The Moroccan based traveler Ibn Battuta explored the world when he was young. He was a solar, theologian, and adventurer who left his homeland to follow his dream of exploring every civilized portion of the world. Battuta walked his way to forty-four countries of modern maps and covered a staggering amount of ground. It is interesting to know that Battuta covered 75000 miles which is far more than the famous traveler and merchant Marco Polo.
Early years of Battuta’s life:
Not much is known about the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta. All the information today we have about him comes from his travel account “Rihla.”
Battuta was born in Tangier, Morocco on 24 February 1304. His family was quite religious as they were Islamic legal scholars. According to the tradition of his family, Battuta also had to become a scholar (judge). The decision of becoming a scholar was not imposed on him as he was also keen to study Islamic law and learn more.
Battuta left his home at a young age of 21 to pursue his dream of traveling and exploring the world. He was brought up in a religious family, so he wanted to go to Mecca and Madina to perform Hajj. Hajj/pilgrimage is an important pillar of Islam. Every Muslim who can afford had to perform Hajj (pilgrimage) once in his/her life.
First traveling journey:
As already discussed above that Ibn Battuta was only 21 years old when he left Morocco. Originally, he aimed to go to Mecca to perform Hajj. He traveled to Iraq, Iran, and Africa to reach Mecca where he performed his religious obligation (Hajj). The holy city of Mecca is an important religious place where Muslims from all over the world gather every year to perform their religious obligations and rituals.
Stay in Delhi:
After performing Hajj, Ibn Battuta decided to continue exploring the world. He went to Syria and Afghanistan from where he headed to Indus valley. Upon reaching India Battuta stayed in Delhi for eight years. He was welcomed wholeheartedly by the Sultan of Delhi and offered the post of Qadi as well. Sultan at that time was afraid of being deceived by the Hindus. So he would prefer foreigners over locals.
Ibn Battuta wanted to get employment in India, so when the Sultan offered him the post of a Qadi, he immediately accepted. During his stay in India Battuta visited many places and cities. He admired the natural beauty in India and described some places in his book as his favorite spots.
The record of his travel tales:
It is a fact that Ibn Battuta never kept a journal of his traveling experience. He many visited places and came across many dangerous situations such a shipwrecking, robbery, and diseases during his expeditions. In fact, his journey is full of interesting stories. When he returned to Morocco, the ruler heard about his travel tales. He was impressed by the traveling stories of Ibn Battuta, so he asked him to record it in writings.
Ibn Battuta narrated his traveling stories to his fellow scholar Ibn Juzayy who wrote down the biography of Ibn Battuta. The book names Rihla tells us much about the scope of the Islamic world in pre-modern times. He described how he got shocked by seeing the difference of cultures even in the Islamic countries. He did not like the way women used to dress up in many countries.
Criticism on Rihla:
Some contemporaries claim that Ibn Battuta lied in his book. According to them he never visited many places that he has described in his book. Many people believe that he never reached China and was only able to reach Cambodia and Vietnam. Some people believe that Battuta received criticism because he did not keep a journal of his traveling. He narrated the incidents and places that he remembered. According to some critics, the part of his story was borrowed from the writings of some other people.
Even though he was criticized by many still, Ibn Battuta managed to become one of the greatest Muslim travelers and explorers of the world.
Legacy of Ibn Battuta:
Ibn Battuta after spending thirty years of his life in completing his goal of the traveling world finally returned to Morocco. He faced many challenges and life-threatening situations in those three decades, but he did not stop. His book Rihla is one of the sources that tell us about the people and cultures of premodern times.
Despite receiving criticism Ibn Battuta’s book, “Rihla” is still considered as a traveling treasure for those who adore traveling and explore the world. Besides the exciting travel tales, Ibn Battuta’s journey inspires many and teaches them that you should not give up your dreams. Work hard and achieve what you desire.