The First And Greatest Islamic Travel Writer


The First And Greatest Islamic Travel Writer

Early in​ the​ fourteenth century there was something in​ the​ air. in​ 1336 Petrarch,​ an​ Italian scholar wrote the​ first European travel account. His journey was modest: he merely climbed a​ mountain and looked down from the​ peak at​ his companions who had refused to​ follow him. He wrote disparagingly of​ his cowardly friends and so a​ rich tradition of​ European travel writing was born. Little did Petrarch know,​ as​ he toiled up Mount Vetoux,​ that the​ first and arguably the​ greatest ever Islamic traveler and chronicler of​ times and places Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta was engaged in​ a​ journey that would take him 29 years. it​ would also make him a​ legendary travel writer,​ respected in​ Islamic history for taking the​ message of​ Islam wherever he went.

A great historian,​ traveler and storyteller of​ our own era,​ Tim Mackintosh-Smith,​ has made Ibn Battuta’s name famous in​ the​ West over the​ past decade. in​ 2001 his book Travels with a​ Tangerine: a​ Journey in​ the​ Footnotes of​ Ibn Battuta was published by John Murray,​ London. it​ is​ an​ account of​ his journey following the​ first leg of​ Ibn Battuta’s epic journey (just from Tangier to​ Constantinople – Ibn Battuta eventually covered three times the​ ground covered by Marco Polo) and is​ a​ marvelous transportation both across a​ territory largely unknown to​ the​ Western reader,​ namely north Africa and the​ near East,​ and between the​ 14th century and the​ present day. the​ book spread Ibn Battuta’s name more widely than ever before.

Not much is​ known about Ibn Battuta; all that we know of​ him he tells us himself. He was born in​ 1304 and died some time between 1368 and 1377. He was a​ Berber Sunni Islamic scholar and jurisprudent from the​ Maliki Madhhab,​ a​ school of​ Fiqh (Sunni) law and at​ times a​ Qadi or​ judge. But it​ is​ his work as​ an​ explorer and travel writer that earned him lasting fame. His various accounts document his travels and excursions over a​ period of​ almost thirty years,​ covering some 73 000 miles (117 000 km). Ibn Battuta’s journeys covered almost the​ entirety of​ the​ known Islamic world at​ that time,​ and beyond. His travels took him through north and west Africa,​ through southern and eastern Europe,​ the​ middle east,​ the​ Indian subcontinent,​ central and south-east Asia and China.

At the​ insistence of​ the​ Sultan of​ Morocco,​ Abu Inan Faris,​ Ibn Battuta dictated accounts of​ his travels to​ a​ scholar named Ibn Juzayy,​ whom he had met while in​ Granada,​ the​ seat of​ Islamic Spain. the​ account,​ written by Ibn Juzayy and interspersed with the​ latter’s own comments,​ is​ the​ primary source of​ information about his journeys. the​ title of​ the​ work may be translated as​ a​ Gift to​ Those Who Contemplate the​ Wonders of​ Cities and the​ Marvels of​ Traveling,​ but is​ most often referred to​ simply as​ the​ Rihla or​ Journey. While apparently fictional in​ part,​ the​ Rihla still gives as​ complete an​ account as​ exists,​ of​ these parts of​ the​ world in​ 14th century. For centuries his book was practically unknown even in​ the​ Islamic world,​ but in​ 1800 it​ was rediscovered and translated into several European languages.

Although hazardous in​ the​ extreme,​ Ibn Battuta survived all his journeys unscathed. He died in​ Morocco at​ a​ ripe old age (for those times) of​ over 60. He succumbed to​ the​ same disease that claimed his mother's life -- the​ Black Plague.






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