The goal of this unit is to guide high school history students in a study of the early Islamic world through the eyes of a 12th century Spanish pilgrim, Abul-Husayn Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn Jubayr. Ibn Jubayr undertook the Hajj in 1183 and traveled extensively throughout the Islamic world before his return to Spain, meticulously documenting his travels. This unit follows his travels through his writing while exploring such major themes in history as the movement of ideas, religious experience, and changing perspectives on historical data all through primary source reading. This use of one excellent primary source will allow the teacher to stress the importance of primary sources in historical study, while allowing the students to identify deeply with an historical figure. Approaching the early Islamic world in this way gives teachers, particularly teachers of world history, the chance to expose their students to the Islamic world, before the Mongol invasion, and in only three weeks of classroom time.
The unit follows Ibn Jubayr closely, using his itinerary to explore many different concepts, while delving progressively deeper into history. In Sardinia we will see Ibn Jubayr face discrimination, and seek to understand this common thread in human social interaction. In Egypt, he describes the pyramids as he saw it, comparing modern and medieval perspectives on these ancient structures. In Mecca, we will study the Hajj. In Baghdad, we will view the city in its heyday as a center of learning, comparing it to our modern understanding of its role in the world. Finally, in Israel we will glimpse the crusades from the eyes of a Muslim, and ask important questions about the struggles between east and west. At the conclusion of this unit, students will have gained a basic understanding of Islamic history and early Islamic culture, in a timeframe, which is practical in a high school history class.