Ibn Battuta is one of the most famous travelers, not only on the Arab level, but also on the global one, both geographically and historically.

He set out from Tangier in the Maghreb and traveled to most of the countries of the ancient world at the time, recording his observations, impressions and experiences, which became important landmarks in serving the social, economic and political history of every place he visited and wrote about.

About his life and travels

Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Abdul Rahman bin Yusuf al-Lawati al-Tanji, known as Ibn Battuta, one of the greatest Muslim explorers in history, he visited many regions in more than 40 countries across the three continents of the ancient world, traveling more than 120 thousand kilometers.

His travels extended from the Far Maghreb to China, Malaysia, and the Philippines, a distance that no traveler had traveled before him, which made a prestigious university the size of Cambridge call him “the prince of Arab Muslim travellers.

Ibn Battuta was born in 703 AH, corresponding to 1304 AD, in the city of Tangier in northern Morocco, to a family from the Berber Luata tribe, whose roots go back to the Cyrenaica region in Libya.

The name "Ibn Battuta", according to some sources, is due to the fact that it was derived from the name of his mother, who was called Fatuma. It was the custom at that time for children to be called by the names of their mothers, and this name was distorted to the point that it became Battuta instead of Fatuma.

 

The importance of Ibn Battuta's travels


Ibn Battuta and his travel map

The travels of Ibn Battuta actually provided a clear model for the dialogue of civilizations in the Middle Ages, as the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta was able to provide us with an opportunity to live with other worlds that were far away from us after he enjoyed watching them and coexisting with them for nearly three decades, despite what seemed to be hindered by modern communication devices.

Ibn Battuta's journey, according to what the French orientalist Andre Michel says, was the greatest journey in the history of all humanity, given that it contained all the peculiarities that distinguish every nation of yesterday's world, which explains why the journey was translated into more than fifty languages, and that it entered every home in the world.      

In appreciation of this great traveler, his name was given, on the surface of the moon, to the ring structure located at the seventh degree of southern latitude and the fiftieth degree of eastern longitude, at the suggestion of a team of experts at the International Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, which had previously been celebrated in New York on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary since the establishment of the aforementioned conference.

His interest in music and singing

Although Ibn Battuta recorded the natural features of countries, their social customs, and their living conditions in every country he reached, but his attention was drawn to the conditions of the musical arts, so he did not overlook or ignore them, and his observations in this regard were a history of the arts of singing there.

This interest in Ibn Battuta is due to the fact that music was for him like the breath that moves through his body. Whenever he saw a musical instrument, regardless of its type, he followed its path because he saw it as a path that inevitably led to happiness, contentment, and harmony. In the past, they said: The believer is joyful.

         Ibn Battuta did not find any embarrassment in performing this precise description in order to feel the role of music in the course of government and the lives of peoples, as it is, as historians say, one of the slogans of the state, this is the same tradition followed by Al-Nasser, King of Egypt and the Levant, when he performed the Hajj rituals. 

If you are unable to hear your addressee through language, any language, then you must take another path of communication, for you will inevitably communicate.

This path is the path of music, these deaf and mute tools, with their harmony and consistency, and the beautiful voices that accompany them, speaking good words and beautiful talks, are what force your addressee to turn to you, surround you, and seek refuge at your door.

The man lived in Tangier, which was a point of connection and communication between Morocco and Europe for all antiques and parties, which had at its heart that high heritage that the countries of the Far Maghreb still know to this day, and it has to do with the music of Andalusia, which is found close to Morocco! This music, which among the common people bears the name “instrument” to distinguish it from rapture, which is limited to listening and singing without an instrument.     

in Egypt

He was impressed in Egypt by the way they recited the Qur’an with beautiful voices, which he considered a musical work, and the phenomenon of the Egyptians’ ingenuity in reciting the Holy Qur’an is known to the Egyptians to this day among all countries of the Arab and Islamic world.

Thus, Ibn Battuta proved that the wonderful performance of Egyptians in reciting the Holy Qur’an is an ancient Egyptian heritage and was not the product of modern times.

In this regard, he was impressed by the manifestations of joy that accompany the celebration of the pilgrim who goes to the holy places in the country of Hejaz. 

Levant

This was his situation as he passed through the Levant: Damascus, which filled his ears with melodious songs, to which souls almost flew with tenderness.

The country of Hejaz

 

Even when he went to the country of Hijaz, he was moved by the talk about the drums that the pilgrims used to hear every Friday night at the site where the people of Badr were martyred, he was struck by the legend of the “Mountain of Drums” because he was fond of the rhythm of drums and everything related to drums.

In Mecca, he heard about the custom of its people in the month of Rajab, when the Emir of Mecca appears flanked by music men who blow trumpets and beat large and small drums, notifying the arrival of the month of Rajab.

