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Monidaya in Andalusia!


The history of Islamic Spain is rather underrated that we decided to take on this topic to not only enlighten ourselves, but to also teach our readers through our unique way of sharing what we’ve we learned. As we researched Al-Andalus (aka Islamic Spain), we were fascinated by the overwhelming vibrancy of its architectural design, and its religious and political significance during the time.  The purpose of our project is to find out how art reflected the time of Islamic Spain, specifically how they translated Islam into something tangible, particularly architecture. 

Consequently, we were particularly interested in the elements that make a mosque, palace, and a church and how architecture could relate to and represent religious beliefs. It intrigued us that a mosque could also be a cathedral, such as the one in Cordoba. It is important to note that after the fall of Islamic Spain, the Christians continued to preserve Islamic architecture, and even adopted Moorish and Mudejar styles. We will take our audience on a visual trip through different time periods of Islamic kingdoms of Al-Andalus. We will analyze the Aljaferia Palace in Zaragoza, one of the Taifa kingdoms; the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, during the Umayyad caliphate; the Alcazar of Seville; and lastly, the Alhambra palace in Granada, from the Nasrid Kingdom. Despite the differences in beliefs, the people of Spain believed in the adaptation of artistic styles from diverse groups of people, which eventually lead to the Spain that everyone visits for the purpose of its rich history. Appreciation for these styles, groups of people, and its relevance to the present day is a key factor in our project. 

We chose Instagram because it is a multi-purpose social media platform. Having a collective interest in photography, we wanted it to be a relatable experience, whereby our explorer, Monidaya, is documenting the places in what was once in Islamic Spain. We were inspired by travel bloggers who documented every part of their trip to provide background knowledge, making us yearn to wander to such exotic places and delve further into the history of the location. Lastly, Islamic Spain is rich in arts and culture that Instagram is the easiest platform to share the aesthetically pleasing pictures as well as to relay historical context without losing our focus. The individual posts allow us to group our topics specifically for further appreciation and understanding of our context.

The architecture in Al-Andalus is vital in today’s context because it shows how a historic time can continue to exist without the maintenance of the society that once lived there. Overall, the architectures carried political and religious significance, reflecting diverse craftsmanship and cultural influences during the time. It continues to be influential and aesthetically acclaimed around the world, and continues to leave a legacy of Islam and its influence. We concluded that art is a universal language in expressing religious beliefs that a person from a different culture or time period, could understand and appreciate.

Here is the link to our architecture of Islamic Spain Instagram page! Enjoy! :)

Post 1: Intro Monidaya the explorer

Post 2: History of Al-Andalus

Post 3: History of Aljaferia Palace

Post 4: Majlis in the Aljaferia Palace

Post 5: Mudejar Style with the Aljaferia Palace as reference

Post 6: History of Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Post 7: The Mihrab of Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Post 8: The Prayer Hall of Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba 

Post 9: The transition from mosque to cathedral of Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Post 10: Alcazar of Seville (Mudejar Style)

Post 11: Moorish style with Alcazar of Seville as reference

Post 12: Alhambra introduction

Post 13: Hall of Ambassadors in Alhambra

Post 14: Ceiling of Hall of Ambassadors in Alhambra

Post 15: Adieu, Al-Andalus/Spain


Alhambra Valparaiso Ocio y Cultura S.L. - (n.d.). History of the Mosque.

Centre, UNESCO. "Mudejar Architecture Of Aragon". N.p., 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Department of Islamic Art. “The Art of the Umayyad Period in Spain (711–1031).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000

GHAZANFAR,S.M., March 2004, Spain’s Islamic Legacy : A Muslim Travelogue

Gonzales, Valerie. “Beauty and Islam” (2001). Proquest Ebook Central.

Hall of Ambassadors.  From Alhambra De Granada. Accessed 1 April 2017

Harvey L.P.,“Islamic Spain. 1250 to 1500.” , 1990, Google Books. 

Hogendijk, Jan P. “Al-Mu'taman ibn Hūd, 11th century king of Saragossa and brilliant mathematician” (February 1995) Historia Matematica.

Le Hoang Long, Vincent. "Royal Alcázar Of Seville, Spain – A World Heritage Site". Culture Magazine 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Robinson, Cynthia Pinet,, Simon. Courting the Alhambra (2008). Proquest Ebook Central.

