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Asian Journal of Social Science 36 (2008) 547–570 w w w . b r i

Asian Journal of Social Science 36 (2008) 547–570

Asian Journal of Social Science 36 (2008) 547–570 w w w . b r i l

Ibn Khaldun’s Critique of the Theory of al-Siyâsah al-Madaniyyah 1

Şenol Korkut

Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey, Department of Foreign Affairs

Abstract In this paper the method proposed by Ibn Khaldun in the political and social fields, will be examined in its original dimensions. The political philosophy that started with al-Farabi as a systematic style of thought in Islamic thought used deduction as a mandatory part of the tradi- tion belonging to the philosopher. In one sense, this is a journey from ‘description’ to ‘depiction’. Ibn Khaldun stated that this method remains insufficient in order to explain social phenomena and events, and widening this perspective indicated that political philosophy, in one sense, is compelled to present a utopian social model, and departing from this point criticised al-Farabi as not being a philosophical realist. At this point, the accusations made against the philosophers and his approach to the criticism of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah are investigated as to whether or not Ibn Khaldun approached political philosophy from a universal point of view, and if, while making these accusations, the theories of the philosophers were taken into account. Accordingly, Ibn Khaldun’s theory of prophethood and happiness and the falasifa’s influences on Ibn Khaldun are investigated.

Keywords Ibn Khaldun, falâsifa, Islam, political philosophy, political science, al-Farabi

The Science of Umrân and al-Siyâsah al-Madaniyyah

The criticisms levelled by Ibn Khaldun against the epistemology of the falasifa (i.e., the Muslim philosophers of the peripatetic tradition), based on the impossibility of acquiring objective knowledge of certitude especially in the

1 There are different approaches among scholars of Islamic philosophy as to the English translation of the Arabic phase al-Siyâsah al-Madaniyyah. F. Rosenthal translated the phrase in Muqaddimah (1958:[II]127) as “political utopianism”, M. Mahdi (1969:130) rendered the term “madani” as “political”, C.E. Butterworth (2005:266) as “political regime”, and, finally, D. Gutas (2004a:269) asserted, based on philological evidence, that the phrase should be translated as “gov- ernance of the city”. In this article, since I primarily focus on the comparison between the falâsifa’s and Ibn Khaldun’s methodologies in political and social fields, I preferred to use the phrase in its original form (al-Siyâsah al-Madaniyyah), without delving into the discussion on translation.

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field of metaphysics, led him to adopt a differing approach in social and polit- ical thought, as well as in physics and metaphysics, thus his self-developed science of umran and the method and themes of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, imperatively differed from each other. Ibn Khaldun hence construed the falas- ifa’s views regarding such central themes in political philosophy as the virtu- ous city, prophethood, and happiness as incoherent, effectively subjecting the issues to a review. The pertinent methodology of Ibn Khaldun, dubbed in the history of Islamic thought as the epistemological transformation, has made considerable contributions to Islamic political thought and the history of political philoso- phy alike. This essay will seek to analyse the independent position imparted by Ibn Khaldun to political thought, occasionally comparing it to the falasifa’s views, particularly to those of al-Farabi. Together with conceding the palpable inadequacy a comparison between Ibn Khaldun and the falasifa that fails to take heed of the enhancement of the peripatetic epistemology in the hands of al-Ghazzali and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi will inevitably harbour in the field of logic, metaphysics and physics, we nevertheless consider vital such a compari- son focused on practical philosophy, inasmuch as it is bound to manifest the uniqueness of Ibn Khaldun. Essentially, a visible variance exists in the style of Ibn Khaldun’s investiga- tion and explanation of social events, as compared to the method of approach, interpretation and scrutiny espoused by the previous philosophers, historians and jurists. Having developed a social doctrine concerning the structure of social events, Ibn Khaldun eventually developed an investigative method for their analysis. In effect, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[III]269) propounded first of all that each social event differs from another, concomitantly averring the blatant error of applying a solution to a certain social problem as remedy for another, advocating the innate difference of each social or political occurrence from others. No social event could be comprehensively elucidated through likening to other social events, each preponderantly varying from one another, despite the possibility of mutually sharing minor resemblances (Bayraktar, 2004:157). As, according to Ibn Khaldun, social phenomena are dynamic and subject to change and progress, as opposed to being static, a method ascertained for a certain social event is inapplicable for others. In tandem, each social event is circumscribed by the moral, psychological, and physical atmosphere of the society from which it spurts; and indeed, the relevant causes of each society are distinctive (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]44–45). With these presuppositions, Ibn Khaldun argues that, irrespective of their superficial similarities, there exist essential differences in the crux of social phenomena and, thus, there can never be a general and common principle

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conducive toward pinpointing their causes and that explaining them with static social and political principles is ultimately unfeasible. In keeping with Ibn Khaldun, social occurrences are only exposed to single common and natu- ral law, namely the laws of progress and transformation (e.g., Bayraktar, 2004:159). In the given circumstance, a historian or a social scientist investi- gating a social or a political event must personally implement a method in concordance with the relevant phenomenon. Right at this point, Ibn Khaldun senses an insufficiency in methods such as induction, deduction, and analogy, endorsed by the former philosophers, historians, religious scholars and social scientists, in amply exposing the nature and incentives behind social phenom- ena, appraising them on the whole as incompetent. Similarly, as it abounds in abstraction and remoteness from feelings and as it, moreover, concentrates on the second intelligibles, one cannot afford to render logic infallible in matters of politics. The second intelligibles consist of matter, produced from the first intelligibles (images) that correspond with the foundational structure of objects, and the furthest universals for which sec- ond, third or even further abstractions remain impossible (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[III]108–110). Upon a desire to obtain knowledge of certitude, there could be found, in these intelligibles, matters hindering judgment derived from principles. Ibn Khaldun accordingly avows that the concepts that serve as predicates of being, which together with constituting a theme of logic, is predominantly perused by philosophers within the spectrum of metaphysics, do not contribute providing a basis for practical philosophy, as is the case with the entirety of philosophical sciences, in that conceptions compatible with a given can only be afforded by their material content, vis-à-vis their content according to reason. Inasmuch as Ibn Khaldun is thus concerned, the neces- sity, possibility and impossibility of premises are dependent on their matter, and once the essence, type, form, quantity and force (i.e., the potentialities it comprises) are known, the impossible, contingent or necessary qualities it will spawn, along with the impossible, contingent and necessary sphere in relation to it would be ascertained. Ibn Khaldun’s conception of science, therefore, eschews the area dubbed the second intelligibles, in addition to the refusal of utilising concepts that are not perfectly compatible with external objects, emphasising their proclivity of deterring away from developing true concep- tions of certain objects (Türker, 2006:257). The deliberation of Ibn Khaldun advocating against the use of second intelligibles in scientific research, can be seen most in his attacks regarding the natural philosophy endorsed by the falasifa; though embarking from that verity, it can be asserted that the same applies for the social and political sphere, and that Ibn Khaldun banishes the very idea of applying the second intelligibles, in a science oriented in

