Ibne Khuldoon

 

The Muslim Ummah has produced many saints, reformers, philosophers, scientists, architects, historians, sociologists, jurists and physicians. Their invaluable contributions to the treasure of human knowledge and civilisation cannot be over-emphasised.

They upheld the cause of truth, goodness and justice with courage, determination and sincerity of purpose. They devoted their lives to the furtherance of human welfare and intellectual pursuits. They strove hard to cut the intricate knots of social, academic and theological problems and to resolve the conflicts that posed serious threats to social integration and solidarity of our body politic. They have indeed left indelible marks on the pages of history. Ibne Khaldoon was one of such great historical figures of Islam. He has the singular distinction of being the first sociologist of the world and the acknowledged founder of the philosophy of history.

Aboo Zayd Waliyyuddeen 'Abdur Rahmaan Ibne Muhammad, popularly known as Ibne Khaldoon, was born in Tunisia on the 1st of Ramadhaan 732 A.H. (27th May 1332). His ancestors moved from Hadhramawt and settled in Seville (Spain) in 300 A.H. His grandfather came over to Tunisia and settled there. Ibne Khaldoon was fortunate to receive preliminary education from his own father.

He was later on tutored by erudite scholars. His teachers were much by impressed his extraordinary intelligence. From his very early life, he exhibited signs of talent, which blossomed in his later years into a prodigious genius. He started his education by memorising the glorious Quraan. This was followed by lessons in philosophy and Arabic literature. When he was only twenty years old, he was appointed secretary to the Hafsid Sultan, Aboo Is'haaq lbraaheem. He discharged his duties very diligently for about three years. Then he moved to Morocco and served the Mernia Sultaan Aboo Inaan in the same capacity. In this way, he acquired a wealth, of experience and immensely enriched his knowledge of the culture of various races and countries. While working under different patrons and in different conditions, he had the opportunity to develop social contacts, which enhanced his knowledge of individuals, societies and of politics. In recognition of his extraordinary ability, to carry out reforms for the good of the common people, honors were showered on him from all sides during the period of his holding different offices.

However, times never always run smooth. Fortune's wheel took a turn for the worse. Pitfalls came in his way and obstructions and hardships hindered his progress. He was unable to resist opposition and political rivalry. Ultimately he was imprisoned, thus started a new phase of life that enabled him to gain new experiences and outlooks. It is quite true that great personalities have to pass through the crucible. They have to face severe trials. Nevertheless, adversities also bring great opportunities. What seems bitter and sour to a layman is sweet to those who are destined to perform great deeds. Ibne Khaldoon was no exception to this rule.

In 1364, C.E. Ibne Khaldoon was entangled in politics in Africa and remained so involved for ten years. Like a great political figure, Ibne Khaldoon found great consolation in his political trials and vicissitudes.

He, however, bade farewell to politics and left for Castle of Taughaut where he remained for four years. He now devoted himself to meditations on what he had observed and experienced in the past. He pondered over the events with particular reference to their causes and effects. The fruit of his meditation was his famous 'Muqaddamah,' his magnum opus.

Ibne Khaldoon was anxious to write the history of Berbers, but in the Castle of Taughaut, he did not find the essential facilities for the compilation of this important work. What lacked there was a proper library without which his contemplated history would have remained a mere skeleton. He therefore returned to Tunisia where there was a good extensive library. He laboured hard and completed his first draft.

In 1382, C.E. Ibne Khaldoon was appointed professor of Hadith in Azhar University by the Mamlook Sultaan, Al- Malik Az-zaheer Barqooq. It was a mere chance because Ibne Khaldoon happened to pass through Cairo on his way to Makkah to perform the Hajj. He was, however, detained in Cairo. After two years, the high rank of Chief Qaazi was bestowed upon him. During his stay in Egypt, a disaster befell him. His entire family was drowned in a sea journey. This tragedy compelled him to resign his office and he went to Makkah in 1387 C.E. to perform the Hajj. He, however, returned to Cairo where he completed the 'history' and his 'Autobiography' in the year 1392 C.E.

Ibne Khaldoon was the first thinker to record history in its philosophical and sociological perspective. He thus gained for himself a prominent position in history. He was also the founder of sociology. As a historian, he has set forth the principles of historical analysis and criticism in his 'Muqaddamah'. While dealing with the social phenomena of man's life, he has explained the difference in customs and institutions wrought by physical environments of races, climate and production. Much stress he has laid on the psychological changes in human communities, and the succession of cultural periods. He has not forgotten to elucidate the relation of individual to society. He has plainly and skilfully defined the respective duties of each. As a careful and keen observer of causes and effects, he has presented his view in the following words of wisdom: "Know thou, may Allah enlighten us and thee, that we view this world and all creation therein arranged in an orderly and exact manner, with effects linked to causes, and forms connected to forms."

Ibne Khaldoon has also explained the theory of intelligence' by pointing out that knowledge is not inborn but is acquired and the intensity of memory varies from individual to individual. Ibne Khaldoon continued to remain at Cairo. He breathed his last on the 25th Ramadhaan, 808 A.H. (19th March 1406). He left behind him his monumental works, particularly 'The Muqaddamah', which will serve the scholars of history and sociology as a perennial source of guidance and reference.

(Extracted from Riyadul Jannah)

 


[ Main Page ] | [ Essay Index ]