IBN KHALDUN (1332-1406)

IBN KHALDUN, Wali al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Abi Bakr Muhammad b. al-Hasan (732-84/1332-82), one of the strongest personalities of Arabo-Muslim culture in the period of its decline. He is generally regarded as a historian, sociologist and philosopher. Thus his life and work have already formed the subject of innumerable studies and given rise to the most varied and even the most contradictory interpretations.

I. Life.

Ibn khaldun's life may be divided into three parts, the first of which (20 years) was occupied by his childhood and education, the second (23 years) by the continuation of his studies and by political adventures, and the third (31 years) by his life as a scholar, teacher and magistrate. The first two periods were spent in the Muslim West and the third was divided between the Maghrib and Egypt.

At Tunis.

Ibn khaldun was born in Tunis, on 1 Ramadan 732/27 May 1332, in an Arab family which came originally from the Hadramawt and had been settled at Seville since the beginning of the Muslim conquest (Ibn Hazm, Dhamhara, ed. Levi-Provencal, 430), playing there an important political role. The family then left Seville for Ceuta immediately before the Reconquista. From there they went to Ifriqiya and settled in Tunis during the reign of the Hafsid Abu Zakariyya' (625-47/1228-49). Ibn khaldun's great-grandfather, Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-Hasan, who wrote a treatise on Adab al-katib (see E. Levi-Provencal, in Arabica, ii (1955), 280-8), was put in charge of the finances during the reign of Abu Ishaq (678-81/1279-83). The usurper Ibn Abi 'Umara (681-2/1283-4) put an end to his career and to his life, having him strangled after confiscating his possessions and subjecting him to torture. His son, Muhammad, also occupied various official positions, both at Bougie and Tunis, and died in 737/1337, after renouncing political life upon the fall of Ibn al-Lihyani (711-7/1311-7). The latter's son, the father of our Ibn khaldun, wisely avoided politics, leading the life of a faqih and man of letters (Ta'rif, 10-15).

He was thus able to ensure that his son 'Abd al-Rahman received a very thorough education. The latter also attended courses given by the most famous teachers of Tunis, to whom he devotes lengthy sections in his autobiography (Ta'rif). He thus received a classical education, based essentially on the study of the qur'an, of hadith, of the Arabic language and of fiqh. The Marinid invasion (748-50/1347-9) resulted in the arrival in Tunis, with the sultan Abu 'l-Hasan, of a large number of theological and literary scholars. This widened the horizons of the young Ibn khaldun, who was thus enabled, particularly under the supervision of al-Abili, to learn about the philosophy and the main problems of Arabo-Muslim thought. He was however to undergo much suffering. The Marinid occupation ended in disorder and bloodshed, and in addition the terrible Black Death which ravaged the world in the middle of the century, coming from the East, claimed many victims in the country, among them Ibn khaldun's parents. He was at this time 17 years of age and was to retain all his life a memory of the horror of this event, which is reflected in many passages in his Ta'rif and his Muqaddima. This was the first traumatic experience of his life, which was later to have an undoubted influence on the direction of his thought. In addition, the departure of the Marinid scholars left a great intellectual vacuum at Tunis, and it seems that at this time the sole aim of the young Ibn khaldun was to leave Tunis for Fez, then the most brilliant capital of the Muslim West. He states (Ta'rif, 55) that he had a great thirst for learning. His elder brother, Muhammad, dissuaded him from his project, but not for long.

At the court of Fez.

He was not yet t0 when, towards the end of 751/1350, the powerful chamberlain Ibn Tafragin appointed him to the office of writer of the 'alama (the ruler's official signature) on behalf of the sultan Abu Ishaq. He accepted, without, it seems (Ta'rif, 561), the intention of remaining long in the post. The invasion of Ifriqiya by the amir of Constantine, Abu Yazid (753/135t), provided him with the desired opportunity. Under cover of the defeat, he parted company with his master, took refuge for a time at Ebba, then reached Tebessa, then Gafsa, before arriving at Biskra, where he spent the winter with his friends the Banu Muzni. Thus the second period of his life, which was both scholarly and adventurous, began with one of those changes of direction which were to recur on later occasions and which have been severely criticized by the majority of those who have made a study of his life and work. But it was in fact probably not a bad thing: intuitively, Ibn khaldun was refusing to be engulfed in an Ifriqiya which was then in the process of disintegration and whose court furthermore was far from providing an example of loyalty and good behaviour.