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examining social life. This bestows upon Ibn Khaldun a dynamic, changing character with a heavy slant toward experience, from the vantage point of appraising historical and social phenomenon, or the science of umran, uni- formly granting a greater terminological plane in elucidating political and social facts. Ibn Khaldun, it could be asserted, had embraced proceeding from the exist- ent itself in delineating the borders of concepts like necessary, contingent and impossible, concurrently accentuating the imperativeness of determining the necessary, contingent and impossible states impending upon the real social area of existence. Ibn Khaldun (1958:[III]214–215), however, reminds that the case of the first intelligibles, more easily deduced from matter, differs from the case of the second intelligibles, in that being imaginative, the first intelli- gibles, thus, deposit in the imagination matters known through emotions, consequently informing the degree of compatibility of these images to reality. And this triggered Ibn Khaldun to develop an experimental science primarily concerned with the structure and causes of social occurrences. Hence accord- ing to Ibn Khaldun, the nature of the scientific methods investigative of social phenomena must be empirical and positive, or scientific put briefly; and imperatively a method needs to be developed entrenched in observation and empirical, sensory data, at the detriment of rational methods proposed by the prior philosophers, jurists, and historians (e.g., Bayraktar, 2004:160). Thus, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[III]268–270) argues that chances of stumbling into fal- libility of sharp witted philosophers, religious scholars, and bureaucrats, who made a career of distancing their thoughts and feelings from matter and endowing it with profound meanings and strive to interpret each social occur- rence with broad methods like analogy, remains higher than persons possess- ing an average wit, intelligence, albeit with a robust character, unaccustomed to regulating action in line with analogy and other general principles, who endorse the method which appraises and seeks to solve each event within its own terms and do not bifurcate their perspective and thought from what is intertwined with the senses. Speaking from the vantage point of al-Farabi, and contrary to Ibn Khal- dun’s related conception, it can be stated that the method utilised by philoso- phers in the field of practical philosophy are evaluated within the framework of logical premises, such that the first intelligibles essentially progress forth from the second intelligibles. Al-Ilm (knowledge), in al-Farabi’s view, is com- prised of general and certain premises fundamentally embedded in the princi- ple of identity; thus a reality of whose knowledge is acquired corresponds to a true premise (Küyel, 2005:13–14). The pertinent knowledge defines this real- ity. If a definition is impossible, then in politics, as is the case in medicine and

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astronomy, the reality is described through law or expert knowledge; the sci- ence of politics, therefore, is a concoction, foundationally harbouring each person’s morals and nature, of the definition or description of the volitional acts of societies across the world. Al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, in view of that, exam- ines society form the perspective of the ruler and the ruled, and harbouring, in essence, the principle of identity, is comprised of a group of universal and certain premises. Hence state, in al-Farabi’s opinion, is the reality that defines or describes the science christened as al-ilm al-madani and al-Siyasah al- Madaniyyah (e.g., Küyel, 2005). In his Kitab al-Millah, al-Farabi articulates that the science of politics, a part of philosophy, is contended merely with universals and their descriptions in what it investigates through acts, behaviour and volitional faculties, simi- larly illustrating how, with what and in what amount the descriptions should determine the particulars, although refraining from determining them in exactitude. Keeping with al-Farabi, the situations and events potentially regu- lative by such a determination can be incessant and unfathomable and, thus, an actual determination belongs to an expertise other than philosophy (al- Farabi, 1986b:59). Al-Farabi asserts that the task of determining the things left untouched by the science of politics, bearing in mind the exigencies of space, time and conditions, belongs to the first premier (al-rais al-awwal), a status attained through political virtue (taʾaqqul) (Aydınlı, 2005:36–37). All things considered, we can maintain that in al-Farabi’s view, al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah describes what is real, bequeathing the scrutiny of the details to a sub-branch of expertise. Simply put, al-Farabi is well aware of what Ibn Khaldun had so inveterately emphasised; but inasmuch as his conception of knowledge was concerned, he entrusted particular events and predicaments to be resolved through political and deliberative virtue, with the first premier, thus al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah restricts itself with defining the events to be described by the first premier, more precisely, limits itself with general princi- ples. Ibn Khaldun, alternately, is cognisant of the exact incompatibility of these definitions with social reality. Observing the subject matter from another angle, we may say at this point that the method for the science of umran proposed by Ibn Khaldun commences at the point where al-Siyasah al- Madaniyyah ceases, and the theory of the latter begins where the realm of research of the former stops and hence, in spite of being extirpated from the systems of the pertinent thinkers, the two seemingly conflicting theories none- theless form an inherently synthesised unity. While al-Farabi stipulates that the first premier be a just, sane and healthy person distanced from the pleas- ures of the world, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]349,[II]86–87) specifies supplemen- tary requirements aimed toward the economic life and practical politics, such

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as staying aloof from engaging in trade to not blemish a balanced observation of market prices, the same incentive for keeping a distance from agricultural ventures, trade, and so forth. Moreover, while the judgments and theories of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah led by a chain of logical premises proceed especially from the second intelligibles, it seems unfeasible to maintain that the science of umrân is appraised around such fixed and universal laws, and that politics is but a manifestation of a metaphysical area in practical philosophy. Such a situation would render al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah a normative character, while depicting the science of umran as descriptive. In Ibn Khaldun’s relevant atti- tude, as above mentioned, the theory developed by the falasifa regarding the epistemology of the metaphysics is prevalent. Holding metaphysical knowl- edge as permanently based in supposition and thus incapable of acquiring certitude, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[III]214–215) breaks from the notion of cer- tainty endorsed by the falasifa by asserting that certainty is such that is verified by data derived from experience, or in other words, tested against the reality of matter. Hence Ibn Khaldun recoils from founding the science of umran on a theoretical and metaphysical basis, forming instead a metaphysics based on society itself. The falasifa however, singularly headed by al-Farabi, regarded the science and theory of politics virtually as an extension, in the scope of practical philosophy, of Neo-Platonic metaphysics. Taking into account their areas of investigation, we may declare that metaphysics and politics, in a sense, inter- twine on the aspect of human existence, and that metaphysics will equally investigate the principles of certitude obtained by theoretical philosophy, which will sequentially provide a convenient source. In light of these premises, Ibn Khaldun had naturally criticised the falâsifa’s political philosophy, both epistemologically and from the perspective of real politics, perhaps transpiring most prodigiously in the following passage:

“We do not mean here that which is known as ‘political utopianism’ (al-Siyasah al- Madaniyyah). By that, the philosophers mean the disposition of soul and character which each member of a social organisation must have, if, eventually, people are com- pletely to dispense with rules. They call the social organisation that fulfils these require- ments the ‘ideal city’. The norms observed in this connection are called ‘political utopias’ (siyasah madaniyah). They do not mean the kind of politics (siyasah) that the members of a social organisation are led to adopt through laws for the common inter- est. That is something different. The ‘ideal city’ (of philosophers) is something rare and remote. They discuss it as a hypothesis.” (Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[II]127)

