“From the city of Lisbon, the deceived people went out to the sea of darkness to know what is in it and where it ends.. They have in the city of Lisbon in a place near Al-Hamma a path attributed to them known as the path of the deceived.. That is because they gathered eight men, all of whom are cousins, and they built a porter’s boat and put water and food in it. It sufficed them for months, then they entered the sea.”
(The geographer Al-Idrisi in describing the journey of the seduced boys in the Atlantic Ocean)
When talking about the history of exploration of North and South America, the Italian traveler and explorer Christopher Columbus comes to mind, the man who managed to reach in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries AD to the New World and open its doors using all the tools of progress and oppression together, paving the way for the emergence of societies A brand new one that will change the course of history. But the emergence of these new societies came at the expense of the thousands of indigenous people who were killed to subjugate these regions to the Old Western World, as Spain, Britain, France and Portugal raced for the bounties and treasures of the two new continents.
But contemplating what Columbus did in that relatively late period of time, which began during the European Renaissance and after the defeat of Muslims from Andalusia and their expulsion, leads us to ask: Did the Atlantic Ocean miss the geographical and exploration knowledge of Muslims for the entire nine or ten centuries before Columbus, and they are the ones who made The seas of the ancient world, with all their straits, gulfs and seas, under their dominion for hundreds of years?
How did the Muslim geographers of the pioneer generation, who wrote books such as “The Picture of the Earth” by “Ibn Hawqal”, “The Paths and Kingdoms” by “Ibn Khordadbeh”, and “The Lexicon of Countries” by “Yaqout Al Hamwi” pass by “Al Masoudi” missed it? And the scholar Al-Idrisi was the first to make a globe, and even Ibn Fadlallah Al-Omari and Al-Qalqashandi, how did it miss them to talk about this vast ocean? They are legitimate questions, but they quickly resolve when searching in their geographical books and encyclopedias, which prove their interest and search for what is beyond that miraculous ocean indeed, which Muslims called the sea of darkness.
The maps and writings that preceded Columbus clarified the Muslims’ knowledge of this ocean and some of its secrets, regions and countries overlooking it.
The Atlantic Ocean in our geographical heritage
Many Muslim geographers dealt with the Atlantic Ocean. In the fourth century AH, the geographer and historian Al-Masoudi drew a map in which he showed many ocean islands, then showed a large surface that he called the unknown land. In his book "Masalik Al-Absar", the geographer Ibn Fadlallah Al-Omari in the eighth century AH spoke of the existence of land on the other side of the sea of darkness. We also see a simple awareness among these geographers of the sphericality of the Earth, where Al-Omari (749 AH) says: “It has been decided that the world is spherical, and that it is not impossible for what the water has revealed on the other side to be inhabited, and thus the east of this world becomes the west of that side, and the west of it becomes bright.”] 1].
The geographer Ibn al-Zayyat has an important map that is still in the library of the El Escorial Palace in Madrid to this day, showing the eastern coasts of the Americas. Pink provides surprising information about the islands of the Atlantic Ocean and areas of South America that no European reached until at least two centuries after that date.
Ibn al-Wardi wrote that the immortal islands (which are the “Canary Islands”) that are found in this ocean abound with water, trees and gold, and that the abundance of gold there made the people of this land barter it among themselves for cheap goods such as fabrics, beads and colored stones, as Ibn al-Wardi told us about the inhabitants of this land with their skin. The reddish ones, their customs and traditions, and that they wore leaves, and that they fought sea animals and large fish in order to eat them, which are descriptions that are likely to apply to the original inhabitants of the New World.
Muslim geographers derive their initial and basic information about the Atlantic Ocean from Muslim merchants, especially the Andalusians whose countries overlooked the ocean, who strengthened the bonds of economic and trade relations with the peoples overlooking it. For example, the geographer “Al-Qazwini” (682 AH / 1283 AD) relates from the geographer and traveler “Abu Hamid al-Gharnati” that the country of “Yura” is located “near the sea of darkness.. The days for them in the summer are so long that the sun does not set for them for forty days. (f) In the winter, their nights are very long, until the sun sets for forty days from them.. and the people of Yura do not have crops or udders, but they have many “forests” and they eat them and fish, and the way to them is in a land where snow never leaves.” ].
