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Ibn Khaldun and Our Age

A slightly edited version of the following essay appeared in issue 20 of The Scorpion.
Political thinkers engage our attention by their presentation of the particular features of their own time and place as well as the permanent qualities of man in society. We can read Aristotle and Hobbes for general lessons, or for the politics of the Greek city-state and of European society after the wars of religion.

As times change so do the thinkers who interest us. Those of our own tradition normally interest us most since they illuminate the succeeding stages of our own social world. That world is always changing, however, sometimes in ways that are not fully continuous with its past but bring it closer in important respects to other civilizations. The conditions that are westernizing the world’s East and South also affect Europe and its offspring. World dominion, which orientalized Rome, may end by doing so to us; if so, certain Eastern thinkers will become as relevant as those of the West for understanding the social setting in which we live.

Ibn Khaldun,[1] born 1332 in Tunis and died 1406 in Cairo, was a thinker who grappled with circumstances similar in important ways to the social and political situation now evolving in the West. He was superbly qualified for his task, with a vigorous and unconventional mind and a knowledge of politics and history that came from descent from an ancient family with distinguished political and scholarly traditions, profound study, and a varied life of public service and political adventure as a courtier, jurist, and statesman in Islamic centers from Spain to Damascus. He was admired by scholars and by the most ruthlessly practical of men; Pedro the Cruel and Tamerlane wished to make use of him, while Grenada’s greatest writer, Ibn al-Khatib, wrote his life and honored his learning and literary skill.

His work reflects a mind attracted to practical politics, to scholarship, and to mysticism. After failing in efforts to promote the public good, he turned to scholarship in an attempt to understand the past and explain the necessity that seemed to govern events. As an intense participant in the affairs of a great civilization irreversibly in decline, he was acutely aware of what was and what should be, and neither confused the two nor attempted to encompass one in the other.

The civilization of which he wrote had arisen in a world crossroads with a long history of migrations of peoples, conflicting religious movements, and foreign conquerors ruling through mercenaries and slaves. The societies it comprised were far more diverse and fragmented than the comparatively sheltered societies of the European and Far Eastern continental margins. Since government can be responsible only to a people capable of common action, their fragmentation had political effects: “government in Muslim society … was never, or almost never, anything other than superimposed; never, or almost never, the emanation or expression of that society.”[2]

Today’s mixing of peoples, cultures and ideologies, whether resulting from world trade and immigration or improved communication and social fission, is moving our world closer in important ways to the one Ibn Khaldun knew than the more cohesive one with which we have long been familiar. Such changes will affect our politics profoundly in ways his writings can illuminate for us.

If there are no strong overarching loyalties, mixing of populations causes men to lose the social cohesion required for the self-rule of a free society and to withdraw into small groups in which they can maintain a coherent and predictable way of life. Common loyalties firm enough to create the civic order of Western Europe needed time and stability to evolve. It took 40 kings to make France, and no less time to grow what Burke once called the British oak; in the parts of Europe subject to invasion from Asia or North Africa nothing similar arose.

The gifts of the past may not be ours forever. Common loyalties make a people, and the common culture and history that support a people’s identity are needed to make loyalties endure. Success in transplanting a British society to America and absorbing European immigrants into it is no sign that the American civic order will survive abandonment of a common or at least dominant identity; a social setting like the one Ibn Khaldun knew will be a more likely consequence. Immigration and the end of national boundaries could bring about similar results within the European Union by replacing ordered diversity with bureaucratically- administered chaos. While such things may not be inevitable, powerful tendencies favor them, and a clearer understanding of what the resulting society would be like and how it could come about may be useful. Ibn Khaldun’s thought is an aid to such an understanding.

