55 Facts About Ibn Khaldun


Ibn Khaldun was an Arab sociologist, philosopher, and historian widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest social scientists of the Middle Ages, and considered by many to be the father of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography studies.


Ibn Khaldun interacted with Tamerlane, the founder of the Timurid Empire.


Ibn Khaldun's life is relatively well-documented, as he wrote an autobiography in which numerous documents regarding his life are quoted word-for-word.


Abdurahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Abdurahman bin Ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami, generally known as "Ibn Khaldun" after a remote ancestor, was born in Tunis in AD 1332 into an upper-class Andalusian family of Arab descent, the family's ancestor was a Hadhrami who shared kinship with Wail ibn Hujr, a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.


Ibn Khaldun's brother, Yahya Khaldun, was a historian who wrote a book on the Abdalwadid dynasty and was assassinated by a rival for being the official historiographer of the court.


However, the modern biographer Mohammad Enan emphasised the unclear origins of Ibn Khaldun relying on the fact that Ibn Khaldun's criticism of Arabs might be a valid reason to cast doubt on his Arab origin.


Ibn Khaldun received a classical Islamic education, studying the Quran, which he memorized by heart, Arabic linguistics; the basis for understanding the Qur'an, hadith, sharia and fiqh.


Ibn Khaldun received certification for all of those subjects.


Ibn Khaldun's autobiography is the story of an adventure, in which he spends time in prison, reaches the highest offices and falls again into exile.


Ibn Khaldun then schemed against Abu Inan's successor, Abu Salem Ibrahim III, with Abu Salem's exiled uncle, Abu Salem.


Ibn Khaldun could be sure of a positive welcome there since at Fez, he had helped the Sultan of Granada, the Nasrid Muhammad V, regain power from his temporary exile.


Ibn Khaldun successfully carried out this mission and politely declined Pedro's offer to remain at his court and have his family's Spanish possessions returned to him.


In Granada, Ibn Khaldun quickly came into competition with Muhammad's vizier, Ibn al-Khatib, who viewed the close relationship between Muhammad and Ibn Khaldun with increasing mistrust.


Ibn Khaldun tried to shape the young Muhammad into his ideal of a wise ruler, an enterprise that Ibn al-Khatib thought foolish and a danger to peace in the country.


History proved al-Khatib right, and at his instigation, Ibn Khaldun was eventually sent back to North Africa.


Al-Khatib himself was later accused by Muhammad of having unorthodox philosophical views and murdered despite an attempt by Ibn Khaldun to intercede on behalf of his old rival.


Ibn Khaldun carried out a daring mission to collect taxes among the local Berber tribes.


Ibn Khaldun then entered a monastic establishment and occupied himself with scholastic duties until 1370.


Ibn Khaldun lived there for over three years under their protection, taking advantage of his seclusion to write the Muqaddimah "Prolegomena", the introduction to his planned history of the world.


That was brought into sharp contrast after Ibn Khaldun presented him with a copy of the completed history that omitted the usual panegyric to the ruler.


Under pretence of going on the Hajj to Mecca, something for which a Muslim ruler could not simply refuse permission, Ibn Khaldun was able to leave Tunis and to sail to Alexandria.


In 1401, under Barquq's successor, his son Faraj, Ibn Khaldun took part in a military campaign against the Mongol conqueror, Timur, who besieged Damascus in 1400.


Ibn Khaldun cast doubt upon the viability of the venture and really wanted to stay in Egypt.


Ibn Khaldun remained at the besieged city for seven weeks, being lowered over the city wall by ropes to negotiate with Timur, in a historic series of meetings that he reported extensively in his autobiography.


At his request, Ibn Khaldun even wrote a long report about it.


Ibn Khaldun spent the next five years in Cairo completing his autobiography and his history of the world and acting as teacher and judge.


Georgetown University Professor Ibrahim Oweiss, an economist and historian, argues that Ibn Khaldun was a major forerunner of modern economists and, in particular, originated the labor theory of value long before better known proponents such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo, although Khaldun did not refer to it as either a labor theory of value or theory.


Ibn Khaldun diverged from norms that Muslim historians followed and rejected their focus on the credibility of the transmitter and focused instead on the validity of the stories and encouraged critical thinking.


Ibn Khaldun argued that poverty was a result of the destruction of morality and human values.


Ibn Khaldun looked at what factors contribute to wealth, such as consumption, government, and investment.


Ibn Khaldun argued that poverty was not necessarily a result of poor financial decision-making but of external consequences and therefore the government should be involved in alleviating poverty.


Ibn Khaldun believed that the currency of an Islamic monetary system should have intrinsic value and therefore be made of gold and silver.


Ibn Khaldun emphasized that the weight and purity of these coins should be strictly followed: the weight of one dinar should be one mithqal and the weight of 7 dinar should be equal to weight of 10 dirhams.


Ibn Khaldun's epistemology attempted to reconcile mysticism with theology by dividing science into two different categories, the religious science that regards the sciences of the Qur'an and the non-religious science.


Ibn Khaldun further classified the non-religious sciences into intellectual sciences such as logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, etc.


Ibn Khaldun suggested that possibly more divisions will appear in the future with different societies.


Ibn Khaldun tried to adapt to all possible societies' cultural behavior and influence in education, economics and politics.


Ibn Khaldun attempted to standardize the history of societies by identifying ubiquitous phenomena present in all societies.


Ibn Khaldun characterized the fulfillment of basic needs as the beginning of civilization.


Ibn Khaldun described the beginnings, development, cultural trends and the fall of all societies, leading to the rise of a new society which would then follow the same trends in a continuous cycle.


Ibn Khaldun heavily emphasized that a good society would be one in which a tradition of education is deeply rooted in its culture.


Ibn Khaldun introduced the word asabiya, to explain tribalism.


Ibn Khaldun believed that too much bureaucracy, such as taxes and legislations, would lead to the decline of a society, since it would constrain the development of more specialized labor.


Ibn Khaldun believed that bureaucrats cannot understand the world of commerce and do not possess the same motivation as a businessman.


Ibn Khaldun emphasized in his epistemology the important aspect that educational tradition plays to ensure the new generations of a civilization continuously improve in the sciences and develop culture.


Ibn Khaldun argued that without the strong establishment of an educational tradition, it would be very difficult for the new generations to maintain the achievements of the earlier generations, let alone improve them.


Ibn Khaldun was surprised that many non-Arabs were really successful in the Arabic society, had good jobs and were well received by the community.


Advancements in literary works such as poems and prose were another way to distinguish the achievement of a civilization, but Ibn Khaldun believed that whenever the literary facet of a society reaches its highest levels it ceases to indicate societal achievements anymore, but is an embellishment of life.


Ibn Khaldun faced primarily criticism from his contemporaries, particularly Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani.


The notable exception to this consensus was Ibn al-Azraq, a jurist who lived shortly after Ibn Khaldun and quoted heavily from the first and fourth books of the Kitab al-'Ibar, in developing a work of mirrors for princes.


Ibn Khaldun's work found some recognition with Ottoman intellectuals in the 17th century.


In Europe, Ibn Khaldun was first brought to the attention of the Western world in 1697, when a biography of him appeared in Barthelemy d'Herbelot de Molainville's Bibliotheque Orientale.


Ibn Khaldun began gaining more attention from 1806, when Silvestre de Sacy's Chrestomathie Arabe included his biography together with a translation of parts of the Muqaddimah as the Prolegomena.


Since then, the work of Ibn Khaldun has been extensively studied in the Western world with special interest.


Public recognition of Ibn Khaldun has increased in recent years.