A 14th Century Account on Africa

Listen Siblings, I come in peace,

“They do not interfere with the property of the white man who dies in their country even though it may consist of great wealth” — Ibn Battuta on our ancestors

Today’s article discusses our pre-colonial past. This excerpt is taken from Ibn Battuta’s travels and explains what he saw amongst our people. This is a reminder as to what we were and why you should be building African Blood Siblings Community Centers.  We are naturally moral and divine.

A 14th Century Account on Africa
With Comments by Onitaset Kumat

“AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT I FOUND GOOD AMONGST THE BLACKS AND OF WHAT I DISLIKED

Amongst their good qualities is the small amount of injustice amongst them, for of all people they are the furthest from it.  Their sultan does not forgive anyone in any matter to do with injustice.  Among these qualities there is also the prevalence of peace in their country, the traveller [sic] is not afraid in it nor is he who lives there in fear of the thief or of the robber by violence.  They do not interfere with the property of the white man who dies in their country even though it may consist of great wealth, but rather they entrust it to the hand of someone dependable among the white men until it is taken by the rightful claimant.

Another of the good habits amongst them is the way they meticulously observe the times of the prayers and attendance at them, so also it is with regard to their congregational services and their beating of their children to instill these things in them.

When it is Friday, if a man does not come early to the mosque he will not find a place to pray because of the numbers of the crowd.  It is their custom for every man to send his boy with his prayer mat.  He spreads it for him in a place commensurate with his position and keeps the place until he comes to the mosque.  Their prayer-mats are made of the leaves of a tree like a date palm but it bears no fruit.

Amongst their good qualities is their putting on of good white clothes on Friday.  If a man among them has nothing except a tattered shirt, he washes and cleans it and attends the Friday prayer in it.  Another of their good qualities is their concern for learning the sublime Qur’an by heart.  They make fetters for their children when they appear on their part to be falling short in their learning of it by heart, and they are not taken off from them till they do learn by heart.  I went in to visit the qadi on an ‘Id day and his children were tied up.  I said to him, ‘Why do you not release them?’  He said, ‘I shall not do so until they learn the Qur’an by heart.”  One day I passed by a handsome youth from them dressed in fine clothes and on his feet was a heavy chain.   I said to the man who was with me, “What has this youth done–has he killed someone?”   The youth heard my remark and laughed.   It was told me, “He has been chained so that he will learn the Qur’an by heart.”

Among the bad things which they do–their serving women, slave women and little daughters appear before people naked, exposing their private parts.  I used to see many of them in this state in Ramadan, for it was the custom of the farariyya [commanders] to break the fast in the sultan’s house.  Everyone of them has his food carried in to him by twenty or more of his slave girls and they are naked, every one.  Also among their bad customs is the way women will go in the presence of the sultan naked, without any covering; and the nakedness of the sultan’s daughters–on the night of the twenty-seventh of Ramadan, I saw about a hundred slave girls coming out of his palace with food, with them were two of his daughters, they had full breasts and no clothes on.  Another of their bad customs is their putting of dust and ashes on their heads as a sign of respect.   And another is the laughing matter I mentioned of their poetic recitals.  And another is that many of them eat animals not ritually slaughtered, and dogs and donkeys.”

The religiosity mentioned is a sign of Orientalism or Contractualism (the ethics of contracts.)  It’s a dangerous reality, for these same pre-colonial devout Muslims, though African, readily enslaved our ancestors due the corruption of their ethics as here displayed.  However, the tale of their dearth of injustices bodes well for the cause of enforcing Originalism or Restorism (our ethics).  Thereby, many things are disagreeable and many things are agreeable.  Ibn Battuta is arguably the most well-traveled person up to his time.  As an “Arab” he had a cultural bias against Black Africans.  Nevertheless, he openly admitted that Black Africans were the most ethical, despite their adaptation then of the Islamic faith–which in fairness to Ibn Battuta’s historical knowledge may have seemed a ‘good’ thing.  Elsewhere in his book he mentions the story of Iwalatan, where married people still have single and attractive friends.  This offends the Muslim visitor, especially after the man secure with his wife talking with an attractive man jeers Arabic women for being less trustworthy.  This shows how Africans used to live with comfortable and advanced, civilized ways of thinking.  The “platonic relationship” while seemingly basic, was the more proper and progressive road than the Arabs were willing to follow.  Of course, dallying thereon is unnecessary.  This is merely a historical lesson.  The book which I quoted is “Ibn Battuta in Black Africa” as written by Said Hamdun and Noel King.  It is enlightening in it being a record of pre-colonial Africa.

To wit, here is the excerpt dealing with Iwalatan, as taken from this website: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1354-ibnbattuta.html and www.sammustafa.com/Resources/Battuta.pdf

“My stay at Iwalatan lasted about fifty days; and I was shown honour and entertained by its inhabitants. It is an excessively hot place, and boasts a few small date-palms, in the shade of which they sow watermelons. Its water comes from underground waterbeds at that point, and there is plenty of mutton to be had. The garments of its inhabitants, most of whom belong to the Massufa tribe, are of fine Egyptian fabrics.

Their women are of surpassing beauty, and are shown more respect than the men. The state of affairs amongst these people is indeed extraordinary. Their men show no signs of jealousy whatever; no one claims descent from his father, but on the contrary from his mother’s brother. A person’s heirs are his sister’s sons, not his own sons. This is a thing which I have seen nowhere in the world except among the Indians of Malabar. But those are heathens; these people are Muslims, punctilious in observing the hours of prayer, studying books of law, and memorizing the Koran. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous in attending the prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go.

The women there have “friends” and “companions” amongst the men outside their own families, and the men in the same way have “companions” amongst the women of other families. A man may go into his house and find his wife entertaining her “companion” but he takes no objection to it. One day at Iwalatan I went into the qadi’s house, after asking his permission to enter, and found with him a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome by shame, and the qadi said to me “Why are you going out? She is my companion.” I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a pilgrim [to Mecca] to boot. I was told that he had asked the sultan’s permission to make the pilgrimage that year with his “companion”–whether this one or not I cannot say–but the sultan would not grant it.

. . .

One day I visited Abu Muhammad Yandakan, a man of the Massufa tribe.  I found him sitting on a mat, and in the middle of his house was a bed with a canopy.  On it was a woman and with her a man, and the two were having a conversation.  I said to him:  “Who is this woman?”   He replied:  “She is my wife.”  I said: “What is the relationship of the man to her?”  He replied: “He is her friend.”  I said:  “Do you accept this, after you have lived in our country and known the matters of the Holy Law?”

He said to me:  “Women’s companionship with men in our country is honorable and takes place in a good way;  there is no suspicion about it.  They are not like the women in your
country.”
I was astonished at his thoughtless answer and I went away from him and did not visit him after this.  Though he invited me many times, I did not respond.”

We create African Blood Siblings Community Centers to restore ourselves to organizers for Truth and Justice.  Join.

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