The first verse of the Holy Quran revealed stressed the importance of Qalam (Pen) which is a vital instrument of knowledge transformation. 

Muslims have played a significant role in the writing of history which is one of the vital sources of knowledge transformation.

How many of us know the origin of history and methodology of recording the incidence and contribution of past civilisation?

Ibn Khaldun, the great historian of 13th century CE has introduced some methods of recording social and political events.

Before Ibn Khaldun, some Arab historians had documented the history and incidence of war of prophetic era.

Maghazi is one of the famous books which covers the incidence of war during prophet’s (s) time. Futoohulbuldan and other books were written by Islamic scholars discussing the subject matter of history.

While Ibn Khaldun scientifically compiled the history.

Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun was born on 27 May 1332 CE corresponding to 1 Ramadhan 732 AH in Tunisia. His full name was Wali al-Din Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad Ibn Khaldun.

By lineage, he was an Arab. His ancestors had settled in Seville in Spain soon after the Islamic conquest of Spain in 93 AH but again, they migrated to Tunisia before Christians captured Seville in 1248 CE.

Ibn Khaldun received his early education at home under the guidance of his father who was a scholar of his time.

He memorised the Holy Quran, learned Arabic grammar, jurisprudence, hadith, rhetoric, philology and poetry under the supervisor of the best teacher of their time. He learned mathematics, logic and philosophy from a great mathematician and philosopher Al-Abili of Tlemcen. In a nutshell, he attained high proficiency in these subjects and became a master within a short span of times. Some historians believed that Ibn Khaldun had completed his traditional studies by the age of 19.

Ibn Khaldun worked in different capacities in various countries as judge, administrator, lawyer, teacher and government advisor.

Political background and relation with kings and various governments did not let him stay peacefully in one place. Throughout his life, he was travelling from one place to another.

He was not a traveller, but his writings reflect that he had travelled to Europe, Africa and Arabian Peninsula extensively.

His book Muqaddama is an outcome of his personal experience and observation.

While he was imprisoned several times and was expelled from his position in several places, yet he was dedicated to his mission.

Ibn Khaldun spent his last moment in Egypt. Most of the research work was carried in Egypt while he was serving as a judge in Maliki Court in Egypt. This great historian and philosopher who influenced millions of people took his last breath on 17 March 1406 CE in Egypt.

He started his writing at the age of 30. Many historians believe that the Muqaddama [Prologue] was the first book he wrote and completed it in six months.

The  Muqaddama introduction is, in fact,  part of his book Kitabul Abrar wa-Diwan al-Mubtada wa-l-Khabar fi Tarikh al-Arab wa-l-Barbar wa-Man Aṣarahum min Dhawi ash-Shaan al-Akbar. Kitabul Abrar consists of seven volumes.

Though Muqaddama is the first part of this book but is considered a complete book in itself. It was the first major attempt to analyse the human society concerning geography, anthropology, history, sociology, religion, culture, society, economy, science, arts, crafts and psychology.

The Muqaddama can be divided into six parts as follows.

  1. Human Society
  2. Rural Civilizations
  3. Government and Institutions
  4. Society and Urbanization
  5. Economic Modules
  6. Science and Humanity

Kitabul Abrar is subsequent part of Muqaddama which discusses the various issues of civilisation, government, administration and culture of some nations. Volumes II, III, IV and V discuss the history of mankind till the time of Ibn Khaldun.  While Volumes VI and VII discuss the history of Berber people and Maghrib (Morocco). This part is considered one of the authentic and significant sources for the history of Berber Civilisation.

Besides Kitabul Abrar, he has written several other books on different subjects.

While discussing various aspects of sociology, Ibn Khaldun conceived the theory of conflict. He propounded the theory of dichotomy of sedentary life verses nomad life, the concept of generation and loss of power.

Ibn Khaldun developed the theory of civilisation, the theory of political economy, the theory of business cycle, the theory of taxation, the theory of social cohesion and tribalism.

In addition to these theories, Ibn Khaldun propounded a number of other modules and ideas which later on became the centre of citation for western scholars and social scientists.

Arthur Laffer indebted to Ibn Khaldun in the development of Laffer Curve that deals with heavy-duty levy of tax on production and agriculture.

In this theory, Ibn Khaldun suggested that the government to reduce the level of taxation pointing that the excess levy on public may discourage business, reduce the production level in the economy and thereby reduce the revenue for the government. It may also lead supply-side inflation in the economy which is known cost-push inflation in modern economic literature.

Ibn Khaldun also stressed on the Islamic monetary theory and management of currency. He was in view of minting gold or silver coins. He suggested establishing equilibria between intrinsic and face value of the currency.

His analysis of cause, nature, effects and consequences of civilisation has evoked great admiration in the world.

British historian Arnold J Toynbee termed the “Muqaddama” a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any human mind in any time or at any place.