Known to be the greatest traveler in the pre-modern times, Ibn Batuta was born in Morocco in 1304 and was well instilled with Islamic law. He began his journeys at twenty-one when he left for the holy pilgrimage in Mecca. This marked the start of long trips that made him the only medieval traveler to have visited all Muslim rulers’ lands in his time. These journeys spanned a period of close to three decades and covered nearly all the Islamic land and beyond. His visits extended from North Africa, West Africa, South Europe, China, India, and Russia among other places. By the completion of his exploration, he had covered an estimated distance of 75000 miles; this is a great achievement in times before the steam age.
The motives for his travels were to not only undertake the Hajj but also gain knowledge from different scholars and theologians in leading learning centers such as Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad. He encountered a number of loopholes in the process of his explorations such as attacks from pirates, bandits, shipwrecked, and nearly came to the verge of death on various occasions. All his experiences were written in the Rihla upon his arrival in morocco at the end of his travels.
He did not only concentrate on the geographical aspect during his travels but described the political, economic, as well as social conditions vividly. The concern of women’s positions in the community and religious matters were also among his listings in the journeys. Through his experience, his findings bring out a number of themes. These include love, education, politics, slavery, hospitality, trade, Religion, and the gender issues in the society. There is also change whereby he puts into consideration the plague, which was a gigantic matter in the times of his travels in Europe.
Love comes out as the first theme. Ibn Batuta had a passion for his parents and his friends. On his departure from home, he describes his sorrow and that of his parents as grievously weighing. He also tells of his loneliness and need for someone loving such as a friend to cheer him on the way. This though, did not march his love for exploration itself. He puts it in a way describing his passion for the trip saying that an overmastering impulse drove him to leave the comfort and love given at home to go on a lonesome trip. The long desire he had always donned in him to visit these places was a driver that directed him to have the courage. He clearly shows his love for adventure that is strong enough to give him courage in carrying out the dangerous travels (Dunn 8).
Though he was occupied with his own plans and goals, Ibn Batuta had time for sharing his heart and feelings. He got his first bride in Tunis clearing out the notions that love and personal prospects cannot mix. Love must mark one’s life at some point non-depending on their markings in life. This was the first among many other love situations that came later in his trips.
The theme of religion comes out as the chief in his travels. Ibn Batuta begins by giving the main reasons for leaving his home, which was purely going on pilgrimage. The main object was to visit the holy city of Makkah and the prophet’s tomb. He is deeply rooted into his island religion and openly exposes his fondness for miracles especially those that favor his religion. A good example is when the Muslims tore down the church in Damascus to expand their Mosque. The Christians believed that anyone who tried would become mad. However, this did not happen to the Muslims as Battuta puts it, though skeptically, God proved that the affirmation of the Christians was not factual. He also believes that God is their protector in the times when they were attacked by the bandits. This shows that he is a true religion follower and strong believer in a supreme being (Dunn 5).
Thirdly, there is the theme of education that tends to be the mark point of Ibn Battuta’s travels. He was interested to acquire knowledge from his fellow scholars in Cairo. This was theological knowledge mainly that was to help him understand the other religions and the Islam law more. He was as well interested in Geography and since he travelled through a variety of different terrains, he got to learn a lot on the environmental perspective. He earned high positions in his trip in some points because of his knowledge and even received certificates of knowledge from great scholars of his time. This for him marked a breakthrough and gave him the urge to keep on.
There is also the theme of politics in the book though in recessive explanation. He speaks of fallen kingdoms and tells of unstable cities rendered so by misdeeds in ruling. He compares places using their level of development that is directly in relation to the leadership. He views this in relation to Kufa that once was an abode for great theologians and cohorts of the prophet. It had come to fall from attacks from nomad groups in the vicinity. This indicated the weakness in the central government.
Slavery is another matter that Ibn Battuta put into consideration in his exploration. The “Mamluks” (slaves) had taken over the rule in Alexandria and defeated the Mongols who had invaded Baghdad. By these, the author tries to explain the strength of the slaves as viewed by Ibn Battuta. He takes them as the saviors of the Muslim world. This means that his view on slavery was possibly negative and he thought it to be wrong.
According to Ibn Battuta, he was welcomed differently. At some point, he was close to beheading by a king while in other places the inhabitants received him welcomingly. A single situation that caught his eye and heart is the hospital in Cairo. The patients were treated alike not considering their social class and even support was offered to orphans in schooling (Dunn, 50).
Speaking of gender issues, Battuta adamantly dealt with the concern relating to the Islamic rules. He was seen to marry many wives, which, according to Muslim belief is a correct practice. God is the determiner of everyone’s life and it was his ways that are to be followed with no exception from man or woman.
Battuta’s wide range of observations on political supremacy as well as legal, commercial, and cultural performs in the many places he paid visits give his tours a lasting significance as an insider’s outlook of variety of the Islamic world. The energetic storytelling refined with humor, irony and suffering frequently disclose the breach between theory and application, ideal and realism.