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Old Friday, November 18, 2005
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Default The Real Father of Sociology ....Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun was a renaissance man, the real father of sociology. He defined the foundations of sociology more than 4 centuries before Auguste Comte “discovered” them. Ibn Khaldun lived in an era when the Muslim Nation in North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula disintegrated into a multitude of city states fighting against each other. At the same time the Spaniards were uniting their kingdoms and steadily taking over the Muslim city states in Iberia.

He was directly involved in the political intrigue and served several Muslim rulers in different capacities ranging from diplomatic envoy to minister. His first hand observations led him to believe that societies are not controlled by resources or policies.

He concluded that societies are living organisms that experience cyclic birth, growth, maturity, decline, and ultimately death due to universal causes. Each phase of the cycle lasts for several generations. He also described the process through which peaceful or violent migrants blend with the native population to form a homogeneous society subject to the universal cycles.

He correctly associated the maturity stage of any social system with affluence, luxury and reluctance to perform menial tasks or defend the society against external threats. This leads to the employment of foreigners and mercenaries which initiates the conflicts that lead to the decline phase.

He identified the impact of climate and available resources on migrations and social changes. He also identified the impact of governmental policy and taxation on social change.
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Default continued......

Ibn Khaldun is universally recognized as the founder and father of Sociology and Sciences of History. He is best known for his famous 'Muqaddimah,' (Prolegomena). Abd al-Rahman Ibn Mohammad, generally known as Ibn Khaldun after a remote ancestor, was born in Tunis in 732 A.H. (1332 C.E.) to an upper class family that had migrated from Seville in Muslim Spain.
His ancestors were Yemenite Arabs who settled in Spain in the very beginning of Muslim rule in the eighth century.

During his formative years, Ibn Khaldun experienced his family's active participation in the intellectual life of the city, and to a lesser degree, its political life. He was used to frequent visits to his family by the political and intellectual leaders of western Islamic states (i.e., North Africa and Spain), many of whom took refuge there. Ibn Khaldun was educated at Tunis and Fez, and studied the Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad's Traditions and other branches of Islamic studies such as Dialectical theology, shari'a (Islamic Law of Jurisprudence, according to the Maliki School). He also studied Arabic literature, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. While still in his teens, he entered the service of the Egyptian ruler Sultan Barquq.

Ibn Khaldun 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 Biaja (in North Africa). In 1375, Ibn Khaldun crossed over to Muslim Spain (Granada) as a tired and embittered man solely for the reasons of escaping the turmoil in North Africa. Unfortunately, because of his political past, the ruler of Granada expelled him. He then went back to Algeria to spend four years in seclusion in Qalat Ibn Salama, a small village. It was in Qalat he wrote Muqaddimah, the first volume of his world history that won him an immortal place among historians, sociologists and philosophers. The uncertainty of his career continued because of unrest in North Africa. Finally, he settled in Egypt where he spent his last twenty-four years. Here, he lived a life of fame and respect, marked by his appointment as the Chief Malakite Judge. He also lectured at the Al-Azhar University.

Ibn Khaldun had to move from one court to another, sometimes at his own will, but often forced to do so by plotting rivals or despotic rulers. He learnt much from his encounters with rulers, ambassadors, politicians and scholars from North Africa, Muslim Spain, Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world.

Ibn Khaldun is most famous for his book 'Muqaddimah' (Introduction). It is a masterpiece in literature on philosophy of history and sociology. The main theme of this monumental work was to identify psychological, economic, environmental and social facts that contribute to the advancement of human civilization and the currents of history. He analyzed the dynamics of group relationships and showed how group feelings, al-'Asabiyya, produce the ascent of a new civilization and political power. He identified an almost rhythmic repetition of the rise and fall in human civilization, and analyzed factors contributing to it.

Ibn Khaldun's revolutionary views have attracted the attention of Muslim scholars as well as many Western thinkers. In his study of history, Ibn Khaldun was a pioneer in subjecting historical reports to the two basic criteria of reason and social and physical laws. He pointed out the following four essential points in the study and analysis of historical reports: (1) relating events to each other through cause and effect, (2) drawing analogy between past and present, (3) taking into consideration the effect of the environment, and (4) taking into consideration the effect of inherited and economic conditions.

Ibn Khaldun's pioneered the critical study of history. He provided an analytical study of human civilization, its beginning, factors contributing to its development and the causes of decline. Thus, he founded a new science: the science of social development or sociology, as we call it today. Ibn Khaldun writes, "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." By selecting his particular method of analysis, he created two new sciences: Historiology and Sociology simultaneously.

Ibn Khaldun argued that history is subject to universal laws and states the criterion for historical truth: "The rule for distinguishing what is true from what is false in history is based on its possibility or impossibility: That is to say, we must examine human society and discriminate between the characteristics which are essential and inherent in its nature and those which are accidental and need not be taken into account, recognizing further those which cannot possibly belong to it. If we do this, we have a rule for separating historical truth from error by means of demonstrative methods that admits of no doubt. It is a genuine touchstone by which historians may verify whatever they relate."