He used to forget that he was performing the Umrah rituals, so he followed the choir of drummers that were playing for the captain of the nobles appointed by the King of Iraq, as was the custom of delighting the audience with such clicks that had meanings and connotations.

Iraq

When he found himself in the camp of the Tatar Sultan Abu Sa`id Bahadur, King of Iraq, Arabs and Persians, he was charmed by the people of joy who joined the royal party on the occasion of the feast.

Each of the princes has his soldiers, his drums, and his banners. The veils and the people of the music come before the king, and they are about a hundred, wearing beautiful clothes, in front of the people of the music are ten knights wearing ten drums, and five of the knights have five drums, which are the liras or the ghetas. They beat those drums and blow, on the sernayat (a wind instrument), then they hold up, and ten of the people singing their part, and when they finish it, those drums and sernayat are beaten, then they hold up, and ten others sing their part, and so on until the ten shifts are completed.

These celebrations were one of the state's emblems, and this is the same tradition that was followed by King Al-Nasser, King of Egypt and the Levant, when he performed the Hajj (pilgrimage) rituals.

Yemen

As Ibn Battuta says, the people of Yemen were filled with joy during the date harvesting season on the days of Saturday, as a contribution to revitalizing the popular celebrations held on that occasion.

Somalia

He travels to Mogadishu and tells about the Sultan of the country, who has drums, trumpets, and cymbals in his hands... where everyone enjoys, every Friday, songs to get high with alongside their king.

Asia Minor

While Ibn Battuta was in Asia Minor when he learned about its sultans, its princes, and the customs of the “boys’ brotherhood” groups there, he was astonished when the hands began to guide him from one emirate to another, and from house to house, and the phenomenon that he recorded and could not protect himself from repeating was rapture and music in every space, where he found himself and his mood!

Quran recital

Recitation of the Qur’an has an attractive artistic performance that appeals to many, and this is what Ibn Battuta mentioned in his many travels.

He was influenced by the beautiful voices with which the Qur’an was recited, which moved souls, made hearts submit to them, and made their skins shiver, as he put it.

Ibn Battuta mentioned this when he visited Egypt and enjoyed reciting the Holy Qur’an from the mouths of Egyptians, and in the city of Konya, where the tomb of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, in an Arabic, Persian, and Turkish accent.

Sadness music

Ibn Battuta was surprised when he saw that music was also present on occasions of death, when it accompanied Indian women who burned themselves to mourn their husbands, and when he saw the drums and trumpets in the hands of the woman who was on her way to the flames, he fainted, and he was even more astonished when he heard that the singing and rapture continued three days before embarking on this horrific operation, which was part of some customs.

 

Ibn Battuta knew the traditions of death that took place in the world he knew, as they took place in an atmosphere of sadness and mourning and not in that noisy atmosphere with trumpets and drums where all the friends of the afflicted family were present, including Muslims..!

 The coexistence in India between different sects and religions was also something that Ibn Battuta was interested in recording and approving.

The rapture of palaces

Of course, Ibn Battuta did not forget what took place at the palace weddings in which he participated, he called him “the prince of singers,” Al-Tabrizi, who would be accompanied by troupes of male singers and female singers and dancers.

Thus, we hear that there are private institutions that supervise this musical framework and are summoned whenever necessary to increase the splendor of the picnic that takes place or is renewed, as we see when the Sultan goes out hunting in the company of princes and ministers.

Here too, the presence of the people of music, who occupy the rank of ceremonies, the rank of veils accompanying the Sultan, according to what we have read, the share of art was greater than the share of others.

Ibn Battuta saw the people of joy at the wedding of Prince Saif al-Din Ghada bin Muhanna, each one of them had a prayer rug (carpet) under his knee, whenever he heard the call to prayer, he stood up, performed ablution, and prayed.

Ibn Battuta provided us with important information about the history that linked India to its neighbor, China, when he described the huge gift that the King of China sent to the Sultan of India, during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), in order to obtain permission to build a temple on land that belonged to India, it has a “landmark” to which the people of China make pilgrimages.

In the context of this, Ibn Battuta talks about the lavish “huge gift” that the King of India gave to the Emperor of China, and that it was the best and most valuable, as it contained a hundred slave girls, between dancers and singers.

During his visit to Sumatra, which financed his trip to China and his return from it, he saw and heard the singing people who were brought by the Sultan to sing before him, they even brought horses draped in silk and adorned with golden anklets to dance to the singers’ tunes, just like what he saw while he was living in India.

In the country of Sudan, when he entered the palace of Al-Mansi (Sultan) Suleiman, where he also found people with drums and trumpets... he said:

 Their trumpets are made from the tusks of elephants, and some of their musical instruments are made of reeds and percussion.

conclusion

Thus, starting from his departure towards the countries of the East, passing through Egypt, the Two Holy shrines, and Iraq, to East Africa, to Uzbekistan, and Constantinople, to India, then China, until he concluded his journey by moving to the country of Sudan in West Africa.