Ibn Khaldun's Life
WRITING the biography of Ibn Khaldun would not seem to be a particularly difficult task, for he left posterity an autobiography which describes the events of his life in great detail and presents the historical background clearly. He supports his statements with many documents quoted literally. In fact, Ibn Khaldun's description of his own life is the most detailed autobiography in medieval Muslim literature. It gives us an accurate knowledge of events in the author's life such as is available, before modern times, for but few historical personalities.
Until recently, Ibn Khaldun's autobiography was known only in a recension that broke off at the end of the year 1394,1 but now its continuation has been discovered and is available in a carefully annotated edition.2 It brings the account down to the middle of the year 1405, less than a year before Ibn Khaldun's death.
In 1,382 the fifty-year-old scholar and statesman left his native northwest Africa never to return. For the period before this date, Ibn Khaldun's autobiographical statements can be supplemented by a perfunctory biographical note incorporated by his friend Ibn al-Khatib in his History of Granada.3 Written in general terms of praise, it lacks any critical appreciation of its subject. There exists another biography of Ibn Khaldun which a Western writer, Ismail b. Yasuf b. al-Ahmar, inserted in an anthology of contemporary poets, entitled Nathîr al jumân. The writer, a member of the ruling family of Granada, died about the same time as Ibn Khaldun. It can be assumed that he relied on Western authorities for the earlier period of Ibn Khaldun's life. Unfortunately, the text of this biography is not yet available.4
For Ibn Khaldun's later years, when he participated in the flourishing literary life of Mameluke Egypt, the biographical sources are more varied. Biographies of Ibn Khaldun were composed by his pupils and admirers; nor could his enemies disregard him when writing the biographical history of the period. The latter present another view of his personality, and though their statements have to be taken with reservations, they help us to understand it better.5
Ibn Khaldun's own great work, especially the Muqaddimah, is another important source for his biography. Written in a much more personal style than most medieval works, the Muqaddimah sharply outlines his own personal philosophy and provides insights into the workings of his mind.
This abundance of biographical source material has enabled modern scholars at various times to write Ibn Khaldun's life and to present the data in a factually correct form to which little can be added. These modern biographies vary greatly in length. Among the longest are de Slane's account in the Introduction to his translation of the Muqaddimah, largely a literal translation of the Autobiography,6 and that by M. A. Enan, in his Ibn Khaldun, His Life and Work.7 There has been no recent treatment in extenso of Ibn Khaldun's early life (down to 1382), but his Egyptian period is the subject of two masterly studies by W. J. Fischel, "Ibn Khaldun's Activities in Mamluk Egypt (1382-1406)" 8 and Ibn Khaldun and Tamerlane.9
In its outlines, Ibn Khaldun's life thus is quite clearly known. However, the modern student who would like to know much more about him, discovers that his questions can only be answered by conjecture, if at all. Considering the excellence of the source material, at least as judged by external criteria, the deficiencies in our knowledge must be ascribed to the internal character of the available information. It is true that no amount of material will ever fully satisfy a biographer, but in Ibn Khaldun's case there are particular reasons why a fully satisfactory account of his life is virtually impossible of achievement. In the first place, Ibn Khaldun considered only such events in his life worth recording as were especially remarkable, the most unusual achievements of an exceptional person. Thus he did not pay much attention to the kind of data so dear to modern psychological biographers. He does not speak about his childhood. His family is mentioned only because family considerations often influenced the course of his wanderings and because it was afflicted by unusual misfortunes. All his ordinary activities are passed over in silence. Ibn Khaldun would probably have denied that this kind of data has any heuristic value. He would have doubted the validity of the modern biographer's claim that experiences which he shared with all his contemporaries contributed to the formation of his individual personality; he would have doubted that recording them might help future generations of scholars to understand him better.
Another difficulty that confronts Ibn Khaldun's biographer is not unconnected with this attitude. Patient scholarly research has succeeded in gaining a picture in broad outline of the environment in which Ibn Khaldun grew up and spent his life. Yet, all our sources together do not yield enough detailed information to allow us to understand fully his position in it for, in spite of his importance, he was but a minor element in the overall picture. R. Brunschvig's outstanding historical synthesis, La Berberie orientale sous les Hafsides; 10 contributes greatly to our understanding of the historical factors of Ibn Khaldun's era. But through no avoidable fault of its own, the work cannot yet answer all the questions modern students raise concerning Ibn Khaldun's development as a historical personality. Just as the autobiography does not disclose all the facets of his being, other medieval historians grossly neglected other important factors. They do not fully reveal the true character of certain events in which Ibn Khaldun was actively or passively involved. Hardly ever do they give precise information about his contemporaries. The rulers, statesmen, and scholars with whom he had to deal are not described with sufficient clarity for us to be able to assess the true meaning of his relationship to them. Thus there are still many questions that cannot be answered, and Ibn Khaldun cannot as yet be made the subject of an "interesting" biography in the modern sense. ,A biographical sketch prefacing an edition or translation of the author's work, however, is subject to less exacting specifications. Primarily, it should fulfill two purposes. First, it should acquaint the reader sufficiently well with the leading facts of the author's life. This purpose, I believe, can be amply fulfilled in Ibn Khaldun's case. Secondly, it should set forth the historical conditions that enabled the author to develop his genius. Where Ibn Khaldun and the Muqaddimah are concerned, we must often enough rely on conjecture and inference, but the thought that it is always difficult, if not impossible, adequately to account for intellectual greatness, may be of some consolation to us here.
Ibn Khaldun belonged to a clan of South Arabian origin. Khaldun, from whom the family name was derived, is believed to have immigrated to Spain in the eighth century, in the early years of the Muslim conquest. He settled in Carmona, a small city situated within the fateful triangle that Cordoba, Sevilla, and Granada form; in that small area much Spanish Muslim history of general European significance took place over the centuries. Khaldun's "children"-that is, his descendants left Carmona to settle in Sevilla. We do not know the exact date, but it is probable that the Khaldun family had already taken residence there in the eighth century.
According to Ibn Khaldun's own memory, only ten generations of forebears separated him from the founder of his family. These are too few generations to span a period of seven hundred years, even if one doubts the validity of Ibn Khaldun's theory that there are three generations to a century. Ibn Khaldun's own genealogy was obviously defective. It is worthy of note that a descendant of (the first) Khaldun had in the eleventh century reckoned about nine generations from the founder down to his own time.11
Ibn Khaldun's knowledge of his more remote ancestors is remarkably limited, considering the great prominence that his family enjoyed for centuries. All his information was based upon works published by Spanish historians. At least two of these works, by Ibn Hayyan and Ibn Hazm, have been preserved to the present day. Apparently there existed no written history or private archives in the Khaldun family itself; such records as may have existed might have been lost when the family left Spain in the first half of the thirteenth century.
Historically, the most prominent among Ibn Khaldun's relatives was a certain Kurayb. He revolted against the Umayyad ruler at some time near the end of the ninth century, and succeeded in establishing a quasi-independent patrician government in Sevilla, which lasted for over a decade. He was killed in 899.12 Ibn Khaldun, however, was unable to determine the exact relationship between himself and this Kurayb. If one can believe in the accuracy of the pedigree Ibn Khaldun recorded, their only common ancestor was the first Khaldun.
While Ibn Khaldun's Arab descent has occasionally been questioned, it has also been considered a major influence in forming his outlook on life and on history. Neither point of view has anything to recommend it. Ibn Khaldun's claim to Arab descent through the male line cannot reasonably be doubted, though he may have had Berber and Spanish blood in his veins as well. Decisive in itself is the fact that he believed himself to be of Arab descent, a circumstance that, in a sense, conferred title of nobility. However, even if Ibn Khaldun was proud of his ancient Arab lineage, there is no indication that it colored his historical views or influenced his reactions to his environment differently than his peers and contemporaries. In fact, it would seem that not his Arab descent, but his Spanish origin was the crucial factor in his intellectual development and outlook, as will be shown below.
The disaster Kurayb met with at the end of the ninth century must have involved a large part, if not all, of the Khaldun clan. But its position in Sevilla was soon re-established in its former eminence. In the middle of the eleventh century,13 the Banu Khaldun are said to have been the intellectual and political leaders of the city.
In 449 [1057/58], there died in Sevilla Abu Muslim 'Amr ('Umar?) b. Ahmad Ibn Khaldun, a pupil of the great scientist Maslamah al-Majriti. He was himself, we are told, a great scientist.14 He was a sixth generation descendant, at the very least, of Kurayb's brother Muhammad. Ibn Khaldun had occasion to mention him in the Muqaddimah. No other scholar among Ibn Khaldun's ancestors and relatives is known by name, but there can be no doubt that most of them were highly educated men. It was a condition of leadership in their city, and that some of them excelled in religious and legal, if not in worldly learning, is certain.
