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Reviewing Ibn Khaldun An Important Figure And Icon Religion Essay


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Ibn-Khaldun is one of the most important figures and icons in the fields of History, Philosophy and Sociology in the Muslim history and culture. He opened new chapters in the world of history and played an important role in introducing new notions related to economics and the way of pricing, policing, profiting and other aspects of world economics.

Ibn-Khaldun lived a life in search for stability and influence. His full name is AbÅ« Zayd 'Abdu r-Raḥman bin Muḥammad bin KhaldÅ«n Al-Hadrami. He was born in Tunisia on the 1st of Ramadan 732 A.H. (May 27, 1332 A.D). He came from a family of Scholars and Politicians. His family was originally from Hadramawt in Yemen and had settled in Spain, but after the fall of Seville, they migrated to Tunisia where he was born. He received an early education from his father and memorized the Holy Qur'an at a young age. He was taught Hadith, Jurisprudence, Philology, Grammar, Rhetoric and Poetry in which he reached certain proficiency and received certification on. Ibn-Khaldun was introduced to Mathematics, Logic and Philosophy by the great mathematician and philosopher Al-Abili. Under Al-Abili Ibn-Khaldun studied the works of Averroes, Avicenna, Razi and Tusi which helped in widening up his horizons. At the age of 19 a terrible epidemic of the plague coming from the East hit Tunisia which ravaged the world and claimed many victims in the country, among which Ibn-Khaldun's parents. This was the first traumatic experience in Ibn-Khaldun's life, which had an undoubted influence on the direction of his thoughts. Due to this Epidemic Ibn-Khaldun wanted to migrate to Morocco with some of Tunisia's Ulammas and Sheiks but was convinced by his elder brother to stay in Tunisia. [1] 

After the migration of most of Tunisias Ulamma and Sheikhs, Ibn-Khaldun decided to get more involved in the court politics by seeking a political career. At the age of 20, Ibn-Tafrakin (the ruler of Tunis) called Ibn-Khaldun to fill in the position of Kātib al-'Alāmah. This Position consisted of writing calligraphy (the typical introductory notes of official documents). It is here when Ibn-Khaldun got his first hand look at the inner workings of court politics and the weakness of the government. In 713 A.H. (1352 A.D.), The Sultan of Constantine Abu Ziad Al Hifsy Marched with his army towards Tunisia in order to reclaim it back from Ibn-Tafrakin and restore its throne back to Banu Hifs. Ibn-Khaldun accompanied Ibn-Tafrakin with his forces in order to stop Abu Ziad. Unfortunately Ibn-Tafrakin lost the battle and Ibn-Khaldun Escaped to Algeria and settled in Biskra where he got married.

During that same time the Moroccan Sultan Abu Enan who had recently settled on the throne after the death of his father was on his way to Conquer Algeria. On his way to join him in Telmcen Ibn-Khaldun met Ibn Abi Amr the Marinid Chamberlain (the appointed governor of Bougie), who welcomed him and invited him to stay in his new residence. After living there for some time Ibn-Khaldun was invited to join the Council of Ulama in Fez. Ibn-Khaldun was Officially Part of Sultan Abu Enan majlisu al-'ilmi (literacy Circle) and afterwards was part of his secretariat. Ibn-Khaldun used his Stay in Fez to further increase his learning and studies, he writes, "I devoted myself to reflection and to study, and to sitting at the feet of the great teachers, those of the Maghrib as well as those of Spain who were residing temporarily in Fez, and I benefited greatly from their teaching" [2] . It is said that Ibn-Khaldun took advantage of the Sultans Illness and took part in a plot that aims to free the former Sultan of Bougie Abu Abd Allah and to re-establish him to his former kingdom. Ibn-Khaldun himself Denis this and refers to intrigues, jealousy and malice; however what's certain is that he was thrown in jail for 2 whole years (758-9 A.H./1357-8 A.D.) until the death of the sultan Abu Enan. After that Ibn-Khaldun was set free and reinstated to his rank and offices by the vizier al-Hasan ibn-Umar.

