The Muqaddimah, also known as the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun (Arabic: مقدّمة ابن خلدون, meaning in English: Ibn Khaldun's Introduction) or Ibn Khaldun's Prolegomena (Greek: Προλεγόμενα), is a book written by the Tunisian, Arabic , North African Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun in 1377 which records an early view of universal history. Some modern thinkers view it as the first work dealing with the philosophy of history or the social sciences of sociology, demography, historiography, cultural history, social darwinism, ecology, marxism, darwinian  and economics. The Muqaddimah also deals with Islamic theology, political theory and the natural sciences of biology and chemistry.
Ibn Khaldun wrote the work in 1377 as the introduction chapter and the first book of his planned work of world history, the Kitab al-Ibar ("Book of Lessons"; full title: Kitābu l-ʻibar wa Diwānu l-Mubtada' wa l-Ħabar fī tarikhi l-ʻarab wa l-Barbar wa man ʻĀsarahum min Đawī Ash-Sha'n l-Akbār, ie: "Book of Lessons, Record of Beginnings and Events in the history of the Arabs and Berbers and their Powerful Contemporaries"), but already in his lifetime it became regarded as an independent work on its own.
- 1 Content
- 2 Sociology
- 3 Economics
- 4 Historiography
- 5 Islamic theology
- 6 Natural sciences
- 7 Other theories
- 8 Assessment of various civilizations
- 9 References
- 10 Notes
- 11 External links
Ibn Khaldun starts the Muqaddimah with a thorough criticism of the mistakes regularly committed by his fellow historians and the difficulties which await the historian in his work. He notes seven critical issues:
"All records, by their very nature, are liable to error...
- ...Partisanship towards a creed or opinion...
- ...Over-confidence in one's sources...
- ...The failure to understand what is intended...
- ...A mistaken belief in the truth...
- ...The inability to place an event in its real context
- ...The common desire to gain favor of those of high ranks, by praising them, by spreading their fame...
- ...The most important is the ignorance of the laws governing the transformation of human society."
Against the seventh point (the ignorance of social laws) Ibn Khaldun lays out his theory of human society in the Muqaddimah.
Sati' al-Husri suggested that Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah is essentially a sociological work, sketching over its six books a general sociology; a sociology of politics; a sociology of urban life; a sociology of economics; and a sociology of knowledge.
Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data." As a result, he introduced the scientific method to the social sciences, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science" and developed his own new terminology for it.
The concept of "'asabiyyah" (Arabic: 'tribalism', 'clanism', 'communitarism' or in a modern context 'nationalism') is one of the best known aspects of the Muqaddimah. 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 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 unity presented by those areas to their advantage in order to bring about a change in leadership. As the new rulers establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax and more concerned with maintaining their lifestyles. Thus, a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.
Ibn Khaldun conceived both a central social conflict ("town" versus "desert") as well as a theory (using the concept of a "generation") of the necessary loss of power of city conquerors coming from the desert.
- See also Islamic economic jurisprudence
|When civilization [population] increases, the available labor again increases. In turn, luxury again increases in correspondence with the increasing profit, and the customs and needs of luxury increase. Crafts are created to obtain luxury products. The value realized from them increases, and, as a result, profits are again multiplied in the town. Production there is thriving even more than before. And so it goes with the second and third increase. All the additional labor serves luxury and wealth, in contrast to the original labor that served the necessity of life.|
|Ibn Khaldun on economic growth|
|Businesses owned by responsible and organized merchants shall eventually surpass those owned by wealthy rulers.|
|Ibn Khaldun on economic growth and the ideals of Plato|
Ibn Khaldun wrote on economic and political theory in the Muqaddimah, relating his thoughts on asabiyya to the division of labor: the greater the social cohesion, the more complex the division may be, the greater the economic growth.
Ibn Khaldun noted that growth and development positively stimulate both supply and demand, and that the forces of supply and demand are what determine the prices of goods. He also noted macroeconomic forces of population growth, human capital development, and technological developments effects on development. Ibn Khaldun held that population growth was a function of wealth.
