Travel in the Muslim World
By the Fig and the Olive
“By the fig and the olive,
By Mount Sinai,
By this city of security (Makkah),
Surely we have created man of best stature,
The we reduced him to the lowest of the low,
Except those who believe (Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous deeds. Then they shall have a reward without end.
Then what causes you to deny the recompense (day of Resurrection)?
Is not Allah the best of judges?”
Surat At-Tin, Qur'an 95:1-8
Allah swears by holy places, places where revelations came down to His Prophets. First of those places is Ash - Sham (Syria) in general and Jerusalem in particular, for figs and olives grow in the area. It is as if Allah is swearing by the message that was revealed to Prophet Isa (phuh).
Mount Sinai is in the area of Sinai. It is as if Allah is swearing by the message that was revealed to Prophet Musa (phuh) on Mount Sinai ; 'Sinin' mentioned in the verse above.
And 'this city of security' refers to Makkah Al Mukarramah which is where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received Revelation.
Therefore, it is as if the Verses are oaths taken by the divine messages that were revealed to the Prophets. This points to the spirit of brotherhood between the Prophets for though the laws they came with differed, their religion was one - the religion was Islam.
(Information obtained from Atlas of the Quran)
Last Updated on Monday, 17 August 2015 21:21
Seven Wonders of the Muslim World
7 - Timbuktu, Mali
Located in the West African nation of Mali, Timbuktu once lay at the crossroads of four major trade routes that supplied the Arab world. Its geographic position made the city one of the wealthiest in the world during the 12th century. The city is home one of the first universities in the world, Koranic Sankore University, a celebrated Islamic university that taught over 20,000 students. Over time, Timbuktu developed into the intellectual and spiritual capital of Islam in Africa, and served as a focal point for regional expansion of the religion. While many of its buildings face the threat of desertification, Timbuktu remains an historically important location for intellectual scholarship in Islam.
6 - Bu Tinah Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Undisturbed by humans, Bu Tinah islands is a natural treasure lying off the coast of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The small archipelago is the region’s largest UNESCO marine biosphere reserve for its thriving ecosystem. The island is entirely closed off from humans and is patrolled to ensure that no one attempts to disrupt the habitat. The island is home to numerous endangered species and serves as a crucial research site for determining the effects of global warming. The island is also surrounded by an extensive coral reef, which survives the harsh temperatures and high salinity levels of the region.
5 - Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), Istanbul, Turkey
Built in the sixth century, the Hagia Sophia has a long and storied history. Originally a church, the Hagia Sofia was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, whereupon the structure was renamed Ayasofya. Ayasofya’s towering dome has been used as a model for mosques for hundreds of years and is said to have changed modern architecture for its size and beauty. The interior of the building is filled with breath-taking pillars, mosaics and archways. Today, the building is a museum for members of all faiths to appreciate.
4 - Dead Sea, Borders Jordan, Palestine
The Dead Sea is one of the most captivating and unique bodies of water in the world. The sea is most known for its incredibly high salinity levels; the water here is one third salt, making it eight times saltier than ocean-water. The high level of salinity makes it nearly impossible for animals to live here, hence the name “Dead” Sea. It is also very difficult to swim in these waters. The Dead Sea is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world (378 meters deep) and has the lowest elevation on dry land on the Earth’s surface (422 meters below sea level). The body of water also has historical significance and has been utilized for its massive reserves of salt.
3 - The Great Pyramids of Giza, Giza, Egypt
The Giza Necropolis is located on the outskirts of Cairo and includes the Great Pyramids and the famous sculpture, the Sphinx. The only Ancient Wonder of the World that remains standing, these pyramids have long been considered one of the most precious sites in the world. The Great Pyramid, the largest of the three pyramids pictured, was built over 4,500 years ago and was the world’s tallest building for an astounding 3,000 years. It remains a building of architectural wonder given the complexity and precision found in its design. The pyramids were built as tombs for ancient rulers of Egypt, who were considered to be immortal in the eyes of their followers; today, they are one of Egypt’s main tourist attractions.