Making mention of sages and philosophers, Ibn Khaldun does not cite any specific names, although considering that his enquiry focuses not only on ancient Greek philosophers but particularly on the concepts of al-Siyasah

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al-Madaniyyah and al-madina al-fadila, his allusion of the emulators of the tradition of political philosophy inaugurated by the likes of al-Farabi, Ibn Bajja and Ibn Sina is patently evident (Arslan, 2002:414; Butterworth,


It should immediately be raised that the words of Ibn Khaldun in relation to the political philosophy of the falasifa excerpted above is not exactly reflective of their theory of politics and displays a piecemeal mentality perme- ated with a reductive mentality. Above all, centralising each soul’s individual journey, the falasifa had thus not pursued a utopian city of virtue, whose inhabitants possess the same level of maturity, thus impervious to the need of being ruled; conversely, there developed a conception of city governed by a prophet or a philosopher, in line with which theories were propounded per- taining to cities falling outside the periphery of the virtuous city (monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, etc.) and their inhabitants as mentioned in classical political philosophy (e.g., Arslan, 2002:414–415). In light of these premises, we may highlight a difference in the espoused approach to social phenomena between Ibn Khaldun and the falasifa, occa- sioning a methodical and thematic split of the science of umran from al- Siyasah al-Madaniyyah as implied by the falasifa, culminating in the distinctive emergence of the former in a cluster of diverse fields. Ibn Khaldun’s view of the theory of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah noticeably transpires in another sec- tion comparing the science of umran with other disciplines. We may pro- nounce that the focal point of Ibn Khaldun’s critique of the falasifa in areas like logic, divinity, and rhetoric is rooted in epistemology and its reflections in politics (Görgün, 1999:553). Separating initially the science of umran from rhetoric, al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, and ethics, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]62) bol- sters his differentiation by the fact that rhetoric is essentially among the logical sciences, comprising beneficial words conducive toward public persuasion or encouragement; and that the science of ethics impinges not on the society but rather on the individual, hence its difference from umran. Conceding that although the Persian style conception of politics and their Islamic versions as developed by Ibnuʾl-Muqaffaʾ (or such as Kitab Siraj al-Muluk, the work of Abu Bakr al-Tartushi), roam around the essential aim, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]65–66) holds that they ultimately miss the target, dissociating from them the science of umran, due to their lack of evidence and a system. On the difference between umran and al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, Ibn Khaldun affords the subsequent comments:

“It (umran) is also not politics, because politics is concerned with the administration of home or city in accordance with ethical and philosophical requirements for the

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purpose of directing the mass toward a behaviour that will result in the preservation and permanence of the (human) species.” (Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]62)

The limited data bequeathed by the short extractions pertaining to Ibn Khal- dun’s conception of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah may be further enriched via its comparison with the characteristics of the science of umran. In hindsight, perceptible is the fact that Ibn Khaldun defines umran as a theoretical disci- pline per se vis-à-vis al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, depicted as boasting the aim of implementing practical principles contributing toward the individual and society, rather than mere theory (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958). According to Ibn Khaldun, as for as its objectives are concerned, umran is theoretical, not prac- tical; its subject matter is umran with the aim of explicating events occurring in the umran. The science of umran examines notions and phenomena that arise in the umran, in pursuit of propounding necessary principles and deter- mining the required guidelines imperative in investigating historical events. Al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, by contrast, seeks not the scrutiny of occurring facts and events, it rather inquires into what ought to happen. Consequently, on the word of Ibn Khaldun, rather than examining the nature of society and social occurrences therein, al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah instead aims to set prin- ciples in relation to the individual and society, and thus holds a practical goal. Put more simply, it investigates not the occurrence, but what ought to occur (e.g., Arslan, 2002:417). Therefore, in terms of objectives, methods, and rel- evant paraphernalia, the sciences of umran and al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah are entirely distinct (e.g., Arslan, 2002). In a sense, Ibn Khaldun had desired to liberate a science which supposed to investigate social and political incidents occurring within the umran from metaphysical and ethical extensions and make it an independent discipline concentrating on social facts and occur- rences. This, however, does not entail an absolute segregation of umran from metaphysics; contemporary interpretations have established that from the ver- ity examining society for what it is, umran, of its own accord, constitutes a specific social metaphysics. But the subject matter and reference of the perti- nent metaphysics promulgated by Ibn Khaldun’s science of umran are not the Neo-Platonic conceptions or philosophical terminologies of existence, uni- verse, human, and God. Umran is in fact a metaphysics construed by readings in history, and in preference of cleaving to a Neo-Platonic core, it is a social metaphysics in that it proceeds from and focuses on society and its history (e.g., Görgün, 1999:544–555). Thus, while it remains possible to speak of a metaphysics that investigates being from its aspect of existence, in the case of Ibn Khaldun, one is dealing with a metaphysics, investigative of political, social occurrences taking place in the umran, or more precisely, of society due to its being a society.

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From the perspective of the totality of the system he defended, Ibn Khaldun appraised the metaphysical and ethical aspects prevalent in the social sphere of the falasifa’s political philosophy, by which he attacked the style adopted by the falasifa in explicating the cornerstones of their political philosophy such as happiness and prophethood. The issue of prophethood occupies a pivotal place in Ibn Khaldun’s umran as it does in the falasifa’s al-Siyasah al- Madaniyyah. As is also indicated by Muhsin Mahdi, because Islamic society owes its very existence, character, and jurisprudence to prophethood and revelation, it is only natural for such a matter to form a central problem of practical or politi- cal philosophy, thrusting it to ultimately toil at once to elucidate the phenom- enon of prophethood, and rationally explicate the source and nature of prophetic knowledge (Mahdi, 1957:84). From this standpoint, prophethood absorbs a particular function, role and task in Islamic thought (Ahmad, 2003:9–10). Ibn Khaldun equally acknowledges prophethood as the source of vital social values, institutions and actions, and in that insofar as prophethood is appraised the nucleus of civilisation in the thought of Ibn Khaldun, infiltrating into the phenomenon that is prophethood is rendered an impera- tive of comprehending umran (e.g., Ahmad, 2003). Opposing the inherent proclivity of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah of reading prophethood with political intent, setting off from Ibn Sînâ, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]70–71) equally launches a bitter criticism of their view regarding the attributes of prophets and the nature of miracles. To the demise of the falasifa ’s contentions, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]72) argues the impossibility of the neces- sity of prophethood anchored in the need of imposing laws for the governance of societies. Neither the observation of historical events nor reason can attest to the requisite of prophethood and divine law, strictly on the implementation of adequate power and laws for sustaining the existence of social life; the Mag- eans, for instance, had formed a social community, established a state and have moreover bequeathed many books, despite not having access to divine texts (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958). Reason, Ibn Khaldun contends, suffices to allude to the need of having a prudential discourse, albeit it doesn’t stipulate that the prophet per se be the source of this discourse. Hence, as per Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]73), the premises established by philosophers as the prerequisites of creating a society, carry no corroboration of being in line with general laws and principles. Further elaborating on the matter, Ibn Khaldun rebuffs the falasifa’s conception of the necessity of prophethood for human nature, similarly endowing political authority not with the prophets but with divine law (Mahdi, 1991:202), thus giving precedence to the notions of caliphate and imamate.

