Ibn Battuta Questions and Answers

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Explain the concept of "Dar al-Islam" based on Ibn Battuta's travels.

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The Dar al-Islam means the "abode of Islam," the part of the world where Islam is in the ascendant: that is, where Muslims are in the majority and where Islamic law and customs are observed. Ibn Battuta traveled in the middle of the fourteenth century, a period often regarded as a golden age for the Dar al-Islam. It may be that the ultimate purpose of his travels was to cover and map the Dar al-Islam as it existed in his day. His journeys may also be understood as a "rihlah" or "voyage of enlightenment." The rihlah was undertaken by scholars seeking greater knowledge of Islam through travel, observing different parts of the Dar al-Islam and exchanging knowledge (and books) with other scholars.

It is worth noting that Ibn Battuta traveled a few decades after Marco Polo, but whereas Marco Polo sought out the exotic and the unfamiliar, Ibn Battuta traveled principally within the Dar al-Islam and therefore found customs and practices familiar to him wherever he went. As with Marco Polo, one of the great controversies surrounding Ibn Battuta is whether he really visited China. Scholars who believe that he did point out that there were Muslim trading settlements in China in the fourteenth century, meaning that parts of China could be regarded as being within the Dar al-Islam.

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