The present paper suggests, with caution, that the Khaldunian intellectual discourse is of utmost importance-among other discourses of this category of universality- in helping Muslims in maintaining their civilizational and spiritual-cum-intellectual identity and authenticity while grappling with some of the present issues in the intellectual, cultural and civilizational fields. This is relevant especially in matters pertaining to Islamic tawhidic world-view, epistemology, axiology, education, culture and socio-political exigencies. Hence in in-depth and serious study of this discourse is intellectually and absolutely necessary.

His Life:

Before going to his ideas it may be pertinent for us, at least to refresh our memory with the salient features of his life, educational background, and activities, in the age and the environment in which he lived. He is- Allah has mercy on him- Wali al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin ‘Abd al-Rahman bin Khaldun. According to his own account his ancestors originated from Hadramaut, Yemen. And through another line, his ancestor is traced, based on the record of Ibn Hazm, through his grandfather, who was the first to enter Andalusia, back to Wail bin Hajar, one of the oldest Yemeni tribes; he is undoubtedly of Arab origin. (1)

He was born in Tunis on the 27th of May 1332 (Ramadan 1, 732), started his traditional education befitting his family situation and status, first at the hands of his won father, memorising the Qur’an, learning grammar, sacred law, tradition of the Prophet, rhetoric, philology, and poetry; he mentions his teachers in his autobiography. He continued with his education until the time of the great plague which swept over countries from Mauritania to Samarkand, causing him to lose his parents and his professors; then he had occasion to enter public life when ibn Tarafkin, the king of Tunis made him the seal bearer of Sultan Abu Ishaq, who was his captive. He was then a youth under twenty. (2) With this appointment he came to know the inner workings of court politics and the weaknesses of governments. Then he had the opportunity to leave Tunis.

When Tunis was attacked by Abu Zaid the Emir of Constantine in 1352 A.D. (713 A.H.), the city was defeated, and ibn Khaldun escaped to Aba where he lived with the al-Muwahhidin; then he went to live in Biskra. Then in Morocco Sultan Abu Enan who had recently settled on the throne of his father was on his way to conquer Algeria, hence ibn Khaldun went to Tlemcen to meet him, and he noted that was so honoured by ruler; later he was appointed by the Sultan as a member of his Council of the ‘Ulama, and later he was made one of his secretaries and seal bearers. He could resume his studies during his stay at Fez with some of the principal scholars who came to the city from Andalusia and other cities of North Africa. At that time he was twenty-two years old, and his intelligence, force of character, great ambition, determination and sense of honour of belong to a prominent family spurred him to seek success in life; hence he was involved in active political life for about thirty years. He was imprisoned for his intrigues, and then he was released.

The political situation was tense and ibn Khaldun was involved in intrigues, and later he was appointed as Chief Justice and he proved great ability in his duties; unfortunately he lost favour with the Sultan because of rivalry with high officials of state. Ibn Khaldun was involved in a number of intrigues, and finally he requested that he would go to Andalusia.

In Andalusia ibn Khaldun established cordial relationship with Sultan Muhammad of Granada; among Sultan Muhammad’s party was Ibn al-Khatib who developed close friendship with ibn Khaldun, and in his attempt to restore his throne in Granada through an agreement with the Christian King Pedro the Cruel, when the latter delayed the fulfillment of the agreement Sultan Muhammad appealed to ibn Khaldun for assistance from Wazir Omar, and ibn Khaldun assisted him; ibn Khaldun was even entrusted to care for Sultan Muhammad’s family in Fez. The wazir then granted Sultan Muhammad Ronda and the surrounding country, and Sultan Muhammad continued to make efforts to recapture his throne in 1361 A.D. (763 A.H.) and then recalled his wazir ibn al-Khatib.

The mission of ibn Khaldun to Pedro the Cruel was successful, and Pedro offered ibn Khaldun a position for his service, and the return of his family’s former estate at Castile, but the latter refused the offer. (3). Then ibn Khaldun asked the permission of Sultan Muhammad and went to his friend Abu Abdullah when he recaptured his at Bougie. Thus ibn Khaldun became the Hajib of Sultan of Bougie, involving the “management of all the affairs of the state and the exclusive organization of the relations between the Sultan and hius subjects”(4). When the city was defeated by Abul ‘Abbas in 767, ibn Khaldun submitted the city to him; then he went to live in Biskra. Finally he retired to a far outpost south of Constantine, Fort Salama. Here, at the ripe age of forty-five with peaceful life, he started to write his famous masterpiece al-Muqaddimah. Then when Sultan Abul ‘Abbas went to capture Tunis, he took the opportunity to return to his native city looking for reference works. Then when political intrigues were not in his favour, he left North Africa (1382 A.D./784 A.H.) never to return. (5)

After a difficult sea voyage He arrived in Alexandria in October 1382 A.D. (Shaaban 784 A.H.) when he was fifty years old; in Cairo, then the center of Muslim learning of the east and the West, he was welcomed by students and scholars; his fame had already preceded his arrival in the city; he lectured at Al-Azhar and other established institutions. In this period he had the opportunity to meet Sultan Zahir Barquq who appointed him to a teaching post, as a professor, at the Kamhiah school.(6)He was also appointed as a Maliki judge and tried to fight against corruption and favouritism, and then because of conspiracies against him he was relieved from his post, and this coincided with disaster in which his family and his wealth all perished in the storm before reaching the port. Then after his pilgrimage, he was appointed to the teaching post, lecturing on hadith, especially on the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik. During this time ibn Khaldun spent his time lecturing, studying and finishing his book on universal history. Then fourteen years after leaving the post of Maliki judge he was again appointed to the post because of the death of the judge, then again he was relieved of his position because of intrigues.

When ibn Khaldun was in Damascus, while following the company of the Sultan of Egypt, and when the Sultan had to return to Egypt, ibn Khaldun had to meet Tamerlane; Tamerlane was so impressed by him that he asked him to join his court, but ibn Khaldun left him on good terms, after getting favourable terms for the people of Damascus.

