Abdur-Rahman Ibn Khaldun – The Historian & Sociologist

Abdur-Rahman ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis, North Africa in 1332 C.E. He was a Yemeni Arab. His ancestors migrated first to Muslim Spain in the ninth century and settled in Seville, and then moved to Tunis.


He showed brilliant intelligence and was tutored by his father and other leading servants of the day. At the early age of 20, he was appointed secretary to the Sultan of Tunis. Moving from patron to patron, ibn Khaldun was alternately showered with honours and involved in contacts that led to imprisonment amidst the exciting feuds of the Muslim rulers.

He served the Sultan of Fez, the Sultan of Granada, the Sultan of Egypt and enjoyed the friendship and esteem of the famous Andalusian poet-physician, Lisan-al-Deen, who was to become the Wazir (Prime Minister) of the Sultan of Granada.

Ibn Khaldun once went as the Sultan's ambassador to the court of Pedro of Castile to negotiate a treaty. Pedro was so favourably impressed by him that he offered him an important post in an effort to retain the young genius. Ibn Khaldun refused the offer.

Ibn Khaldun lived in a period embroiled in politics. In 1374 C.E. he withdrew to a castle in Oran, North Africa, for four years. During these years he produced his famous Muqaddima. Then he started work on the history of the Berbers. On his way to Makkah to make the pilgrimage, he was delayed in Cairo, where the Sultan persuaded him to accept his appointment as a professor at the University of al-Azhar, Later, in 1384 C.E., he occupied the post of the Chief Qadi (Chief Justice) of the Maliki school of Islamic Law.

A great personal tragedy when his entire family was drowned en route from Tunis to Egypt, led him to resign. He left for Pilgrimage to Makkah. It was not until 1392 C.E. that he finished his history as well as his autobiography.


Ibn Khaldun was a historian, but his fame does not rest on his history, erudite and vast as it is, but it rests on his introduction to that History, the Muqaddima. In it he set forth the principles of history as a science, dealing with the social phenomena of man's life. Ibn Khaldun is the founder of sociology, explaining the differences in customs and institutions by physical environments of race, climate and production. He emphasises the psychological changes inhuman communities and the succession of cultural periods. He deals with the relation of the individual to society and defines the duties of each.

Nearly five hundred years before Darwin, ibn Khaldun wrote: "The wonders of God's creation never ceases. How life commenced from mineral, then plant life, then animals, and rose by degrees to new appearances; the last plane of the mineral connecting with the first plane of vegetables...and the higher plants connecting with the lowest form of animal life....So the animal world broadened, its varieties multiplied and it terminated in the gradual formation of man, the master of thought and reflection."

Ibn Khaldun like several other scientist made the mistake of creating theories which had no proofs nor supporting scientific facts. A typical example is his statement above wherein man is said to develop from other animals, despite the fact that Allah says He created Adam from clay and the entire human race evolved from Adam [(Q2:31; Q49:13;Q38:71-72) and did not Allah called mankind "Children of Adam" (Q7:27).]

Ibn Khaldun however, died in 1406C.E. in Egypt living a full life of a great scholar which led him from the Christian court of Pedro the Cruel in the West to the court of Timur in the East, and from dungeons to the highest office of Chief Justice.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

dawahnigeria admin
dawah to the people