When Ibn Fadlan and his caravan are approaching the Kingdom of Saqaliba, they are met with an envoy of lesser kings (under the command of the king of Saqaliba). An envoy rode with Fadlan and at about two farsakahs away, the king of Saqaliba met the group (25). He immediately got off his horse, fell to his knees, thanked his God, and then showered Fadlan with some of the kingdom’s coinage. Fadlan’s caravan slept in tents pitched away from the king’s tent for four days while advisors, military leaders, and more, arrived to hear the caliph’s letter. Upon the king’s summoned, Fadlan and his crew presented the king with extravagances before reading the letter which had to be translated by an interpreter. In the letter, the caliph asks its readers to stand, to which the king and company did. Next, Fadlan read letters from Hamid ibn al-Abbas and Nadhiral-Harami, and the king was showered with coinage after the letters were done being read. Then, Fadlan presented the king and his wife with many gifts from his travels. The king and his wife were showered with coins after receiving their gifts (26).
Later that night, Fadlan attended a formal dinner with the king. The king sat on an ornate throne with the lesser kings to his right, his children in front, and told Fadlan to sit on his left. A table with only meat was brought to the king; then, in accordance with Saqaliba custom, the king cuts and serves everyone meat as small tables are brought to dinner guests. The order of accommodation goes as follows: the king himself, his envoy Sawsan, Fadlan, the lesser kings, and his children. Days later, Fadlan is criticized for not bringing the money from the caliph. However, the king seems to take this lightly as he remains generously hospitable and gives Fadlan an ironic nickname, “Abu Baker the Truthful” (31).
Fadlan recounts marvelous things like the northern lights, changing hours of daylight, tree sap and fruit, snakes, rhinoceroses, and a giant (31-42). He also records law practices that appear strange or incorrect to him. For example, he notes that inheritance laws dictate that a man’s brother receives his inheritance rather than his sons. Fadlan said that he explained the fault in this law to the king thoroughly enough that the king understood (36). Despite accounting for many punishments and practices of law, inheritance law is the only one Fadlan confronts the king about.
While generous gifts and prayer are normal customs of Muslim societies, Fadlan is particularly conscious of how extravagant the king of Saqaliba and his company are in their customs. He notes that the women refuse his urges to veil. He notes on the volume and timing of exclamations to God. He notes many times about the coin (dirham) showers, which suggests that he is confused about the purpose of this practice and possibly thinks it is unnecessary.
Fadlan is constantly bothered by the incorrect or imperfect practices of Islam during his travels. His criticism for those who do not practice Islam “correctly” allots him a sense of superiority, that even extends to the king. It seems that Fadlan gives the king of Saqaliba all due respect and follows the customs of Saqaliba, but he does so out of duty not genuine respect for the culture. Fadlan’s attitude towards foreign customs indicates that his own culture places emphasis on Islamic practices to be strict and takes pride in the correctness of their practices. This is conducive with an imperialist culture