Robinson, C. “THE ALJAFERÍA IN SARAGOSSA AND TAIFA SPACES” (2000) Cambridge University Press.

Robinson, C. (1997). Seeing Paradise: Metaphor and Vision in taifa Palace Architecture. Gesta,36(2), 145-155.

Ruggles, D. Fairchild. "The Alcazar Of Seville And Mudejar Architecture". The University of Chicago Press Journals 43.2 (2004): 87-98. Print.

The Art of the Nasrid Period (1232-1492).” From Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Accessed 1 April 2017.

Vallaure, Sandra. "The Royal Alcazar: Spain's Oldest Palace - Seville Traveller". Seville Traveller. N.p., 2017. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

Watson, Fiona Flores. "Seville's Most Beautiful Palace: The Alcazar Real of Seville". The Spain Scoop. 

W. Montegomery Watt & Pierre Cachia, “A History of Islamic Spain” , 1965, Google books. 


Media Credits:

Post 1:

Monika Burton Pangilinan

Post 2: Alexandre Vigo, "Al_Andalus & Christian Kingdoms" , 23rd December 2013, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Post 3: Juanedc, Palacio de la Aljaferia, 10 January 2009, Creative Commons.

Post 4: Escarlati, Patio de Santa Isabel, 15 July 2006, Public Domain.

Post 5: 

Escarlati, Estancias testero norte aljaferia, 14 July 2006, Public Domain.

Escarlati, Techumbre palacio reyes catolicos aljaferia, 15 July 2006, Public Domain.

Post 6: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas/ Córdoba, Spain: Mosque of Córdoba/ 19 February 2010/ Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

Post 7: Michael Cohen, Mihrab of Mosque of Córdoba Spain, 14 July 2008, Creative Commons.

Post 8: Jim Gordon, Mezquita de Córdoba, España, 30 October 2007, Creative Commons.

Post 9:

Jan Seifart, Coro de la Mezquita de Córdoba, 26 November 2012, CC BY 2.0.

Michal Osmenda, Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba, 8 April 2012, CC BY 2.0.

Post 10:
Michal Osmenda, Alcazar of Seville, 2012, Wikimedia Commons

Unknown, Alcazar Palace in Seville, Euro Scenes, Labeled for Reuse

Unknown, Seville Garden Spain Walkway, Maxpixel, Public Domain

Unknown, Alcazar Water Supply, Maxpixel, Public Domain

Post 11:
Unknown, Royal Alcazar of Seville, Culturemagazin, Public Domain

Unknown, Moorish ceramic tiles in Royal Alcázar of Seville, Culturemagazin, Public Domain

Mstyslav Chernov, Moorish Palace Arches in the Alcazar in Seville, 2008, Wikimedia Commons

Michal Osmenda, Alcazar of Seville, 2012, Wikimedia Commons

Post 12:

Bernjan, View of the Alhambra,1 August 2006, CC BY-SA 2.0

Tuxyso, Court of the Lions of Alhambra,10 March 2014, CC BY-SA 3.0

Post 13:

Eva Maryskova, The Alhambra’s Hall of Ambassadors,9 February 2013, Public Domain

Jan Zeschy, Alhambra Granada,1 September 2006,. CC BY-NC 2.0

Micheal Clarke, Serallo 15 ,2 March 2010, CC BY-SA 2.0

Post 14:

José Luiz, Ceiling of Hall of Ambassadors, 3 February 2013, CC BY-SA 3.0

Post 15: 
Sarah Loetscher, Via Pixabay, Public Domain


An Open Letter to My Sisters in Islam: From Khadijah (R.A)

An Open Letter to My Sisters in Islam: From Khadijah (R.A)

Even with the death of Khadijah, the prophet Muhammad still spoke highly of her, as though she was still in his presence. It was said that Muhammad was in such a depressive state and grief because two of his closest companions passed away in the same year, one of it being Khadijah and the other was his uncle Abi Talib, who has been the prophet’s greatest supporter and protector even though the man himself was not a Muslim (Ghadanfar, 29). However, the prophet has to continue living his life and most importantly fulfil his honourable duty of being the Messenger of God, despite his bereavement. He remarried and even had several wives after – although his marriage with Khadijah remained monogamous for 25 years.

