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Forum LockedA Visit to Sumatra by a 14th cen. Muslim Traveler

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Cyrus Shahmiri View Drop Down
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    Posted: 23-Jan-2008 at 20:50

http://www.einaudi.cornell.edu/SoutheastAsia/outreach/resources/IslamIndo.pdf

From Abu 'Abdullah Ibn Battuta, Rihlat Ibn Battuta: tuhfat al-nazar fi ghara'ib al-amsarwa aja'ib al-asfar. (Beirut/Aleppo: Dar al-Sharq al-'Arabi, n.d.), pp. 478-483.Translation by R. Michael Feener.

"After twenty-five days we reached the island of al-Jawa (Sumatra)... that is the island from which the Jawi incense takes its name. We saw the island from the distance of half a day's sail away. Its trees are many, including: coconuts, palms, cloves, Indian aloes, the shaki and barki, papaya, jamun fruit, sweet oranges, and camphor. The people of this island buy and sell with pieces of tin and uncast, unrefined Chinese gold. Most of the best spices on the island are to be found in the country of the unbelievers, there are fewer from the country of the Muslims. When we reached the harbor, the people came out to us in little boats and with them they brought coconuts, bananas, papayas and fish. It is their custom to present these to the merchants, and then each merchant gives whatever recompense he is able to. The Assistant Harbor Master also came out, inspected the merchants who were with us, and permitted us to land. We landed at the port, a large settlement on the beach in which are houses called sarha. It is about four miles from the city. Then Behruz, the Assistant Harbor Master, wrote to the Sultan informing him of my arrival. The Sultan then ordered Amir Daulasa to come along with the noble Qadi (Muslim judge) Amir Sayyid ai-Shirazi, Taj ai-Din al-Isfahani, and other scholars of law to meet me. They came out bringing one of the Sultan's horses along with some others. I rode together with my companions and we entered the Sultan's capitol, the city of Samudra, which is a large, beautiful city with wooden walls and towers."


I knew that Sultan Sharif Ali, the third sultan of Brunei (1425 AD-1432 AD) was a Persian, or Bunnag family of Thailand were Persian (such as Chuang Bunnag, leading minister under King Mongkut and regent during the minority of King Chulalongkorn) but I didn't know that there were also great Persians from Shiraz and Isfahan in Indonesia.

It is interesting that the current Iranian Ambassador to Indonesia has athe very Persian name of Behruz too:

http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5842269/IRAN-SUPPORTS-INDONESIA-S-NUCLEAR.html

JAKARTA, Oct 12 Asia Pulse - Iranian Ambassador to Indonesia Behruz Kamal Vandi said his country supported Indonesia's plan to develop nuclear power as an alternative energy source in the future.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote kurt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jun-2008 at 11:52
Cool. I love reading about the travels of explorers, especially Islamic explorers from the times of the caliphate.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jun-2008 at 18:25
Well. There is a credible theory that the ancient Khmer kingdom was founded by the Iranic tribe of Kambuja. Georges Coedes, the father of the Western Indochinese historical studies writes that the first Khmer kings were Sakas.

Edited by Sarmat12 - 18-Jun-2008 at 18:31
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mughal e Azam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jun-2008 at 06:14
Also the Pallava Kingdom of India, I have heard it is also considered a Persian Kingdom. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote andrew Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2008 at 15:41
This sort of reminds me of when the Europeans visited the Aztec city of Technotiltan. The city is civilized, I'm surprised the Arabs didn't take it seeing as how they did hold a significant technological advantage at the point in time.
 
Also the idea of them showing they had Chinese gold and at the same time 'little boats' shows just how reliant seafaring they truly were.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Jun-2008 at 20:12
Wrong impression. Indonesian and Malay kingdoms of that time were strong centers of power with modern military capabillities for that time.
 
Arabs didn't in fact have much technological advantage there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote andrew Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jul-2008 at 05:13
Originally posted by Sarmat12 Sarmat12 wrote:

Wrong impression. Indonesian and Malay kingdoms of that time were strong centers of power with modern military capabillities for that time.
 
Arabs didn't in fact have much technological advantage there.
 
Strongly disagree. At the time of the Islamic Caliphate the Arabs were the most technologically superior group at that time. They conquered anywhere from Southern France to the western borders of China, they could've very easily taken Sumatra had they not converted to Islam.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jul-2008 at 05:29
Right. But you forgot that the letter is from the 14th century. Arab power was in deep decline then. Wink
 
Turks started to dominate in the Muslim world. But even in the 7th, 8th century it would be very hard for Arabs to undertake a massive naval assault across the Indian ocean. Too unrealistic.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jul-2008 at 06:32
Originally posted by kurt kurt wrote:

Cool. I love reading about the travels of explorers, especially Islamic explorers from the times of the caliphate.
 
Everyone will probably enjoy reading this recently published book on Muslim travel and exploration:
 
Alam, Muzaffar, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam. Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries, 1400-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
 
Originally posted by andrew andrew wrote:

Originally posted by Sarmat12 Sarmat12 wrote:

Wrong impression. Indonesian and Malay kingdoms of that time were strong centers of power with modern military capabillities for that time.
 