Ibn Khaldun understood that money served as a standard of value, a medium of exchange, and a preserver of value, though he did not realize that the value of gold and silver changed based on the forces of supply and demand. Ibn Khaldun also introduced the labor theory of value. He described labor as the source of value, necessary for all earnings and capital accumulation, obvious in the case of craft. He argued that even if earning “results from something other than a craft, the value of the resulting profit and acquired (capital) must (also) include the value of the labor by which it was obtained. Without labor, it would not have been acquired.”
His theory of asabiyyah has often been compared to modern Keynesian economics, with Ibn Khaldun's theory clearly containing the concept of the multiplier. A crucial difference, however, is that whereas for John Maynard Keynes it is the middle class's greater propensity to save that is to blame for economic depression, for Ibn Khaldun it is the governmental propensity to save at times when investment opportunities do not take up the slack which leads to aggregate demand.
Another modern economic theory anticipated by Ibn Khaldun is supply-side economics. He "argued that high taxes were often a factor in causing empires to collapse, with the result that lower revenue was collected from high rates." He wrote:
"It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments."
Ibn Khaldun introduced the concept now popularly known as the Laffer Curve, that increases in tax rates initially increase tax revenues, but eventually the increases in tax rates cause a decrease in tax revenues. This occurs as too high a tax rate discourages producers in the economy.
In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue...As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow...owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects...and sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield...But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes...Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation.
This analysis is very similar to the modern economic concept known as the Laffer Curve. Laffer does not claim to have invented the concept himself, noting that the idea was present in the work of Ibn Khaldun and, more recently, John Maynard Keynes.
The Khaldun-Laffer curve has also been used in Solid State Physics and Chemistry to interpret the dependence of certain macroscopic properties of solids on hydrostatic pressure (e.g. dynamical effective charge, polarizability) see M.Cardona Arxiv:cond-mat/0204606v1, April 29, 2002
The Muqaddimah is also held to be a foundational work for the schools of historiography, cultural history, and the philosophy of history. The Muqaddimah also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history.
Franz Rosenthal wrote in the History of Muslim Historiography:
Muslim historiography has at all times been united by the closest ties with the general development of scholarship in Islam, and the position of historical knowledge in MusIim education has exercised a decisive influence upon the intellectual level of historical writing....The Muslims achieved a definite advance beyond previous historical writing in the sociological understanding of history and the systematisation of historiography. The development of modern historical writing seems to have gained considerably in speed and substance through the utilization of a Muslim Literature which enabled western historians, from the seventeenth century on, to see a large section of the world through foreign eyes. The Muslim historiography helped indirectly and modestly to shape present day historical thinking.
In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun warned of seven mistakes that he thought that historians regularly committed. In this criticism, he approached the past as strange and in need of interpretation. The originality of Ibn Khaldun was to claim that the cultural difference of another age must govern the evaluation of relevant historical material, to distinguish the principles according to which it might be possible to attempt the evaluation, and lastly, to feel the need for experience, in addition to rational principles, in order to assess a culture of the past. Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data." As a result, he introduced a scientific method to the study of history, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science", now associated with historiography. His historical method also 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".
Ibn Khaldun' makes the following comments on his scientific historical method in his Muqaddimah:
- "History is a science"
- "History has a content and the historian should account for it"
- "The historian should account for the elements that gather to make the human history"
- "He should also work according to the laws of history"
- "History is a philosophical science"
- "History is composed of news about the days, states and the previous centuries. It is a theory, an analysis and justification about the creatures and their principles, and a science of how the incidents happen and their reasons"
- "Myths have nothing to do with history and should be refuted"
- "To build strong historical records, the historian should rely on necessary rules for the truth comparison"
Philosophy of history
It can be regarded as the earliest attempt made by any historian to discover a pattern in the changes that occur in man's political and social organization. Rational in its approach, analytical in its method, encyclopaedic in detail, it represents an almost complete departure from traditional historiography, discarding conventional concepts and cliches and seeking, beyond the mere chronicle of events, an explanation—and hence a philosophy of history.