That thought grew out of his search for historical truth; his great theoretical work, the Muqaddimah (“Introduction” or “Prolegomena”), was intended as the preface and first book of his universal history, Kitab al-Ibar. He was dissatisfied with earlier historians because of what he saw as their failure to understand basic principles, a failure that made them unable critically to evaluate the accounts they picked up from earlier historians and passed on to their readers. Without a comprehensive theory of human society that explained the relations of things, a historian could not understand events or determine what had actually happened. The most common errors, Ibn Khaldun thought, stemmed from the failure to take into account the degree to which “conditions within nations and races change with the change of periods and the passage of time.”[3] He thus made it his goal to set forth a scheme that would organize as a whole our knowledge of man and set forth the sequence of social change and its consequences.

That sequence was for him a cyclical one. He wrote the Muqaddimah during a period of voluntary exile and disillusionment with public life, and it expresses a pronounced skepticism as to what can be achieved through political action: “[t]he past resembles the future more than one drop of water another.”[4] History can be understood, but it has neither goal nor essential novelty. It is a repetition of similar patterns driven by the interplay of the same basic elements: human acquisitiveness and aggression, the need for cooperation and group solidarity, royal authority, and the corrupting effect of dominion and luxury.

The most distinctive feature of his thought is his emphasis on group feeling and solidarity, which he calls “asabiyah” from an Arabic root referring to paternal kinsmen. As its derivation suggests, asabiyah is found first and foremost among blood relatives. Nonetheless, its real cause is not blood but “social intercourse, friendly association, long familiarity, and the companionship that results from … sharing the … circumstances of life and death.”[5] It is group feeling, Ibn Khaldun says, that makes possible all great social achievements, from religious reforms to the founding and defense of dynasties. Paradoxically, its necessity also ensures that social achievements never last, because success puts an end to group feeling by liberating desire and reducing the need for mutual responsibility. If fragmentation is the rule and community an exception, all human achievements become temporary deviations from chaos; Ibn Khaldun’s pessimism and cyclical view of history are thus closely related to the emphasis on the rise and fall of solidarity within particular groups made necessary by the fundamental incoherence of Middle Eastern society.

The Muqaddimah analyzes in detail and in several settings the manner in which group feeling leads to dominance and centralization of power, which in turn lead to luxury, irresponsible behavior, and decline. Most typically, Ibn Khaldun says, group feeling begins with the simple life of men in remote rural or desert districts. In their isolation they maintain purity of lineage, and lacking an organized government they cultivate bravery, self-reliance and loyalty, and accept leadership only on the basis of outstanding qualities and mutual respect. The difficulty of life accustoms them to struggle, and there are no luxuries to detract from the value placed on honor.

Such men are as a rule unjust to outsiders and impatient of restraint, and therefore incapable of governing or even combining to any firm purpose. They can nonetheless become a formidable force capable of establishing a dynasty if some religious movement restrains their injustice and mutual jealousy. If inspired by such a movement they establish a new dynasty, replacing one that has become weak and vulnerable, the rulers rely at first on the group feeling of their supporters in governing, and enlist their subjects on their side through moderation and equity. When the dynasty’s authority has become established and accepted as inevitable fact, however, it finds it can dispense with group feeling, popular support, and the measures necessary to maintain them. The ruler, giving free reign to natural impulses, pursues ease, luxury and a monopoly of glory. He keeps his original supporters more and more at a distance, deprives them of responsibility and opportunity to exercise their original virtues, and buys them off with allowances that allow them to dissipate themselves in luxury, retaining most of the wealth for his own projects and ruling by preference through men from unrelated groups whom he can control more easily.

