He is Abu Abdullah Mohamed, known as IBN BATUTA, the
greatest of Muslim travelers, was born at Tangier in 1304. He entered on his
travels at twenty-one (1325) and closed them in 1355. No other medieval
traveler is known to have journeyed so extensively like Ibn Batuta did.
In an attempt to rediscover the contributions of Muslims in fields such as
science, medicine, engineering, architecture and astronomy, we will try to
shed more light on the life and travellings of Ibn Batuta, the great Muslim
traveler. This will encourage contemporary young Muslims to strive in these
fields and not think that major success is beyond their reach.
Ibn Batuta, one of the most remarkable travelers of all time, visited China
sixty years after Marco Polo and in fact traveled 75,000 miles, much more
than Marco Polo. Yet Batuta is never mentioned in geography books used in
Muslim countries, let alone those in the West. Ibn Batuta's contribution in
geography is unquestionably as great as that of any geographer yet the
accounts of his travels are not easily accessible except to the specialist.
The omission of reference to Ibn Batuta's contribution in geography books is
not an isolated example. All great Muslims whether historians, doctors,
astronomers, scientists or chemists suffer the same fate.
The narratives of Ibn Batuta cover various aspects of life in Bengal. He
provides a geographical account of some important places he visited, such as
Sudkawan, 'a vast city on the coast of the great sea', Habank 'one of the
most glorious and beautiful cities', Sunarkawan, 'a very inaccessible city'.
He has given accounts of some rivers he traversed, such as the Ganga (Padma),
Jun (Jumna) and Nahr ul-azraq (Surma). The traveller was enamored of the
picturesque landscape, the greenery and beautiful fields, water-wheels,
gardens and villages on both banks of the Surma, and comments that passing
through villages and orchards was like going through a mart.
Ibn-Batuta provides some information on the political history beginning from
the time of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud till the assumption of sovereignty by
Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah and Alaauddin Ali shah. His narratives include
information on the life of Sheikh Shah Jalal (R), influence of sufi saints
on both Muslims and non-Muslims, existence of slavery in Bengal, practice of
magic and witchcraft by the people of Kamarupa, abundance of food grains and
cheap prices of commodities of daily use. He refers to the brisk internal
and external trade of this region.
Ibn Batuta noticed marketplaces on the banks of the rivers and innumerable
boats carrying men and merchandise. He has mentioned the practice of beating
drums from every boat on the river as a signal for identifying inland
merchant boats and for detecting stranger boats as a safeguard against
piracy. He also mentions the sea-borne trade-links of Sonargaon with China,
Java and Maldives. In view of the abundance of the necessaries of life and
its soothing scenery on one hand, and the wet atmosphere and oppressive
vapour bath on the other, the traveller justifies the attitude of foreigners
who call Bangladesh a dozakh-i-pur az n'imat, which means an inferno full of
Ibn Batuta began by traversing the coast of the Mediterranean from Tangier
to Alexandria, finding time to marry two wives on the road. He stayed in
Cairo for a while, and an unsuccessful attempt to reach Mecca from Aidhab on
the west coast of the Red Sea, he visited Palestine, Aleppo and Damascus. He
then made the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, traveling thence to Basra, and
across the mountains of Khuzestan to Isfahan, thence to Shiraz and back to
Kufa and Baghdad. After an excursion to Mosul and Diarbekr, he made the Hajj
a second time, and stayed in Mecca for three years.
Afterwards Ibn Batuta sailed down the Red Sea to Aden (then a place of great
trade). Then he continued his journey down the African coast, visiting
Mombassa and Quiloa (Kilwa) together with other places. Returning north he
passed by the chief cities of Oman to New Ormuz (Hurmuz), which had about 15
years, before, c. 1315, been transferred to its famous island-site from the
mainland (Old Ormuz). After visiting other parts of the gulf he crossed the
breadth of Arabia to Mecca, making the Hajj (Pilgrimage) for the third time.
Crossing the Red Sea, he made a journey of great hardship to Syene and
thence along the Nile to Cairo. After this, traveling through Syria, he made
a circuit among the petty Turkish states into which Asia Minor was divided
after the fall of the kingdom of Rum (Iconium).
He now crossed the Black Sea to Kaffa. His next stop was Kipchak (the Mongol
khanate of Russia), and joined the camp of the reigning khan Mohamed Uzbeg,
from whom the great and heterogeneous Uzbeg race is perhaps named.
Among other places he visited was Boighar, he witnessed the shortness of the
summer night, and desired to continue his travels north into the band of
Darkness (in the extreme north of Russia).
Returning to the court of Uzbeg, at Sarai on the Volga, he crossed the
steppes to Khwarizm and Bukhara; thence through Khurasan and Kabul, and over
the Hindu Kush (to which he gives that name, its first occurrence).
Ibn Batuta was the only medieval traveler who is known to have visited the
lands of every Muslim ruler of his time. 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.
Syria like many other countries around the world
witnessed, during this period, the flood of refugees
from war troubled nations like Somalia, arrival of
people from Algeria during the brutal struggling between
the Mujahidun and the government, resettlement of the
Palestinians fleeing from sophisticated guns of the
Israelis as well as adventure of African migrants for