You are indeed correct to be skeptical. While undoubtedly Crighton had some familiarity with Ibn Fadlan's account, his well known novel Eaters of the Dead is totally fiction, mixing Ibn Fadlan with Beowulf and a bit of H. Wells' Morlocks added for flavor. There are, however, translations of Ibn Fadlan's true account available, including the excerpts discussing Ibn Fadlan's adventures among the Rus as discussed below.
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His chronicle called Risala includes detailed information and observation about them It is difficult to know exactly when the first encounter between the Northmen and the Muslims took place but the first well-documented contacts between them date back to the ninth and tenth centuries. One of the most famous providers of these written documents is Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. Ahmad Ibn Fadlan was a tenth century traveller and chronicler from the Abbasid Caliphate.
Furthermore, he was an expert in Islamic jurisprudence in the court of the Abbasid caliph, al-Muqtadir. It is known that in , with a group of officials, he started to travel to Volga Bulgaria. This was a Bulgar state which had control over the eastern shores of Volga River from the seventh to the thirteenth century.
Islam was accepted by the Volga Bulgarians as the state religion in the early tenth century. This was also the main reason behind Ibn Fadlan's journey to the region - to assist this newly converted area. Meanwhile, in the late ninth century, a group of Vikings from Scandinavia sailed across Eastern Europe.
The basic motive which attracted them was the material wealth of the region. There, they founded the city of Novgorod and took control over Kiev. The expedition of the Vikings did not stop at Kiev. A group among them formed the famous Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Emperors.
His chronicle called Risala includes detailed information and observations about them. Our own assessments will accompany these passages. It is important to indicate before anything else that Ibn Fadlan's immediate attention regarding these people with whom he had newly become acquainted mostly focused on distinct differences between their religion and culture and his own.
This is no surprise since these differences are more eye-catching. It is a fact that appearance is the first thing which draws the attention of a person about the other. Ibn Fadlan is not an exception in that regard. I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Volga.
I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort.
Every man is tattooed from finger nails to neck with dark green or green or blue-black trees, figures, etc. These descriptions pertaining to the appearance of the Rus are followed by how the women look and what they wear, especially in terms of jewellery.
Then the interest of the author shifts towards another direction: how these people live, especially in terms of hygiene. It should be reminded here that the point of view of the author regarding hygiene depends pretty much on Islamic teachings in which daily routines of ablution and shower after certain actions are necessary.
This can explain the harshness of the following sentences written about them:. They have no modesty in defecation and urination, nor do they wash after pollution, nor do they wash their hands after eating. Thus they are like wild asses. When they have come from their land and anchored on, or ties up at the shore of the Volga, which is a great river, they build big houses of wood on the shore, each holding ten to twenty persons more or less Ibn Fadlan's impression about the hygiene of the Rus depends on the circumstances of that time.
The expressions regarding their general way of living end by touching on the issue of slave girls and how they are treated. Another issue which draws the attention of Ibn Fadlan is the rituals of the Rus performed after their conquest of a new land:. The description of such a ritual implies the non-pursuance of a monotheistic religion by the Rus. It must have been an interesting experience for the author to see it as a believer of a monotheistic religion which puts its main emphasis upon the worshipping of a sole non-material god, Allah.
On the other hand, the longest and most detailed subject of Risala is how a funeral service, especially for the highest authority, is conducted among the Rus.
This is also another aspect of a daily life where Muslims follow different conducts. Thus, Ibn Fadlan himself narrates a conversation highlighting the main difference regarding this specific issue:.
One of the Rus was at my side and I heard him speak to the interpreter, who was present. I asked the interpreter what he said.
We burn him in a moment, so that he enters paradise at once. In the end, Ibn Fadlan's Risala is an important source as one of the earliest written documents regarding the encounter of Muslims with Vikings in Volga Bulgaria.
The book was later filmed under the title of 13 th Warrior. As a small note here, it is argued that Ibn Fadlan met with Vikings called Varangians in Constantinople and among them there were Muslim converts.
However, there is no direct mention of such a group in Risala. Most important eye-catchers: apparent differences It is important to indicate before anything else that Ibn Fadlan's immediate attention regarding these people with whom he had newly become acquainted mostly focused on distinct differences between their religion and culture and his own.
Thus, Ibn Fadlan himself narrates a conversation highlighting the main difference regarding this specific issue: One of the Rus was at my side and I heard him speak to the interpreter, who was present. Add Comment. Name and Surmane. Archaeologists find 4,year-old tomb south of Cairo History. Ottoman money still kept safe after year - History History. Why Finland uses swastika without a problem History.
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Ibn Fadlan: An Arab Among the Vikings of Russia
His chronicle called Risala includes detailed information and observation about them It is difficult to know exactly when the first encounter between the Northmen and the Muslims took place but the first well-documented contacts between them date back to the ninth and tenth centuries. One of the most famous providers of these written documents is Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. Ahmad Ibn Fadlan was a tenth century traveller and chronicler from the Abbasid Caliphate. Furthermore, he was an expert in Islamic jurisprudence in the court of the Abbasid caliph, al-Muqtadir.
Risala: Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus
Ahmad ibn Fadlan was described as an Arab in contemporaneous sources. Frye add that nothing can be said with certainty about his origin, his ethnicity, his education, or even the dates of his birth and death. Primary sources documents and historical texts reveal that Ahmad Ibn Fadlan was a faqih , an expert in Islamic jurisprudence and faith, in the court of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir. Other than the fact that he was both a traveler and a theologian in service of the Abbasid Caliphate, little is known about Ahmad Ibn Fadlan prior to and his self-reported travels. On 21 June 11 safar AH , a diplomatic party led by Susan al-Rassi, a eunuch in the caliph's court, left Baghdad. These were the Volga Bulgars; another group of Bulgars had moved westward in the 6th century, invading the country that today bears their name and became Christians. Additionally, the embassy was sent in response to a request by the king of the Volga Bulgars to help them against their enemies, the Khazars.
Perception of the Vikings from Ibn Fadlan's glance in al-Risala
In , the Arab traveler Ahmad ibn Fadlan fl. There he encountered numerous Turkic peoples, among them the Khazars, one of the few groups in history outside of Israel to adopt Judaism. But perhaps the most memorable passages in the Risala, his account of his journeys, concern the Varangians, a group of Vikings known by a term that would eventually become the name of the surrounding country itself: Rus. Ibn Fadlan traveled on orders from al-Muqtadir r. Though by Ibn Fadlan's time the influence of the caliphs—imperial leaders who possessed religious as well as political authority—had declined somewhat, the Abbasid dynasty still remained the single most powerful force east of the Byzantine Empire and west of China. Through military might, combined with their fervent belief in Islam, the soldiers of the Umayyad caliphate had extended Arab influence from Spain to India; and though the Abbasids proved less aggressive militarily, they were nonetheless eager missionaries for the Muslim faith. Hence the purpose of Ibn Fadlan's mission: to explain Islamic law to the recently converted Volga Bulgars.