Meanwhile, the Marinid Abu 'l-Hasan, after an unfortunate adventure, had been killed (75t/1351), leaving the western territories of the Maghrib to his son Abu 'Inan, who in any case had not waited for his death before supplanting him in Fez. Once again the Marinid hegemony seemed to be consolidating itself. Abu 'Inan seized Tlemcen (753/135t) and reduced Bougie again to submission. From Biskra, Ibn khaldun offered him his services. On his journey he met the Marinid chamberlain Ibn Abi 'Amr, appointed governor of Bougie, who invited him to his new residence, where he lived for some time (until the end of the winter of 754/1353-4), before being summoned to the court at Fez. He was officially part of the sultan's literary circle (madhlisuh al-'ilmi) and soon afterwards also formed part of his secretariat (kitabatuh), though without much enthusiasm it seems, for such a post 'was not in the family tradition'--that is to say it was beneath their dignity. This remark reveals a far-reaching ambition in a young man of barely 23 years. Somewhat disappointed, he therefore continued to occupy himself mainly with his studies. 'I devoted myself', he writes (Ta'rif, 59), 'to reflection and to study, and to sitting at the feet of the great teachers, those of the Maghrib as well as those of Spain who were residing temporarily in Fez, and I benefited greatly from their teaching'. In brief, his desire for learning still took precedence over his political interests. Nevertheless, it may be that, taking advantage of the sultan's illness, he took part in a plot aiming to liberate the former amir of Bougie, Abu 'Abd Allah, and to re-install him in his former kingdom. He himself denies this and refers to intrigues, jealousy and malice (Ta'rif, 67); he was certainly thrown into prison however, remaining there for two years (758-9/1357-8) until the death of Abu 'Inan. This was followed by disturbances, by clashes between the claimants to the throne, and by treachery and bloodshed. Ibn khaldun, now set free, took part in all this according to the custom of the time. Changes of loyalty were common and he was no exception and found himself appointed, in Sha'ban 760/July 1359, to the office of Secretary of the Chancellery (kitabat al-sirr wa 'l-tarsil) for the new sultan, Abu Salim. In order the better to perform his role and consolidate his position, he even made the effort of becoming court-poet ('akhadhtu nafsi bi 'l-shi'r', Ta'rif, 70), and he quotes long extracts from his work as a panegyrist. But this was all wasted effort, since his fortune declined. Two years later he left the chancellery for a judicial post, the mazalim. Then further disturbances resulted in the accession of a new sultan. Ibn khaldun changed his allegiance in time, and considered that he was unjustly deprived of any fruits of the victory. He did not hide his ill-humour, made enemies and, after many difficulties, he obtained permission to withdraw to Granada (autumn 764/1362).

At the court of Granada.

In Ramadan 760/August 1359, a palace revolt had driven Muhammad b. al-Ahmar from the throne, so that, in Muharram 761/December 1359, he had taken refuge in Fez with his famous vizier Ibn al-khatib. There was formed at this time, between the latter and the young Ibn khaldun, a real friendship which, apart from inevitable spells of unpleasantness, was to withstand the test of time. In Jumada II 763/April 1362, Muhammad b. al-Ahmar regained his throne and Ibn al-khatib his former rank. The friendship established at Fez ensured that Ibn khaldun, forced in his turn to flee to the other side of the Mediterranean, was received in Granada with the highest honours. At the end of 765/1364, he was even sent to Seville, charged with a delicate peace mission to Pedro the Cruel. This contact with the Christian world, then in the midst of a period of change, had an important influence on him. On his return, the Nasrid amir showered favours on him (Ta'rif, 85). Ibn khaldun then sent for his wife and children to come to Constantine. But Ibn al-khatib felt some resentment at the success of his young friend and Ibn khaldun preferred not to take full advantage of his favoured position (spring 766/1365).

At the court of Bougie.

