Ibn Khaldun was born in the city of Tunis on 27 May 1332. His family had settled in Seville since their immigration from Hadramawt in Yemen following the conquest of the North African territory by the Muslims. Later, the family relocated to Tunis at a time when the territory was under Hafsid Abu Zakariyya. Ibn Khaldun’s sociological contribution represents the most important work in the history of the Muslim culture (Crone, 2005). His contributions facilitated the understanding of the Muslim Civilization. The understanding of his work is enhanced by examining his life, which was a remarkable search of influence and stability. Khaldum, like most of his family members, endeavored to become a politician and a scholar, and he succeeded in both. Khaldum went through a traditional form of education, as it was typical with his family and those of the same status and rank. He began learning from his father before studying under a scholar who, unlike the members of Khaldum’s family, had no political roots. His academic achievements include the memorization of the Qur’an as well as proficiency in Jurisprudence, grammar, rhetoric, Hadith, poetry, and philosophy.
Political Life and Journeys
By the time Ibn Khaldun was 19 years old, he had been a noted scholar who received certifications for various subjects. He was first appointed to public service at the age of 19, an event that marked the start of his political career. His first position was that of Katib al-Alamah at the Chancellery of Ibn Tafrakin, the Tunisian ruler. This position involved writing calligraphy that acted as introductory notes to official documents. After the Sultan of Constantine took over Tunis, Khaldum relocated to Fez where he was appointed a writer of royal proclamations. He, however, plotted against his employer, an act that resulted to his incarceration for 22 months. Following the death of Abu Inan, he was granted freedom before being reinstated to his position. Despite the reinstatement, he continued plotting against the authority of Abu Salem Ibrahim III, the successor of Abu Inan. He helped Salem’s uncle, Abu Salem, to assume the throne, and in turn won an appointment to a ministerial position. This appointment corresponded with his political ambitions (Crone, 2005).
Following the death of Abu Salem, Khaldum was mistreated so much that he opted to relocate to Granada banking on the goodwill of the Sultan who Abu Salem had helped to regain the throne. The Sultan of Granada, Muhammad, appointed him to as a peace mediator with the king of Castile. Following the success of this mission, the Castile King persuaded him to remain in Castile, an offer that he declined (Black, 2001). Khaldum kept switching allegiances as par the prevailing circumstances, and by the time of his death, he had been appointed judge in Egypt for the sixth time. His political theory stated that an institution that advocates for justice comes to commit injustice itself.
The Muqaddimah is a book that was written by Ibn Khaldun, a North African historian, in 1377. It is a record of universal history that is viewed as the initial work that dealt with sociology, social sciences, historiography, cultural history, economics, and philosophy of history. Moreover, Muqaddimah deals with political theory, Islamic theology, as well as natural sciences like chemistry and biology. Khaldum wrote this book as a preface to his planned Book of Advice, Kitab al-Ibar. The book commences with criticism of some of the mistakes committed by historians. The book records seven important issues which include historian bias towards certain opinions, certitude in one’s actions, misunderstanding others’ intentions, and an erroneous belief in some facts (Black, 2001). Others include the unfitness in placing events in their real contexts, common desire for favor by those in authority, and ignorance of the rules that govern transformation in the society.
Muqaddimah demonstrates the essence of Khaldun’s wisdom and experience. It is a comprehensive book that summarizes the ideas regarding every aspect of knowledge in his days. In this book, Khaldun offers his opinions and facts freely. He discusses social forces and tribal societies in a manner that illustrates the world in a vivid manner, as well as how civilizations and kingdoms work. Khaldun is mindful of the manner in which demand, supply, and ripple in the market affects prices. He also explained the nature of society and state, an act that made him be regarded as the founder of sociology. This was so as he had created ‘ilm al-‘umran, which was a new discipline in sociology which was regarded as surpassing those that had been created before. His work is vital in judging the accounts of the past events as it facilitates the study of the human society. His contribution to history is noteworthy as he has analyzed the sources of errors in past events in a detailed manner. These contributions have helped historians in understanding every aspect of the intended facts (Rosenthal, 1958).
Khaldun believed that societies are necessary in acquisition of security as well as the basic commodities such as food. These achievements are facilitated by division of labor in the society. According to Khaldun, states come in to being as a result of the need to restrain force and curb natural aggression (Rosenthal, 1958). He argues that state and society are of mutual importance to one another. His book accounts for how social phenomena obey the laws that are constant and in a manner that follow well defined and regular sequences and patterns. As such, for sociologists to interpret trends in events, they need to grasp these laws. The laws, according to Khaldun, are effective on masses, and they cannot influence individuals. He argued that society functions as an organism that obeys inner laws. He added that these laws are discovered through the application of human reason on information from direct observation as well as from previous records.
According to Khaldun, history resembles a constantly shifting cycle that has two essential groups of societies; townspeople and nomads. He added that, between these distinct groups, there existed a third group of peasants. Muqaddimah points out that nomads are uncultured, rough, savage, and that their being is unfriendly to civilization. Nevertheless, they are frugal, hardy, freedom-loving, uncorrupted in morals, excellent fighters, and self-reliant. They have strong social solidarity which raises their military capability (Persran, 2007). On their part, town dwellers are proficient in sciences, crafts, as well as art and culture. However, townspeople are corrupted by luxury, and as such, they end-up becoming liabilities to the state just like the vulnerable women and children as they need constant protection. Townspeople have relaxed solidarity, and; therefore, cannot defend themselves as the nomads do. Nomads have the potential of conquering territories, and this enables their leaders to enlarge their dynasties. As time goes by, rulers who had demonstrated tribal virtues begin to centralize authority and, at times, rule bureaucratically in a manner that incorporates foreigners (Rosenthal, 1958). As former supporters fail to keep their warfare virtues, these leaders engages mercenaries, and, to them, soldiers gains more prominence than their civilians. The luxuries that they indulge in corrupt their ethical life, a situation that leads to decrease in population. He concludes by arguing that the cycles of decay-to-flowering are not suggestive of progress or evolution as behavioral change keeps returning the society to challenges.
Like Khaldun, Aristotle valued unity in every section of the society. He viewed the city as a natural community that had more importance than the family. Likewise, the family, according to Aristotle, has more importance than an individual. As such, the whole is more effective than parts. Aristotle considered politics as an aggregation of parts that have interdependence. However, he differs with Khaldun when he argues that the role of the city is to facilitate justice and stability. Khadum believed that cities weakened stability and that the townspeople were always in need of protection. While Aristotle supported luxury, Khadun believed that it is luxuries that weaken the morals of the members of the society. While Aristotle believed that class life motivated members of the society to work harder, Khaldun does not back class life as, according to him, it makes people abandon the initiative of serving the community selflessly (Persran, 2007).