History Essay on the Impact of Al-Muqaddasis on the The UAE and Oman

For a number of years preceding the tenth-century writings, multiple scholars attempted to capture history of the countries belonging to the Arabian Peninsula, which Oman and the todays UAE belong to, yet none of them did it quite as comprehensively, insightfully and uniquely as al-Muqaddasi and his counterpart Ibn al-Mujawir . They both conducted journey across the Arabian Peninsula at different times; al-Muqaddasi approximately in the tenth century, and Ibn al-Mujawir in the thirteenth century . Each of them recorded the experiences of his travels in the books that are much appreciated and greatly referenced by modern scholars. al-Muqaddasis most famous piece is Ahsan at-taqasim fi ma'rifat al-aqalim (The Best Divisions for Knowledge of the Regions) . Conversely, Ibn al-Mujawirs writings are summarized in the book bearing the title A traveler in the thirteenth-century Arabia' - 'Tarikh al-mustabsir'.

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To understand their writings, their choice of style and perhaps the reasons behind their tours, it may prove useful to delve a little into the backgrounds of each of these geographers and authors. al-Muqaddasi, whose full name is Muhammad ibn Ahmad Shams al-Din al-Muqaddasi, is a prominent geographer of his time who is believed to have contributed greatly to the shaping of Islamic civilization in those early years of the tenth century . His writings shed much light onto the social and cultural life of the Islamic people of the time, as well as gave a detailed geographical description of the regions he toured . He is believed to have originally hailed from Jerusalem and may have been born in the year 935 . He was fortunate to receive a good education by the standards of the time which is evident in the quality of his work .

On the other hand, Ibn al-Mujawir, also a staunch believer of the Islamic faith, is believed to have expertise in various fields: an author, a fair businessman of his time and a fine traveler . He toured the Arabian Peninsula and gave much detail of his visits to Aden and Jeddah that was greatly borrowed by other authors of his time and even of today . Based on his writings, it is estimated that he may have been born in the first part of the twelfth century. He may have hailed from Khurasan, and may have been a native speaker of the Persian language. He was also fascinated by the magic world and was among the ones who practiced it .

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Before the writings mentioned above, other respectable scholars had attempted to capture the history and heritage of the Arabian Peninsula, yet in some ways failed to do so. Unlike the Science of Countries approach used by al-Jahiz and Ibn al-Faqih or the cosmographical approach used by predecessors, al-Muqaddasi deliberately borrowed from and expounded on the Atlas of Islam approach created by al-Balkhi . His approach is hailed for its originality largely because of the ways he borrowed knowledge from the works of the scholars before him, improving them a lot, using his own uniquely descriptive style and merging all this to produce a work that earned itself the title of being unprecedentedly geographical .

Apart from giving a geographical description of the countries he toured, al-Muqaddasi chose to bring unique aspects of the Islamic culture such as people economic activities, politics, money, ethnic diversity, archaeological structures, demographics and the natural resources of the different regions .

For instance, the ways he introduces the readers to the finance and fiscal issues of the time by telling about the currency that was in use in Oman as well as in other regions of the Arabian Peninsula . He specifically states that In Oman a dirham is levied on every date palm tree, which meaning he proceed to expound. He even sheds light on the tithing system that was in existence in the Peninsula of the Arabs, as he called it . He also makes the audience aware of the strategic location of Oman as being the most conducive in aiding one in acquiring 'commercial riches . He as well informs us of Fustats and Adens equal importance and positioning.

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Al-Mujawir, on the other hand, takes a step further into how he expound his work and chooses to include eyewitness accounts in his writings . The timings of some of his journeys to certain places happened to be not too long after the occurrence of certain events that he considered noteworthy, thus, the memories of these accounts were still fresh in the eye-witnesses minds . This is a fact which helps to make his work more credible. Whereas he details the social and economic life of the regions he visited, he abandon the level of detalization of al-Muqaddasi, and instead shares the folklore tales of the time which helps to shed much light onto the traditions, beliefs and value systems of the peoples of these regions . The writing of al-Muqaddasi pose the facts while al-Mujawir has more a narrative style of writing.

The writings reveal the cultures, traditions and economic activities of the countries that surrounded modern day Oman and the UAE and how these may have influenced the life in these two countries. The works uncover how these regions were not demarcated as they are today. By taking the time and effort to delve into more details, their works help more deeply appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Oman and the UAE as well as other Arabian Peninsula countries.

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