It is true that at this time there arose a unique opportunity for him to satisfy his ambition. His friend, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad, with whom he had already been in a conspiracy at Fez, had in fact regained his kingdom of Bougie, and offered him the office of hadhib (chamberlain), which was at that time the most important office in the state, and appointed to the vizierate his younger brother Yahya [see next article]. Ibn khaldun held at the same time posts as teacher of fiqh and as preacher. But this success was short-lived. In the following year, the amir of Constantine, Abu 'l-'Abbas, took the offensive and inflicted a crushing defeat on his cousin Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad, who was killed in the battle. Ibn khaldun, refusing suggestions that he should continue the struggle in support of one of the younger sons of the dead ruler, handed over the town to the conqueror (Sha'ban 767/May 1366) and himself entered his service. This was not to be for long, however. Ibn khaldun saw which way the wind was blowing: he resigned in time, and took refuge at first with the Dawawida Arabs, then with his friends the Banu Muzni at Biskra, whereas his brother Yahya was arrested. To the offer by the sultan Abu Hammu, in a letter of 17 Radhab 769/8 March 1368 (Ta'rif, 102-3) of the office of hadhib at Tlemcen, he replied with a courteous refusal, sending him instead his brother Yahya, who had in the meantime been set free. He explains his motives thus: 'I was in fact cured of the temptation of office (ghiwayat al-rutab). Furthermore I had for too long neglected scholarly matters. I therefore ceased to involve myself in the affairs of kings and devoted all my energies to study (al-qira'a) and teaching' (Ta'rif, 103).

Thus at Biskra he attempted to lead the life of a man of letters. He carried on a long correspondence, much ornamented by rhetorical flourishes, with his friend Ibn al-khatib (Ta'rif, 103-30). However he could not resist intrigue. He gave his support, against Abu 'l-'Abbas, to the alliance between the Hafsid of Tunis and the 'Abd al-Wadid Abu Hammu of Tlemcen. He next took it upon himself to raise support for the Marinid Abu Faris. He was constantly on the move, attempting to form from the small tribal units a force capable of supporting a really great power. But on each occasion events upset his calculations. The claimants were simply too numerous, and this resulted in a new series of changes of front which were basically perhaps only his unsuccessful attempts to back the winner. But in the Muslim West of the 8th/14th century no winner existed. Furthermore his friends the Banu Muzni were beginning to object to the suspicious activities of their guest. Ibn khaldun tried once again to escape the lure of politics. He took refuge in the ribat of Abu Madyan, 'preferring', he writes, 'to live in retirement and devote myself exclusively to learning, if only I might be left inpeace' (Ta'rif, 134). He was not left in peace, nor was he of a temperament to remain so for long. Thus, after some new setbacks in the central Maghrib, he met with failure in Fez (774/137t). Welcomed at first, he was later arrested, then released, and finally permitted to withdraw to Muslim Spain (spring 776/1375), where he wished 'to settle permanently, withdraw from the world, and devote my life to learning (qasd al-qarar wa 'l-inqibad wa 'l-'ukuf 'ala qira'at al-'ilm)' (Ta'rif, 226). Yet again he was disappointed. He had become a political personality with a reputation which could not fail to arouse mistrust. He was henceforward condemned to offer his services for hire, and to be regarded with mixed feelings never entirely free from suspicion, whereas apparently his only ambition now was to be left in peace to work out the conclusions to be drawn from his tumultuous experience and to put his ideas in order.

At the castle of Ibn Salama.

Practically ordered to leave the kingdom of Granada, Ibn khaldun returned to the Maghrib and, after some difficulties, settled with his family at Tlemcen (1 Shawwal 776/5 March 1375). In the meantime his friend, the vizier Ibn al-khatib, whom he had tried in vain to save (Ta'rif, 227)--and this is what had earned him the enmity of the amir of Granada--had been strangled in prison at Fez. Ibn khaldun may have seen this as a warning; he certainly seems after this to have made a firm decision to restrict himself to study and teaching. But the sultan of Tlemcen was willing to forget the past--Ibn khaldun had after all been in turn for him and against him--with the ulterior motive of making use of him once again. He entrusted him with a mission to the Dawawida. Ibn khaldun pretended to accept, but as soon as he had left Tlemcen, he took refuge with the Awlad 'Arif; they gave him a warm welcome and interceded on his behalf with the sultan of Tlemcen, who gave permission for his family to join him. For the next four years (776-80/1375-9) Ibn khaldun lived in the castle of Ibn Salama, 6 km. south-west of the present-day Frenda, in the department of Oran (Ta'rif, 228). This was a decisive turning-point in his life; really enclosed for the first time in his ivory tower, he informs us that he worked out the Muqaddima 'according to that original plan (al-nahw al-gharib) for which he received inspiration during his retirement' (Ta'rif, 229).

Again in Tunis.