According to Walter Fischel there were six topics discussed between ibn Khaldun and the conqueror:

1.                  The Maghrib and ibn Khaldun’s land of origin;

2.                  Heroes in history;

3.                  Predictions about future events;

4.                  The Abbaside Caliphate;

5.                  Amnesty and security ‘for ibn Khaldun and his companions’

6.                  Ibn Khaldun’s intention of staying with Tamerlane. (7)

When Ibn Khaldun returned to Egypt he was restored to his post as the Maliki judge, and because of the stormy situation he was dismissed and reinstalled three times in five years. He died on Wednesday, 17th March 1406 A.D.(25th Ramadan 808 A.H.), and was buried in the sufi cemetery outside bab an-Nasr while he was at the age of seventy-four years.(8)

His Works:

Concerning his works, it is suggested that they can be categorized into the historical and the religious; into the historical category of course is to be included the Kitab al-‘Ibar or universal History which has survived until the present day. Another one is lost, that is history work written specifically for Tamerlane, as mentioned in his autobiography. Then his religious works are Lubab al-Mahsul (Summary of the Result), a commentary on usul al-fiqh poem, and a few which, among others is Shifa’ al-Sa’il (Healing of the Inquirer). (9)

His masterpiece, the Muqaddimah which is the introduction to his universal history can be divided can be divided into six parts; and this division is clear from the division of the work itself. In the translation of F. Rosenthal, in volume one the chapters covered are: introduction, dealing with excellence of historiography, appreciation of various approaches to history, different errors made by previous historians, something about why these errors do occur.

Book One of the Kitab al-’Ibar about the nature of civilization, Bedouin and settled life, the achievements of superiority, gainful occupational, ways of making a living, the sciences, crafts, and all the other things that affect civilization, the causes and reasons thereof.  Then preliminary remarks.

The scope of the discussion of the masterpiece of ibn Khaldun-with the chapter headings dealing with the various subjects – is put as an appendix at the end of this essay.

Relevance of Khaldunian Discourse in the Views of Some Scholars:

James Kalb, is of the view that the seminal work, al-Muqaddimah, was composed by Ibn Khaldun

“…as a thinker who grappled with circumstances similar in important ways to the social and political situation now evolving in the West. He was superbly qualified for his task, with a vigorous and unconventional mind and a knowledge of politics and history that came from descent from an ancient family with distinguished political and scholarly traditions, profound study, and a varied life of public service and a political adventure as a courtier, jurist, and statesman in Islamic centers from Spain to Damascus. He was admired by scholars and by the most ruthlessly practical of men; Pedro the Cruel and Tamerlane wished to make uses of him, while Granada’s greatest writer, ibn al-Khatib, wrote his life and honoured his learning and literary skill”. (10).

The same writer gives an evaluation of ibn Khaldun’s intellectual discourse in the following words:

His work reflects a mind attracted to practical politics, to scholarship, and to mysticism. After failing in efforts to promote public good, he turned to scholarship in an attempt to understand the past and explain the necessity that seemed to govern events. As an intense participation in the affairs of a great civilization irreversibly in decline, he was acutely aware of what was and what should be, and neither confused the two, or attempted to encompass one in the other. (11)

Further, seeing the relevance of Khaldunian intellectual discourse in illuminating the cultural and social changes taking place, he says:

To-day’s mixing of peoples, cultures and ideologies, whether resulting from world trade and immigration or improved communication and social fission, is moving our world closer in important ways to the one Ibn Khaldun knew than the more cohesive one with which we have long been familiar. Such changes will affect our politics profoundly in ways his writings can illuminate for us (12).

Apart from this he adds:

The gifts of the past may not be ours forever. Common loyalties make a people, and the common culture and history that support a people’s identity are needed to make loyalties endure. Success in transplanting a British society to America and absorbing European immigrants into it is no sign that the American civic order will survive abandonment of a common or at least dominant identity; a social setting like the one ibn Khaldun knew will be the more likely consequence. Immigration and the end of national boundaries could bring about similar results within the European Union by replacing ordered diversity with bureaucratically – administered chaos. While such things are not inevitable, powerful tendencies favour them, and a clearer understanding of what the resulting society would be like and how it could come about may be useful. Ibn Khaldun’s thought is an aid to such understanding. (13)

Another recent estimation of Khaldunian intellectual discourse is from an American writer, Jude Wanniski from Supply -Side University; he states in his web-site:

When I learned Arnold Toynbee believed that ibn Khaldun had produced the greatest work on social science to come from the mind of man, I had to assume his was at least in the top five. Toynbee is of course is one of this century’s giants in historiography. After reading through a small piece of Khaldun’s work, I have to admit I awed by the man’s genius. How could I have spent so much of my life in politics without being led to him before? Ronald Reagan like to quote Khaldun on the issue of taxation-that they are low at the beginning of empires and high at their end … Ibn Khaldun is not an Arab neo-Platonist as his world view subsumes theirs and is an original one not previously expressed in the world. This singular breakthrough not only is awesome, but practically evidence of divine inspiration … What we will consider … are selected fragments from the sixth book (of the Muqaddimah-uem) of his philosophy of history. My aim simply is to allow you to be impressed with him and have you appreciate the foundation he presents, on which you can build your won designs of the way the world works. The following passages are presented with what at first seems almost childlike simplicity, until you realize he is building this foundation brick by brick, with seamless logic (followed by the passages dealing on the origins of society) (14)

At the of the several pages containing quotations from the Muqaddimah in the F. Rosenthal translation concerning such topics as “Origins of Society” (Book I Chapter I p.181),  “Origins of State”, “State and Society”, Vol. II p. 264), “Political Sanctions” (vol. I, p. 345), “Social Solidarity is based on Kinship” (vol. I. p. 235, vol. I. p. 236), “Proximity and a Common Life as the Basis of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 332), “Solidarity in Tribes” (vol. I. p. 223), “Transition From Tribal To Village and City Life and Consequent Weakening of Solidarity” (vol. I. p. 237), “Solidarity in Cities”, (vol. II. p. 267), “Solidarity is the Basis of Sovereignty” (vol. I. p. 252), “Solidarity is the basis of Kingship” (vol. I. p. 278), “Once State is Established Solidarity Becomes Superfluous” (vol. I. p. 279) he states clearly:

In 700 years, nothing has really changed in how societies are continuously being shaped, about the nature of solidarity and sovereignty.

