Week 1 Ibn Khaldun and Sociology

In weeks 1-4 we introduce key concepts from Sociology and Social Psychology.

We begin with a short one page reading from the “father” of sociology, Ibn Khaldun (1325-1407 CE).  Ibn Khaldun was born in Tunis into a family of government servants.  He was orphaned at the age of 14 when the Black Death or bubonic plague swept across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe and killed both of his parents.  About 1/4 of the population in these regions died because of the plague.  Raised by his uncle, Ibn Khaldun attended the Zaytun University mosque in Tunis, when the Hafsid invasion forced him to flee.  He was only 20 years of age.  He lived among the Berber tribes in Algeria for a time before moving on to Fez, the capital city of the new Hafsid dynasty, where he completed his university studies at Al-Qarawiyyin University.  He was again forced into exile because of political differences and went to work as an official and ambassador for the Muslim dynasty at Granada in Andalusia (Spain).  He married and started a family and relocated back to Tunis where he worked as a law judge.  He then moved to Cairo where he was immediately hired and recognized as a leading judge and legal scholar of the Maliki School of Law (one of the four madhahibs along with the Hanbali, Hanafi and Shafi’i).  In Tunis and in Cairo he began to write his great history, the Kitab al-Ibar of which the first volume is the introduction and known as the Muqaddimah.  We’ll read below in English / Arabic the section in which he describes the social characteristics that distinguish humans from other creations.  We’ll also read a section in which he describes differences between city and rural or bedouin life.

KEYWORDS:  Perception;  Consciousness;  thinking, intellect;  (Cognition)

Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah (Chapter 6) preface

1. Man’s ability to think.

I T 5 SHOULD BE KNOWN that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which He made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man’s noble superiority over existing things.

This comes about as follows: Perception – that is, consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence – is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of all other being 6 and existent things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses God has given them, that is, the senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things outside his es­sence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain.7 With the help of these powers, man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by the word af’idah “hearts” in the Qur’an; “He gave you hearing and vision and hearts.” 8 Af’idah “hearts” is the plural of fu’dd. It means here the ability to think.

The ability to think has several degrees. The first degree is man’s intellectual understanding of the things that exist in the outside world in a natural or arbitrary order, so that he may try to arrange them with the help of his own power. This kind of thinking mostly consists of perceptions. It is the discerning intellect,8a with the help of which man obtains the things that are useful for him and his livelihood, and repels the things that are harmful to him.

The second degree is the ability to think which provides man with the ideas and the behavior needed in dealing with his fellow men and in leading them. It mostly conveys apperceptions, which are obtained one by one through experience, until they have become really useful. This is called the experimental intellect.

The third degree is the ability to think which provides the knowledge, or hypothetical knowledge, of an object beyond sense perception without any practical activity (going with it). This is the speculative intellect. It consists of both perceptions and apperceptions. They are arranged according to a special order, following special conditions, and thus provide some other knowledge of the same kind, that is, either perceptive or apperceptive. Then, they are again combined with something else, and again provide some other knowledge. The end of the process is to be provided with the perception of existence as it is, with its various genera, differences, reasons, and causes. By thinking about these things, (man) achieves perfection in his reality and becomes pure intellect and perceptive soul. This is the meaning of human reality.

From <http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ik/Muqaddimah/Chapter6/Ch_6_01.htm>

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