The Muqaddimah


THE ORIGINAL "introduction" (muqaddimah) to Ibn Khaldun's great History covers only a few pages (below, pp. 15-68). As is customary in Muslim historical works, these introductory pages contain a eulogy of history. This is followed by a discussion, illus­trated with historical examples, of errors historians have committed and the reasons for them. One of these is a principal reason why even great historians occasionally err, namely, their ignorance of changes in the environment within which history unfolds. The remainder of what is now called the Muqaddimah originally con­stituted the first book of the History, and was designed to prove this thesis. It was intended to elucidate the fundamental principles of all history, which determine the true historian's reconstruction of the past.

However, during its author's lifetime the original introduction and the first book became an independent work known under the title of Muqaddimah. In the 1394 edition of his Autobiography, Ibn Khaldun speaks of the first book of his History in this way. At the same time, the table of contents prefixed to our oldest manuscripts of the Muqaddimah states that "this first book went by the name of Muqaddimah until (that name) came to be a characteristic proper name for it." Thus, it is not surprising that, in a late addition to the Muqaddimah itself, Ibn Khaldun refers to it as the Muqaddimah 87 and that he gave lectures exclusively devoted to it 88 To all later ages, Muqaddimah was the title almost universally used.

With respect to its literary form, the Muqaddimah would not seem to deserve unqualified praise.89 Like the last two volumes of the History, it is Ibn Khaldun's original creation in the main; it is not influenced by the literary character of its sources, as is frequently the case in Muslim historical writing and as is the case with the middle volumes of Ibn Khaldun's work. The Muqaddimah was written in the precise, cultured speech that was used in academic discussion by Ibn Khaldun, his friends, and his contemporaries in the Muslim West. This language is as much, or as little, down-to-earth as the formal speech of the educated anywhere in the world tends to be. Both the language and the style of the Muqaddimah clearly reflect the discursive manner of the academic lecturer, concerned primarily with an audience that is listening to him, and driving his points home viva voce. A large segment of Muslim literature was influenced in style and content by classroom needs; thus, it became customary and easy for an author to use the lecture style even when not writing for school use or for a listening audience. This was the case when Ibn Khaldun wrote the Muqaddimah, quite apart from the consideration that he used the work later as a textbook for lectures.

Another factor to make for prolixity was Ibn Khaldun's use of a new terminology that was largely his own. Since the reader, or listener, could not be assumed to be acquainted with it, it required constant repetition and redefinition. In addition, there was the old problem of proper cross-referencing which the manuscript literature prior to the invention of printing was never able to solve.90 Since it was difficult to refer to some previous statement briefly and un­ambiguously, it always seemed safer for an author to repeat the same information as often as his exposition might require. In consequence, Ibn Khaldun's style often appears to be redundant. It may even be said that the Muqaddimah could easily be reduced to about half its size and would then be a much more readable work, especially to readers unable to savor the richness of the original language or unwilling to follow all the nuances and subtle variations in the workings of a great scholar's mind.

Nevertheless, as a glance at the Table of Contents shows, the Muqaddimah is logically organized and follows its subject rigorously through to the end. The work begins with man's physical environment and its influence upon him, and his nonphysical characteristics. This is followed by a discussion of primitive social organization, the character of leadership in it, and the relationship of primitive human societies with each other, as well as their relationship to the higher, urban form of society. Then the government of the state, the highest form of human social organization, is discussed in general and that of the caliphate, the special Muslim case, in particular; this part includes a discussion of how changes come about in the dynasties charged with the administration of a given state. Then the author turns to urban life as the most developed form of human association and civilization. Finally, much space is devoted to higher civilization, to commerce, the crafts, and the sciences, considered both as conditions and consequences of urban life and, as such, indispensable for the understanding of history. A better form of presentation for Ibn Khaldun's ideas and material could hardly be imagined.