2 - Jeita Grotto, Jeita, Lebanon
Located merely eleven miles north of Beirut, the Jeita Grotto is a site to behold. The compound has two separate but connected limestone caves that span nearly ten kilometers in length, making it the longest cave complex in the Middle East. The lower cave can only be visited by boat, since it sits on an underground river that is a principal source of water for Lebanese citizens. The caves were formed through the dissolution of limestone over millions of years and were first discovered in 1836 by Reverend William Thompson. Exploration into the depths of the caves is still taking place. Today, Jeita Grotto serves as a national symbol and major tourist destination for Lebanon.
1 - Petra, Petra, Jordan.
Petra (“rock”) is an ancient city and archaeological site in Jordan carved in cliffs of multicolored rocks. It was built roughly 2,000 years ago by an ancient Arab people, the Nabateans, at a site that was a center for trade routes carrying silk from China and spices and precious stones from India to the West. It fell into disuse when the Romans captured the area and changed the trade route. Since then, earthquakes and erosion have changed the landscape, making it even more stunning. Today, Petra is a national symbol for Jordan and its most visited tourist attraction.
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 November 2012 10:37
Muslims in Space
9 - Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Malaysia
Shukor is the first Malaysian and ninth Muslim in space. He is an orthopedic surgeon by trade and was the winner of the Angkasawan program established by Russia and Malaysia. The program was part of an agreement between the two countries that stipulated that Russia would take one Malaysian citizen to space. As the program’s winner, Shukor was part of the Soyuz TMA-10 mission to the International Space Station. Shukor would stay in space for eleven days; he spent much of his time doing medical research on the nature of the growth of liver and leukemia cells and the crystallization of various microbes in space.
Shukor’s trip is also of interest because it took place during the last few days of the Muslim holy month, Ramadan. As a result, the National Fatwa Council (Malaysia’s top Islamic body) created a handbook for Muslims in space. The guidebook included how to find the direction of Mecca, when the fasting day starts and ends (the International Space Station has a one day/night cycle of only 90 minutes) and how to pray in low-gravity areas.
8 - Anousheh Ansari, Iran/US
Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian-American, was the fourth self-funded space tourist and the first female space tourist after traveling aboard the Soyuz TMA-9 mission in 2006. She also became the first person to blog in space. Ansari’s love for space exploration from an early age motivated her trip, which received extensive media coverage in both Iran and the United States.
Ansari is also known for making a multi-million dollar contribution to the X Prize foundation, which was a prize to be granted to the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space. The prize was later named in her honor, and is now referred to as the Ansari X Prize. The prize was won in October 2004 by the Tier One project, which was financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
7 - Salizhan Sharipov, Russia
Sharipov graduated from the Soviet Air-Force in 1987 and was later selected for cosmonaut training by the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC). In 1998, he was part of the STS-89 mission, an eight day mission that brought supplies to the space station Mir. He flew another mission in 2004 that lasted nearly six months in space at the International Space Station. Sharipov is also on the top fifty list for time spent in space (as of 2006); he is the last Muslim on this list to share the honor.
6 - Talgat Musabayev, Kazakhstan
Talgat Musabayev became the second Kazakh Muslim in space when he was a flight engineer of the Soyuz TM-19 mission to the space station Mir in 1994. He would later command to other flights in 1998 and in 2001, the second of which was a historic mission. For the first time, a paying “space tourist” was on board a flight. The Soyuz TM-32 carried Denits Tito, a billionaire businessman, to the International Space Station (ISS), the successor of Mir. Musabayev has made the top fifty list for most time spent in space.