The political leadership in Sevilla, in fact, belonged to the Banta Khaldun together with some other noble families. Sovereignty over the city was vested in a nominal ruler, but actual control of Sevilla's affairs was exercised by these great families from their fortified rural seats and imposing residences in town. In the early thirteenth century, the realm of the Spanish Almohads crumbled. The Christians encroached more and more closely upon the triangle of Cordoba-Sevilla-Granada. By that time, the Khaldun family and the other patricians of Sevilla held completely independent control through domination of the city council; but they failed to heed the call sent out around the year 1232 by Muhammad b. Yusuf Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, to rally to the Muslim cause and help form a united front against the infidel "abomination." The Banu Khaldun, realizing the city's precarious situation, had decided to leave even before the actual fall of Sevilla in 1248, and crossed over to the safety of northwest Africa, where they were not without friends.
The early decision to leave Sevilla appears to have been strongly motivated by their support of the rising cause of the Almohad Hafsids in Africa. A certain Ibn al-Muhtasib, related by marriage to the Khaldun family, had given to the founder of the Hafsid dynasty, Abu Zakariya' Yahya (1228-49), a slave girl who in time became the honored mother of some of Abu Zakariya's sons. Now, this Ibn al-Muhtasib was the maternal grandfather of Ibn Khaldun's great-great-grandfather. Thus, from the start, the Banu Khaldun had good connections with the most powerful group in northwestern Africa. In addition, they can be assumed to have had other associations there which they were able to use to good advantage and through which they gained influential positions as soon as they arrived. Marriages and personal cleverness added other important friends.
The refugees from Spain who came over and settled in northwestern Africa in ever growing numbers constituted a group apart, an elite group at that.15 The Muqaddimah frequently mentions the great contributions made by Spanish refugees to the cultural life of northwestern Africa and stresses the superiority of Spain and the originality of its civilization.16 This shows that Ibn Khaldun, more than a century after his family had left Spain, still considered himself to some extent a member of that glorious civilization. Though as a Muslim he felt at home everywhere within the vast realm of Islam, he preserved throughout his life a deep and sincere affection for northwest Africa, the country of his birth, for the "homeland" where, according to the poet, "the amulets are first attached" to the child. He always felt a certain responsibility for the political fate of northwestern Africa and took an active interest in it long after he had left. His true spiritual home, however, was Spain.
This background helps to explain the ease with which Ibn Khaldun shifted his loyalties throughout his life. No matter how high his own position or that of his ancestors before him at one or another northwest African court, no matter how close he was to a ruler, he did not feel bound by "group feeling," as he might have called it, or by the ties of a common cultural heritage. He considered the ruler his employer, and his position a job to be done, neither more nor less. But his basic loyalty to Spain and its civilization had a much more far-reaching effect on Ibn Khaldun's personality and work than these transient ties. It gave him a remarkable detachment with respect to the historical events that took place before his eyes In a sense, it enabled him to view them as an impartial observer, even when he was deeply involved personally. This peculiar division in Ibn Khaldun's physical and spiritual ties seems to have been the decisive factor in his ability to abstract general reflections about history from observed facts, in his ability, that is, to write the Muqaddimah.
The ancestor of Ibn Khaldun among the members of the Khaldun family who went to northwestern Africa, was al-Hasan b. Muhammad, his grandfather's grandfather. Al-Hasan went first to Ceuta, the city of northwestern Africa which is closest to Spain, and customarily the first stopping place for refugees from Spain. He then went on to Mecca, which suggests that he may have used his intention to perform the pilgrimage as an excuse for leaving Sevilla. Upon his return from Mecca, he joined the Hasid ruler Abu Zakariya' in Bone, using his relationship to the abovementioned Ibn al-Mubtasib as an introduction. He received a pension and fiefs. Thus, the intimate relationship of the Khaldun family with the Hafsid house started auspiciously. It continued to bring high honors and, as a corollary, wealth to all of Ibn Khaldun's forebears.
His immediate ancestors were affected by the vicissitudes that befell individual members of the Hafsid dynasty. However, through good luck and intelligent politics, they usually managed to stay on the winning side. Their places of residence changed with the requirements of court life. For most of the time they seem to have resided in Tunis.
Al-Hasan is said to have died during the reign of Abu Zakariya'. His son Abu Bakr Muhammad, Ibn Khaldun's great-grandfather, attained the very important position of manager of financial affairs (sahib al-ashghal),17 or, as we might say, minister of finance. He was captured and killed during Ibn Abi 'Umarah's revolt against the Hafsids, around the year 1283.18 It has recently become known that Abu Bakr was the author of a handbook for government secretaries,19 which he wrote in his youth during Abu Zakariya"s reign. Though not a Fürstenspiegel in the true sense, it belongs to a type of works that, according to Ibn Khaldun's own statement, was one of the main sources of inspiration for the Muqaddimah.
Ibn Khaldun's grandfather, also named Muhammad, was satisfied with the minor position of deputy doorkeeper 20 to the Hafsid rulers. According to his grandson, they held him in high esteem, and his personal influence was great. Moreover, in later life he himself refused higher positions offered him. After having twice performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, he lived a retired life and devoted himself to pious studies, He died at a very advanced age in 737 [1336/37].
Under his influence, his son Muhammad, Ibn Khaldun's father, also pursued a scholarly career. He achieved a respectable knowledge of the Qur'an and jurisprudence and had a good foundation in grammar and poetry. He died in the terrible epidemic of 1348-49. His son, who was seventeen years old when his father died, has noted a few remarks of his father in the History.21 As was customary, the father saw to it that his children received a good education, and he participated himself in their instruction. The love of scholarship and contemplation evident in Ibn Khaldun's father and grandfather combined in their famous offspring with a reawakening of the high political ambitions that had gripped many generations of the first Khaldun's descendants. Thus was produced the admirable combination of scholar and statesman that we find in Ibn Khaldun.
Ibn Khaldun, Abu Zayd, was born in Tunis on Ramadan 1, 732 [May 27, 1332). His given name was 'Abd-ar-Rahman, his ethnic denomination al-Hadrami, derived from Hadramawt, the ancestral home of his clan in South Arabia. The scholarly title of his later years was Wall-ad-din, "Guardian of the Religion." We know that he had two brothers: an elder brother, Muhammad, whose fellow student he was, and Yahya, one year his junior, who, like Ibn Khaldun, was to become a high-ranking politician and an accomplished historian.22
Ibn Khaldun provides a disproportionate amount of information about his education and the personalities of his teachers.23 This was in keeping with traditional Muslim biographical practice, for this science, which had been created to satisfy the demands of legal and religious scholars for exact data concerning their authorities, attributed great importance to the names of a scholar's teachers. In Ibn Khaldun's autobiography, references to his teachers' Spanish origin or to their close connections with Spain occur with regularity. Very few among them fail to fall into this category.
His early education followed customary lines. He studied the Qur'an and the Quranic sciences under the guidance of Muhammad b. Sa'd b. Burral. He learned Arabic under his father and a number of other scholars whose names are given as Muhammad b. al-'Arabi al-Hasa'iri, Muhammad b. ash-Shawwash az-Zarzali, Ahmad b. al-Qassar, and Muhammad b. Bahr. The last-named also instructed Ibn Khaldun in poetry; he may have been responsible for planting the seeds of Ibn Khaldun's unusual understanding of poetry which is so evident in the discussion of poetry in the last chapters of the Muqaddimah.
Traditions (hadith) and jurisprudence were more advanced subjects. Ibn Khaldun's teachers in these fields, therefore, included some better-known names, such as Shams-ad-din Muhammad b. Jabir b. Sultan al-Wadiyashi (1274-1348), for the traditions, and Muhammad b. 'Abdallah al-Jayyani, Muhammad al-Qasir, as well as the famous Muhammad b. 'Abd-as-Salam al-Hawwari (1277/78-1348/49),24 for jurisprudence.
Childhood influences are largely unconscious, and usually the child's reception of them is passive. The most decisive period for the intellectual development of a young man is the years between fifteen and twenty-five. During these years the youth completes his education and begins his career, giving his life a direction which later can hardly undergo basic change. Often, this time of growth from childhood to manhood passes without violent transitions; but when great historical events occur during it, they may play havoc with the ordinary course of development. It was of the greatest significance for Ibn Khaldun's future that these decisive years of his life fell in the period from 1347 to 1357, a time of extraordinary upheaval in the history of northwest Africa.
