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Alan Essam Henry the Navigator vs. Ibn Battuta

History is what has made our life. It is what we learn from. And it is what we all need in order to be better. We can study history for decades and centuries and still not having finished, and this is for one main and important reason which is that history is every moment in the life. No one can stop history from being important and significant because history covers every single subject in the life such as sports, music, art, love, geography, politics, and etc. Every one of us needs history, and each one of us should learn or know about history. In the field of navigation and traveling, which is mainly what I will talk about in this paper, we have seen great men such as Christopher Columbus and Magellan, the first one, discovered America and the latter, proved that the earth is round. Therefore, till now people and historians specifically talk about them because of one reason which is that the results of their travels and discoveries considered treasures left for us. In this paper I am going to compare between two of the most famous men in the history of discovering and traveling. And those men are Ibn Battuta and Prince Henry the Navigator. Those two are the first who should be mentioned in the field of navigation and travelling. Both Henry and Ibn Battuta came before Magellan and Columbus. And they both had different goals behind their hardworking. The first man I will talk about is Prince Henry the Navigator. Henry was the son of King John of Portugal (1383-1433 AD). Henry was born on March 4th , 1394 and died in 1460. He had two elder brothers: Edward the elder one who became the king after John’s death, Pedro who was a traveler who visited all the countries of Western Europe and fought with the Teutonic Knights against the heathen Prussians. Pedro brought to his country, Portugal, a great mass of


suggestive material, writings and oral. And what Pedro brought back was used for Henry’s first ocean voyages. Prince Henry, who is considered as the main figure of his county’s history, was a well respected man by people of his country and his family. He wanted to explore and discover for three main goals: finding a way which is round Africa to India, building an empire for his country, and lastly spreading the Christian faith by aiming an empire. Henry always thought about discovering and conquering other countries. He had a special interest in that. Henry was a man who spent most of his life in thinking of discovery, editing instruments, drawing maps, sending ships, and receiving messages from his captains. And he had spent more than forty years on that.

Henry’s interests in discovering, emerged after his first success in capturing Ceuta in 1415 AD, when he leads the army to occupy that city. And he maintained his connections with the city even after their occupation because he knew that it is very important for the conquerors to hold the place they occupy instead of destroying it. After that, Henry tried to accomplish three goals. Prince Henry’s first goal was to find a way around Africa to India. And this goal was really important for him because he wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible because he realized that knowledge has so much to give to humanity. He tried his best in order to find out the shape of the world. And by this he had only one goal, which was making men comfortable for being in their lives. And because mostly everything about the world (climate, seas, continents, and countries) was theoretical at that time, it was hard for Henry to find the way he wanted. But we have to know that he had helped humanity in trying to solve the question “was it possible to get round into the eastern ocean?” in spite of the terrible stories told by the Arabs,


and the proof of Florentine’s map (1351) that says there are little guesses about the shape of Africa, he had found men who would travel in the dark sea in the first years of the fifteen. Henry’s second goal was to bring greatness to Portugal. He wanted to serve Portugal and its people. His dream was make Portugal a sea empire. He always thought of the Indian trade as an element of making Portugal a sea empire. And for this reason, we can see the justification of his hard work in occupying Ceuta in 1415 AD. Henry knew the importance of the trade with India. He realized the importance of India because of the Great Rome’s work to get a trade line with India. Rome destroyed Palmyra, attacked the Arabs, held Egypt, and struggled in Mesopotamia for the Tigris. But there was one thing that Henry could not do which was traveling or navigating by sending the ships to the Middeterian Sea. And this was because of the political issues in the Middle East. Therefore, he understood that the only way to get to India was going round Africa. And so, he did his best to build ports on the shores of some countries in Africa such as Guinea. And the reason behind that was to build stations for the ships. These ports were used for two reasons: first, to make it easier for the ships to get supplied, second, to have ships from Portugal sailing for trade and business. Henry was from a royal family that was really influenced by Christianity. His father King John of Portugal was a very religious man and his last words were encouragement to spread the Christian faith in the world. From this, Henry put a third goal for himself to achieve which was to build a Christian empire in order to spear the Christian faith in the world. And the proof for that would be his dream to find the land of Prester John1 till his death in 1460 AD. Also,