The prophet’s third, and what some scholars have referred to as his most favourite wife, would be green with envy whenever the prophet mentions Khadijah and that she never experienced such a feeling of natural feminine jealousy for any other wife of the prophet as she did for Khadijah (Ghadanfar, 30).  Aisyah also narrates that whenever the prophet would speak of Khadijah he would talk about her in great lengths, praise her qualities and pray for her forgiveness. Truly, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid has a special place in the prophet’s heart.

Khadijah’s qualities and demeanour is no doubt an ideal role model for every humankind. Even today, she would be a prime example that women in Islam are not as oppressive as what society think it is. She was a successful businesswoman and a caring and supportive wife and mother at that. Besides, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid defied every female stereotype by asking for the prophet’s hand, instead of waiting for him to do so. Aisyah need not be jealous, instead, Khadijah serves as a role model not only to women in that era but also to us right now, in the 21st century. 

Daddy's Little Princess ♛

“There’s no way I’m leaving the kingdom behind to my inadequate, lust-driven sons when I have my valiant daughter to take over!”
— Or at least, that’s what we imagine Iltutmish said as he left behind the fate of his entire kingdom to his daughter, Raziya al-Din. 


Politics has always been a complex affair bent to favour sons over daughters. Some brave women, however, ceased every opportunity presented to change the course of their fate. Among the tales of these inspirational women is the story of Razia Sultana, the first female ruler of India, whose father left responsible for an entire kingdom. Her history is worth noting because even in present day India, most women have to work twice as hard to assert their vision and virtuosity to get the same recognition their male counterparts receive.  Jalâlat-ud-Dîn Raziyâ might have only ruled Delhi for three and a half years but she made an impact, and that impact began with proving her competence to her father. Muslim women in India during this period (1211–1240 CE) were not even encouraged to share their opinions, and there she was, a Muslim woman, taking the reigns of an entire Dynasty. Razia Sultana was an influential ruler in the Mamluk Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate who challenged the conventional roles of a Muslim woman. She did so through her public presentation, engagement in warfare and interactions with councilmen.

S. (2015, October 4). [Real Image of RAZIA SULTAN]. Retrieved from Public Domain License 

S. (2015, October 4). [Real Image of RAZIA SULTAN]. Retrieved from Public Domain License 

Public Presentation

Razia was particular about her public presentation that heavily relied on projecting a masculine image of herself during her reign in order gain acceptance as a female ruler amongst the otherwise male-dominated royalty. She chose to dress herself as a man and used political propaganda, like many male rulers of her time, by issuing coins that glorified her.


Instead of being dressed in a customary veil, Razia ‘cross-dressed’. She wore traditional male clothing such as the tunic called the ‘ Kuva’ and the headdress called the ‘Kulah’. This decision of hers appalled the conservative Muslim society in Delhi as women were not accustomed to abandoning the veil, let alone dressing in male attire. Reportedly, there were two speculations as to why Razia adopted the male dress code.


The first speculation stated that during her childhood and adolescence, Razia did not have much exposure to the social norms of women in the Muslim society as she had limited interactions with the women of the harem at her father’s palace. This perhaps made Razia unaware of how females were required to conduct themselves and what garments they were required to don. Hence, she might have been more susceptible to the male dress code due to the lack of knowledge to abide by the stipulated dress code for women.


Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

The second speculation claimed that in a bid to overcome the public’s reluctance to accept a female Sultan, Razia turned to male garb to justify her status as a capable ruler (p 49-51). Perhaps, such associations with traditional masculine imagery like the Kuva and Kulah could be a political tactic that Razia employed to give her subjects the impression that she was man-like and hence possessed the qualities and skills of a man, legitimizing her reign in the process. She might have  hoped to ease a shift in her subjects’ focus from her gender to how she ruled the empire as a Sultan, eventually leading them to accept her reign.


Out of the two speculations, the first one is argued to be an odd one. While most of the evidences claimed that Razia dressed up as a man to legitimize her rule, only this theory seemed to be contradictory, as it claimed that the lack of interaction with the womenfolk might be the reason for Razia to crossdress. Razia is known to be a hard-headed woman with great interest in political issues; hence it is more probable that she might have crossdressed as part of her political agenda to earn acceptance from her subjects.


