Birthday: February 25, 1304
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Ibn Batuta, Ibn Baṭūṭah, Abū ʿAbd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah
Born in: Tangier
Famous as: Explorer
Died on: 1377
place of death: Morocco
Who was Ibn Battuta?
Ibn Battuta is a traveller of historical importance whose memoirs went a long way in providing a clear account of the numerous countries that he visited during his eventful life. To this day his books are studied by students of history since very few travellers have been able to describe their experiences as vividly. The Moroccan wanderlust started exploring the world from an early age and continued to travel throughout his life. As a scholarly explorer he went to almost all countries which were governed under the ambit of Islam. Ibn Battuta attended the courts of some of the most famous kings in the world and also fraternised with the local people in order to know the culture of the country. Seasoned historians mention that his accounts are without any kind of apparent bias and allow the readers to form their own perspectives. Battuta travelled for three long decades and is still regarded as perhaps one of the most famous travel-chronicler in history. There is no doubt that Ibn Battuta lived an incredibly interesting life and according to some accounts he travelled a total of 75000 miles through the course of his life as a traveller.
Childhood & Early Life
Ibn Battuta was born on February 25, 1304, in the city of Tangiers in Morocco, in a family which had descended from the African tribal clan known as ‘Berbers’. He belonged to a family of legal scholars who served as judges at the time.
Although it is not known exactly where he studied; it is speculated that he was a student of the Sunni Maliki school of thought. Ibn Battuta also received education in literature at the school.
In the year 1326, when Ibn Battuta was 21 years old, he undertook his first voyage and it was a long journey to the holy city of Mecca. It was a pilgrimage but during the stay in Mecca, he also travelled to nearby Damascus in order to learn from scholars and earn diplomas.
The journey to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina set him on his path of being the exemplary traveller that he turned out to be. At the end of his pilgrimage, Ibn Battuta was honoured with the title of ‘El-Hajji’.
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At a time when mostly merchants travelled the world, Ibn Battuta was one who made a living out of travelling to different countries. He earned an income through handsome gifts from rulers as well as from his status as a man of letters. He travelled to Taizz in present day Yemen and Aden after staying in Mecca till 1330.
In the year 1331, Ibn Battuta travelled to Mogadishu in Somalia which was an extremely prosperous city at the time under Abu Bakr ibn Sayx ‘Umar and following that visit he went to Mombasa and Kilwa, which was being ruled by the ‘Kilwa Sultanate’ at the time. Battuta noted that the town planning in Kilwa was quite advanced.
Ibn Battuta wanted to be employed by the India’s Mohammad bin Tughlaq of the ‘Delhi Sultanate’ and in order to reach India he first went to Anatolia in 1332, which was then fragmented into pockets of smaller power centres in the years prior to the rise of the Ottoman Turks.
In 1334, he travelled to the iconic city of Constantinople and got an audience with the ruling king, Andronikos III Palaiologos, as a part of Sultan Oz Beg Khan’s entourage which was sent to the city in order to witness the birth of his grandson. The Sultan’s daughter was married to the Roman emperor.
Following his journey to Constantinople in 1334, Battuta started his long awaited journey to India and like so many travellers of the time he used the route via the ‘Hindu Kush Mountains’. In September of that year; Battuta finally reached Delhi and presented himself to the king of the Delhi Sultanate, Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
In India, Mohammad bin Tughlaq, a man of letters, appointed Battuta as a judge and expert on Islamic Law; however, Battuta was disillusioned with the situation in India since it was hard to impose the law in a country in which majority of the subjects were non-Muslims. He worked for six years in India.
During his stay in India. Battuta fell out of favour with Mohammad bin Tughlaq and it was only when he was appointed as the ambassador to the Sultanate in China was he able to get away from the emperor.
His last journeys were to Spain and Sudan, the two Islamic countries at the time that he had not visited. Battuta’s accounts of his time in Sudan, which he reached in 1352 remains one of the best sources of information on Africa from that time.
Battuta went back to his native Morocco in the year 1353 and took up employment as a judge. It is thought that he worked as a judge till his last day and also dictated his memoirs to a ghost writer.
Ibn Battuta’s most important work in his lifetime has to be the travelogue ‘Rihla’ in which he provided a vivid account of his journey throughout the Islamic world at the time. He travelled extensively for a period spanning thirty years and the travelogue contains vivid descriptions of the culture and lifestyle prevalent in those areas.
Personal Life & Legacy
Not much is known about his personal life since the only source of information about Ibn Battuta is his book ‘Rihla’ and according to the book, Battuta got married to the royal family in Maldives when he was working there as a judge.
The exact cause of his death is unknown and according to historians the year of his death is also a matter of dispute. It could be sometime between the years 1368 or 1369.