After being set free and gaining back his position Ibn-Khaldun started to scheme against Abu Enan's successor, Abu Salem Ibrahim III, with his exiled uncle, Abu Salem. When Abu Salem became the Sultan he appointed Ibn-Khaldun to the office of Secretary of the Chancellery (kitabat al-sirr wa 'l-tarsil) and the repository of his confidence (Amin as-Sir). Ibn-Khaldun even became the court-poet [3] . When the Sultan Abu Salem was overthrown by his Vizier Omar, Ibn-Khaldun sided with the Vizier which helped keeping him in his post, but when Ibn-Khaldun wanted to gain a higher position, his request was refused (Probably because he wasn't trusted). This Refusal made Ibn-Khaldun angry which resulted in him resigning his position. Ibn-Khaldun then requested the Vizier to leave Fez and to head back to Tunisia which in turn was refused by the angry Vizier. It was then when Ibn-Khaldun asked the Vizier's son-in-law to plead on his behalf to be allowed to go to Andalusia. In autumn 764 A.H./1362 A.D. he finally obtained permission to withdraw to Granada.

In Granada Ibn-Khaldun was deeply welcomed since at Fez he assisted the Sultan of Granada, Muhammad al-Ahmar, in regaining his throne and power after being exiled by his brother Ismail. In 1364 A.D. Sultan Muhammad entrusted Ibn-Khaldun with an important diplomatic mission to conclude a peace treaty with the King of Castile, Pedro the Cruel. Ibn-Khaldun successfully carried out his mission and was offered a position in Pedro's service, Which Ibn-Khaldun respectfully declined. There was a great competition between Ibn-Khaldun and Sultan Muhammad's vizier Ibn al-Khatib. Ibn al-Khatib viewed the relationship between Ibn-Khaldun and Sultan Muhammad with great mistrust. Few years later, Ibn-Khaldun was sent back to North Africa and Al-Khatib was accused by Sultan Muhammad of having unorthodox philosophical views and was murdered.

In Africa Ibn-Khaldun was warmly welcomed by the Hafisid Sultan of Bougie Abu Abdallah who made him his Prime minister. During this Period Ibn-Khaldun was assigned to collect taxes from the local Berber tribes. In 1366 A.D. when Sultan Abu Abdallah died, Ibn-Khaldun allied himself with AbÅ« l-Abbas, the ruler of Tlemcen. A few years later the ruler of Tlemcen, AbÅ« l-Abbas was defeated by Abdu l-AzÄ«z who seized the throne for himself. Ibn-Khaldun was then taken as a prisoner by Abdu l-AzÄ«z until 1370 A.D. when he was sent to Telemcen by the new Sultan. After the death of Abdu l-AzÄ«z, Ibn-Khaldun resided at Fez, where he was patronage by the regent and enjoyed his confidence. In 1375 Ibn-Khaldun was sent by AbÅ« Hammu (the Abdu l Wadid Sultan of Tlemcen) on a mission to the Dawadida Arabs tribes of Biskra. Thereafter, Ibn-Khaldun traveled back to the west of Algeria where he sought refuge with one of the Berber tribes and settled in the town of Qalat Ibn Salama. He lived under their protection for three years in which he wrote his famous "Muqaddimah" or "Prolegomena" (which is the introduction to his planned history of the world). In 1378 A.D He returned back to Tunisia, which was at that time conquered by AbÅ« l-Abbas. AbÅ« l-Abbas took Ibn-KhaldÅ«n back into his service. During that time Ibn-KhaldÅ«n devoted himself for his studies and for the completion of history of the world. He wrote, "To live in retirement and devote myself exclusively to learning, if only I might be left in peace" [4] . Ibn-Khaldun, s relationship with AbÅ« l-Abbas remained tense and awkward, as the latter questioned his loyalty. In order for Ibn-KhaldÅ«n to escape his awkward political past that kept following him he decided to leave the Muslim West under the pretence of going to Hajj (Pilgrimage) which is something a Muslim ruler cannot refuse Permission for, and on 24 October 1382A.D./15 Sha'ban 784A.H. at the ripe age of 50 Ibn-Khaldun left Tunisia and embarked on a boat sailing to Alexandria.

During that time and under the Mamluks, Egypt was experiencing a period of economic development, high culture prosperity. But even when Ibn-Khaldun lived in Egypt he couldn't stay completely out of the political life and politics. In 1384 A.D. Ibn-Khaldun was made a Professor of the Qamhiyyah School and a main Qadi of the Malik School of fiqh (jurisprudence) by the Egyptian Sultan Al-Malik udh-Dhahir Barquq. Ibn-Khaldun tried to fight the Corruption and favoritism in the country but due to the Conspiracies that surrounded him he resigned his duty. His resignation coincided with the death of his family and children, when the ship carrying them sank off the coast of Alexandria in 1384 A.D. It was then when he took permission to go to the Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands of Mecca. After returning from his Pilgrimage journey in May 1388 A.D Ibn-Khaldun concentrated more on providing pure educational functions in the various Schools of Cairo. Moreover, in a certain time during a revolt against the Barquq, Ibn-Khaldun fell out of favor at the court. Later after that the relations with the Barquq returned to normal and Ibn-Khaldun once again received the Title of the Maliki Qadi. Throughout his life Ibn-Khaldun received this high title six times, which for many different reasons he never held long to.

