The Muqaddimah, also known as the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun (Arabic: مقدّمة ابن خلدون) or Ibn Khaldun's Prolegomena (Ancient Greek: Προλεγόμενα), is a book written by the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun in 1377 which records an early view of universal history. Some modern thinkers view it as the first work dealing with the social sciences of sociology, demography, and cultural history. The Muqaddimah also deals with Islamic theology, historiography, the philosophy of history, economics, political theory, and ecology. It has also been described as an early representative of social Darwinism, and Darwinism.
Ibn Khaldun wrote the work in 1377 as the introduction chapter and the first book of his planned work of world history, the Kitābu l-ʻibar ("Book of Lessons"; full title: Kitābu l-ʻibari wa Dīwāni l-Mubtada' wal-Ḥabar fī ayāmi l-ʻarab wal-ʿajam wal-barbar, waman ʻĀsarahum min Dhawī sh-Shalṭāni l-Akbār, i.e.: "Book of Lessons, Record of Beginnings and Events in the history of the Arabs and Foreigners and Berbers and their Powerful Contemporaries"), but already in his lifetime it became regarded as an independent work on its own.
Ibn Khaldun starts the Muqaddimah with a thorough criticism of the mistakes regularly committed by his fellow historians and the difficulties which await the historian in his work. He notes seven critical issues:
All records, by their very nature, are liable to error...
- ...Partisanship towards a creed or opinion...
- ...Over-confidence in one's sources...
- ...The failure to understand what is intended...
- ...A mistaken belief in the truth...
- ...The inability to place an event in its real context
- ...The common desire to gain favor of those of high ranks, by praising them, by spreading their fame...
- ...The most important is the ignorance of the laws governing the transformation of human society.
Against the seventh point (the ignorance of social laws) Ibn Khaldun lays out his theory of human society in the Muqaddimah.
Sati' al-Husri suggested that Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah is essentially a sociological work, sketching over its six books a general sociology; a sociology of politics; a sociology of urban life; a sociology of economics; and a sociology of knowledge.
Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data". As a result, he introduced the scientific method to the social sciences, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science" and developed his own new terminology for it.:x
The concept of "ʿasabiyyah" (Arabic: "tribalism, clanism, communitarism", or in a modern context, "nationalism") is one of the best known aspects of the Muqaddimah. Ibn Khaldun uses the term ʿasabiyyah to describe the bond of cohesion among humans in a group forming community. The bond, ʿasabiyyah, exists at any level of civilization, from nomadic society to states and empires. ʿAsabiyyah is most strong in the nomadic phase, and decreases as civilization advances. As this ʿasabiyyah declines, another more compelling ʿasabiyyah may take its place; thus, civilizations rise and fall, and history describes these cycles of ʿasabiyyah as they play out.
Ibn Khaldun argues that each dynasty has within itself the seeds of its own downfall. He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the unity presented by those areas to their advantage in order to bring about a change in leadership. As the new rulers establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax and more concerned with maintaining their lifestyles. Thus, a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.
Ibn Khaldun wrote on economic and political theory in the Muqaddimah, relating his thoughts on ʿasabiyyah to the division of labor: the greater the social cohesion, the more complex the division may be, the greater the economic growth:
When civilization [population] increases, the available labor again increases. In turn, luxury again increases in correspondence with the increasing profit, and the customs and needs of luxury increase. Crafts are created to obtain luxury products. The value realized from them increases, and, as a result, profits are again multiplied in the town. Production there is thriving even more than before. And so it goes with the second and third increase. All the additional labor serves luxury and wealth, in contrast to the original labor that served the necessity of life.
Ibn Khaldun noted that growth and development positively stimulate both supply and demand, and that the forces of supply and demand are what determine the prices of goods. He also noted macroeconomic forces of population growth, human capital development, and technological developments effects on development. Ibn Khaldun held that population growth was a function of wealth.
He understood that money served as a standard of value, a medium of exchange, and a preserver of value, though he did not realize that the value of gold and silver changed based on the forces of supply and demand. Ibn Khaldun also introduced the labor theory of value. He described labor as the source of value, necessary for all earnings and capital accumulation, obvious in the case of craft. He argued that even if earning "results from something other than a craft, the value of the resulting profit and acquired (capital) must (also) include the value of the labor by which it was obtained. Without labor, it would not have been acquired."
