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* Book: The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History - Abridged Edition. Ibn Khaldûn. Princeton University Press, 2015

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"The Muqaddimah, often translated as “Introduction” or “Prolegomenon,” is the most important Islamic history of the premodern world. Written by the great fourteenth-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406), this monumental work established the foundations of several fields of knowledge, including the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics. The first complete English translation, by the eminent Islamicist and interpreter of Arabic literature Franz Rosenthal, was published in three volumes in 1958 as part of the Bollingen Series and received immediate acclaim in the United States and abroad. A one-volume abridged version of Rosenthal’s masterful translation first appeared in 1969.

This Princeton Classics edition of the abridged version includes Rosenthal’s original introduction as well as a contemporary introduction by Bruce B. Lawrence. This volume makes available a seminal work of Islam and medieval and ancient history to twenty-first century audiences."



1. From the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

"The work is studded with brilliant observations on historiography, economics, politics, and education. It is held together by his central concept of ʿaṣabiyyah, or “social cohesion.” It is this cohesion, which arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups, but which can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology, that provides the motive force that carries ruling groups to power. Its inevitable weakening, due to a complex combination of psychological, sociological, economic, and political factors, which Ibn Khaldūn analyzes with consummate skill, heralds the decline of a dynasty or empire and prepares the way for a new one, based on a group bound by a stronger cohesive force."


2. From the Wikipedia:

"The Al-Muqaddimah is the introduction to the Kitāb al-ʻIbar

"Kitāb al-ʻIbar, (full title: Kitāb al-ʻIbar wa-Dīwān al-Mubtadaʼ wa-l-Khabar fī Taʼrīkh al-ʻArab wa-l-Barbar wa-Man ʻĀṣarahum min Dhawī ash-Shaʼn al-Akbār "Book of Lessons, Record of Beginnings and Events in the History of the Arabs and the Berbers and Their Powerful Contemporaries"); begun as a history of the Berbers and expanded to a universal history in seven books.

  • Book 1; Al-Muqaddimah ('The Introduction'), a socio-economic-geographical universal history of empires, and the best known of his works.
  • Books 2-5; World History up to the author's own time.
  • Books 6-7; Historiography of the Berbers and the Maghreb. Khaldun departs from the classical style of Arab historians[n 3] by synthesising multiple, sometimes contradictory, sources without citations. He reproduces some errors originating probably from his 14th-century Fez source, the work Rawḍ al-Qirṭās by Ibn Abi Zar, yet Al-'Ibar remains an invaluable source of Berber history.

Concerning the discipline of sociology, he described the dichotomy of sedentary life versus nomadic life as well as the inevitable loss of power that occurs when warriors conquer a city. According to the Arab scholar Sati' al-Husri, the Muqaddimah may be read as a sociological work. The work is based around Ibn Khaldun's central concept of 'Aṣabiyyah, which has been translated as "social cohesion", "group solidarity", or "tribalism". This social cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups; it can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology. Ibn Khaldun's analysis looks at how this cohesion carries groups to power but contains within itself the seeds – psychological, sociological, economic, political – of the group's downfall, to be replaced by a new group, dynasty or empire bound by a stronger (or at least younger and more vigorous) cohesion. Some of Ibn Khaldun's views, particularly those concerning the Zanj people of sub-Saharan Africa, have been cited as racist,[36] though they were not uncommon for their time. According to the scholar Abdelmajid Hannoum, Ibn Khaldun's description of the distinctions between Berbers and Arabs were misinterpreted by the translator William McGuckin de Slane, who wrongly inserted a "racial ideology that sets Arabs and Berbers apart and in opposition" into his translation of part of`Ibar translated under the title Histoire des Berbères .

Perhaps the most frequently cited observation drawn from Ibn Khaldūn's work is the notion that when a society becomes a great civilization, its high point is followed by a period of decay. This means that the next cohesive group that conquers the diminished civilization is, by comparison, a group of barbarians. Once the barbarians solidify their control over the conquered society, however, they become attracted to its more refined aspects, such as literacy and arts, and either assimilate into or appropriate such cultural practices. Then, eventually, the former barbarians will be conquered by a new set of barbarians, who will repeat the process.

Georgetown University Professor Ibrahim Oweiss, an economist and historian, notes that Schumpeter and David Hume both proposed a labor theory of value, though Khaldun did not refer to it as either a labor theory of value or theory

Ibn Khaldun outlines an early example of political economy[dubious – discuss]. He describes the economy as being composed of value-adding processes; that is, labor and skill is added to techniques and crafts and the product is sold at a higher value[dubious – discuss]. He also made the distinction between "profit" and "sustenance", in modern political economy terms, surplus and that required for the reproduction of classes respectively. He also calls for the creation of a science to explain society and goes on to outline these ideas in his major work, the Muqaddimah. In Al-Muqaddimah Khaldun states, “Civilization and its well-being, as well as business prosperity, depend on productivity and people’s efforts in all directions in their own interest and profit”.[39] Ibn Khaldun diverged from norms that Muslim historians followed and rejected their focus on the credibility of the transmitter and focused instead on the validity of the stories and encouraged critical thinking.