As a scholarly craftsman, Ibn Khaldun proves his mettle in miniature sketches of the historical development of the various crafts and sciences. His information, based upon his teachers' in­struction, was rather restricted, especially in comparison with the vast amount of Arabic literature from all periods that the modern scholar has at his disposal. For the early epochs of Muslim litera­ture, Ibn Khaldun usually depended upon the traditional informa­tion contained in a few classics, without attempting to verify it, and he did not hesitate to jump from the oldest times directly to periods nearer his own. The results, therefore, often seem superficial and rather arbitrary to modern scholarship. They are, however, de­ceptively convincing, even though they do not always stand up to the scrutiny of a much later stage of scholarship, and thus testify to the insight, vigor, and skill of Ibn Khaldun.

Another measure of Ibn Khaldun's scholarly craftsmanship is the way he handles the quotations that he inserts in his work. They run the gamut from reliability to unreliability, from doubly checked, exact quotations to vague and inaccurate allusions from memory. At the one extreme, for instance, is the text of Tapir's long Epistle to his son.91 Ibn Khaldun first quoted it from Ibn al­Athir's History. Then he checked and corrected it, although, it seems, rather haphazardly, against the text quoted in the Annals by at-Tabari, whom he rightly held in the highest esteem 92 The Annals do, in fact, contain the original text of Tahir's Epistle, which Ibn al-Athir had taken over into his work. Whenever Ibn Khaldun doubted the reliability of his manuscript source for a quo­tation, he had no illusions about the matter, nor did he leave his readers in the dark.93

At the other extreme, there are general references that profess to indicate the contents of a work but fail to do so correctly. One such is the reference to a book by Ibn 'Arabi.94 There are references that cannot be located, at least not at the place cited. These were clearly quotations from memory,95 and even the best-trained memory cannot always be trusted. The circumstances under which the Muqaddimah was composed in the seclusion of Qal'at Ibn Salamah, explain, of course, such lapses; but Ibn Khaldun certainly had many opportunities later on to correct other quotations, as he corrected that of Tahir's Epistle, and yet he failed to do so.

Further, there are summary references to a number of sources for the same subject, none of them quite accurate. There are quotations that reproduce their source exactly, and others that render the meaning of the source correctly but take some liberty in the wording, mainly by shortening the original. In general, Ibn Khaldun most frequently used this last procedure, which the nature of his material demanded, in particular, in the historical presentation.

While the form of the Muqaddimah and the scholarly details of its composition are not without significance for the proper appreciation of the work and its author, its main interest is as a contribu­tion to human thought. Brief summary of the contents hardly does it justice. Much of its value lies in the light it sheds upon details in Ibn Khaldun's political, sociological, economic, and philosophic thinking. The complete text as provided in the following pages is a better guide to the meaning of the work than any summary presentation. Therefore, only a few leading ideas of Ibn Khaldun's system are here singled out for remark.

The center of Ibn Khaldun's world is man, in the same sense that for most Muslim historians and philosophers he is the center of speculation.

Greek geography as it had been transmitted to the Muslims taught that man is dependent on his physical environment; it must provide physical conditions that enable him to sustain life. The extreme north and the extreme south are too cold or too hot for human beings to exist there. The best conditions are offered in the middle regions of the earth between its northern and southern extremes. The physical environment also influences man's character, his appearance, and his customs, in accordance with differences in the climate and fertility of given areas.96

Beyond man, there is the supernatural, which has many different manifestations. It extends from the sublime realm of the omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal Muslim Deity - for the supreme oneness and intellectuality of Graeco-Muslim philosophy had become hardly distinguishable from the monotheistic God - down to the most primitive magic and superstition. Ibn Khaldun sincerely believed in the reality of all the supernatural's manifesta­tions. Muslim religious tradition firmly supported him in this attitude; not only belief in the divine aspect of the supernatural, but also belief in magic, were parts of the religious credo, as the Qur'an and alleged facts of Muhammad's life both attest. The famous Risalah of Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, a brief textbook on Malikite jurisprudence, for instance, presupposes the reality of sorcery, the evil eye, and the divinatory power of dreams. On the other hand, it repudiates astrology as being incompatible with Islam.97 Ibn Khaldun studied this work in his youth and almost certainly must have known it by heart.