5 - Tokhtar Aubakirov, Kazakhstan
Tokhtar Aubakirov was a member of the Kazakhstan Air Force before being selected as a cosmonaut to go on the Soyuz TM-13 mission, where he spent over eight days in space. Aubakirov is notable as the first Soviet citizen to go into space without being fully certified as a cosmonaut-several other cosmonauts were booked on other missions and the Soviet Union had promised to send a Kazakh man to space as part of an earlier agreement. Aubakirov has since been the Director of the National Aerospace Agency in Kazakhstan and a Member of Kazakhstan’s Parliament.
4 - Abdul Ahad Mohmand, Afghanistan
The next Muslim in space was Abdul Ahad Mohmand from Afghanistan. Mohmand joined Manarov on the Mir as part of the Soyuz TM-6 mission as a research cosmonaut. Originally a pilot in the Afghan Air Force, Mohmand would later be remembered as a hero for saving his mission from disaster.
Upon the completion of their mission on the Mir, when Mohmand and his crew began their return flight to Earth, the capsule of their spacecraft failed to fire sufficiently and prevented the ship from returning to Earth. The decision was made to continue in orbit until more tests could be run. While waiting for directions from Mission Control, Mohmand made a crucial discovery. Using his instincts, he determined that it would be wise to check the ship’s monitors for any indication of what went wrong. He soon realized that the program guiding the reentry phase was still running. Upon reentry to Earth, the Soyuz capsule is no longer needed and is ejected. While waiting for mission control, the program was still counting down to eject the capsule! With less than a minute left before the capsule was to be ejected, Mohmand noticed it and notified the pilot, who shut down the program. Otherwise, the capsule would have been abandoned without its propulsion system, and the crew would have been stranded in space.
3 - Musa Manarov, Azerbaijan
Musa Manarov traveled to space in December 1987 as part of the Russian Soyuz TM-4 mission to Mir. He would later travel to the station in 1991. The two trips logged Manarov an astounding 541 days (or roughly one and half years) in space, earning him eighth place on the all-time list of time spent in space as of 2006. Manarov was originally a colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Force and joined his first mission as a flight engineer. The Soyuz TM-4 mission became the longest contiguous space mission once it was completed, lasting an entire year.
2 - Muhammed Faris, Syria.
Syrian Muhammed Faris was the second Arab and first Syrian in space. Originally a member of the Syrian Air Force, Faris joined the crew of Russian mission Soyuz TM-3 in July 1987. Faris flew on the mission to the space station Mir and returned on Soyuz TM-2. After the completion of his mission, he was awarded two esteemed titles by the Soviet Union: Hero of the Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.
1 - Prince Sultan bin Salman AbdulAziz Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia
Sultan bin Salman, one of the many nephews of King Abduallah Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, was the first Muslim in space (as well as the first Arab and the first member of royalty). In 1985, Al-Saud became part of the crew on board the American space shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist. Upon completing his mission, Al-Saud was instrumental in the founding of the Association of Space Explorers, a non-profit organization that brings together astronauts from around the world. He is currently the Secretary-General of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
This list relies heavily on the 2007 work of Tamer El-Maghraby, Managing Editor, Health & Science Section, IslamOnline.net
Last Updated on Sunday, 04 November 2012 10:29
10 - Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Bousher, Oman
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the principal mosque in the Sultanate of Oman. The final design came from a competition instituted by Sultan Qaboos in 1992 after he decided Oman needed a Grand Mosque. Within its walls, the mosque houses the second largest single piece carpet and the second largest chandelier in the world.
9 - Baitul Mukarram, Dhaka, Bangladesh
This mosque is the national mosque of Bangladesh and is located at the heart of the capital city, Dhaka. It was established in 1960, when it originally held 30,000 worshippers. Due to overcrowding, extensions to the mosque have been built, increasing its capacity to 40,000 worshippers. The building blends modern architecture and classical Islamic architecture, with designs intended to be simplistic in nature. Its most notable feature is its resemblance to the Ka’abah in Mecca.