The Muqaddimah emphasized the role of systemic bias in affecting the standard of evidence. Khaldun was quite concerned with the effect of raising the standard of evidence when confronted with uncomfortable claims, and relaxing it when given claims that seemed reasonable or comfortable. He was a jurist, and sometimes participated reluctantly in rulings that he felt were coerced, based on arguments he didn't respect. Besides al-Maqrizi (1364–1442), Ibn Khaldun's focused attempt to systematically study and account biases in the creation of history wouldn't be seen again until Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche in 19th-century Germany, and Arnold J. Toynbee, a 20th-century British historian.
Ibn Khaldun also examines why, throughout history, it has been common for historians to sensationalize historical events and, in particular, exaggerate numerical figures:
Whenever contemporaries speak about the dynastic armies of their own or recent times, and whenever they engage in discussions about Muslim or Christian soldiers, or when they get to figuring the tax revenues and the money spent by the government, the outlays of extravagant spenders, and the goods that rich and prosperous men have in stock, they are quite generally found to exaggerate, to go beyond the bounds of the ordinary, and to succumb to the temptation of sensationalism. When the officials in charge are questioned about their armies, when the goods and assets of wealthy people are assessed, and when the outlays of extravagant spenders are looked at in ordinary light, the figures will be found to amount to a tenth of what those people have said. The reason is simple. It is the common desire for sensationalism, the ease with which one may just mention a higher figure, and the disregard of reviewers and critics. This leads to failure to exercise self-criticism about one's errors and intentions, to demand from oneself moderation and fairness in reporting, to reapply oneself to study and research. Such historians let themselves go and made a feast of untrue statements. "They procure for themselves entertaining stories in order to lead (others) astray from the path of God." (Qur'an 31.6)
The Muqaddimah is the earliest known work to critically examine military history. It criticizes certain accounts of historical battles that appear to be exaggerated, and takes military logistics into account when questioning the sizes of historical armies reported in earlier sources. In the Introduction to the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun directs this criticism towards to famous historians such as Al-Masudi, who is today regarded as the "Herodotus of the Arabs" and who Ibn Khaldun himself regarded as one of the most famous historians up until his time.
As an example, Ibn Khaldun notes that Al-Masudi and other historians reported that Moses counted the Israelite army as 600,000 or more soldiers. Ibn Khaldun criticizes Al-Masudi for failing to take into account certain logistics, questioning whether Egypt and Syria could have possibly held such a large number of soldiers, or whether an army of that size would be able to march or fight as a unit. He notes that the whole available territory would have been too small for such a large army, and argues that if "it were in battle formation, it would extend" several times "beyond the field of vision." He questions how two such parties could "fight with each other, or one battle formation gain the upper hand when one flank does not know what the other flank is doing," and that a co-ordinated battle movement in such a large group "would hardly be possible." He argues that the "situation in the present day testifies to the correctness of this statement" since the "past resembles the future more than one drop of water another." He then compares it to the Persian Sassanid Empire, noting that it was far more vast than the Israelite Kingdom and yet the size of the Sassanid army at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah amounted to 120,000 troops at most (citing the 8th-century historian Sayf ibn Umar). The Muqaddimah states that if the Israelites really did have such a large army, the extent of their empire would have been far larger, as "the size of administrative units and provinces under a particular dynasty is in direct proportion to the size of its militia and the groups that support the dynasty."