However, despite his belief in the reality of the supernatural, Ibn Khaldun relegated its influence to a realm outside of, or beyond, the ordinary course of human affairs. Magic and sorcery existed for him, though he contended that much fraud and sleight of hand enter into their actual practice, as he knew from his own experience and from hearsay. Astrology and alchemy, on the other hand, do not exist; their claims can be disproved by rational arguments. Notwithstanding the reality of some of the black arts, they do not interfere in the processes of human history and are in no way able to do so.

Similarly, Ibn Khaldun restricted the influence of the Divine to the extraordinary in human affairs. It may manifest itself occasionally in psychological attitudes; for instance, psychological factors can be more decisive for the outcome of a battle than numbers and equipment. However, the divine influence on human affairs shows itself mainly in an unusual, rare "extra push," in the added impetus to greatness that it may provide. Religious fervor and the appearance of prophets, who, incidentally, cannot succeed in this world without concrete political support, can intensify and accelerate political movements. History offers instances of this, the most prominent one being the phenomenal, superhuman success of Islam.

Thus, supernatural influence upon human affairs in one way or another was for Ibn Khaldun an established, indubitable fact. However, he thought of it as out of the ordinary and not as a necessity in the historical drama, the processes of which may go on unfolding without ever being disturbed by it. In this sense, Ibn Khaldun's philosophy can be called secular, as scholars have occasionally described it. His secularism does not imply, however, any opposition to the supernatural world, let alone disavowal of it; to him its existence was as certain as anything observed by means of his senses. In his mind the only matter for inquiry was the degree of relationship between man and the supernatural. The civilization in which Ibn Khaldun lived was permeated with a tradition of mysticism many centuries old. Ibn Khaldun was inclined to consider constant and active contact with the Divine to be primarily the prerogative of the individual, and to acknowledge no more than a casual relationship between the supernatural and the forms of human social organization.

To explain the origins of human social organization, man's first step in his historical career, Ibn Khaldun adopted a theory that Muslim philosophy had already, fairly generally, accepted. As he himself tells us,98 the view had developed in discussion of a particular religious problem, namely, that of the necessity of prophecy. But it is characteristic of the working of his mind, that Ibn Khaldun generalized and secularized the applicability of this deeply pessimistic theory. Man, with his God-given power of thinking, is acknowledged to be at the pinnacle of an ascending world order which progresses from minerals, plants, and animals toward human beings. Basically, however, man is an animal, and human organization starts from the realization that, if left to his own animal instincts, man would eat man.99

Ibn Khaldun found this theory expounded in two great works by Avicenna, the Kitab ash-Shifd' and its abridged version, the Kitab an-Najdh.100 A full elaboration appeared in the large philo­sophical encyclopedia compiled by the thirteenth-century writer ash-Shahrazuri. In all probability, this work was never available to Ibn Khaldun. Nonetheless, since ash-Shahrazuri's statement is close to the spirit of Ibn Khaldun's thinking, it is worth quoting here. As in Avicenna's works, the theory of the origins of human social organization is presented in the form of premises for proving the existence of prophecy: 101


(1) The individual human being cannot accomplish all the things that are necessary for his livelihood, unless he has co-operation from someone else. He needs food, clothing, shelter, and weapons, not only for himself, but also for his wives, his children, his servants, and his dependent relatives. All the things mentioned are technical matters. In order to learn them, a man by himself would require a longer time than the time he could keep alive without these things. Assuming that he could (somehow manage) to live (on his own), it would be (only) with great difficulty and trouble. He would not be able to obtain the various kinds of intellectual perfection (that are the goal of humanity). Thus, of necessity there must exist a group the members of which cooperate to acquire many different crafts and (technical) skills. In this way, each individual accomplishes something from which his fellow men can profit. Full co­operation will (in this way) materialize, and the life of the human species and of other animal species will reach perfection. . . . The sages called this social organization "urbanization" (tamaddun, from Greek poliz, town). Therefore, they said "man is political by nature." (This is to be understood) in the sense that he needs this kind of social organization in order to live, to provide for his own livelihood, to improve his situation in this world, and to perfect his soul for the next world.