The position of the Hafsid dynasty in Tunis, never stable, had become increasingly insecure before Ibn Khaldun's birth and during his childhood. This instability may have been one of the reasons why his father and grandfather preferred lives of quiet retirement to active participation in political life. But in the period between 1347 and 1357, Hafsid rule over Tunis suffered its worst eclipse. For a time it all but disappeared. However, it recovered in due course and by 1370 entered upon another flourishing era.
In 1347, the Merinid ruler of Fez, Abu 1-Hasan, since 1337 master of the 'Abd-al-Wadid state of Tlemcen, conquered Tunis. In the following year, after suffering a severe setback at Kairouan (al-Qayrawan) 25 at the hands of the Arab tribes of the region, he was obliged to withdraw again from Tunis. However, for some time the political situation of the Hafsids remained precarious. Abu 'Inan, Abu1-Hasan's son and successor, succeeded in another attack on Tunisia in 1,357, but his victory almost immediately came to naught. After Abu 'Inan's death in 1358, only the usual squabbles of northwest African politics presented minor and temporary obstacles to a speedy Hafsid recovery. Nature played her part among the events that influenced Ibn Khaldun's destiny, adding the Black Death, the terrible plague that struck Tunis in 1348-49 with unabated fury, to the man-made disturbances.26
The Merinid conquest of 1347 brought to Tunis a great number of famous scholars in the retinue of Abu1-Hasan. The adolescent Ibn Khaldun found among them men who inspired him with their scholarship, and who became his shaykhs, the masters and teachers who exercised decisive influence upon his intellectual development. Their scholarly fame was probably well deserved, though we can only judge from hearsay; only a few isolated remarks and scarcely any of their written works have come down to us. Ibn Khaldun took as his teachers Muhammad (b. 'Ali) b, Sulayman as-Satti, 'Abd-al-Muhayman b. Muhammad al-Hadrami (1277/78-1349), and, above all, Muhammad b, Ibrahim al-Abili (1282/83-1356),27 whom Ibn Khaldun considered his principal master. Al-Abili's departure from Tunis, later on, was one of the reasons for Ibn Khaldun to leave his native city.
There were other famous scholars in Abu 1-Hasan's company, such as young 'Abdallah b. Yusuf b. Ridwan al-Malaqi,28 who was of about Ibn Khaldun's age, Muhammad b. Muhammad b. asSabbagh, and Muhammad b,-Ahmad b. Marzuq (d. 781[1379/80]), with whom Ibn Khaldun did not always remain on good terms. Ibn Khaldun, however, did not regard these men as his teachers.
The great plague carried away many of Ibn Khaldun's shaykhs and he lost both his parents at this time. Ibn Khaldun's only reference to his mother is this mention of her death. He was left, it would seem, without the guidance he needed. His elder brother Muhammad became head of the family. Ibn Khaldun could hardly have foreseen that a bright future was in store for the Hafsids in Tunis; had he done so, he might have stayed on there and weathered the storm. He would have passed his life in Tunis as a member of the patrician Khaldun family-and perhaps, in that case, he would never have written the Muqaddimah. As it was, he was conscious only of the dearth of scholarship there and of the bleak political outlook of the moment. The government and the Hafsid ruler were under the control of Ibn Tafragin.29 The twenty-yearold Ibn Khaldun was made Sahib al-'alamah, Master of the Signature, an important court position. His service consisted of writing the words "Praised be God" and "Thanks are due to God" in large letters between the opening formula and the text of official documents.30 The office of the 'alamah does not seem to have included any definite executive or administrative functions, but its holder became privy to all important government business, enabling him to act in an advisory capacity. Thus, Ibn Khaldun was started upon a government career, but he did not cherish the prospect of staying in Tunis. Neither the new and promising position nor his elder brother's disapproval prevented him from absconding, in 1352, from the Tunisians' camp during their campaign against the people of Constantine led by a Hafsid rival of the Tunisian ruler.
With the help of the Khaldun family's many scholarly and political connections everywhere in northwestern Africa, Ibn Khaldun slowly made his way west. Abu 'Inan, the new Merinid ruler, was no less a friend of scholarship than his father Abu1-Hasan had been,31 and his star as the leading personality among northwest African rulers was rapidly rising. Ibn Khaldun met him in the summer of 135332 He spent the winter of 1353/54 in Bougie, at this time in the hands of a high Merinid official, and in 1354 he accepted Abu 'Inan's invitation to come to Fez and join the circle of scholars he was gathering around himself for study and teaching.
In Fez, Ibn Khaldun completed his education in lively association with the scholars who lived there or passed through. He had contact with the Qur'an scholar Muhammad b. as-Saffir. He encountered the powerful personality of Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Maqqari, who, like other great Muslim scholars, considered it improper to reveal the date of his birth and who died at the end of 1357 or the beginning of 1358.33 There was Muhammad b. Ahmad al-'Alwi (1310/11-1369/70) who, according to rumor, had instructed Muhammad b. 'Abd-as-Salam, one of Ibn Khaldun's teachers in Tunis, in the highly suspect subjects of philosophy and science. Among them were also the little-known judge Muhammad b. 'Abd-ar-Razzaq and Muhammad b. Yahya al-Barji (1310/11-1384). Upon Ibn al-Khatib's request, Ibn Khaldun wrote down some of al-Barji's poetry so it could be incorporated with the poet's biography in Ibn al-Khatib's History of Granada.34 In Fez, Ibn Khaldun enjoyed the opportunity of meeting the physician and astrologer Ibrahim b. Zarzar whom later, in 1364, he met again at the court of Pedro the Cruel in Sevilla.35 In Fez, he also saw the sharif Muhammad b. Ahmad as-Sabti (1297/98-1359) shortly before his death, and in 1355 he met there for the first time the famous scholar Abu 1-Barakat Muhammad b. Muhammad alBallafiqi (d. 1370),36 A whom he quotes several times 37 in the Muqaddimah. At that time, and again later, in 1361,38 he studied Malik's Muwatta with him, and, as Ibn Khaldun's Egyptian student, the great Ibn Hajar, reports,39 always held al-Ballafigi in the highest respect.
In medieval Muslim civilization the development of a scholar was a long-drawn-out process and, in a sense, his education continued throughout his life. Accomplished scholars would attend the classes and lectures of their colleagues whenever they wished to profit from them. In this way Ibn Khaldun used every opportunity that offered itself to study with fellow scholars. In this respect his residence in Granada during the years 1363-65 seems to have been especially profitable, but even during his most unsettled years, such as the time he spent in Biskra in 1370-71, he found a scholar from whom he gained information which he later incorporated in the Muqaddimah.40
However, Ibn Khaldun's formative period reached its conclusion during the years he stayed in Fez with Abu 'Inan. From his seventeenth year onwards, his schooling could hardly be called formal or continuous. Possibly it was this haphazard education as much as his particular intellectual endowment that explains why he did not become an outstanding specialist in any one field. Some of the aspersions later cast on his learning by his enemies may be discounted, but the Muqaddimah itself clearly shows that Ibn Khaldun had neither the desire nor the equipment to make original contributions of note to any of the established disciplines. He was endowed with that rarer gift, a deep insight into the essentials of the accumulated knowledge of his time, and he possessed the ability to express this gift clearly and forcefully. This gift helped to place his "new science" upon firm foundations.
Neither in his Autobiography nor in the Muqaddimah, nor in any other parts of his History, does Ibn Khaldun mention any scholarly works written before the Muqaddimah. The Autobiography contains many specimens of his letters and of his occasional poetry-types of literary exercise requiring great skill and a wide range of literary knowledge. They were acclaimed in his own age and would suffice to establish the reputation of a man of letters quite as well as any other kind of publication. In the Autobiography, however, Ibn Khaldun does not state that he had published any collections of this type before, and only one later work is mentioned, namely, the description of northwestern Africa that he wrote for Timur (Tamerlane) in 1401. In the eyes of Ibn Khaldun this document, an official pamphlet despite its great length, hardly qualified as a true work of scholarship; moreover, it was probably never published.
It is strange that Ibn Khaldun mentions no publications by his pen except his great historical work. His silence could be taken to mean that he actually did not publish anything at all during his earlier, very active, years. However, we have the word of his older contemporary and close friend, Ibn al-Khatib,41 that Ibn Khaldun did publish some works long before he started on the Muqaddimah. Ibn al-Khatib says:
He wrote an original commentary on the Burdah,42 in which he showed his wide ability, his understanding of many things, and his great knowledge.
He abridged a good deal of the books of Averroes.
He put together a useful composition on logic for the Sultan '43 in the days when he studied the intellectual disciplines.
