1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ibn Khaldūn

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IBN KHALDŪN [Abū Zaid ibn Maḥommed ibn Maḥommed ibn Khaldūn] (1332–1406), Arabic historian, was born at Tunis. He studied the various branches of Arabic learning with great success. In 1352 he obtained employment under the Marīnid sultan Abū Inān (Faris I.) at Fez. In the beginning of 1356, his integrity having been suspected, he was thrown into prison until the death of Abū Inān in 1358, when the vizier al-Hasan ibn Omar set him at liberty and reinstated him in his rank and offices. He here continued to render great service to Abu Salem (Ibrahim III.), Abū Inān’s successor, but, having offended the prime minister, he obtained permission to emigrate to Spain, where, at Granada, he was received with great cordiality by Ibn al Ahmar, who had been greatly indebted to his good offices when an exile at the court of Abu Salem. The favours he received from the sovereign excited the jealousy of the vizier, and he was driven back to Africa (1364), where he was received with great cordiality by the sultan of Bougie, Abu Abdallah, who had been formerly his companion in prison. On the fall of Abu Abdallah Ibn Khaldūn raised a large force amongst the desert Arabs, and entered the service of the sultan of Tlemçen. A few years later he was taken prisoner by Abdalaziz (‘Abd ul ‛Azīz), who had defeated the sultan of Tlemçen and seized the throne. He then entered a monastic establishment, and occupied himself with scholastic duties, until in 1370 he was sent for to Tlemçen by the new sultan. After the death of ‛Abd ul ‛Azīz he resided at Fez, enjoying the patronage and confidence of the regent. After some further vicissitudes in 1378 he entered the service of the sultan of his native town of Tunis, where he devoted himself almost exclusively to his studies and wrote his history of the Berbers. Having received permission to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, he reached Cairo, where he was presented to the sultan, al-Malik udh-Dhahir Barkuk, who insisted on his remaining there, and in the year 1384 made him grand cadi of the Malikite rite for Cairo. This office he filled with great prudence and probity, removing many abuses in the administration of justice in Egypt. At this time the ship in which his wife and family, with all his property, were coming to join him, was wrecked, and every one on board lost. He endeavoured to find consolation in the completion of his history of the Arabs of Spain. At the same time he was removed from his office of cadi, which gave him more leisure for his work. Three years later he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his return lived in retirement in the Fayum until 1399, when he was again called upon to resume his functions as cadi. He was removed and reinstated in the office no fewer than five times.

In 1400 he was sent to Damascus, in connexion with the expedition intended to oppose Timur or Tamerlane. When Timur had become master of the situation, Ibn Khaldūn let himself down from the walls of the city by a rope, and presented himself before the conqueror, who permitted him to return to Egypt. Ibn Khaldūn died on the 16th of March 1406, at the age of sixty-four.

The great work by which he is known is a “Universal History,” but it deals more particularly with the history of the Arabs of Spain and Africa. Its Arabic title is Kitāb ul‛Ibar, wa dīwān el Mubtada wa’l Khabar, fī ayyām ul ‛Arab wa’l‛Ajām wa’l Berber; that is, “The Book of Examples and the Collection of Origins and Information respecting the History of the Arabs, Foreigners and Berbers.” It consists of three books, an introduction and an autobiography. Book i. treats of the influence of civilization upon man; book ii. of the history of the Arabs and other peoples from the remotest antiquity until the author’s own times; book iii. of the history of the Berber tribes and of the kingdoms founded by that race in North Africa. The introduction is an elaborate treatise on the science of history and the development of society, and the autobiography contains the history, not only of the author himself, but of his family and of the dynasties which ruled in Fez, Tunis and Tlemçen during his lifetime. An edition of the Arabic text has been printed at Būlāq, (7 vols., 1867) and a part of the work has been translated by the late Baron McG. de Slane under the title of Histoire des Berbères (Algiers, 1852–1856); it contains an admirable account of the author and analysis of his work. Vol. i., the Muqaddama (preface), was published by M. Quatremère (3 vols., Paris, 1858), often republished in the East, and a French translation was made by McG. de Slane (3 vols., Paris, 1862–1868). The parts of the history referring to the expeditions of the Franks into Moslem lands were edited by C. J. Tornberg (Upsala, 1840), and the parts treating of the Banu-l Aḥmar kings of Granada were translated into French by M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes in the Journal asiatique, ser. 9, vol. xiii. The Autobiography of Ibn Khaldūn was translated into French by de Slane in the Journal asiatique, ser. 4, vol. iii. For an English appreciation of the philosophical spirit of Ibn Khaldūn see R. Flint’s History of the Philosophy of History (Edinburgh, 1893), pp. 157–170.  (E. H. P.; G. W. T.)