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Ibn Khaldun: An Intellectual Biography

The Muqaddima (Prolegomena) is the main work that made Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) eminent not only in historiography, civilization studies, anthropology, and sociology, but also in philosophy, economy, demography, and other fields of study.

 

The Muqaddima (Prolegomena) is the main work that made Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) eminent not only in historiography, civilization studies, anthropology, and sociology, but also in philosophy, economy, demography, and other fields of study. Robert Irwin’s work on Ibn Khaldun contains a preface and eleven chapters, as well as a chronology of Ibn Khaldun’s life.

Irwin begins his preface by citing several statements and acknowledgments about the greatness and significance of Ibn Khaldun and his works by such historians as Arnold Toynbee, Hugh Trevor-Roper, and Marshall Hodgson, who described the Muqaddima as “the greatest wide-ranging introduction to Islamic civilization.” Additionally, Irwin cites philosophers and sociologists such as Ernest Gellner, who thought that Ibn Khaldun was “a superb inductive sociologist, a practitioner, long before the term was invented, of the methods of ideal types” (p. ix). Also in the preface, Irwin puts forth an outline of the Muqaddima and its main questions, arguing that it offers a very distinctive perspective not only for understanding societies, and their histories, but also for viewing the world.

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