His theory of ʿasabiyyah has often been compared to modern Keynesian economics, with Ibn Khaldun's theory clearly containing the concept of the multiplier. A crucial difference, however, is that whereas for John Maynard Keynes it is the middle class's greater propensity to save that is to blame for economic depression, for Ibn Khaldun it is the governmental propensity to save at times when investment opportunities do not take up the slack which leads to aggregate demand.
Another modern economic theory anticipated by Ibn Khaldun is supply-side economics. He "argued that high taxes were often a factor in causing empires to collapse, with the result that lower revenue was collected from high rates." He wrote:
It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments.
Ibn Khaldun introduced the concept now popularly known as the Laffer curve, that increases in tax rates initially increase tax revenues, but eventually the increases in tax rates cause a decrease in tax revenues. This occurs as too high a tax rate discourages producers in the economy.
In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue ... As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow ... owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects ...and sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield ... But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes ... Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation.
This analysis is very similar to the modern economic concept known as the Laffer curve. Laffer does not claim to have invented the concept himself, noting that the idea was present in the work of Ibn Khaldun and, more recently, John Maynard Keynes.
The Muqaddimah is also held to be a foundational work for the schools of historiography, cultural history, and the philosophy of history. The Muqaddimah also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history.
Franz Rosenthal wrote in the History of Muslim Historiography:
Muslim historiography has at all times been united by the closest ties with the general development of scholarship in Islam, and the position of historical knowledge in MusIim education has exercised a decisive influence upon the intellectual level of historical writing....The Muslims achieved a definite advance beyond previous historical writing in the sociological understanding of history and the systematisation of historiography. The development of modern historical writing seems to have gained considerably in speed and substance through the utilization of a Muslim Literature which enabled western historians, from the seventeenth century on, to see a large section of the world through foreign eyes. The Muslim historiography helped indirectly and modestly to shape present day historical thinking.
The Muqaddimah states that history is a philosophical science, and historians should attempt to refute myths. Ibn Khaldun approached the past as strange and in need of interpretation. The originality of Ibn Khaldun was to claim that the cultural difference of another age must govern the evaluation of relevant historical material, to distinguish the principles according to which it might be possible to attempt the evaluation, and lastly, to feel the need for experience, in addition to rational principles, in order to assess a culture of the past. Ibn Khaldun often criticized "idle superstition and uncritical acceptance of historical data". As a result, he introduced a scientific method to the study of history, which was considered something "new to his age", and he often referred to it as his "new science", now associated with historiography.:x
Philosophy of history
It can be regarded as the earliest attempt made by any historian to discover a pattern in the changes that occur in man's political and social organization. Rational in its approach, analytical in its method, encyclopaedic in detail, it represents an almost complete departure from traditional historiography, discarding conventional concepts and cliches and seeking, beyond the mere chronicle of events, an explanation—and hence a philosophy of history.:ix
The Muqaddimah emphasized the role of systemic bias in affecting the standard of evidence. Khaldun was quite concerned with the effect of raising the standard of evidence when confronted with uncomfortable claims, and relaxing it when given claims that seemed reasonable or comfortable. He was a jurist, and sometimes participated reluctantly in rulings that he felt were coerced, based on arguments he did not respect. Besides al-Maqrizi (1364–1442), Ibn Khaldun's focused attempt systematically to study and account for biases in the creation of history wouldn't be seen again until Georg Hegel, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche in 19th-century Germany, and Arnold J. Toynbee, a 20th-century British historian.