He wrote a book on calculation (elementary arithmetic).
At the time of writing,47 he has begun to write a commentary on a rajaz poem I composed on the principles of jurisprudence. What he has (done) already is so perfect that it cannot be surpassed.
(Ibn al-Khatib then praises the prose, both rhymed and unrhymed, of Ibn Khaldun's official writings and speaks about his promising bid for recognition as a poet.)
For any ordinary scholar in his early thirties, this would be a respectable list of publications; however, it does not contain any distinguished work. To compose a commentary on the Burdah was .a beginner's exercise, never much more. None of the other works mentioned, all of which were textbooks, required, or (probably) displayed, much originality. Nevertheless, had Ibn Khaldun been an ordinary scholar he would almost certainly have referred, in the appropriate chapters of the Muqaddimah, to his abridgment of the Muhassal or to his book on elementary arithmetic. His failure to mention these earlier works, possibly because of his own low regard for them, shows his rare and wholly admirable restraint. Since some of them were abridgments or brief handbooks, he may have felt an aversion to them later in his life; for he came to consider brief handbooks as detrimental to scholarship and said so in the Muqaddimah (Sect. 35 of Ch. vi).
Very recently, Ibn Khaldun's abridgment of the Muhassal, entitled Lubab al-Muhassal fi usul ad-din, has come to light. Long buried in the great Library of the Escorial, Ibn Khaldun's autograph manuscript of the work, completed on Safar 29, 752 [April 27, 1351], when Ibn Khaldun was not yet nineteen years old, has been edited by Fr. Luciano Rubio and was published in Tetuan in 1352. The abridgment was what we would call a long and learned term paper, written for his teacher al-Abili, with whom he had been studying the Muhassal. It shows that young Ibn Khaldun had mastered the intricate philosophical speculations of the Muhassal and Nasir-ad-din's commentary on it to an astonishing degree, even though his work was a beginner's exercise.47a
During, his stay at the Merinid court in Fez during the years 135462, Ibn Khaldun was already married; indeed, it seems most likely that he married while still in Tunis. His wife was a daughter of Muhammad b. al-Hakim (d. 1343), the great Hafsid general and minister of war, member of a noble and scholarly family.48 Ibn Khaldun mentions that he had children by her. When he went to Spain, in the fall of 1363, he sent his wife and children to Constantine to stay with his wife's brothers, since he did not want to take them with him before he was settled there. Later on, they followed him to Spain. As a result of his frequent changes of domicile, Ibn Khaldun had often to repeat this family arrangement. He was deeply devoted to his family, but was frequently separated from them for long periods of time. More than once, they were in great danger and held as hostages, while Ibn Khaldun himself was safe and far away.
It is not known whether Ibn al-Hakim's daughter was Ibn Khaldun's only wife, though probably she remained his principal one as long as she lived. We hear, incidentally, of the birth of another son, which must have taken place about the year 1370,49 but we do not know whether Ibn al-Hakim's daughter was the mother, though nothing would contradict this assumption. According to one source, his wife and his five daughters perished in 1384 when a tragic accident befell Ibn Khaldun's family on the journey from Tunis to Egypt, and only his two sons, Muhammad and 'Ali, reached Egypt safely 50 Ibn Khaldun does not mention the circumstances of the tragedy in his Autobiography, so that this account can hardly be trusted in all its details. But its reference to only one wife may indicate that it was Ibn al-Hakim's daughter who perished.
Possibly Ibn Khaldun married again later in Egypt. The only positive statement to this effect was made in connection with aspersions on Ibn Khaldun's private life; 51 therefore, it may not be true. But during his interview with Timur, too, he referred to his family in Egypt,52 but it is doubtful whether this reference can be taken literally. However, it is most likely that he did marry again, a course perfectly proper and almost obligatory upon him in accordance with Muslim custom.
It seems extremely doubtful that any of Ibn Khaldun's children survived him. If so, and especially had they been sons, some incidental information about them would almost certainly have been found. According to the Autobiography, a son of his was a secretary to the ruler of Morocco in 1398/99, but the text of the passage and its interpretation are rather uncertain.53
This is practically all we know of Ibn Khaldun's personal life, and it is hardly enough to satisfy our legitimate curiosity. Even this limited knowledge we owe solely to Ibn Khaldun's inability to keep from mentioning his family altogether when he recounted the great events of his life and career. Thus, in spite of his unconscious tendency to minimize family influence, we glimpse something of how strong and significant it may have been in reality.
At Abu 'Inan s court in Fez, Ibn Khaldun was a member of the ruler's circle of scholars. As such, he had the duty of attending public prayers in Abu 'man's company. But soon Abu 'Inan tried to draw Ibn Khaldun into government affairs. Towards the end of the year 1355, he was asked to serve as the ruler's secretary with the task of recording Abu 'man's decisions on the petitions and other documents submitted to him. Ibn Khaldun did not relish the idea of performing this job, because, he said, he "had never seen his ancestors do a thing like that." It seemed to him beneath his own and his family's dignity to hold a clerical position, even a very high one; The Banu Khaldun were used to occupying advisory, administrative, or executive positions.
At any rate, Ibn Khaldun's official employment did not last long. With the Hafsid Abu 'Abdallah who was at that time in Fez, he had begun a friendship which was to prove sincere and lasting. However, this friendship aroused Abu 'man's suspicion, and led to Ibn Khaldun's imprisonment on February 10, 1357. Abu 'Inan shortly thereafter embarked upon his conquest of Tunisia, and it is easy to infer why he considered it advisable to withhold freedom of movement from a Tunisian who was on good terms with the Hafsid family.
Ibn Khaldun's prison term lasted for twenty-one months. He was released only when Abu 'Inan died, on November 27, 1358. For a young man eager to build a career, this must have seemed a long time of enforced inactivity, but it probably gave him the leisure to continue his scholarly pursuits.
With Abu 'man's death, the power of the Merinid dynasty collapsed. Except for a brief period of recovery under an energetic ruler some years later, the Merinid realm was to undergo a fate that Ibn Khaldun describes often and graphically in the Muqaddimah. The rulers became mere figureheads controlled by prime ministers who exercised the actual power, an atmosphere ideal for the mushroom-like growth of little kingmakers. Each of the higher state officials selected his favorite candidate from among the members of the dynasty and tried to promote him. Ibn Khaldun himself participated enthusiastically in this game, and he seems to have been inferior to none in the art of political maneuvering. Later in life he often complained of the "intrigues" that had brought about his misfortunes and had so frequently obliged him to change his place of residence. Although we feel sympathetically inclined towards one of the great personalities of all times, and naturally disposed to discount criticism of him, we have to acknowledge the disconcerting, if not surprising, fact that the intrigues against him of which Ibn Khaldun complained were merely countermeasures to his own.
The candidate whose side Ibn Khaldun supported after Abu 'Inan's death was Abu Salim. This proved a good choice, for Abu Salim became the ruler of Morocco in July of 1359. As a reward for his support, Ibn Khaldun was made his secretary of state. Near the end of Abu Salim's reign, he was entrusted with the mazalim, that is, with jurisdiction over complaints and crimes not covered by Muslim religious laws.54 This was Ibn Khaldun's first legal position, albeit connected with law and the judiciary only in the European sense of these terms. In Islam, it was a long way from the secular judicial mazalim duties, delegated by the ruler, to the powerful position of judge. Ibn Khaldun enjoyed his new function; he modestly remarked that he performed it well. But it did not last long, for Abu Salim perished in the autumn of 1361 in the course of a revolt organized by civilian and military officials.
In the meantime, the `Abd-al-Wadids had regained control over Tlemcen. Farther east, in Bougie, Constantine, and Tunis, the Hafsids were re-establishing their positions. By contrast, politics in Fez were rather disturbed. Ibn Khaldun, therefore, wished to leave Fez and hoped to find a more secure and promising field of activity elsewhere. However, the government in Fez feared that he might use his knowledge of northwest African politics to its detriment and tried to detain him. He finally made a deal with the Fast authorities and was permitted to leave on the condition that he would not remain in northwestern Africa but go to Spain. Thus, he left Fez and traveled, via Ceuta, to Granada, the only important Muslim state left in the Iberian peninsula. He arrived in Granada December 26, 1362.