(II) The proper order of such social organization, which is political and based upon co-operation, can materialize only when there exists mutual intercourse governed by justice among the people, because (otherwise) each individual would want all the needed benefits for himself and would come to grief in conflict with the others competing with him for them... .

(III) This religious law must have (as its founder) a person who lays down all these general norms... .


In contrast to ash-Shahrazuri, Ibn Khaldun does not consider religious inspiration a requirement for the person charged with keeping people from devouring each other. Any individual in a position to exercise a restraining influence upon his fellow men will do; besides, on the highest moral plane, there exist individuals with native ability for such a role in society. A person with such restraining influence upon others is called wazi by Ibn Khaldun. The term, and the idea implied, is borrowed from the literature of traditions (of the Prophet and the early Muslims). According to this literature, al-Hasan (al-Basri), upon being appointed judge, had remarked that people cannot do without wazi's; one of the explanations for wazi' in this context is "the ruler and his men who keep the people apart." 102

The ability to think, God's special gift to man, is the particular human quality or innate gift that enables human beings to cooperate. Among the other animals, cooperation can be observed only on a very restricted scale. As a rule they are stronger than man, because they possess sharp teeth, claws, etc. To compensate man for lacking this type of physical endowment, he was given the ability to think, and his hands serve him as skillful instruments for executing his ideas.

As soon as several human beings, with their God-given power of thinking, begin to cooperate with each other and to form some kind of social organization, 'umran results. 'Umran (translated here as "civilization") is one of the key terms in Ibn Khaldun's system. It is derived from a root which means "to build up, to cultivate," and is used to designate any settlement above the level of individual savagery. In Ibn Khaldun's time and place, ruins left by many great and prosperous cities attested to the prior existence of high civilization; it could be seen that large agglomerations of human beings had been stopped in their growth and expansion by geographical factors. Thus, Ibn Khaldun naturally arrived at the idea (which, incidentally, seems to be by and large correct) that progress in civilization is in direct proportion to the number of people co-operating for their common good. Thus, 'umran acquired the further meaning of "population," and Ibn Khaldun frequently uses the word in this sense. Wherever people are cooperating with each other, no matter on how limited a scale, there is 'umran. When the number of these people increases, a larger and better 'umran results. This growth in numbers, with a corresponding progress in civilization, finally culminates in the highest form of sedentary culture man is able to achieve; it declines from this peak when the number of cooperating people decreases.

The two fundamentally different environments in which all human co-operation takes place and the forms of social organization develop, were distinguished by Ibn Khaldun as "desert, desert life" (badawah, cf. Bedouins) and "town, sedentary environment." The literal translation of badawah and cognate words by "desert (Bedouins)" requires some explanation, as it only partially expresses the concept Ibn Khaldun had in mind when he used these words. Ibn Khaldun was familiar with the essential characteristics of nomadism, and often stressed the detriment to higher civilization inherent in the Bedouin way of life. In this connection, he used badawah to express the concept of nomadism. However, in Arabic as spoken outside the Arabian peninsula, the term badawah was applied to the largely sedentary rural people living at some distance from the great population centers, and Ibn Khaldun preferably used it in this sense. Thus, by referring to "desert, Bedouins" and "settled area, sedentary urban people," Ibn Khaldun did not consciously make a distinction between nomadism and sedentary life as sociological phenomena. He simply grouped together nomads and (sedentary) backwoods people, on the one hand, and contrasted them with sedentary urban people as inhabitants of large popula­tion centers, on the other. Ibn Khaldun's "Bedouins" were not, as a rule, nomads living in the desert, but dwelt chiefly in villages, and practiced agriculture and animal husbandry for a livelihood. It must also not be forgotten that, in Ibn Khaldun's experience, the term "urban population" did not have the same meaning as it has today. Cities in his day permitted, and required, a good deal of agricultural activity. In Ibn Khaldun's thinking, the sociological distinction amounts to no more than a quantitative distinction as to the size and density of human settlements.

