`Asabiyya or asabiyah (Arabic: عصبية, ʻaṣabīya) refers to social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness and sense of shared purpose, and social cohesion, originally in a context of "tribalism" and "clanism". It was a familiar term in the pre-Islamic era, but became popularized in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history. `Asabiyya is neither necessarily nomadic nor based on blood relations; rather, it resembles philosophy of classical republicanism. In the modern period, the term is generally analogous to solidarity. However, the term is often negatively associated because it can sometimes suggest loyalty to one's group regardless of circumstances, or partisanship.
Ibn Khaldun uses the term Asabiyyah to describe the bond of cohesion among humans in a group forming community. The bond, Asabiyyah, exists at any level of civilization, from nomadic society to states and empires. Asabiyyah is most strong in the nomadic phase, and decreases as civilization advances. As this Asabiyyah declines, another more compelling Asabiyyah may take its place; thus, civilizations rise and fall, and history describes these cycles of Asabiyyah as they play out.
Ibn Khaldun argues that each dynasty (or civilization) has within itself the seeds of its own downfall. He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the much stronger `asabiyya present in those areas to their advantage, in order to bring about a change in leadership. This implies that the new rulers are at first considered "barbarians" by comparison to the old ones. As they establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful, and more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle at the centre of the empire—i.e, their internal cohesion and ties to the original peripheral group, the `asabiyya, dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit. Thus, conditions are created wherein a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control, grow strong, and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.
This cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; and it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Khaldun's analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds - psychological, sociological, economic, political - of the group's downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion.[who?]
The Asabiyyah cycle described by Ibn Khaldun was true for nearly all civilizations before the modern era. Nomadic invaders had always ended up adopting the religion and culture of the civilizations they conquered, which was true for various Arab, Berber, Turkic and Mongol invaders that invaded the medieval Islamic world and ended up adopting Islamic religion and culture.
Beyond the Muslim world, the Asabiyyah cycle was also true for every other pre-modern civilization, whether in China whose dynastic cycles resemble the Asabiyyah cycles described by Ibn Khaldun, in Europe where waves of barbarian invaders adopted Christianity and Greco-Roman culture, (Historical Note: Christianity/Rome were the invaders.) or in India or Persia where nomadic invaders assimilated into those civilizations.
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- The Muqaddimah, translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311–15, 271-4 [Arabic]; Richard Nelson Frye (p. 91). He translated the Arabic word "Ajam" into "Persians".
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