The resulting rationalization of government at first increases the power of the dynasty, leading to a period of peace and prosperity. Eventually, however (Ibn Khaldun says in the third generation), the disappearance of group feeling causes the dynasty to weaken decisively. The ruler becomes licentious, forgets the requirements of his position, and finds that the cost of his pleasures and the expense of buying the respect and loyalty he can no longer inspire have increased beyond his ability to pay. He raises taxes but the more oppressive they become the less they yield. Irregular methods of increasing revenue and exacting goods and services are attempted, but only make matters worse by disrupting economic activity. Soldiers go unpaid, outlying regions establish their autonomy, and officials and court favorites usurp royal authority. The corruption extends beyond court circles to the people at large, who become dependent on the government and enslaved by unnecessary and ever-multiplying desires that cause them to forget religion, morality, and even decency. Attempts at reform at best delay the inevitable. Unsettled conditions and overpopulation lead to famine and pestilence, and eventually the dynasty falls from power.

Accepting such a view of political change, Ibn Khaldun sees only limited value in human activities: “[t]his entire world is trifling and futile. It ends in death and annihilation.”[6] Westerners may place their hopes in reason or tradition, but for him there is neither a rational process by which man and society can be perfected nor a continuing overall order within which to preserve and extend the acquisitions of the past. Civilization and culture arise because we want dominion, ease and luxury, and once we attain them they destroy us. Nor can the knowledge acquired from the study of history change the world, although particular men may find it helpful, for example by teaching them not to attempt impossibilities.

Religion provides no pragmatic solutions. The disenchanted outlook natural in a fragmented social world favored an understanding of God as Wholly Other, accessible only through mysticism or arbitrary legalism. Ibn Khaldun recognizes the necessity of religion for the founding of a great state and takes the laws of Islam quite seriously; his intolerance of corruption led repeatedly to his dismissal as an Islamic jurist. However, he does not believe that religious law can be effective socially for any extended time. Like rational political principles generally, it can benefit a polity by bringing government operations to some degree into a system ordered toward stable ends, but its effect can only be secondary and cannot prevent corruption and eventual downfall. The Islamic polity was as subject to corruption as any other; as the Prophet predicted, his successors governed rightly only thirty years before sinking into tyranny.

From his discussion of Sufism, it appears that Ibn Khaldun believed that the chasm between man and God can nonetheless be bridged by disciplined cultivation of mystical experience. To the extent God is absent from this world mysticism can show us a way to another; it follows for him that realization of the “mystical experiences of the Sufis … is the very essence of happiness.” Human well-being is thus one thing; this world is quite another. Beginning with irretrievable social fragmentation, Ibn Khaldun ends with political passivity and religious mysticism.[7]

Ibn Khaldun has been called the father of modern social science, although his work was soon largely forgotten and was rediscovered and made known in the West too late for it to play a formative influence. Many issues with which he dealt had of course been treated by others. For example, the devolution he describes results largely from the loss of original moral unity and the liberation and diversification of desire, a process Plato[8] and the Hebrew prophets also describe although in a less naturalistic manner. His views draw on common experience as well; it is commonplace worldly wisdom that blood is thicker than water, that there is strength in unity, that successful men turn against those who helped them on the way up, and that a founder’s successors eventually lose touch with the things that made his enterprise a success. However, his systematic and objective treatment of such matters, and especially his emphasis on the role of social solidarity, are genuine contributions to thought that give rise to what he justifiably calls a “new, extraordinary, and highly useful” science.[9]

The value of that science can be demonstrated in our own times. Ibn Khaldun’s presentation reflects a time in which group feeling was found at its most intense among desert Arabs. He attributes to their tribal solidarity, a rather special affair that he says could not long survive civilized life, the success of religious movements and origin of dynasties. His theory of history is therefore most immediately a theory of Arab history. It need not be viewed that way, however; while he emphasizes common descent he recognizes that group feeling exists no less by convention than by nature.