Then straightaway he applies this to the US situation vis-à-vis the rest of the world; he states:

Now that the United States is solely at the top of the global power pyramid, we can almost imagine the dynamics that will flow from this fact into the next century. The US is the global sovereign power .All other heads of state are as chieftains (Ar. “sheikhs” -uem) of their national tribes. It is an intricate maze to organize, though, with many hundreds of languages and myriad religions, sects, ethnicities, national identities. It will take great skill to organize these over the next several centuries. (15)

The same writer (“unofficial adviser to the Bush administration” as mentioned in his web-site) goes on citing passages from the Muqaddimah like passages on “Opposition of Tribes and bands” (vol. I, p.295), “Nature of Kingship”, (vol. I, p.337), “Concentration of Authority” (vol. I. p.299), “Need of the King for A Bureaucracy” (vol.II.p.1), “Changes in the Composition of the Bureaucracy” (vol.vol.II.p.40), “Natural Ages of the State” (vol.I.p.306), “Transition From Nomadic To Sedentary Forms” (vol.I.p.309), “Growth of Luxury” (vol.I.p.300), “Luxury and Power” (vol.I.313), “Growth of Docility” (vol.I.p.301).

In relation to these passages cited, he comments as follows:

(After mentioning the past lectures on sovereignty, kinghip) Think now of the United States as the Global Sovereign, pondering how to manage 180 or more separate nations. Think each (country in the world now-uem) as a tribe or band, some of whom will always be trying to outwit the sovereign, all of whom will resist being stripped off some measure of independence. It becomes clear we have barely begun to think through the architecture of a new world order built around our kingship. Remember, the following was written six centuries ago. (16)

In relation to the passage about “The Need of the King for Bureaucracy” since the King cannot act alone but has to act and govern through a bureaucracy he says:

In this passage think of the United States needing a bureaucracy (to dominate the world-uem) which obviously suggests the United Nations-JW (17)

And in relation to the Khaldunian quotation (vol.II.p.1):

He whom God has chosen as a ruler must protect his community from external aggression, preserve order, and enforce the laws, in order to prevent the encroachment by any one on the rights of others. He must protect property by making the highways secure .He must seek to promote the interest of his subjects and hence, in order to facilitate transactions and make it easier for his subjects to earn their livelihood, inspect foodstuffs, weights, and measures, to prevent adulteration or fraud. He must, too, test the coinage which they use, in order to prevent counterfeiting…

He adds the remarks:

It is the United States which must set the unit of account…JW (18)

Then in relation to the following directive in Khaldunian discourse necessitating bureaucratic and military actions of the sovereign:

Know then, that the ruler requires both a civilian and a military establishment to aid him in carrying on with the affairs of the state. At the beginning of the dynasty, when the rulers are consolidating their power, the need for military  power is greater than that for a civilian bureaucracy ; for the civilians are mere servants, carrying out the orders of the king, whereas the military are his partners and fellow workers .The same is also true of the period of decline of a dynasty , when old age has weakened social solidarity  and caused the population to decrease , as we said before; in such a case too, the need for soldiers , for the purposes of defence, makes itself as urgently  felt as it had been during the period of consolidation of the state. In both those stages, then, the sword plays a more important part than the pen, and the military enjoy more prestige and wealth, and are granted richer fiefs than the civilians..

He notes revealingly:

In the period ahead, perhaps for a decade or two, while the world is getting used to U.S. sovereignty. We must bear the expense of maintaining the military, until it is clear the “tribes” will accept our sovereignty. JW (19)

We can see this at present (2003) happening in the world in the global scene.

In relation to the validity and relevance of Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in theorizing about culture, John W. Bennet states:

“(In citing the impressive development of ‘anthropological’ ideas outside the publicized European channels he states after mentioning ibn Battutah and al-Muguaddisi (al-Maqdisi)) …Ibn Khaldun is probably the best known, due to one complete translation of his major work (Rosenthal 1958) and an excellent contemporary analytical presentation of his theories (Mahdi 1957). Khaldun is the only scholar with a modern view to antedate the 19th century;-there are some intimidations in Vico for the early 18th century (Bergin & Fisch 1960, pp. xxiii, iiii; 47), but they do not approach the clarity and modernity of Khaldun…(20)

And in appreciating the views of ibn Khaldun on theorizing about culture and civilization, and their relevance in discourse he states:

Khaldun had a word for culture; he recognized and theorized about cultural differences; he distinguished culture from society and primitive culture from civilization; and had a clear theory of the roots of culture in human biological needs and engagement with the environment…

Of equal relevance are the circumstances out of which Khaldun’s theory emerged. He lived most of his life as a kind of 14th century Harry Hopkins – an intellectual attached to rulers of various sections of the Western Muslim Empire. He had observed the disparity between Islamic orthodoxy and the social realities of the empire, and became deeply critical of the failure of Islamic history to portray this disparity, and to present reasons for the cultural differences existing between the many peoples of the empire. He developed a theory of what he called, in direct translation, ‘the science of culture’ as the explanatory element in historical scholarship…This objective led him, as already noted, to an exposition of a theory of culture with both historical and functional orientations. (21)

Hamou Amrouche in “Algeria’s Islamic Revolution People Versus Democracy?” (22) mentions the relevance and accuracy of the observations of Ibn Khaldun – mentioning the idea adopted from him by Albert Hourani – concerning the stability of regime depending upon the combination of three factors. He states:

To understand fully “the apparent paradox of stable and enduring regimes in deeply disturbed societies” Albert Hourani adapted an idea from ibn Khaldun and suggested that the stability of a regime depended upon a combination of three factors. It was stable when cohesive ruling group was able to link its interests with those of powerful elements in society, and when that alliance of interests was expressed in a political idea which made the power of the rulers legitimate in the eyes of society or at least a significant part of it.

