This paper introduces a medieval philosopher within a project of alternatives to the Eurocentric context that dominates current thinking in human sciences. Ibn Khaldun, from the 14th century, is renowned in both the East and the West for his Muqaddima [Prolegomena]. Hence, this paper is anchored in this particular work. Despite being introduced to and deeply learned in Hellenistic philosophy, like other medieval scholars, Ibn Khaldun did not follow that tradition blindly.
To him history is not merely a recorded narrative, but a systematic science. He is therefore one of the forerunners of scientific history. The Muqaddima and the science of human civilization, Kitabul Iber is a seven-volume history book, and is divided according to its literary outline:
The Muqaddima, its first part, is a detailed study of human society. Ibn Khaldun wrote under the headings, ‘Al-Umran’, ‘Al-Ijtima’, ‘Al-Bashari’, which commonly mean ‘studies about society’ or ‘sociology’. The second part covers the history of Arabs, their generations; ancient nations, including the Syrians, the Persians, the Jews, the Copts, the Greeks, and the Romans; the advent of Islam, the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the era of the first four caliphs of Islam (Khulafa’u Al Rashida); the history of the Turks and the Franks, up to the 8th C. AH (14th C. CE). The third volume is a history of the Umayyads, the Abbasids and of the Berbers up to the life of the author. The fourth volume addresses the rise and fall of the Fatimids, the Carmatians, and the Muslims in Spain. The fifth contains the story of the Seljuk Turks, the Crusades and the Mamluks in Egypt. The sixth part is about the detailed interconnections and political interventions among the Berbers. The seventh part is a unique integration of various disciplines, and presents the author’s effort to vindicate the merging of such disciplines to support the study of human sciences.
According to Ibn Khaldun’s philosophy, the stage of nomadic life epitomized the primitive level of humanity; then such communities progressed to the stage of nobility, in the form of rulers, judges, etc., in an institutionalized format. He narrated clearly and beautifully the journey of an individual human from his isolated origin to participation in a state form.
A long period of individual cultivation is inevitable for the growth of an authentic human altruism. Descent, family relations, reciprocity, and empathy are the grounds for creation of human civilization. Human altruism is the basic feature for such organic development. Nomadism, as the primitive stage of human civilization, allows people to acquire an innate ability to organize their surroundings according to hegemony. Later, Ibn Khaldun examines different stages in which power is exhausted; finally society reaches systemic community as a state.
Assabiya, Group feeling and national identity
The concept of Asabiyyah is the central theme of the Muqaddima. Various translations to English have been made in concern with this term. ‘Solidarity’, ‘group feeling’ and ‘social cohesion’ are the most widely-used among them. Ibn Khaldun says, ‘Sometimes, [leadership] goes to some person from the lowest class of people. He obtains group feeling and close contact with the mob for reasons that fate (al-miqdar) produces for him. He, then, achieves superiority over the elders and people of the higher class when they have lost their own group support.” (Ibn Khaldun/Rosenthal: 1969). Asabiyyah refers to the ‘common socialization’ that is integral to a good society and its power. The sustainability of Asabiyyah is the criterion for the rise and fall of a civilization. It needs to be enacted among the known and unknown members of the community together. When the society gets to the peak point of Asabiyyah, then the character of that society is glorious in every condition. A widespread happiness, luxury, comfort and tranquility are the important characteristics of a well-synthesized Asabiyyah society. If it causes discomfort, then from that point the society will begin its decline. The civilizational journey from nomadism to the settled stage is entwined with the power of Asabiyyah. The end of Asabiyyah means the dissolution of present society with its replacement by another noble lineage. Then, the power of culture and state transform from the present lineage to the next group, as these are continuous natural phenomena happening forever in the human world. To Ibn Khaldun, a networked continuity among different kinds of popular identity is the prime feature of a triumphant civilization.
His answer was social solidarity, or assabiyah (translated as “group feeling” by Rosenthal). For Ibn Khaldun, those groups with a strong sense of assabiyah are destined to be strong and to rule–at least as long as they are able to maintain their sense of identity and solidarity. Thus, groups composed of blood relatives (as in the case of many Bedouin communities) have the strongest possible ties since they are based on kinship, while urban settings predispose any group to an eventual weakening of its group feelings. For Ibn Khaldun, assabiyah is the basis for political power and cultural hegemony, while unrestrained individualism was one source of the downfall of groups. He comprehended revolutions as consisting of the struggle for power between outsider groups struggling to overthrow insider groups whose “group feeling” was declining due to the comforts that ruling provided
In Ibn Khaldun’s words:…because of their savagery, the Arabs are the least willing of nations to subordinate themselves to each other, as they are rude, proud, ambitious, and eager to be the leader. Their individual aspirations rarely coincide. But when there is religion among them, through prophecy or sainthood, then they have some restraining influence in themselves
It appears that his unwillingness to thematize rigorously his notion of the individual reflects the prevailing cultural values of the context in which he lived. The paramount significance of the group in both Arab and Islamic civilization appears to have blocked the emergence of the autonomous individual. Franz 51.Hegel, Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., p. 44.