To further distinguish herself as a ruler, Razia issued silver coins during her short reign and named the coins after her- referring to herself as , al-soltān al-moʿazzam which translates to the great Sultan( p 53). By addressing herself as a ‘Sultan’, which is a masculine connotation for ruler, Razia appeared to make full use of her male facade in order to make a statement: that she is powerful and capable, just like a man. Indeed, she penetrated into the daily lives of her subjects, asserting her masculine status, via her coinage system.


Razia, was one of the few female royalties who conducted themselves in a masculine manner in order to gain acceptance as a female ruling in the midst of their respective patriarchal societies. With respect to public portrayal, Razia is similar to Egypt’s Queen Hatshepsut who authorized her reign by illustrating herself as a masculine figure. The absence of a female equivalent to ‘Pharaoh’ did not deter Hatshepsut from depicting her feminine power, although under the guise of a man.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Engagement in Warfare

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha. 

A great ruler ideally possess a varied set of skills. The most successful rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were known for their extraordinary mastery of battle. And Razia of course, was no exception. She was highly trained and a fearless warrior. She rode into battle along with her men to seize new territories and reinforce her empire, earning the respect that any exceptional general, would receive. She was the only woman to be allowed to go to war in India, during this period. Not only did she place herself among male soldiers but she also donned the same attire as any other soldier, which was seen as being disrespectful to the Islamic culture of the time. Razia, through both her mastery and controversy made a great impression with respect to warfare. The  poet and historian Amir Khusrow wrote in the fourteenth century about Razia on the battlefield (p 105):

For several months, her face was veiled

Her sword’s ray flashed, lightening-like, from behind the screen

Since the sword remained in the sheaths,

Many rebellions were left unchecked,

With a royal blow, she tore away the veil,

She showed her face’s sun from behind the screen

The lioness showed so much force

That brave men bent low before her.

Another aspect related to Razia’s public portrayal is that she insisted that she be addressed as ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Sultana’ as the latter means wife of a ruler, a title which she might not have preferred. Razia might have felt that calling herself or letting others refer to her as Sultana might be a hindrance to her reign, especially since a Sultana may not partake in war. This concern of how she must be addressed sheds light not only on how female royalty needed to identify themselves as male in order to gain acceptance as a ruler and warrior; it also showed the prevalence of gender inequality amongst the Muslim community in medieval India. Razia not only had to fight in battles for her empire but also constantly defend her claim to the throne.

Fall of Tripoli [The fall of Tripoli to the Mamluks, April 1289.]. (2007, December 15). Retrieved from Public Domain License.

Fall of Tripoli [The fall of Tripoli to the Mamluks, April 1289.]. (2007, December 15). Retrieved from Public Domain License.

Interactions with Councilmen

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

In addition to being a great warrior, Razia proved to be an excellent administrator, despite being surrounded primarily by male councilmen. She appeared to be a resourceful leader as she implemented rules and regulations for the benefit of her empire.  She communicated with the various leaders of her community to improve the infrastructure of her province as a mean to enhance business, construct drainage systems and establish educational institutions such as schools and public libraries. Furthermore, Razia showed interest in the arts and culture scene by supporting talented artists, musicians and lyricists, hence proving herself as a holistic ruler who showed interest in different aspects of society. This clearly shows that in order to engage in such community projects, Razia needed to forge good ties with the council leaders who were predominantly men and based on the number of successful organisations Razia had set up, the resourceful Sultan has indeed projected her influence upon the councilmen despite her gender difference.


Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014).  Sultana Razia: Empress of India  (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Waeerkar, R., & Pai, A. (2014). Sultana Razia: Empress of India (Vol. 725). Mumbai: Amar Chitra Katha.

Although Razia was respected by many of her subjects, there were councilmen who opposed her, such as the Turkish nobles, as they were unable to accept a female ruler, despite her efficiency. Conspiracies were constructed by these nobles to dethrone Razia and despite fighting courageously,  Razia eventually lost her throne, before meeting her tragic end.


Our world today consists of influential women, such as Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Indra Nooyi and more. All of these women are bold and daring and have a great set of leadership skills just like Raiza.

Razia was indeed a woman who defied conventions and restrictions associated with her religion in India. She was headstrong and brave enough to crossdress, fight in battles and interact with male council members, all of which were forbidden for Muslim women to do during that period. She contributed significantly to the Mamluk Dynasty, never seeing her gender as a weakness. Razia represented her father’s last hope of maintaining the glory of the Delhi Sultanate, and she did it, ever so dutifully. Razia was indeed her daddy’s little princess.