Ibn Khaldun also examines why, throughout history, it has been common for historians to sensationalize historical events and, in particular, exaggerate numerical figures:
Whenever contemporaries speak about the dynastic armies of their own or recent times, and whenever they engage in discussions about Muslim or Christian soldiers, or when they get to figuring the tax revenues and the money spent by the government, the outlays of extravagant spenders, and the goods that rich and prosperous men have in stock, they are quite generally found to exaggerate, to go beyond the bounds of the ordinary, and to succumb to the temptation of sensationalism. When the officials in charge are questioned about their armies, when the goods and assets of wealthy people are assessed, and when the outlays of extravagant spenders are looked at in ordinary light, the figures will be found to amount to a tenth of what those people have said. The reason is simple. It is the common desire for sensationalism, the ease with which one may just mention a higher figure, and the disregard of reviewers and critics.:13-14
The Muqaddimah criticizes certain accounts of historical battles that appear to be exaggerated, and takes military logistics into account when questioning the sizes of historical armies reported in earlier sources. In the Introduction to the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun directs this criticism towards to famous historians such as Al-Masudi,:11 who is today regarded as the "Herodotus of the Arabs" and whom Ibn Khaldun himself regarded as one of the most famous historians up until his time.:5-6
As an example, Ibn Khaldun notes that Al-Masudi and other historians reported that Moses counted the Israelite army as 600,000 or more soldiers. Ibn Khaldun criticizes Al-Masudi for failing to take into account certain logistics, questioning whether Egypt and Syria could have possibly held such a large number of soldiers, or whether an army of that size would be able to march or fight as a unit. He notes that the whole available territory would have been too small for such a large army, and argues that if "it were in battle formation, it would extend" several times "beyond the field of vision." He questions how two such parties could "fight with each other, or one battle formation gain the upper hand when one flank does not know what the other flank is doing", and that a coordinated battle movement in such a large group "would hardly be possible". He argues that the "situation in the present day testifies to the correctness of this statement" since the "past resembles the future more than one drop of water another". He then compares it to the Persian Sasanian Empire, noting that it was far more vast than the Israelite Kingdom and yet the size of the military of the Sasanian Empire at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah amounted to 120,000 troops at most (citing the 8th-century historian Sayf ibn Umar). The Muqaddimah states that if the Israelites really did have such a large army, the extent of their empire would have been far larger, as "the size of administrative units and provinces under a particular dynasty is in direct proportion to the size of its militia and the groups that support the dynasty".:11-14
The Muqaddimah further notes that Moses lived only a few generations after Jacob, the founder of the Israelite tribes, according to the Levite tribe genealogy, as described by Al-Masudi. Ibn Khaldun argues that it "is improbable that the descendants of one man could branch out into such a number within four generations". He states that Jews have claimed the unrealistically large increase in the Israelite population within several generations was possible because it was a miracle of God, a claim that Ibn Khaldun did not dismiss completely. He considers such a miracle highly unlikely, but appears to be open to the possibility.:14
The Muqaddimah contains discussions on Islamic theology which show that Ibn Khaldun was a follower of the orthodox Ash'ari school of Sunni Islamic thought and a supporter of al-Ghazali's religious views. He was also a critic of Neoplatonism, particularly its notion of a hierarchy of being.
The Muqaddimah covers the historical development of kalam and the different schools of Islamic thought, notably the Mu'tazili and Ash'ari schools. Ibn Khaldun, being a follower of the Ash'ari school, criticizes the views of the Mu'tazili school, and bases his criticisms on the views of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, whom he describes as "the mediator between different approaches in the kalam". Ibn Khaldun also covers the historical development of Islamic logic in the context of theology, as he viewed logic as being distinct from early Islamic philosophy, and believed that philosophy should remain separate from theology. The book also contains commentaries on verses from the Qur'an.
Often, we may deduce (the existence of) that high spiritual world and the essences it contains, from visions and things we had not been aware of while awake but which we find in our sleep and which are brought to our attention in it and which, if they are true (dreams), conform with actuality. We thus know that they are true and come from the world of truth. "Confused dreams", on the other hand, are pictures of the imagination that are stored inside by perception and to which the ability to think is applied, after (man) has retired from sense perception.:338
Science of hadith
Ibn Khaldun discussed the science of hadith. He disagreed with the use of reason in the evaluation of a hadith, arguing that "there is no place for the intellect in them, save that the intellect may be used in connection with them to relate problems of detail with basic principles.":562
On the authority of the Sahih al-Bukhari, the Muqaddimah also argues that, despite the Islamic belief that the Torah was altered by the Jews, the Muslims should neither believe nor disbelieve historical claims concerning the Torah made by Jews and Christians, particularly in regards to miraculous events. He states that:
the statement concerning the alteration (of the Torah by the Jews) is unacceptable to thorough scholars and cannot be understood in its plain meaning, since custom prevents people who have a (revealed) religion from dealing with their divine scriptures in such a manner. This was mentioned by al-Bukhari in the Sahih.:14
Sharia and fiqh
Ibn Khaldun was an Islamic jurist and discussed the topics of sharia (Islamic law) and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in his Muqaddimah. Ibn Khaldun wrote that "Jurisprudence is the knowledge of the classification of the laws of God." In regards to jurisprudence, he acknowledged the inevitability of change in all aspects of a community, and wrote:
The conditions, customs and beliefs of peoples and nations do not indefinitely follow the same pattern and adhere to a constant course. There is rather, change with days and epochs, as well as passing from one state to another ... such is the law of God that has taken place with regard to His subjects.