In 1401, under the Baquq's successor his son Sultan Faraj, Ibn-Khaldun took part in a military campaign against the Mongolian conquest and its leader Tamerlane. Accompanying Sultan Faraj, Ibn-Khaldun marched to Damascus where reports confirmed the arrival of Tamerlane's war Party. The young and inexperienced Faraj only stayed in Damascus for two weeks and returned back to Egypt leaving his army in Syria after concerns about a revolt in Egypt. Ibn-Khaldun remained behind in Damascus for another seven weeks where a series of Historical negotiations went between him and Tamerlane that Ibn-Khaldun mentions in his Autobiography. They Discussed Various Subjects that many where unrecorded. W. Fischel lists 6 specific topics which they talked about:

Maghrib and Ibn Khaldun's Land of origin.

Heroes in History.

Predictions of things to come.

the Abbsid Caliphate

Amnesty and security "For Ibn Khaldun and his Companion."

Ibn Khaldun's intention to stay with Tamerlane. [5] 

After recognizing Tamerlane Intentions and impressing him enough that he asked ibn-Khaldun to join his court, Ibn-Khaldun returned back to Egypt with his final departing words to Tamerlane "Is there any generosity left beyond that which you have already shown me? You have heaped favors upon me, accorded me a place in your council among your intimate followers, and shown me kindness and generosity- which I hope Allah will repay to you in like measures." [6] 

Ibn-Khaldun spent the next five years in Cairo completing his autobiography, writing his history of the word and acting as the Maliki Qadi. Due to various political reasons Ibn-Khaldun was dismissed and reinstated three times during these five years as the Maliki Qadi. In addition, Ibn-Khaldun formed an all male club called "Rijal Hawa Rijal" that attracted the attention of many religious authorities and placed him under arrest. Ibn-Khaldun Passed away on the 19th of March 1406 A.D. / 26 Ramadan 808 A.H. one month after being appointed for the sixth time for the office of the Maliki Qadi.

During his life Ibn-Khaldun produced a lot of work and books some that was unfortunately lost. Ibn-Khaldun's main work "Kitābu l-Ê•ibār" was originally written as a history of the Berbers. Later on the Ibn-Khaldun's focus widens and represents a so-called "universal history" in it. "Kitābu l-Ê•ibār" is divided into seven main books; the first one is the "Muqaddimah" which can be considered as a separate work. The "Muqaddimah" or the "Prolegomena" was written in North African in 1377 and records an early Muslim view of universal history. The "Muqaddimah" also Deals with several topics and disciplines such as sociology, politics, urban life, economics, and knowledge. British historian Arnold J. Toynbee called the Muqaddimah "a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place." [7] Other than that, Books two, three, four and five cover the history of mankind up to Ibn-Khaldun's time, and Finally Books six and seven cover the history of the Berber people and Maghreb. Other works of ibn-Khaldun, "Lubābu l-Muhassal" which is a commentary on the Islamic theology of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and was written by Ibn-Khaldun at the age of nineteen in Tunis. "Sifā'u l-Sā'I" is a work on Sufism and was written by Ibn-Khaldun around 1373 in Fes, Morocco. "Ê•allaqa li-l-Sultān", a work on logic was composed by Ibn-Khaldun during his time in the court of Muhammed V, Sultan of Granada.

The British philosopher Robert Flint wrote the following on Ibn-Khaldun: "As a theorist on history he had no equal in any age… Plato, Aristotle and Augustine were not his peers." [8] . To Conclude, Ibn-Khaldun is considered an important figure and icon in the fields of History, Philosophy and Sociology in the Muslim history, culture and in the world. Ibn-Khaldun remains today a witness on the greatness of the Islamic thought distinguished by the accuracy, the scientific seriousness and the ability on the renewal to enrich the human thought. His Introduction is his greatest legacy he left for all of humanity and for the generations to come.

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