page contents

text-based post

Athanasius Against the World

Athanasius Against the World

We all know that most Christians today believe that Jesus is God. What most of us don’t know, however, is that the notion that Jesus is God was not always accepted, and this notion should not be taken for granted. For this, we have to thank Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, otherwise known as Athanasius Against the World, who fought the hard and long battle to establish Jesus as God. Who exactly is this man, and what did he do for the early church?

Iz it Propa-ROME-ganda?

Panoramica_del_Coliseo_Romano_Febrero_2016.jpg

Pax Romana, the Latin words for Roman Peace, was finally achieved after Rome’s transition from a Republic into an Empire. While Pax Romanalasted for over 200 years, keeping peace in the Roman Empire was not an easy task. Due to the extensive geographical area of the Roman Empire, there was a new challenge of unifying its diverse population (“Imperial Rome”, loc. 62). Imagine, if you were a Roman emperor, what would you do? Well, this blogpost will enlighten you about the ways the Roman emperors tried to build a common Roman identity. From gladiatorial games, monuments to coinage, the Roman emperors actively disseminated messages of Roman superiority, military prowess and allegiance to the Emperor, so as to unite the Romans. These messages were introduced through subtle means which caused us to question if it was propaganda. After all, propaganda is only most effective when it goes unnoticed. Hence, the examples we raise below is open to your discretion and analysis to conclude, “Iz it Propa-ROME-ganda”?Firstly, let’s talk about the highly popular gladiatorial games. It is commonly known as a popular form of entertainment in the Roman empire that drew crowds over the thousands. However, these games were essentially public executions of people who went against religious and political orders in Rome. This national activity of killing criminals in the arena would have reassured Roman citizens of a criminal justice system that restores justice. This at the same time would deter them from disobeying the Roman authority.

Furthermore, the games served as a platform to transmit important Roman ideals and values to its spectators. For example, the emperor was given the final decision whether to spare the life of an injured gladiator who pled for mercy. In the historical source, De Spectaculis (XXIX), Roman poet, Martial, wrote about how Emperor Titus spared the life of the gladiators, Priscus and Verus. This uncommon act of graciousness and benevolence validated his status as emperor before the Roman audience. Thus, the games were a place where the Roman emperor could display and alleviate his imperial position. Could we say the games weren’t a form of propaganda?

Secondly, let’s focus on Rome’s military might. As the Roman Empire progressed, the Roman army became celebrated as the crucial factor for Rome’s imperial success. This acknowledgement of the army’s prowess was evident in many Roman monuments, one of which was the victory arch of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. The Arch was erected in the Roman Forum in 203 CE, following Severus’ triumph against the Parthians.As seen in the pictures below, the Arch portrayed the Parthians prisoners being held captive by the Roman soldiers (“The Roman Army and Propaganda”, loc. 345). This purposeful celebration and tangible display of the military might might have served as a political tactic to remind the Romans of their Empire’s triumph, thus increasing Roman pride and laying the foundation for a Roman superiority complex.

The Roman superiority complex might have been fueled by the systematic belief that anyone that was not part of the Roman empire were barbaric, lawless and dangerous. Roman literature of their time portrayed the neighbouring tribes and countries in an unfavourable light. Although there were many different Germanic tribes, they were all stereotyped as “one people” who were vicious for “Roman blood and booty” (“Barbarians and the Late Roman Empire”, loc. 365). By propagating that non-Romans were barbarians, it could have given the Romans a sense of superiority, and hence uniting them as one.

Lastly, let’s talk about Rome’s coinage. Since Julius Caesar, Roman emperors stamped their profiles on coins, portraying themselves as “warlord, god, or protector of the empire” (“Imperial Rome”, loc. 63). On the reverse side of the coins, many often engraved words relating to Roman virtues. For example: the coins below had the words Pax Augustus (Peace Augustus) engraved on it to remind the Romans to uphold their Empire’s state of peace and prosperity.   