This description seems to address some of the Scandinavian regions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, such as Norway or some of its islands in the north. The scholar Al-Sharif Al-Idrisi in some detail in his encyclopedia “Nuzha Al-Mushtaq Bikhter Al-Afaaq”, and after him Al-Himyari in Al-Rawd Al-Maatar fi Khabar Al-Aqtar.
The Journey of Seduced Boys
It is worth noting here that we refer to two trips made by Muslim adventurers from Andalusia to explore the Atlantic Ocean, its islands and worlds, around which legends have long been woven. Andalusia on the Atlantic Ocean in 276 AH/889 AD, so he penetrated east across the Atlantic Ocean and anchored on many islands scattered therein, until he reached a vast unknown land from which he returned to Andalusia with many treasures. His voyage was the first Muslim expedition into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, although it was not clear that he had already crossed it completely to the American shore, or had landed on one of the islands overlooking it from the side of the ancient world.
As for the second, strangest and most famous expedition, it is the journey of the “Deceived Boys,” meaning the adventurous or risky brothers. They were eight brothers and cousins from the Muslims of the city of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal today. Their story was told by the geographer Al-Idrisi (560 AH / 1165 AD), meaning that the story took place In the time of the Umayyads in Andalusia or the time of the kings of the sects, and perhaps in the era of the Almoravids.
Al-Idrisi said about them: “Eight men, all cousins, built a boat, then entered the sea at the beginning of Taros, the eastern wind, and they ran with it for about eleven days. The sea is in the south for twelve days, so they went out to the island of sheep, and there were sheep that were not taken by counting or collecting. To eat it, they took some of its skins and walked with the south for twelve days, until an island appeared to them, and they looked at a building and plowing, so they went to it to see what was in it, and it was not far until they were surrounded in boats there, so they were taken and carried in their boat to a city on the bank of the sea So they brought it down and saw in it blond men, with the hair of their heads full, and they were tall, and their women had amazing beauty.”
After their capture by the king of this island, he brought an interpreter who knew the Arabic language, and they told him, "They stormed the sea to see the news and wonders in it, and to stand on its end. When the king knew that, he laughed and said to the translator: Tell the people that my father ordered some of his servants to ride this sea and that they They ran across it for a month until the light was cut off from them and they left without need and without any benefit.”
Then the king ordered their release after they fainted and put them on boats that went with them for three days in the Atlantic Ocean. One of them says: “Until we were brought to land, we were taken out and we were left behind, and we were left on the coast until the day came, and the sun rose while we were in distress and in a very bad situation.” The shoulders until we heard noises and people’s voices, so we were completely healthy, so the people came to us and found us in that bad condition, so they loosened us from our bonds and asked us, so we told them our news and they were Berbers (from the people of Morocco), and one of them said to us: Do you know how much is between you and your country (Andalusia)? We said: No, so he said “There is a two-month journey between you and your country.”
It is clear from the details of this expedition of the eight sailors that it amounted to thirty-eight days, which is more than Columbus's voyage, which lasted 33 days, and they traveled between 3600 to 3800 km, which is a distance sufficient to reach the New World "America". Mustafa Al-Shihabi (1968 AD), head of the Scientific Academy in Damascus, wrote that these young men have already succeeded in reaching one of the South American islands in the Caribbean or Antilles, while some European analysts believe that the first island they reached is the island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. Which follows Portugal today, while the second island they reached was one of the Canary Islands.
Muslims were therefore able to reach new lands near the Americas, and perhaps they set foot on islands that are today closer to Latin America than the ancient world. Knowing its secrets and mysteries that have long occupied everyone, including the Chinese, who allegedly reached the western coast of Latin America a few decades before Columbus.
In the end, and although the Europeans succeeded in explicitly landing on the land of America, and settling it before others, they were not the first ones who were curious to cross the “sea of darkness” or to look forward to the vast lands that appeared constantly, albeit mysteriously, on the journeys of many of Muslim travellers.
Pathways of sight 5/97.
Hosni Abdel Moez: The Journeys of Arab Adventurers in the Atlantic, pp. 35, 36.
Al-Qazwini: Athar Al-Bilad and Akhbar Al-Abad, p. 620.
Al-Masudi: Promoter of Gold 1/135.
Al-Idrisi: Nuzhat Al-Mushtaq 2/548, 549.
Hosni Abdel Hafez: Previous pg.