The Muqaddimah further notes that Moses lived only a few generations after Jacob, the founder of the Israelite tribes, according to the Levite tribe genealogy, as described by Al-Masudi. Ibn Khaldun argues that it "is improbable that the descendants of one man could branch out into such a number within four generations." The Muqaddimah also states that there was a general assumption that Solomon's army was similarly large, but Ibn Khaldun refutes this, noting that Solomon came only eleven generations after Jacob, and argues that the "descendants of one man in eleven generations would not branch out into such a number, as has been assumed." He then agrees with another statement from the "Israelite Stories" suggesting that Solomon's army had 12,000 soldiers and 1,400 horses. He notes that this was when the Israelite state was at its strongest, making other claims giving larger numbers for the Israelite army unlikely. Ibn Khaldun notes that Jews have claimed the unrealistically large increase in the Israelite population within several generations was possible because it was a miracle of God, a claim that Ibn Khaldun did not dismiss completely. He considers such a miracle highly unlikely, but appears to be open to the possibility.
The Muqaddimah contains discussions on Islamic theology which show that Ibn Khaldun was a follower of the orthodox Ash'ari school of Sunni Islamic thought and a supporter of al-Ghazali's religious views. He was also a critic of Neoplatonism, particularly its notion of a hierarchy of being. He argued that theosis[disambiguation needed] requires the participation of revelation and is not possible through reason alone. He based his argument on the "irreducibility of the empirical nature of our knowledge of facts, which cannot then be converted into abstract and pure concepts at a higher level of human consciousness."
The Muqaddimah covers the historical development of kalam and the different schools of Islamic thought, notably the Mu'tazili and Ash'ari schools. Ibn Khaldun, being a follower of the Ash'ari school, criticizes the views of the Mu'tazili school, and bases his criticisms on the views of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, whom he describes as "the mediator between different approaches in the kalam." Ibn Khaldun also covers the historical development of Islamic logic in the context of theology, as he viewed logic as being distinct from early Islamic philosophy, and believed that philosophy should remain separate from theology. The book also contains commentaries on verses from the Qur'an.
Often, we may deduce (the existence of) that high spiritual world and the essences it contains, from visions and things we had not been aware of while awake but which we find in our sleep and which are brought to our attention in it and which, if they are true (dreams), conform with actuality. We thus know that they are true and come from the world of truth. "Confused dreams," on the other hand, are pictures of the imagination that are stored inside by perception and to which the ability to think is applied, after (man) has retired from sense perception.
Science of hadith
Ibn Khaldun discussed the science of hadith. He disagreed with the use of reason in the evaluation of a hadith, arguing that "there is no place for the intellect in them, save that the intellect may be used in connection with them to relate problems of detail with basic principles."
On the authority of the Sahih al-Bukhari, the Muqaddimah also argues that, despite the Islamic belief that the Torah was altered by the Jews, the Muslims should neither believe nor disbelieve historical claims concerning the Torah made by Jews and Christians, particularly in regards to miraculous events. He states that:
the statement concerning the alteration (of the Torah by the Jews) is unacceptable to thorough scholars and cannot be understood in its plain meaning, since custom prevents people who have a (revealed) religion from dealing with their divine scriptures in such a manner. This was mentioned by al-Bukhari in the Sahih.
Sharia law and Fiqh jurisprudence
Ibn Khaldun was an Islamic jurist and discussed the topics of Sharia (Islamic law) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in his Muqaddimah. Ibn Khaldun wrote that "Jurisprudence is the knowledge of the classification of the laws of God." In regards to jurisprudence, he acknowledged the inevitability of change in all aspects of a community, and wrote:
The conditions, customs and beliefs of peoples and nations do not indefinitely follow the same pattern and adhere to a constant course. There is rather, change with days and epochs, as well as passing from one state to another... such is the law of God that has taken place with regard to His subjects.
Ibn Khaldun further described Fiqh jurisprudence as "knowledge of the rules of God which concern the actions of persons who own themselves bound to obey the law respecting what is required (wajib), forbidden (haraam), recommended (mandūb), disapproved (makruh) or merely permitted (mubah)."
Some of Ibn Khaldun's thoughts, according to some commentators, anticipate the biological theory of evolution. Ibn Khaldun asserted that humans developed from "the world of the monkeys", in a process by which "species become more numerous" in Chapter 1 of the Muqaddimah:
This world with all the created things in it has a certain order and solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless.