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It may be accentuated at this point that Ibn Khaldun is particularly critical of the views of Ibn Sina, who in his Kitab al-Najat attempted to illustrate the necessity of prophethood for human society (e.g., Arslan, 2002:420). In stat- ing that the prophet and the philosopher had a similar duty for the realisation of the virtuous city, al-Farabi held the irrepressible need for a prophet or a philosopher to impart to the residents of the virtuous city within a specific educational discipline, the ideas and actions pertaining to the eliciting of per- fection and true happiness; the inevitability of accomplishing a city as such. Based on his construal of al-Farabi, it can be maintained that at this point Ibn Khaldun undertook an insufficient reading of the falasifa, in that they had never, in fact, stipulated prophethood as an imperative for erecting the city; or at least they never developed such a conception of non-virtuous cities. We may assume that Ibn Khaldun did not take into consideration, or was unaware of, the various theories depicted as belonging to the non-virtuous cities in relation to the necessity for human beings to establish a social order. Alternately, Ibn Khaldun endorsed an approach distinct from the falasifa in explicating the nature of prophetic knowledge and its acquirement. Envisag- ing prophethood as a phenomenon of humankind, he defines prophetic actions, knowledge, and power as human aspects. First and foremost, prophet- hood is received not through human desire, but by the grace of God. Prophets possess special God-given knowledge of some future occurrences and holy beings. Ibn Khaldun equally appraises the knowledge acquired by prophets as a natural condition, illuminating it via his classification of human cognisance of existence according to which human souls are classified into three: the first group is unable to attain to the level of spiritual cognisance. Members of this group, compared to others, are naturally capable of cognising a lesser of exist- ence. The second group of humans, by virtue of preserving their natural state of creation, can obtain some knowledge of the unknown, through intuition and assistance of angels. As for the third group, it is comprised of humans of greater maturity, whose physical existence amidst the masses is no hindrance for their interaction with God and angels. The relevant group consists of prophets, upon whom God has bestowed a capacity at birth to attain to such knowledge (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]177–178). During revelation, proph- ets delve into the spiritual world, enter the realm of angels, where they become acquainted with knowledge pertaining to faith, practice, and ethics, after which they return from the angelical to humanity. As all prophets possess a physical body, this capacity, or the nature of reception of revelation by prophets, in keeping with Ibn Khaldun, gains a slow activation at the initial phase, gradu- ally obliterating relevant predicaments in due course and thus becomes com- paratively easier. This is an argument which Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]178–181)

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sustains by citing the revelation process of Prophet Mohammed wherein the revealed verses proceeded from short to long. Hence according to Ibn Khal- dun, the knowledge of prophets constitutes the highest form of knowledge possessed by the privileged human beings (e.g., Ahmad, 2003:10). Ibn Khal- dun’s exposition of prophetic knowledge in such a manner, breaks significantly, at least on epistemological terms, from the falasifa’s explanation of the obtain- ment of prophetic knowledge with the intellect’s passage from stages of poten- tial, actual, and acquired intellect, culminating in its unity with the active intellect. It could be concluded that the criticisms of Ibn Khaldun of the falas- ifa’s notion of prophethood are articulated with the intent of proving the sharʾi necessity of prophethood at the expense of establishing its rational necessity, thus the falasifa’s classification of the intellect into theoretical and practical and the respective perfection in both, insofar as Ibn Khaldun is concerned, is proven to be of no avail (Kurtoğlu, 1999:255–256).


Yet another aspect which the falasifa manage to elicit the disparagement of Ibn Khaldun, interconnected with what has been mentioned above, is their con- ception of happiness. In Ibn Khaldun’s words (1958:[III]212), philosophers hold that happiness, whether it be emotional or beyond emotions, is com- prised of the perception of the entire beings through contemplation and evi- dence of certitude. Ibn Khaldun argues that happiness based on contemplation and perception is not acquired in such a way. A human being consists of two parts, namely matter and spirit, each of which harbours its own perceptive faculties. The spirit perceives the spiritual through its essence without a medium, while the brain and five senses perceive the material. Ibn Khaldun claims that the perception of the spirit without an intermediary and of the joy subsequently felt is more enhanced and intense than that felt by the brain and the five senses, hence the impossibility of procuring of such happiness through contemplation. Evidence of certitude and various scientific knowledge and proofs (Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[III]216–217) insists on the incoherence of the alleged method of perception the falasifa claim to have reached through rational evidence and certitude, with which peace, joy, and happiness are pur- portedly acquired, since being a harvest of imagination and thinking, regarded as mental faculties, rational evidence, and proofs of certitude are physical per- ceptions. To obtain such happiness, initially and as a requisite, the relevant powers of the brain must be eradicated. In parallel, Ibn Khaldun writes off the rare possibility, vehemently defended by the falasifa, of acquiring happiness

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through unity with the active intellect achieved by virtuous humans after hav- ing surpassed certain stages of knowledge, and attaining its knowledge, as the

active intellect is spiritual, while the process expounded of reaching that level

is incongruously physical. Ibn Khaldun, moreover, explains that the falasifa argue that even in the

absence of revelation, humans, as dictated by their ability to think, have the ability to discern between good and evil and refraining from evil, to do what

is good, thus achieve virtue and happiness. The falasifa, in keeping with Ibn

Khaldun (1958:[III]218–219), believe that all beings are capable of converg- ing on the good, through consulting their knowledge and the natural disposi- tion of reason; thus the falasifa have effectively identified happiness, predicated upon knowledge and the disposition of reason to discern right from wrong, with the promised happiness of the afterlife and the ignorance with the tor- ment in the grave. However, they averred the impossibility for humans of fathoming the entire area of being; even if there existed such happiness, it would not have much to do with that of the afterlife. Unity with divine beings, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[III]219) states, will only become possible after the physical death. Happiness, serenity, and joy there- fore may transpire only as a result of the spirit perceiving with its essence, without an intermediary; thus real happiness is a state that transcends percep- tive and rational faculties. In fact, it may be inferred that the most central theme of the practical philosophy of the falasifa, based on the conception of a prophet or a philosopher who, having accomplished unity with the active intel- lect, conveys to their followers the beliefs and practices, which lead to the estab- lishment and maintenance of the virtuous city, is regarded by Ibn Khaldun as mere fiction. Having touched upon Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of the theory of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, based on his assumption of its being an incoherent and fictive system vis-à-vis social and historical reality, we may now proceed to presenting his conception and classification of political regimes from the standpoint of their emergence from umran. Living socially, Ibn Khaldun holds, is imperative for human beings. In turn,

a social organisation requires a political authority for the implementation of security and justice within the society. Political authority must promulgate publicly accepted and enforceable laws that entail punitive ramifications to provide for the flow of social life and to govern mutual relations between the individual, the society, and the state. At this point, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]342– 343) recognises the feasibility of two political orders, from the standpoint of founding purpose, administrative structure, function and their realisation in the umran. If the laws regulative of a certain state are propounded by the