The question arises: What causes differences in the size of human settlements? If all the elements in nature existed in the same quantity and strength, none greater or lesser, stronger or weaker, than another, there would be no mixture, no creation nor genera­tion. Correspondingly, did all human beings share equally the urge and need for co-operation, there would be no difference in the quality or size of the resulting human social organizations. There must be some factor that causes such differences as do exist, some incitement for the desire for co-operation to exist on a larger scale among some human beings than among others. Only thus can large states have originated.

That some such factor exists, Ibn Khaldun recognized and called 'asabiyah "group feeling." 103 Arab lexicographers correctly connect the term with the word 'asabah "agnates." Thus, it origi­nally signified something like "making common cause with one's agnates." 104 However, in Ibn Khaldun's mind the term appears to have been associated with the related words 'isdbah and Qur'anic 'usbah, both meaning "group" in a more general sense.105 The group with which a human being feels most closely connected is primarily that of his relatives, the people with whom he shares a common descent. But as a feeling and a state of mind the 'asabiyah can also be shared by people not related to each other by blood ties but by long and close contact as members of a group.

Ibn Khaldun's use of the term is noteworthy because it has been much used in Muslim literature in a different meaning. Islam gener­ally condemned 'asabiyah as a quality and state of mind. It is traditionally considered to mean "bias," or, more specifically, blind support of one's group without regard for the justice of its cause.106 As such, any show of 'asabiyah is depreciated as an atavistic survival of the pagan, pre-Islamic mentality. Ibn Khaldun, of course, was fully aware of this customary usage. In a locus classicus 107 he dis­criminates between an objectionable pagan 'asabiyah and "the natural asabiyah that is inseparable (from human beings). The latter is the affection a man feels for a brother or a neighbor when one of them is treated unjustly or killed. Nothing can take it away. It is not forbidden (by Muslim religious law). On the contrary, it is something desirable and useful in connection with the holy war and with propaganda for Islam."

There are a few passages in other writers where 'asabiyah is similarly spoken of as a praiseworthy quality. Thus, from his own reading, Ibn Khaldun knew that on one occasion the historian Ibn al-Athir employed 'asabiyah in the meaning of "giving helpful group support to anyone who needed and claimed it." 108 He was also aware that 'asabiyah could be applied to praiseworthy emo­tions, e.g. patriotism, in which case, as Ibn al-Khatib had said,109 'asabiyah was then inoffensive to either religion or worldly rank. Still, it cannot as yet be determined just how original and daring Ibn Khaldun was when he gave the term the positive meaning he did. It is uncertain to what degree he may have followed the ex­ample of the intellectual circle in which he moved, and whose backing he received. Jurisprudence stressed the privileged position agnates had in many respects, but it remains to be seen whether the juridical literature ever discussed the abstract concept of 'asabiyah in this context. Possibly, Ibn Khaldun got some support from this quarter.110 At any rate, so far as our present knowledge goes, it seems that his use of the term 'asabiyah in so positive a sense is his most original single intellectual contribution to the Muqaddimah.

Preponderance of 'asabiyah renders one group superior to others; it also determines leadership within a given group. The leading or ruling element within one or more groups will be that person or, more frequently, that family, the importance and ramifications of whose blood relationships give them the strongest and most natural claim to control of the available 'asabiyahs. And no group can retain its predominance, nor any leader his dominant position in the group, when their former 'asabiyah is no longer there to support them.