One should then take a look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word 'connection' with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the newest group.
The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man. This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.
We explained there that the whole of existence in (all) its simple and composite worlds is arranged in a natural order of ascent and descent, so that everything constitutes an uninterrupted continuum. The essences at the end of each particular stage of the worlds are by nature prepared to be transformed into the essence adjacent to them, either above or below them. This is the case with the simple material elements; it is the case with palms and vines, (which constitute) the last stage of plants, in their relation to snails and shellfish, (which constitute) the (lowest) stage of animals. It is also the case with monkeys, creatures combining in themselves cleverness and perception, in their relation to man, the being who has the ability to think and to reflect. The preparedness (for transformation) that exists on either side, at each stage of the worlds, is meant when (we speak about) their connection.
Plants do not have the same fineness and power that animals have. Therefore, the sages rarely turned to them. Animals are the last and final stage of the three permutations. Minerals turn into plants, and plants into animals, but animals cannot turn into anything finer than themselves.
His evolutionary ideas appear to be similar to those found in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity Ibn Khaldun was also an adherent of environmental determinism. He explained that black skin was due to the hot climate of sub-Saharan Africa and not due to their lineage. He thus dispelled the Hamitic theory, where the sons of Ham were cursed by being black, as a myth.
Ibn Khaldun was a critic of the practice of alchemy in the Islamic world. In chapter 23 of his work, entitled Fi 'ilm al-kimya, he discussed the history of alchemy, the views of alchemists such as Geber, and the theories of the transmutation of metals and elixir of life. In chapter 26, entitled Fi inkar thamrat al-kimya wa istihalat wujudiha wa ma yansha min al-mafasid, he wrote a systematic refutation of alchemy on social, scientific, philosophical and religious grounds.
He begins his refutation on social grounds, arguing that many alchemists are incapable of earning a living because of the thought of becoming rich through alchemy and end up "losing their credibility because of the futility of their attempts".
He also argues that some alchemists resort to fraud, either openly by applying a thin layer of gold/silver on top of silver/copper jewellery, or secretly using an artificial procedure of covering whitened copper with sublimated mercury, though only skilled experimenters can carry out the latter. He admits, however, that most alchemists are honest and carry out their investigations in good faith with the belief that the transmutation of metals is possible, but on the basis that there has never been any successful attempt to date, he argues that transmutation is an implausible theory without any reliable scientific evidence to support it. He reports the earlier opinions of al-Farabi, Avicenna and al-Tughrai on alchemy, and then proceeds to advance his own arguments against it. One such argument is that "human science is powerless even to attain what is inferior to it" and that alchemy "resembles someone who wants to produce a man, an animal or a plant." Another sociological argument he uses is that, even if transmutation were possible, the disproportionate growth of gold and silver "would make transactions useless and would run counter to divine wisdom." He ends his arguments with a restatement of his position:
Alchemy can only be achieved through psychic influences (bi-ta'thirat al-nufus). Extraordinary things are either miracles or witchcraft... They are unbounded; nobody can claim to acquire them.
The Muqaddimah anticipated the meteorological climate theory of environmental determinism, later proposed by Montesquieu in the 18th century. Like Montesquieu, Ibn Khaldun studied "the physical environment in which man lives in order to understand how it influences him in his non-physical characteristics." He explained the differences between different peoples, whether nomadic or sedentary peoples, including their customs and institutions, in terms of their "physical environment-habitat, climate, soil, food, and the different ways in which they are forced to satisfy their needs and obtain a living." This was a departure from the climatic theories expressed by authors from Hippocrates to Jean Bodin. It has been suggested that Ibn Khaldun may have had an influence upon Montesquieu's theory through the traveller Jean Chardin, who travelled to Persia and described a theory resembling Ibn Khaldun's climatic theory.
The Muqaddimah deals with various questions of political theory. In some ways, his political theories show the influence of Aristotle, while in other ways they anticipate the works of Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes.