19Rosenthal informs us that autobiography is “not highly developed” among Arabs.52 Even the name by which Ibn Khaldun has become known in history is not his own, but his father’s. Arab patriarchy militates against the construction of autonomous individual identity today as much as 600 years ago, at least if we judge by names derived from Abu (father) and Ibn (son).
Other cultural links can be found: impersonality and collectivism are recurring features of Arab prose literature.54 Arabic pedagogy is based on memorization and recitation, not individual creativity and thoughtfulness. Ibn Khaldun himself recommended memorization as the first step toward understanding the best of Arabic poetry and for acquiring literary taste.
Furthermore, his emphasis upon the group corresponds to the conditions of postmodernity, where the powers of the individual are diminished and those of groups enhanced. Today it is cultures and identities that are the subjects (and objects) of history; it is groups — not gods or individuals — that produce and situate our future. Despite the current fad of Fukuyama’s “end of history,” Ibn Khaldun provides a sense of the transitory nature of even the most entrenched social order. Unlike Fukuyama’s flattened universe, one in which even its dialectical character is destroyed, the latent potentialities of the species mean reclaiming the thinking of Ibn Khaldun as part of the process of synthesizing philosophical first principles capable of reorienting and uplifting humankind.
Language and Group Feeling
Case of the Turks
For example, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who changed the Arabic alphabet into Latin in 1928, broke off the connection of Turkish culture with its Iranian roots
to remove the symbolic connections it had with the past Ottoman Empire. It also had the effect of making the past inaccessible to all citizens except the privileged few with specialised training in the old script.
Literacy rates in the Ottoman Empire (and elsewhere) were low because of insufficient education, not because the alphabet was difficult.
West wanted to connect Ottman Turks to Turkic communities of central Asia.
And diverting people from being trained by Imams and Hojas, and homeschooling, decentralized system of education rather than what west like to have, a central public education which can indoctrinate in mass all subjects .
Unfortunately after we started using Latin alphabet, Russia this time changed all Turkic nations alphabeth again and made separete kyril for each nation so they hardly communicate eachother as well as Anatolian Turks .(Ilmynsky )
In the 1930s, some of those languages were switched to the Uniform Turkic Alphabet. All of the peoples of the former Soviet Union who had been using an Arabic or other Asian script (Mongolian script etc.) also adopted Cyrillic alphabets, and during the Great Purge in the late 1930s, all of the Latin alphabets of the peoples of the Soviet Union were switched to Cyrillic as well (the Baltic Republics were annexed later, and were not affected by this change). The Abkhazian and Ossetian languages were switched to Georgian script, but after the death of Joseph Stalin, both also adopted Cyrillic. The last language to adopt Cyrillic was the Gagauz language, which had used Greek script before.
able to read the Quran. They even won’t be able to read their own historic books. The people who say that Arabic alphabets are harder than Latin are just using it as an excuse. You have other non-Arabic countries who use Arabic alphabets without any trouble like Pakistan (Urdu) and Iran (Persian). The Ottoman culture was completely destroyed. Ataturk banned the Hijab, changed the Adhan (Prayer calls) from Arabic to Turkish, abolished the caliphate, banned the wear of head gear on Muslim scholars.
while being non-Arabs, still easily recite Qur’an- from having easy access to their tradition.
Among the institutions of the Republic were The Turkish History Society, The Turkish Linguistic Society, and Directorate of Religious Affairs. The aim of the Societies was taking action to rewrite the history of Turks, their prehistoriography and civility. The mythification of history went in hand with the glorification of Ataturk himself. Ataturk became a leader which would be identified the Republic and modernization.
the offical narratives have been heavily focusing on creating a collective memory and a sense of social integration through the notions such as millet (nation) and devlet (the state).
- Rosenthal, tr. with N.J. Dawood (eds.), The Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun, Princeton, 1969.
 Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History (New York: Harper and Row, 1966)