Granada was prepared to give Ibn Khaldun a royal welcome. As Abu Salim's secretary of state, Ibn Khaldun had given a friendly reception to Muhammad V of Granada (1354-59 and 1.362-91) when the latter had come to Fez as a fugitive from his native country, accompanied by his prime minister, the great scholar and writer Ibn al-Khatib, mentioned earlier. Through Ibn Khaldun's active interest, Muhammad V had been enabled to reestablish his rule over Granada. For these past services, Ibn Khaldun was now rewarded with the ruler's confidence and munificence and by the friendship of Ibn al-Khatib. In 1864, he was put in charge of a mission sent to Pedro the Cruel, King of Castilla, for the purpose of ratifying a peace treaty between Castilla and the Muslims. Thus, Ibn Khaldun had an opportunity to visit Sevilla, the city of his ancestors. The Christian ruler honored him highly, offering to take him into his service and to restore his family's former property to him. Ibn Khaldun declined; but, it may be noted, he had no word of indignation for an offer the acceptance of which would have involved betraying his religion. Nor did he at this time censure the infidel, as, much later in his Autobiography, he was to censure the infidels of the East.
In the cultured atmosphere of Granada Ibn Khaldun felt secure enough to bring his family over from Constantine. Soon, however, he saw danger signs on the horizon. He sensed that Ibn al-Khatib was becoming displeased at his growing influence in the court. Yet, he desired to avoid an open break with him. As a matter of fact, he remained on the best of terms with Ibn al-Khatib and retained throughout his life the greatest respect for the latter's literary abilities. The personal contact of the two men, however, was interrupted. It appears that Ibn Khaldun actually saw Ibn alKhatib only once again after their Granada association. This was during Ibn al-Khatib's unhappy stay in Fez shortly before his assassination in 1374.
Under the circumstances, Ibn Khaldun was glad to receive au invitation from his old friend, the Hafsid Abu 'Abdallah, who had gained control over Bougie in June, 1364. Asked to come and be his prime minister, Ibn Khaldun gladly accepted the invitation. On leaving Granada he received expressions of great regret and a very flattering letter of thanks written by Ibn al-Khatib in the name of Muhammad V, and dated February 11, 1365. He arrived in Bougie the following month and was there given a rousing reception.
Ibn Khaldun apparently tried his best to further Abu 'Abdallah's cause. However, Abu l-'Abbas, Abu 'Abdallah's cousin, at this time the ruler of Constantine, was destined to restore the Hafsid dynasty. Abu 'Abdallah was not successful in the military defense of his regime. After his first defeat, Ibn Khaldun volunteered for the dangerous task of collecting taxes from the Berber tribes in the mountains of Bougie. The money was badly needed to maintain Abu 'Abdallah's rule. But after the latter's death in May, 1366, Ibn Khaldun did not feel inclined to cast his lot with Abu 'Abdallah's children. Realizing the hopelessness of their situation, he took the sensible step of going over to Abu1-'Abbas in order to salvage as much of his own position as possible.
The next eight or nine years were the most precarious ones in Ibn Khaldun s stormy career. But they were also those in which he played an important independent role in the political life of northwestern Africa. Soon after he had gone over to Abu1-'Abbas, he felt his position vis-a-vis that ruler to be uncertain and wanted to withdraw. He eventually succeeded in overcoming Abu1-'Abbas' reluctance to give him permission to leave. Thereupon he resumed his old connections with the Riyah-Dawawidah Arabs, begun when he left Tunis in 1352, and settled in Biskra. Soon, the news reached him that his brother Yahya, who was subsequently to become for a number of years his close associate, had been imprisoned by Abu1-'Abbas. This act convinced him of the hopelessness, at least for the time being, of his position with that prince.
The political pattern in northwestern Africa for the next few years was a simple one. On the one side, we find Abu Hammu, who was the 'Abd-al-Wadid ruler of Tlemcen, and the Hafsid ruler of Tunis. Opposed to them were an 'Abd-al-Wadid pretender to the rule over Tlemcen, and Abu1-'Abbas, the Hasid ruler of Constantine and Bougie. In this situation, the attitude of the Arab tribes was the decisive factor. They could swing the victory to one side or the other, and here Ibn Khaldun had considerable influence.55
Abu Hammu of Tlemcen was married to a daughter of Abu 'Abdallah of Bougie, Ibn Khaldun's former friend and master. Abu Hammu now approached Ibn Khaldun and asked him to enter his service. For his part, Ibn Khaldun seems to have considered Abu Hammu his most promising choice for future employment. However, he was reluctant to follow Abu Hamma's uncertain destiny. Even in March, 1368, after receiving a most pressing and flattering invitation to become Abu Hamma's prime minister, he preferred to maintain a cautious, waiting attitude. He sent his brother Yahya, who had been released, to Tlemcen, but himself remained in the region of Biskra. The reasons he gave for refusing Abu Hamma's offer were that he was disgusted with the snares and pitfalls of high office and that he had neglected scholarship for too long. Indeed, during these years, Ibn Khaldun's feeling of bitterness toward political life-he once called it 56 "the morass of politics" -and his desire for the peace and quiet of scholarly research, found more and more frequent expression. Ibn Khaldun fully realized how difficult it is to withdraw from the higher levels of politics once one has attained them.57 He, for one, never succeeded in keeping out of public life except for rather brief periods, because the particular gifts he possessed and the services he was eminently qualified to render were always in great demand. Although, when his political fortunes were at their lowest ebb, he fervently asserted his desire for a scholar's life in peaceful retirement, to the very last he always surrendered easily to the temptations of power and a political career.
His reluctance to join Abu Hammu was proved by subsequent events to have been justified. A new element appeared on the northwest African political scene when a temporary recovery of the Merinid power was made under the leadership of 'Abd-al-'Aziz, the young and energetic new ruler of Fez (1366-72). His march on Tlemcen, in 1370, made Abu Hammu's position there untenable for the time being. In April of the same year, Ibn Khaldun met with Abu Hamma. But he seems to have felt that 'Abd-al-Aziz's victorious progress made it unsafe for him to stay in northwestern Africa, especially in view of his own strained relations with the Merinids ever since he had left Fez following Abu Salim's death. Consequently, he decided to cross over to Spain, but the attempt to escape did not succeed. Stranded at the port of Hunayn, which is situated halfway between the modern towns of Beni Saf and Nemours, he was captured by a detachment of Abd-al-'Aziz's troops. Abd-al-'Aziz seems to have feared that his departure to Spain would inaugurate an attempt by Ibn Khaldun's group to secure Spanish intervention in northwestern Africa. Brought before the Merinid ruler, Ibn Khaldun was hard put to it to explain his earlier attitude towards the Merinids and to soothe 'Abd-al-'Aziz with assurances that Bougie would be an easy conquest. When Ibn Khaldun left the ruler's presence he was not sure whether he would escape with his life. He was, therefore, greatly relieved when his confinement lasted only for one night and he was set free the next morning. He went to El-Eubbad (al-'Ubbad), near Tlemcen, the sanctuary of the great mystic and saint Abu Madyan, and firmly decided to devote his future to study and teaching.
A few weeks later, Ibn Khaldun was pressed into the service of 'Abd-al-'Aziz, who wanted to exploit the scholar's connections with the Arab tribes and hoped he could win them over to the Merinid side. Ibn Khaldun did not feel in a position to refuse 'Abd-al-'Aziz's request. Also, perhaps, he was not unaware of the opportunity for a change of scene and for freeing himself to some degree from direct Merinid supervision. Thus, he left for Biskra August 4, 1370, and again took a hand in Arab tribal politics, though he may not have been overactive in his employer's behalf. After two full years of this life, he was summoned by 'Abd-al'Aziz to Fez. He left Biskra with his family September 11, 1372.
While on the way to Fez only a few days later, the news of 'Abd-al-'Aziz's death reached him. He decided to continue his journey nevertheless, only to be held up by Bedouins acting on the instigation of Abu Hammu. He escaped only with the greatest difficulty, and reached Fez in October or November. The confusion reigning in Fez made it impossible for him to obtain a satisfactory and sufficiently secure position. While biding his time, he may have had some leisure for scholarly pursuits; but he had to look for a more promising place to live, and again he turned to Spain, hoping to find a refuge there. His friend, Ibn al-Khatib, now an exile in Fez, had been replaced as prime minister in Granada by Ibn Zamrak,58 another famous litterateur, whom Ibn Khaldun had known when he, like Ibn al-Khatib now, was a refugee in Fez during the reign of Abu Salim. However, Ibn Khaldun encountered a number of difficulties in realizing his plan. The relations between Fez and Granada were at this time strained almost to the point of war, and the Fasi government tried to prevent his departure by every means. Sometime in 1374, probably in the fall, he finally succeeded in getting away, but his family was not permitted to join him. The government in Fez even went so far as to persuade the ruler of Granada to extradite him. He was returned to northwest Africa, but through the intervention of a friend managed to go from Hunayn, where he was landed, to Abu Hammu who once again was in control of Tlemcen. Ibn Khaldun took up his residence in nearby al-'Ubbad. Here his family was able to join him on March 5, 1375.