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vanguards of society, men of prudence, and intellectuals, then that is rational politics; while provided they are divine decrees transmitted by a prophet pos- sessing divine law, it is called sharʾi politics (Rosenthal, 1962:100–101). Rational politics, Ibn Khaldun states, is also of two types. Comprising the first, is the political order that regulates the governing laws of the state and society by subordinating administrators’ benefit to public gain. Ibn Khaldun states the congruence of the establishment of this order with reason and wis- dom, according to which, cites Ibn Khaldun, the Sassanid state was struc- tured. As was mentioned, the second political order involves the enforcement of laws involving the subordination of public benefit to the benefit of the administrators, wherein the helms of political authority, avows Ibn Khaldun, lies in the violent and ferocious hands of the sovereign. Ibn Khaldun refers to all orders of state in his own era, whether Muslim or not, as having been formed around the pertinent structure, albeit the implementation of the state of affairs is nonetheless dissociated from others. Although in both types of rational orders laws are coercively enforced from above, Ibn Khaldun men- tions that they tend to be more just and compassionate in the former, as opposed to the rigidity and injustice of the latter. Yet Muslim sovereigns who opt for the second style of ruling, divulges Ibn Khaldun, have a penchant to rule their subjects and lands through ostensibly adjusting these laws to the Islamic sharʿ. As it aims toward securing people’s happiness only in this world, governance by reason (siyasa ʿaqliyya), Ibn Kha- ldun argues, cannot be spiritually internalised by people; contrary to sharʾi politics, which can become internalised in the souls and the spiritual world of the community, as it aims at this world as well as the afterlife, in line with which it structures public benefit (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958). It is thus accen- tuated that the sharʾi order, testified by Ibn Khaldun as having been imple- mented during the respective eras of the Prophet and the Four Caliphs, is thus superior to both types of governance by reason. The sharʾi order is the ideal order for Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]345), who believes that the order could be resuscitated through the Caliphate and the sovereignty of a ruler who governs worldly affairs with a religious politics, despite its spell in hiatus owing to the relinquishment of tribalism following the Four Caliphs era. 2 As much as the

2 Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]349) had purported the shariʾa necessity of the perpetuation of the conceptions of caliphate and imamate as determinants of political authority, the vitality of the maintenance of the former with its characteristics of tribalism, justice, strength and power, advo- cating ummah activity through election in upholding the caliphate. Ibn Khaldun had similarly emphasised the caliphate’s need of clutching to tribalism, a circumstance on which race, tribe or geography has no bearing. For instance, despite accepting the hadith declaring that the caliph

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necessity for humans to live socially, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]345,378) equally defends the exigency for mankind of constructing the world and abiding by the beneficial stipulation the process entails, benefits whose accomplishment is only viable through conduct in accordance with sharʾi laws. In addition to these requirements, Ibn Khaldun initially affirms the sharʾî laws for the crea- tion of public ethics, followed by an approval of the literature containing advises to the sultan al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah of Mawardi, the latter attested to by his lauding excerpt, preceded by his criticisms of governance by reason and al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah theories, of a letter he had written to Abdullah ibn Tahir, in which he imparts primacy to the pertinent literature in the ground- ing of public ethics (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[II]129–142). Thus, nurturing only praises for the traditional concept of politics of Islamic thought, Ibn Khaldun nonetheless breaks from tradition with the method he proposes. We stumble on a rather peculiar block once we glance at the aforementioned observations of Ibn Khaldun on the subject of al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah, from the vantage point of classical political philosophy, bearing in mind the pre- dominant Neo-Platonic character of the said theory. A quick recollection of the history of political thought will reveal that the censures afflicted by Ibn Khaldun on the political philosophy of the falasifa invariably call to mind the disapproval of Aristotle, located in the third chapter of the second book of Politics, and of Plato’s political philosophy and his conception of the ideal state. Disparaging Plato’s ideal state for its withholding private ownership and the status it dispenses to women and children, Aristotle somewhat envisages the state as an unrealisable utopia (Aristotle, 1998:3,6). Well accepted in our times is Aristotle’s essential rejection of the ideal state, entrenched beyond his condemnation of it on the grounds aforementioned (Mayhew, 1997:7–8). But while Aristotle’s criticism of Plato manifests itself through the grounds of political and sociological realities, Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of the falasifa is launched, at once, from the angles of epistemology and public benefit. That Ibn Khaldun was not drawn to the Aristotelian position in articulating his ideas we know, except for a few passages of the first book, Politics had not been translated into Arabic. Furthermore, the traces of Aristotle’s concep- tion of appraising ethics as a prolegomena to politics or as its branch is not

must be of Qurayshi stock, Ibn Khaldun interprets it in relation to his concept of tribalism; thus what the hadith essentially amplifies, is the centrality of tribalism in political order and stability. Hence in effect, the pertinent stipulation is not motivated by their Prophetic lineage, rather from the incentive of possessing the tribalism required to offer security, protection and demand right (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]354). Appropriately in such a reading, the purposes of the hadith take precedence over its ostensible racial incentive (Köktaş, 2003:318–320).

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perceptible in Ibn Khaldun, who separates ethics and the science of umran. 3 On the other hand, we are aware of Ibn Khaldun’s knowledge of Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, a Hellenistic work composed in the name of Aristotle, consequently enjoying centuries of fame in the realm of Islamic thought as Aristotle’s magnum opus in politics (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]64–65). Although in the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun sporadically refers to Kitab Sirr al-Asrar under the pretext of its supposed lineage to Aristotle, he accredits its content as insignificant. Ibn Khaldun’s classification of the types of governance by reason and evaluation from the perspective of the sovereign’s benefits, however, could especially serve to show the influences of that work. Under the shade of these premises, Ibn Khaldun may have just about elabo- rated the most fundamental critique, in the history of Islamic thought, of the falasifa’s conception of politics. A further allusion to Ibn Khaldun is also needed, for being the first critical thinker of Neo-Platonic political philosophy, a post- Aristotelian synthesis of the political theories of Plato and Aristotle emphasis- ing the individual journey of the soul, for being irreconcilably utopian. In the Neo-Platonist tradition of political philosophy, into which we can partially incorporate the falasifa, the systematic reading has been ascertained of the blend between the Platonist political legacy and the Aristotelian theory of ethics, with the purpose of divinising the individual soul and the state. With the incentives of divinising the soul through political virtue and divinis- ing the state through the science of politics, to render it a means for the transcending and mystification of the soul, the Neo-Platonist school had prom- ulgated a political philosophy, which virtually is an amalgamation of Platonist politics and Aristotelian conception of the soul and metaphysics (O’Meara, 2003:5,17,52,66–67,199). Ibn Khaldun’s censure of the Neo-Platonic con- ception of politics, destructive of social layers, that moreover advocates a

