Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun one of the strongest personalities of Arab-Muslim culture in the period of its decline. He is generally regarded as a historian, sociologist and philosopher. He is considered a forerunner of several social scientific disciplines: demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, and sociology. He is best known for his Muqaddimah, the first volume of his book on universal history, Kitab al-Ibar. His historical method laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history, and he is thus considered to be the "father of historiography" or the "father of the philosophy of history".
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Ibn khaldun, or Abu Zayd Wali Al Din Abdulrahman Ibn Muhammad Ibn Khaldun Al Hadrami Al Ishbili Al Maliki, was born in Tunis, on 1 Ramadan 732/27 May 1332. Growing up in Tunis, Ibn Khaldun studied the traditional religious sciences including law according to the Maliki's school as well as the rational sciences. His family's high rank enabled Ibn Khaldun to study with the best North African teachers of the time. He received a classical Arabic education, studying the Qur'an and Arabic linguistics, the basis for an understanding of the Qur'an, hadith, and fiqh. The mystic, mathematician and philosopher Al-Abili introduced him to mathematics, logic and philosophy, where he above all studied the works of Averroes, Avicenna, Razi and al-Tusi. He also was trained in the arts necessary for a career in government. Among his teachers, he was most impressed by al-Abili, who came to Tunis in 1347 and introduced him to philosophy.

Ibn Khaldun's chief contribution lies in philosophy of history and sociology. He sought to write a world history preamble by a first volume aimed at an analysis of historical events. This volume, commonly known as Muqaddimah or 'Prolegomena', was based on Ibn Khaldun's unique approach and original contribution and became a masterpiece in literature on philosophy of history and sociology. The chief concern of this monumental work was to identify psychological, economic, environmental and social facts that contribute to the advancement of human civilization and the currents of history. In this context, he analyzed the dynamics of group relationships and showed how group-feelings, al-'Asabiyya, give rise to the ascent of a new civilization and political power and how, later on, its diffusion into a more general civilization invites the advent of a still new 'Asabiyya in its pristine form. He identified an almost rhythmic repetition of rise and fall in human civilization, and analyzed factors contributing to it. His contribution to history is marked by the fact that, unlike earlier writers interpreting history largely in a political context, he emphasis environmental, sociological, psychological and economic factors governing the apparent events. This revolutionized the science of history and also laid the foundation of Sociology.

Ibn Khaldun’s magnum opus, “al-Muqaddimah” can be divided into three parts. The first part is the introduction, the second part is the Universal History, and the third part is the history of the Maghrib.