Other coins conveyed the virtue of generosity (liberalitas) depicting the Roman emperors to be giving out donations and gifts to the Roman citizens. Liberalitas was even portrayed as a god beside the Roman emperor on the coins.

If you were to use these coins everyday, what would you begin to think? You might begin to believe that the emperor is full of kindness and generosity, bringing peace to Rome. This was precisely it! The method of highlighting a virtue with a face of the Roman emperor on the coins was a subtle way of alleviating the status of the emperor in the minds of the Romans (“Imperial Exempla”, loc. 155). The users of the coins would subconsciously link the emperor to the virtue. Furthermore, as these virtues were associated with divine power, they further validated the emperor’s imperial position (“Imperial Exempla”, loc. 155).

In addition, coins depicted images of Roman architecture and military. Monuments such as the Colosseum and Trajan’s column (Were monuments and victory arches not enough?), and national projects such as the harbor in the Roman port city of Ostia, were portrayed. There were also images of Rome’s ships, legions and conquest of countries such as Egypt. As these coins were circulated around majority of the Roman citizens, it enabled its implicit message of Rome's military might and flourishing development to have a far reaching impact across the Roman Empire (“Imperial Rome”, loc. 63).As coins were so massively used in the daily life, it might have been the subtlest form of mass propaganda.

So, as highlighted, were the gladiator games, monuments, and coinage subliminal messages conveyed by the Roman Empire meant to inculcate Roman pride and identity, or merely prominent representations and features of the strong Roman culture? The similar messages of loyalty to the emperor, military might and Roman superiority being echoed throughout the above examples makes us conclude that these were more than just neutral objects, architecture and national entertainment. Iz it Propa-ROME-ganda? Let us know what you think!

A Case for Confucianism

Confucius_and_his_students2.jpg
And he means nope @ memegenerator
And he means nope @ memegenerator

At the heart of every civilization lies a deep question: “How then, should we live?” In response to the chaos and calamity of the Shang dynasty, one man developed a political philosophy that would set rules of morality and relationships for the next two to three dynasties. Confucianism was born out of the calamity of the Warring States Period in hopes of establishing a system of governance that would bring about socio-political stability in a time of strife.

Debate has gone on for centuries about the soundness of Confucianism as a philosophy that attempts to merge concerns of morality and politics. On one hand, it seems to have effectively promoted values of humanism and a system of checks and balances within the government. On the other hand, its effects seem questionable because of other social, political and cultural ramifications. By discussing both of these factors, we put forward an argument that highlights the limitations of Confucianism as a human philosophy, and points the faults of its ideology toward the improper and imperfect execution of it.

In theory, Confucianism did effectively promote virtue ethics

Some scholars have argued that Asian values and culture typically conflicts with Western humanist values that emphasize inalienable individual freedom and rights (Sim, 2013). But on closer examination, the two seem more compatible than not. The key difference is that Confucianism frames a sense of individual autonomy within a context that focuses more on a response toward social relationships.

The concept of “Li”, for example, guides an individual’s external actions, social norms and expectations according to what Confucius regards to be respectful and dignified in Chinese culture. The other mutually reinforcing concept of “Ren” focuses on cultivating an internal state of compassion and empathy in order to reinforce the practice of mutual respect in relationships. Together, “Li” and “Ren” impart a communal awareness about moral agency and responsibility, and influence a broad spectrum of social customs in traditional Chinese culture – such as tea drinking etiquette, filial piety towards one’s parents and even the imperial traditions of kowtowing (Lai, 2007).

Since “Li” views the relationship between humans, nature and even material objects in a necessarily hierarchical structure, it seems to impose limitations on one’s autonomy. This is perhaps why the dynamics between “superior and inferior” can be stifling, especially to those who might agree with 18th C. Enlightenment thinker Montesquieu on his criticism of “oriental despotism” in Asian culture (Minuiti, 2012). But in light of Confucian’ insistence that all members of society be treated with basic propriety and respect, such criticism cannot be completely valid. Confucius even states in the Analects that if rulers failed to uphold the rule of law through rites that expressed “Li” and “Ren”, they should be considered as uncivilized and unworthy of being in power and authority.