After the experiences of these nine years, Ibn Khaldun was thoroughly tired of politics and the dangers of public life. Thus, when Abu Hamma asked him to head a political mission to the Dawawidah Arabs, he seized the opportunity it offered to seek freedom from governmental service. After leaving Tlemcen, he stopped among the Awlad 'Arif, the leading family of the Suwayd branch of the Arab Zughbah tribes, and had his family brought to him. The Awlad 'Arif permitted the whole family to live under their protection in Qal'at Ibn Salamah, a castle and village in the province of Oran granted to them by Abu 'Inan, the Merinid of Fez in whose reign Ibn Khaldun had completed his studies almost twenty years before. There, Ibn Khaldun spent over three years in comfort and quiet, and started to write his History of the world. In November of 1377, he tells us,59 "I completed its Introduction (Muqaddimah) in that remarkable manner to which I was inspired by that retreat, with words and ideas pouring into my head like cream into a churn, until the finished product was ready." It was to take Ibn Khaldun four more years, together with an opportunity to use the libraries in Tunis, before he completed his great historical work.
More will be said about the Muqaddimah in the following pages. The other parts of the monumental History (Kitab al-'Ibar) certainly deserve more careful study and discussion than they have so far received, though this is not the place for an exhaustive analysis of the work. But we may, at least, stress the fact that, in general, Ibn Khaldun's achievement has not been judged fairly. On the contrary, a good deal of direct and indirect abuse has been heaped upon the 'Ibar. This began when Ibn Hajar, Ibn Khaldun's famous student, saw fit to remark that his teacher's knowledge of the eastern part of the Muslim world and its history was not too precise 60 – a statement which, though to some degree correct, is so obvious and of so little real significance that one wishes that Ibn Hajar had not made it. In modern times, scholars have often expressed the opinion that the 'Ibar does not reflect the historical and sociological insights of the Muqaddimah.
The last two volumes of the seven-volume work deal with the history of the Muslim West. To this day, these two volumes are the most important source we possess for northwest African and Berber history. As such, they are indispensable. It is, however, more important to know that they clearly reflect Ibn Khaldun's great gifts as a researcher and writer. A good deal of the material they contain is based upon knowledge carefully collected at firsthand. The historical presentation is as clear and interesting as the Muslim taste in historiography-which runs to excessively detailed reporting of facts-permitted.
Volumes ii to v of the 'Ibar (of which the Muqaddimah constitutes volume 1), belong to a different category. They deal with events of the pre-Islamic world and with Arab and Eastern Muslim history. Occasionally, though rarely, they contain information for which they appear to be our principal source, such as the account of the Arab tribes in Syria.61 In general, however, these volumes contain little material for which we do not have older or more accurate sources. This could hardly be otherwise, considering the character of Muslim historiography and the abundant material at our disposal. However, in his treatment of pre-Islamic history, a matter that Muslim historians have always known imperfectly, Ibn Khaldun has the merit of having consulted unusual sources. In particular, he was eager to use more than one source, whenever possible.62 He compared the sources at his disposal and tried to exercise as much critical judgment with regard to them as the meagerness and confusing character of the information permitted.
The pages on Muslim history have to be judged by different criteria. Here the decisive factor is the method used by Ibn Khaldun in selecting and abridging the historical material at his disposal. Much investigation and study are needed before a definite judgment on his achievement in this respect can be given. However, Ibn Khaldun seems to have done whatever was humanly possible with considerable ability, avoiding the chitchat and incredible tales that he easily might have been tempted to use.
Ibn Khaldun does not deserve the reproach that the descriptive part of his history fails to measure up to the high standards set by the theories of the Muqaddimah. His discussion of contemporary northwest African history, dealing largely with material he had himself observed, is obviously guided by the insights into tribal politics which he expressed in the Muqaddimah. The larger, more urbanized and centralized eastern Muslim region presented much more complex problems. Ibn Khaldun possessed only written sources for its history and was almost completely unacquainted with its contemporary reality when he wrote. To apply the general reflections of the Muqaddimah to individual events so remote and unfamiliar to him, would have been an almost hopeless task and, moreover, would have required a forbidding amount of space. It was for this reason that Ibn Khaldun put his theoretical reflections in the form of an introduction. Incidentally, in doing so, he merely followed the example of many earlier Muslim historians who also relegated their general historical theories to the introductions of their respective works. However, they usually did so in a manner infinitely more restricted than that of Ibn Khaldun.
Meanwhile, the author of the Muqaddimah was beginning to grow restless in his seclusion at Qal'at Ibn Salamah. Indeed, it is hard to visualize this active man of affairs, long accustomed to the company of scholars and the great of his time, living out the prime of his life in a place where there was little to learn and even less to do. When he fell gravely ill, his realization of his loneliness and isolation became acute. Upon recovery, he decided to leave Qal'at Ibn Salamah and, thinking of the work still to be done on his History, wished he could be near large libraries, such as were to be found in Tunis.63
By this time, the Hafsid Abu1-'Abbas had been master of Tunis and the mightiest ruler in all of northwestern Africa for seven years. Ibn Khaldun's first, unfortunate encounter with him had happened eleven years ago. Thus, it was natural that Ibn Khaldun should now turn his eyes in that direction. The most promising approach was also clearly indicated. Ibn Khaldun addressed Abu1-'Abbas as a scholar who wanted to do research in Tunis and as a native who desired to see the town of his birth and the graves of his parents once more. His petition was successful. Abu l-'Abbas, respecting Ibn Khaldun's famous family name, graciously permitted him to come to Tunis. Early in the winter of 1378, Ibn Khaldun left Qal'at Ibn Salamah. On his way, he met Abu1-'Abbas, who was on a military expedition. He arrived in Tunis in November or December, 1378.
Once he had again settled down in his old home, Ibn Khaldun began to encounter difficulties with many people, both scholars and courtiers. As Ibn Khaldun tells the story, it was because he enjoyed Abul-'Abbas' favor that he aroused the envy of the ruler's entourage. In view of their past conflict, however, it would seem more likely that Abul-'Abbas was reluctant to promote Ibn Khaldun. The courtiers, moreover, were themselves interested in having Ibn Khaldun under the ruler's supervision, and, as far as we know, had no fear that Ibn Khaldun could use his close association to influence him. Thus, while there certainly was animosity against Ibn Khaldun in court circles, it probably was not due to his alleged success in winning Abu1-'Abbas' favor.
Ibn Khaldun started teaching in Tunis and met with opposition from the great jurist Ibn 'Arafah al-Warghami (1316-1401).64 Ibn 'Arafah was sixteen years older than Ibn Khaldun; he had studied under the same teachers, but it had taken him longer to mature as a scholar. He had slowly achieved eminence in the Muslim world as the leading representative of Malikite jurisprudence. When he saw that his students preferred Ibn Khaldun's classes to his own, he deeply resented the presence of the brilliant intruder who, for his part, may have failed to establish a suitably deferential relationship with the older man. The situation as described by Ibn Khaldun, is, of course, a common one in university life, and while we may hesitate to apportion exact degrees of guilt to one side or the other, neither the fact of this rivalry nor its unfortunate effect upon Ibn Khaldun's situation in Tunis can be doubted. For the rest of his life Ibn 'Arafah never changed his opinion of Ibn Khaldun. Much later, probably in either 1390/91 or 1393/94 65 when he stopped in Egypt in the course of his pilgrimage, he grimly denounced Ibn Khaldun's fitness as a jurist and stated sarcastically that he had lost all respect for the office of judge now that Ibn Khaldun had become one." It has been shrewdly suggested that Ibn 'Arafah's opposition to Ibn Khaldun may have had a deeper meaning, that it symbolized the opposition of formal Muslim jurisprudence to the stirrings of a new spirit faintly noticeable in Ibn Khaldun's thinking.67 Be this as it may, there were more concrete motives to determine Ibn 'Arafah's attitude towards Ibn Khaldun during his years in Tunis.
