Post-classical history

Ibn Jubayr (1145-1217)

Abu’l-Husayn Muhammad ibn Jubayr al-Kinānī was a Muslim Andalusian author of a travelogue that contains valuable insights into life in the Levant at the time of the crusades.

Ibn Jubayr, secretary of an Almohad governor of Granada, left his home during February 1183 on a penitential pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina. He traveled for more than two years, visiting the North African coast, Sicily, Alexandria, Cairo, and Jeddah. Having completed his pilgrimage, he proceeded to Kūfa, Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Tyre (mod. Soûr, Lebanon), and Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) and finally returned home on a Genoese ship through the straits of Messina.

Ibn Jubayr recorded his experiences in a diary known as al-Rihlah ( The Journey), a detailed and vivid mine of information on the demography, politics, sociology, navigation, and architecture of his age. It is told from the perspective of a devout Muslim who was also a keen observer of people and places. Ibn Jubayr’s impressions of his relatively short stay in the kingdom of Jerusalem (thirty-two days, of which thirteen were spent on a ship in the harbor of Acre) are frequently cited in modern works pertaining to Muslims under Frankish rule. Best known are the passages concerning the plight of Muslim war prisoners, the fair treatment of Muslim villagers in the region of Tibnin by Frankish lords, the efficient and civil port administration of the otherwise filthy Acre, the right of Muslims to worship in their mosques, the ambivalent description of Raymond III of Tripoli, and the eulogy of Saladin.

Despite Ibn Jubayr’s deep antagonism toward the Franks—whom he does not mention without adding curses, and regardless of his indignation with Muslims who chose to remain under their rule rather than emigrate to Muslim territory—he seems to have been a fair and rather evenhanded observer of Outremer.

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