The Great Journey of Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta has been a great character in the study of history. Significantly, studying the journey to Mali through Morocco, Sijilmasa and Gao has increased the knowledge for history students. Ibn Battuta’s journey is the most celebrated journey of the pre-modern times. The journey of the Ibn Battuta is very informative. He provides a full description of the crucial characteristics of the places he visited. For instance, when he arrived at Hagia Sophia he described the great church commonly known by the people as Aya Sophia. However, he noted that he could not describe the inner side of the church since he could see the interiors parts. Moreover, the journey provides a full account of the people who lived there, their culture and religion. The aim of the essay is to provide a critical discussion of how the historians used the source “Journey of Ibn Battuta.” The historians have used the primary source “Journey of Ibn Battuta” by Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Battuta to gain insights on his travel; places he visited, cities and culture.

The primary source, “Journey of Ibn Battuta” by Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Battuta was the crucial source of interest. The source is relevant since Ibn Battuta wrote it after completing his journey in the year 1354. It provides an accurate account of his journey from the Sijilmasa, Gao, Morocco and the Mali empire. It represented an actual account of what he saw and the experiences of the journey. Ibn Battuta started his journey at Sijimalsa where he bought three camels and ensured that he had secured enough supply that will sustain him for approximately four months.[1]

At that time, Ibn Battuta had only arrived from his journey. He had stayed in Gao for a whole month when he started a journey to an oasis located at Takedda. Along his journey in the deserts, he received Sultan of Morocco command that he should go back home. He planned his route to Sijimalsa and reached home in 1353. When he returned home, Abu Inan Faris encouraged him to give an account of his travel.[2] He described his journey to a scholar known as Ibn Juzayy. He had earlier met him at Granada. There is no indication that Ibn Battuta had made notes on his travel. Ibn Juzayy never recognized any rights on the dictation he received from Ibn Battuta. Instead, in most of the sources he referred to the works as the observations of the Ibn Battuta. Ibn Battuta’s account of his journey to Ibn Juzayy is the only source available for his journey.

Scholars in the history have questioned how Ibn Battuta gave an account of his journey. Meri observed that the reliability of the Rihla by Ibn Battuta was still open to argument.[3] Rihla is a product of the Ibn Battuta and the Ibn Juzayy collaboration. The failure of the accounts of the journey is a result of the problems of the memory. Nevertheless, the recent studies have revealed written notes of differing quality at the possessions of the Ibn Battuta. There is a probability that the Rihla may be combinations of a collection of writing as well as the account by Ibn Juzayy.[4] Waines questioned the Ibn Battuta Rihla in relations to the intentions he had and the motives of the journey.[5] Besides, Waines questioned the authenticity of his description. What Ibn Battuta chose to describe was made out of own discretion. There was no standard to guide what to disclose. It is factual that Ibn Battuta could not remember all of the facts about his journey.

A crucial analysis of the article would reveal a greater history of that time and the locations of the article. Ibn Battuta described the Taghaza as a trade that was unattractive.[6] In Taghaza, the residents used blocks of the salts to make houses and used skins of the camels in roofing. Salt was in abundance at that time from the mines. Ibn Battuta noted that there was trading of salt with the millet and other products brought by the black traders from Sudan. Shillington noted that the salt trade at that time formed a great foundation for the development of the Trans-Saharan trade.[7] In the 16th century, the use of arms increased in Africa. Morocco had defeated the Songhai using the Harquebus, an old type of a gun. The Western Sudan was a great source of firearms.[8]

Trade had increased as a result of the salt mines in Taghaza. Ibn Battuta gave an important account in the growth of Trans-Saharan trade and the development of the use of the firearms. Ibn Battuta also gave an account Sultan’s rule in Mali and noted that Muslim was the main religion in the area. Ibn Battuta described how the people in the Mali Kingdom wore the white garments, and they had the understanding of the Koran at heart.[9] Majorly, the main religion in Mali was Muslim, and people greatly used slave labor. The salt mines at Taghaza used the labor of the slaves.

