Sociology Index

Ibn Khaldun 

Ibn Khaldun, a 14th-century Arab-Islamic scholar from Tunisia, is considered to be the father of sociology even there is no reference to his work in the work of major founders of modern sociology. Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah was perhaps the first work to advance social-scientific reasoning on social cohesion and social conflict. Ibn Khaldun interacted with Tamerlane, the founder of the Timurid Empire. Ibn Khaldun was an Arab sociologist, philosopher and historian who has been described as the founder of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography. Niccolò Machiavelli of the Renaissance and the 19th-century European scholars widely acknowledged the significance of his works and considered Ibn Khaldun to be one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Ibn Khaldun's best book was the Muqaddimah or Prolegomena, which he wrote in six months as he states in his autobiography, influenced 17th-century Ottoman historians like Kâtip Çelebi, Ahmed Cevdet Pasha and Mustafa Naima, who used its theories to analyze the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire. In 2007, İbn Haldun Üniversitesi has opened in Istanbul, Turkey to commemorate his name. The university promotes a policy of trilingualism. The languages in question are English, Modern Turkish, and Arabic and its emphasis is on teaching social sciences.

Public recognition of Ibn Khaldun has increased in recent years. In 2004, the Tunisian Community Center launched the first Ibn Khaldun Award to recognize a Tunisian/American high achiever whose work reflects Ibn Khaldun's ideas of kinship and solidarity. The Award was named after Ibn Khaldun for the convergence of his ideas with the organization's objectives and programs. In 2006, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation launched an annual essay contest for students named in Ibn Khaldun's honor. The theme of the contest is "how individuals, think tanks, universities and entrepreneurs can influence government policies to allow the free market to flourish and improve the lives of its citizens based on Islamic teachings and traditions." In 2006, Spain commemorated the 600th anniversary of the death of Ibn Khaldun by orchestrating an exhibit titled "Encounter of Civilizations: Ibn Khaldun."

In 1981 U.S. President Ronald Reagan cited Ibn Khaldun as an influence on his supply-side economic policies, also known as Reaganomics. He paraphrased Ibn Khaldun, who said that "in the beginning of the dynasty, great tax revenues were gained from small assessments," and that "at the end of the dynasty, small tax revenues were gained from large assessments." Reagan said his goal is "trying to get down to the small assessments and the great revenues."

Ibn Khaldun said of Egypt, "He who has not seen it does not know the power of Islam." While other Islamic regions had to cope with border wars and inner strife, Mamluks Egypt enjoyed prosperity and high culture. In 1384, the Egyptian Sultan, al-Malik udh-Dhahir Barquq, made Khaldun professor of the Qamhiyyah Madrasah and the grand qadi of the Maliki school of fiqh (one of four schools, the Maliki school was widespread primarily in Western Africa).

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 'asabiyyah, 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 cohesion.