After this, to enable him to continue his work, a vast amount of documentation became more and more necessary. Ibn khaldun was at this time 47 years of age. He dreamed of returning to Tunis, which he had left at the age of 20--Tunis, where 'my ancestors lived and where there still exist their houses, their remains and their tombs' (Ta'rif, 230). He wrote for, and obtained, the permission of Abu 'l-'Abbas (771-96/1370-94), the architect of the Hafsid restoration, with whom he had had connexions more than ten years earlier at Bougie. And thus, in Sha'ban 780/November-December 1378, 'he abandoned his traveller's staff' (Ta'rif, 231) in his native town. There he followed his new career as a teacher and a scholar and completed a first redaction of his 'Ibar, the first copy of which, accompanied by a long panegyric (Ta'rif, 233-4), he presented to the sultan. But the success of his teaching--which some considered subversive--and the favours which he received from the ruler, earned him many enemies. The formation of a cabal against him, the moving spirit in which was the famous Ibn 'Arafa, made him fear the worst. He decided to leave the Muslim West, where his awkward past followed him wherever he went. He made the pretext for this the Pilgrimage. The sultan granted him permission for this; there was a boat on the point of leaving for Alexandria; and Ibn khaldun embarked on 15 Sha'ban 784/24 October 1382 (Ta'rif, 245).

In Cairo.

On his arrival in the Mamluk capital, Ibn khaldun was truly dazzled. Students flocked to his courses at al-Azhar, and soon he was appointed teacher of Maliki fiqh at the al-qamhiyya madrasa. Some time afterwards he was also appointed Maliki chief qadi (Jumada II 786/July-August 1384). There then began for him a period of suffering: his family, finally given permission to join him through the intervention of the sultan al-Zahir Barquq, was shipwrecked off Alexandria. At the same time his intransigeance and the intrigues of his enemies, who were furious at seeing one of the most important offices of the state entrusted to a 'foreigner', caused him to be dismissed from his office as qadi (Jumada I 787/June-July 1385). In 789/1387, he was appointed to the newly built al-Zahiriyya madrasa, and then, on his return from the Pilgrimage, he was appointed teacher of hadith at the madrasa of ‘arghatmish. Ibn khaldun preserved in its entirety his inaugural course of lectures (Muharram 791/January 1389), devoted to the Muwatta' of Malik (Ta'rif, 294-310). At the same time, he was placed at the head of the khanqah of Baybars, the most important ‘ufi convent in Egypt. Then, after fourteen years devoted exclusively to teaching, he was once again appointed to the office of qadi (15 Ramadan 801/t1 May 1399). He was again dismissed (Muharram 803/August-September 1400), and some months later (Rabi' II 803/November-December 1400) he was obliged to accompany al-Nasir on his expedition to relieve Damascus, which was being threatened by Timurlane, already master of Aleppo. Left in the besieged town--and abandoned without warning by al-Nasir, who suspected that a plot was being hatched in Cairo during his absence--he played a certain part in the surrender of the town under a false promise of aman, and has provided a detailed account of his interviews with the Mongol leader (Ta'rif, 366-83). He may in fact have thought that he saw in Timurlane the man of the century who possessed enough 'asabiyya to re-unite the Muslim world and to give a new direction to history (Ta'rif, 372, 382). Finally, after writing for Timurlane a description of the Maghrib and having witnessed the horrors of the burning and sacking of Damascus, he returned to Cairo, having been stripped and robbed by brigands on the way. In spite of his compromising attitude towards Timurlane (Ta'rif, 378), he was well received at the court. Four times more he was appointed qadi and then dismissed. His last, and sixth, appointment to this office was in Sha'ban 808/January-February 1406, a few weeks before his death on 26 Ramadan 808/16 March 1406.

During his stay in Cairo, Ibn khaldun did not sever relations with the Muslim West. He retained his Maghribi dress, a dark burnous. He also attempted to encourage the exchange of gifts between the sultans of Egypt and those of the Maghrib and to produce a climate of co-operation (Ta'rif, 335-46). He sent a copy of his 'Ibar to the Marinid Abu Faris (796-9/1394-6), continued to correspond with his friends, and preserved in particular long passages, in prose and in verse, from the letters sent to him by the famous poet of Granada, Ibn Zamrak (Ta'rif, 262-74).