He discusses non-tribal forms of group feeling sufficiently to guide application of his theory in a variety of settings. He is acutely conscious of their comparative weakness. For example, he rejects family solidarity as a basis for political society. While fundamental, it is not true group feeling because its strength and durability depend on the group feeling of a larger collectivity; an aristocratic family acquires its self-assurance from its position as part of the aristocracy of a people. Nor, he believes, can religious group feeling, barring a miracle, produce major and enduring social effects on its own, although it can make pre-existing tribal solidarity more effective.[10]

He touches only in passing or leaves altogether out of consideration other sources of group feeling that have been extremely important in the West, in aspiration or in fact: civic loyalty, class consciousness, national feeling growing out of common political life and place of residence, and political solidarity growing out of struggle for an ideal. Another possibility, loyalty to a universal empire, he deals with only in the case of the Caliphate, as an aspect of acceptance of a universal religion.

Some of these omissions seem unimportant. Universal empire as an object of sustaining loyalty is not an immediate prospect today, and twentieth century experience suggests that class consciousness and solidarity in struggle may enhance group feeling but are less reliable as sources of it than many once hoped. Civic consciousness and territorial nationalism are a different matter. These things have been fundamental to our history and culture, contributing enormously to making us what we are. They have enabled Western states to establish an order that is public rather than tribal or dynastic, capable to an extraordinary degree of combining freedom with stability, and (at least seemingly) progressive rather than cyclical. In addition, political ideals of nationalism and civic unity have spread far beyond the West and now exert a universal influence.

However, his neglect of these principles of solidarity affects the value of his theory less than at first appears. For reasons touched on at the beginning of this discussion, civic consciousness and territorial nationalism, however great their value or widespread their appeal, are likely to have difficulty maintaining themselves in the future. Ibn Khaldun did not need to discuss them because for him they did not and could not exist, and in a world that is increasingly like his it will be hard for them to retain their importance.[11]

A variety of trends, taking somewhat different forms in different countries, foreshadow their decline. The American situation is particularly worth noting because of the size of the country and its leadership in many aspects of modernity. The trend that has attracted the most attention and patronage in that country is multiculturalism, an attempt to embrace social fragmentation and use it to increase the power of the managerial state. However, the growth outside respectable discourse of secessionist and radical libertarian views is at least as important because of their greater theoretical and practical coherence, their greater popular appeal, and the resemblance between their aims and leading features of Middle Eastern society.

Although despotic, the traditional Middle Eastern state was very loosely organized. Government responsibilities did not go much beyond the maintenance of public order; other public functions were discharged by kinship groups, religious and ethnic communities, and so on. Educational and social welfare activities were generally carried out by religious foundations, while most functions of urban government were dealt with by local communal institutions within the separate gated quarters into which Middle Eastern cities were divided.

American society is developing in a similar direction. The long-term trend toward withdrawal from national organizations and reduced confidence in government, especially the Federal government, is clear and powerful. In education, the trend toward racial integration reversed years ago, and the official emphasis on diversity and difference has found an unlooked-for echo in the homeschooling movement. In religion, mainstream churches stressing unity with and within the larger society have long been declining, with support for their national offices declining most of all. The vital and fast-growing groups have been those with a strong congregational orientation that make serious demands on their members, and so tend to constitute them as separate societies. Religious separatists such as the Hasidim, Amish and Hutterites are thriving. Meanwhile, among political activists resorting or preparing to resort to arms, the militias and the Unabomber alike categorically reject the centralized managerial state and the ideologies and institutions that support it.

Urban and suburban neighborhoods are beginning institutionally to resemble the separate quarters of a traditional Middle Eastern city. More than thirty million Americans now live in privately-owned common- interest housing developments, increasingly equipped with walls and gates, that provide the equivalent of municipal services and often exercise extraordinary control over residents. In the South and West almost all new private residential housing is part of such communities.[12] In aging cities throughout the country existing residential neighborhoods are forming similar arrangements within municipalities that have shown themselves unable to provide services and protection, closing off streets to discourage outsiders and establishing community crime patrols or hiring private security forces for public safety.[13] Such neighborhoods are presently organized mostly for such mundane purposes as safety, maintaining property values and administering common facilities, but the Kiryas Joel case,[14] in which the Satmar Hasidim were able to establish a separate incorporated village in upstate New York and may yet succeed in constituting that village as a separate public school district, suggests the possibility of a far larger role.