In the Muqaddimah's Introductory Remarks, Ibn Khaldun agrees with the classical republicanism of Aristotelian proposition that man is political by nature, and that man's interdependence creates the need for the political community. Yet Ibn Khaldun argues, like Hobbes later, that men and tribes need to defend themselves from potential attack by beast or even unjust men, and thus political communities are formed. The glue which holds such tribes together and eventually forms "royal authority" or the state, according to Ibn Khaldun, is 'asabiyah or group feeling. Ibn Khaldun argues that the best type of political community is the Caliphate or the Islamic state, and argues that the neo-Platonist political theories of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina and the "perfect state" (Madina al-Fadilah) are useless because God's Law, the sharia, has been revealed to take account of public interest and the afterlife. The second most perfect state, Ibn Khaldun argues, is one based on justice and consideration for public welfare in this life, but not based on religious law and so not beneficial to one's afterlife. Ibn Khaldun calls this state blameworthy. Yet the worst type of state, according to Ibn Khaldun, is a tyranny wherein government usurps property rights and rules with injustice against the rights of men.
Ibn Khaldun also anticipates Machiavelli by attempting to answer the question of whether it is better for the ruler to be feared or loved. Ibn Khaldun, like Machiavelli, answers that it is best to be both (though in The Prince, Machiavelli argues it's ultimately more effective for a ruler to retain power through fear). However, unlike Machiavelli, Khaldun believes that if that is not possible then it is better to be loved than feared because fear creates many negative effects in the state's population.
Ibn Khaldun writes that civilizations have lifespans like individuals, and that every state will eventually fall because sedentary luxuries distract them, and eventually government begins to overtax citizens and begin injustice against property rights, and "injustice ruins civilization." Eventually after one dynasty or royal authority falls, it is replaced by another, in a continuous cycle. Machiavelli has a similar notion of sedentary lifestyles, ozio, that corrupts the state, and argues that periodic wars rejuvenate a republic.
The British philosopher-anthropologist Ernest Gellner considered Ibn Khaldun's definition of government, "an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself", the best in the history of political theory.
Assessment of various civilizations
While discussing his "new science", now associated with the social sciences, Ibn Khaldūn states that no other author before him, as far as he was aware, had written about it. However, he was aware that much knowledge of the past had been lost, and thus he was open to the possibility that someone might have anticipated him but that their work had not survived:
- Perhaps they have written exhaustively on this topic, and their work did not reach us. There are many sciences. There have been numerous sages among the nations of mankind. The knowledge that has not come down to us is larger than the knowledge that has. Where are the sciences of the Persians that ‘Umar ordered to be wiped out at the time of the conquest? Where are the sciences of the Chaladaeans, the Syrians and the Babylonians, and the scholarly products and results that were theirs? Where are the sciences of the Copts, their predecessors? The sciences of only one nation, the Greeks, have come down to us, because they were translated through Al-Ma'mun's efforts. He was successful in this direction because he had many translators at his disposal and spent much money in this connection.
Arab and Persian civilizations
Ibn Khaldun makes a clear distinction between two types of Arab people; those who are Arab by descent, i.e. of ethnic Arab descent, and those who are Arab by language, i.e. ethnically non-Arab populations who speak Arabic as a first language. He never refers to that final group as being Arabs, rather he called them by their ethnicity or places of origin (i.e. 'Persians' or 'the inhabitants of Egypt'):
In that connection, "non-Arab" meant non-Arab by descent. Such non-Arabs had a long (history of) sedentary culture which, as we have established, causes cultivation of the crafts and habits, including the sciences. Being non-Arab in language is something quite different, and this is what is meant here.
About Arab bedouins, he wrote:
- The Arab bedouins dominate only of the plains, because they are, by their savage nature, people of pillage and corruption. They pillage everything that they can take without fighting or taking risks, then flee to their refuge in the wilderness, and do not stand and do battle unless in self-defense. So when they encounter any difficulty or obstacle, they leave it alone and look for easier prey. And tribes well-fortified against them on the slopes of the hills escape their corruption and destruction, because they prefer not to climb hills, nor expend effort, nor take risks.