Ibn khaldun's life has been judged variously, and in general rather severely. There is certainly no doubt that he behaved in a detached, self-interested, haughty, ambitious and equivocal manner. He himself does not attempt to hide this, and openly describes in his Ta'rif his successive changes of allegiance. He has been accused of fickleness and a lack of patriotism. But for such judgements to be strictly applicable presupposes the existence of the idea of 'allegiance' to a country, which was not the case. The very concept scarcely existed and was not to appear in Muslim thinking until it was affected by contact with Europe. The only treason was apostasy, nor was loyalty understood except in the context of relations between one man and another, and examples of felony were provided daily by those of the highest rank. Ibn khaldun was, moreover, readily pardoned by those who wished to use his services--he was in turn the enemy and the servant, now of one and now of another, in the same way that men were treacherously killed, with or without good reason, simply as a precaution. The struggles which rent the Muslim West in Ibn khaldun's time were merely a series of minor and abortive coups. He should therefore be judged according to the standards of his own time and not according to ours.

Furthermore, Ibn khaldun, as he proves in his Muqaddima, was an astonishingly clear thinker. It is true that his behaviour was dictated by ambition, the desire of power, a taste for adventure and even a complete ruthlessness in political matters; but it is unlikely that this was all. It would be strange if the theoretician of 'asabiyya did not envisage a plan, perhaps rather vague, for the restoration of Arabo-Muslim civilization which he saw--and he states this clearly--to be in its death-throes. His adventures could thus be seen as only the unfruitful and calculated search for an 'asabiyya powerful enough to save Islam from ruin. Certain facts support this hypothesis, but Ibn khaldun states nothing explicity and his Ta'rif (on which moreover opinions vary) provides no assistance. As has already been mentioned, it gives us no insight into the inner thought of the author himself and presents only his external character. There is thus no way of knowing what his real intentions were.

II. Works.

Ibn khaldun is known primarily forqhis Muqaddima and his 'Ibar, but he wrote other works which have not all survived.

In about his twentieth year, he attempted, under the influence of al-Abili, to make a resume of the theologico-philosophical 'summa' of al-Razi entitled Kitab Muhassal afqar al-mutaqaddimin wa 'l-muta'-akhkhirin min al-'ulama' wa 'l-hukama' wa 'l-muta-kallimin (Cairo 1905), an outline which is a condensation of all the Arabo-Muslim cultural tradition concerning the problems of dogma and its philosophical repercussions. This resume, entitled Lubab al-Muhassal fi usul al-din (Tetuan 1952: autograph manuscript dated 29 ‘afar 752/28 May 1351, Escorial no. 1614), shows a direction of thought which Ibn khaldun was never to lose completely.

It should also be remembered that Ibn khaldun had stressed in his Ta'rif the studious nature of his period at Fez and at Granada. During this period, that is between 752-65/1351-64, the date at which Ibn al-khatib's Ihata was finished (to which we owe the following information), he wrote five works: (1) a commentary on the Burda [q.v.] of al-Busiri; (2) an outline of logic; (3) a treatise on arithmetic; (4) several resumes of works by Ibn Rushd, though unfortunately it is not known which ones; and (5) a commentary on a poem by Ibn al-khatib on the usul al-fiqh. All these works are now lost, and indeed seem to have been quickly forgotten even during the author's lifetime. Ibn khaldun does not even mention them in his Ta'rif, and his Egyptian biographers do not appear to have heard of them.

They seem moreover to have been of a traditional theologico-philosophical type, including the arithmetic which a faqih had to know. Nothing up to this time indicated that Ibn khaldun would go down to posterity as the brilliant founder of the science of history and of other disciplines. The flowering of his genius took place at the castle of Ibn Salama, as the result of the fusion of the traditional disciplines in which he had been educated with the rich harvest of political experience which, through a bitter series of failures and impasses, had made him aware of the meaning and deep significance ('ibar) of history. There then began, in the calm of the castle of Ibn Salama, the work of analysing the passionate and disturbing human adventure, which certainly has its grandeurs but of which he had experienced mainly the miseries. Ibn khaldun really changed as a thinker: the pedestrian faqih which he might after all have been had become a historian of genius, and even the founder of a number of disciplines which were to become some of the most productive of the modern humanities. The first draft of his Introduction (Muqaddima)--which contains the essence of his thought--to his universal history (Kitab al-'Ibar), as well as large sections of this history itself, were written between 776/1375 and 780/1379 during his retirement. He later continued without ceasing, until the end of his life, to re-write this basic work, and especially the Muqaddima. The Ta'rif, an autobiography which stops in Dhu 'l-qa'da 807/May 1405 (ed. al-tandhi, Cairo 1951), and the Shifa' al-sa'il, a treatise on mysticism written towards the end of his life (ed. al-tandhi, Istanbul 1958; and ed. I. A. Khalife, Beirut 1959), are minor works compared with his masterpiece, and their main interest is in the light they throw on it. It should be mentioned that the problem of the authenticity of the Shifa' al-sa'il, so important for the history of Ibn khaldun's thought, has not yet been definitively solved.

