Home >> Socio Short Notes >> Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis. He completed his Muqaddimah, a treatise to study of history in 1378. He introduced a new science of human society called 'ilm al-ijtima ̄ ' al-insa ̄ni.

He begins the Muqaddimah by problematizing the study of history, suggesting that the only way to distinguish true from false reports and to ascertain the probability and possibility of events is the investigation of the nature of human society. It is this investigation that he refers to as 'ilm al-ijtima ̄' al- insa ̄ni. Ibn Khaldun made the distinction between the outer forms (Zahir), that is, facts and reports, and the inner meaning (batin), that is, causes, of history. This was presented by him as a tool for the study of history and was directed to uncovering the inner meaning of history.

He was interested in the study of the rise and fall of the various North African states. Only a society with a strong 'a_sabiyyah or group feeling could establish domination over one with a weak 'a_sabiyyah, he wrote Because of superior 'a_sabiyyah among nomadic peoples, they could defeat sedentary people in urban areas and establish their own dynasties. Having done so, urbanization resulted in the diminution of their 'a_sabiyyah. With this went their military strength and their ability to rule. This leaves them vulnerable to attack by fresh supplies of pre-urban nomads with stronger 'a_sabiyyah who replaced the weaker urbanized ones. And so the cycle repeats itself.

Ibn Khaldun's interest was in elaborating a new science of society, based on the application of Aristotle's four types of causes, the formal, material, efficient, and final cause. Understanding the inner meaning of history is to know the nature of society, which in turn requires the study of its causes. The causes are what gives society its constitution (material cause), its definition (formal cause), the motive forces of society (efficient cause), and society's end (final cause). This can be said to be the elements of Ibn Khaldun's general sociology, applicable to all types of societies, nomadic or sedentary, Muslim or non-Muslim. Ibn Khaldun has been recognized as a founder of sociology by earlier generations of western sociologists in the nineteenth century but hardly got mentioned in the contemporary resources.