8 - Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. It is named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates. The design of the mosque relies heavily on Moorish, Mughal, and Arab architectural design and contains four minarets and fifty-seven domes. It is also home to two world records: both the largest carpet and largest chandelier in the world can be found within its walls.
7 - Faisal Mosque, Islamabad, Pakistan
Faisal Mosque was conceived as the national mosque of Pakistan and has the capacity to hold 300,000 worshippers if its courtyards and adjoining grounds are included. The mosque was named after King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia after his assassination in 1975. The late King was instrumental to the funding of the project. The mosque is located in Pakistan’s capital at the westernmost foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.
6 - Jama Masjid, Delhi, India
Jama Masjid is the largest and most widely known mosque in India. Its name is a reference to Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims. The courtyard alone can hold 25,000 worshippers. The mosque also houses Islamic relics, among them an ancient text of the Holy Qur’an written on deerskin. The building lies on a central street of Old Delhi, and has three gates and two minarets.
5 - Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco
Capacity: 105,000 (source says 25,000, but doesn’t include courtyard)
The Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco and combines Moorish influence with modern architecture and scripture in its design. Nearly half of the surface of the mosque lies over water, which was inspired by a verse of the Qur’an, which states that “the throne of God was built on water.” Part of this area is glass, allowing worshippers to kneel directly over the sea. The building is also very modern: it is designed to withstand earthquakes and has a retractable roof. Last, but not least, this mosque also boasts the tallest minaret in the world, standing at 210 meters (689 feet).
4 - Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, Pakistan
The Badshahi Mosque, or Emperor’s Mosque, is the second largest mosque in Pakistan and is a major tourist attraction in the city of Lahore. It is a classically Mughal building that has three domes and four minarets. It also boasts the largest courtyard of any mosque in the world; the courtyard is so large that the main platform of the Taj Mahal could fit inside it.
3 - Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta, Indonesia
Capacity: 120,000 (no reliable source, but everything on the internet uses this number when listing the largest mosques in the world).
Istiqlal Mosque, or Masjid Istiqlal (Independence Mosque), is Indonesia’s biggest mosque and is located in the country’s largest city and capital. This mosque is the national mosque of Indonesia and was built to commemorate the nation’s independence in gratitude to God. The mosque deviates slightly from traditional Indonesian design and is deliberately simplistic on the inside.
2 - Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, Medina, Saudi Arabia
Capacity: 730,000, up to 1 million during the Hajj
Al-Masjid al-Nabawi, often called the Prophet’s Mosque, is the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad. The Green Dome, or Dome of the Prophet, covers the tomb of the prophet and is one of the most notable features of this mosque, which is considered the second holiest site in all of Islam. The original mosque was actually quite small, but the structure has been expanded and renovated heavily since 1925 after Medina surrendered to Ibn Sau’ud. The mosque is located in the center of Medina and is visited by many Muslims, especially those performing the Hajj.
1- Al-Masjid al-Haram. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Capacity: 820,000, up to 4 million during the Hajj.
Saudi Government: http://www.hajinformation.com/main/j102.htm
This link says over one million, but is unclear about the exact number
Al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Sacred Mosque, is the holiest site in Islam. It surrounds the Kaaba, which Muslims around the world face during daily prayers. When both the indoor and outdoor praying areas are included, the mosque can hold up to four million people, making the Hajj period one of the largest annual gatherings of people throughout the world. The mosque has undergone extensive renovation and expansion under the Sa’ud regime with the most recent phase beginning in 2007.
Last Updated on Friday, 02 November 2012 01:50
Top Muslim Travelers
10 - Ahmad ibn Fadlan (10th century)
Ibn Fadlan is famous for his travels to Scandinavia, where he produced one of the earliest and most influential accounts of Viking culture. Ibn Fadlan described the Vikings as having beautiful bodies but poor hygiene; perhaps his most famous contribution was his description of a traditional burial of a Viking chieftain. He left Baghdad and after crossing the Caspian Sea reached the valley of the Volga river where he encountered the Volga Bulgars. He traveled extensively throughout Northern Europe.
