No announcement yet.

Islams Greatest Sociologist

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Islams Greatest Sociologist

    Scholar of renown: Ibn Khaldoon
    Edited by Adil Salahi, Arab News Staff

    Abdurrahman ibn Khaldoon was born in the early days of Ramadan in 732 A.H. corresponding to A.D 1332. His family had emigrated from the Andalus to settle in Tunisia a couple of generations earlier. His was a family of highly distinguished position in learning and political circles. His father, however, had turned his back on politics, devoting his time and energy to study and learning, particularly in Islamic studies, language and poetry. He was the first teacher under whom the young scholar, Abdurrahman studied.

    Ibn Khaldoon was a scholar of exceptional intelligence. Right from his early childhood he showed great promise. He soon learnt the Qur’an by heart and studied its various methods of recitation. He then pursued his studies in Qur’anic commentary, Hadith, Fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence, linguistics and literature, reading under some of the most famous scholars of Tunisia, which at the time was the most distinguished center of learning in the western parts of the Muslim world. It was also the place where numerous scholars of the Andalus had settled after the collapse of the Islamic state in the Andalus.

    Ibn Khaldoon wrote his own biography in a booklet that he attached to his most famous history. He mentions there the names of his teachers in every discipline, giving a biographical note of each one of them. He also mentions the names of some of the books he studied. From this we gather that he specialized in the study of Hadith and the Maliki Fiqh, as well as the study of language and literature. He later added to that the study of logic and philosophy, which he studied after he had started to work. All his teachers recognized his exceptional qualities as a scholar.

    He started work before he was 20 years of age, when he was appointed to an administrative post in the palace of the Sultan of Tunisia. That period, however, was one of frequent upheavals in those parts, with many political changes taking place in a short period of time. Four years later, he joined the court of the Sultan of Morocco in Fez, where the Sultan gave him a position in his scholarly entourage. The following year he included him among his writers. During his stay in Morocco, Ibn Khaldoon managed to study under a number of the most distinguished scholars who had arrived there from the Andalus.

    For the next 30 years Ibn Khaldoon was heavily involved in the political conflicts and intrigue that was rife at his time. That gave him some triumphs and numerous regrets, but he also occupied a number of positions and traveled much, without allowing his writing talent to suffer a great deal as a result. In 776, however, he was able to spend four years in the Salamah castle in Algeria. It was at that time that he wrote his famous work, which he called, “The Introduction.” That constituted a major breakthrough in Islamic thought.

    It took him only a few months in 779 to write this work which he intended as a prologue to his book on history. But that introduction is considered one of the major works in history, as it was the foundation of the discipline which came to be known as “sociology.” He realized that he was breaking new grounds, and he wrote that he did not know anyone who had written on this subject before. Indeed Ibn Khaldoon is known as “the father of sociology.” He was later to revise, edit and improve his book.

    Once he finished this “introduction”, Ibn Khaldoon began to write his book on history, completing some chapters over a short period. He intended first to write a history of the Maghrib, or North Africa and the Andalus, detailing the events that took place in that area of the world. However, soon afterward, he embarked on writing a complete history. Realizing that he needed sources which were not available to him in his temporary abode, he decided to go back to Tunisia, hoping to benefit by the great wealth of its libraries. That was in the middle of 780. Within four years he had completed the first version of his history, to which he was later to add large sections on the history of ancient peoples and the eastern parts of the Muslim world.

    Ibn Khaldoon’s “Introduction” continues to be studied today, and it is a reference work in most universities. His history, known for short as Al-Ibar, runs in several volumes. He also wrote several other works of lesser importance.

    Ibn Khaldoon’s interests and studies led him to formulate clear views on man, life and the human soul. However, in all this he is guided by his clear and profound faith in Islam. Speaking of human thinking, he says: “God has distinguished man above all animals by the faculty of thinking, which is the zenith of his distinction. Sensing what lies outside oneself is a quality peculiar only to animals among all creatures. This is one result of the working of the senses God has given to animals, such as hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Man is distinguished by his additional ability to sense other things by means of the faculties God has placed in the depths of his brain. He is thus able to detach the images of what he senses and call up, with his brain, other images.

    Thinking is the ability to manage all such images by detachment, collation and relating one to the other. That is the meaning of the “heart” in God’s statement: “He has given you hearing, sight and hearts.” (67: 23)

    Ibn Khaldoon identifies three patterns of intellectual activity: 1) Distinctive, which is necessary to get what is useful and beneficial for human life and to repel what is harmful; 2) Experimental, which leads to the formulation of opinion and the establishment of agreed manners and standards in dealing with other human beings; and 3) Theoritical, which concentrates on what lies beyond the reach of human perception. It aims to formulate a comprehensive conception of life and existence.

    On prophethood, Ibn Khaldoon has clear views: it is a necessity for man who, relying on his mind and faculties alone, will not be able to identify the right path which will lead him to success and prosperity in this life and in the next world. Of the prophets he says: “God in His glory has chosen certain individuals and favored them with His direct address. He has given them a natural ability to know Him, and made them a means to convey what He wishes to be conveyed to His creatures, showing them what benefits them and urging them to follow the right path. Their aim is to steer God’s creatures away from hell and identify for them the path to heaven.”

    After completing the writing of his famous book, Ibn Khaldoon feared that the Sultan of Tunisia would require him to be involved again in politics. He had no stomach for being again in the thick of intrigue. Therefore, he decided to leave Tunisia for good. He sought the Sultan’s permission to travel for pilgrimage. He set off in a boat in 784 A.H. aiming for Egypt.

    Ibn Khaldoon hoped that in Egypt he would be able to lead a life of tranquility. Cairo was at the time one of the main centers of learning in the Muslim world. Ibn Khaldoon was well known in Egyptian scholarly circles. Therefore, he was soon invited to teach at Al-Azhar, the oldest university in the world, where he taught Hadith and Maliki Fiqh. He also explained to scholars and student alike his sociological theory, and how states are formed. He soon won high accalim. The Sultan was highly impressed by him, and appointed him to teach at the Qamhi school which was close to Amr’s mosque in old Cairo. Less than 2 years later, he was appointed as Chief Maliki Justice of Egypt. But that was followed by constant intrigue, as his appointment aroused feelings of envy and displeasure among those who thought themselves to be no lesser scholars. He was fired sometime afterward, but then re-instated. In fact he was appointed, fired and re-appointed as chief justice no less than 5 times in 5 years. But he continued to teach throughout that period.

    Ibn Khaldoon died in Cairo in 808 A.H. at the age of 76. May God bless his soul.

    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?



      wow. That was an extremely interesting read. What a life - exploring, constantly studying, travelling.

      Informative.. particularly as i didn't know much about his life. Many many thanks for posting.


        Thanks for sharing, did you know that Ibn Khaldoon is of Yemeni orgin? Just thought I'd add that in


          There is an old post somewhere which lists many scholars abd scientists of the golden era of muslim learning. We should bring that post up.

          Understanding contributions and great people that were in the history is good, but it also should serve as a reminder that we have the capacity to do so much, why is it, and what factors have contributed to the decline of such thought and lets work towards fixing that.

          If i find that post I will bring it up. otherwise someone else can try and find it, i guess searching for posts by me with names of some of the scientists may bring it up,
          The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that... he is gone.


            Originally posted by Fraudz:
            Understanding contributions and great people that were in the history is good, but it also should serve as a reminder that we have the capacity to do so much, why is it, and what factors have contributed to the decline of such thought and lets work towards fixing that.
            Quite true.

            i'll try searching for that post, Fraudz.