Confucianism hinges on a principle of virtue ethics that defines right relationship with others and the right way of living based on what is understood to be intrinsically and objectively moral. It aims for people to strive for the most moral way of living, and stresses the importance of living according to that understanding even if others do not see the same  way.

The Mandate of Heaven, Scholar-bureaucrats “Shi” and Confucian Intellectuals “Junzi” helped to keep governments in check

Though Confucius never really questioned the idea of centralized rule by a single political figurehead because it was already a deep-rooted cultural assumption by Chinese tradition, he did actively challenge the right way to rule (de Bary, 1993). The Mandate of Heaven made it necessary for governments to fulfil their moral obligation to the people in order to keep and maintain religiously legitimized power, because it held that the ruler would be expected to uphold the morals and security of its people in its many forms - and if they didn’t, subsequent instability or failure observed in the state would be perceived as the Mandate being transferred to another more capable ruler (Zhao, 2009).

Keeping the Mandate of Heaven meant the effortful maintenance of social, political, economic and moral stability. The people whom Confucius regarded to be the most important in helping rulers achieve this were the scholar bureaucrats (a.k.a “Shi”) and Confucian intellectuals (a.k.a “Junzi”), who were essentially looked to as the key sources of “the state’s supply for recruiting officials to serve in government”. Since the “intentions of Heaven were represented through the intention of the people”, “the monarch was to view his people as a mirror and grasp the mandate of Heaven through the plights of the people” (Guo, 2013). The most effective way of doing so, according to Confucius, was to ensure that advice and counsel came from ethically enlightened people who could effectively express “informed” opinions about the lives of citizens and be critical of the government's use of power (Sim, 2013).

Some contend a possible gap between the masses and the educated elite because of overly philosophical speculations that neglect practicality, but this seems contrary to Confucian teaching (Sim, 2013). Confucianism always prioritized the “concrete over the speculative”, and even then, aimed to combine “learning and speculation with a focus on the practical”. In this way, Confucianism ensured that imperial power would be challenged by the scholarly community’s strong influence.

The Mandate of Heaven and its Shortcomings

Confucius’ teachings, while laying the groundwork for what it means to have a stable government, was surprisingly vague in defining concepts that left it open to various interpretations and the possibility of being misused to fulfil personal ambitions.

The Mandate of Heaven was initially concocted by the Zhou as a pretext to overthrow the ruling House of Shang (Zhao, 2009), whom they accused of becoming morally corrupt and therefore losing the right to rule. Amidst the strife between the many houses during the Warring States era, Confucius adopted the concept of the Mandate of Heaven into his teachings, and interpreted as a divine contract between the Heavens and the Emperor (later extended to the ruling house) that did not give one “the right to rule, but a duty to fulfil” (Zhao, 2009).

       Herein lies at least two inherent problems. Firstly, the criteria determining whether a ruler gains or loses the Mandate has never exactly been specified by Confucius, though it is widely accepted that a disaster or negative event could be a sign of losing the Mandate (Zhou, 2009). A successful rebellion is also considered to be among the surest signs that the ruler has fallen out of favour with the Heavens (de Bary, 1993).

      Secondly, the responsibilities of this contract lies on the Emperor alone to fulfil and maintain, unlike a divine contract made between God and his people in Abrahamic faiths, where responsibilities lies with the people as a whole to ensure their overall continuity (Adler, 1993). The vagueness of conditions under which the Mandate is transferred places huge scrutiny on the emperor’s actions, and any circumstance that is perceived to be a misfortune by the people could easily be interpreted as a sign that the Mandate has been lost. This would incite the rebellions among the people against a ruler whom they believe has lost approval of the Heavens (Zhou, 2009).