The Ottoman historian Na'ima [q.v.] (d. 1128/1716) praises Ibn khaldun in the introduction to his work and gives a summary of his ideas. (The first translation into Turkish, of part of the Muqaddima, was made by the Shaykh al-Islam Piri-zade Mehmed Ef. in 1143/1749 (see IA, s.v. Ibn Haldun, col. 740b); the most recent, complete, translation is by Zakir Kadiri Ugan, 2 vols., Istanbul 1954.) Yet it was in Europe that Ibn khaldun was discovered and the importance of his Muqaddima realized: by d'Herbelot (Bibliotheque Orienlale 1697), by Silvestre de Sacy (Chrestomatie arabe, 1806), by von Hammer-Purgstall (Ueber den Verfall des Islam ..., 1812) and especially by Quatremere, who, in 1858, produced the first complete edition of the Muqaddima--another edition of it was published in the same year in Cairo by Nasr al-Hurini, based on another manuscript containing in particular the dedication to the sultan Abu Faris of Fez (796-9/1394-7)--and by de Slane, who, some years afterwards, produced the first French translation of it (Les Prolegomenes, Paris 1863-8). Since then there has been a continual series of editions and studies on it, in both the East and the West, a proof of the increasing interest in Ibn khaldun's thought, and there have recently been so many of them that bibliographical works on them (by H. Peres and W. J. Fischel) became necessary. The most recent translation, by F. Rosenthal (into English, 3 vols. New York-London 1958), has the advantage of having been made from the Istanbul manuscript (Atif Efendi 1936), which contains a note in Ibn khaldun's writing stating that it had been 'scientifically revised' by the author. There should also be mentioned the Portuguese translation by Khoury, in 3 vols., Sao Paulo 1958-60; a French translation by V. Monteil is being published.

The 'Ibar, the Universal History itself, naturally aroused less interest. The first to produce an edition and translation of extensive passages from the 'Ibar was Noeel Desvergers, under the title Histoire de l'Afrique sous la dynastie des Aghlabites et de la Sicile sous la domination musulmane, Paris 1841. Another partial translation was published some years later by de Slane under the title Histoire des Berberes et des dynasties musulmanes de l'Afrique Septentrionale (4 vols., Algiers 1852-6), followed by an edition of the passages translated (2 vols., Algiers 1863). Next there appeared the complete Bulaq edition (7 vols., 1868), and since then there have followed also some partial translations. There has not yet appeared, however, a truly critical edition of either the Muqaddima or the 'Ibar. The latest edition, that of Beirut (1956-9)--from which our references are taken--is a commercial one, which is however provided with useful indexes.

The criticism generally made of the 'Ibar is that it did not fulfil the promises made in the Muqaddima. This is obvious, but it could not have been otherwise. No one man could write alone a universal history according to the demands of the Muqaddima. But it has more serious shortcomings: Ibn khaldun at times demonstrates a surprising lack of learning, for example, concerning the Almohads and their doctrine: 'In addition, precise dates are rarely given; the chronological details throughout the work are too often contradictory, and one is obliged to prefer on many occasions those provided in other more humble and much more succinct works' (R. Brunschvig, Hafsides, ii, 392). Nevertheless, the Kitab al-'Ibar, through its intelligent arrangement of facts and the detail and scope of the account, remains, in the opinion of the specialist who has made most use of it, an incomparable tool, particularly 'for the two centuries nearest to our author, the 13th and the14th' (R. Brunschvig, op. cit., ii, 393). It should also be added that this work, often disappointing on the history of the East, is generally valuable especially for the Muslim West, and in particular for the Berbers.

But Ibn khaldun's main work, of universal value, is the Muqaddima. In the author's intention, and as the title indicates, it is an Introduction to the historian's craft. Thus it is presented as an encyclopaedic synthesis of the methodological and cultural knowledge necessary to enable the historian to produce a truly scientific work. Initially, in fact, Ibn khaldun was preoccupied with epistemology. Then gradually, meditating on the method and the matter of history, he was led, in full consciousness of what he was doing, to create what he refers to as his 'new science' ('ilm mustanbat al-nash'a, 63), which itself turned out to contain more or less implicitly the starting points of several avenues of research leading to the philosophy of history, sociology, economics and yet other disciplines.

