Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ibn Battuta an imposter?

So thinks a German scholar as  reported here:

But just how credible is this report? In his epilogue, Ralf Elger writes that there are numerous indications that Ibn Battuta's travel account is not based on his own observations – for example in the case of descriptions of rulers who verifiably governed before or after Battuta's lifetime; there are also many inconsistencies in the geographical details.

Most notable are however the striking resemblances to various writings of his era, primarily to a pilgrimage account written by a certain Ahmad Ibn Jubayr. Pages of this work were either slightly reworked or copied word for word: "Many of Ibn Battuta's accounts do not provide us with his immediate travel impressions at all, but rather confront us with his skill as a plagiariser," says Elger.

In this context, Elger also has a plausible explanation for why Ibn Battuta repeatedly mentions the generosity he was shown by all the rulers he encountered.

Opportunist fabrications

"If you appreciate Ibn Battuta's account as an implicit demand for a sumptuous gift, then it is very easy to explain many of the passages," says Elger.

  "The reader may well have wondered how it could have been possible for an unknown traveller from Morocco to gain access to the world's leaders and be honoured as such by them. The correct answer is probably that these contacts were invented for this very purpose, to proffer himself to the Sultan of Fez."

The descriptions of his work as qadi can also be interpreted in this light: If I have served as a judge throughout the entire Islamic world, reads the message to the Sultan of Fez, then all the more at your behest in my homeland Morocco.

1 comment:

  1. Whoa! A Muslim John Mandeville! Sounds plausible.