Seafaring is a particularly important aspect of Islamic history, as not only did it allow Muslims to spread Islam as far as the seas of China, but it also played a huge role in the trade and commerce of the Indian Ocean. Yet, despite the importance of this aspect of Arabian and Islamic history, few studies have been carried out regarding the socio-cultural maritime history and the literature of the period. Even fewer deal with the language of maritime material culture.
The study is a synchronic investigation into medieval maritime terminology as found in Buzurg ibn Shahriyar’s Kitab 'Aja’ib al-Hind, the etymology of the nomenclature, as well as a diachronic inquiry to establish if there is a continuity of its use from the classical and medieval period to present times. It considers what the best source is for the study of maritime culture; whether lexicographical works provide us with the information we need, or whether Arabic literary sources provide more valuable information in this respect. So the work leads to a better understanding of the terminology both in definition, and in the historical, geographical, cultural and religious context in which it was used.
Alongside the analysis of the maritime terminology of third-fourth/ninth-tenth century, the study ascertains how much information can be extracted from the sources regarding the evolution or development of Arabian-Persian-Indian seafaring in the Indian Ocean from early Islam to the coming of the Portuguese in the fifteenth century.