The Travels of Ibn Fadlan
Summarised extracts from a full article, see resources below, where end notes, references and bibliography are given.
by: Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation. Info@fstc.co.uk
Ibn Fadlan, who, in the tenth century, accompanied a mission from the Caliph al-Muktadir to the Volga Bulgars, in his Rihla (travel narrative) describes his experiences and the people and places he visited, the Khazzars, and on the manners and customs of the Rus.(endnote 14)
His particular role on that journey was to read out the letter from the Caliphe to the king, to present him with gifts and to supervise the teaching of Islamic laws to the Bulgars. The Embassy had left Baghdad in June 921.(endnote 15)
The journey and the description of the various tribes encountered by the embassy are vividly described by Ibn Fadlan in his Risala.(endnote 16) This is not just the earliest account in Arabic of the Volga region, it also gives the topography of the surrounding region, approximately up to 60 degree North latitude, it is also an important source of anthropology on various populations of the region.(endnote 17)
Ibn Fadlan describes very extensively the populations that live in the region, their trades, manners, clothing, diets, living, and also their customs, such as leaving a sick man alone under the tent with bread and water only, approached by none, waiting for him to die or recover by his own. He also describes religious and other practices, such as the burning of a dead lord on a boat, and alongside him his female slaves.(endnote 18) One thing that seems to startle Ibn Fadlan, though, was the extreme shortness of the night in those regions. He was waiting for the call of late night prayers, talking to a tailor from Baghdad for just half an hour, when he heard the call for prayers, and came out to find that it was morning.(endnote 19) And the night, he discovered, was so lit that a man could be recognised by another at a distance of an arrow throw.
by: FSTC Limited, Sat 01 June, 2002