Then he goes on to show how it materialized during the Boumedienne regime. He says:

These three major ingredients undoubtedly sustained Boumedienne’s regime, since a monolithic army allied itself with the peasants and the workers —the forces vives of the nation— and expressed this alliance with Arabo-Islamism, the ‘national constants’, and socialist ideology…

Then in relation to one proposed Graduate Seminar in 2003, Prof Ronald Judy explains the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the current political climate in the Muslim World related to the emergence of two types of movements. He says about the Seminar (23):

Our focus will be on how specific moments in the institution of knowledge afford a glance at the dialectic between the state and what might be designated as civil society. This dialectic was most thoroughly theorized by Ibn Khaldun in the fourteenth century.. Its importance for us to-day, however, stems from the fact that the Khaldunian model of agency has come to be a touchstone for two contemporary movements of Islamic resistance to transnational capitalism .On the one hand, Khaldun’s principle on entropy has been utilized by such “integrationist” as Sayyid Qutb, at-Turabi, al-Madani, and a Ghanoushi to explain the failure of Pan-Arab secularism and legitimate their projects of social reforms based on sharia (discourse of jurisprudence). On the other hand, Khaldun’s theory of religion as ideology has enabled thinkers like Muhammad al-Jabarti, Fatima Mernissi, and Ibrahim Shukry to engage in a legitimate reformulation of Islam that retains the project of social justice, in the broadest sense, without relying on a theory of law based on a homogeneous collective identity. Both these applications of Khaldun presuppose a concept of civil society as a space of resistance between domination and subjugation, and that the possibility of successful resistance lies in this difference’s being institutionalized as a revolutionary mode of knowledge production …

In the essay entitled “The Future of the Social Sciences”, Renate Holub writes about Ibn Khaldun’s discourse in history and the science of society and culture, and its relevance, while discussing the role of Vico and others:

No doubt Vico was not the first thinker to reflect on social facts that pattern order and disorder. For one, ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the fourteenth century historian, statesman, and jurist, in the tradition of the Islamic enlightenment from the Tunisian shore of the Mediterranean, studied the history of dynastic regimes since the inception of Islam.The regions he covered ranged from the Oxus to the Nile, and from the Tigris to the Guadalquivir. He detected patterns of behaviour which either added to social cohesion, or participated in its disintegration .In his Muqaddimah (1377), he concluded trhat ruling groups sustain their power by a sense of solidarity, or ‘asabiyyah, which unites both rulers and ruled. Asabiyyah, both a structure of consciousness and a structure of feeling, which via education and socialization assumes the power of a habitus, or a spontaneous common sense, obtains as long as the ruling groups refrain from attempting to gain exclusive control over all sources of power and wealth. However, as soon as the ruling groups gain such exclusive control, conflict breaks out. The old regime will soon be displaced by a new dynastic regime. Order, followed by disorder, produces new orders in ibn Khaldun’s cyclical understanding of the political histories of regions under Muslim majority control. (24)

Then he mentions Nicolo Machavelli (1469-1527) who appeared about a century after ibn Khaldun who “studied the role of social facts in patterns of order and disorder…”(25).

In relation to the situation in Turkey and the question of facing Western civilization among the intellectuals, the use of certain aspects of the Khaldunian discourse has its relevance in providing certain elements of the intellectual constructs for such an engagement. The situation is portrayed in the following terms:

“(Concerning the intellectual movement in Turkey which sees Islam not only as a religion but also as a civilizational apparatus to be discovered and applied)…Necip Fazil Kisakurck, founder of the Great Oriental Movement and the monthly journal of the same name, is the forerunner of this group. Since 1943, and in more than 80 books, notably Bab-I Ali and the Ideological Web, he has argued that both the scholastic structure of the madrasa education which produced the type of ulama which could not meet the challenge of westernization during the late Ottoman period, and modern secularistic educational establishments set up after the tanzimat reforms and the Young Turk revolution are incapable of meeting the need of a contemporary dynamic Turkey. Only when Islam is seen as a civilization and its parameters rejuvenated in a contemporary form in their totality can Turkey really progress. Cemil Meric taking cue from Kisakurck, analysed the notion of civilization with profound sophistication and dissected the western civilization with the ability of a master surgeon. In From Civilization to Umran he uses ibn Khaldun’s notion of umran to argue for the reconstruction of the physical and intellectual apparatus of Islamic civilization…. (26)

In Turkey also, there is Dr Fahri Kayadibi who appreciates the discourse of education in its various aspects. In the short but important essay he argues that in matters of education the views of Ibn Khaldun are relevant for our age. (27)

He agrees with a number of points in the Muqaddimah about education, namely: the importance of imparting information to students according to their level of comprehension; he says this is done by teaching them the main principles of the information and the sciences involved in a brief manner, taking into consideration the capacity of the students. As time goes on more elaborations are made gradually, so that the students will mature in the subjects taught. According to him the revision should be done three times over. To ibn Khaldun this is the correct method.

Then he stresses the importance of not forcing the students to memorise their lessons; otherwise they will be lazy. Other points mentioned are: that the subjects should not be taught in broken sequence because the integrated nature of the subject will not be understood, and the mastery of the subject will take a longer time than otherwise the case.

Other points touched are: two subjects should not be taught at the same time, because this will lead to confusion; the necessity of not being too strict with students; the usefulness of traveling to meet authoritative scholars for furthering one’s education; the importance of practical education as opposed to mere theorization;  the importance of cultivating high degree of skill in education; ibn Khaldun uses the term ‘malakah’ for this high degree of skill in education, knowledge and crafts.

In his conclusion he states:

Ibn Khaldun has emphasized the importance of science, education and teaching. He foresees science and education as an inseparable part of prosperity. According to him, the real difference between mankind and other beings is the power of thought. Science and art are born from open–minded thought and the intricate learning of the principles of all issues. Ideas emerge from those who have the curiosity and the desire to investigate what is unknown. From this situation, the issues of education and teaching arise.