Ibn Khaldun further described Fiqh jurisprudence as "knowledge of the rules of God which concern the actions of persons who own themselves bound to obey the law respecting what is required (wajib), forbidden (haraam), recommended (mandūb), disapproved (makruh) or merely permitted (mubah)".
Some of Ibn Khaldun's thoughts, according to some commentators, anticipate the biological theory of evolution. Ibn Khaldun asserted that humans developed from "the world of the monkeys", in a process by which "species become more numerous" in Chapter 1 of the Muqaddimah:
One should then take a look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word 'connection' with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the newest group.
The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man. This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.:137-138
We explained there that the whole of existence in (all) its simple and composite worlds is arranged in a natural order of ascent and descent, so that everything constitutes an uninterrupted continuum. The essences at the end of each particular stage of the worlds are by nature prepared to be transformed into the essence adjacent to them, either above or below them. This is the case with the simple material elements; it is the case with palms and vines, (which constitute) the last stage of plants, in their relation to snails and shellfish, (which constitute) the (lowest) stage of animals. It is also the case with monkeys, creatures combining in themselves cleverness and perception, in their relation to man, the being who has the ability to think and to reflect. The preparedness (for transformation) that exists on either side, at each stage of the worlds, is meant when (we speak about) their connection.:553
Plants do not have the same fineness and power that animals have. Therefore, the sages rarely turned to them. Animals are the last and final stage of the three permutations. Minerals turn into plants, and plants into animals, but animals cannot turn into anything finer than themselves.:691
His evolutionary ideas appear to be similar to those found in the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity. Ibn Khaldun was also an adherent of environmental determinism. He believed that the black skin, practices, and customs of the people of sub-Saharan Africa were due to the region's hot climate, a theory that according to Rosenthal may have been influenced by the Greek geographical ideas expounded by Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Ibn Khaldun viewed the Hamitic theory, where the sons of Ham became black as the result of a curse from God, as a myth.
Ibn Khaldun was a critic of the practice of alchemy. The Muqaddimah discusses the history of alchemy, the views of alchemists such as Jabir ibn Hayyan, and the theories of the transmutation of metals and elixir of life. One chapter of the book contains a systematic refutation of alchemy on social, scientific, philosophical and religious grounds.
He begins his refutation on social grounds, arguing that many alchemists are incapable of earning a living and end up "losing their credibility because of the futility of their attempts", and states that if transmutation were possible, the disproportionate growth of gold and silver "would make transactions useless and would run counter to divine wisdom". He argues that some alchemists resort to fraud, either openly by applying a thin layer of gold on top of silver jewelry, or by secretly using an artificial procedure of covering whitened copper with sublimated mercury.
Ibn Khaldun states that most alchemists are honest and believe that the transmutation of metals is possible, but he argues that transmutation is an implausible theory since there has been no successful attempt to date. He ends his arguments with a restatement of his position: "Alchemy can only be achieved through psychic influences (bi-ta'thirat al-nufus). Extraordinary things are either miracles or witchcraft ... They are unbounded; nobody can claim to acquire them."
In the Muqaddimah's introductory remarks, Ibn Khaldun agrees with the classical republicanism of the Aristotelian proposition that man is political by nature, and that man's interdependence creates the need for the political community. Yet he argues that men and tribes need to defend themselves from potential attacks, and thus political communities are formed. The glue which holds such tribes together and eventually forms "royal authority" or the state, according to Ibn Khaldun, is ʿasabiyyah. He argues that the best type of political community is a caliphate or Islamic state, and argues that the neo-Platonist political theories of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina and the "perfect state" (Madinatu l-Faḍīlah) are useless because God's Law, the sharia, has been revealed to take account of public interest and the afterlife. The second most perfect state, Ibn Khaldun argues, is one based on justice and consideration for public welfare in this life, but not based on religious law and so not beneficial to one's afterlife. Ibn Khaldun calls this state blameworthy. Yet the worst type of state, according to Ibn Khaldun, is a tyranny wherein government usurps property rights and rules with injustice against the rights of men. He argues that if that is not possible for a ruler to be both loved and feared, then it is better to be loved, because fear creates many negative effects in the state's population.
