“Ibn Khaldun and the Muqaddimah” by Massimo Campanini

This article is also available in: Italiano

A great introduction to Ibn Khaldun, one of the greatest historians and sociologists in all Islamic history

Royal authority and dynastic power are achieved only through the group and the corporate spirit

Ibn Khaldun “Muqaddimah”

Ibn Khaldun and the Muqaddimah

Critical conscience of the classical Islamic civilization at his sunset, court man and multifaceted scholar, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldûn (1332-1406) was the greatest philosopher and sociologist in history of the whole Euro-Mediterranean “Middle Ages”, approached by many to Hobbes, Vico, Marx. Going through the fundamental themes of power and the state, the book studies how Khaldunian thought not only lays the foundations, in an innovative way, of a scientific interpretation of the dynamics of the evolution of human civilizations, but opens the way to the renewal of Arab-Islamic thought contemporary.

Ibn Khaldun

The basics of Ibn Khaldun

The book has the task of giving a first and thick smattering of Khaldunian thought, starting from the life of the illustrious thinker and then ending with a small anthology of Muqaddimah. Thanks to this text we will be able to understand the fundamental steps of both the conception of the work, through the biography, and the importance and depth acquired over time.

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun lived in fact in the 14th century, the historical moment in which the Arab-Islamic world experienced its deepest crisis ever, thus leading the thinker to elaborate his theories on the causes of this collapse. A very important element, and which comes several times in the book, is however that he does not have an optimistic conception of the future and, consequently, does not provide “solutions”, but analyzes the causes in the awareness that they are de facto inevitable, as related to human nature.

The birth and collapse of society

According to Ibn Khaldun, man is essentially divided into two different forms of civilization: a “rural” (‘umran badawi) and a “citizen” (‘ umran hadari). The second is an evolution of the first and is formed when multiple “country” elements come together to form a state, thus leading to more elaborate interests and needs over time that soften the original frugal needs. Consequence of this will then be the growth of injustice, which will thus lead to the natural destruction of the state with the emergence of a new political reality (tending to come from the countryside). What determines the victory of one or the other faction? Asabiyya or “spirit of corporation”.

Ibn Khaldun

This concept is fundamental in the whole thought of Ibn Khaldun, as it is the real distinction for the strength of one faction compared to the other. This “body spirit” can be based on 3 different factors: blood, alliance and clientele bonds. Once formed, however, this “dynasty” must exercise its control over all areas of the state, so that it does not become a secondary but can actually secure the mulk or “royalty” within the country. A particularity of Ibn Khaldun is then the total exclusion of religion to determine the success or otherwise of a certain dynasty, even if it clearly states that it represents a plus which is often decisive but not essential.

Almost essential reading if, like me, you had only heard of Ibn Khaldun and would like to discover its life and thought.

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