The Biography of Ibn Battuta Travels (1304 – 1368)

The narrative of the travels of Muslim lawyer Ibn Battuta in the first part of 14th century shows the vastness that was the Muslim world in the early 14th century.

It is the Abode of Islam

In the days of Ibn Battuta (sometimes spelled Battutah), Islamic civilization stretched across through the Atlantic coastline to West Africa across northern Africa as well as in the Middle East, and India up to Southeast Asia. It was what is known as the Dar al-Islam, also known as the “Abode of Islam.” Additionally, there were significant populations that were composed of Muslims living in towns and towns that were not within the boundaries that were part of Dar al-Islam. 

All members of the “umma,” or community of people who believed in one God and his holy the law (“shari’a”) were able to share the doctrinal doctrines, rituals of religion and moral values and daily manners. The 1300s were the time when the number of members was increasing dramatically.

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Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier which is now part of the modern day Morocco on the 25th of February 1304. The port city along its coast on the Atlantic Ocean lies 45 miles to the west from the Mediterranean Sea, close to the western end of the Strait of Gibraltar — the point at which Africa and Europe close to colliding.

The men who were part of the Ibn Battuta family were academics in the field of law and the family was raised with an emphasis on education. but the city did not have a “madrasa,” or college of higher learning in Tangier. This is why Ibn Battuta’s itch to travel was fueled by his desire to discover the most qualified teachers and the top libraries. They were found in Alexandria, Cairo, and Damascus. Also, he wanted to make the journey to Mecca which is known as”the “hajj,” as soon as he could, due to enthusiasm and commitment to his faith.

On the 14th of June 1325, aged of 21 years old, Ibn Battuta rode out of Tangier on a donkey. It was the beginning of his journey to Mecca. In contrast to the younger Marco Polo, he was very alone, as shown by this excerpt from The Ibn Battuta which is his full description of his travels:

I set off alone without a companion which I could share happiness, nor a caravan that which I could join but was pulled by an uncontrollable urge in me and an urge that I have always held in my heart to visit these famous sanctuary sites. Therefore, I resolutely decided to leave all my beloved loved ones, both male and female and male and I left home just as the birds leave their nests. My parents still living in the confines of life and weighing heavily on me to leave their care, and both they and me were grieving in the wake of this separation.

— taken from”The Travels of Ibn Battutah


Ibn Battuta’s solitude didn’t last for long, as per his diaries. The city’s governor provided him with gold and woolen cloth, since almsgiving was regarded as an essential part of Islam. Ibn Battuta stayed at madrasas and in Sufi hospices on his journey to Tunis. When he finally was able to leave Tunis he was a judge paid by the state, a Qadi in the pilgrimage caravan who required their disputes to be settled by an educated man. Alexandria and Damascus are two of the highlights of the journey that followed.

Ibn Battuta entered Mecca in mid-October 1326, which was a twelve months and nearly four months later than he left his home. He stayed for a month, engaging in all rituals and conversing with a variety of people from all Islamic country. Though his writings don’t offer any details about the impact of this experience on him, when the event was finished, the man set off to Baghdad instead of heading back home. He rode in the camel caravan of pilgrims returning, and this was when his journey began to take off.

Ibn Battuta led a complete life of travel while living. He was a scholar and did his prayers; he practiced his legal profession. He enjoyed incredible outdoor adventures; the couple got married 10-times and left his children to grow up across Afro-Eurasia. Some examples of these activities give an accurate description of his life’s adventures.

It was in Alexandria, Ibn Battuta spent three days in the company of a revered local Sufi ascetic named of Burhan al-Din the Lame. The saintly man was aware the fact that Ibn Battuta had a passion for traveling. He suggested that Ibn battuta go to three other colleagues Sufis who were from India and the third in China. In the aftermath of his encounter with Buurhan al-Din Ibn Battuta wrote in his Travels, “I was amazed by his predictions, and the idea of visiting these countries was etched into my thoughts My wanderings continued until I met the three he named and sent a greeting for them.”

