Ibn Khaldun: biography of this philosopher and historian

Ibn Khaldun was a Tunisian historian, sociologist, philosopher, economist, geographer and demographer born in the 14th century into an honorable family of Andalusian origin.

His life was marked by all manner of intrigue and jealousy of courtiers from the many Islamic kingdoms he frequented, giving advice and overseeing the decisions of sultans throughout North Africa.

Considered one of the great medieval Muslim thinkers, this intellectual is studied as a great reference in the history of Islam, sociology and Muslim philosophy. Here you will find a biography of Ibn Khaldun in summary format.

    Brief biography of Ibn Khaldun

    Known in Spanish as Abenjaldún or Ibn Jaldún, Ibn Khaldun was a Tunisian historian of Andalusian origin the work of, in particular his “Prolegomena” contributed not only to knowing the history of the medieval Islamic world but also to having a vision of sociology different from the Western classic, in addition to being one of the few Muslim scholars who motivated him to write his own biography and describe how the environment influences human communities.

    Ibn Khaldun’s life was very busy, mainly because at the very least he was going to live in a new city, the local nobility ended up having a certain quirk when he saw how influential he was becoming before the Sultan, the emir or monarch of his new place. of residence. His life was marked by palatine envy and intrigue, jealousy that repeatedly led him to exile, imprisonment and deportation.

    first years

    Ibn Khaldun, full name Abū Zayd Abdu r-Rahman bin Muḥammad bin Khaldun Al-Hadrami, was born on May 27, 1332 in the city of Tunisia. We have the data we have on his life thanks to the fact that he, as a historian, wrote his autobiography, which was quite rare in his time, especially in the Arab world.

    His family was noble, of Andalusian origin and had a very old lineage, originating in Hadramaut, A kingdom that existed on the Arabian Peninsula until the third century AD Its ancestors had moved to the lands of Al-Andalus, going first to Carmona and then to Seville, but due to the reconquest, the Banu Khaldun family chose to emigrate to Ceuta and then Tunisia, birthplace of Ibn Khaldun.

    He spent his early years in the same city where he was born where he received a careful education according to the important status of his family. His father served most of his life at the court of the Hafsids of Tunisia, a dynasty that ruled the city not without major enemies.

    The young Ibn Khaldun, in addition to the Quran and the Hadith under the tutelage of the most important sages of the city, studied philosophy and social sciences, Arabic literature and the long life of Prophet Muhammad, facts which would make him a A prolific philosopher in adulthood. These years would be very happy for the young man, enjoying the pleasures of good manners and the privileged position of his family.

    However, in 1349, at the age of 17, he saw misfortune engulf his land. His parents and teachers die from the plague epidemic that hit the city of Tunis, Leaving him and his brothers Muhammad and Yahya orphans.

      political beginnings

      Ibn Khaldun’s political career began as a jatib, that is, the person who delivered the sermon during Friday prayers, being in the service of Sultan Abu Ishaq, who proclaimed himself the restorer of the Hafsida dynasty in Tunisia after a brief interlude perpetrated in 1349. by the enemy dynasty of the Benimerines.

      After this event a new stage in the life of young Ibn Khaldun would begin, taking him to work in the service of the most important sultans of medieval Muslim Africa. after Abu Ishaq. After that he left the city and lived in the fortress of Bugia and from there he moved to the Marinid court of Fez, receiving a magnificent reception from Sultan Abu Inan in 1354 where he would continue his studies and be declared secretary of the orders. of the sultan.

      However, his sudden ascent caused envy in the palace, which led him to be accused of maintaining contact with Muhammad, a Hafsid prince who wanted to regain power in several places conquered by the Benimerines. Because of this Ibn Khaldun and Prince Muhammad would end up being imprisoned and the young sage would not be freed until Abu Inan died in 1358. Fortunately, the freed people being all their honors were returned to him.

