International Ibnu Batuta Conference on Travel, Trade, Tradition and Trajectories

Prof. K M Baharul Islam

Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

Prof K M Baharul Islam has been teaching and researching in the area of Interfaith Dialogue, Transitional Justice, Law, Education and ICT for Development for more than two decades. He is the Professor and Chairperson of Communications area at Indian Institute of Management, Kashipur and presently working as a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. He also holds the position of Chair at the Center of Excellence on Public Policy and Government at the institute. Between 2007 and 2012 Dr Islam served as the Chairman and CEO of the South Asian Regional Gateway set up by the Development Gateway (USA). He also serves as a Fellow at the US India Policy Institute in Washington DC. Besides teaching Dr Islam has also worked extensively on ICT Policy, Plans and e-Government Strategy with the UN Commission for Africa (UNECA), UNESCAP, Bangkok and African Development Bank. Since 2014, he has been leading a major World Bank project on Environmental Impact in South Asia at IIM Kashipur as its Program Director. He holds LLM degree from the University of Strathclyde (UK), MA (English) from AMU, Aligarh and MBA from IK Gujral Technical University. He did two PhDs: one in Educational Technology and another in Transitional Justice. He completed his Post-Doctorate from Asian Institute of Technology (Bangkok).


Where the Wander Meets the Saint: Ibn Battuta in India’s Far East

It is well known that after leaving the Maldives for the second time, Ibn Battuta travelled to modern-day Northeast India and Bangladesh before proceeding to China. His rather unsavoury description of Chittagong as "a hell crammed with good things" might attract the modern reader and present day inhabitant of that beautiful city in Bangladesh. But what might be of more interest is his meeting with Shāh Jalāl ad-Dīn al-Mujarrad al-Naqshbandi, popularly known as Hazrat Shah Jalal (1271 CE – 15 March 1346 CE) of Sylhet. Shah Jalal is one of the most influential Muslim figure in Bengal those days and he was credited with the spread of Islam into north-eastern Bengal through Sufism. Disciples of Shah Jalal received Ibn Battuta on his way two days before his reaching Sylhet as the saint told his disciples in advance that a certain traveller was coming from North Africa to meet him!

Ibn Battuta’s meeting with Shah Jalal tells us a lot about the time, places and people of present day Bangladesh and Assam (Kamaru) in Northeast India. Though it was only a brief journey compared to his total span of journey across continents, it nevertheless throws some interesting insights into the history of the region. This presentation looks into the journey of Ibn Battuta in his quest to meet the saint and through his traveller’s lens revisits geography, landscapes, culture and social aspects of Bengal in those days.