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In the twelfth century, a mysterious letter began to circulate around Europe. It told of a magical kingdom in the East that was in danger of being overrun by infidels and barbarians. This letter was supposedly written by a king known as Prester John. Throughout the Middle Ages, the legend of Prester John sparked geographic exploration across Asia and Africa. The letter first surfaced in Europe as early as the 1160s, claiming to be from Prester (a corrupted form of the word Presbyter or Priest) John. There were over one-hundred different versions of the letter


Henry’s orders to his captains were not just to discover and trade but also to convert. When Henry thought about India, he also realized that too many people are there in India, so it would be a great thing for Christianity if Christians go there and speared the Christian faith. In short, Henry the Navigator was a man who had a great effect on the navigation in both Europe and Portugal. For the three reasons I mentioned above, Henry had established an institute in Sagres in the south of Portugal. The institute was a navigation institute. And the reasons behind building this institute was to teach the new generations of Portugal map making, instrument editing, and ship building. After the death of Henry, we can see the great role he had in the history of navigation. The proof would be the Bartolommeo Diaz, who was a navigator from Portugal born in 1450 AD and died in 1500 AD. Diaz was the first explorer that led the expedition to round the Cape of Hope in Africa. We have to know that Diaz used what Henry built in Africa. He took the advantage of the ports and the sea road that was built by Henry the Navigator. After Henry’s death, the institute of navigation continued to educate the lover of travelling and navigation. Navigation and travelling was really important in the Middle East. Too many countries especially Islamic ones cared about navigation. They wanted to expand Islam. And we can notice that with the navigation of Seville by Muslims from 711 AD to 1492 AD. There are some of Arab navigators and travelers such Hassan Al- Ameen, Ibn Battuta Sinbad, and Abdol-Latif Al Baghdadi. One of the most famous and important Arab travelers, is Ibn Battuta (Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta), who was born in Tanger, Morocco on February 25, 1304 AD and died in 1369. Ibn Battuta is considered as the most famous Arab traveler in history. His title is The

published over the following few centuries. Most often, the letter was addressed to Emanuel I, the Byzantine Emperor of Rome, though other editions were also often addressed to the Pope or the King of France.(www.Wikipedia.com)


Prince of the Arab Travelers. He travelled from his hometown Tanger to China and India visiting most Arabic and Islamic countries. He was so interested in traveling and learning about other countries and people. He traveled for twenty seven years. Ibn Battuta had three goals behind his long travel. The first goal that Ibn Battuta had was the annual pilgrimage of Hajj2 . He left his country in order to go to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He was a religious person who was interested in going to Hajj because it is one of the most important pillars in Islam. “I left my city Tanger on the fifth of Rajab3 going for Hajj, visiting the grave of Prophit Mohammad, and trying to learn the Islamic Shareaat4 .” Ibn battuta was born in a religious family. So, the idea of Islam and Hajj was already in his mind. He was a young man who had a great belief in God and Islam. He had traveled all the way from the north west of Africa to the city of Mecca. He was really amazed be the city of Mecca and that is obvious from his description of the city “It is a city located in a valley, surrounded by mountains; you cannot know how it looks like unless you go in the city. Vegetables and fruit are brought to Mecca from other places and cities such as Al Taeef, Nakhla Valley, and Batin Al Moor.” In his dairy, Ibn Battuta talks about what happens in Hajj. “In the first day of Thi El Haja5 , drums are beaten in times of praying; until the seventh day, the Sheikh talked about religious rituals and advices people to have better understanding of Islam. People

The Hajj (Arabic: ‫حج‬‎‎Ḥajj) is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah in the Arabic language).[1](Wikipedia.com) 2

