The Founding Father of Sociology and Science of History
(732- 808 A.H./1332-1405 G.)
- "He was the first founder of sociology. He was a pioneer in the scientific study of history.
- He was a leader in the art of autobiography.
- He was a renovator in the fields of education and educational psychology.
- He was a renovator in Arabic writing stvlistics."
These words express the opinion of a well-known Egyptian contemporary Professor of sociology, Professor 'Abdul-Wahid Wafi.
A close scrutiny of our hero's works and life history will reveal that Professor Wafi was not exaggerating when he said those words about Ibn Khaldun.
Our hero, here, Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis in 732 A.H. (1332 G.) to a fairly well-to-do family who had earlier migrated from Seville in Muslim Spain. His lineage goes to Yemen which land our hero's family had left in the company of the army that conquered Spain.
"During his childhood in Tunis, Ibn Khaldun must have had his share in his family's active participation in the intellectual life of the city, and to a lesser degree, its political life," in the words of Professor Muhsin Mehdi, who points out that. "the household in which our hero was raised was frequented by the political and intellectual leaders of Western Islam (i.e. North Africa and Spain), many of whom took refuge there and were protected against angry rulers." Our hero led a very active political life before he finally settled down to write his well-known masterpiece on history. He worked for rulers in Tunis and Fez (in Morocco). Granada (in Muslim Spain) and Baja (in Tunisia) successively.
At the age of forty-three in 1375 G., "lbn Khaldun finally succeeded," says Professor Mehdi, "in crossing over once more to Muslim Spain, not with ambitious designs of his youth, but as a tired and embittered man with no purpose save escaping the turmoil of North Africa." Unfortunately, the ruler of Granada caused Ibn Khaldun's friend, Ibn AI- Khateeb to flee to North Africa. When he learnt of our hero's attempts to help his friend, our hero was expelled from Granada. So he went back to North Africa to spend four years in seclusion to do some thinking in peace.
Intellectually, our hero was well-educated, having studied in Tunis first and Fez later the Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad's Ahadith and other branches of Islamic studies such as dialectical theology, Shari'ah (Islamic Law or Jurisprudence, according to the Maliki School of thought). He also studied Arabic literature, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy.
But we can safely say that our hero learnt very much from the school of life in which he actively participated, moving from place to place and from one royal court to another,
sometimes at his own will, but often forced to do so by plotting rivals or despotic rulers.
Ibn Khaldun learnt much from his meetings with all sorts of rulers, ambassadors, politicians and scholars, he came in contact in North Africa, Muslim Spain, Egypt and other parts
of the Muslim World. All of these circumstances and experiences seem to have contributed to the formation of our hero's views on history, culture and society, neatly expressed in his book on history and concisely summed up in his well-known master piece "AI Muqaddimah ('Proloque')."
The revolutionary views of our hero have always attracted not only Arab scholars' attention but the attention of many a Western thinker as well. In his study of history Ibn Khaldun was a pioneer in subjecting historical reports to the two basic criteria of (1) reason and (2) social and physical laws. He considered the following four points worthy of
consideration in studying and analyzing historical reports:
1. Relating events to each other through cause and effect.
2. Drawing analogy between the past and the present.
3. Taking into consideration the effect of the environment.
4. Taking into consideration the effect of inherited and economic conditions.
But Ibn Khaldun's work was more than a critical study of history. It was, in fact, a study of human civilization in general, its beginning, factors contributing to its development, and the causes of its decline. Thus, unwittingly, our hero founded a new science: the science of social development or sociology, as we call it today. "I have written on history a book in which I discussed the causes and effects of the development of states and civilizations, and I followed in arranging the material of the book an unfamiliar method, and I followed in writing it a strange and innovative way." These are the words of our hero indicating the new interesting method he followed in the study of history, whereby he created, in effect two new sciences: Historiology and Scoiology at the same time.
Due to his emphasis on reason and its necessity in judging history and social events, it has been claimed that Ibn Khaldun tried to refute conventional religious knowledge and substitute it with reason and rational philosophy. The claim is founded on a false premise or assumption, i.e. that religion and reason are necessarily in conflict with each other. Naturally, it is true that some religions do teach things which are irrational in nature. But this is certainly not true of Islam which has always encouraged observation and thinking and condemned the non-believers for not using their reason and thinking. There are many verses in the Qur'an to this effect. such as:
"Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, and the ships which sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind, and the water (rain) which Allah Sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive therewith after its death, and the moving (living) creatures of all kinds that He has Scattered therein, and in the veering of winds and clouds which are held between the sky and the earth, are indeed signs for people of understanding."
Qur'an: 2: 164)
"When it is said to them: 'Follow what Allah has sentdown.' They say, 'Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following.' What! even though their fathers did not understand anything nor were they guided ?" (Qur'an 2:170).
"He sets forth for you a parable from your own selves: Do you have partners among those whom your right hands possess (i.e. your slaves) to share as equals in the wealth We have bestowed on you? Whom you fear as you fear each other? Thus do We explain the signs in detail to a people who have sense." (Qur'an 30:28)
The close relationship between Ibn Khaldun's views and Islam are clearly seen in his remarks on the role of religion in unifying the Arabs and bringing progress and development to their society. We also see that connection in our hero's opinion on the close affinity between religion and the state, pointing out that injustice and despotism are clear signs of the downfall of the state. On philosophy, Ibn Khaldun points out that metaphysical philosophy has one advantage only, which is to sharpen one's wits. For
knowledge of the metaphysical world, especially in matters of belief, can only be derived from the divine revelation, i.e. the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
In education, our hero was a pioneer when he remarked that suppression and use of force are enemies to learning, and that they lead to laziness, lying and hypocrisy. He also pointed out to the necessity of good models and practice for the command of good linguistic habits.
Since the age of our hero was an age of decline for Muslim civilization, and most of the efforts of scholarship were directed to collecting, summarizing and memorization of the body of knowledge left by the ancestors, our hero severely attacked those unhealthy practices that led to stagnation and to the stifling of creativity on the part of Muslim scholars. But if Ibn Khaldun made some interesting contribution to education, he certainly made a major and pioneering contribution in the fields of sociological and historical studies. For it was he who pointed to the necessity of subjecting both social and historical phenomena to scientific, objective analysis. He noted that those phenomena were not the outcome of chance, but were rather controlled by laws that had to be discove ed and applied in our study of society, civilization and history. Historians, he remarked, committed errors in their s udy of historical events, due to three major factors:
(1) Their ignorance of the natures of civilization and peoples,
(2) their bias and prejudice and
(3) their blind acceptance of reports given by others.
Ibn Khaldun pointed out that true progress and development comes through correct understanding of history, and the latter can only be achieved by observing the following:
1) Absolute objectivity, which means that the historian should not be in any way prejudiced for or against anyone or any idea.
2) Confirmation and scrutiny of reported information. One should learn all one could about the historians whose reports one hears or reads. One should check their morals and trustworthiness before accepting their reports.
3) Not limiting history to the study of political and military news or to news about rulers and states. For history should include the study of all social, re.ligious and economic conditions.
These were but a few of the many interesting views left by our hero Ibn Khaldun in his famous A/-Muqaddimah ('Prologue') and his book on history, two masterpieces that have left clear marks on human thought and its development.
BACK TO CONTENTS
Copyright © 2010 I Bangladesh.Life