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Ahmad ibn Majid
 

Ahmad ibn Majid, one of the most famous Arab navigators (mu'allim) in history, was born at Julfar in northern Ras al-Khaimah around 1432-1437. He became famous in the West as the navigator who has been associated with helping Vasco da Gama find his way from Africa to India, for in a work by the Meccan writer Qutb al-Din al-Nahrawali (1511-1582) entitled al-Barq al-yamani fi'l-fath al-'Uthmani, published in 1892, we read that, having reached East Africa, the Portuguese 'continually sought information regarding [the crossing of] this sea [Arabian Sea] until a skilful sailor named Ahmad ibn Majid put himself at their disposal'.

This is now known to be incorrect. But Ibn Majid's fame in the Arabic speaking world was far greater, for he was the author of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose. The first of these, his Hawiya, is a poem of some 1082 verses dating to 1462 which is a veritable compendium of navigational theory. Ibn Majid's Fawa'id, the full title of which translates as 'the book of profitable things concerning the first principles and rules of navigation', is perhaps the greatest work on Arab navigation ever written. Not only does it provide unrivalled detail on the Indian Ocean, the routes to be used in crossing it, and the region's chief ports, but he provides a history of Arab navigation prior to his time as well.

 

 
   
   
   
   
   
 

 

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Reference

Tibbetts, G.R. 1971
Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean Before the Coming of the Portuguese
being a translation of Kitab al-Fawa'id fi usul al-bahr wa'l-qawa'id of Ahmad b. Majid al-Najid. London: The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.