Why Ibn Khaldun is such an important figure?

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun is one of the prominent historians, sociologists and economists of the Arab Middle Ages. His name deserves mention as a Muslim philosopher and scholar in the history of Islam. Ibn Khaldun’s full name is Abdur Rahman bin Muhammad bin Khaldun Al-Hadrami. But he is known as Ibn Khaldun.


Ibn Khaldun was born on 27 May 1332 CE (Arabic 732 AH) in Tunis, the capital of present-day Tunisia in Africa, to an upper-class Andalusian family of Arab origin.

Khaldun’s Childhood, Family and Education Life

He grew up in a noble Muslim family in Tunis. His father was an Islamic scholar. He and his brother Yahya Khaldun received childhood education from their father. At a very young age, Ibn Khaldun became proficient in the Qur’an, hadith, law, rhetoric, grammar, philosophy and literature.

His family later allowed him to study under eminent teachers in the ‘Maghreb’. He received a classical Islamic education, studying and memorizing the Qur’an and mastering Qur’an, hadith, shari’a (law) and fiqh (jurisprudence) and was certified (ijazah) in all of them. The role of the famous mathematician and philosopher ‘Al-Abili’ was one of his educational careers.

Political Life of Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun lost both his parents at the age of 17 when a plague epidemic broke out in Tunis in 1348–1349, which devastated him. Later following the family tradition, he tried to involve himself in political career. As a result, he entered the political arena for the first time in 1349. Although he did not have much political knowledge till then. His political life has gone through many ups and downs. He was once in jail. As a result, he had no significant success in politics.

Ibn Khaldun’s popular work ‘Al-Muqaddimah’

Unable to sustain himself in politics, Khaldun became bored with politics around 1375. He resigned from administrative work and took refuge with his family in a fortress called “Qalat Ibn Salama” in western Algeria. He stayed there for four years and during this time left everything and wrote ‘Muqaddimah’ in one mind. Ibn Khaldun wanted to write a history of the tribes of Arabia and North Africa. In doing so he wanted to discuss the historical method. Historians also seek to distinguish between truth and error. English historian Arnold Toynbee gave due importance to his interest. He said, this ‘Muqaddimah’ is the greatest book ever written on the philosophy of history. The Scottish theologian and philosopher Robert Flint said that he had no equal as a historian until the arrival of Vico (Giambattista Vico Italian historian).

‘Muqaddimah’ is divided into six parts

Al-Muqaddimah’ which is divided into three volumes. Volume I contains an introduction, Volume II contains Universal History and Volume III contains ‘History of the Maghrib’. The last volume is mainly based on his travel experiences until his death. In the introductory part, Ibn Khaldun discusses the errors of the historians of his time in writing history. This introduction can again be divided into six parts:
types and geographical distribution of human societies; nomadic communities, tribals and disadvantaged people; State, secular and spiritual powers and political positions; Society, City and Province; Crafts, livelihood and economic activities, knowledge and its achievements.

Specialties of ‘Muqaddimah’

Khaldun begins the Muqaddimah by warning against seven mistakes, which are commonly made in the writing of history. These seven warnings are:

Bias for certain sects or doctrines, overconfidence in sources of information, failure to understand the objective, false belief in truth, inability to present any event in terms of reality, seeking favors of superiors above all indifference to nature and dynamism, Progress of human society.

Ibn Khaldun also said in Mujaddimah and it’s like:

History is a science. It is not right to confuse history with mythology; Rather they should be denied. Note that Khaldun died in Cairo in 1406.


Ibn Khaldun wrote his autobiography at different stages of his life. Numerous documents relating to his life are quoted verbatim in Al-Tarif bi-Ibn Khaldun.

Death and Last Life of Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun left his native Tunis and spent the last days of his life in Egypt. This great philosopher died in Cairo in 1406 while in Egypt. He was buried in the ‘Sufi’ cemetery called ‘Abu Nasr’ in Cairo.

Only a few of the medieval historians insisted on historical sources to make history accurate. Ibn Khaldun is one of them. According to him history is also a kind of science. It is not right to confuse history with mythology. Currently there is an organization called Ibn Khaldun Society in Istanbul. They are dealing with the importance of a significant philosophy in the study of sociology. Ibn Khaldun’s contribution to history is unparalleled.

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Author: Sadia Khanam Tonni

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