Who runs the world? Girls!
— Beyoncé


Aimectimes. “The Historic Reign of Razia Sultana.” (2013) From Jaipur Tourism. Accessed 19 January 2017.  

Dimitrova, Diana. “The Other in South Asian Religion, Literature and Film: Perspectives on Otherism and Otherness.” (2014) Google Books.

Gabbay, Alyssa. “ In Reality a Man: Sultan Iltutmish, His Daughter, Raziya, and Gender Ambiguity in Thirteenth Century Northern India.”  (2011) Journal of Persianate Studies, Vol. 4 Issue 1: 45-63

Laneri, Raquel. “Power Dressing: Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel And The Way Women Leaders Dress For Success.” (2011) From Forbes. Accessed 19 March 2017.

Nakhwal, Gurmeet. “Razia Sultan-The Great Monarch.” Accessed 19 March 2017.

Sonali. “ Sultana Razia (1236-1240): Contribution towards the Delhi Sultanate.”  From  Accessed 19 March 2017.

Rai, U. K., & Srivastava, D.  "Women Executives and the Glass Ceiling: Myths and Mysteries from Razia Sultana to Hillary Clinton." (2013) BHU Management Review, Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University, Vol, 1, Issue – 2: 79 - 83

Yarde, Lisa J. “Women Who Ruled: Razia Sultana of India.” (2012) From History and women. Accessed 19 March 2017.

Zubaan, Avani. “ Razia Sultana.” From Google Arts and Culture. Accessed 19 January 2017.

“Razia Facts.” From Encyclopedia of World Biography. Accessed 19 March 2017.

“ Razia Sultana Biography.” From The Famous People. Accessed 19 March 2017.

“Razia Sultan was far better than her brothers.” (2017) From The Sunday Guardian. Accessed 19 March 2017.





The Bloody Divide

The Bloody Divide

Ali’s caliphate is a significant era to the Islamic civilisation, because not only it witnessed the first ever civil war between Muslims, but also it was deemed as the fall of the Ar-Rashidun caliphate as things got more chaotic and out of hand (Ahmad Al-Jufri & Ahmad, 131). Since then, this created the division of the Muslim society into the Sunni and Shi'a sects, which is the result of a causal chain of conflicts you will see below. Strap yourselves in for the bumpy ride ahead!

Early Islamic Art

Early Islamic Art

For today's post, we'll be going back to c. 7th Century CE (601 - 700 CE) to uncover some bits of history of Islamic art, as you might have guessed from the title above. Now, this type of art has a lot of categories, and one way that historians have come to classify Islamic art is by grouping them according to the dynasties that reigned during the period of time when the works of art were produced. This included two main dynasties: the Umayyad Dynasty and the 'Abbasid Dynasty. First of all, it is important to note that these dynasties were a result of conquered lands that already had an existing culture and therefore, art.

Swa-hee-lee Culture

Jambo dear readers! For post 3, I have created a Pinterest board to showcase the Swahili culture in the East African region. The Pinterest board is aimed to demonstrate how foreign traders had an influence on Swahili culture. Images are used to illustrate the various elements and history of Swahili culture.

Swahili (swah-hee-lee) culture is the culture representing the people of East Africa from Kenya to southern Somalia to Mozambique and Tanzania. Swahili could also be referred to as the language is largely spoken and used by people of this region. Many see Swahili culture that has been immensely shaped by their fellow traders on the Swahili Coast from the Arabian Peninsula, India, and even Portugal. Foreign traders have great influence over architecture, clothing, music and religious beliefs.

Fun fact! Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan explorer, whom I talked about in post 2 had actually visited the town of Kilwa before exploring Sofala. These are the trading cities along the Swahili coast.