The pilgrimage occurs from the 8th to 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and last month of the Islamic calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, eleven days shorter than the Gregorian calendar used in the Western world, the Gregorian date of the Hajj changes from year to year. Ihram is the name given to the special state in which Muslims live while on the pilgrimage. (Wikipedia.com) 3

Rajab is the seventh month of the Islamic Calendar. Islamic Sharreaate is the Science of Islam that cares about rules, and rituals in the Islamic religion. 5 Thi El Haja is the month in which Muslims go to Hajj. 4


from Iraq, Egypt, and religious scientists light candles for the holy ceremony.” Ibn Battuta also mentioned how people react in Hajj, people all over the world come and they are really happy for being there in Mecca. When Ibn Battua went to Mecca, he was amazed by the Kaaba6 . Ibn Battua said that the Kaaba is a big rock that is covered with black silk cloth. Ibn Battuta also mentioned the phrase that is written on the top of the cloth, “God made the Kaaba a forbidden city standing here.” Ibn Battua in short was hahppy for accomplishing his first goal. Hajj was so important for Muslims that made Ibn Battuat travel thousands of miles just to get there. Ibn Battuta’s second goal was to learn about Islamic Sharreaate. As young man, he had learned some in his city Tanger. But he wanted to learn more and more because he was so interested in Islam. In his dairy, he talked about some Muslim religious people such as Shams Al Dein Ben Mohammad Al Salem Al Ghazi, Shahab Al dein Al Tairy, and Abo AbdulAlah Mohamed Al Gharnatte in Jerusalem. Also he mentions the Sheikhs in Mosque of Damascus such as Jalal Al Dein Mohammad.he stays there for a while in Damascus. Besides, he talks about lectures and classes in this Mosque. Children are taught in the classes and all people who would like to learn more about Islam. Ibn Battuta mentions names of some teachers at the mosque such as Borhan Al Dein Al Shaffeaae and Noor Al Dein Abo Al Yousr. Ibn Battuta also visited some other Islamic countries such as Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and etc. he goes to visit all big mosques and smart religious men in order to learn more about Islam, for instance, he visited Imad al Dein Al Nabilsi in Jerusalem . As we all know Prophet Mohammad is loved and admired not by Muslims but also by Christians and Jews. Many Muslims dream to go and visit his grave in Saudi Arabia. One of those Muslims was Ibn Battuta. His third goal was just to visit the grave of Prophet Mohammad. The grave is located in Al Maddena Al Monawara, Saudi Arabia. Ibn Battua talked about the

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Kaaba is the black rock. When Muslims want to pray, they have to face the direction in which the holy rock is located.


mosque where the grave is located very well in his dairy. “The mosque has a rectangular shape, and it is surrounded by paved rocked roads from all directions. People come to the holy place to visit the graves of Mohammed, Abo Baker (Mohammad’s friend), and Omer Ben Khatab (Mohammad’s friend). In conclusion the prince of Arab travelers was a religious person, who had one dream which was learning more and more about Islam. Therefore, we can justify his shock when he saw people of India and China worshiping animals and nonliving things. Besides he was shocked when he knew that the people in India burn the body of the dead person. On the other hand, he was amazed by knowing that there are Muslims in China, and they have been respected by Chinese people. There is one thing to bear in mind. There are Arab scholars that say Ibn Battuta had lied about some information he wrote in his dairy, and they justify their allege by saying that he wrote his dairy after finishing his travel which lasts for twenty seven years. In the summary, Henry the Navigator was man who cared about discovering for three intrinsic reasons: making Portugal a great country, expanding Christianity, and building trade roots with India. Whereas Ibn Battua cared about travelling for three main reasons: going to Hajj, learning about Islamic Sharreaate, and visiting the grave of Prophet Mohammad. There is one thing that we all should know, which is that Henry did not travel a lot. He just sat on his desk and sent ships into the sea to discover. Ibn Battuta is completely the opposite of Henry. He did travel from a country to country crossing miles and miles.

Henry the navigator and Ibn Batuta  

history of navigation

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