3 Except for some extracts, the Politics of Aristotle had not been translated into Arabic. S. Pines holds that despite the absence of an entire translation, certain sections of the first and second books of Politics had been translated with the aid of selections, summaries and doxogra- phy, possibly compiled in the Hellenistic period. Embarking from the insinuation of al-Farabi of a lengthier explanation in Politics, of the relationship between city-neighbourhood-village in Ara and Siyaseh, and of the slave-master bond in Kitâb al-Millah, Pines concludes that al-Farabi had drawn heavily from the mentioned compilation. Thus, the source of al-Farabi’s relevant opin- ions, keeping with Pines, is more Aristotelian than Platonic. Pines likewise compares al-Amiri’s allusion to Aristotle, in his Kitâb al-Saʾâdâ waʾl-Isʾad, with particularly the relevant sections in the first book of Politics, deducing that al-Amiri had either masterfully abridged Aristotle’s text or the abridgement had already been made before al-Amiri in a source beyond our knowledge. Al-Amiri’s work, in spite of minor differences, corresponds with the relevant parts of Politics, from which Pines confidently reiterates the factuality of the indicated partial translation (Pines, 1975:153–158). D. Gutas, conversely, ruminates on the probability of the translation of the seventh book, as opposed to the second (Gutas, 2004a:262,266–269).

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political order jettisoning the need for a ruler after the accumulation of virtue of its residents and excelling of their souls, on the basis of its incongruence compared versus social and political reality, is indeed a significant observation. It should be stressed however that the political philosophy of the falasifa had not exactly developed along the relevant Neo-Platonic lines. There have erupted a cluster of interpretations in modern literature surrounding the authenticity of the criticisms enunciated by Ibn Khaldun, broadly of the conception of being and particularly of the al-Siyasah al-Madaniyyah theory, the exact line of tradition in Islamic thought he emu- lated, plus his philosophical knowledge, especially of the area of political phi- losophy. 4 But we may concede that owing to his adoption of the terminology

4 We notice an inadequacy of Ibn Khaldun’s knowledge of the extant philosophical legacy of his era, falling short at least of encompassing the entire legacy. Discussing, in Muqaddimah, whether the science of umran had been propounded by preceding thinkers, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]63) confesses his lack of knowledge pertaining to the sciences of other nations excludes his conversance with Greek sciences, with which he professes having an acquaintance through the translations in the period of Caliph Ma’mun. The same limitation applies to his knowledge of the literature on political philosophy, attested to by his silence concerning the Republic, States- man and Laws, works of Plato that had been translated into Arabic, and his ignorance of the Politics of Aristotle. As aforementioned, however, he does refer, in various parts of Muqaddimah, to Kitâb Sirr al-Asrâr, a work modelling in itself on the Persian style of political literature pro- duced in the Hellenistic era (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[II]42). Despite of not mentioning al- Farabi’s works on politics, his cognisance with some core aspects of his views is discernible. Together with actual citations, Ibn Khaldun nevertheless seems oblivious to the political writings of Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Rushd’s annotation of the Republic, with no proof of validating a possible conversance with Tehafut, Fasluʾl-Maqal and Kashf (Rosenthal, 1955:75–85). Declarable, how- ever, is his knowledge of Ibn Sina’s as-Shifa, an-Najat and Mebdeʾ wa Mead. He, moreover, is familiar with al-Ghazzali’s Tehafut, which he advises to seekers of knowledge. Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of philosophy verifies the undertaking of numerous works in this context, by the school which he emulated, or the reservation of sections pertaining to the issue, on works focusing on Ibn Khaldun (Rosenthal,1955:75–85; Hassan, 1977:114–116). Three inclinations transpire in modern works focusing on the attitude of Ibn Khaldun vis-à-vis philosophical thought and leg- acy, and the exact tradition and line of thought to which he adhered. According to the first, Ibn Khaldun strictly abided by the disposition of al-Ghazzâlî in relation to philosophy. H.A.R. Gibb testifies the emulation by Ibn Khaldun of Ibn Taymiyyah, in preference to the philosophers, and that his articulations on the subject contain Islamic references; thus more than being a philo- sophical thinker, Ibn Khaldun is a jurist and a scholar of divinity with a strict allegiance to the Maliqi school of thought (Gibb, 1933:26,28). Majıd Fakhri affords a similar comment, labelling Ibn Khaldun’s attitude towards philosophy as religious, and cites as his mentor al-Ghazzâlî in the relevant subject, as opposed to Ibn Rushd, the prime critic of Neo-Platonic philosophy (Fakhri, 1992:293). Rosenthal (1955:77–79) highlights the dominance of two aspects in Ibn Khaldun’s attitude in relation to the legacy of thought he had been an heir to, namely empiricism and his traditional education. Owing to his approval of the philosophical sciences of logic and mathe- matics, his acquiescence in physics so long it corroborates the teachings of the Qur’an, and conversely augmenting the tone of criticism with regard to philosophical divinity, Rosenthal deems Ibn Khaldun a follower of the al-Ghazzalian line (Gezer, 1997:116–119,259). Lacoste,

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of the Ibn Sînâ philosophy as assembled by Fakhr al-Din al-Râzî, subsequently leading to an acceptance of the Ashari metaphysics and the Peripatetic mode of thinking, he has providentially imparted to the science of umran a changing and unique character (e.g., Türker, 2006:264). In effect, the attitude Ibn Kha- ldun developed concerning the falasifa’s political philosophy is an original exposition in its entirety.

