1.3.7 Ibn Khaldūn, Muqaddima

Indeed it is not too much to claim, as did a contemporary Arab scholar, Sāṭiʿ al-Ḥuṣrī, that in Book I of the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldūn sketches a general sociology; in Books II and III, a sociology of politics; in Book IV, a sociology of urban life; in Book V, a sociology of economics; and in Book VI, a sociology of knowledge. The work is studded with brilliant observations on historiography, economics, politics, and education. It is held together by his central concept of ʿaṣabiyyah, or “social cohesion.” It is this cohesion, which arises spontaneously in tribes and other small kinship groups, but which can be intensified and enlarged by a religious ideology, that provides the motive force that carries ruling groups to power. Its inevitable weakening, due to a complex combination of psychological, sociological, economic, and political factors, which Ibn Khaldūn analyzes with consummate skill, heralds the decline of a dynasty or empire and prepares the way for a new one, based on a group bound by a stronger cohesive force. (From “The Muqaddimah: Ibn Khaldūn’s Philosophy Of History,” Encyclopaedia Britannica.)


For this learning material, Arabic readers should read the excerpt from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah in the PDF below and answer the following guided questions. We recommend non-Arabic readers familiarize themselves with the text through synopses, such as that offered by the Encyclopaedia Brittanica above.

Guiding Questions:

  1. How does Ibn Khaldun conceive of historical sources?
  2. Why is the Muqaddimah breaking down historical narratives for their logical coherence in these passages?
  3. How does Ibn Khaldun prioritize reason to understand historical events and why?
  4. Why would Ibn Khaldun be considered the ‘father of sociology’? Is his contribution here somehow sociological?

Thumbnail: “it’s in a book” by amanda tipton is licensed under under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.