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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Ibn Khaldun

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Reached Cairo, where he was presented to the sultan, al-Malik udh-Dhahir Barkuk, who insisted on his remaining there, and in the year 1384 made him grand cadi of the Malikite rite for Cairo. This office he filled with great prudence and probity, removing many abuses in the administration of justice in Egypt. At this time the ship in which his wife and family, with all his property, were coming to join him, was wrecked, and every one on board lost. He endeavoured to find consolation in the completion of his history of the Arabs of Spain. At the same time he was removed from his office of cadi, which gave him more leisure for his work. Three years later he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on his return lived in retirement in the Fayum until 1399, when he was again called upon to resume his functions as cadi. He was removed and reinstated in the office no fewer than five times.

In 1400 he was sent to Damascus, in connexion with the expedition intended to oppose Timur or Tamerlane. When Timur had become master of the situation, Ibn Khaldun let himself down from the walls of the city by a rope, and presented himself before the conqueror, who permitted him to return to Egypt. Ibn Khaldun died on the 16th of March 1406, at the age of sixty-four.

The great work by which he is known is a "Universal History," but it deals more particularly with the history of the Arabs of Spain and Africa. Its Arabic title is Kitab ul'Ibar, wa diwan el Mubtada wa'l Khabar, fi ayyamul`Arab wa'l`Ajam wa'l Berber; that is, "The Book of Examples and the Collection of Origins and Information respecting the History of the Arabs, Foreigners and Berbers." It consists of three books, an introduction and an autobiography. Book i. treats of the influence of civilization upon man; book ii. of the history of the Arabs and other peoples from the remotest antiquity until the author's own times; book iii. of the history of the Berber tribes and of the kingdoms founded by that race in North Africa. The introduction is an elaborate treatise on the science of history and the development of society, and the autobiography contains the history, not only of the author himself, but of his family and of the dynasties which ruled in Fez, Tunis and Tlemcen during his lifetime. An edition of the Arabic text has been printed at Bulaq, (7 vols., 1867) and a part of the work has been translated by the late Baron McG. de Slane under the title of Histoire des Berberes (Algiers, 1852-1856); it contains an admirable account of the author and analysis of his work. Vol. i., the Muqaddama (preface), was published by M. Quatremere (3 vols., Paris, 1858), often republished in the East, and a French translation was made by McG. de Slane (3 vols., Paris, 1862-1868). The parts of the history referring to the expeditions of the Franks into Moslem lands were edited by C. J. Tornberg (Upsala, 1840), and the parts treating of the Banu-1 Ahmar kings of Granada were translated into French by M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes in the Journal asiatique, ser. 9, vol. xiii. The Autobiography of Ibn Khaldun was translated into French by de Slane in the Journal asiatique, ser. 4, vol. iii. For an English appreciation of the philosophical spirit of Ibn Khaldun see R. Flint's History of the Philosophy of History (Edinburgh, 18 93), pp. 157-170.

(E. H. P.; G. W. T.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Ibn Khaldun'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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