Islamic political thought/Ibn Khaldun

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Ibn Khaldun is integral to Islamic political thought by way of his theories on reforming society. Khaldun’s conclusion was that societal reform was integral within the Islamic world, and that it could be achieved personally or through advising a prince in power on ruling with wisdom. Eventually Khaldun decided that he was not personally allured by the opportunities of power, and instead focused on teaching, despite multiple incidences of taking the position of Judge in Cairo. Overall, his experiences allowed him to amass a wide body of historical knowledge as well as political knowledge, providing him with the perspective needed to write at length about knowledge, history, and social change.

Also crucial to Islamic political theory were his contributions on moral and immoral forms of authority—he made clear a hope for the continuity of the position of Deputyship. Khaldun is also responsible for making use of the Circle of Power ideals. He called the world a garden that encompassed the necessary components of well-being for an Islamic public, taking into account not only those in power, but also the people they were defined to serve. This set the precedent for policies like low taxation and generous stipends. He considered the state a natural and essential accompaniment to humans. However, he also stated that humans were only obligated to the state if it was governed under the Shari’a law- a thought that aligned itself with a Sunni perspective. Overall, Khaldun’s Prolegomena makes the argument that dynastic patterns will continually repeat themselves, and based historically on this information, he could infer the manifestations of specific characteristics of the modern state that would apply. He also provided a new perspective on the development of a modern society, emphasizing asabiyya (group feeling) as a mechanism for positive achievement, and explaining primitive society as the starting point for establishing the state and empire. Black’s description of asabiyya emphasizes both the importance and neglect of this intellectual concept as well as all of Khaldun’s work.


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