      Ibn Khaldun wanted to return to his hometown, but was not granted permission to do so. Nevertheless life smiled to him a little and thanks to the contacts with Aben Marzuk, that could enter the party of the aspirant to the throne Abu Salem, brother of Abu Inan, that in 1359 had occupied the throne Of Fez in replacing the new monarch placed after the death of his brother.

      At the moment Ibn Khaldun was responsible for drafting all of the new Sultan’s correspondence, and for a time he was able to greatly influence Abu Salem. until Aben Marzuk shows up in court and monopolizes the leader’s attention. It was also in 1359 that Ibn Khaldun collaborated with the king of Granada Muhammad V, of the Nasrid dynasty, who had been dethroned from his kingdom and had taken refuge in Fez.

      Ibn Khaldun spoke with his ruler to help the refugee king with whatever he needed to regain his Hispanic kingdom, which would pass a year later. This would be widely appreciated by Muhammad V, who would accept Ibn Khaldun to his court some time later.

      Shortly before Abu Salem’s death, Ibn Khaldun he was appointed supreme judge to dispense justice to those who had received the most powerful crimes and who could not be tried by the ordinary courts.. When the sultan died, Ibn Khaldun saw the hostility professed to him by Omar ibn Abdallah, the wazir of the new sultan, who pushed him to leave Fez and settle on Spanish lands.

        Al Al-Andalus

        In his journey to Al-Andalus would pass through Ceuta and soon Gibraltar in 1362, a passage that his ancestors had crossed but in the opposite direction. It won’t take long for him to get to Granada, where Muhammad V will gladly accept him at his court and soon become his most loyal confidant.

        The wazir of the king of Granada, Aben Aljathib, is said to be much friendlier than that of Fez, having good relations with Ibn Khaldun. Sultan of Granada rewarded Ibn Khaldun with a farm in Elvira, now Granada, Where he resided for a time with his family who ordered to come from Tunisia.

        This time would be prosperous for Ibn Khaldun since the king of Granada would order him important diplomatic tasks, between them to go in 1363 to Seville to ratify a peace treaty with Pedro I of Castile, monarch to whom Muhammad V paid pariahs. Despite being an “enemy” Peter I saw Ibn Khaldun a great sage and in fact invited him to join him. after learning about the importance their ancestors had on the peninsula. The wise Arab rejected the offer, but Peter I of Castile filled it with all kinds of gifts.

        But just as he had arrived at the court of the Sultan of Fez, Ibn Khaldun would suffer the same fate in Granada. Its influence before Muhammad V grew enormously and in 1365 he hurried to leave Spain knowing that the wazir Aben Aljathib was already starting to be jealous.. Although Muhammad V himself asked him to stay at his court, Ibn Khaldun went to Almeria and, after two weeks of travel, arrived in Bugia, where Muhammad himself, of the Hafsida dynasty, eventually regained his power. .

        At the court of Muhammad de Bugia, he would receive the posts of chamberlain and preacher of the great mosque, in addition to teaching as a professor of jurisprudence. He would also have the opportunity to accompany Muhammad in some of his military battles, in one of which this Muslim monarch would lose his life in 1366. It would then be that Ibn Khaldun would receive the offer to take care of the affairs of the war. State and proclaim one of the sons of the previous monarch as the new sultan, an offer he would not accept.

        Instead of accepting it immediately, the sage contacted the lord of Constantine and cousin of the late Emir Abou-l-Abbas, to whom he offered the government of Bugia. Although Abu-l-Abbas took possession of the city and accepted Ibn Khaldun to his court, the sage he felt rejected and decided to move to Biskra being welcomed by the lord here, Ahmed ibn Monzi.

        in 1374 he returned to travel to Granada, where at the beginning he was received in a benevolent form by his old friend Muhammad V. Nevertheless, this monarch would receive from Fez reports in which they labeled Ibn Khaldun as a very dangerous guest, for what he ordered that he be imprisoned and eventually deported to Honain, near Tremissen, where he was not well received at first. However, Ibn Khaldun managed to gain the confidence of the gentleman of the city, who in the end would order him diplomatic missions.