He advises teachers to teach in a comprehensive manner and to gradually teach subjects in stages, moving from easier to the more difficult. Memorisation should be avoided (except in the relevant cases which are unavoidable – uem). He emphasizes that teaching methods should be simple and not complicated. He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequences or else the subject  .He states that the teaching of subjects should not be in broken sequence or else the subject will become scattered and forgotten. Also, aggressive behaviour towards children will turn them off from lessons, create laziness, making them unwilling learners as well as negatively affecting their behaviour.

Education should consist of theory and practice. Education should be revised and repeated until a good level is attained. He also declares that learning and teaching sciences require skill and that the teachers of these sciences should be knowledgeable in their fields. These clearly defined issues of ibn Khaldun are still relevant for educational issues of contemporary times. (28).

Addessalam Cheddadi in his important essay “Ibn Khaldun”, originally published in Prospects: the Quarterly Review of Comparative Education, (Paris UNESCO, International Bureau of Education, vol. XXIV, no1/2.1994, p. 7-19 discusses a number of important issues related to education, based on the Muqaddimah. The points mentioned are: the life-long nature of Islamic education; the all-important issue of the reproduction of values in the individual; the concept of the ‘asabiyyah, and its role in social cohesion, and how it relates to education; and then the necessity of man to learn from tradition, otherwise it will take too long a time to learn on one’s own developing the ‘empirical intelligence’ from experience; the inculcation of values through education and socialization; the importance of reputation in doing things so that ‘coloration of the soul’ will take place, engendering ‘habitus’ (‘malakah’) in knowledge, values, attitudes, and acts, including skills in crafts and learning, intellectual and linguistic skills, or even ‘malakah’ in spirituality and faith.

He dwells also on the development of the various ‘intellects’ in the person, the ‘empirical intellect’ developed by experience and experimenting,, the ‘theoretical intellect’ developed by theorization, the ‘discerning intellect’ for discerning the differences in things. (29) In this essay author leaves out the discussion on the importance of ‘added intellect’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) which marks the superiority of a civilization in terms of intellectual worth.

Then in relation to economic life and the relevance of Khaldunian discourse in the issue of taxation, among others, there is a discussion on it in “Rise and Fall: ibn Khaldun and the Ethics of Taxation”, Chapter 15 in: the topic of “Advancing Economic Thought” (See

Reflecting on his later years in Cairo, then the wealthiest city, the writer states:

In his later years ibn Khaldun returned to public life with a move to Cairo. Here, in what was then the Arab world’s largest and wealthiest city, he performed the occasional services for the Egyptian sultan, while also working as a professor and a judge. He died just as a new political power – Ottoman Turkey – was establishing its dominance throughoutt the Arab world in ways that his own historical theory had predicted. (30)

Concerning the sharp observation of human economic life and the resulting “division of labour” and “specialization”, he quotes with approval the statement of ibn Khaldun, which, to him has ‘a surprisingly modern flavour’. This:

…a single individual is incapable of satisfying his needs by himself, but must cooperate with other members of society. The product of such cooperative labour will exceed by far the needs of the group. Thus, in the production of wheat, for example, we do not see each individual providing for his own needs; rather we see six or ten persons cooperating: a blacksmith, a carpenter to repair tools; an ox-tender, a man to plough the soil, and another to reap the grain; and so forth for the different kinds of agricultural work, each man specializing in one operation…. Thus the inhabitants of a more populous city are more prosperous than their counterparts in a less populous one. (Cited from Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History, (London:John Murray, 1950) p.92-93.)(31).

Then while mentioning the fact that other writers had already touched on the issue of specialization of labour, like the Greek writer Xenophon, yet he states that “…no one before ibn Khaldun had appreciated the central importance of labour specialization in determining living standards. This realization allowed him to make yet another striking insight. A dynasty’s wealth, he noted, cannot be identified solely with money, since gold and silver ‘are only minerals and products having exchange value’. It would take several centuries before Ibn Khaldun’s realization would be fully incorporated in conventional economic thought.”(32)

In relation to taxation he quotes the views of ibn Khaldun with approval. He quotes:

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 favour 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 effect 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…(33)

After discussing the mechanism of taxation and describing what he calls as “The Laffer Curve” using the Khaldunian theory, and assessing it, he gives his view about the relevance of the Khaldunian theory. He states:

Ibn Khaldun’s view of taxation offers a useful example of how an economic concept can be reapplied in an entirely different setting. As insightful as this view undoubtedly was for the times he lived in, it might not seem to be applicable to the modern age of democratic governments. After all no elected government would ever raise tax rates beyond the point where tax revenues would fall. Or would they? In fact, this question was part of a recent controversy in economics, which had important practical ramifications. During the 1970s, a group of economists developed a theory known as supply-side economics, which concentrates on the ways in which government actions can affect incentives for private citizens to work, save, and invest…. (34)

In giving his final view defending the Khaldunian theory on taxation, the writer states:

…But the modern version of Ibn Khaldun’s theory is far from fully discredited. All economists recognize its potential validity; with empirical studies suggesting that tax revenues and tax rates begin to move inversely in the range of a 70 percent tax rate. Also, recent debates over tax rates have brought a greater awareness of how public policy can affect private economic incentives. In a world where national borders are becoming less important, governments must keep tax rates relatively low or face loss of investment, jobs, and tax revenues to other countries. Ibn Khaldun’s original insight – made over 600 years ago – therefore continues to act as an important constraint on governments, in a world far different from his own. (35)

Further Aspects of the Relevance of The Khaldunian Discourse:

Without going into the intricate philosophical implications of modernity or post-modernity, the present paper would like to argue for the relevance of the Khaldunian intellectual discourse, in relation to the Muslim world in general and the Malay World in particular, in a brief manner, on a number of accounts:

Firstly, this intellectual discourse is of the utmost importance in relation to the act of maintaining our identity as Muslim civilization, with our world-view, epistemology, and axiology, in relation to education, politico-social order, and civilizational and ummatic identity, all based on the tawhidic paradigm.

Secondly, in building our strength in the spiritual, intellectual, technological and scientific domains so that we are not only on the receiving side, but we are also the creators of all these in our own way in the global scene.

