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Observations Tell All

Ibn Battuta started his journey as a pilgrimage to Mecca at the age of twenty in 1325. His pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of faith that all first-rate Muslims follow. However, his traveling went on for about 29 years and he covered about 75,000 miles visiting the 44 modern countries which were then mostly under the governments of Muslim leaders of the World of Islam, or “Dar al-Islam.” He was able to see how different countries operated and the different ways that people in them lived. He observed slavery, religious tension and different beliefs as to the treatment of women, and throughout the many different countries.

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Ibn Battuta mentions slavery many different times throughout the book. He was given slaves in Turkey as gifts and he bought slaves in many other countries. He talks about how slaves were taken from Steppe, they would be children and common folk taken from Steppe and the would be taken and sold in slave markets in Cairo, they would be taken to sugar plantations in Cyprus and the would be sold to rich households in Italy. [Dunn, pp. 163 – 164] Slaves were often used as trading property or a form of gift giving, When he went to China a Muslim he had met years before in India was now rich. He owned about fifty white slaves and as many slave-girls, and presented him with two of each, along with many other gifts. [Dunn, 248]. Battuta learns that slavery is accepted and very common in most Muslim countries.

Religious tension is something that has been a big deal for a long time with the Muslims and other religious groups. You can see that Ibn is very critical of the Christians, Jews and the Shi’i Muslims. And he finds it acceptable that the Hindus and the Chinese believe in more than one god. Ibn just dislikes the beliefs and conduct of worship that the Christians have so he tries to make sure that they are not heard: “It is in the trading city of Kaffa on the north shore of the Black Sea that Ibn Battuta starts to shout the Muslim call to pray in an attempt to drown out the Christian church bells” [Dunn, p. 164].

Ibn also has a very strong religious affiliation with the Sunni Muslims so he doesn’t even associate with the Shi’s Muslims, Ibn Battuta was a strict Sunni Muslim and he makes it very clear that he had little time for Shi’is. At several points in the Rihla he takes cheap shots at their beliefs or recounts disapproving little anecdotes about their obsessive and misguided observances. He did not mix much with Shi’i scholars and deliberately avoided visiting certain towns having predominantly Shi’i populations” [Dunn, pp. 90 – 91]. Religious tension was something that Battuta had already made up his mind about and nothing was going to change it.

The treatment of women in the World of Islam is an interesting topic, which is often inaccurately represented and misunderstood and by the media. The combination of misinformation and lack of depth of knowledge about the role and position of women in Islam contributes to fostering the notion that Islam puts women firmly in a second-class position. In “The Adventures of Ibn Battuta,” Ibn Battuta goes to many different places and sees different customs of treating women. He is very critical of men allowing women not dress in traditional modest Muslim dress. In West Africa and the Maldives Islands he was very shocked to find that men allow their wives and daughters to be “topless”, Most of the women in Mali wear only a “waist-wrapper” which covers them from the waist down, but the remainder of their body remains uncovered. He worked very hard to put and end to this practice but he could not get it changed. [Dunn, 235]

In Anatolia and Steppe he finds that women are allowed to walk around and not have their faces covered by a veil. He sees this to be an outrage. [Dunn, 143] He is also very critical of women having a high status or being able to interact socially with men. He finds this to be incredibly unacceptable, when he calls Masufa scholar and found his worthy’s wife talking to a man that was not her husband, in the court yard, he expressed profound disapproval and the scholar explained to him that men let their wives talk to other men with no suspicion attached and it is all in good conduct. [Dunn, 300] Battuta was able to see many different aspect of how women a re treated in the many different Muslim countries. A lot of the things that Ibn saw and participated in on his journey we great learning experiences and gave us great in sight into the Muslim world. It helped to get rid of many negative images that we might have about Muslims.

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