The author of the source is Ibn Battuta, and he accounted for part of the journey in Africa. Ibn Battuta made the source with the assistance of a scholar known as Ibn Juzayy. Akyeampong, et al. noted the scholars could not be certain whether the book has insertions from Ibn Juzayy. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ibn Battuta wanted to describe a factual account of his journey.  Ibn Juzayy was a ghostwriter while Ibn Battuta dictated the experiences of his journey. The source describes the journey made by Ibn Battuta. It also gives keys descriptions of the historical events related to the culture, trade, religions, and the systems of ruling at that time. The source describes the journey of Ibn Buttata from Sijilmasa, Taghaza, Mali, and Takada. All over his journey, he described the salt mining in Taghaza, rule of the Sultan, Muslim faith, Governor Farber Musa of Timbuktu and last his journey towards Takadda.[10] Historians have used the source to understand the journey of Ibn Battuta, and the culture and the religions of the places he visited. In most of the primary sources made by the Ibn Battuta and Ibn Juzayy, the journeys are incomplete and not arranged chronologically. Historians have used combinations of the primary sources in the constructions of a comprehensive journey of the Ibn Battuta.

Other historians used the source to understand early global interactions and the significance of the Ibn Battuta in the contributions of the historical developments. Lockard noted that the historians owe much to the Ibn Battuta for the contribution he made in understanding early societies in Asia and Africa.[11] Also, Ibn Buttata contributed significantly to the developments of the maps, atlases, and globes with the collaboration of the Al-Idrisi. Parker (10) noted that the travels of the Ibn Buttata contributed significantly to the understanding of the early interactions among communities.[12] He gave an analysis of the current day difficulties in Europe and United States in consideration of the travels made by Ibn Buttata and Marco Polo in Asia.

The travel made by Ibn Buttata has contributed largely to the understanding of the early developments in the history that includes trade, culture, interactions, religions, and the spread of the firearms. Historians have used the source to come up with a complete account of his journey and the developments taking place at that time. Ibn Battuta gave a detailed description of his journey. Whenever he moved, he described the communities living there, economic activities and the system of rule. The travel contributes extensively to the current developments in the history. More so, other historians such as Meri and Waines got an opportunity to build a critique on the Rihla of the Ibn Battuta. The travel of Ibn Battuta has largely led to great developments in the history. History students learn the developments in trade and the contributions of the Ibn Battuta to the understanding of the early history.













Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku, and Henry Louis Gates. 2012. Dictionary of African biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Battuta, Ibn. Travels in Asia and Africa: 1325-1354. Routledge, 2004.

Dunn, Ross E. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. Internet resource.

Falola, Toyin, and Adebayo Oyebade. Hot Spot: Sub-saharan Africa. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2010. Print.

Ibn Battuta. Journey of Ibn Battuta. Eye Witnessess, Travellers Account. 1354

Lockard, Craig A. Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Meri, Josef W., ed. Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia. Routledge, 2005.

Parker, Charles H. Global interactions in the early modern age, 1400–1800. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Shillington, Kevin, ed. Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set. Routledge, 2013.

Waines, D. The odyssey of Ibn Battuta: uncommon tales of a medieval adventurer. IB Tauris, 2012.

[1] Battuta, Ibn, Travels in Asia and Africa: 1325-1354, (Routledge, 2004), 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Meri, Josef W., ed., Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia, (Routledge, 2005), 353.

[4] Meri, Josef W., ed. Medieval Islamic civilization: an encyclopedia, (Routledge, 2005), 353.

[5] Waines, D., The odyssey of Ibn Battuta: uncommon tales of a medieval adventurer, (IB Tauris, 2012), 33.

[6] Battuta,Travels in Asia, 1.

[7] Shillington, Kevin, ed., Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set, (Routledge, 2013), 6.

[8] Falola, Toyin, and Adebayo Oyebade, Hot Spot: Sub-saharan Africa (Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood, 2010), 4.

[9] Battuta,Travels in Asia, 5.

[10] Ibid

[11] Lockard, Craig A., Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 289.

[12] Parker, Charles H., Global interactions in the early modern age, 1400–1800, (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 10-12.


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