Ibn Battuta California Council for the Social Studies 2012

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World History

World History for Us All
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World History for Us All
Teaching units organized by the “size of the picture”
in time, space, and subject matter
The Afroeurasian
Network and
Spread of Islam
The Trans-Saharan
Network of Exchange
The Mali Empire

Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Abdallah
ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Lawati
al-Tanji, known as Ibn Battuta
• Sunni Muslim
• Arabic-speaking family of Berber origin
• Pilgrim
• Religious and legal scholar
• Sufi
• Traveler just for the h*** of it

Ibn Battuta’s significance
in world history
•He illustrates the beliefs, values, and way
of life of an educated Muslim in the Middle
•His travels illustrate the growth and extent
of Islam as a major belief system.
•His travels illustrate the growth and extent
of long-distance networks of
•His text is a valuable source of knowledge
about fourteenth-century Afroeurasia.
•His text offers an opportunity for critical

The Rihla of Ibn Battuta
Can we believe it?
• Most scholars agree that the
Rihla is authentic.
– Ibn Battuta and Ibn Juzayy actually wrote
it in the 14th century. It is not a forgery, a
hoax, or a fake.
• Most scholars agree that, on the
whole, the Rihla is reliable.
– It has “truth-value”: Ibn Battuta did not
make up most of his experiences or tell a
pack of lies.

But The Rihla presents numerous
problems and puzzles.
• Not a journal compiled on the road. He wrote
everything after he returned home.
• He sometimes gets the itinerary confused.
• He provides few clues to the chronology and
sometimes makes it confusing.
• He sometimes copies from other writers.
• He claims to have visited a few places that he
probably did not see.

Ibn Jubayr 12th century Ibn Battuta describing
traveler, describing Mosul, Iraq
Mosul, Iraq
One of the Emirs of the town Mosul has a large suburb…and in it
constructed on the banks of the Tigris there is a congregational mosque on the
a congregational mosque…Round it are banks of the Tigris, round which there are
iron latticed windows, adjoined by iron lattices, and adjoining it platforms
platforms overlooking the Tigris…In overlooking the Tigris. In front of the
front of it stands a finely-built mosque is a hospital. Inside the city there
hospital…The city has two mosques, are two congregational mosques, one
one new and the other of the time of ancient and the other new. In the court of
the Umayyads. In the courtyard of this the modern mosque is a dome, inside
latter is a dome in which rises a marble which there is an octagonal basin of
pillar…and at whose top is an marble supported by a marble column.
octagonal marble basin from which The water spurts out of this with energy
projects a pipe. From this, water spurts and strength, rises into the air…
forth with such energy and strength
that it rises into the air.

Ibn Battuta and Women
• He married several times during his
• In the Maldive Islands he had 4 wives
at the same time.
• He divorced all the women he
• He probably had numerous slave girls
and concubines.
• He married to gain entry to the circles
of the powerful and influential.
• He had strong views on women
behaving modestly.

Maldive Islands:
Most of [the women] wear only one apron from the
navel to the ground, the rest of their bodies being
uncovered. It is thus that they walk abroad in the
bazaars and elsewhere. When I was judge there, I tried
to put an end to this practice and ordered them to wear
clothes, but I met with no success. No woman was
admitted to my presence in a lawsuit unless her body
was covered, but apart from that I was unable to effect
Maldive Islands:
After I had become allied by marriage to these persons
who I have mentioned [i.e. elite families], the chief
ministerand the people stood in awe of me.

Walata in the Mali Empire
One day I entered upon Abu Muhammad Yandakan, a
man of the Massufa, the one in whose company we had
arrived. I found him sitting on a mat and in the middle
of his house was a bed with a canopy. On it was a
woman and with her a man sitting, and the two were
conversing. I said to him, “What is the relationship of
the man with her to her?” He said, “He is her
companion.” I said, “Do you accept this when you have
lived in our country and have known the matters of the
shari’a [religious law]?” He said to me, “Women’s
companionship with men in our country is honorable
and takes place in a good way: there is no suspicion
about it. They are not like the women of your country.”
I was astonished at his thoughtless answer and I went
away from him and did not go to him after this. Though
he invited me many times, I did not respond.

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