By Dr A Q Khan
May 14, 2018
We continue with the stories of Ibn Battuta in India and how it ties in with his meeting with Shaikh Murshidi near Alexandria at the beginning of his travels.
The king of China had sent valuable gifts to the sultan, seeking permission to build a temple on the border. The permission was refused and more expensive gifts were sent in response to the king. Ibn Battuta was ordered to take these gifts to the king of China. While travelling he met much aggression from local Hindus. On one occasion, while having a siesta in a garden with several of his friends, Ibn Battuta and others heard shouts. They remounted their horses and came across some infidels who had attacked a village. While being pursued, the attackers broke up into small groups, Ibn Battuta and his friends did the same. At one point, he and five of his companions were attacked by soldiers but they [Ibn Battuta and friends] separated and fled because they were outnumbered.
Of all the soldiers who pursued, only three continued. Eventually there were no roads left and the ground had become stony, causing Ibn Battuta’s horse to stumble and get stones stuck in his hooves. Soon, he came across a deep drain which he climbed down into, and after that saw his pursuers no more. The drain led into a valley where he was surrounded by about 40 infidels carrying bows and arrows. Because he was alone, Ibn Battuta threw himself to the ground and surrendered. They seized him, stripped him of everything except his clothes, took him to a water tank where they were staying and gave him some mash, bread and water. There were two Muslims with the men who spoke to Ibn Battuta in Persian. He told them some part of his story, but concealed the fact that he had come from the sultan.
They pointed out the leader of the group for Ibn Battuta, and after speaking to him with translations from the Arabs, he was given into the custody of three men – one of them an old man, the second his son and the third a black man. He understood that he was going to be killed. In the evening of the same day, he was carried off to a cave where the black man became feverish and put his feet on Ibn Battuta to restrain him from escaping, while the old man and his son fell asleep. In the morning, he spoke to the old man and tried to persuade him to have some pity on him. He cut off his sleeve and gave it to the old man so as to show that he had resisted the escape. At about noon they heard voices near the tank and found some newcomers who wanted the three guards to accompany them; they however refused.
When the three men who had initially captured Ibn Battuta arrived and asked of the other three men why they had not killed him yet, they pointed to the black man, excusing themselves on account of his illness. One of the three was a young man who allowed Ibn Battuta to go. Ibn Battuta gave him his tunic in return for a worn cloak after which the young man showed him the way. Afraid that they might change their minds, he hid in a reed thicket until sunset.
After many days of wandering, a hungry and thirsty Ibn Battuta came across a man who gave him a Muslim salute and asked him who he was. He replied: “A man astray”. To which came the response: “So am I”. Thereupon, he tied his jug to a rope, drew up some water, opened the bag he was carrying and gave Ibn Battuta a handful of fried black chickpeas with a little rice and some water. After that they made their ablutions and prayed together. The man told Ibn Battuta that his name was al-Qalb al-Farih (joyous heart), which Ibn Battuta took for a good omen.
The two men then travelled together for a while, but then Ibn Battuta found himself unable to continue any further, whereupon his companion said: “Mount on my shoulder”. He was told to keep repeating: “God is sufficient for us and excellent protector”, which he did. But after some time Ibn Battuta fainted, regaining consciousness only after feeling himself falling to the ground. When he woke up there was no trace of his companion, but he found himself in a village of Hindu peasants with a Muslim governor. The governor came to see him and informed him that the name of the village was ‘Taj Burah’. This village was within reach of Kuwil, where the rest of the group was. The governor provided a horse, took Ibn Battuta to his house, let him bathe and gave him warm food.
He then said: “I have here a garment and a turban which were left in my charge by a certain Arab from Egypt, one of the soldiers belonging to the camp at Kuwil.” When the governor brought them, Ibn Battuta found that they were two of his own garments which he had given to that very Arab when they had come to Kuwil. He was extremely astonished at this, and then thought of the man who had carried him here. He then remembered what the saint, Abu Abdallah al-Murshidi had said: “You will enter the land of India and meet there my brother Dilshad, who will deliver you from a misfortune which will befall you there.” He also remembered the man’s name, ‘joyous heart’, which when translated into Persian is Dilshad.
Ibn Battuta knew it was he whom the saint had foretold he would meet, and that he too was one of the saints. Alas, he enjoyed no more of his company than the short time which has been narrated above. That same night he wrote to his friends in Kuwil to inform them of his safety. They came with a horse and clothes and rejoiced greatly at his escape.