|Biographical detail : ||World wanderer
The world wanderer, Ibn Battutah, chronicled medieval era’s great pioneer of globalisation.
“Histories and biographies there are in quantity, but the historians for all their picturesque details, seldom show the ability to select the essential and to give their figures that touch of the intimate which makes them live again for the reader. It is in this faculty that Ibn Battutah excels.”
Ibn Battutah, a legal scholar, left Tangier on 14th June 1325 on travels, which lasted for about thirty years across Asia and Africa and gives a picture of medieval civilisation without equal in detail and brilliance in his book The Travels of Ibn Battutah. The extent of his travels is estimated to be no less than 75,000 miles (100,000 km), a figure which is not likely to have been surpassed before the advent of the age of steam. He travelled by foot, by donkey, by camel and by boat – nearly the entire length of the Muslim world and beyond on a quest for knowledge and experience.
Ibn Battutah, as he travelled east, his horizons began to open. In Alexandria, he dreamed of flying on the wings of a huge bird to Yemen, and then east and south. After performing the Hajj in 1332, exploring Iraq, Iran and Persian Gulf, descending as far as what is now Kenya and residing in the Christian capital of Constantinople, he passed by way of the Crimea, Central Asia and Afghanistan to the rich Muslim Sultanate of Delhi, arriving in the early-to-mid-1330s.
Ibn Battutah was appointed as Qazi of Delhi by Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq and latter he was dispatched, in 1341, with presents on a mission to the Emperor of China. He, however, was wrecked on the Malabar Coast and lost the presents but still managed his way to China by way of Ceylon, the Coromandel Coast of India, Bengal and Sumatra. No doubt Ibn Battutah wished to fulfil a famous saying attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him: “Seek knowledge even to the borders of China.”
Ibn Battutah made a hair-raising journey while returning to the Magrib and Spain across the Sahara to the kingdom of Mali, which was completed in 1353. He was wholly convinced of the superiority of his own culture but was curious about other rites and even non-Islamic civilisation. China, with its vast cities, astonishing technology and unbelief, unsettle him. Ibn Battutah was softened by his adventure but retained his faith and his humanity.
The Travels of Ibn Battutah was first translated from Arabic to English in 1829 by Rev S Lec and in 1920s by the orientalist scholar H A R Gibb but it was completed by the late Charles Beckingham, in several volumes, and the abridgement of which was written and published, in 2002, by the British travel writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, an introduction to the great masterpiece of Muslim geography. Ibn Battutah’s another book Tuhfat-ul-Nazar fi graib-ul-Amsar wa Ajaibul-Asfar was translated in all the major languages of the world.
Ibn Battutah was born Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battutah, also known as Shams ad-Din, in Tangiers (Morocco) and was bred up as a jurist. His personality was a war between contradictory impulses of mysticism and worldliness.