Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Mohammad ibn Ibrahim al-Lawati ibn Battuta was born in 1304 C.E. in the city of Tangiers, Morocco. During the medieval period Arabic names were a source of information; they included their fathers name, sometimes a line of ancestors, a nickname and any honorific name (www.bankersonline.com/tools/namingconventions.pdf). His family were descendents of the Lawati Berber tribe and many members were judges or lawyers. He learned to read and write Arabic by memorizing and copying the Quran by the age of 12. Ibn Battuta studied Islamic scared law called Shari'a which guided the Muslims to live in harmony and be guided by God. His training to be a qadi or judge would have enabled him to hear and decide cases of sacred law.
Ibn Battuta traveled many roads through Dar al-Islam, home of Islam. His journey began during the period known as Pax Mongolia when Mongol Khans were converting to Islam. This period of peace allowed for increased movement, expansion of commerce, the arts, literature, law and government. On camels, horses, donkeys and boats Ibn Battuta was determined to visit the Islamic world. A man of meager means he was fed entertained and cared for along the way by royalty, merchants and Mongol Kings. The Muslim practice of granting hospitality to pilgrims journeying to Mecca fulfills one of the Five Pillars of Faith. Ibn Battuta traveled in search of knowledge. His account of his journey known as Rihla or book of travels has contributed to our understanding of the geography and social history of his time. At the request of the Sultan of Fez, Ibn Juzayy an Andalusian scholar transcribed Ibn Batutta's stories. Ibn Batutta provided descriptions of flora and fauna, leaders, ships, marriages, Mecca, the Hajj and the dangers that he faced in his travels.
1325-1327 - Morocco to Mecca
Ibn Battuta first journey during the years of 1325 and 1326 was to the holy city of Mecca by way of North Africa, Eqypt, Palestine and Syria. Upon arrival in Tunis he felt homesick (Dunn, Ross. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler in the 14th Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. pgs. 36-37) and (Gibb, H.A.R. Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-1354. New Delhi: Musnshiran Manoharlal Publishers, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1986.pgs.44-45) but he did not turn and head back home, he proceeded with his journey.
1327-1330-East Africa and back to Arabia some travel by boat
After a 2 month sojourn in Tunis (Dunn. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pg.37) he completed his 1st Hajj (Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs.66-79) he then decided to visit Iraq and Persia. After completed of his 2nd Hajj, Ibn Battuta sailed down the eastern coast of Africa to the area of Tanzania (Gibb.Ibn Battuta, pgs. 106-115). Ibn Battuta never wanted to travel the same route twice so his return to Mecca involved sailing to Oman, the Persian Gulf, then an overland caravan to Arabia and Mecca.
1330-1333-To India by way of Anatolia and Asia
Around this time in his life he needed employment and learned that the Sultan in Delhi, India was seeking learned men for employment as qadi's (judges) to interpret Islamic law. In 1330, off he went to India by way of Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor (story of Princess Bayalyn, (Dunn.The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs. 166-173 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs.151-159).
133-1341-Ibn Battuta becomes qadi for Muhammad Tughluq
He then traveled across the Black Sea to West Asia and on to Constantinople. Ibn Battuta returned to West Asia still making his way to India (postal service Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs 183-184) he reached the Indus River Valley around 1335. He found employment and spent 8 years working as a qadi.
1341-1349-Moves from India to China and encounters many adventures
The Sultan of Delhi appointed Ibn Battuta to lead a mission to the Mongol emperor of China (Chinese boats Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs.234-235). Ibn Battuta's travels did not always proceed without danger. During his journey to China he was shipwrecked off the coast of India all was lost, the Sultan had entrusted Ibn Battuta with valuable goods. Fearful he would not be forgiven for these losses he did not return to India but traveled to southern India, Ceylon and the Maldive Islands (pirates, Gibb.Ibn Battuta, pgs.239-240 and Dunn. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs. 195-196, 215-216, 246-247). In the Maldive Islands he was employed as a qadi and married for political reasons (Dunn.The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.233-237and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs. 250-253). In his writings he comments on women's dress and customs of the islands all the while being rewarded for completing his duties with money, land and slaves. He remained on the Maldive Islands for approximately 3 years and set out again, this time to China (Dunn. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.256-258 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs. 282-286). He traveled by sea and visited Bengal, Burma and Sumatra.
1349-1354-Begins journey home, visits Grenada and then takes his final adventure to Mali
He returned to Mecca in 1346 to perform the Hajj one more time. When he completed his duties in Mecca he began his journey home arriving in Fez in 1349. By 1350 he was on the move again this time to Grenada on the Iberian Peninsula. Still not completely satisfied that he had traveled all of Dar al Islam he joined a caravan to cross the Sahara to visit Mali (Dunn. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.301-307 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta pgs.324-332) In 1355 he finally returned home.When writing his Rihla (travel book) Ibn Battuta used the Muslim calendar, therefore, depending on your source dates will vary (Dunn. The Travel of Ibn Battuta, pg.xiv).
What can we learn from Ibn Battuta? His journeys for the most part followed important trade routes which linked the continent of Africa to Eurasia. He provides us with a view of the expansion of Islam. Ibn Battuta was a 14th century long distance traveler, yet we learn from him through his writings about hospitality, companionship, customs, the 14th century job market and the dangers of travel whether by land or sea.