The leader who controls an 'asabiyah of sufficient strength and importance may succeed in founding a dynasty and in winning mulk, "royal authority," for himself and his family. In Ibn Khaldun's vocabulary, the word for both "dynasty" and "state" is dawlah, although the idea of "state" also finds approximate expression in the occasional use of such terms as amr and kalimah.111 In Ibn Khaldun's view of history, according to which the whole world and everything in it depends upon man, there is no room for an abstract concept of "the state." A state exists only in so far as it is held together and ruled by individuals and the group which they constitute, that is, the dynasty. When the dynasty disappears, the state, being identical with it, also comes to an end.

According to Ibn Khaldun, the described process of the formation of states does not apply to the early Muslim state. Early Muslim history, with its concept of a pure, unworldly type of state, represented by the first four caliphs, must be considered an exception to the law of 'asabiyah that governs the formation of states in general. However, this particular case represents one of the rare interventions of the supernatural in human affairs. Therefore, Ibn Khaldun was able to follow the orthodox Muslim view of early Islamic history (and of the recurrence of the early conditions at a later date in the days of the Mahdi as well), and felt justified in dealing extensively with the caliphate and its institutions, even though they were, for him, entirely atypical.

Since the founding of a dynasty or state involves large numbers of people, it is, of necessity, linked to the most developed stage of 'umran, that in which it becomes hadarah "sedentary culture." A dynasty requires large cities and towns and makes their existence possible; in turn, they permit the development of luxury. According to the philosophic ideas mentioned above as to the origins of man's social organization, all human activities are undertaken to enable the individual to preserve his life and to secure his livelihood. To that end, each man has to contribute his labor, which is his only basic capital, to satisfy the fundamental needs of his group. When there is a large number of human beings, a large amount of labor, even an excess supply of it, becomes available. A certain amount of labor may then be channeled into the production of things and the provision of services that are scarcely necessities but may be called "conveniences." Finally, the available pool of excess manpower is large enough to permit the cultivation of crafts that serve no actual need but are concerned with mere luxuries.112 Once this stage in the development of civilization is reached, man is able to develop the sciences which, although they do not produce any material object or immediate gain, nonetheless constitute fulfill­ment of mankind's higher and truly human aspirations in the domains of the spirit and the intellect.

This development towards luxury carries its own penalty with it in the form of causing degeneration. The pristine simplicity and rudeness of manners (often called "desert life" and "desert attitude") that flourished in small human organizations, become corroded.113 Obviously, Ibn Khaldun had a lingering and rather sentimental admiration for "the good old days" when Arab civilization was imbued with the desert attitude. However, he fully recognized the superiority of sedentary culture, the goal of all of man's efforts to become civilized, and was resigned to the inevitability of the development leading to and past it.

The principal victim of this inevitable tendency towards luxury is state and dynasty. Like an individual, the dynasty is endowed with a natural span of life. It runs its full course in three generations-"from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves," so to speak. It passes from obscurity through power and wealth back into obscurity. Three interrelated factors produce this development and accelerate the eventual "senile decay" of the dynasty: indulgence in luxury, loss of 'asabiyah, and financial trouble.114 The desire of the ruling group to gain exclusive control over all the sources of power and wealth brings about strained relations and, eventually, a fatal estrangement between the dynasty and the men whose 'asabiyah supports and maintains it. Its members thus come to need military support from outside sources, and must have money to procure it. Further, their growing addiction to luxurious habits also requires more and more money. To raise the needed sums, they must increase the tax load and try to open up new sources of revenue. Finally, the point of diminishing returns is reached in tax collections and other schemes for securing added revenues.