You can view the images and descriptions by clicking the link below:


Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies African Studies Center, The Indian Ocean Trade: A classroom simulation, 1993,

Esha Faki1, E. M. Kasiera and O. M. J. Nandi, The belief and practice of divination among the Swahili Muslims in Mombasa district, Kenya, November 2010,

Henry Louis Gates Jr,

Jacqueline M. Kiraithea and Nancy T. Badenb, Portugues influences in East African Languages,  19 January 2007,

James De Vere Allen, Swahili Origins: Swahili Culture and the Shungwaya Phenomenon, 1993,

Karen Tranberg Hansen and D. Soyini Madison, African Dress: Fashion, Agency, Performance, 29 August 2013,

Liam Matthew Brockey, Portuguese Colonial Cities in the Early Modern World, 2008,

Maina Kiarie, Swahili and Arab Peoples,

Mariah Nene, Taarab music: a coastal music with flair, 3 July 2015,

Mwenda Ntarangwi, A Socio-Historical and Contextual Analysis of Popular Musical Performance Among the Swahili of Mombasa, Kenya, 2001

Phyllis Ressler, The Kanga, A Cloth That Reveals- Co-production of Culture in Africa and the Indian Ocean Region, 9 January 2012,

Sangai Mohochi and Yusuf Hamad,

Taarab Music, 11 January 2012,

University of Iowa,

Proquest,”This is Traditional, this is Not Islamic": Perceiving Some Swahili Childbirth and Child-rearing Beliefs and Practices in Light of Mila (custom) and Dini (religion)., 2007, 

Wanderluster of the Past - Ibn Battuta

Who is Ibn Battuta?

Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta

On 2nd Rajab 725 A.H. or 14th June 1325 BCE, Ibn Battuta left both his home and parents at age 21 to make his way to Mecca for the pilgrimage of Hajj. He was a Muslim traveler and explorer from Tangier, Morocco (before being a name of a luxury shopping mall in Dubai). His travels that covered over 117,000km which is equivalent to 44 modern countries such as North Africa to China and even Southeast Asia for a period of 30 years. This easily surpassed that of his predecessor, Marco Polo. He traveled mostly by land, meeting over 60 heads of states, taking up various jobs from a Qadi or judge to advisors for a dozen heads of states. This was all recorded in the Rihla which is a recording of his journey.

"I set out alone, having neither fellow-traveler in whose companionship I might find cheer, nor caravan whose party I might join, but swayed by an overmastering impulse within me, and a desire long-cherished in my bosom to visit these illustrious sanctuaries [of Makkah and Madinah]. So I braced my resolution to quit all my dear ones...and forsook my home as birds forsake their nests. My parents being yet in the bonds of life, it weighed sorely upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted-with sorrow at this separation.” - Ibn Battuta

You might wonder how he was able to embark on such a journey especially living in a time of uncertainty and at a tender age of 21 without his parents. Even though he traveled to Muslim and non-Muslim territories, why does being a Muslim help create a comfortable environment for Ibn Battuta’s adventures?

Muslim Brotherhood, 'Ummah

First and foremost, Ibn Battuta started his journey started with a pilgrimage to Mecca for Hajj. Since he was a pilgrim, he received many alms from people he encountered when he traveled. Giving alms to those who were making their way to the Holy city of Mecca was customary and they would be viewed righteous and favorable in the eyes of god. Also, Muslims believed in the concept of ‘ummah where it emphasizes on the brotherhood among believers that goes beyond race and tribe which is a factor that helps strengthen the unity among Muslims. Hence, Ibn Battuta was well taken care of by his fellow Muslims with the understanding of taking care of each other on their spiritual journey.

Stability of religion

Moreover, Islam was the predominant religion in the Dar al-Islam (World of Islam) territory. The stability of a single religion in the region with common laws and regulations allowed for joint ventures and common understanding of one another. Ibn Battuta mostly traveled to territories with a Muslim government since Muslim traders had expanded their business to areas such as China and Indonesia which catalyst in setting up Muslim communities abroad and expanding the ideologies of Islam. Thus, this ensured that he was almost never alone during his travels as he often joined local caravans and traveled in groups which allowed him to benefit from the kindness of fellow Muslim travelers or pilgrims. Also, he traveled mostly by land, stability provided by Islam provided a safe environment for him to travel as it allows him to easily assimilate with the locals he encounters on his travels. He would usually join caravans with fellow Muslims during his travels and therefore, this secured his safety since in numbers during his travel.

