Leo Africanus

No other could ever recreate what Al-Hassan Ibn Mouhamed Al-Wazzan, Al-Fasi, had achieved in Europe, as a writer, geographer and papal adviser. This Moor moved through various roles, at different junctures he was a Granadan refugee, a Moroccan explorer of sub-Saharan Africa, a royal ambassador, a Muslim slave and a converted Moor living in Rome, writing in Italian about Islamic culture and the geography of Africa. Ibn Al-Wazzan, known to the West as Leo Africanus or Leo the African, is the writer of 'Description of Africa,' an authoritative early modern account of North African geography.⠀

Fleeing from Nasirid Granada after its fall at the hands of the Catholic Spaniards in 1492, Ibn Al-Wazzan joined his family, who had decided to leave for Fez rather than to convert to Christianity. During his stay in Fez, he was enrolled in Quaraouiyine University, where he was instructed in different sciences. At the age of 18, he journeyed with his uncle, the emissary of the Wattasid sultan, Mouhamed Al-Bourtughali, to Timbuktu. After three years, he once again visited this spiritual African capital, showing he had gained the sultan's appreciation and established himself as a reliable notary and diplomat. This would be further confirmed a few years later when the sultan sent him as a trusted envoy to the Sublime Porte. As soon as he accomplished his mission, he decided to return to Fez. On his way through the Mediterranean in the summer of 1518, the notorious Knights of the Order of Saint John sacked his ship and took him to Malta as a slave.⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀

Throughout the years he spent in the Roman curia, Leo taught Arabic to many Christian scholars craving to know about Islam. He translated many documents into Arabic and wrote vocabulary in Spanish, Latin, Italian, Hebrew and his native language, Arabic.⠀⠀⠀

Leave a comment