Citation for Ibn Khaldun

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" Ibn Khaldun ." In The Islamic World: Past and Present. Ed. John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Jan 16, 2021. <>.


" Ibn Khaldun ." In The Islamic World: Past and Present. , edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed Jan 16, 2021).

Ibn Khaldun

1332 – 1406

Historian and


The Islamic thinker Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun is best known for his historical writings and his theories about political development in the Arab world. Because he was one of the first scholars to carefully examine human social organization, some people consider him the father of sociology. Many historians also see him as a pioneer in the study of history as a science.

Ibn Khaldun was born in the North African city of Tunis at a time when that part of the Arab Muslim empire was in decline. He held several government positions, including secretary of state and ambassador, before moving to Cairo in 1382 , where he taught and served as a judge. Driven to discover the reason for the political turmoil of his day, Ibn Khaldun began to apply the principles of philosophy to history. Before this time, philosophers had ignored the study of history because it dealt with only passing events, not eternal truths. Ibn Khaldun, however, believed that human society was governed by universal laws and that one could uncover them through study. He took a scientific approach to history, formulating theories based on his careful observations.

Ibn Khaldun argued that asabiyah, or social solidarity, enables a group to acquire power and to survive. It also leads the group to conquer others and establish its own state. The luxury and leisure of urban life, he believed, weakens the group and leads to its decline. This allows a stronger group to conquer the old one, thus starting the cycle of rise and decline over again. Ibn Khaldun's ideas emphasized the differences between nomadic and settled societies, as well as his belief that nomadic societies had a superior sense of solidarity.

Ibn Khaldun also wrote about tyranny, observing that it usually leads to egotism in rulers. He stressed the need for social control of human activities. Some modern scholars believe that Ibn Khaldun's ideas apply only to the age in which he lived. Others compare his teachings with those of Machiavelli and other European scholars. Ibn Khaldun produced two major works—Autobiography, a frank evaluation of his career, and a large work of history. In the introduction, or Muqaddimah, to this work, he makes his most important observations concerning the rise and fall of civilizations. See also Historians.

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