Ibn Khaldun’s Universal Work
Prof. Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.Ds الدكتور حسن يحيى
Ibn khaldun’s main work, of universal value, is the Muqaddima. In the author’s intention, and as the title indicates, it is an Introduction to the historian’s craft. Thus it is presented as an encyclopaedic synthesis of the methodological and cultural knowledge necessary to enable the historian to produce a truly scientific work. Initially, in fact, Ibn khaldun was preoccupied with epistemology. Then gradually, meditating on the method and the matter of history, he was led, in full consciousness of what he was doing, to create what he refers to as his ‘new science’ (‘ilm mustanbat al-nash’a, 63), which itself turned out to contain more or less implicitly the starting points of several avenues of research leading to the philosophy of history, sociology, economics and yet other disciplines.
In his preface to the Introduction proper (muqaddimat al-Muqaddima, 1-68), Ibn khaldun begins by defining history–which he expands to include the study of the whole of the human past, including its social, economic and cultural aspects–defining its interest, denouncing the lack of curiosity and of method in his predecessors, and setting out the rules of good and sound criticism. This criticism is based essentially, apart from the examination of evidence, on the criterion of conformity with reality (qanun al-mutabaqa, 61-t), that is of the probability of the facts reported and their conformity to the nature of things, which is the same as the current of history and of its evolution. Hence the necessity of bringing to light the laws which determine the direction of this current. The science capable of throwing light on this phenomenon is, he says, that of ‘umran, ‘a science which may be described as independent (‘ilm mustaqill bi-nafsih), which is defined by its object: human civilization (al-‘umran al-bashari) and social facts as a whole’ (62). (M. Talbi, H. A. Yahya). www.arabamericanencyclopedia.com
Note: Bibleography may be found at number one in this series. (The Editor)