In his preface to the Introduction proper (muqaddimat al-Muqaddima, 1-68), Ibn khaldun begins by defining history--which he expands to include the study of the whole of the human past, including its social, economic and cultural aspects--defining its interest, denouncing the lack of curiosity and of method in his predecessors, and setting out the rules of good and sound criticism. This criticism is based essentially, apart from the examination of evidence, on the criterion of conformity with reality (qanun al-mutabaqa, 61-t), that is of the probability of the facts reported and their conformity to the nature of things, which is the same as the current of history and of its evolution. Hence the necessity of bringing to light the laws which determine the direction of this current. The science capable of throwing light on this phenomenon is, he says, that of 'umran, 'a science which may be described as independent ('ilm mustaqill bi-nafsih), which is defined by its object: human civilization (al-'umran al-bashari) and social facts as a whole' (62).

All that follows, that is the main part of the Muqaddima itself, is only the detailed exposition of this new and independent science which the author had perceived. In it he develops his argument, contrary to some opinions, according to a strict plan, the broad lines of which he states and clearly explains (68) before beginning his exposition. This exposition is divided into six long chapters which in turn are subdivided into many paragraphs of varying lengths and often mathematically arranged. Chapter 1: a general treatise on human society. In it Ibn khaldun makes an outline study of the influence of environment on human nature, an ethnological and an anthropological study. Chapter t: on the societies of rural and, generally speaking, fairly primitive, civilization ('umran badawi). Chapter 3: on the different forms of government, on states and institutions. Chapter 4: on the societies of urban civilization ('umran hadari), that is of the most developed and sophisticated forms of civilization. Chapter 5: on industries and economic affairs in general. Chapter 6: on scholarship, literature and cultural matters in general.

This plan clearly shows that Ibn khaldun in his Muqaddima was inclined to concentrate on social phenomena in general. The central point around which his observations are built and to which his researches are directed is the study of the aetiology of decline, that is to say the symptoms and the nature of the ills from which civilizations die. Henceqthe Muqaddima is very closely linked with the political experiences of its author, who had been in fact very vividly aware that he was witnessing a tremendous change in the course of history, which is why he thought it necessary to write a summary of the past of humanity and to draw lessons ('ibar) from it. He remarks that at certain exceptional moments in history the upheavals are such that one has the impression of being present 'at a new creation (ka'annahu khalqdhadid), at an actual renaissance (nash'a mustahdatha), and at [the emergence of] a new world (wa 'alam muhdath). It is so at present (li-hadha 'l-'ahd). Thus the need is felt for someone to make a record of the situation of humanity and of the world' (53). This 'new world', as Ibn khaldun knew (866), was coming to birth in other lands; he also realized that the civilization to which he belonged was nearing its end. Although unable to avert the catastrophe, he was anxious at least to understand what was taking place, and therefore felt it necessary to analyse the processes of history.

His main tool in this work of analysis is observation. Fairly recently there has been stressed the realistic aspect of his thought. Ibn khaldun, who has a thorough knowledge of the sources on logic and makes use of it, particular of induction, greatly mistrusts speculative reasoning. He admits that reason is a marvellous tool, but only within the framework of its natural limits, which are those of the investigation and the interpretation of what is real. He was much concerned about the problem of knowledge and it led him finally, after a radical criticism, to a refutation of philosophy. 'In casting doubts on the adequacy of universal rationality and of individual reality, Ibn khaldun at the same time casts doubts on the whole structure of speculative philosophy as it then existed' (N. Nassar, La pensee realiste d'Ibn khaldun, 66). Having thus calmly dismissed Arabo-Muslim philosophy, he chose, in order to explore reality and arrive at its meaning, a type of empiricism which has no hesitation in 'having recourse to the categories of rational explanation which derive from philosophy'. In short, Ibn khaldun rejects the traditional speculation of the philosophers, which gets bogged down in fruitless argument and controversy, only to replace it by another type of speculation, the steps of which are more certain and the results more fruitful since it is directly related to concrete facts.

