Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) was one of the most remarkable Muslim scholars of the pre-modern period. He founded what he called the science of human society or social organization, and developed a new methodology for writing history. Although his new discipline had little impact on the development of Muslim thought for several centuries, it hugely impressed European thinkers from the nineteenth century on, some of whom proclaimed Ibn Khaldun a progenitor of sociology and modern historiography. This book introduces Ibn Khaldun’s core ideas, focusing on his theory of the rise and decline of states. His concept of ‘asabiyya (group solidarity) and the factors that lead to its dilution are presented in detail, as also the method of testing (historical) reports for their plausibility. In addition, the book recounts the reception of Ibn Khaldun in his own and modern times, in the Islamic world and in the West: the responses range from those who thought that he merely reworked ideas found in the works of al-Farabi and the Ikhwan al-Safa’ to those who compare him to the giants of Western political and sociological thought, from Machiavelli to Marx. Finally, a dense few pages review the best editions and translations of Ibn Khaldun’s work, and pick out key works in the vast corpus of scholarship on Ibn Khaldun in Arabic, English and other Western languages.
Syed Farid Alatas, author Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore