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The Muqaddimah

An Introduction to History

By Ibn Khaldūn
16-minute read
Audio available
The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History by Ibn Khaldūn

The Muqaddimah (fourteenth century, first English edition 1958), a classic text on the Islamic history of the world, focuses on the rise and fall of civilizations. It offers a unique glimpse into the world of the fourteenth-century Arab Muslim, and is regarded as a foundational text in several academic disciplines.

  • History enthusiasts
  • People interested in social organization
  • Participants in Mark Zuckerberg’s A Year of Books

Ibn Khaldūn, a fourteenth-century Arab Muslim scholar, is one of the “founding fathers” of modern sociology, historiography, demographics and economics.

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The Muqaddimah

An Introduction to History

By Ibn Khaldūn
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History by Ibn Khaldūn
Synopsis

The Muqaddimah (fourteenth century, first English edition 1958), a classic text on the Islamic history of the world, focuses on the rise and fall of civilizations. It offers a unique glimpse into the world of the fourteenth-century Arab Muslim, and is regarded as a foundational text in several academic disciplines.

Key idea 1 of 10

Social organization separates humans from animals and leads to human civilization.

Have you ever wondered how a relatively defenseless and weak species like Homo sapiens came to dominate the Earth, when far more dangerous animals, like lions with their claws and crocodiles with their jaws, could easily devour us?

Well, our strength and power come from our ability to think, not to fight, and this enables us to work together and organize socially.

Because humans are more physically vulnerable than other animals, we rely on the help of others for defense. Through social organization and cooperation, we’ve been able to meet the needs of many and defend against fearsome predators.

For example, a human is nowhere near as strong as a lion. Placed in the unfortunate position of having to fight such a ferocious opponent, we would surely lose.

But there’s strength in numbers. When we work together, we ensure security, and a better chance of survival, for all.

The author contends that God gave us something even better than claws and fangs: thought. Our ability to think allowed us to realize that forming communities would assist the survival of humankind.

The ability to think not only helps us to survive; it also confirms our superiority over animals. By granting humans the ability to think, God demonstrated His desire for us to settle the world and act as His representatives on earth.

Our ability to think, coupled with our dexterous hands, has resulted in the many crafts that characterize human civilization. Rather than using our claws like lions, we use our hands to create tools, such as lances and swords, with which to defend ourselves.

Though it is our ability to think that distinguishes us from animals, we nonetheless share the same penchant for aggression and injustice. For this reason, we must be led by a strong authority to restrain our primal aggression and keep the peace. As you’ll learn in later blinks this royal authority is crucial to human success.

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