Because of his emphasis on reason and its necessity in judging history and social events, some scholars have claimed that Ibn Khaldun tried to refute conventional religious knowledge and substitute for it reason and rational philosophy. This claim is unfounded. It is known that some schools teach things which are irrational in nature. But this is not true of Islam which has always encouraged observation and thinking, and reminded the nonbelievers for not using their reason and thinking. An example is the Verse 164, Chapter 2 of the Qur'an: "Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the benefit of mankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies; and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that he scatters through the earth; in the change of winds and the clouds which they trail like slaves between the sky and the earth; - (here) indeed are signs for people that are wise and think." Qur'an 2:170: "When it is said to them: "Follow what God hath revealed." They say, "Nay: We shall follow the ways of our fathers." What! even though their fathers were devoid of wisdom or reason and guidance?"

Ibn Khaldun remarked that the role of religion is in unifying the Arabs and bringing progress and development to their society. He pointed out that injustice, despotism, and tyranny are clear signs of the downfall of the state. Ibn Khaldun points out that metaphysical philosophy has one advantage only, which is to sharpen one's wits. He states that the knowledge of the taphysical world particularly in matters of belief can only be derived from revelation.

He was a pioneer in education. 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. Ibn Khaldun lived in the beginning period of the decline of Muslim civilization. This experience prompted him to spend most of his efforts on collecting, summarizing and memorization of the body of knowledge left by the ancestors. He vehemently attacked those unhealthy practices that created stagnation and stifling of creativity by Muslim scholars.

Ibn Khaldun emphasized the necessity of subjecting both social and historical phenomena to scientific and objective analysis. He noted that those phenomena were not the outcome of chance, but were controlled by laws of their own, laws that had to be discovered and applied in the study of society, civilization and history. He remarked that historians have committed errors in their study of historical events, due to three major factors:

(l) Their ignorance of the natures of civilization and people,

(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 correct understanding can only be achieved by observing the following three main points. First, a historian should not be in any way prejudiced for or against any one or any idea. Second, he needs to conform and scrutinize the reported information. One should learn all one could about the historians whose reports one hears or reads, and one should check their morals and trustworthiness before accepting their reports. Finally, one should not limit 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, religious, and economic conditions.

The Muqaddimah was already recognized as an important work during the lifetime of Ibn Khaldun. His other volumes on world history Kitab al-I'bar deal with the history of Arabs, contemporary Muslim rulers, contemporary European rulers, ancient history of Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Islamic History, Egyptian history and North-African history, especially that of Berbers and tribes living in the adjoining areas. The last volume deals largely with the events of his own life and is known as Al-Tasrif. As with his other books, it was also written from an analytical perspective and initiated a new tradition in the art of writing autobiography. He also wrote a book on mathematics which is not extant.

Ibn Khaldun's influence on the subject of history, philosophy of history, sociology, political science and education has remained paramount down to our times. He is also recognized as the leader in the art of autobiography, a renovator in the fields of ucation and educational psychology and in Arabic writing stylistics. His books have been translated into many languages, both in the East and the West, and have inspired subsequent development of these sciences. Prof. Gum Ploughs and Kolosio consider Muqaddimah as superior in scholarship to Machiavelli's The Prince written a century later, as the former bases the diagnosis more on cultural, sociological, economic and psychological factors.
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Default Comparing Comte and Ibn Khaldun

this comparison havent asked in any CSS papers yet but can be asked !!!



A basic aspect of the methodological approach of Comte and Ibn Khaldun is their discussion of the nature of truth. In what aspect do they follow a similar route in forwarding the legitimacy of their truth claims?

Both focus on scientific method as being different from everyday perception:

If it is true that every theory must be based on observed facts, it is equally true that facts cannot be observed without the guidance of some theory. Without such guidance, our facts would be desultory and fruitless

If this is so, the normative method for distinguishing right from wrong in historical information on the grounds of (inherent) possibility or absurdity, is to investigate human social organization, which is identical with civilization. We must distinguish the conditions that attach themselves to the essence of civilization as required by its very nature; the things that are accidental (to civilization) and cannot be counted on; and the things that cannot possibly attach themselves to it.

Perception has to be guided by theory to establish scientific facts in a legitimate manner. In this way, both authors claim a specific and superior epistemology; they regard everyday experience as prone to illusion, misinterpretations and deception.



Notwithstanding this similarity in creating superior truth claims for science,there is a central difference between their conceptions of science. Ibn Khaldun emphasizes discontinuities and repetitions in social processes. Berber tribes rise to might and power, raze cities, settle down, go through a transformation from a state of high internal cohesion and a strong sense of asabiyah to a state of internal conflict and decadence and finally get overthrown by a new and strong tribe. For Ibn Khaldun, this typical development can be disrupted by special events like wars with rival dynasties and it is also influenced by environmental conditions like climate. He also highlights the possible dangers that lie in drawing conclusions from contemporary social facts and accordingly he stresses the importance of social change.

Comte, to the contrary, lays his emphasis on the concept of progress. He constructs a linear advancement of knowledge: Knowledge is going through theological and metaphysical phases until the condition of positive philosophy is eventually reached. Once this state is achieved, it is irreversible, only further quantitative additions to human knowledge can be made, not a qualitative change. I would interpret this central difference between Ibn Khaldun and Comte as a case that displays the difference between a typical example of European (and eurocentristic) concepts of progress, rationalization and modernity and non-European concepts of society or social change. For that reason it 'preshadows' claims later made by feminist and postmodern critiques and thereby enriches the syllabus: Discussion in class or in an exam could focus, for example, on the question why a theory like Ibn Khaldun's had to be 'discovered' by social scientists and historians in the 19th century and how these discoverers interpreted Ibn Khaldun's work.
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This comparison is asked in most socio. papers at Master's level and PCS exams.
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