Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun

Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun was born in (1332 AD) in Tunis. He was regarded to be the father of sociology and one of the strongest personalities during the Muslim cultural decline in the Arab world. In this paper I will be demonstrating Ibn Khaldun’s presence, thoughts, and work. Despite the fact that he lived in the 14th and 15th centuries, his thoughts and contributions to humanity are still appropriate for discussion in the 20th century and have become a source of scientific and political judgments.

His area of concentration focused more or less on three main disciplines sociology, history and philosophy. Starting with sociology, he looked at two groups of people, nomads and townspeople, with peasants in between then he characterized each group with a certain sociological structure. In terms of history, Ibn Khaldun wanted to examine analyse history by dividing it into two parts historical manifest and historical gist. Finally, in regard to philosophy, Ibn Khaldun attempted to re-examine mysticism and theology in developing a model of the Sufism.

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Ibn Khaldun contribution to the discipline of sociology, he first looked at nomads’ characteristics and categorized them as being rough, savage and uncultured and their presence will always be destructive to civilization; however they have other unique characteristics that perhaps cannot be found with other groups that he identified as members of the civilized society. These characteristics are hardy, have good morals, freedom-loving and self reliant, and so make excellent fighters.

In addition, they have group cohesion and social solidarity, with these types of characteristics they would have a great military potential. After the in depth analysis of nomad social structure Ibn Khaldun found phenomena that he later described as (Asabiyyah), which means group cohesion or bond. The bond, Asabiyyah, Ibn Khaldun believed existed at all levels of civilization, from nomadic society to modern society; however, it is stronger in nomadic social structure, than that of civilized modern social structure.

This proves that due to the fact that nomad groups are consisted of small numbers and such cohesion (Asabiyyah) is essential to maintain self reliant and group survival. Where in more civilized society, Asabiyyah declines due to the fact people do not need to rely on one another for survival, everything is provided by the state and basic survival needs are easily accessible. Ibn Khaldun was also regarded as the first pioneer to discover that history, like any other science, required research and analysis.

In terms of history, Ibn Khaldun divided history into two main parts; these parts were the plain history and the more in-depth history. According to Ibn Khaldun, history is not about recording historical events and dates, but it has to go beyond basic analysis by examining the environments, social structure and political foundations. Ibn Khaldun’s method relied heavily on criticism, observation, comparison and examination.

He believed that history was falsified and exaggerated over the decades by those who wrote it and that is to complement certain rulers or different religious sects and for personal purposes. He then wanted to use different method than his predecessors of historians, by relying on the scientific criticism to analyse accounts of historical events as well as examining and comparing various different accounts in order to distinguish what has been falsified and eliminate it.

Therefore, bringing in the true story of what actually had occurred without any exaggerations or personal opinion. One of his most famous masterworks was the (Muqaddimah) the introduction, in which Ibn Khaldun gave us insight into his thoughts on management and work, it is considered to be like the Bible or the Koran, it contained various subjects, that many of his successors of thinkers came to use it to reference their own work. In regard to philosophy, Ibn Khaldun attempted to re-develop the model of Sufism.

Ibn Khaldun approached Sufism as a science like any other phenomenon pertaining to human existence, tasawwuuf is vulnerable to change in its external, relative and dependant aspects and in this sense it is historical phenomenon. He observed that it has a history for its emergence at a particular time, grew and, in his opinion had declined somewhat in his time. He looked at Sufism as a cultural aspect because it was born out of need.

It emerged with in the first three generations of Muslims led straight devoted lives in accordance with the (Sharia), these individuals that use to practice Sufism focused primarily on their inner spiritual department and deeds rather than on external ones only. Thus, Sufism emerged as a distinct discipline as a kind of reaction to the growing association and involvement of most of Islamic society with externals and appearances; and emphasise on the material side of life at the expense of the spiritual aspect. Ibn Khaldun analysis of Sufism was very recise; he related most of his analysis to the social aspect of society. The emergence of any phenomena according to him was within the frame of sociology. In conclusion, one can conclude that Ibn Khaldun opened new chapters in the world of history and paved a wide leeway for the study of many disciplines. Moreover, he played a significant role in correcting history and introducing new notions related to social structure unlike other contemporaries, Ibn Khaldun was not quite influenced by a specific ruler or religion sect, as he wanted to offer humanity the truth only, when it came to history.

His popular work Muqaddimah speaks of himself in that contained various subjects pertaining to nature, government and the social structure. As many scholars that came after him relied on his analysis and examinations of social structure in furthering their own analysis of sociology. Therefore Ibn Khaldun remains a highly vibrant and original thinker not only in the field of history but in sociology as well.

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