As a jurist, Ibn Khaldun was naturally much interested in questions of government finance and business matters. The Muslim legal and economic literature in our possession clearly reflects the great practical importance assigned these questions in juridical activity. Yet, this literature is dominated by theoretical considerations and is greatly inclined to follow traditional forms. It is far from containing complete information about the innumerable aspects of financial and economic life that occupied the day-by-day attention of lawyers and jurists and were discussed in academic legal circles. Written formulations of legal questions were largely obliged to follow theoretical lines; practical economic and financial matters were not considered worthy of being treated in books. Thus, Ibn Khaldun's attention to practical questions in a literary work showed admirable boldness. He succeeded in giving a picture of the role of capital and labor in society that not only does credit to his acumen, but bears witness to the high level the legal circles of his time had reached in their understanding of these matters.

In the course of its rapid progress toward senility and final collapse, the dynasty loses control of its own destiny. Often the ruler becomes a ruler in name only, controlled by some outsider who is not a member of the dynasty but who wields the actual power. However, there are limitations to the outsider's sway since no 'asabiyah ("group feeling") sustains him. Thus, as a rule, he is unable to take over complete authority; eventually he may supersede the dynasty by founding one of his own. To achieve this, however, the challenging person or group must be fired and propelled by possession of a new 'asabiyah.

All dynastic history moves in circles. As it approaches senility, the dynasty slowly shrinks inwards from its borders toward its center, under the persistent pressure of the new "outside" leader and his group. Eventually, the ruling dynasty collapses. The new leader and his group thereupon constitute a new dynasty, which takes power -only to suffer, in three more generations, the fate of its predecessors.

Here, another problem arises. How, under these conditions, can the survival of any higher civilization be explained? In the first place, there is the great and inevitable attraction of a higher civilization for people on a lower level. Defeated peoples always show a strong tendency towards imitating the customs of their conquerors in every detail. While still struggling against the ruling dynasty, and during the first period of their power after having displaced it, the less civilized groups take over some of the advantages of civilization that the ruling dynasty had possessed. Thus, they do not start completely afresh, and some of the gains of the older civilization, at least, are preserved. Ibn Khaldun's answer to the problem of how all higher civilization is preserved lies in the word malakah "habit." Malakah is a loan-translation of the Greek exiz, which also was translated into the Latin habitus, from which our "habit" is derived."' Through continuous repetition, an individual may master a craft or a science, thus making it his "habit." This even explains the knowledge of the Arabic language with which the Arabs of former times were born, but which had to be acquired as a "habit" by later generations. Once a person has acquired the "habit" of a craft or science, it is difficult, if not impos­sible, for him to master another; but mastery of the first habit remains with him permanently. Since the acquisition of habits is a matter of education, they can be passed on to others who aspire to them, provided that proper methods of education and instruction are known and that their exercise does not lapse during political upheavals. Thus, we have an explanation for the survival of past civilizations, though it may manifest itself only in minor remnants and in certain customs and practices that can be recognized as cultural survivals only by the trained observer.

In Ibn Khaldun's orthodox Muslim environment, it was believed that human intellectual power was always constant and capable of producing the highest civilization at any given time. Therefore, Ibn Khaldun could hardly have assumed that steady progress in human civilization was possible or even necessary. There was, however, another widespread popular notion in his time. Nations of earlier times were believed to have been better endowed physically for achieving a high and materially splendid civilization than contemporary nations. Ibn Khaldun felt compelled to refute this notion as emphatically as possible. In his opinion it was merely the decay of political organization and the power of government that gave his contemporaries the impression that the civilization of their day was inferior to that of the past. In fact, in Ibn Khaldun's thinking, there could be no essential difference be­tween the faculties and achievements of former and contemporary generations, for political and cultural life was moving in never ending, always repeated circles.