MUSLIM scholar

As a Muslim and an Islamic scholar, he was well versed in Arabic and had a vast knowledge of the Quran, he would usually recite the Quran whenever he faced adversity during his travels as recorded in the Rihla. It was stated that he had read the Quran aloud in a day when he is in need to strengthen his moral beliefs. This gave him strength spiritually that allowed him to traveled as vastly as he did since it provided comfort in times of distress. As an Islamic scholar, he was given modest meals and free accommodation in madrasahs(a college for Islamic studies) or he could seek shelter in mosques that are widely found all over Dar al-Islam. This emphasizes how his faith provided him an ideal environment to carry out his travels and the kindness and charity of his fellow Muslim around ensured that he is constantly taken care of wherever he went.

All in all, Ibn Battuta’s beliefs as a Muslim aided him in his journey across 44 countries as it provided him support in terms of food and accommodation, provided him safety while traveling and spiritual strength to overcome adversity. Essentially, he was able to fulfill his wanderlust with the help of his beliefs and his brotherhood around the world.

Women in Islam.

Women play a major role in the development of any civilisation. An important aspect of Islam too is women, however, they are portrayed in such bad light. This post is mainly written to shine light on how its not just some sects of Islam that treat women shabbily. Its sects of every religion and country in the world. For example, for the status of the Indian woman, Encyclopedia Britannica states: In India, subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is descent traced through males to the exclusion of females. In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: “a woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband.”

Women are crucial for civilizations to advance, and this holds true for Islamic societies and civilizations as well. Yet, women in Islam are usually shown in a negative way. Not only in Islam, but also in other religions and societies, women are sometimes treated and represented poorly. In India, for instance, women were often shown as hopeless and subjected to the wishes of their "protectors" instead of independent and self-reliant. Inheritance, too, was handed down through males while females were left out.

In Athens, women were not better off than either the Indian or the Roman women.

Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male – to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin.

Her consent in marriage was not generally thought to be necessary and “she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her husband and her lord, even though he were stranger to her.”

Another example is of women in Greece. Athenian women were also treated like subjects to male family members such as brothers or fathers. They often did not have a say in their own marriage, and had to give in to the wished of their parents and marry whoever they wanted her to, regardless of whether the man was a stranger or not.

A Roman wife was described by an historian as: “a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband.”

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, we find a summary of the legal status of women in the Roman civilization:

In Roman Law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband… the wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office, could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract. Among the Scandinavian races women were: under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. As late as the Code of Christian V, at the end of the 17th Century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life.

Historians describe women in Rome too as "babes", "minors" or "wards" who were under the custody and of their husbands, unable to decide or do anything for themselves.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica summarizes how women were treated by Roman Law by stating that they were fully reliant on their husbands, to the point that their property was also passed into charge of the husbands. They could not hold office or govern in any way, nor could they testify as witnesses, nor could they hold positions as tutors or curators. Apart from such public services and posts, they could not even choose to adopt or write their own wills. The Encyclopaedia also mentions that Scandinavian women, regardless of their marital status, were always under guardianship. If a woman decided to get married without the consent of her guardian, she would face dire consequences.

According to the English Common Law:

…all real property which a wife held at the time of a marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband’s transferring real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife’s personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit.

The English Common Law is another instance of the same thing that all the examples above illustrate. It states that when a woman got married, all property she owned would go into ownership or control of her husband. If she owned property that brought in money, he would have all rights over that income as well. Over time, the court put into place rules that prevented husbands from handing over property without consent of their wives, but they still had the right to the income it brought in.

Contradictory to most of these, Islam actually provided with a number of rules that respected women.

The Quran clearly indicates that marriage is sharing between the two halves of the society, and that its objectives, besides perpetuating human life, are emotional well-being and spiritual harmony. Its bases are love and mercy.

On the other hand, we actually see rules in Islam that treat women far better than any of the instances discussed.

According to the Quran, marriage is not important only for procreation, but also for "emotional well-being" and "spiritual harmony". Love and mercy are two of the fundamental aspects of marriage.

Among the most impressive verses in the Quran about marriage is the following.

“And among His signs is this: That He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect.” [Noble Quran 30:21]

The Quran says much about marriage, and one verse in particular speaks about how God created a spouse or a soul mate for everyone so that human beings may find peace of mind, comfort and accord with their husband or wife.

According to Islamic Law, women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent.