Ibn Battuta visited another saint who lived a quiet existence that was devoted in a small town close to Alexandria. It was the summer and Ibn Battuta slept on the top of the cell of the man. In the night, he dreamed of a huge bird that transported him to the east and then left him there. The saint believed this as meaning the fact that Ibn Battuta would travel to India and remain in India for a long time in line with the words Burhan al-Din had stated.

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The Journey

  • Year       Path
  • 1325       From North Africa to Cairo
  • 1326       The Cairo
  • 1326       Cairo from Jerusalem, Damascus, Medina, and Mecca
  • 1326       The Hajj The Hajj – from Medina up to Mecca
  • 1326 – 1327         Iraq and Persia
  • 1328 – 1330         It is the Red Sea to East Africa and the Arabian Sea
  • 1330 – 1331         Anatolia
  • 1332 – 1333         “Lands of the Golden Horde & the Chagatai
  • 1334 – 1341         Delhi The Capital of Muslim India
  • 1341 – 1344         Away of Delhi and on to Maldive Islands and Sri Lanka
  • 1345 – 1346         From to the Strait of Malacca to China
  • 1346 – 1349         Return Home
  • 1349 – 1350         Moving To al-Andalus and Morocco
  • 1350 – 1351         The Journey To Mali
  • 1355       Writing The Rihla

At Damascus, Ibn Battuta boarded in one of the three madrasas. For the duration of his stay, the scholar settled into formal research. Damascus was home to the highest number of important theologians and jurists from the Arab world. They taught by studying and discussing a classic book, before checking their students’ knowledge of the book and awarding certificates to students who were able to pass their examinations.

Ibn Battuta then fulfilled the prophecies of various seers he’d met , traveling across India via Afghanistan and then having to traverse his way through the Hindu Kush Mountains at one of the many high passes. The group he was with crossed the 13,300-foot (4,000-meter) Khawak Pass. “We traversed these mountains” Ibn Battuta re-called in Travels, “setting out about the middle of the night and travel all day until sunset. We spread felt clothing before the camels so that they could be able to walk on, in order that they wouldn’t sink into snow.” When he arrived to Delhi, Ibn Battuta sought an official job from the Muslim King in India, Muhammad Tughluq.

The King of India adopted a custom of appointing foreigners to officials and judges. In the time that Ibn Battuta traveled to the court in Delhi in the year 1882, the king’s 82 Hindu bandits were able to attack his 22-strong group; Ibn Battuta and his men chased them off with 13 dead thieves. It was the reign of King Tughluq appointed him as a judge in Delhi however, as Ibn Battuta did not speak Persian which was the official language of the court 2 scholars were appointed carry out the task of the hearing of cases. 

Within eighteen years Ibn Battuta was eager to be free of the political intrigue. The king was willing to make him the ambassador of China, and made him accountable for delivering loads of goods and ships to the Yuan Emperor in exchange for his previous gifts to 100 slaves and carts of cotton and swords.

Ibn Battuta was set to sail out of Calcutta with a large vessel carrying the supplies for the Chinese Emperor and smaller vessels laden with his private entourage. All the presents and everyone was loaded prior to departure, however Ibn Battuta spent the last day in the city , participating in prayers on Friday. In the evening, a storm swept into the city, and the large ship carrying the gifts ran into trouble and fell to the bottom.

The smaller ship, with Ibn Battuta’s servants and concubines, acquaintances, and personal belongings, went to sea for safety from the blows. With only his prayers rug and the clothes he carried on his back, Ibn Battuta was able to only hope to get back on track with the ship that carried his crew.

The journey of Ibn Battuta continued, with a few narrow escapes and dramatically different fortunes. In the end, he discovered that his ship was taken over by a non-Muslim ruler in Sumatra. He decided to head to China nevertheless, but he was stopped at the Maldives which is an island group of 400 miles southwest of on the shores of India.