    It was relatively uncommon for various opportunistic factions to interpret the gain or loss of the Mandate to their own benefit, as illustrated in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, where the Song Dynasty sought to legitimize their rule and unify the various Chinese factions by proclaiming that the Mandate had been passed to them. They cited their single rule over large tracts of traditional lands (though the combined lands of their rivals far exceeded their own). Consequently, the Mandate of Heaven suffers from a cyclical problem of subjective interpretation and prevents a fundamental change in the traditional Chinese political system.

Huh... @ memegenerator
Huh... @ memegenerator

Conclusion

Although the initial ideas of Confucianism nobly pursue what it means to live and govern morally, as with all other human philosophies, it was not immune to the immorality of mankind. In the context of ambition and power struggles, people are bound to act in ways that go against their own value system and even motivates the abuse of social constructs that were meant to prevent moral calamity in the first place. Nevertheless, for the most part Confucianism was popular enough to see its philosophies perpetuated through several successive dynasties.

And here's some parting wisdom; thanks for reading and have a great day!

Magna Carta: The First Step Towards Liberty

A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_226_-_John_Signs_the_Great_Charter.jpg
Memorial at Runnymede, where King John signed the Magna Carta. Photographed by Brian Slater CC 2.0
Memorial at Runnymede, where King John signed the Magna Carta. Photographed by Brian Slater CC 2.0

The Magna Carta, which means “the Great Charter” in Latin, was a charter of baronial rights granted by King John Plantagenet to the barons of England in 1215. This historical document was initially conceived as a peace treaty but it significantly changed the way how England was governed by kings, eventually becoming the foundation that led to constitutionalism in Europe.

Contents of the Magna Carta

Although the Magna Carta was not the first charter of rights signed by a monarch, it was the most significant. Most of the 63 initial clauses in the Magna Carta dealt with the feudal, judicial and church rights, as well as the management of lands and the regulation of trade & taxes. However, the most important clause was clause 39 which promised protection against royal oppression of civil and noble rights. It stated that: “No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or deprived or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined … except by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land”. Originally, the free man referred only to a select group of people which included the barons and knights but it was later extended to the commoners as well. Another important clause was clause 40 which promised: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.” Both clauses assured that trials will be fair, timely and incorruptible.

1868 woodcut by Joseph Martin Kronheim depicting King John signing the Magna Carta.
1868 woodcut by Joseph Martin Kronheim depicting King John signing the Magna Carta.

Origins

The Magna Carta was the result of various events that caused widespread unrest in England (A Short History of England, “Magna Carta”, pg. 65-71). In 1189, after the death of the successful King Henry II, his son Richard I the ‘Lionheart’, succeeded him and brought the kingdom to chaos as he overtaxed the population for his crusade in Jerusalem. In 1199, John I succeeded to the throne when Richard died. He was already unpopular before his coronation as he had sought French support to steal the throne while Richard was away fighting in the crusade. He raised taxes further and extorted money from the barons to fund his military campaigns. He would lose many territories during a series of unsuccessful wars, earning him the nickname “Softsword”. Moreover, he was briefly excommunicated by the Pope over a dispute about the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The final straw was the failure of his 1214 campaign in France, which caused the barons to revolt against John. John was powerless to stop the rebellion so he was forced to negotiate with the rebel barons to make peace. The demands of the barons were written in the Magna Carta and officially sealed by John.

1626 painting of King John held at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Artist unknown. [Public Domain]
1626 painting of King John held at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Artist unknown. [Public Domain]

Revisions to the Magna Carta

The first Magna Carta was short lived as King John went back on his words and tried to get the Pope to annul it (A Short History of England, “Henry III and Simon de Montfort”, pg. 72-79). The Pope did annul the charter, this caused a civil war between John and the barons. John soon fell ill and died in 1216. His successor Henry III was only 9 years old when he was coronated and the regency council reissued the Magna Carta again to make peace with barons. During the regency, England saw a period of relative prosperity while being at peace with France compared to the reign of Richard and John. This may had contributed to the initial belief that the government is better without royal influence. The revised version of Magna Carta issued during Henry III’s adulthood in 1225 is regarded the definitive version that is most well known today.

