In 1326, Ibn Battuta completed his first pilgrimage to Mecca. But instead of returning home, he decided to see as many parts of Dar al-Islam as possible, vowing never to travel the same road twice. In the end, he traveled more than 75,000 miles, down the east coast of Africa and across Asia to China. In 1333, Ibn Battuta arrived in India after traveling through much of west Asia. Here too, he was well-received by the sultan of India. The sultan honored him with feasts and gifts and gave him an important position as grand judge of the capital. After seven years in India, the sultan appointed the traveler as ambassador to China.
Even this famed traveler was greatly impressed by China: “China is the safest, best regulated of countries for a traveler. A man may go by himself on a nine-month journey, carrying with him a large sum of money, without any fear. Silk is used for clothing even by poor monks and beggars. Its porcelains are the finest of all makes of pottery and its hens are bigger than geese in our country.”
He was surprised by the well-established Muslim community he found in China’s ports. China’s first mosque was built 350 years before his arrival. Muslim merchants had come to live permanently in China to manage the far end of their trade businesses. They had grown wealthy, built mosques and developed into a thriving community.
After achieving his mission in China, Ibn Battuta returned home to Tunisia, stopping in Mecca and many other places along the way. He finally settled, after 29 years of traveling, into life of a respected judge. He continued to travel throughout the western Muslim world. Everywhere he went, rulers of all ethnicities welcomed him as one learned in Islam and who had seen the furthest ends of the Muslim world.