The Maldives, Ibn Battuta enjoyed the company of women more than normal. He usually was married to one woman at a moment and divorced her once his travels continued. Concubines were frequently also, bought or given as gifts. In the Maldives the Maldives, he was married to four women on the same island, which is the maximum allowed in Muslim law. He wrote in his travels:

It is very easy to marry in these islands due to the modest wedding dowries and the social benefits that women can offer… As the ships enter crew members, they marry. when they plan to leave, couples divorce. This is a form of marriage that is temporary. The women from these islands will never leave their homeland.

Then, Ibn Battuta continued on to China. Battuta’s account of China is just less than six percent of his narrative. It’s so vague and unclear that many scholars are skeptical that he traveled to China and think that he may have made up this part of his story. 

The author claims that he been to the north of Beijing however his account of the trip is less clear than the others, and maybe he went further north than Zaitun which is today Quanzhou. In any event He admits in his Travels that during his time in China the country he could not comprehend or accept many of the things he observed and it wasn’t part of his usual Dar al-Islam.

China was gorgeous, but it didn’t please me. However I was deeply disturbed considering the manner in which paganism prevailed in this nation. When I left my home, I observed several things that could be considered to be sinister. It was so frightened of me that I decided to stay in my home for the majority of my time and only left only when it was needed. In my time in China every time I met any Muslims I felt like I was getting to meet my family and close kin.

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He wrote his memoirs and his final years

Ibn Battuta returned home in 1349 to Tangier and visited the funeral of his mother who was taken away through the Black Death (plague) only two months prior to his return. (During the return trip, he found out from Damascus the fact that his father passed away 15 years before.) Ibn Battuta stayed in Tangier for a short time before leaving for North Africa, Spain, and West Africa (Mali).

He returned from his trip at the age of 1354, and was relocated in 1354 to Fez, Morocco, where the local sultan appointed an aspiring scholar of literature to document the experiences of Ibn Battuta. 

The scholar was required to translate the entire tale into literary form employing a form of Arabic writing referred to as the rihla that referred to the journey of a search for divinity. The two men worked together for two years together, with Ibn Battuta telling his story and writing notes about the event. Ibn Battuta possessed an extraordinary memory, however, he confused some details and dates.

The only thing we know about Ibn battuta’s story following the publication of his novel is that he served in the post of judge in one town or another. As he was not yet fifty when he ceased traveling it is believed that he may be married again and to have more children. His death was reported to have occurred in the year 1368, or perhaps 1369. the exact location of his death is unknown, as is the exact location of his burial site.

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A legacy from Ibn Battuta’s Travels

In contrast to the impact that The travels of Marco Polo on the European world, the narrative of Battuta’s travels only had a small influence in the Muslim world prior to it was the turn of the century. Although copies circulated before but the book was French and English academics who finally gave the Travels of Ibn Battuta the attention it deserved from all over the world.

How does the story of Ibn Battuta compare to Marco Polo’s? Each of them lived their lives by his own experience and shared a lot in common. Everyone was excited to discover new adventures, and each exercised amazing determination and determination to complete their journeys and come back to country of origin.

But there were many distinctions. Ibn Battuta was an educated social, cosmopolitan and lively high-class man who travelled within the familiar Muslim society, and met like-minded individuals wherever the journey took him. Polo is a trader not formalized, who was a traveler to foreign, strange culture,

 where he learnt different ways of dressing and speaking and being a person. Ibn Battuta told more about his life as well as the people he had met, and the importance of the roles he held. Marco Polo, on the other hand, was concentrated on providing accurate information regarding what he observed. We are fortunate to have two accounts of opposing intercontinental travelers over 600 years earlier.

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For More Discussion

What did Islam create a safe and comfortable space to Ibn Battuta to travel in? Please share your thoughts in the Questions Area below.

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