These tendencies raise issues that neither libertarians nor multiculturalists grasp adequately. It may be that no adequate response is possible, but awareness of the possibilities and dangers should make political thought more realistic. Ibn Khaldun tells us that radically fragmented societies are ruled by a series of groups that become capable for a time of effective collective action through intense internal solidarity. On such a view, current trends are likely to lead to inter- group struggles for power followed by the unstable dictatorship of the strongest. The abstract order provided by the market or the bureaucratic state can provide no answer, if only because neither market nor bureaucracy can call forth the loyalty required to defend and sustain its power in the face of serious opposition.

The modern consumer welfare state can be understood as an attempt to diminish the risk of intergroup struggles by promoting individual opportunity, material prosperity, equality, and (except in relation to ruling bureaucracies) personal autonomy. Such things, Ibn Khaldun would tell us, weaken group feeling and so make a society more easily governable. Some group feeling would still be needed for government to function, but bureaucratic techniques may reduce the amount necessary, and when force is called for training and weaponry can make up to some degree for loss of the natural group feeling and bravery that distinguished the effective armies of earlier times. The necessary minimum of group feeling might be generated, consistent with fundamental social commitments, through cooperative engagement in the struggle for national prosperity and social justice.

The outlook for such societies are bleak. Universalistic ideologies can be no better than universalistic religions for grounding social order. The intended means of keeping group feeling weak will fail if it is impossible, as seems certain, to keep delivering ever-greater opportunity, prosperity and equality. Solidarity is based on connections of a sort that prosperity weakens and careerism and equality deny. We feel solidarity with those on whom we durably rely and with whom we share something specific. As a practical matter, the basis of solidarity in a modern consumer welfare state is therefore likely to be the ruling elite’s will to power rather than a cooperative struggle for economic ends. However, basing solidarity on the struggle for dominion of a small ruling group that defines itself by ideology creates the risk of ever-growing radicalism, separation from the rest of society and eventual loss of power.

Even if these dangers can be avoided, Ibn Khaldun’s prediction that whatever group feeling is achieved within the ruling elite will soon degenerate into individual pursuit of the perquisites of office is quite persuasive. In the current system centralization of power and individual self-seeking have already led to decline in both the ruling group and society at large. The symptoms of decay Ibn Khaldun predicted are evident: emphasis on image and display, subsidies and transfer payments increasing beyond ability to pay, revenue shortfalls, weakening property rights, economic problems due to taxes and other burdensome government obligations, falling birth rates, appointment of socially marginal incompetents to high government office, loss by the people of the capacity to defend and look after themselves, and a widespread decline in honesty and religion.

The failures of the consumer welfare society have led to renewed interest in conservative and communitarian proposals to maintain social order by renewed commitment to civic virtues and traditional values. The prospects for such proposals are doubtful. Conservatism is ill- suited for resisting general historical trends because it dislikes grand theories and strategies. It looks for isolable causes for things it dislikes, but such causes are hard to find. Self-proclaimed communitarians are more inclined toward comprehensive action to reshape society, but it is unlikely that the top-down measures they envision can promote the necessary devolution of responsibility and growth of local loyalties, especially in view of their reluctance to break decisively with welfare-state liberalism. It is hard to assess the strength of historical trends except in hindsight, however, so the possibility remains that some combination of cultural activism, elimination of government policies that promote fragmentation, and adoption of policies favorable to community will make a difference.

