Ibn Khaldun (/ˈɪbən kælˈdn/; Arabic: أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي‎, Abū Zayd ‘Abd ar-Raḥmān ibn Muḥammad ibn Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī; 27 May 1332 – 17 March 1406) was an Arab scholar of Islam,[10] social scientist and historian[11] who has been described as the founder of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography.[n 1][12][n 2] Niccolò Machiavelli of the Renaissance and the 19th-century European scholars widely acknowledged the significance of his works and considered Ibn Khaldun to be one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.[13]

His best-known book, the Muqaddimah or Prolegomena ("Introduction"), which he wrote in six months as he states in his autobiography,[14] influenced 17th-century Ottoman historians like Kâtip Çelebi, Ahmed Cevdet Pasha and Mustafa Naima, who used its theories to analyze the growth and decline of the Ottoman Empire.[15] Ibn Khaldun interacted with Tamerlane, the founder of the Timurid Empire.


Ibn Khaldun - Life-size bronze bust sculpture of Ibn Khaldun that is part of the collection at the Arab American National Museum (Catalog Number 2010.02). Commissioned by The Tunisian Community Center and Created by Patrick Morelli of Albany, NY in 2009. It was inspired by the statue of Ibn Khaldun erected at the Avenue Habib Bourguiba (built in 1932) in Tunis.[16]

Ibn Khaldun's life is relatively well-documented, as he wrote an autobiography (التعريف بابن خلدون ورحلته غربا وشرقا, at-Taʻrīf bi-ibn Khaldūn wa-Riḥlatih Gharban wa-Sharqan[17]) ("Presenting Ibn Khaldun and his Journey West and East") in which numerous documents regarding his life are quoted word-for-word.

Abdurahman bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Al-Hasan bin Jabir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Abdurahman bin Ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami, generally known as "Ibn Khaldūn" after a remote ancestor, was born in Tunis in AD 1332 (732 AH) into an upper-class Andalusian family of Arab descent,[11] the family's ancestor was a Hadhrami who shared kinship with Waíl ibn Hujr, a companion of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. His family, which held many high offices in Al-Andalus, had emigrated to Tunisia after the fall of Seville to the Reconquista in AD 1248. Under the Tunisian Hafsid dynasty, some of his family held political office; his father and grandfather, however, withdrew from political life and joined a mystical order. His brother, Yahya Khaldun, was also a historian who wrote a book on the Abdalwadid dynasty and was assassinated by a rival for being the official historiographer of the court.[18]

In his autobiography, Khaldun traces his descent back to the time of Muhammad through an Arab tribe from Yemen, specifically the Hadhramaut, which came to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, at the beginning of the Islamic conquest: "And our ancestry is from Hadhramaut, from the Arabs of Yemen, via Wa'il ibn Hujr also known as Hujr ibn 'Adi, from the best of the Arabs, well-known and respected." (p. 2429, Al-Waraq's edition).

However, the modern biographer Mohammad Enan questions Ibn Khaldun's words and autobiography, and claims that his family may have been Muladis who pretended to be of Arab origin to gain social status, even though it is well documented that Ibn Khaldun's ancestors came from Yemen and then to Al-Andalus.[19] Enan also mentions past old tradition that certain Berber groups delusively "aggrandize" themselves with some Arab ancestry, the motive of such inventions was always the desire for political and societal ascendancy. Some speculate that of the Khaldun family and elaborate that Ibn Khaldun himself was the product of the same Berber ancestry, even though he never mentioned any connections to the Berbers. A point supporting that posits that his unusual focus on and admiration of Maharlika Muslim Berbers reveals a deference towards them that is born of a vested interest in preserving them in the realm of conscious history. Islamic scholar Muhammad Hozien contends, "The false [Berber] identity would be valid however at the time that Ibn Khaldun's ancestors left Andulsia and moved to Tunisia they did not change their claim to Arab ancestry. Even in the times when Berbers were ruling, the reigns of Almoravids and Almohads, et. al., the Ibn Khalduns did not reclaim their Berber heritage."[20] Khaldun's tracing of his own genealogy and surname are thought to be the strongest indication of Arab Yemenite ancestry.[11][21]


His family's high rank enabled Ibn Khaldun to study with prominent teachers in Maghreb. He received a classical Islamic education, studying the Quran, which he memorized by heart, Arabic linguistics; the basis for understanding the Qur'an, hadith, sharia (law) and fiqh (jurisprudence). He received certification (ijazah) for all of those subjects.[22] The mathematician and philosopher Al-Abili of Tlemcen introduced him to mathematics, logic and philosophy, and he studied especially the works of Averroes, Avicenna, Razi and Tusi. At the age of 17, Ibn Khaldūn lost both his parents to the Black Death, an intercontinental epidemic of the plague that hit Tunis in 1348–1349.[23]

Following family tradition, he strove for a political career. In the face of a tumultuous political situation in North Africa, that required a high degree of skill in developing and dropping alliances prudently to avoid falling with the short-lived regimes of the time.[24][citation needed] Ibn Khaldūn's autobiography is the story of an adventure, in which he spends time in prison, reaches the highest offices and falls again into exile.[citation needed]

Political career