When Abu1-'Abbas went on another of his military expeditions, Ibn Khaldun was obliged to accompany him, for the ruler feared that if he were left alone in Tunis, Ibn Khaldun would intrigue against him. Ibn Khaldun resented this interruption of his life and work. To make matters worse, he had presented Abu1-'Abbas with a copy of the completed History, but this work did not contain the customary panegyric (on the reign of the ruler who commissioned it or supported its author) with which Muslim historians were wont to end their works. Ibn Khaldun suspected that his failure to have included such a panegyric was used to cast suspicion upon his loyalty to Abu1-'Abbas. Finally, in October of 1382, when Abul-'Abbas was getting ready another military expedition, Ibn Khaldun feared he was again to be forced to accompany it, and decided to leave. He seized the opportunity offered by the presence of a ship in the harbor of Tunis, ready to sail for Alexandria, to ask Abu1-'Abbas for permission to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. This was the age-old pretext for Muslims in public life who felt insecure and wanted to remove themselves from the political scene. The permission was granted, and October 24, 1382, Ibn Khaldun sailed for Alexandria. His family remained in Tunis, possibly because he had first to find a means of livelihood abroad, or because Abu1-'Abbas may not have allowed them to leave with him. They would be valuable hostages in the event Ibn Khaldun turned west instead of east and decided to play a part, once again, in the history of northwestern Africa or Spain.
Ibn Khaldun's Maghrib and Southern Spain
However, Ibn Khaldun sailed eastward, and thereafter his only contacts with the West were by correspondence or through travelers 68 After more than forty days at sea, he reached Alexandria December 8, 1382. He did not then go on to Mecca, but settled in Egypt where, except for occasional travels in the East, including an eventual pilgrimage, he remained for the rest of his life.
If Ibn Khaldun had seriously entertained the idea of going on the pilgrimage at that critical juncture of his career, he gave it up for the time being. On January 6, 1383, he moved to Cairo, the fame of which had already reached him while he was still in the West. Egypt under the Mamelukes was prosperous and comparatively stable politically. To Ibn Khaldun Cairo's size, the innumerable people it contained, and its importance as the center of Islam surpassed his anticipations.69 The city's crowded streets, its splendid buildings, its magnificent and splendidly equipped colleges, and the eternal beauty of the Nile aroused his excitement and enthusiasm. However, his most urgent task was to find a position which would allow him to stay in Egypt. Great as his personal qualifications undeniably were, his career in the West had been greatly facilitated by his family connections, by his relationship with many important people there, and by the numerous helpful friendships that were his birthright. A sizable number of his countrymen lived in Egypt, and Ibn Khaldun presumably consulted them; later on, his own house was to become a center for visitors from northwestern Africa. Yet, in building up a position for himself in Egypt, he had to rely mainly on his own resources, his personality, abilities, scholarship, and experience of public life. His success in Egypt is proof, if such were needed, of his personal qualities.
Fortunately for Ibn Khaldun, al-Malik az-Zahir Barquq had become Egypt's ruler shortly before his arrival. In beginning his reign, he presumably was trying to attract new personalities to enlarge and improve the quality of his entourage. Ibn Khaldun soon gained the new ruler's esteem and confidence. Only once did a passing disturbance interrupt their good relations, which lasted until Barquq's death in 1399. Ibn Khaldun reciprocated Barquq's favor by the gesture of renaming the History in his honor azZahiri, using Barquq's royal title 70 Throughout his life, Ibn Khaldun never ceased to speak of Barquq with gratitude and affection.
Another fortunate circumstance helped Ibn Khaldun in Egypt. Almost immediately upon arrival, he was able, in some way unknown, to establish connections with a high-ranking and very influential Turkish official, Altunbugha al-Jubani (d. 1390), who was instrumental in introducing him to Barquq and into the proper Egyptian circles. He was to spend the remaining twenty-three years of his life in a variety of highly respected positions, becoming at different times professor, college president, and judge. In his youth Ibn Khaldun may have regarded such positions as somewhat beneath his ambitions and the family tradition, but they were in keeping with the development of his personality and the course of his career, as well as appropriate activities for his declining years.
Intellectual communication between the western and the eastern parts of the Muslim world was poor, even if certain contacts existed in Ibn Khaldun's time.71 So recent a work as his History could hardly have been widely known or appreciated in Egypt at the time of his arrival. While still in Tunis, he may have sent a few presentation copies to Egyptian scholars, or, more likely, when he came to Cairo he may have given copies to a few scholars likely to be interested in the work. Nor could his previous publications, if they had reached Egypt at all, have gained a great reputation for the author. But his wide and ready knowledge and, above all, his mastery of literary Arabic, must have made an immediate impression on the persons he met. He was given an opportunity to hold courses at al-Azhar University, and, when it became open, Barquq appointed him to the professorship of Malikite jurisprudence in the Qamhiyah College.
Ibn Khaldun began teaching in the Qamhiyah College on March 19, 1384.72 The inaugural lecture he delivered on that occasion, as well as two other inaugural lectures given in connection with subsequent appointments to professorships, are preserved in the Autobiography. These inaugural lectures are extremely valuable documents of Muslim academic life. The Qamhiyah lecture comprised an encomium on the Turks and Barquq, and a statement as to the spirit in which Ibn Khaldun intended to discharge his professorial duties. The Zahiriyah inaugural lecture was delivered at a newly established institution and therefore followed slightly different lines. It had as its exclusive theme the praise of Barquq, particularly as builder of the Zahiriyah College. The most important lecture of the three was given at Surghatmishiyah College. It began, as was customary, with an encomium on Barquq and a statement as to the spirit in which Ibn Khaldun approached his task. It then turned into a scholarly discussion of Malik's Muwatta, with biography of its author, an account of the origin of the work, and the history of its transmission. On these three academic occasions, a distinguished audience of officials was greatly impressed by Ibn Khaldun's skillful presentation of his subject.
All of Ibn Khaldun's teaching positions were officially in the religious sciences. There can be little doubt that he mainly taught jurisprudence and traditions. But he also lectured on the Muqaddimah,73 and he probably had some liberty to teach historical subjects of his own choosing, if he desired. During all the years in Egypt, he kept working on the Muqaddimah, improving it, and bringing his History up to date.
The Qamhiyah professorship was a good position, but Ibn Khaldun was soon called to a more important task. On August 8, 1384, Barquq appointed him Chief Maliki Judge of Egypt. Custom required the individual nominated to a judgeship to pretend to refuse the appointment, and Ibn Khaldun went through the required motions. Still sensitive to the lure of public life, he gladly accepted the new honor; for, while the professorship gave him prestige, the judgeship meant both prestige and power. Five times more he was called upon to be a judge, and on all these occasions he seems to have welcomed the opportunity for official activity that the judgeship offered. It must have been gratifying to him at the end to die in office. Fully conscious of the importance of his position, he fulfilled his legal functions with dignity and severity; his adversaries charged him with being intolerably overbearing while in office, yet willing to please everybody while out of office.74
At the beginning of his career as judge, Ibn Khaldun appears to have assumed the role of reformer-a rather puzzling metamorphosis for a man with his outlook on life, a realist by both temperament and experience. Moreover, Ibn Khaldun must have known beforehand that to attempt reforms of long-established customs would make enemies for himself. He must certainly have realized that he could not succeed in introducing reforms in a foreign country without "group feeling" ('asabiyah) to sustain him in his efforts. Apparently he was actuated not so much by a conscious scheme of reform as by the urge to do his job well. This is why he proceeded against the corruption and bribery which were rampant among notaries and clerks, and tried to weed out incompetent muftis and ignorant legal advisers. Among the latter were many countrymen of his from the West who had settled in Egypt and set themselves up as experts in Malikite jurisprudence.
As a result of these efforts, he remained less than a year in the judgeship. His will to fight was broken by a great personal misfortune, the loss of his family. As soon as he had obtained the full professorship at the Qamhiyah College, he had set in motion the international machinery necessary to bring to Cairo his loved ones whom he had been forced to leave behind in Tunis. In a letter dated April 8, 1384, Barquq approached Abu1-'Abbas of Tunis in this matter, and his intervention was successful. But the ship carrying Ibn Khaldun's family and some fine horses intended as a gift from Abu1-'Abbas to Barquq, was wrecked near the harbor of Alexandria 75 in October/November, 1384, and everyone, it seems, was lost.76
Relieved from the judgeship, Ibn Khaldun again turned to teaching. He was appointed professor of Malikite jurisprudence in the Zahiriyah College and Mausoleum which Barquq had just built and named after his own royal title. He was now securely established in Egypt and could think of undertaking the long-postponed pilgrimage to Mecca. Ibn Khaldun left Cairo on September 29, 1387, and returned eight months later, compensated for the hardships of the journey by contact with the interesting people he had met. Soon after his return, in January, 1389, he was made professor of the science of traditions in the Surghatmishiyah College, and in April of the same year, when the presidency of the Baybars Institute became vacant, he was, in addition, appointed president of that institution.