Thirdly, in facing the process of globalization, and maintaining our identity, at the same time we can present the tawhidic image of compassion, the really ‘insani’ image of civilization and culture, with the strong culture in its aspects as a function of ummatic compassion, not divorced from it.

Fourthly, this Khaldunian discourse is of utmost importance in helping us to regain again the solidarity based on the correct understanding of the ‘asabiyyah principle within the ummatic ambiance and its function in the ummatic brotherhood-not a substitute for it- so that we can overcome and solve this ‘asabiyyah crisis as mentioned by Prof. Akbar Ahmed (36). Inadequate understanding of this principle and confusing it with secular nationalism, with the attending consequences in social and political action and conflicts, has brought and is bringing catastrophe in the Muslim Community. The late Said Nursi of Turkey-May Allah shower His mercy on him- has called it “positive nationalism”. (37):

Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity; it ensures a beneficial strength; it is a means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.

This idea of positive nationalism must serve Islam, it must be its citadel and armour; it must not take the place of it. For there is a hundredfold brotherhood within the brotherhood of Islam which persists in the Intermediate Realm and World of Eternity. (38)

In all these-with Allah’s grace- the Khaldunian intellectual discourse can help us abundantly provided we are prepared to let the intellectual flow of the discourse to have an impact on us- giving us “al-tadhakkur” as the Qur’an teaches it.

In the Malay World, apart from the above, the seminal idea and principle of ‘asabiyyah is of paramount importance in dispelling popular rejection of ‘asabiyyah based on inadequate understanding, hence affecting national, even regional unity and strength. In the long run, this understanding is for the relative homogenization of the region, much needed for the intellectual and cultural stability of the area for ummatic development and progress in future. (39)

Now to the evidences of the above positions from the discourse in the Muqaddimah.

First the relevance of the discourse in relation to our world view, epistemology, axiology, education, intellectual development, politico-social order and ummatic identity in the discourse, which are not out of date in the fundamentals.

In relation to the tawhidic word-view and thinking about the causes to the ultimate, of which the human mind is incapable, harming itself, he states:

If this is clear, it is possible that the ascending sequence of causes reaches the point where it transcends the realm of human perception and existence and thus ceases to be perceived. The intellect would here become lost, confused, and cut off in the wilderness of conjectures. Thus, (recognition of the) oneness of God is identical with inability to perceive the causes and ways in which they exercise their influence, and with reliance in this respect upon the Creator of the causes who comprises them. There is no maker but Him. All (causes) lead up to Him and go back to His Power. We know about Him only in as much as we have issued from Him. This is the meaning of the statement on the authority of a certain truthful person (al-siddiq) “The inability to perceive is perception”.

Then talking about tawhidic world-view relating to the “state” of soul, he states in the continuing passage:

Such (declaration of the) oneness of God does not merely refer to faith, which is affirmation based upon judgment. It belongs to the talk of the soul. Its perfection lies in its acquisition in a form that becomes an attribute of the soul. In the same way, the object of (all human) actions and divine worship (‘al-ibadat’) is acquisition of the habit of obedience (‘malakah al-ta’ah’) (note the word: ‘malakah’-uem) and submissiveness and the freeing of the heart from all occupations save the Worshipped Master, until the novice on the path of God becomes a holy person (‘rabbani’) (40)

Then he talks about the difference between “state” of the soul and knowledge; he says:

The difference between ‘state’ and knowledge in question of dogma  (‘al-‘aqa’id’) is the same as that between talking (about attributes) and having them. This may be explained as follows: many people know that mercy to the orphans and the poor brings (a human being) close to God and is recommendable. They say so and acknowledge the fact. They quote the sources for it from the religious law. But if they were to see an orphan or a poor person of the destitute classes they would run away from him and disdain to touch him, let alone show mercy to him, or any of the higher ‘stations’ of sympathy, affection, and charity. Their mercy for the orphan was the result of having reached the station of knowledge. It was not the result of the station of ‘state’ nor of an attribute of theirs. Now, there are people who, in addition to the station of knowledge, and the realization of the fact that mercy to the poor brings (a human being) close to God, having attained another, higher ‘station’, they have attained the attribute and habit of mercy (‘ittisaf bir-rahmah wa malakatiha) (note the wording “malakah of rahmah” – uem). When they see an orphan or a poor person, they approach him and show him (mercy)…(41)

Then concerning divine worship and the question of getting the noble qualities, he states:

It should be known that in the opinion of the Law Giver (Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.) perfection with regards to any of the obligations he has imposed (upon Muslims) requires this (distinction)  (between knowing something as knowledge only and the higher station of possessing the quality involved – uem). Perfection in matters of belief depends on the other knowledge, that which results from the possession of (the se matters) as an attribute. Perfection in matters of divine worship depends on acquisition of (these matters) as an attribute, on real (knowledge) of them.

Divine worship and its continuous practice leads to this noble result. Muhammad says concerning the principal act of divine worship “My consolation lies in prayer…Prayer for Muhammad was an attribute and  ‘state’ in which he found his ultimate pleasure and consolation. How different is the prayer of the people! …

It is clear from all the statements we have made that the object of all (religious) obligations is the acquisition of a habit (‘malakah’) firmly rooted in the soul, from which a necessary knowledge results for the soul. It is the (recognition of the) oneness of God, which is the (principal) article of faith and the thing through which happiness is attained. There is no difference whether the obligations of the heart or those of the body are concerned in this respect. (42)

Then he elucidates the other articles of belief; he says:

It should be known that the Lawgiver (Muhammad s.a.w.) described to us this first degree of faith which is affirmation. He specified particular matters he charged us to affirm with our hearts and to believe in our souls, while at the same time acknowledging them with our tongues. They are the established articles of the Muslim faith. When Muhamnmad was asked about faith he said: “(Faith is) the belief in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, the Last day, and the belief in predestination, be it good or bad”. (43)

Such are the articles of faith in ilm al-kalam, and he endorses this.