 After this brief survey of some leading ideas in the Muqaddimah, we may ask what the sources are from which Ibn Khaldun drew inspiration and information for his comprehensive picture of human society. He himself acknowledged his great indebtedness to the Muslim literature of political administration and the Furstenspiegel. In particular, he referred to al-Mawardi's Ahkdm as-sultaniyah, a rather theoretical compilation of basic data on political law and administration, and to the Furstenspiegel of the Spaniard at-Turtushi, a mediocre achievement compared with other works of its kind but still containing much relevant material. Ibn Khaldun's references to these two works seem to be from memory: he certainly was familiar with their contents, but he may not have looked into them for some years when he composed the Muqaddimah. In addition to this type of works whose general influence he rightly stressed, Ibn Khaldun often indicates the sources from which he derived specific pieces of information.

Much of his material and many of his best ideas Ibn Khaldun owed to his juridical training. In particular, discussions of legal matters with his teachers, fellow students, and colleagues must have contributed greatly to his knowledge. A search for other works in which the material of such oral discussions might have been preserved would not, presumably, be too successful. For, as stated before, Muslim juridical literature is predominantly theoretical in spirit and traditional in form; furthermore, manuscript literature in general is selective and reluctant to admit new disciplines or topics. Each new written work must repeat all or nearly all of the material previously known, else that material would be lost. For all these reasons, we should not expect to find many echoes of the oral exchange of ideas between Ibn Khaldun and his friends, or among lawyers of other periods, in the legal literature.

Moreover, owing to well-known historical circumstances, the amount of Arabic literature from Spain and northwest Africa still extant is proportionally much smaller than that of the Muslim East. We know very little of the Western writings of Ibn Khaldun's time or from the period immediately preceding.116 Under these circumstances, we should perhaps be justified in assuming that practically every matter of detail found in the Muqaddimah was probably not original with Ibn Khaldun, but had been previously expressed elsewhere. Even his characterization of `asabIyah as a positive factor in society, or his demand for knowledge of social conditions as prerequisite to the historian's correct evaluation of historical information, although seemingly original ideas, may have been inspired by a source yet to be rediscovered.

Our evidence does not permit us to attribute a great amount of originality to Ibn Khaldun so far as the details of his work are concerned. Yet, he was right when he claimed that the Muqaddimah was profoundly original and constituted a new departure in scholarly research. Its originality in the intellectual sense is obvious. The Muqaddimah re-evaluates, in an altogether unprecedented way, practically every single individual manifestation of a great and highly developed civilization. It accomplishes this both comprehensively and in detail in the light of one fundamental and sound insight, namely, by considering everything as a function of man and human social organization.

How Ibn Khaldun conceived this idea is a question that will probably never be answered, at least not until we learn much more about the workings of the minds of exceptionally gifted individuals. The circumstances of his life gave him the external qualifications needed for the writing of a work like the Muqaddimah, and there were other factors that created a favorable atmosphere for its production. It is true that Ibn Khaldun used comparatively few direct examples from contemporary history. This fact becomes still more apparent if one compares the Muqaddimah with Machiavelli's Il Principe (though the two works are so different in scope and out­look that they should hardly be mentioned in the same breath). The Principe is full of events its author had witnessed in his own time, while Ibn Khaldun was more used to deductive than to inductive reasoning. Moreover, as an active politician, he probably felt it necessary to exercise the greatest care in interpreting contemporary events while the chief actors were still alive or while their power remained with their descendants. However, he had wide political experience and a happy ability to view the contemporary political happenings of northwestern Africa with the detachment of a spiritual foreigner, forever comparing them in his own mind with the greatness of his own Spanish homeland.117

But surely there must have been others, perhaps many others, who were similarly situated, and yet did not write a Muqaddimah. As it is, we can hardly do better than to state simply that here was a man with a great mind, who combined action with thought, the heir to a great civilization that had run its course, and the inhabit­ant of a country with a living historical tradition -albeit reduced to remnants of its former greatness-who realized his own gifts and the opportunities of his historical position in a work that ranks as one of mankind's important triumphs.