        Return to Africa

        later retired to Calta Ben Salama, Algeria, where he spent four years writing one of his most important works, “The Prolegomena” or “Muqaddimah”. In his autobiography, he tells us that it was during this time that he suffered from a serious illness but that apparently he was saved thanks to divine intervention, which would give strength to his Muslim beliefs.

        In 1378 he returned to Tunisia where he was greeted by the Sultan’s court and, once again, showcased and aroused the envy of other courtiers. In fact, it would be one of his former disciples, named Ibn Arafa, who would devote many infamies to him, which prompted the court to take a stand against Ibn Khaldun, which motivated this philosopher to leave his hometown again. and to make a pilgrimage. in Mecca.

        He left Tunisia at the end of 1382, arriving in Alexandria in December and shortly thereafter in Cairo.. Here he had a good reputation and managed to win the affection of a group of disciples eager to receive his many teachings. He would teach jurisprudence again in one of the city’s mosques.

        He tried to bring his family back to Egypt, but the request was rejected by the Sultan of Tunis, who wanted him back at all costs. Eventually, he would force his family to move to his new residence, but sadly, misfortune would plague him again. During the trip, the ship in which their loved ones traveled was wrecked due to a storm and all would die in the sinking.. This caused great pain to sage Ibn Khaldun, taking refuge in Islam and studying to channel his pain.

        last years

        In 1400 Ibn Khaldun was part of the expedition initiated by the ruler of Cairo to fight against the expansion of Tamerlan, a Mongolian leader, Who was in the process of conquering many places in Syria. On this trip, Ibn Khaldun would be trapped in Damascus and, in fact, meet Tamerlan in person. The Mongol conqueror was impressed by the knowledge of Ibn Khaldun, a sage who had no problem showing him some of his work.

        Ibn Khaldun managed to return to Cairo after his stay in Syria, being named in this city the great cadí maliki of Egypt on several occasions. This post, which he did not like very much, he held until a short time later, when he died on March 19, 1406 at the age of 73.

        His work and his intellectual heritage

        Ibn Khaldun was a sage whose works contributed greatly to the field of sociology and philosophy, Although unfortunately few of them are preserved. He has been the author of numerous works on law, literature, religion and philosophy, although his work as a historian has been of great help in understanding the history of Islamic countries and his medieval view on this question. .

        Kitab al-Ibar

        This thinker left a detailed genealogy of the Muslim dynasties of North Africa known as “Kitab al-Ibar” or “Universal History”, A work of great importance for understanding the Islamic monarchies of the Middle Ages which consisted of seven volumes although it was only the first that would make it famous: “Muqaddimah” or “Prolegomena”. Such was the repercussion of this first volume that for two centuries it was published separately from the rest of the work, mainly because in this part Ibn Khaldun condenses all his thought.

        This part of the work could be defined as an introduction to the work of the historian, who had created an encyclopedia where he synthesized the methodological and cultural knowledge necessary to describe history on the basis of scientific criteria. Performs a complex analysis of society, seeking to understand the foundations of social behavior and how historical development occurs. It is really a great job from a sociological point of view.

        This part is divided into six chapters. In the first, he talks about society, the physical world in which communities live and how the environment influences them. In the second, he tells us about the most rural and simpler societies. In the third, he analyzes how governments and states enforce their laws, using different types of institutions and controlling human communities. In the fourth, he delves into urban and more developed societies. In the fifth he talks about humanity in general and in the last he talks about the means of transmitting culture and the arts.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Pons-Boigues, F (1898) Bio-bibliographical essay on Arab-Spanish historians and biographers. Madrid.
        • Saade, I (1973) The religious thought of Ibn Jaldún. Madrid.
        • Saade, I (1969) How Ibn Jaldún judges Christianity. Salamanca.
        • Moraleda-Tejero, JM (sf) Jaldún, Ibn or Abenjaldún (1332-1406). The biographies site.

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