proceeding from Ibn Khaldun’s words regarding the science of umrân and self-accent on his historiographer identity, has inferred Ibn Khaldun’s observance of a rational philosophy, con- cluding he was an adamant al-Ghazzalian. Ibn Khaldun effectively gives concession to philoso- phy in some areas, albeit taking the criticism, at other times, even further than al-Ghazzali (Lacoste, 1993:214). Another interpretation of his traditional allegiance is to the effect of brand- ing him as the continuation of the Greek philosophical tradition, particularly Ibn Rushd, over- tones predominant in the Ibn Khaldun research undertaken by Richard Walzer and Muhsin Mahdi. Accounts of Ibn Khaldun’s reading of the works of Ibn Sînâ and Ibn Rushd, specifically his supposed annotations to certain works of the latter, are the force behind Mahdi’s construal of Ibn Khaldun’s adherence to Ibn Rushd, stressing that although Ibn Khaldun had censured the Neo-Platonic notion of philosophy endorsed by al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, no such criticism was made against Ibn Rushd and, therefore, he was simply seeking to unfetter Aristotelian philoso- phy from the shackles of theology and mysticism (e.g., Mahdi, 1957:33,72,89,109,225,289; Gezer, 1997:123). On the word of Mahdi (1957:8,285), therefore, Ibn Khaldun is but a tradi- tional pupil of classical and Islamic philosophy. Besides hinting at the imprints of Greek phi- losophy on the political theory of Ibn Khaldun, Walzer maintains that, beyond imitating al-Farabi, by expanding the political arguments verbalised by the virtuous and non-virtuous social organisations, Ibn Khaldun had implemented them on to the explanatory forms of nomadic and settled lives of the time (Rosenthal, 1955:77,84; Walzer, 1963:40–41), challeng- ingly, cannot justify the influence of Ibn Rushd on Ibn Khaldun, in that had Ibn Khaldun been aware of Ibn Rushd’s annotation to Plato’s republic, he would not have appraised the virtuous city of the falasifa as merely a hypothesis and offered casual remarks in passing; as in the annota- tion, Ibn Rushd refers to the states of Maghreb of the time, as cases in point for types of non- virtuous cities, condemning them for being unethical from a realist angle. As the chief impetus behind Ibn Khaldun’s founding of the science of umrân, Rosenthal pinpoints his embracement of the empirical method and his rearing in traditional education. Rosenthal confirms the influence of al-Ghazzali in Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of philosophical and rational sciences, and brands the latter as a al-Ghazzali an thinker for recommending his works, particularly Tehafut. The proclivity toward envisaging Ibn Khaldun as a member of a certain current in philosophy and history of Islamic thought has currently made way, as illustrated by contemporary works, to his originality, noticeable among others, in the works of Ahmet Arslan and Umit Hassan (e.g., Arslan, 2002:507) asserts that as regards philosophy, Ibn Khaldun advances from an entirely certain and coherent outlook, palpably thriving to reduce philosophy to a science, concomi- tantly compelling him to reject disciplines he regards as harbouring unscientific premises, and to accept other. Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of philosophy is thus devoid of religious anxieties and objectives; it is rather a purely philosophical criticsm rooted in philosophical-scientific argu- ments, premises and principles (e.g., Gezer, 1997:128,129; Arslan, 2002:514,512). Reflecting on Ibn Khaldun’s political theory, Ümit Hassan (1997:115,117,122) argues that Ibn Khaldun had developed a realist rationalism based on observation and objectivity, in the face of a specula- tive rationalism based purely on reason; he had established a synthesis between reason and rev- elation and that his philosophical criticisms bore religious concern.

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The epistemological and methodological nature of Ibn Khaldun’s criticism of the philosophers has not obviated a convergence of the two parties on the contents of some issues, particularly as regards political theories. Expounding general theories concerning the umran and its contents, Ibn Khaldun has fol-

lowed the trail of the falasifa tradition, especially that of al-Farabi. We shall now touch upon the similar aspects shared by Ibn Khaldun and al-Farabi, delineating the traces of distinction in the process. Modern commentaries have stressed Ibn Khaldun’s ultimate debt to al- Farabi, in his usage of the term umran and belief in the inevitability for humans

of social organisation. Rosenthal purports that in enunciating the existence of a

worldwide state home to all humankind, al-Farabi had used the term maʾmura,

from which umran could originally have been derived (e.g., Rosenthal, 1955:81). Moreover, al-Farabi states in his Summary of Plato’s Laws, “Plato had expli- cated that all types of principles are subject to becoming, deterioration and regeneration, including the growth of cities, development of arts, source and

expansion of

Mahdi, al-Farabi employs the terms umran and al-asabiyya, pivotal compo- nents of the innovative science of Ibn Khaldun, on a contextually similar plane

(e.g., Mahdi, 1991:185). Perhaps a more penetrating undertaking of a com-

parison between the concept of millah, propounded by al-Farabi, specifically

in the context of virtuous and non-virtuous millah, with Ibn Khaldun’s notion

of umran, could yield striking results with regard to the appraisals of the legacy of humanity of the these thinkers respectively. Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]69) confers with the philosophers in accepting humans as social beings. Uniformly acknowledging accommodation, coopera-

tive work and intellectual progress as prime incentives for instituting a society, Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]71) nonetheless minimises the above catalysts at the expense of accentuating security as the chief concern. Evaluating humans as social beings is an attitude leaning more towards the falasifa vis-à-vis al-Ghazzali, in that while al-Ghazzali explains the sociality of humans with God’s creations of them as social beings, Ibn Khaldun alternately lays the stress on the human nature; the predominant imprints of a theological cause in al- Ghazzali as regards sociality are alleviated in Ibn Khaldun to make room for

a natural cause, albeit the theological cause still retains its centrality (e.g., Kurtoğlu, 1999:252). There is a further congruency of Ibn Khaldun’s belief in the determining nature of climate, nature and environment of societies’ moral values and char-


.” (al-Farabi, 1985:44–46). As is also attested by

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Al-Farabi for instance, had purported that dwellings made out of hair and skin in the desert engender in their inhabitants the states of character of alertness and resoluteness. Sometimes the matter intensifies to the point that courage and boldness are engendered. Inaccessible and fortified dwellings engender in their inhabitants states of character of cowardice, security, and fright (al- Farabi, 1986a:40, 2001:22) Testified by recent works and comparisons is the substantial input of al-Farabi towards classical political philosophy, amplified by the incorpora- tion, in his ideas propounded on the qualities of non-virtuous cities, their structure and opinions, of significant information denoting real political concepts (Khalidi, 2003:388–394). It is possible to observe, as an example, al-Farabi’s more upbeat envisioning of the democratic city as compared to Plato, a replacement of Plato’s rather derisive attitude concerning the perti- nent subject with profound evaluations, as well as an enumeration of well nigh twenty types, albeit with mutual forms, of non-virtuous cities. One may addi- tionally see a detailed appraisal of such types of governing as the monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny, democracy, virtuous city, and the Persian monarchy, by the likes of al-Farabi, Ibn Bajja, and Ibn Rushd. Together with similarities between the view approving of the expansion of the strong against the weak, promulgated by al-Farabi as the articulation of the inhabitants of the ignorant city, and the enunciations of Ibn Khaldun of the growth of tribalism, visible divergences also exist. Tribalism, as said by Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]252), is formed by the convergence of men around the incentives of protection from enemy attacks, repelling of the assailants and procurement of wealth; an organisation soon attaining a leader who exercises power through supremacy and predominance. The main aim of tribalism is to gain enough power to institute a state, after which it would truly fulfil its role, imperatively involving the overpowering of adjoining tribes and clans, fol- lowed by the devouring of distant tribes and clans as part of the scheme of attaining adequate power. If their strength is on similar par with the opposing tribe, a temporary and clandestine agreement will be made, by which both parties will preserve their borders. The incapacitation and subsequent annex- ing of one by the other, however, means the augmentation of the strength of tribalism for the appropriation of other tribes (e.g., Ibn Khaldun, 1958:[I]253). One of the two clashing forces in such an instance, according to Ibn Khaldun (1958:[I]254), may be enjoying the peak of their tribalism, while the other may be in the pitfalls of their life of settlement. The above mentioned reflections of Ibn Khaldun are in concordance with the subsequent passage excerpted from al-Farabi, quoted as the opinion of many residents of the ignorance city:

