The 17th Century Travelogues of Ahmad bin Qasim
and Ilyas Hanna al-Mawsuli
In the 17th Century, Christianity had begun to spread beyond the borders of Europe. With the Spanish conquest and Christianization in the New World (Latin America), the spread of Christianity had reached all throughout the world. In 1611, a Spanish Muslim named Ahmad bin Qasim, left for France and Holland as a Moroccan ambassador. He recorded his theological and intellectual discussions with the people he encountered in great detail. With his deep knowledge of the bible he was able to use logic, rather than demonizing his counterpart in these interactions. Ilyas Hanna al-Mawsuli was a Chaldean Christian priest from Baghdad, who was able to gain a charter to the New World from the Spaniards. He was a cleric-merchant, who in his travelogue placed emphasis on both the increasing stretches of Christian land and was keenly alert to financial matters. Ahmad bin Qasim and Ilays Hanna al-Mawsuli both traveled extensively, from Europe to Latin America, and wrote accounts reflecting their differing intentions, emphasis and encounters of their travels through these Christian Lands.
Ahmad bin Qasim was a Muslim born in Andalucia Spain, in the year 1569. A “New Christian” or convert to the faith, he adopted the Christian practices but secretly stayed true to his Islamic faith. (Matar 6). He had a strong command for both Arabic and Spanish, but at a time in Spain where knowledge of Arabic was an offense, where and which one could be burned at the stake (Matar 6). When this was discovered by Spanish ecclesiastical authorities, fearing his safety Qasim fled to “God and the land of Islam”, Morocco (Matar 7). There, he became the official translator for Mulay Zaidan, for a mission to France and the Netherlands (due to his command of both Spanish and Arabic), where he would begin the account of his travels. The majority of his writings are concerned with his dialogues between himself and the Christians...
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