Ibn Battuta

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Ibn Battuta bigraphy, stories - Muslim Arab Moroccan explorer

Ibn Battuta : biography

1304 – 1369

( ‘), or simply Ibn Battuta () (February 25, 1304 – 1368 or 1369), was a Moroccan and Berber explorer. He is known for his extensive travels, accounts of which were published in the Rihla (lit. "Journey"). Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the known Islamic world as well as many non-Muslim lands. His journeys included trips to North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa and Eastern Europe in the West, and to the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China in the East, a distance surpassing threefold his near-contemporary Marco Polo. Ibn Battuta is considered one of the greatest travellers of all time. After outlining the extensive route of Ibn Battuta’s Journey, Nehru notes: "This is a record of travel which is rare enough today with our many conveniences…. In any event, Ibn Battuta must be amongst the great travellers of all time."

Iraq and Persia

On 17 November 1326, following a month spent in Mecca, Ibn Battuta joined a large caravan of pilgrims returning to Iraq across the Arabian Peninsula.; The group headed north to Medina and then, travelling at night, turned northeast across the Najd plateau to Najaf, on a journey that lasted about two weeks. In Najaf he visited the mausoleum of Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ali), the first Imam, the 4th caliph and the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad.

Then, instead of continuing on to Baghdad with the caravan, Ibn Battuta started a six-month detour that took him into Persia. From Najaf he journeyed to Wasit then followed the river Tigris south to Basra. His next destination was the town of Esfahān across the Zagros Mountains in Persia. He then headed south to Shiraz, a large, flourishing city spared the destruction wrought by Mongol invaders on many more northerly towns. Finally, he returned across the mountains to Baghdad, arriving there in June 1327.; Parts of the city were still ruined from the damage inflicted by Hulago Khan’s invading army in 1258.

In Baghdad he found Abu Sa’id, the last Mongol ruler of the unified Ilkhanate, leaving the city and heading north with a large retinue.; Ibn Battuta joined the royal caravan for a while, then turned north on the Silk Road to Tabriz, the first major city in the region to open its gates to the Mongols and by then an important trading centre as most of its nearby rivals had been razed by the Mongol invaders.;

Ibn Battuta left again for Baghdad, probably in July, but first took an excursion northwards along the river Tigris. He visited Mosul where he was the guest of the Ilkhanate governor, and then the towns of Cizre (Jazirat ibn ‘Umar) and Mardin in modern day Turkey. At a hermitage on a mountain near Sinjar he met a Kurdish mystic who gave him some silver coins.; Once back in Mosul, he joined a "feeder" caravan of pilgrims heading south to Baghdad where they would meet up with the main caravan that crossed the Arabian Desert to Mecca. Ill with diarrhoea, he arrived in the city weak and exhausted for his second hajj.;

Arabian Peninsula

Ibn Battuta remained in Mecca for some time (the Rihla suggests about three years, from September 1327 until autumn 1330). Problems with chronology, however, lead commentators to suggest that he may have left after the 1328 hajj.

After the hajj in either 1328 or 1330, he made his way to the port of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. From there he followed the coast in a series of boats making slow progress against the prevailing south-easterly winds. Once in Yemen he visited Zabīd and later the highland town of Ta’izz, where he met the Rasulid dynasty king (Malik) Mujahid Nur al-Din Ali. Ibn Battuta also mentions visiting Sana’a, but whether he actually did so is doubtful. In all likelihood, he went directly from Ta’izz to the important trading port of Aden, arriving around the beginning of 1329 or 1331.

Early life and his first hajj

All that is known about Ibn Battuta’s life comes from the autobiographical information included in the account of his travels. Ibn Battuta was born into a family of Islamic legal scholars in Tangier, Morocco, on 25 February 1304, during the reign of the Marinid dynasty. He claimed descent from the Berber tribe known as the Lawata.; As a young man he would have studied at a Sunni Maliki madh’hab, (Islamic jurisprudence school), the dominant form of education in North Africa at that time. In June 1325, at the age of twenty-one, Ibn Battuta set off from his hometown on a hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, a journey that would take sixteen months. He would not see Morocco again for twenty-four years.