On the Arab conquests of the 7th century:
- Religious propaganda gives a dynasty at its beginning another power in addition to that of the group feeling it possessed as the result of the number of its supporters... This happened to the Arabs at the beginning of Islam during the Muslim conquests. The armies of the Muslims at al-Qadisiyah and at the Yarmuk numbered some 30,000 in each case, while the Persian troops at al-Qadisiyah numbered 120,000, and the troops of Heraclius, according to al-Waqidi, 400,000. Neither of the two parties was able to withstand the Arabs, who routed them and seized what they possessed.
Some of the content in the book is also related to the "Hadith of Persians and belief":
Thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of non-Arab (Persian) descent... They invented rules of (Arabic) grammar... great jurists were Persians... only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, "If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it"... The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them... as was the case with all crafts... This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana, retained their sedentary culture.
Here again he uses the term "Arab" to refer to the ethnic Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula and "Ajam" to refer to non-Arabs in general, though it often it referred more specifically to Iranian peoples from a sedentary Persian culture on the Iranian plateau. Ibn Khaldun made a distinction between being linguistically Arabized and being culturally Arabized. Cultural Arabization to him meant adopting a tribal, bedouin and desert livestyle and was opposite to the sedentary, urban culture, which was inherently non-Arab. Throughout his work he makes the point that Arabs during the early Muslim expansion, were indeed de-Arabized and to some degree adopted Persian and Greek sedentary culture. Also note that in medieval Islamic literature, there were two regions known as Iraq: the Iraq-e-Arab (Arab Iraq) and the Iraq-e-Ajam (Persian Iraq). The Persian Iraq mentioned by Ibn Khaldun is the historic Iraq-e-Ajam (Persian Iraq) which constitutes the triangle of Isfahan, Shiraz and Hamadan.
This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and the Persian countries, the 'Iraq, Khurasan, and Transoxania, retained their sedentary culture. But when those cities fell into ruins, sedentary culture, which God has devised for the attainment of sciences and crafts, disappeared from them. Along with it, scholarship altogether disappeared from among the non-Arabs (Persians), who were (now) engulfed by the desert attitude. Scholarship was restricted to cities with an abundant sedentary culture. Today, no (city) has a more abundant sedentary culture than Cairo (Egypt). It is the mother of the world, the great center (Iwan) of Islam, and the mainspring of the sciences and the crafts.
Some sedentary culture has also survived in Transoxania, because the dynasty there provides some sedentary culture. Therefore, they have there a certain number of the sciences and the crafts, which cannot be denied. Our attention was called to this fact by the contents of the writings of a (Transoxanian) scholar, which have reached us in this country. He is Sa'd-ad-din at-Taftazani. As far as the other non-Arabs (Persians) are concerned, we have not seen, since the imam Ibn al-Khatib and Nasir-ad-din at-Tusi, any discussions that could be referred to as indicating their ultimate excellence.
The Muslims desired to learn the sciences of foreign nations. They made them their own through translations. They pressed them into the mould of their own views. They took them over into their own language from the non-Arab languages and surpassed the achievements of the non-Arabs in them.
On the Jewish civilization:
The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defence... They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. This is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority for about four hundred years. Their only concern was to establish their religion... The Israelites dispossessed the Canaanites of the land that God had given them as their heritage in Jerusalem and the surrounding region, as it had been explained to them through Moses. The nations of the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Armenians, the Edomites, the Ammonites, and the Moabites fought against them. During that time political leadership was entrusted to the elders among them. The Israelites remained in that condition for about four hundred years. They did not have any royal power and were harassed by attacks from foreign nations. Therefore, they asked God through Samuel, one of their prophets, that he permit them to make someone king over them. Thus, Saul became their king. He defeated the foreign nations and killed Goliath, the ruler of Philistines. After Saul, David became king, and then Solomon. His kingdom flourished and extended to the borders of the land of the Hijaz and further to the borders of Yemen and to the borders of the land of the Byzantines. After Solomon, the tribes split into two dynasties. One of the dynasties was that of the ten tribes in the region of Nablus, the capital of which is Samaria (Sabastiyah), and the other that of the children of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem. Their royal authority had had an uninterrupted duration of a thousand years.
