In exploring nations and cultures outside of their own, Alberuni and Ibn Battuta encountered ideologies, customs, and practices that stood in opposition to the beliefs and ways of life they personally upheld. Faced with foreign behavior and thought, the authors found themselves in a position to judge, to criticize or compliment the outside culture. Both authors incorporated cultural relativism (the doctrine that all judgment is relative, and that one must look at a culture from an insider's point of view to judge it) in some instances of their texts, and adopt culturally absolutist standpoints (judgment based on an absolute, universal scale without considering different cultural circumstances) in others. Though neither is clearly absolutist or relativist, the authors have separate reasons for reserving judgment.
[...] Whatever the case, Ibn Battuta clearly sees himself as, foremost, a traveler and this is apparently also the image others held of him. Though their texts were neither wholly absolutist nor wholly relativist, both Ibn Battuta and Alberuni adopted the two standpoints at particular instances in their works for distinct reasons. Alberuni's scholarship determines his relativism toward educated classes and toward qualitative sciences, while Ibn Battuta's status as traveler influenced his relativism toward hospitable hosts and toward protectors in times of danger. These patterns are not surprising; complex social issues require cultural relativism in some [...]
[...] Very distinct from Alberuni's ideology and patterns of thought are those of Ibn Battuta; indeed, his instances of relativism and absolutism follow altogether dissimilar schemas. As previously stated, he shows a greater degree of absolutism when faced with inhospitable hosts than with their hospitable counterparts. During one voyage, he relates that “These Turks do not know the practice of giving hospitable lodging to the visitor or of supplying him with money for his needs. What they do is to send him sheep and horses for slaughtering and skins of qumizz, and this is their honourable treatment” (Ibn Battuta 484). [...]
[...] This relativism ceases when Alberuni is discussing the sciences of numbers and measurement; in these cases, quantitative absolutism is manifest throughout his text. He claims that Hindus, however, are devoid of training in astronomy, and have no correct astronomical notions” (Alberuni i. 221). Clearly, his belief in correct and universal astronomical models is an absolutist standpoint. Elsewhere, he comments on the Hindu mathematical system. arithmetic no nation goes beyond the thousand which is certainly the most correct and most natural thing to do Those, however, who go beyond the thousand in their numerical system are the Hindus” (Alberuni i. [...]
[...] Both Alberuni and Ibn Battuta express absolutist views in certain instances and relativist views in others. Why they followed these patterns in their texts is a different issue. When we keep in mind the reasons and motivations for writing the texts, we see that the authors' different purposes led to their different patterns of absolutism and relativism. Alberuni identifies his stance when he remarks in his preface, most parts of my work I simply relate without criticizing, unless there be some special reason for doing (Alberuni i. [...]
[...] In Mali, for instance, Ibn Battuta comments that traveler is not afraid in it nor is he who lives there in fear of the thief or of the robber by violence” (Hamdun and King 58). This sentence is quickly followed by an involved account of what he disliked about Mali, and he makes several absolutist value judgments about their customs (the nudity of women, the respectful self-dusting, and the poetic recitals) (Hamdun and King 59). The close proximity of his declaration of security and his criticism of the culture of Mali indicates that the two are related in his thoughts; once he admits that the country is not a threat, he can speak unflatteringly about the people without fear of reproach or retaliation. [...]
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