Two Minutes with Dr. Yahya: Ibn Khaldun’s Work Title Definition
دقيقتان مع الدكتور يحيى : تعريف عنوان أعمال ابن خلدون
This is a part of transcript from the author’s book: Ibn Khaldun in Modern Times, (2012). (1). I read a reader’s comment about Ibn Khaldun. It says:
“It is interesting to note that Ibn Khaldun’s ideas are very relevant today as they used to be during his time. I was attending briefing by the two Japanese corporate leaders-CEO of Toshiba and Sony in Tokyo during my visit to Japan early week of March, 2011 and surprised to note that one them said that I am used to send my staff for leadership training based on the principle of Ibn Khaldun. Unfortunately none of the 57 Muslim countries has that training Institute- it is based in Colorado-Inpens., USA.”
The reader note continues: “The best economic growth USA ever witnessed in last few decades was during the USA President Reagan’s era. It came to my knowledge that he used to carry Muqaddimah in his bag as pocket dictionary to refer to as policy guidelines for the USA economy.” (2)
In my opinion, it is safe to say: “Without Arabs and Muslims as translators and transmitters of Greek Philosophy, Europe would still swimming in Ignorance. This statement is not exaggeration or an advertisement for the Arabs and Muslims, but rather a historical fact, cannot be denied in World history. In other words, Arabs and Muslims according to many scientists and researchers were the transmitters of great thoughts in Medicine, philosophy, and mathematical sciences (Algebra, geometry, and calculus) physics (astronomy and astrology) and Chemistry.” (3)
Before we begin describing those historians and theorist known before, and after Ibn Khaldun to proof his originality of the new science of Sociology. I find it very serious and important to analyze and define the title of his work, which I believe was missed in the large number of previous writings on Ibn Khaldun’s works. As a comparative sociologist and long experience in doing research, (4) I find myself obliged to fill the vacuum of explaining the title and defining the terms comprising it.
The first step of doing research in modern times, the title and definition of the concepts construct of that title. No research done adequately without this step. None of previous writers on Ibn Khaldun’s work or life have explained the meaning of the title words as Ibn Khaldun put it in Arabic . I believe, the meaning of words linguistically and historically are important. In modern age, however, in research we call them: conceptual and operational definition of concepts. The title is the frame of reference, I guess to any research.
The two books of Kitab al Ibar and Ta’rif represent Ibn Khaldun’s work. The first Titled: Kitab al Ibar, wa Diwan al Mubtada’ wal Khabar, fi Ayyam al Arab wal Ajam wal Barbar, wa man Aasarahum min Thawee al Sultan al Akbar, ( The book of life experiences and the book of starts and Ends in the days of Arab, and Ajam, and Barbar, and those similar to them, who were contemporary of great power)
In Arabic however, we have to explain what the title means be cause the long type title description is very precise. The concepts mentioned in the title and needs interpretation first for their significance in studying Ibn Khaldun, and second for more understanding, in my opinion to modern students of social sciences in general and sociology in particular, are:Ibar, Diwan, Mubtata’, Khabar, Days of Arabs, Ajam, Barbar, and Sultan al Akbar.
Ibar: the word Ibar may mean wisdom, practices, experiences, or learning.
Diwan, means position, office or in modern times ministry or status or rank in governmental agency. Include both the structure and function of that Diwan. In modern times we have similar to old diwans in the time of Ibn Khaldun like the State Departments, Secretary of the United States, or Ministry of Finance or Commerce, or Internal Revenue Service IRS (US government), Federal Reserve Bank, Prime Minister, Judicial Branch, Executive branch, (Ministers) Legislative Branch (Qadis) Interior Minister, the Defense Minister, etc., The term also covers simple and complex organizations of official or public according to certain rules and regulations.
Mubtata’ and Khabar, in Arabic language like Predict and subject in English language, in Arabic the sentence begins with “Mubtada’: first, or start, and ends with Khabar, as telling about the the Mubtada’. So when we say, Said is tall man, the existence of Sai’d should be existed to be described as tall person, fat, or clever, or stupid. In other words, something have to be first existed and then described, it is similat to cause-effect analogy. Understanding the selection of these terms is significantly important to understand the content of Ibn Khaldun’s complete work (al Muqaddima and the other six book.