Ibn Khaldūn's description of the various Sub-Saharan African states:
Many translations of Ibn Khaldun were translated during the colonial era in order to fit the colonial propaganda machine. The Negro land of the Arabs Examined and Explained was written in 1841 and gives excerpts of older translations that were not part of colonial propaganda:
- When the conquest of the West (by the Arabs) was completed, and merchants began to penetrate into the interior, they saw no nation of the Blacks so mighty as Ghanah, the dominions of which extended westward as far as the Ocean. The King's court was kept in the city of Ghanah, which, according to the author of the Book of Roger (El Idrisi), and the author of the Book of Roads and Realms (El Bekri), is divided into two parts, standing on both banks of the Nile, and ranks among the largest and most populous cities of the world. The people of Ghanah had for neighbours, on the east, a nation, which, according to historians, was called Susu; after which came another named Mali; and after that another known by the name of Kaukau; although some people prefer a different orthography, and write this name Kagho. The last-named nation was followed by a people called Tekrur. The people of Ghanah declined in course of time, being overwhelmed or absorbed by the Molaththemun (or muffled people; that is, the Morabites), who, adjoining them on the north towards the Berber country, attacked them, and, taking possession of their territory, compelled them to embrace the Mohammedan religion. The people of Ghanah, being invaded at a later period by the Susu, a nation of Blacks in their neighbourhood, were exterminated, or mixed with other Black nations. []
Ibn Khaldun suggests a link between the decline of Ghana and rise of the Almoravids. However, there is little evidence of there actually being an Almoravid conquest of Ghana[] Of those further south of Ghana he writes (it should be noted that the English translation of the text used the word "Negro" as a translation for the Arabic world "Zanj"),
To the south of this...there is a Negro people called Lamlam. They are unbelievers. They brand themselves on the face and temples. The people of Ghanah and Takrur invade their country, capture them, and sell them to merchants who transport them to the Maghrib. There, they constitute the ordinary mass of slaves. Beyond them to the south, there is no civilization in the proper sense. There are only humans who are closer to dumb animals than to rational beings. They live in thickets and caves and eat herbs and unprepared grain. They frequently eat each other. They cannot be considered human beings.
- In the middle of the first zone along the Nile, lie the countries of the Nubah and the Abyssinians and some of the oases down to Assuan. A settled part of the Nubah country is the city of Dongola, west of the Nile. Beyond it are 'Alwah 83 and Yulaq.84 Beyond them, a six days' journey north of Yulaq, is the mountain of the cataracts. This is a mountain which rises to a great height on the Egyptian side but is much less elevated on the side of the country of the Nubah, The Nile cuts through it and flows down precipitately in tremendous cascades for a long distance. Boats cannot get through. Cargoes from the Sudanese boats are taken off and carried on pack animals to Assuan at the entrance to Upper Egypt. In the same way, the cargoes of the boats from Upper Egypt are carried over the cataracts. The distance from the cataracts to Assuan is a twelve day's journey. The oases on the west bank of the Nile there are now in ruins. They show traces of ancient settlement.
- In the middle of the first zone, in its fifth section, is the country of the Abyssinians, through which a river flows, which comes from beyond the equator and 85 flows toward the land of the Nubah, where it flows into the Nile and so on down into Egypt. Many people have held fantastic opinions about it and thought that it was part of the Nile of the Qumr (Mountain of the Moon). Ptolemy mentioned it in the Geography. He mentioned that it did not belong to the Nile.
- Ibn Khaldun wrote that Sub-Saharan Africans in the Arab slave trade were submissive to slavery and specifically said "Therefore, the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because (Negroes) have little that is (essentially) human and possess attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals, as we have stated."
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