IOS on-line lecture on “Ibn Khaldun: An intellectual par excellence”
New Delhi: An on-line lecture on “Ibn Khaldun: An intellectual par excellence” under Ibn Khaldun series, was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies, here on November 30, 2020. The topic was introduced by Syed Nakhat Husain Nadwi, in-charge of Arabic section, IOS.
In his introductory remarks, he said that Ibn Khaldun (May 27, 1332-March 17, 1406), was an Arab historian, who was described as a proto-scholar of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics and demography. He was considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages. Besides other minor works, he wrote world history titled “Kitab al Ibar” (book of Lessons, Record of Beginnings and Events in the History of Arabs and the Berbers and their powerful Contemporaries). Its eight volume muqaddimah was so significant that it was considered to be a magnum opus, he added.
Prof. Syed Jamaluddin, ex-professor of history, director, Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia and currently, director, historical research projects, IOS, who delivered the lecture, observed that Ibn Khaldun was the first scholar of social sciences. Belonging to a Yemeni tribe, he started his early education with the memorisation of the Quran. He spent most of his life in South Africa. He suffered the wrath of Sultan Mohammad, and was finally executed. His last days were spent in Cairo. In 1401, he joined a military campaign against Timur and was made the Qazi of Cairo. This led to his incarceration in Cairo. Kitab al-Ibar was considered an all-time great work. In this book he explained the philosophy of history and was hailed as a great scholar, respected all over the world even today. He said that Ibn Khaldun described history as a philosophical study.
Prof. Jamaluddin remarked that Princeton University published a book titled An Introduction to Ibn Khaldun’s History in 1969 for a better understanding of the theory of study of history. He propounded the theory that history waded its way through enquiry and rejected the Jewish belief that the growth of Judaism and the population of Jews grew naturally. Referring to Al-Muqaddimah, Prof. Jamaluddin said that it contained eight volumes, later condensed to six. Over the centuries it was condensed in two volumes in English. Finally a single-volume English translation is available today. In this book Ibn Khaldun explained that humans needed contact with others. Similarly, they required land and culture as well as civilisation were based on geographical areas. He also held that human development depended a great deal on climatic conditions. He was of the opinion that the availability of plenty of food led to the migration of population from one place to another. He said that Ibn Khaldun did not have a cursory look at the system of governance but answered profound questions relating to it and formulated principles for the ruling class to sustain for longer periods.
He believed that society came into existence after tribes came into being. The sense of love among human beings was a gift from Allah. He also believed that discrimination was used as a tool to attain power in politics. Prof. Jamaluddin held that Ibn Khaldun’s study was not confined to history; he had an equally good understanding of what is today called economics. He referred to labour and poverty, and opined that over-taxation, bureaucratisation and the maximisation of law making led to social decline. Prof. Ibrahim of George Washington University had described Ibn Khaldun as the father of economics, who attached equal importance to knowledge and education. He also dwelt on labour theory of value, surplus and micro-economics, he maintained.
Prof. Jamaluddin pointed out that according to Ibn Khaldun, knowledge was of two kinds. While one was acquired by personal efforts, the second could be obtained through education. He wanted children to be educated in mathematics at the very outset. This could transform children into honest citizens. He outlined guiding principles for early and contemporary education. He said that these guidelines could be adopted by our madarsas in formulating future plans. In 1401, he was in Damascus where Ibn Khaldun met Timur, he added.
Presiding over the webinar, the secretary general, IOS, Prof. ZM Khan, observed that the institute would give due recognition to Ibn Khaldun by undertaking research on his works as a futuristic discourse. Creating a chair in his name could be one of the options to devote to the study of Ibn Khaldun’s works. Ibn Khaldun propounded several theories which were valid even today. His theory of discrimination in governance was still in practice. We could learn a lot from his views on several subjects. Describing the present times as dangerous not only for India, but also the world, he said that today preserving cultural legacy was more important than survival. Ibn Khaldun’s prescriptions for good governance were precious and worthy of emulation. Ibn Khaldun left no subject untouched and the IOS would do everything possible within its resources to take his ideas forward. He informed that more such lectures would be organised in the near future.
The webinar ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Syed Nakhat Husain Nadwi.