This new positive speculation which he suggests and of which he provides an example in the Muqaddima is operated through a dialectical process which has been referred to in several studies (see in particular the recent works of Y. Lacoste and N. Nassar). He could not in fact penetrate to the heart of reality, describe the struggles and conflicts, the tensions and the successive failures of states and civilizations produced by their internal dissensions without encountering, and calling attention to, the process of dialectic, especially since he had encountered logic in his earlier years and since the ideas of contradiction, antithesis, opposition, the complementariness of opposites, of ambiguity, of complexity and of confusion had long been familiar to the Muslim thinking in which he had been educated. They are thus often evoked as operative concepts permitting understanding and explanation. In surmounting the contradictions dialectically, and in attempting to explain them and hence to resolve them, Ibn khaldun thus arrives at a dynamic conception of the dialectic development of the destiny of man, and at a system of history which is retrospectively intelligible, rational and necessary. His famous cyclic schema of historical interpretation, which in itself is not particularly original, must be included, in order for its true meaning to be seen, in this general view.

The wealth of the ideas provided in the Muqaddima has enabled several specialists to find in it the early beginnings of a number of disciplines which have become independent sciences only very recently. There is of course no argument about Ibn khaldun's quality as a historian. Y. Lacoste writes: 'If Thucydides is the inventor of history, Ibn khaldun introduces history as a science' (Ibn Khaldoun, 187). But he has been regarded also as a philosopher, and it is surprising in particular to discover in his Muqaddima a very elaborate system of sociology. His 'new science', his 'ilm al-'umran, the discovery of which dazzled even himself, is basically, strictly speaking, nothing but a system of sociology,--conceived it is true as an auxiliary science to history. He considers that the basic causes of historical evolution are in fact to be sought in the economic and social structures. He therefore set himself to analyse them, elaborating as he did so a certain number of new operative concepts, the most pregnant of which is incontestably that of 'asabiyya [q.v.]. It should be mentioned that this concept of 'asabiyya, and that of 'umran, have given rise in modern times to many discussions--which cannot be enumerated here--regarding their interpretation (see M. Talbi, Ibn khaldun et le sens de l'histoire, in SI, xxvi (1967), 86-90 and 99-112). He was interested particularly in the influence of the way of life and of methods of production on the evolution of social groups. In a famous sentence, he states: 'The differences which are seen between the generations (adhyal) in their behaviour are only the expression of the differences which separate them in their economic way of life' (210). This sentence is often compared with an equally famous one of Marx: 'The method of production in the material matters of life determines in general the social, political and intellectual processes of life'. The similarity is indeed striking, and it is not the only one between them. Thus Ibn khaldun's thought is often interpreted, particularly in recent years, in the spirit of dialectical materialism. But, in spite of the undoubted similarities, it would be difficult to regard Ibn khaldun as a forerunner of materialism. Moreover the explanation he gives is not exclusively a socio-economic one but also psychological. 'The Prolegomena do not contain only a general sociology but also a very detailed and subtle social psychology which may be divided into political psychology, economic psychology, ethical psychology and general psychology. The intermingled and closely linked elements of this social psychology and this general sociology form a whole complex which it is difficult to disentangle' (N. Nassar, op. cit., 178).

There have been identified also, in this complex, economic doctrines sufficiently detailed to justify a study devoted to them, and a philosophy of history to which M. Mahdi has devoted an important work. It also provides ethnographic, anthropological and demographic information of real value.

Thus the atypical figure of Ibn khaldun in Arabo-Muslim culture has been unanimously considered, since his discovery in Europe, as that of an authentic genius, 'un penseur genial et aberrant' (Brunschvig, op. cit., ii, 391), whose Muqaddima represents 'one of the solemn moments of human thought' (Bouthoul). Certainly a 'solitary genius', he does not belong to any definite current of Arabo-Muslimqthought, since his works are in fact the product of a multitude of agonizing enquiries. His thinking represents a radical change, which unfortunately remained as unproductive as his political misadventures. 'Just as he had no forerunners among Arabic writers, so he had no successors or emulators in this idiom until the contemporary period. Although he had a certain influence in Egypt on some writers of the end of the Middle Ages, it can be stated that, in his native Barbary, neither his Muqaddima nor his personal teaching left any permanent mark. And indeed the systematic lack of comprehension and the resolute hostility which this nonconformist thinker of genius encountered among his own people forms one of the most moving dramas, one of the saddest and most significant pages in the history of Muslim culture' (R. Brunschvig, op. cit., ii, 391).


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