1225 version of Magna Carta with King Henry III’s seal kept in the British Library Photograph by British Library. [Public Domain]
1225 version of Magna Carta with King Henry III’s seal kept in the British Library Photograph by British Library. [Public Domain]

Consequences

From the disastrous reign of King John, the rights of the English people took a step forward. For the first time, the king could not simply act as he wished and became subjected to the law.

One way of interpreting the whole ordeal is to see it as a decline of royal authority in England. Obviously the monarch had less dictatorial powers after Magna Carta, but that did not necessarily meant a weakened throne. In fact, it might have increased the legitimacy of the throne and created a stable kingdom. By having a codified set of laws regarding the social contract between the crown and its subjects, a monarch can justify continued reign as long as laws were upheld, decreasing the risk of unrest and revolt from the people. A more cooperative nobility is more likely to assist the monarch with issuance of royal ordinance in their fiefs, this was extremely important to centralization efforts. However, this possibility was not evidently exploited by medieval English monarchs, they most likely saw the Magna Carta as nothing more than a shameful slight to their authority and continuously tried to nullify the charter (A Short History of England, “Magna Carta”, pg. 79).

The Magna Carta also promised that no widows can be forced to remarry, this guaranteed that a dead noble’s assets cannot be robbed by other nobles through marriage. This can also be interpreted as an increase of rights for women in medieval England, as they were able to choose who or whether to marry after their husbands have died.

Statue of Simon de Montfort on the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower in Leicester, England. Photograph by NotFromUtrecht. [CC 3.0]
Statue of Simon de Montfort on the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower in Leicester, England. Photograph by NotFromUtrecht. [CC 3.0]

Significance

The Magna Carta marked the beginning of greater power sharing in governing England. It influenced the creation of the Provisions of Oxford in 1258 which the revolutionary leader Simon de Montfort forced King Henry III to obey. He created a periodical parliament that would meet three times a year to discuss public policies under the provisions, regardless of the king’s will, which shifted political influence to municipalities from the king’s court; this parliament would operate in accordance to the clauses of the Magna Carta (A Short History of England, “Henry III and Simon de Montfort”, pg 76). The first English parliament would also include the commoners, for the first time a political body that consisted of lesser men had been assembled in a feudal monarchy. The Magna Carta would become the most important document that was repeatedly cited throughout constitutional politics as a symbol against tyranny.

Replica of the Magna Carta displayed in the United States Capitol at Washington D.C Photographed by Jorfer. [Public Domain]
Replica of the Magna Carta displayed in the United States Capitol at Washington D.C Photographed by Jorfer. [Public Domain]

Legacy

The Magna Carta continued to influence the world even centuries after it was created. It paved the way for the development of human rights in the future. It had a huge influence on the constitution of the United States as it inspired the colonists in America who were educated in English law to fight against the oppressive rule of Britain. We also owe much of our justice system today to clauses 39 and 40 of the Magna Carta. It is no exaggeration to say that our modern values of democracy, freedom and justice were shaped by the Magna Carta.

Was Slavery Really All That Bad?

Old_bracelets_aka.jpg

Can YOU imagine waking up and having to toil the fields for minimum wage? It’s not your own crop you’re harvesting, not your livestock you’re herding, and you don’t get a share of the profits when the fattest cattle is sold at the marketplace. In modern times, you’d think of “human rights”, “freedom”, and how unthinkable a concept like slavery would be. Yet, a closer examination of Ancient Greece revealed how slavery may have been a necessity for society at that point in time.The variation in terminology for “slaves” clearly illustrates the different perspectives the Greeks had about slavery. While slaves are often depicted as commodities, as seen in Roman law where a slave was a ‘res’ (i.e. thing), the Greeks had more than one term assigned to slaves. With terms such as doulos’, ‘andrapodon’, ‘pais’, ‘hypêretês’, ‘sòma’, ‘oiketês’, the Greeks held a variety of viewpoints, each focusing on different aspects of slaves. For instance, the commonly used term ‘doulos’ conveyed the relationship of domination within communities, rather than mere property. Perhaps, this domination was a result of wars, which leads to the question — how did slavery come about?