Thus, in this way he relates the tawhidic worldview with its impact on human belief, divine worship, character, soul, and actions, as well as values. This discourse is very logical, persuasive and convincing. It is relevant now just as it was relevant before. And from his discourse we know that he defends mainstream tawhidic Islamic world-view with all that it implies, and not the divergent views of the innovators which had appeared in Islamic history. This is a position which is the conviction of the majority of the Muslims throughout history until to-day, and this is the world-view which will be the intellectual defence against the intellectual deformity of modernity and post-modernity, apart from the intellectual innovations within the Community itself.

Concerning matters relating to the concept of knowledge and matters of like nature, including the development of knowledge in human civilization, we can briefly say that he endorses knowledge which are related to religion and that which is of intellectual nature. He begins the 6th Chapter of the Muqaddimah with the discussion on human capability to think. Concerning man’s ability to think and its relationship to perception, he states (44):

It should be known that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which He made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception, – that is consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence-is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of other being and existent things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses God has given them that is, the sense of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain. With the help of these powers, man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an: ‘he gave you hearing and vision and hearts’ Af’idah ‘hearts’ is the plural of fu’ad .It means here the ability to think (45).

Then he goes on talking about the first degree of thinking of the discerning intellect (al-‘aqlul al-tamyizi), the second done by experimental intellect (‘al-‘aql al-tajribi) learning by experience, the third the speculative intellect (‘al-‘aql al-nazari’) giving out knowledge by thinking without practical application, and so on in the theoretical plain, until man becomes perfect in his reality, becoming pure intellect; this is human reality. (46) Then he goes on talking about the thought process and how that relates to human actions, and how that thinking leads man to perfection and success.

Then he talks about the emergence of the traditional and the rational sciences in an integrated manner, giving the summary of the sciences then available in human civilization in a unified way, giving their strong points, features, and also weak points.

He speaks about the Qur’an ic sciences, the traditions, fiqh, usul al-fiqh, Sufism, and Arabic studies; he speaks of the various intellectual sciences like logic, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and the rest, as mentioned in the summary above.

All in all he speaks as representing the Islamic intellectual tradition; even while giving his views which appear as original, he is speaking on behalf of tradition and not going against Islamic intellectual tradition.

His views about the appearance of intellectual sciences and the crafts in urban settled civilization, and his concept of ‘added intelligence’ (‘al-‘aqlul mazid’) is indeed interesting and revealing, showing his grasp of the relationship between settled urban civilization and the appearance of intellectual sciences and technical skills, with the attending consequences in the development of culture. He talks of ‘al-‘aqlul-mazid’ as developed in settled civilization making some groups of people being so advanced intellectually and artistically.

His emphasis of ‘malakah’ is another point of importance in relation to intellectual culture and technical and scientific and linguistic skills. The word ‘malakah’ is used by him to mean established habit in the human personality; he applies it to linguistic, intellectual and mechanical skills. That is why he speaks of ‘malakah’ in language, writing, doing things in the physical and mechanical sense, as well as ‘malakah’ in spirituality and spiritual devotions and ethical qualities in the personality and the soul. And this ‘malakah’ is to be obtained by training, repetition, actual act of doing things, thinking, in short by making intellectual, physical, technical, linguistic and spiritual activities, repeating again and again until these become established in the soul; it becomes, as it were, in the expression of the present like “swimming in water for fish and flying in the air for birds”. He even speaks of ‘malakah’ in ‘ibadah and matters of faith.

This discourse about thinking and intellectual culture, with the various modes of thinking, leading to various types of intellectual capabilities, in advanced settled urban centers of civilization, including fostering ‘al-‘aq al-mazid’, is indeed relevant for the present day Muslims in uplifting them to the intellectual awareness so urgently needed in facing the present global situation. This is the text which will help them to develop this awareness leading to the necessary action in remedying their situation in the intellectual and technological fields.

And in relation to the importance of developing strong well established customary practices in civilization which will ensure stability and strength, he says:

Sedentary people observe (a) particular (code of) manners (‘adab’) in everything they undertake and do or do not do, and they thus acquire certain ways of making a living, finding dwellings, building houses, and handling their religious and worldly matters (‘wa umur al-din wa al-dunya’), including their customary affairs, their dealings with others (wa ‘adatihim wa mu’amalatihim’), and all the rest of their activities. Thesse manners (‘adab’) constitute a kind of limitation which may not be transgressed, and at the same time, they are crafts (‘sana’i’) (that) later generations take over from the earlier ones. No doubt, each craft has a proper place within the arrangement of the crafts, influences the soul and causes it to acquire an additional intelligence (‘al ‘aql al-mazid’), which prepares the soul for accepting still other crafts. The intellect is thus conditioned for a quick reception of knowledge. (47)

Next, the present writer would like to comment favourably on his contribution on the concept of ‘asabiyyah or group feeling, which is originally based on blood relationship but later extended to other lasting relationship making people loyal to one another.

Of course this is not within the ‘asabiyyah which is prohibited by the Prophet in the tradition meaning ‘Not among us is he who calls people to ‘asabiyyah’ or ‘who dies in ‘asabiyyah’ (48). The ‘asabiyyah prohibited by the Prophet is defined in the tradition as ‘you help your brother in injustice’ (49). And in Islamic legal discourse, Imam al-Nawawi says that when a person loves his people and his group and family, that is not ‘asabiyyah (prohibited by the Prophet – uem) and hence if he is a witness his testimony for his people and friend is accepted by the court and not rejected. (50) This ‘asabiyyah can be synonym for “positive nationalism” of Said Nursi – may Allah shower His mercy on him – when he says: “Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity, it ensures a beneficial strength; it means for further strengthening Islamic brotherhood.” (51) Ibn Khaldun himself cites in its support the tradition meaning “Allah has not sent a prophet but he is under the protection of the strength of his people (fi man’atin min qaumihi’)”. And he says when a prophet who is capable of doing things with miracles is still supported by Allah with the ‘asabiyyah of his people then we all the more need this support.

Hence this positive nationalism or ‘asabiyyah should be supported and encouraged so that effective reforms can be done within the Muslim society as a basis for seriolus and planned civilizational efforts.

