The Remarkable Account of Ibn Fadlan . But the most important eyewitness account of the Rus is of Ahmed ibn Fadlan, a writer about whom little is known, but. Ibn Fadlan: An Arab Among the Vikings of RussiaOverviewIn , the Arab traveler Ahmad ibn Fadlan (fl. s) went on a diplomatic mission to what is now . Ahmad Ibn-Fadlan says: When а letter of al-Hasan son of Baltavar, the malik of Kipchaks, arrived to the ruler of the righteous al-Muktadir, in which he asked him .
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The tenth century is sometimes overlooked as an intellectual blip in human history- a dark age steeped in ignorance and superstition.
Scandinavia and Ibn Fadlan | Muslim Heritage
While this may well be true for Europe, it was not the case for the Islamic world. By now, Muslim territories stretched as far as Spain in the west, India in the east, and were expanding northwards into parts of modern day Russia.
The Abbasids had ruled from Baghdad for almost two centuries. Ffadlan their power was waning, resulting in the ascension of various regional dynasties, but culturally, the Islamic world was thriving. Baghdad, with its libraries and schools of translation, had been the intellectual centre of the world for more than a century.
Having recently converted to Islam, the king had requested that a religious scholar be sent in order to instruct the new converts on matters of faith. Little more is known about Ibn Fadlan, and less still would have been known had it not been for the journal he kept to chronicle his journey, leaving us with an invaluable historical document. His work is one of the earliest sources on ancient Russia and the first Arab account describing non-Muslims.
Ahmwd would he have known that centuries later his observations would place him as an important source in piecing together the early history of Russia and its people, about which there is still no clear consensus. Historians have long debated the identity of these Rus people, with Swedish Vikings, controversially, as one of the contenders.
Documenting their way of life, inb of his account contain lurid details regarding sexual practices and are shocking even for a modern reader. Regarding the use of slave girls by Rus men, he notes:. They are accompanied by beautiful slave girls for trading. One man will have intercourse with his slave girl while his companion looks on. Obn a group of them comes together to do this, each in front of the other.
Ibn Fadlan: An Arab Among the Vikings of Russia |
Describing in detail the funerary practice, which lasts for days and consists of various rituals, the important man is prepared for cremation, along-side one of his slave-girls who has volunteered to die with him.
Her lifeless body is then placed on the boat to be cremated alongside her master. In making observations that would no doubt have been shocking to a Muslim of his time and indeed most modern observershis tone is not condescending, and nor does he attempt to sensationalise his observations in writing. With his straightforward style, he leaves the reader with the impression that he is merely describing what he perceives as fact, rather than stating his own opinion.
Writing as an eye-witness, Ibn Fadlan is both scholarly and inquisitorial. Since he generally omits his own personal views, one can perhaps assume that the intended readers of his work were not the general public, but rather that his observations were for some sort of an official government record.
Ibn Fadlan: An Arab Among the Vikings of Russia
But even so, since the main amad for his journey to the region was to instruct the king of the Bulghars on matters of the Islamic faith, we can assume that he was a pious scholar of the religion.
As the first known Muslim account describing non-Muslims, his approach is particularly noteworthy. A History of the Arab Peoples: Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zara Choudhary and Sacred Footsteps with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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