The year 1389 also witnessed a revolt against Barquq in Egypt. For a time he was deprived of his throne, but was able to regain control and re-entered Cairo February 2, 1390. During that period, Ibn Khaldun, together with the other Egyptian legal authorities, had issued a legal opinion against Barquq; but they claimed to have been forced to do so. Ibn Khaldun's relationship with Barquq seems to have been somewhat clouded for a time, and Barquq, at the urging of an interested third party, deprived Ibn Khaldun of the presidency of the Baybars Institute. That there was no real break between the two men is shown by the fact that Ibn Khaldun retained his professorship and, on May 21, 1399, regained the Malikite judgeship. One month later, Barquq died and was succeeded by his ten-year-old son, Faraj.
Ibn Khaldun was confirmed in his position under the new ruler. In 1400, he visited Damascus in the company of Faraj. On the way back to Egypt, he made a pilgrimage to the holy cities of Palestine, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron. On his return to Egypt, he found another aspirant to his judgeship trying, by influence and bribery, to remove him and to be appointed in his place – intrigues such as, Ibn Khaldun claims, led to his removal from office on later occasions also. His rival was successful, and replaced him as Malikite judge on September 5, 1400.
The Tatar hordes under Timur were by then knocking at the Syrian gateway to Egypt, and the Egyptian army under Faraj had to move against them. Ibn Khaldun, though still out of office, was asked to accompany the ruler on this expedition, and reluctantly agreed. The expedition left Egypt in November, 1400, and reached besieged Damascus a month later. During the first week of 1401, Faraj and his advisers, informed of a revolt then being planned in Egypt, decided to return. In the beleaguered city a difference of opinion arose between the military and civilian authorities as to the best course to take. While the military authorities wanted to hold out, the civilian authorities, that is, the judges and jurists in Damascus, including such temporary residents as Ibn Khaldun, thought it best to surrender. Their treasonable weakness, which perhaps may be excused by the seeming hopelessness of the situation, won out. They escaped unscathed, but had to watch the betrayed city being sacked and ravaged by the Tatar hordes. To later generations, though not to the contemporary Damascenes, there was a compensating element in the debacle: the civilian authorities' lack of courage provided Ibn Khaldun with a chance to meet Timur face to face and to leave posterity a vivid account of their historic meeting.
When the Damascus judges first approached Timur, he asked them about Ibn Khaldun and expressed the wish to see him. Since the military authorities were still in control of the city gates, Ibn Khaldun could not leave the city by way of them. Thus, he had to have himself lowered by ropes from the walls of Damascus and, January 10, 1401, got in touch with Timur. His personal association with the world conqueror extended to the end of February of that year. Ibn Khaldun's main concern, on the occasion of their interviews, was to obtain the safety of his colleagues and himself. At the same time, he was fully conscious of meeting in Timur one of the great makers of history. Timur, for his part, had in mind the advantage to his future plans of grandiose world conquest, of having a man of Ibn Khaldun's background and experience attached to his court. In particular, he desired to avail himself of Ibn Khaldun's intimate, firsthand knowledge of the western portion of the Muslim world, a qualification that Barquq, too, had considered a most valuable asset.
For Ibn Khaldun had kept his connections with the West alive, and even showed his northwest African origin outwardly by dressing in the style of that region. While in Egypt, he did many favors for Western friends, such as presenting a poem by a Western litterateur to Barquq, and procuring books in Egypt for a Spanish scholar unable to buy them himself. He informed interested statesmen in the West of his own doings and of the political situation in Egypt. In turn, he tried, through pilgrims and travelers as well as through correspondents, to obtain political information from the West, ostensibly for bringing his History up to date, but partly for political purposes. Thus, he was especially useful as an adviser on diplomatic relations between Egypt and the West, whether concerning the exchange of presents or the proper reception due a Western pilgrim of high rank passing through Egypt.77
Timur's interest in Ibn Khaldun's knowledge of the West appears to have been of a more aggressive character. He inquired about the geography of the area and asked Ibn Khaldun to write a detailed description of it to be translated into Mongol for the use of himself and his military advisers. Ibn Khaldun complied with the request by writing a long paper on the subject. However, as soon as he was safely back in Egypt, he wrote another, also rather lengthy document, a letter addressed to "the ruler of northwestern Africa," presumably, the Merinid in Fez.78 In it, he supplied his addressee with a history of the Tatars and a careful and wellbalanced estimate of Timur's personality. Obviously, he felt a twinge of conscience at having given Timur information dangerous to the future well-being and independence of the country of his youth. By informing the northwest Africans of the character of the Tatar menace, he intended to neutralize the potentially harmful results of his previous action.
If Timur actually thought of attaching Ibn Khaldun to his staff, he did not press the matter. Ibn Khaldun was able to obtain Timur's permission to leave and return to Egypt. On his way to the coast via Safad, he was robbed by tribesmen, but when he reached the coast he was able to board a passing vessel which carried him to Gaza. Without having the faintest premonition of the significance of this encounter, Ibn Khaldun met on board an ambassador of Bayazid Yildtrim, the Ottoman ruler of Asia Minor, a power destined to become far more important for the future of Ibn Khaldun's world and work than the great conqueror whom he had just left. It is only just to observe that the chances of Yildirim's survival, in the precarious position in which he found himself at that moment, would have seemed remote to any observer just then.
In March, 1401, Ibn Khaldun reached Egypt after an absence of six months. Except for the dates of his appointments to and dismissals from the judgeship, we know very little about these last five years of his life. He was appointed judge for the third time in April, 1401, deposed at the beginning of March, 1402, reappointed again in July, 1402, and deposed in September, 1403. His next appointment came on February 11, 1405, and this time his tenure of office lasted to the end of May, 1406. His last appointment came in March, 1406, and only a few days later, on Wednesday, March 17, death suddenly relieved him of the office. He was buried in the Sufi cemetery outside Cairo's Nasr Gate.
As is so often the case with men of genius, Ibn Khaldun's actions and aspirations were simple and uncomplicated. With great single-mindedness he endeavored to acquire leadership in the organization of his society and to master the intellectual development of humanity at its contemporary level. His background and upbringing had taught him to consider these the most desirable achievements in this world, and, by and large, he was able to realize them. Recognizing that all means were necessary and therefore justified, Ibn Khaldun's actions to achieve the first goal were ruthless and opportunistic. Recognizing further that the more enduring achievement of intellectual leadership is largely incompatible with the search for worldly success,79 he strove to strike a sound balance between the active and the contemplative aspects of his personality. Aided by great ability and endurance, as well as by circumstances that, though harsh, were favorable to his aspirations, he became the great thinker and doer he set out to be.
In the realm of intellectual achievement, the greatest hopes he may reasonably have harbored were eventually fulfilled. His contemporaries, it is true, and the generations immediately following, refused to recognize or to appreciate the stirrings of a new spirit apparent in his work. But his labors had considerable influence upon the first generation of his pupils, including such men as al-Magrizi and Ibn Hajar, and, through them, in turn, upon such pupils of theirs as as-Sakhawi. These and many other great scholars throughout the fifteenth century profited from Ibn Khaldun's historical teaching.80 It may well be said that the great and active interest in historical studies noticeable during that period was stimulated by him. Moreover, a new interest in the independent theoretical discussion of historiography may be observed at that time. Ibn Khaldun's great example may well have started this trend, though it did not continue along the lines he suggested.
The great period of the rediscovery of Ibn Khaldun began as early as the sixteenth century and gained momentum in the seventeenth. At the beginning of the latter century, al-Maqqari, a scholar from northwestern Africa, made considerable use of Ibn Khaldun's work.81 But for the true understanding of Ibn Khaldun, a people was needed who, like the Romans, were mainly concerned with politics and therefore concentrated their intellectual interests upon history. Such a people were the Ottoman Turks, whose scholars and statesmen vied with each other in their interest in Ibn Khaldun's work and ideas. They included such men as Weysi (Wissi) Effendi,82 Tashkopruzadeh (1495-1561),83 Hajji Khalifah (1609-57), Tab'i Bey (ca. 1670),84 Na'ima (1688/89-1716),85 and many others of the eighteenth century and later. Their activities, so far as they concerned Ibn Khaldun, constitute an important segment of Turkish intellectual history and ought to be studied as such. Nor should we forget the men, often little known or anonymous, who brought numerous manuscripts of Ibn Khaldun's work to Turkey and had them copied for their own study.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, European scholars joined with the Turks in studying Ibn Khaldun. Many ideas discussed in the European West long after Ibn Khaldun's time were found, amazingly enough, not to be as new as had been thought, but to have been known, in their rudiments at least,86 to the northwest African of the fourteenth century who founded a "new science" in his Muqaddimah.