Arabs didn't in fact have much technological advantage there.
 
Strongly disagree. At the time of the Islamic Caliphate the Arabs were the most technologically superior group at that time. They conquered anywhere from Southern France to the western borders of China, they could've very easily taken Sumatra had they not converted to Islam.
 
Welcome back to AE, Andrew!  I haven't seen you here in a long time.
 
We have two disagreeing statements here.  For the benefit of providing clear definitions, what exactly was the technological advantage of the Arabs if you are going to state that they in fact had one?  Was it naval technology, military, or both?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote andrew Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jul-2008 at 19:10
Quote Welcome back to AE, Andrew!  I haven't seen you here in a long time.
 
We have two disagreeing statements here.  For the benefit of providing clear definitions, what exactly was the technological advantage of the Arabs if you are going to state that they in fact had one?  Was it naval technology, military, or both?
 
Hey Byzantine Emperor, good to be back! :)
 
I'd say the primary advantages would be in strategic warfare. For example, the use of Greek fire and siege weapons were likely much more advanced for the Arabs as well as the use of the bow and crossbow.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jul-2008 at 19:31
Hmmm. again But we are talking about the 14th century.
 
And Arabs didnt actually use Greek fire. Byzantines had an exclusive secret "patent" on it which they transferred to no one...


Edited by Sarmat12 - 06-Jul-2008 at 18:50
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jul-2008 at 22:20

hello to you all

I second sarmat on what he said. Arab caliphate by no means was able to conduct such a massive naval operation in such a distant and not hostile land. The kingdoms in Indonesia and Malay were very friendly towards muslims in general and thus the need for conquest or start a war was unnecessary and uncalled for. Plus the ummayyds had enough trouble on their hands to open yet another front. When the Abbasids came the conquest movement ended for good and all the wars were border wars to gain little here and their till the independent Ghaznavis came and restarted the conquest movement and that state had a small and insignificant navy. The success of preaching of the religion in Ache and the small size of the empires that came after the abbasids also contributed to the lack of a unified muslim movement for conquest.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jul-2008 at 18:49
It's interesting that Indonesian kingdoms converted to Islam actually relatively late in the time spam between the 14th and 17th century. The conversion was peacful and was mainly due to the willingness of the local rules to benefit from the commerce with Iranian and Indian Muslim traders. However, from the military perspective it was a period when European military technology started to dominate the high seas and the world in general, while the Muslim power was gradually diminishing. Though Ottoman empire was still quite strong on land it never was able to conduct such impressive overseas expeditions as Portugues, Spanish, Dutch or English did.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jul-2008 at 21:03
The reason is because the Ottoman navy was a sea navy not an ocean going one. It lacked the experties to naval operations in oceans and had a great distrust towards merchant based military expeditions, which is how the Dutch and British began their empires.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Byzantine Emperor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 05:52
Originally posted by andrew andrew wrote:

I'd say the primary advantages would be in strategic warfare. For example, the use of Greek fire and siege weapons were likely much more advanced for the Arabs as well as the use of the bow and crossbow.
Originally posted by Sarmat12 Sarmat12 wrote:

Hmmm. again But we are talking about the 14th century.
 
And Arabs didnt actually use Greek fire. Byzantines had an exclusive secret "patent" on it which they transferred to no one...
 
While it is true that the Byzantines managed to guard the secret formula for Greek fire for many centuries, it was the Arabs who understood the ingredients that went into making the concoction.  The Byzantines destroyed two Arab fleets in the seventh century with Greek fire.  By the eighth century, the Arabs were using a similar formula for their naptha grenades.  If anyone did not understand it and try to experiment, it was the Vikings (who besieged Constantinople by sea in the eighth century) and the Latin Crusaders.
 
See James R. Paddington, A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, p. 22 for more details.
 
As for the technology of the Arabs, while they may have had certain military advantages, like Sarmat12 said, they did not have the naval or logistical capabilities to travel far into the Indian Ocean.
 
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

second sarmat on what he said. Arab caliphate by no means was able to conduct such a massive naval operation in such a distant and not hostile land. The kingdoms in Indonesia and Malay were very friendly towards muslims in general and thus the need for conquest or start a war was unnecessary and uncalled for.
 
Were the indigenous peoples of Indonesia and Malay pagans, I am assuming?  What type of beliefs did they hold?  If I had to guess, since I know next to nothing about it, I would think that they were naturistic or shamanistic.  How did Muslims of the Caliphate come into contact with these peoples at the time?
 
I am wondering what the ulema and the opinion of the Caliph was concerning the indigenous peoples of Oceania and how they fit into the plan of conquest of the armies of Islam.  Did they think of them in a different manner than how they thought of them when the islanders were converted in the early modern period?
 
Originally posted by Sarmat12 Sarmat12 wrote:

Though Ottoman empire was still quite strong on land it never was able to conduct such impressive overseas expeditions as Portugues, Spanish, Dutch or English did.
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

The reason is because the Ottoman navy was a sea navy not an ocean going one. It lacked the experties to naval operations in oceans and had a great distrust towards merchant based military expeditions, which is how the Dutch and British began their empires.
 