Ibn Khaldun also outlines early theories of division of labor, taxes, scarcity, and economic growth. Khaldun was also one of the first to study the origin and causes of poverty; he argued that poverty was a result of the destruction of morality and human values. He also looked at what factors contribute to wealth such as consumption, government, and investment—a precursor to our modern GDP-formula.[43] Khaldun also argued that poverty was not necessarily a result of poor financial decision-making but of external consequences and therefore the government should be involved in alleviating poverty.

Ibn Khaldun also believed that the currency of an Islamic monetary system should have intrinsic value and therefore be made of gold and silver (such as the dirham). He emphasized that the weight and purity of these coins should be strictly followed: the weight of one dinar should be one mithqal (the weight of 72 grains of barley, roughly 4.25 grams) and the weight of 7 dinar should be equal to weight of 10 dirhams (7/10 of a mithqal or 2.96 grams).

Ibn Khaldun's epistemology attempted to reconcile mysticism with theology by dividing science into two different categories, the religious science that regards the sciences of the Qur'an and the non-religious science. He further classified the non-religious sciences into intellectual sciences such as logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, etc. and auxiliary sciences such as language, literature, poetry, etc. He also suggested that possibly more divisions will appear in the future with different societies. He tried to adapt to all possible societies’ cultural behavior and influence in education, economics and politics. Nonetheless, he didn't think that laws were chosen by just one leader or a small group of individual but mostly by the majority of the individuals of a society.

To Ibn Khaldun, the state was a necessity of human society to restrain injustice within the society, but the state means is force, thus itself an injustice. All societies must have a state governing them in order to establish a society. He attempted to standardize the history of societies by identifying ubiquitous phenomena present in all societies. To him, civilization was a phenomenon that will be present as long as humans exist. He characterized the fulfillment of basic needs as the beginning of civilization. At the beginning, people will look for different ways of increasing productivity of basic needs and expansion will occur. Later the society starts becoming more sedentary and focuses more on crafting, arts and the more refined characteristics. By the end of a society, it will weaken, allowing another small group of individuals to come into control. The conquering group is described as an unsatisfied group within the society itself or a group of desert bandits that constantly attack other weaker or weakened societies.

In the Muqaddimah, his most important work, he discusses an introduction of philosophy to history in a general manner, based on observable patterns within a theoretical framework of known historical events of his time. He described the beginnings, development, cultural trends and the fall of all societies, leading to the rise of a new society which would then follow the same trends in a continuous cycle. Also, he recommended the best political approaches to develop a society according to his knowledge of history. He heavily emphasized that a good society would be one in which a tradition of education is deeply rooted in its culture. Ibn Khaldun (1987) introduced the word asabiya (solidarity, group feeling, or group consciousness), to explain tribalism. The concept of asabiya has been translated as "social cohesion," "group solidarity," or "tribalism." This social cohesion arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups (Rashed,2017).

Ibn Khaldun believed that too much bureaucracy, such as taxes and legislations, would lead to the decline of a society, since it would constrain the development of more specialized labor (increase in scholars and development of different services). He believed that bureaucrats cannot understand the world of commerce and do not possess the same motivation as a businessman.

In his work the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun emphasizes human beings' faculty to think (fikr) as what determines human behavior and ubiquitous patterns. This faculty is also what inspires human beings to form into a social structure to co-operate in division of labor and organization. According to Zaid Ahmand in Epistemology and the Human Dimension in Urban Studies, the fikr faculty is the supporting pillar for all philosophical aspects of Ibn Khaldun's theory related to human beings’ spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and political tendencies.

Another important concept he emphasizes in his work is the mastery of crafts, habits and skills. This takes place after a society is established and according to Ibn Khaldun the level of achievement of a society can be determined by just analyzing these three concepts. A society in its earliest stages is nomadic and primarily concerned with survival, while a society at a later stage is sedentary, with greater achievement in crafts. A society with a sedentary culture and stable politics would be expected to have greater achievements in crafts and technology.

Ibn Khaldun also emphasized in his epistemology the important aspect that educational tradition plays to ensure the new generations of a civilization continuously improve in the sciences and develop culture. Ibn Khaldun argued that without the strong establishment of an educational tradition, it would be very difficult for the new generations to maintain the achievements of the earlier generations, let alone improve them.

Another way to distinguish the achievement of a society would be the language of a society, since for him the most important element of a society would not be land, but the language spoken. He was surprised that many non-Arabs were really successful in the Arabic society, had good jobs and were well received by the community. "These people were non-Arab by descent, but they grew up among the Arabs who possessed the habit of Arabic," Ibn Khaldun once recalled, "[b]ecause of this, they were able to master Arabic so well that they cannot be surpassed."He believed that the reason why non-Arabs were accepted as part of Arab society was due to their mastery of the Arabic language.

Advancements in literary works such as poems and prose were another way to distinguish the achievement of a civilization, but Ibn Khaldun believed that whenever the literary facet of a society reaches its highest levels it ceases to indicate societal achievements anymore, but is an embellishment of life. For logical sciences he established knowledge at its highest level as an increase of scholars and the quality of knowledge. For him the highest level of literary productions would be the manifestation of prose, poems and the artistic enrichment of a society."