A History of World Societies,
The Islamic World, ca 600-1400
Islamic civilization was the third
major tradition to evolve after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fourth
and fifth centuries. From the seventh through fifteenth centuries, it was
arguably the most dynamic and expansive culture in the world. Indeed, some
scholars have described it as the world's first truly global civilization.
Islamic society borrowed much from the Greek, Roman, Persian, and Indian traditions
and spread them as it extended its reach. In these Internet activities, you
will explore the life of Abu 'Abdallah Ibn Battuta, a Muslim traveler in the
fourteenth century, to better understand the impact of Islamic civilization
on the world.
- You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore
different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and
questions detailed in each activity.
- On many web sites you can increase the size of the images
by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine
fine details in photographs.
- Read "Individuals in Society: Abu 'Abdallah Ibn
Battuta (1304–1368) on page 265 in McKay, A History of World Societies
(Sixth Edition). Then go to IBN
BUTTUTA. Write a paragraph explaining who Ibn Battuta was, where he
lived, and what he did for a living. Pay close attention to his role as
a scholar (ulema) and judge (qadi).
- Go to Map
1 and Map
2. The first map shows the areas where Ibn Battuta traveled. The second
shows where Islam was the major, or a major, religion in the year 1300.
What do these two maps have in common? (Hint: Did Ibn Battuta travel to
areas where Islam was not a major religion, or did he stay within the Islamic
- Using these maps and others found in McKay, A History
of World Societies (Sixth Edition), locate the following cities: Cairo,
Jerusalem, Mecca, Mombasa, Delhi, Timbuktu, Granada, Tangiers, Bukhara,
Samarkand, Constantinople. Locate the following regions: West Africa, East
African coast, Indian subcontinent, the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, China,
Central Asian plains. Finally, locate the following bodies of water: Indian
Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, South China
Sea. Now print out Map
1 and label these locations.
Learn more about Ibn Battuta's travels
through the virtual tour below. Make sure to find the link at the bottom
of each page and click through to the next page. By the time you finish you
will have followed Ibn Battuta through his extensive journeys and learned
much about the cultures he encountered.
- Begin the tour with this introduction.
Review the map at the bottom of the page, and then click through to the
page concerning Ibn Battuta's trip to Morocco.
- After reviewing the links in Activity Three, list the
several factors that led to the spread of Islam in the centuries preceding
Ibn Battuta's life. Which do you think was most important?
- Review Map 9.2 on page 262 in McKay, A History
of World Societies (Sixth Edition). How did trade routes facilitate
Ibn Battuta's travels and the expansion of Islam?
- Go to Map
of the Trade Routes. Compare and contrast this map with the one in McKay.
Note that twelve hundred years separate them. Do these maps help put Ibn
Battuta's travels and the spread of Islam in a larger historical context?
Did any other religions spread over these trade routes before Islam? Review
Chapter 7, "East Asia Spread of Buddhism, CA 200 B.C.–A.D. 800."
Write a paragraph explaining your answer to these questions.
- Go to Travels
of Hsuan–Tsang — Buddhist Pilgrim of the Seventh Century. What similarities
are there between Hsuan–Tsang and Ibn Battuta? For example, where did they
travel? What was their purpose in these travels? How did they increase their
respective societies' knowledge of the world? Summarize your answer in a
- How do the travels of Ibn Battuta help explain
the Islamic concept of the umma? (See page 242 in McKay, A History
of World Societies [Sixth Edition].) How did this concept and other
traditions and institutions in the Islamic world facilitate his travels
and adventures? Write a paragraph explaining your answer.