Ibn Khaldun writes that civilizations have lifespans like individuals, and that every state will eventually fall because sedentary luxuries distract them, and eventually government begins to overtax citizens and begin injustice against property rights, and "injustice ruins civilization". Eventually after one dynasty or royal authority falls, it is replaced by another, in a continuous cycle.
The British philosopher-anthropologist Ernest Gellner considered Ibn Khaldun's definition of government, "an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself", the best in the history of political philosophy.
Assessment of various civilizations
While discussing his "new science", now associated with the social sciences, Ibn Khaldūn states that no other author before him, as far as he was aware, had written about it. However, he was aware that much knowledge of the past had been lost, and thus he was open to the possibility that someone might have anticipated him but that their work had not survived:
Perhaps they have written exhaustively on this topic, and their work did not reach us. There are many sciences. There have been numerous sages among the nations of mankind. The knowledge that has not come down to us is larger than the knowledge that has. Where are the sciences of the Persians that ‘Umar ordered to be wiped out at the time of the conquest? Where are the sciences of the Chaladaeans, the Syrians and the Babylonians, and the scholarly products and results that were theirs? Where are the sciences of the Copts, their predecessors? The sciences of only one nation, the Greeks, have come down to us, because they were translated through Al-Ma'mun's efforts. He was successful in this direction because he had many translators at his disposal and spent much money in this connection.
Ibn Khaldūn characterized Aristotle as "the First Teacher", for his having "improved the methods of logic and systematized its problems and details".:39, 383
Arab and Persian civilizations
Ibn Khaldun makes a clear distinction between two types of Arab people: those who are of ethnic Arab descent, and ethnically non-Arab populations who are Arab by language. He never refers to that final group as being Arabs, and instead refers to them by their ethnicity or places of origin (i.e. 'Persians' or 'the inhabitants of Egypt').:433
About Arab Bedouins, he wrote:
The Arab Bedouins dominate only of the plains, because they are, by their savage nature, people of pillage and corruption. They pillage everything that they can take without fighting or taking risks, then flee to their refuge in the wilderness, and do not stand and do battle unless in self-defense. So when they encounter any difficulty or obstacle, they leave it alone and look for easier prey. And tribes well-fortified against them on the slopes of the hills escape their corruption and destruction, because they prefer not to climb hills, nor expend effort, nor take risks.
On the Arab conquests of the 7th century:
Religious propaganda gives a dynasty at its beginning another power in addition to that of the group feeling it possessed as the result of the number of its supporters ... This happened to the Arabs at the beginning of Islam during the Muslim conquests. The armies of the Muslims at al-Qadisiyah and at the Yarmuk numbered some 30,000 in each case, while the Persian troops at al-Qadisiyah numbered 120,000, and the troops of Heraclius, according to al-Waqidi, 400,000. Neither of the two parties was able to withstand the Arabs, who routed them and seized what they possessed.:126
Ibn Khaldun devotes a substantial number of pages to the conquests of North Africa and the conflicts between the region's Berber inhabitants and the new Arab arrivals. According to the scholar Abdelmajid Hannoum, Ibn Khaldun's descriptions of the distinctions between Berbers and Arabs were meant to refer only to specific eras, and were misinterpreted by the translator William McGuckin de Slane as a more general "racial ideology that sets Arabs and Berbers apart and in opposition".
Some of the content in the book is also related to the "Hadith of Persians and belief":
Thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of non-Arab (Persian) descent ... They invented rules of (Arabic) grammar ...:429 great jurists were Persians ... only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, "If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it" ... The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them ... as was the case with all crafts ... This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana, retained their sedentary culture.