Ibn Fadlan has also made his way into popular culture, serving as the inspiration for Michael Crichton’s book, “Thirteenth Warrior.”
9 - Muhammad ibn Hawqal (10th century)
Muhammad ibn Hawqal was born in Turkey and was a writer and geographer. He spent the last thirty years of his life traveling the world. He documents his trip in his most famous work, “The Face of the Earth” (Surat al-Ardh). During his travels, Ibn Hawqal reached remote areas of Asia and Africa, noting that people lived in regions that Ancient Greeks had once claimed were uninhabitable. His travel logs were very useful to subsequent travelers, and included in-depth depictions of Muslim-held Spain, Italy, and areas of France with notable Muslim populations (Fraxinet, in Provence, being the best example). He also traveled through the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Europe, and what is now Pakistan.
Muhammah ibn Hawqal traveled to nearly every continent and major site on Irhal.com; tracing his footsteps could take a lifetime! For those of us who want to plan shorter trips, here are a few suggestions:
8 - Ibn Jubair (1145-1217)
Ibn Jubair was born in Valencia, Spain. He was well-educated and an expert in the fields of law and Qur’anic studies. He ultimately became the governor of his hometown, where he later became secretary to the ruler of Grenada. A particular incident spurred Ibn Jubair’s decision to travel, and the story is told in the author’s introduction to his famous journals. According to Ibn Jubair, the leader of Grenada had forced him (under the threat of death) to drink seven glasses of wine. Although the ruler was later remorseful, Ibn Jubair was filled with shame for what he called his “Godless act.” As a result, Ibn Jubair decided to perform the Hajj. He stopped at many destinations along his journey, taking careful notes of his observations of the local population. He returned to Grenada after several years.
Trace Ibn Jubair’s journey on Irhal.com - for a great Mediterranean tour, trace his footsteps at the following locations:
7 - ibn Nusair and Tariq ibn Ziyad (8th century)
Musa ibn Nusair and Tariq ibn Ziyad are credited with the conquest of Spain under the Umayyad Caliphate in the first half of the eighth century. Ibn Ziyad was a Berber Muslim general who initiated the conquest of Spain, while ibn Nusair served as a governor for the Caliph in Northern Africa and followed ibn Ziyad to help complete the conquest of Spain. The two men led separate fleets and ultimately reached the rendez-vous point of Toledo. They subsequently returned to Damascus, where they were welcomed as heroes.
Visit Spain and Damascus to relive the conquest:
6 - Muhammad al-Muqaddasi (c.945-1000)
Muhammad al-Muqaddasi is probably the most notable Muslim traveler of the tenth century. His intellectual life began when he performed the Hajj at the age of twenty. After his trip to Makkah, al-Muqaddasi decided to devote his life to the study of geography. For more than twenty years, he traveled to nearly every Muslim country in the world. His journals would later be published as the Ahsan at-Taqasim fi Ma`rifat il-Aqalim (The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions), and represent his most famous work. One of the most cited components of the book is its depiction of Jerusalem, the author’s native city. The work is considered an epic piece of both literature and geographic study, and is still referred to widely today.
Go to countries visited by al-Muqaddasi:
All Middle East Destinations
5 - Ahmad ibn Majid (1421-c.1500)
Ahmad ibn Majid was a famous navigator and Arabic poet who is most famous for having assisted Vasco da Gama in his quest to go around the Cape of Good Hope of South Africa. He is so famous that he is known as the first Arab seaman. His best-known work is “Kitab al-Fawa’id fi Usul ‘Ilm al-Bahr wa ’l-Qawa’id” (Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation), which outlines the history and basic principles of navigation. His major contribution to world history was providing Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, with a map of the world that was unknown to other European sailors at the time. This map was crucial in da Gama’s successful venture to India via the Cape of Good Hope.
