Knowledge, Culture, and Positionality: Analysis of Three Medieval Muslim Travel Accounts

Methal R. Mohammed-Marzouk


This study provides an analysis of al-rihla account of three Medieval Muslim travelers: Nasir Khasraw (1004-1077), Ibn Jubayr (1145-1217), and Ibn Battuta (1304-1378). The three travelers were selected from different eras, provinces, cultural backgrounds, and schools of Islamic thought and philosophy in Medieval Muslim society. This study intended to answer two questions: 1) what do the three travelers report about their al-rihla experiences? And 2) what factors influenced the three travelers’ experiences of al-rihla as Muslim travelers in search for knowledge? The Holistic Content analysis method in Narrative Analysis was selected to analyze the data. The data analysis resulted in six themes: 1) hajj, the Pilgrimage to Mecca was conducted as, a religious obligation, repentance for sins, and a physical and spiritual path in seeking God’s/Allah’s forgiveness; 2) the theme of seeking knowledge in Islam is strongly associated with hajj; 3) place is a significant theme; 4) emphasis on Islamic principles applied into practice; 5) pride in religious identity as a Muslim; 6) the peaceful co-existence of Muslims, Christians, and Jews was recounted in the three travel accounts. The study concludes that al-rihla accounts of the three Medieval travelers were strongly influenced by three major factors: beliefs about knowledge/seeking knowledge in Islam, culture and cultural identity, and issues of power and positionality.

Key words: Al-rihla; Medieval Muslim Travelers (MMT); Hajj; Place and space; Positionality introduction


Al-rihla; Medieval Muslim Travelers (MMT); Hajj; Place and space; Positionality introduction


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