Here again he uses the term "Arab" to refer to the ethnic Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula and "Ajam" to refer to non-Arabs in general, though it often referred to the Iranian peoples from a sedentary Persian culture on the Iranian plateau. Ibn Khaldun made a distinction between being linguistically Arabized and being culturally Arabized. Cultural Arabization to him meant adopting a tribal, Bedouin and desert lifestyle and was opposite to the sedentary, urban culture, which was inherently non-Arab. Throughout his work he makes the point that Arabs during the early Muslim expansion, were indeed de-Arabized and to some degree adopted Persian and Greek sedentary culture. Also note that in medieval Islamic literature, there were two regions known as Iraq: the Iraq-i Arab and the Persian Iraq. The Persian Iraq mentioned by Ibn Khaldun is the historic Iraq-e-Ajam (Persian Iraq) which constitutes the triangle of Isfahan, Shiraz and Hamadan.
This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and the Persian countries, the Iraq, Khurasan, and Transoxania, retained their sedentary culture. But when those cities fell into ruins, sedentary culture, which God has devised for the attainment of sciences and crafts, disappeared from them. Along with it, scholarship altogether disappeared from among the non-Arabs (Persians), who were (now) engulfed by the desert attitude. Scholarship was restricted to cities with an abundant sedentary culture. Today, no (city) has a more abundant sedentary culture than Cairo (Egypt). It is the mother of the world, the great center (Iwan) of Islam, and the mainspring of the sciences and the crafts. ...
Some sedentary culture has also survived in Transoxania, because the dynasty there provides some sedentary culture. Therefore, they have there a certain number of the sciences and the crafts, which cannot be denied. Our attention was called to this fact by the contents of the writings of a (Transoxanian) scholar, which have reached us in this country. He is Sa'd-ad-din at-Taftazani. As far as the other non-Arabs (Persians) are concerned, we have not seen, since the imam Ibn al-Khatib and Nasir-ad-din at-Tusi, any discussions that could be referred to as indicating their ultimate excellence.:430-431
(The Muslims) desired to learn the sciences of the (foreign) nations. They made them their own through translations. They pressed them into the mold of their own views. They took them over into their own language from the non-Arab languages and surpassed the achievements of (the non-Arabs) in them.:739
The Muqaddimah describes Jews as a people who do not view holy war as a religious duty, and states that they are "merely required to establish their religion among their own people". Ibn Khaldūn suggests that this is why Jews initially did not feel the need for royal authority after the time of Moses and Joshua, who led the successful conquest of Canaan in the traditional narrative. He then describes the united kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon, and the two kingdoms of Samaria and Judah.:183-184
Ibn Khaldūn states that the Ghana Empire was the greatest "nation of the Blacks" in the eyes of Arab merchants in the Western Sahel after the early Muslim conquests of Africa. The empire's capital city is described as among the largest and most populous cities of the world.
The author states that the people of Ghana were either "exterminated, or mixed with other Black nations". He suggests a link between the decline of Ghana and rise of the Almoravid dynasty, stating that the Almoravids invaded the empire's territory and "compelled them to embrace the Mohammedan religion". Many modern historians question the traditional Arab account of the invasion of Ghana and instead state that the supposed invasion was likely more a combination of Almoravid pressure and internal strife.
The Muqaddimah also describes some cultures that inhabit lands south of the Sahel, sometimes in racially stereotypical language that was not unusual in regional writings at the time:
To the south of this ... there is a Negro people called Lamlam. They are unbelievers. They brand themselves on the face and temples. The people of Ghanah and Takrur invade their country, capture them, and sell them to merchants who transport them to the Maghrib. There, they constitute the ordinary mass of slaves. Beyond them to the south, there is no civilization in the proper sense. There are only humans who are closer to dumb animals than to rational beings. They live in thickets and caves and eat herbs and unprepared grain. They frequently eat each other. They cannot be considered human beings.:101-102
In the book's section on East Africa, the geography of the land of Nubia is described. Ibn Khaldūn notes the location of the city of Dongola west of the Nile river, and describes the impact of the Cataracts of the Nile on regional trade. He states that cargoes from boats coming from the south must be taken off the ships and carried by pack animals to Aswan.:102
Ibn Khaldun wrote that "the Negro nations are, as a rule, submissive to slavery, because (Negroes) have little that is (essentially) human and possess attributes that are quite similar to those of dumb animals, as we have stated.":117
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