Ibn ‘Abbas reported that a girl came to the Messenger of God, Muhammad, and she reported that her father had forced her to marry without her consent. The Messenger of God gave her the choice… (between accepting the marriage or invalidating it). [Ibn Hanbal No. 2469]

In another version, the girl said:

“Actually I accept this marriage but I wanted to let women know that parents have no right (to force a husband on them)” [Ibn Majah, No. 1873]


Islamic Law also states that women cannot be forced into marriage without consent, and it contains a story in which a girl who was being forced into marriage was approached by the "Messenger of God" who asked her to agree or disagree to the marriage. In one version of the story, the girl actually agrees to the marriage, but she wanted to make a point of letting her parents realize that it was her right to decide.

The rules for married life in Islam are clear and in harmony with upright human nature. In consideration of the physiological and psychological make-up of man and woman, both have equal rights and claims on one another, except for one responsibility, that of leadership. This is a matter which is natural in any collective life and which is consistent with the nature of man.

The Quran thus states:

“…And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them, and men are a degree above them.” [Noble Quran 2:228] (in relation to protection)

In Islamic law, therefore, both men and women in marriage have equal rights, apart from rules about leadership, which lie with men only.

The Quran says that women have "similar" rights that men have, but men are a "degree above" women when it comes to leadership and protection, traits that are usually considered natural for men in any society.


Islam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman’s right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.

Islamic Law also differs from the examples of other societies discussed above in the matter of property. Here, a woman's property is solely her own, whether or not she is married. Women can do whatever they like with their money, land, or any sort of property, and they are not considered minors. Not only does this rule hold for property in her possession before marriage, but also to property she attains after marriage.

Zam Zam Water

If you're like me, and you enjoyed watching or reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then you know that one of the many ways to destroy the mythical vampire is a good bottle of holy water. In the religion of Islam, many believe that Zam Zam water is holy water. But there has been recent debate about the health hazard the Zam Zam water poses on its drinkers. Despite the rumours, many religious people decide to stick with their beliefs instead and risk the potential damage they could be doing to their body. Today, we explore the religious accounts of what makes Zam Zam water so symbolically special.

Located at the heart of a desert area in Mekkah, the Zam Zam spring is 35 metres deep and covered by a dome. One of its many miracles is that its water supply has never run dry since its creation, despite it supplying water to Muslims who perform Pilgrimage (Hajj) each year. To put it into proportion, about 2 million pilgrims attended Hajj just this year alone. So just how was this never ending supply of water created?

According to the Islamic beliefs, the story began with Prophet Ibrahim a.s. and his infertile wife Sarah. As the Prophet wished to father a child, Sarah offered him a female slave, Hajar, whom eventually mothered his child Ismail. One day, Prophet Ibrahim a.s. brought Hajar and Ismail from their home in Palestine to a desert in Mekkah, where the Prophet was instructed by Allah s.w.t. to leave them alone in the desert. Upon noticing that Ibrahim was about to return to Palestine alone, Hajar questioned the Prophet, who later revealed that it was the will of Allah s.w.t.. As such, Hajar had faith that she would be able to find her way.

She went on her merry way to search for the exit of the desert, breastfeeding Ismail and consuming the dates and water Ibrahim had left them, but soon, her water supply ran out. In an attempt to look for water, she hiked back and forth seven times between the mountains of As-safa and Al-Marwah, but to no avail. On her final arrival at Al-Marwah, she heard a voice that instructed her to call out "Help, if you can." No sooner had she called out, Angel Jibril, beat the ground with his wings and fresh water emerged. This was the spring of Zam Zam, which quenched not just Hajar's and her child's thirst, but countless others after hear passing as well.

This story is so symbolic that pilgrims are required to imitate her walk between the two mountains during their trip to the Ka'bah, which is the house of Allah s.w.t. Muslims are encouraged to empathize with the panicky plight of Hajar as they travel the same path she did many years ago. The miracle of Zam Zam water is entrenched in this ritual, which all Muslims are required to perform at least once in their life, unless dire circumstances prevent it.

Today's research on Zam Zam water shows that the Zam Zam water contains higher levels of Calcium and Magnesium than city water. These minerals are what reinvigorates weary Pilgrims. Aside from minerals, water also contains healthy levels of fluoride which prevents germicidal contamination. Furthermore, its purity has been maintained, as it has not been treated in any way. These health benefits, when compounded with its symbolic significance make Zam Zam water an essential part of Islamic culture that is here to stay.