If all remedies fail, we will find ourselves in the world of Ibn Khaldun. In that world, history as a meaningful progression disappears, leaving behind only the rise and fall of ruling groups and the replacement of those that fail by others with more cohesion and determination. Circumstances determine the specifics. We have no Bedouins waiting to seize control; group feeling is weaker today and rises from a broader variety of sources. In recent times it has usually been found at its most intense among ideological factions, which have played a role similar to Ibn Khaldun’s desert tribes. When so viewed, communist and fascist societies follow his account reasonably well; the main difference is that their collapse has been faster than the 120 years he proposes as the typical life of a dynasty, possibly because ideological group feeling is less natural than tribal solidarity. Like dedication to a pure Islamic society, dedication to socialism lasted no more than 30 years; the symptoms mentioned above suggest that the consumer welfare state is reaching the end of its life as well.

It need not follow that communism, socialism or liberalism will be replaced by other ideological movements. The age of self-confident and cohesive political movements must come to an end when repeated failure causes men to lose faith in such things, and there are signs that faith is already dead or dying. The most likely outcome may be a period in which no group is able to establish dominance. Ibn Khaldun tells us that society can continue in some form with very little group feeling. While solidarity is needed to create a dynasty, it can die out and be forgotten while the dynasty continues out of habit; as he points out, the less group feeling that exists in society the easier it is to govern.[15] In times of political dissolution, when the group feeling supporting the center weakens, what group feeling there is—typically local allegiances, family feeling, and the like—becomes the dominant force. At such times, as in Spain during the period of the reyes de taýfas, his theory suggests a decline in overall civilization and rule by locally important families and factions.

Accordingly, Ibn Khaldun’s theory suggests that barring unforeseeable developments our world is headed toward a period of political fragmentation and drift, with occasional attempts to unify at least portions of it on an ideological, religious or ethnic basis that will not come to much. The tendency toward drift will be made all the stronger by the modern tendency toward the mixing of peoples; as he comments, dynasties have difficulty in establishing themselves firmly in lands with many different tribes and groups.[16] Factors external to politics, such as population growth, environmental degradation and epidemics, may make order yet more difficult to establish, as was indeed the case in North Africa in Ibn Khaldun’s day.

Our political prospects thus seem limited. Nonetheless, our future can offer more than decline and drift. The civil order of Europe and America has shown itself remarkably adaptable and may survive and rejuvenate itself through some combination of inner strength, good luck, and cultural or political remedies. Obvious measures toward that end include restrictions on immigration and on international organizations and enterprises, and a reversal of the bureaucratization of social relations. The attempt to help a great civilization survive is worth making, especially if the civilization is one’s own; only experience can show how much can be achieved by the means available to us.

If all remedies fail, and we move decisively into a post-civic political environment, all need not be lost because politics is not everything. While penetrating and perceptive, Ibn Khaldun is not infallible, and one of his errors is treating civilization and culture as wholly dependent on government. In his view, dynasties create the towns and cities that provide the only setting for civilized life, and cultural continuity exists only because subjects imitate their rulers and a new dynasty imitates its predecessors. He thus slights the extent to which civilization depends on cultural factors having little to do with political power and so can be carried forward and developed by institutions independent of the state.[17]

His outlook is colored by Islam, which, as an essentially urban faith whose beginnings coincided with its greatest worldly triumphs, treats religion, society, and state as one. A different outlook is supported by the example of the communities not dependent on politics our ancestors built to carry the traditions by which they lived. Christianity developed as a powerless and often persecuted minority faith, and for millennia Judaism has survived and often achieved great things as the same. To be an heir of either is to accept (as Ibn Khaldun did not) that the good can enter the world visibly, in communities of the faithful, with a transforming power wholly different from worldly dominion, and that the reign of necessity, although real, is not so universal as to leave room in this world only for power politics, mysticism, and very rare miracles.

Those who wish to carry a definite religious or cultural tradition forward through the coming period of political and social disarray can hope to do so if it offers sustenance and they do not rely on politics to do the job for them. The decline of government in a time of moral chaos can only make the task easier, since it will reduce the ability and ambition of the state to manage the details of ordinary social life. If Ibn Khaldun describes our future truly, it will once again, as after the fall of Rome, be politically marginal communities of faith that preserve civilization and ultimately give rise to renewed social order, and building such communities will be the most important task of those who care for those ends.