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“Some maintained that association should be brought about by force, the man who is in need of helpers gaining mastery over people by force and enslaving them, and with their help gaining mastery over others and enslaving them in turn; and that his helpers should not be his equals but people overcome by him in battle. For instance, he who has the greatest physical strength and the best weapons will prevail over some man and will, then, when the other one has been overcome and with their help over man or a small group of people, and with their help over others, so that a number of helpers will be gathered round him gradually; once he has brought them together, he employs them as his tools and makes use of them in everything he desires.” (al-Farabi,


Despite Ibn Khaldun’s similar exposition of the growth of tribalism, some divergences from the situation spoken of by al-Farabi may be highlighted. Al-Farabi’s enunciation of expansion follows the trail of the reciprocal clash of opposite and hostile forces, which does not entirely accord with tribalism, signifying at least a healthy, positive and just expansion, contrary to the mate- rial expansion of al-Farabi engrained in brute force. The scene depicted by al-Farabi is a display of physical force, and thus in a sense pervaded by hedon- ism, in that accordingly the authority wielding power is in constant tendency of growth at the detriment of enslaving the adversary, irrespective of whether it is beneficial or not. Tribalism, however, sketches an assenting portrait where various forces unite under the relevant umbrella, for their security, protection, and accommodation (al-Farabi, 1998:291–293). Ibn Khaldun’s nomadic umran conception and the city of necessity, deemed by al-Farabi as the first of the ignorant cities, bear many resemblances, albeit remaining fundamentally different, since the nomadic umran is known for its rudimentary life and the absence of various crafts and trades, while the resi- dents of the city of necessity lead a life catering merely for the basic physical needs. In addition, while Ibn Khaldun charges the nomadic umran with potentialities of occasioning in due course the settled umran, al-Farabi’s city of necessity is deficient of such potentialities with no talk whatsoever of its pro- gression towards maturity (e.g., al-Farabi, 1993:88, 1998:255). Underlining the constant transformation of many ignorant cities, al-Farabi thus says their people foster a contention that there can never be general social laws and principles; in that in his opinion, once we form in our minds the universals we acquire from physical objects, even if they undergo formal changes henceforth, the universals in our minds will unaffectedly remain the same. Thus irrespective of their change, we may still ascertain in our minds their equivalents and essences by virtue of the universals we possess in relation. According to these people, however, external changes of these beings necessi- tate a transformation of their essences we have of them in our minds, hence the constant need to afford new judgments in relation (e.g., al-Farabi, 1998:287).

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The social and political expansion of this fact develops as follows: as being changes, its mental counterpart changes with it, entailing the pertinent resi- dents to espouse the notion that social principles of the city and state are compelled to abide by external change, such that, there exists no definite order in the universe (e.g., al-Farabi, 1998). It goes without saying that the dialectic and progressive method of Ibn Khaldun displays many variances from the above viewpoint of al-Farabi. Whereas the issues articulated by al-Farabi ulti- mately bear sophistic aspects, Ibn Khaldun’s campaign for the unfeasibility of dictating general laws pertaining to social phenomena, under exposure to change enforced by place and time, holds value in view of public benefit. Al-Farabi speaks of a general relativity pertaining to being, while the inherent attitude of Ibn Khaldun is a study into the flow of history, from the vantage point of social facts and occurrences. As al-Farabî had predicated practical philosophy upon a fixed metaphysical and cosmological background, he con- sidered the political area of the pertinent relativity changeable. The dialectic of Ibn Khaldun, conversely, does not progress within such a metaphysical background. On the other hand, there are similarities between many of the situations occurring in the settled umran, and many attributes of cities evaluated by al-Farabi as being non-virtuous, such as the cities of richness, profanity, hon- our, democracy, corruption, digression, and change.


Finally, a word must be said in relation to contemporary readings of Ibn Khal- dun’s political philosophy. In his article The Study of Arabic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, Dimitri Gutas enumerates the erroneous approaches in con- temporary studies of Arabic philosophy as orientalist, ishraqi, and political. Gutas stresses the intrinsic methodological error in implementing the herme- neutic method, first propounded by Leo Strauss and emulated by many, in the political aspect of Arabic philosophy. Although conceding there has been a sufficient accentuation of the political philosophy of the falasifa, Gutas nonethe- less laments the long spanning neglect of Ibn Khaldun’s political theories in these studies, at least their outright disregard in the work Medieval Political Phi- losophy, edited by Ralph Lerner and Muhsin Mahdi, long esteemed as a seminal reference in the English language in the field of Islamic political philosophy (Mahdi and Lerner, 1995). Though Gutas believes that Ibn Khaldun’s inferences in Muqaddimah regarding the political philosophy of the falasifa are open to question, the science and philosophy of politics in Islamic thought, he states, in its truest sense of the term, begins with Ibn Khaldun (Gutas, 2004b:180).

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Proceeding from what has been stated thus far, stemming from his proposal of an empirical method we may acquiesce in Ibn Khaldun being the inaugura- tor in Islam of political science, although accepting him as the founder of a full-fledged political philosophy seems unfeasible. Political philosophy-wise, Ibn Khaldun, it could be construed, had proposed a more realist, empirical and scientific political theory, in comparison to Aristotle. Thus a compilation of Islamic political thought may begin with al-Farabi, though it must not overlook Ibn Khaldun. The cogitations of al-Farabi with reference to non- virtuous cities are preponderantly illuminative of real politics. Elaborating on the characteristics of one of the non-virtuous cities, for instance, al-Farabi argues that the relevant city’s first premier may transfer the economic resources of other cities to his own to provide for the financial proliferation of his sub- jects, a circumstance whose actuality is so vivid especially in the modern world. Although as necessary components of his system al-Farabi incidentally touches on the particular matters, he leaves them precisely undetermined. Returning to Ahmet Arslan’s comments, we may infer that the falasifa have proceeded from Ibn Khaldun’s point of departure and Ibn Khaldun from the falasifa’s. Thus contrary to being entirely expulsive of each other, the viewpoints per- taining to politics defended by Ibn Khaldun and the philosophers bear unify- ing aspects. The anguish of political philosophy under the sword of political science has been reiterated of late, concomitantly leading to the questioning of the veracity of a political science as such, precisely where the political theories of Ibn Khaldun and the philosophers, singularly from the perspective of the philosophical legacy we possess, may characteristically impart a constructive point of view and material of similar stock. Thus the following conclusion may be reached: in spite of his innately critical approach, insofar as his endorsed methodology and entailed inferences are concerned, we may affirm that Ibn Khaldun had ultimately depicted, by help of a different method and expert knowledge, the laws and social principles described by the falasifa. This, on its own, may disclose us cogitative inspirations to the effect of revivifying the two undividable spheres, as revealed in the flow of history, of Islamic political thought, by taking reference at once the falasifa and Ibn Khaldun; the former precisely in the theoretical and metaphysical arena, and the latter in the practi- cal field. Thus destiny may just have it that, as a thinker read and studied in times of crisis in Islamic history, Ibn Khaldun will continue to be regarded as an overall enlightener in social sciences in the broadest sense, especially in political science and philosophy.

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