Negative qualities:

Negative qualities which are likely to cause downfall of civilization should be avoided: loss of ‘asabiyyah by taking the necessary steps to stem the tide, succumbing to excessive luxurious life should be checked by invitation to life of moderation with religious and spiritual education and exhortation, life of ease should be checked by educating people in the life of discipline, intellectual laxity is to be checked by encouraging intellectual activity and excellence, life of immorality is to be checked by education, exhortation, example, law enforcement, and improvement in family values and neighbourly responsibility in the light of Islamic values. And excessive entertainment culture should be checked by providing alternative modules and education in healthy artistic activities.

Wallahu a’lam.


In conclusion this paper argues that the Khaldunian intellectual and civilizational discourse is of paramount importance for the present times –together with other mainstream Islamic discourses of that category-for helping Muslims to regenerate their identity and civilization while coming to grips with the present cultural and intellectual challenges of this age. The Khaldunian discourse giving helpful suggestions in the domains of world-view, epistemology, axiology, and civilizational guidance in the educational, social, and cultural arena plus the all important emphasis on intellectual culture and knowledge in an all-embracing view, nurtured in the tawhidic vision will be most helpful in the efforts towards such a goal of achieving “the most excellent” community.

Wallahu a’lam



*Paper presented at the Conference on Ibn Khaldun organized by the Department of History at the International Islamic University Malaysia, 23rd July 2003.

(1)               Concerning his life and thought, the following are useful: Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work, Muhammad Aqshraf, Lahore; Walter J. Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt, His Public Functions and Historical Research, 1382-1406, in A Study in Islamic Historiography, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967; Charles Issawi, An Arab Philosophy of History: Selections from the prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun 0f Tunis (1332-140-6, Wisdom of the East Series, London, John Murray, 1950; Muhsin Mahdi, Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History; A Study in the philosophic Foundations of the Science of Culture, London, George Allen and Unwin, 1957; Franz Rosenthal, trans. The Muqaddimah, An Introduction to History, By Ibn Khaldun, Bollingen Series, XLIII. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1958;also see “Ibn Khaldun and Thucydides”, in Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol.92/Number 2/April-June 1972, pp. 250-270 (for which the present writer is grateful to Dr Muhammad Zainy Uthman of ISTAC UIAM); “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun (1332-1406/732-808) in http://cis-org/voices/k/khaldun_mn.htm; Dr A Zahoor, “Ibn Khaldun”,; also in; Ibrahim M.Oweiss, “Ibn Khaldun the father of Economics”,;”ibn Khaldun” in www.// “home-philosophers-ibn khaldun”,; “Letter from Cairo”,; “Economics of Ibn Khaldun”,;”History of Economic Thought”, .htm; “Political Science”, Prof.R.w.Cox,;”muslim-1;Great Muslim Scientists”, on ibn Khaldun http://www.//;Abd al-rahman ibn Khaldun the historian,; “Lessons from ibn khaldun”,;”ibn Khaldun’s Contribution to Social Thought”,;ibn Khaldun’s observation on history, empires,; “Ibn Khaldun His Life and Work”, by Muhammad Hozien –; Hassan Ali Jamsheer,”Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406). The Muqaddimah – History…”,; ”Rise and Fall Ibn Khaldun and the Effects of Taxation Chapter 15”,

(2)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, Ibn Khaldun His Liufe and Work, pp.9-10.

(3)               ibid., p.34.

(4)               ibid,p.38.

(5)               “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun…”, ( )

(6)               Mohammad Abdullah Enan, op. cit., p.67.

(7)               Walter J.Fischel, Ibn Khaldun in Egypt…, pp.46- 49

(8)               ibid., 67-68.

(9)               Abderrahmane Lakhassi, “Ibn Khaldun” in History of Islamic Philosophy, edited by S.H.Nasr,  and O. Leaman (London:Routledge , “Abd al-Rahman bin Muhammad ibn Khaldun, footnote 26.

(10)           James Kalb, “Ibn Khaldun and Our Age”.

(11)           ibid.

(12)           ibid.

(13)           ibid.

(14)           From Jude Wanniski, “Ibn Khaldun and the Origins of Society”, Supply–Side University Economics Lesson #8 (

(15)           Ibid …

(16)           ibid. (11-19-99.html.)


(18)           ibid.

(19)           ibid.

(20)           John W. Bennet “Comments on ‘Renaissance Foundations of Anthropology’, originally appeared in American Anthropology, 68:215-226, 1991, then in

(21)           ibid.

(22)           See in

(23)           “Graduate Seminars in Cultural and Critical Studies Fall 2003” in /Seminars.htm

(24)           In

(25)           ibid.

(26)           In “INQUIRY. Refloating the Intellectual Enterprise of Islam”, in

(27)           in “Ibn Khaldun and Education”, in

(28)           ibid.

(29)           See in

(30)           ibid.

(31)           See

(32)           ibid.

(33)           Cited in Issawi, op.cit, cf.ibid.

(34)           ibid.

(35)           ibid.

(36)           Akbar Ahmed, “Ibn Khaldun’s Understanding of Civilizations and the Dilemmas of Islam and the West To-Day” (


(38)           ibid.

(39)           Incidentally the “Malay” concept in the present understanding is not racist but rather cultural and civilizational, because being “Melayu” is: being a Muslim, speaking Malay and practicing Malay customs. This is very much asking to ‘asabiyyah principle of ibn Khaldun, even though originally concerned with blood relationship then later extended to other relationships of long standing in life.

(40)           Al-Muqaddimah, tr Rosenthal vol. 3, pp. 38-39.

(41)           ibid., p. 40.

(42)           ibid. p. 41.

(43)           ibid.p. 43.

(44)           Muqaddimah, tr. F. Rosenthal, vol. 2, pp. 411ff.

(45)           ibid. vol.2. p. 412.

(46)           ibid.2. p. 413.

(47)           ibid.2. p. 432.

(48)           hadith no. 7657 in the Kanz al-‘Ummal of Muttaqi al-Hindi.

(49)           ibid. hadith no. 7654.

(50)           See Raud al-talibin vol.IV on witnesses and their conditions.