Days of Arabs, Ajam, Barbar, and Sultan al Akbar. The “Days” in Arab history are not typically means the duration of one or two days, but means, the events of certain period in history, such as Yawm Thee Qar is one of Ayyam Arab, when Pre Islam Arab defeated Persians in the battle named by Thee-Qar. Which creates a form of ornate prose writing, or tales about the adventures and battle days of the various tribes (ayyām al-ʿArab, or “The Days of the Arabs”), were told and handed down from generation to generation, usually interspersed with pieces of poetry. Proverbs and proverbial, which reflects cultural activities of daily life in certain place or age. Therefore, Ayyam used by Ibn Khaldun is not mere days as understood linguistically today, but means great events which inspire solidarity “Assabiyyah” which makes nations or dynasties rise and survive.
Arabs: are those were originally Arabs and those who became Arabs by affiliation. It includes
Ajam : societies of non Arab as sovereign authorities, earning their livelihood, trades, sciences, and causes and effects appertaining to them. The term used to mean non Arabs, of not having Arab ancestry like Persians, old Syrians, Turks, Romans, Greeks, Franks and other races, including non-Muslim people or tribes.
Barbar: used to mean of Amazigian-barbar race includes tribes of Zanata, their origin and generations, and their kingdoms and dynasties in North Africa.
Wam ‘Asarhum: an tose who are contemprary to Arab, Ajam and Barbar.
Thawee al Sultan al Akbar: Who have dynasty great power
The title is concise and comprehensive in describing the content of al Muqaddimah which describe the historical events and answer the question: Why? in each event.
Brief Account of Ibn Khaldun’s Works
Ibn Khaldun was born on May 27, 1332, in Tunis in North Africa, his reputation came from revolutionization of the study of history by analyzing events from the perspective of economic, sociological, and cultural factors. He is considered to be the first historian to promote a scientific approach to historiography (the theory of historical writing). (1) Ibn Khaldun’s legacy springs from the use of cultural and sociological evidence to construct a scientific historiography, which marks him as one of the most important and original historians of all time. As historian Yves Lacoste wrote, “If Thucydides is the inventor of history, Ibn Khaldun introduces history as a science.” (5)
Ibn Khaldun’s major works, An Introduction to History and Kitabal-‘ibar, have proved to be important both for the writing of history and for the history of Muslims in North Africa. In An Introduction to History, Ibn Khaldun was the first to promote a scientific methodology for analyzing historical events by investigating the complex social and economic factors that make up a society. From these factors he hoped to provide a rationale for historical change. Noted twentieth-century historian Arnold Toynbee acclaimed Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy of history as “the greatest work of its kind.” (6)
The seven large volumes of Ibn Khaldun’s work covers all those who were mentioned in the title. For example, al Muqaddimah, (Prolegomena) deals with the new science, al Umran, or sociology. The next four volumes (Book two) deal with the history of Arabs and their generations, and histories of ancient nations, the Turks, and the Franks, up to the eightth century A. H. (14th A. D) . The third book consists the history of Barbars up to the days of Ibn Khaldun, it covers volume six and seven. However, he closes his work by describing himself in his own words. (Ta’rif) or what can be described in modern times as life story or biography. (7)
Formulating social laws as the business of understanding social reality was pioneered by Ibn Khaldun. Baali and Wardi (8) consider al Muqaddimah as one of the six important monographs in general sociology. (9)(10)
** From: Ibn Khaldun in Modern Times, Hasan Yahya, Arab American Encyclopedia Press. 2012.
- (Upcoming) Ibn Khaldun in Modern Times, Hasan Yahya, Arab American Encyclopedia Press. 2012.
- Ibid, Preface.
- Internet site, Comments on Ibn Khaldun.
- Baa’li and Wardi : “Ibn Khaldun and Islamic Thought: A Sociological Perspective” (1981)
- Yves Lacosta, Ibn Khaldun: The Birth of History and the Past of the Third World, Verso (1984)
- A. Toynbee, A Study of History, Oxford 1934, vol. 3, p. 322
- Aziz Al Azmeh, An Essay in Reintpretation, (Frank Cass, London 1982)
- F. Baali and A. Wardi, Ibn Khaldun and Islamic Thought-Styles: A Social Perspective, (G. K. Hall and Co. Boston, Massachusetts, 1981), p. ix.
- According to Sookin’s Society, Culture, and Personality (New York: Harpr, 1947), p. 31. The other five are: Comte’s Philosophy and System Postive Polity; Hegel’s Philosophy of History; Spencer’s Principles of Sociology; and Voco’s Principles of New Science.
- See, Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldun (2001) : Ahmad al Zu’bi, Dar al Arqam, Beirut, Lebanon. Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldun, (1978), Dar al Qalam, Beirut, Lebanon. (1st ed); Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldun: (ed) Hasan Yahya, Arab American Encyclopedia Press, 2012