[1] Abd-ar-Rahman Abu Zayd ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun.

[2] Claude Cahen, “Economy, Society, Institutions,” The Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 1970), vol. 2, 511-38, 530.

[3] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal, ed. and abridged by N. J. Dawood (Princeton, 1969), 24.

[4] Ibid., 12.

[5] Ibid., 148.

[6] Ibid., 154

[7] Ibid., 366. Also see Miya Syrier, “Ibn Khaldun and Islamic Mysticism,” Islamic Culture, 21 (July, 1947), 264-302. It fits the diversity of Ibn Khaldun’s mind and the gap between God and the world in his thinking that he also has a shockingly worldly conception of happiness. In a discussion of rank he observes, apparently without irony, that “obsequiousness and flattery are the reasons why a person may be able to obtain a rank that produces happiness and profit, and … most wealthy and happy people possess this quality.” In the same passage he praises rank as desirable, necessary and divinely appointed, and criticizes as “blameworthy qualities” the haughtiness and pride of those who “have no use for rank” and so are “reduced to poverty and indigence.” Such persons, he says, cause political problems as well. Muqaddimah, 306-307.

[8] Republic, books viii-ix.

[9] Muqaddimah, 39.

[10] The experience of other civilizations supports his views on these matters; the example of the Puritans in America shows how difficult it is to base a social order solely on religion, and the instability of Italian politics and the tendency of Chinese politics toward corruption and warlordism when Confucian civic-mindedness is lost demonstrate that something beyond family solidarity pure and simple is needed to support a state.

[11] For similar reasons, it is unlikely that another universal empire like China or Rome will arise in the foreseeable future. Such empires arise out of the civic consciousness of a particular society when it becomes idealized, perhaps by association with a religion viewed as universally valid, and accepted by others as their own. Conditions adverse to civic and national consciousness prevent such empires from arising.

[12] Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners’ Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government (New Haven, 1994); Timothy Egan, “Many Seek Security in Private Communities,” New York Times, September 3, 1995, Front Page.

[13] See Mitchell Owens, “Saving Neighborhoods One Gate at a Time,” New York Times, August 25, 1994, Sec. C, 1.

[14] Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Sch. Dist. v. Grumet, 114 S. Ct. 2481, 129 L. Ed. 2d 546 (1994).

[15] Muqaddimah, 131.

[16] Ibid., 130-2.

[17] His view is quite mechanistic; he says that the development of all the elements of sedentary culture is proportional to the extent of a dynasty’s authority, so that the greater the dynasty and the larger the resources and population it controls the greater the development of all the arts, sciences and crafts.


Benjamin R. Barber, Jehad vs. McWorld (New York, 1995). A representative book among many deploring the worldwide decline of public order from a basically Enlightenment perspective.

Benjamin Braude and Bernard Lewis, eds., Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society (New York, 1982). An excellent collection of studies detailing interethnic relations during one period of Muslim history.

H.A.R. Gibb and Harold Bowen, Islamic Society and the West (London, 1950). A comprehensive and groundbreaking study.

Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal (New York, 1958), abridged and ed. by N. J. Dawood (Princeton, 1969). The abridgement is an excellent one that should be adequate for any non- specialist.

Nathaniel Schmidt, Ibn Khaldun (New York, 1930). Still the best overall introduction to the man and his thought.

Miya Syrier, “Ibn Khaldun and Islamic Mysticism,” Islamic Culture, 21 (July, 1947), 264-302. An intelligent article that is one of the few to take seriously Ibn Khaldun’s concern with religion.

P.M. Holt, Ann K.S. Lambton and Bernard Lewis, eds., The Cambridge History of Islam (Cambridge, 1970). An excellent and comprehensive introduction to Ibn Khaldun’s civilization.