Origins of Slavery

Slavery was born out of several reasons. War, trade, and in rare occasions, slave breeding. Incessant warring made slaves out of the prisoners of war. Slaves were also considered a tradable commodity at the time, but instead of bartering a cow for 10 chickens, slaves were being sold to Greek traders in exchange for goods such as clothing and liquor.

Abandoned infants were also a source of slaves for opportunistic profit seekers, who would quickly swoop in on the babies once their parents left them for dead. By virtue of their parents being slaves, children born to slaves were also considered property of the master, who could then use or trade them as they deemed fit.

Practices of Slavery*

Athens

In Athens, slaves were either privately or state-owned. Domestic slaves were supervised by the women of the house, often had a close relationship with their masters and became instrumental members of the household — slaves typically took care of the children and handled the running of the household.

State-owned slaves were skilled and worked in mines or quarries, as craftsmen, or if they were educated, in influential positions such as bankers and law enforcement. Both groups received remuneration for their work and despite having unrecognized marriages by the state, were allowed to have families.

Athenians motivated the slaves to work hard and ensured their loyalty with the promise of freedom (manumission). After being freed, former slaves would join the metics—foreigners who were allowed to live in the city-state—instead of becoming citizens.  A slave’s loyalty to the master was so respected that if they were required to testify against their master, their testimony had to be “obtained under torture” as they believed the slave would protect his master at all cost. Slaves almost never revolted partly due to their relatively favourable treatment, but also because they were ethnically diverse and hence, difficult to unify.

Sparta

Sparta, on the other hand, practiced a form of serfdom with the Helots (Spartan slaves). They were “conquered people, living on their own hereditary land but forced to work it for their Spartan masters.” The Helots were from Laconia and Messenia—territories that had been invaded by the Spartans—and were considered by the Spartans to be of lower class, “legally viewed as enemies of the state”. This was reflected in their harsh treatment of the Helots — “forced to wear humiliating clothing”, “publicly punished through annual beatings” to reinforce their lowly position and the “ephors (chief magistrates) annually declar[ing] ‘war’ on the helots.” Being uncertain of when these violent acts might occur, the Helots lived in a constant state of fear and thus, revolted frequently. These harsh treatments, however, were possibly a means of regulation, as there were times when the Helots outnumbered the Spartans 20 to 1. The Helots essentially formed the foundation of the Spartan economy and were critical in agriculture and the production of food.

Slavery,  A Necessity

Despite modern beliefs about the evils of slavery, the Ancient Greeks had undisputable benefits about slavery that far outweighed any potential violation of human rights. A significant contribution to their economy, many of their political philosophies “hinged on the slave system and its requirements”. With agriculture and commerce forming the backbone of the Greek economy, the employment of slaves in labor-intensive industries such as farming, mining and pottery freed up valuable time for the masters’ more intellectual pursuits such as politics or art, which they believed was the heirarchy society should abide by.

The Greeks’ view that slavery was essential culminates with Aristotle’s saying—

“If every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others ... if the shuttle could weave, and the pick touch the lyre, without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not need servants, nor masters slaves."— Aristotle (“Politics Book I”)

Just to prove that we’re not secret Spartans in possession of many Helots, below is some food for thought that shows the other side of the picture.

The reliance on slave labor resulted in the Ancient Greeks lagging behind other societies such as India and China, who had significant technological advances in production that moved away from a dependency on human labor. As such, despite the significant benefits that the Ancient Greeks saw in slavery, it actually limited the development of the civilization as there was no motivation to develop more efficient methods of production.

*Due to the space constraint and word limit, we decided to explore slavery in the two more prominent city-states of Ancient Greece — Athens and Sparta.

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.