and then sailed to Tanzania (the then Kilwa) in 1330 AD famous for gold and its trade. At Kilwa, he came across Sultan al-Hasan Ibn Suleman, the ruler of Kilwa who was appreciated by Ibn Batoota due to his grandeur and vast empire. The planning of the city and the way of governing the empire left Ibn Batoota impressed and amazed. From Kilwa, he went back to Arabia for another Hajj sailing through Oman and the Strait of Hormuz. Ibn Batoota came to Anatolia, a territory held by Seljuks and then to India in the age of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, (the Sultan of India). His voyage went on and he reached Latakia, the port of Syria from where he sailed to Turkey (the then south coast of Alanya). Reaching the Black Sea coast required him to pass through Konya and Synope from where he sailed to Crimea and then port town of Azof and then Majar, a rich city in those days. From Majar, he set off to Bolghar in the north where, to his surprise, nights were too short in summer season.

Ibn Batoota reached Caffa (modern Feodosiya) and entered the Golden Horde and succeeded to join the convoy of Uzbeg Khan, the head of Golden Horde which was to go to Astra Khan. When Ibn Batoota reached Astra Khan, his pregnant wife was expecting to deliver her baby and the Khan had decided to send her to the home of her parents in Constantinople. Ibn Batoota was fortunate enough to accompany the royal caravan to Constantinople which was, though not his pledged lands (it was not Muslim area).

In1332 AD Ibn Batoota came back to Astra Khan after spending one month in Constantinople and turned his face to Caspian Sea and then Aral Sea and from there he left for Afghanistan in the south where the mountain passes of Afghanistan welcomed him. From Afghanistan, he got an opportunity to go to China.

China and Southeast Asia

On his way to China, the Hindu dacoits robbed him of his riches and belongings and wounded him severely. But he managed to escape soon and found his convoy on its journey to Cambay and Calikut. On the sea shores of Calikut, two of his ships were drowned due to the violent storm in the sea. While the third one left for its destination leaving Ibn Batoota behind. He had to leave India as Jamal-ud-Din, his shelter was overpowered and he left for China through Maldives where he lived for more than six months. Elevated to the rank of Qazi (the judge), he was greatly admired by the people and the royal avenues but his job brought a displeasure on him when he gave some hard verdicts in the state. He had to move to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) leaving his job as a judge where he wanted to visit the Adam’s Peak. He came back to Calicut from Ceylon and came to Maldives again and reached Chittagong, Sumatra, Vietnam, and then China. From China he moved towards Hangzhou.

Black Death

Ibn Batoota came back to Quanzhou and then to Calicut but he did not enter India and went to Mecca. From Hormuz, he came back to Damascus intending to perform another Hajj but he got the news of his father’s death. In the meanwhile Black Death, a plague broke out in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria. Therefore he checked himself to go to Mecca and thought of returning to Morocco but he first went to Sardinia and from Sardinia, he came home and came to know that his mother had also died

Andulas and North Afriqan area

After losing his blood relations before his return to Tangier, Ibn Batoota tied up his luggage and set off to discover the new worlds. This time he left for Andalus (Spain) by joining a convoy of the Muslims defending Gibralter which was under a danger posed by Alfonso XI of Castile who died of the Black Death and the threat was over. It opened new ways for Ibn Batoota to go to new lands and places and he intended for Valencia which led him to Granada. He visited Marrakesh after the sad demise of Balck Death which eliminated the human being in a large number. Due to it, the capital was shifted to Fez, Morocco. Ibn Batoota happened to come back home and he decided to visit the Muslim empires in or around the great Sahara Desert.

Mali

The desire of seeing the countries of Sahara Desert brought Ibn Batoota to Taghaza, a town in the Central Sahara which was famous for its salt trade. From there, he set off to Mali and Walata, another town and went on his way to the River Niger to reach the capital of Mali. In Mali he met the king Suleman and stayed there for eight months and left for Timbaktu, a small and unimportant city of those ages. The journey of Ibn Batoota was to continue when he was called up by the Sultan of Morocco and ordered to stay there for the rest of his life. He died in 1368 AD and according to some in 1377 AD. Little is known about his siblings and other early history as Rihla starts from the tale of his pilgrimage which drove him to the journey of the Muslim world. Rihla remained hidden from the eyes of the historians but it discovered and translated into many languages of the world. Ibn Batoota has become a metaphor of journey all around the world and his book provides the biography of the areas and kings of those lands which had been visited by him. He is the most prominent figure in the history of tourism and his name will stay alive in the history of nations as the unsurpassed number of mileage he covered and the number of countries he visited.

About SAIMA ASHRAF

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