In the year 267H, Ibn Fadlan, an ambassador for the Caliph of Baghdad was dispatched on a diplomatic mission. Along the way, he encountered some Vikings. It is the earliest known account of Vikings. This is how he described them;
“I have never seen more perfect physical specimens. They are tall as date palms, fair and ruddy, and the men dress in a garment that covers one side of the body but leaves one hand free. Axe, sword, and knife are carried by each guy, always close at hand. Like the Frankish swords, theirs has a broad blade with grooves. Each man has dark green tattoos with designs on every inch of his body, from the tips of his toes to his neck, and so on. Depending on the status and wealth of their husbands, all of their wives wear a round brooch. They are the filthiest of Allah’s creatures. They don’t wash themselves after having sex, or after going to the toilet.
After meals, they don’t wash their hands. They ramble around like lost asses. They engage in open intercourse with their slave girls. In the event that a merchant walks in at this time to purchase a young slave girl from one of the guys and discovers him having sex with her, he does not leave her until he is satisfied. They wash their heads and faces with the dirtiest, filthiest water there is every day without fail.
Every morning, a young serving girl arrives bearing breakfast and a large basin of water. She offers it to her lord, who uses it to wash his hands, face, and hair. In the basin, he uses a comb to wash and detangle his hair before blowing his nose, spitting, and performing every other dirty act imaginable in the water. The servant delivers the bowl to the man standing next to him when he is finished. Until she has given the basin to each man in the house in turn, she continues to pass it from one to the other. They all spit, blow their noses, wash their faces and wash their hair in one basin.
If one of them becomes unwell, the others will set up a tent for him far away from them. They give him some bread and water, but they don’t approach him or communicate with him. Particularly if he is a slave or a poor guy, they do not even visit him throughout the entirety of his illness. If he gets better, he returns to them; if he passes away, they burn him. If he is a slave, they leave him in his current location, where dogs and raptors will eat him.
When they capture a thief or bandit, they take him to a large tree, tie a heavy rope around his neck, and hang him there until the wind and rain cause him to crumble to pieces. When a distinguished man passes away, his family members inquire of his female and young slave girls, asking, “Who among you will accompany him in death?” Once this pledge is made, it becomes irrevocable, and there is no possibility of turning back. When the day arrives for the man’s body to be cremated, along with the girl who volunteered to perish with him, I made my way to the riverside where his boat was moored. A customary practice of their king involves maintaining a group of 400 courageous individuals within his palace. These are his bravest companions, individuals upon whom he can rely. When the king eventually dies, they die too and allow themselves to be killed for him.”
Ṣalāḥ al-Irānī – It has been reported that the Vikings conducted frequent raids on both Muslim and Christian territories within the Iberian Peninsula. Over time, a group of Vikings settled in southeast Seville and embraced Islam. They gained renown for their production of cheese, which became a sought-after commodity in Cordoba and Seville. In 2015, archaeologists conducting research observed the discovery of a woman’s burial site from the 9th century. Among the artefacts found was a silver ring adorned with a purple stone. Experts identified an Arabic inscription on it which read – “il La,” signifies ‘For Allah’ It is said; ‘They highly valued pork. Even those who had converted to Islam aspired to it and were very fond of pork.” These Viking Muslim communities would become known for supplying cheese to Spanish cities including Cordoba and Seville.