Visit South Africa to learn more about the quest to sail from Europe to India!
4 - Muhammad al-Idrisi (1100-c.1165)
Muhammad al-Idrisi was a famous geographer and traveler who was a descendant of the Idrisid rulers of Morocco, and by extension, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He was an inspiration to Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Ibn Battuta. During his early life, al-Idrisi traveled throughout Europe and North Africa. When he reached adulthood, he spent years compiling information on Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Far East from merchants and other travelers. He used this information to complete his crowning achievement, the Tabula Rogeriana, which is considered to be the most accurate map of its time. Largely because of this work, as well as his written text, “Nuzhatul Mushtaq,” al-Idrisi is considered by many to be the greatest cartographer of the Middle Ages.
Visit some of the European Sites that Muhammad al-Idrisi mapped in his early life - information on Irhal.com!
3 - Abu al-Hasan al-Mas'udi (c. 896-956)
Al-Masudi was a famous Arab historian and geographer who is known as “The Herodotus of the Arabs” for combining history and scientific geography in his world history, The Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems. Born in Baghdad, Al-Masudi spent the majority of his life traveling and compiling his work. He traveled to East Africa, the Middle East, Persia, Russia and the Caucuses, India and China. Over his lifetime, he produced a number of books and encyclopedias chronicling world history; unfortunately, most of them have been lost. Al-Masudi may be remembered most for his original approach to historical research, which relied on cultural and social matters in addition to politics. He is known for using numerous sources, including the accounts of locals in the many cities he visited.
Look throughout Irhal.com to visit sites traversed by the great historian and traveler, Abu al-Hasan al-Masudi.
2 - Zheng He (1371-1433)
Zheng He is perhaps one of the most important navigators in world history, and certainly one of the most well-known adventurers in Chinese history. Born as Ma He to a poor Hui (Chinese Muslim) family in Yunnan province, he acquired the surname “Zheng” after serving as a vital assistant in Duke Yan’s successful usurpation of the Emperor’s throne. He was subsequently named commander of a series of naval expeditions designed to increase the might of China throughout the world. Zheng controlled nearly thirty thousand men aboard three hundred of the world’s largest ships (China’s navy dwarfed that of any other nation at the time). Over the course of his seven expeditions, which spanned twenty-seven years, Zheng visited South East Asia, India, and the Middle East. Upon seeing his fleet, foreign nations would send diplomats to pay tribute to the Chinese Emperor who would return home on subsequent expeditions by Zheng. He would die on one such return voyage near India in 1433. Though he has a tomb in China, it is empty; like most great admirals, he was buried at sea.
Expeditions similar to that of Zheng He’s were stopped shortly after his death under the belief that the voyage was not cost-effective; later dynasties actually banned oceangoing shipping. Many modern Chinese historians attribute the subsequent decline of the Chinese empire to this decision. Why? The argument is that the lack of expeditions abroad isolated China from growing technological developments in the Western world. Some also claim that the eruption of a black market for foreign goods decreased taxable imports, thereby reducing government revenue.
Explore Asia on Irhal.com!
1 - Ibn Battuta (1304-c.1368)
Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan Berber Muslim and scholar who has become one of the most famous travelers of all time. When he was twenty-one years old, Ibn Battuta set off for Makkah to perform the Hajj. He would not return to Morocco for over twenty years. Over the course of his voyage, Ibn Battuta traveled to 44 modern countries and traversed nearly 75,000 miles - a distance that easily surpassed his predecessors, as well as his near contemporary, Marco Polo. The famous account of his travels, titled simply “Al Rihla” (“The Journey” in Arabic), features a detailed account of the many regions of the world visited by Ibn Battuta, including most of the Islamic world, much of Europe, India and Central and Far East Asia. Upon completing his travel log, Ibn Battuta became a governor in Morocco, where he ultimately died in 1368 or 1369. His legend is well-known today by Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the world.
Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2012 17:49