Your replies here raise the question once again that has fascinated me about the Ottomans in the early modern period.  As well all know, it was a period of great expansion and economic progress for certain enterprising European nations who conducted overseas voyages.  Indeed they had the naval technology and the military might to facilitate such expeditions.
 
The Ottomans, on the other hand, as we all know, did not have the open sea naval technology with which to make such voyages.  Nevertheless, corsairs and private "explorers" made voyages of "discovery" for the Ottomans in the Indian Ocean and to Eastern Africa. 
 
The question remains, what did the Ottoman state know about these distant places and why did it not interest the Sultans to the extent of encouraging them to sponsor improvements in technology and overseas voyages?  Indeed, the Ottomans were masters of a good part of the Mediterranean for a long time in the sixteenth century; Selim the Grim made far reaching conquests in the Old World.  It seems they had the wherewhithal to make an attempt at least.  Were their ideological or religious reasons which discouraged or stifled any enterprising spirit the Sultans may have developed for this kind of endeavor?
 
I would like to invite the participants of this thread to discuss aspects of this question here or in the thread that I created a while ago on the very subject:
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jul-2008 at 07:32
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

 
While it is true that the Byzantines managed to guard the secret formula for Greek fire for many centuries, it was the Arabs who understood the ingredients that went into making the concoction.  The Byzantines destroyed two Arab fleets in the seventh century with Greek fire.  By the eighth century, the Arabs were using a similar formula for their naptha grenades.  If anyone did not understand it and try to experiment, it was the Vikings (who besieged Constantinople by sea in the eighth century) and the Latin Crusaders.
 
See James R. Paddington, A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder, p. 22 for more details.
 
Very interesting I just read before that the explosive substances used by Arabs although resembling Greek fire to some extent still had a different content.
 
 
 
 
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

 
Were the indigenous peoples of Indonesia and Malay pagans, I am assuming?  What type of beliefs did they hold?  If I had to guess, since I know next to nothing about it, I would think that they were naturistic or shamanistic.  How did Muslims of the Caliphate come into contact with these peoples at the time?
Ancient indigenous beliefs of Indonesian and Malay people are classified as animism. However, it should be noted that civilization appears relatively early in this realm. Which is natural since the region lies in the middle of the important trade routs. Hence Hinduism and Buddhism were spread quite early in Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia and Malaysia in fact were very important Buddhist and Hinduist centers for centuries and Borobodur temple in Java still remains the largest Buddhist temple ever built.
 
Also Indonesians became aware of Islam relatively fast as well. Traditionally it's believed that there were already some muslims in Aceh in the 8th century. Islam was definitely as well brought there by the sea traders from Arabia.
 
Besides, Indonesians were very familiar with Chinese and Western beliefs. Westerners were crossing via Malay straits since the times of Roman empire.
 
Originally posted by Byzantine Emperor Byzantine Emperor wrote:

 
I am wondering what the ulema and the opinion of the Caliph was concerning the indigenous peoples of Oceania and how they fit into the plan of conquest of the armies of Islam.  Did they think of them in a different manner than how they thought of them when the islanders were converted in the early modern period?
Although Oceania is sometimes referred as contained Malay archipelago as well, usually it's referred as a different area consistig of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. AFAIK few people had had a clear idea of that region at all before the European explores got there.
 
We in fact already had a very interesting topic about Aceh where the relations between the Ottomans and Malay and Indonesian Sultanats were discussed in detail.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Jul-2008 at 05:07
Greek fire? I have a source that say Chinese also have a similar burning chemical that derivated in gunpowder later. Chinese also had pumps, similar to the Bizantine, to send the liquid far away
With respect to South East Asian sailors, Indonesians reached Madagascar long before Arabs started to spand themselves, so I don't agree Muslims were "superior technologically" to them,

Edited by pinguin - 15-Jul-2008 at 05:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rajasa Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2008 at 19:17
Originally posted by Cyrus Shahmiri Cyrus Shahmiri wrote:

"After twenty-five days we reached the island of al-Jawa (Sumatra)... that is the island from which the Jawi incense takes its name. 

I knew that Sultan Sharif Ali, the third sultan of Brunei (1425 AD-1432 AD) was a Persian, or Bunnag family of Thailand were Persian (such as Chuang Bunnag, leading minister under King Mongkut and regent during the minority of King Chulalongkorn) but I didn't know that there were also great Persians from Shiraz and Isfahan in Indonesia.




'actually there's alot persian influence in Indonesia and there's a book about it

'even do you know that the city where I live, Cirebon, a coastal city in west java, built by Persian named Sheikh datul kavi, he here known as Mbah Kuwu Cerbon or the chief of Cirebon

btw I think the Island he visited wasnt Sumatra but Java
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cyrus Shahmiri Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2008 at 20:24
interesting, do you have more info about him? I think his name should be Sheikh dat (?) ul-kavi (maybe kafi or Kahfi).
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