Ibn Khaldun's Early Life

Fromherz Allen James

in Ibn Khaldun

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639342
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653201 | DOI:
Ibn Khaldun's Early Life

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Some scholars contend that it is impossible to write an ‘interesting’ biography of Ibn Khaldun. According to this assessment, Ibn Khaldun did not reveal anything personal, anything in the modern sense of what is expected in a proper biography: a psychological analysis of an individual. In the introduction of his translation of the Muqaddimah, Franz Rosenthal noted that Ibn Khaldun rarely provided intimate biographical information. Even significant information on his psychological relationship to his contemporaries, according to Rosenthal, was lacking. Although Ibn Khaldun's account of his life was ‘the most detailed autobiography in medieval Muslim literature’ a psychologically compelling work for Rosenthal it was not. However, Rosenthal did not seem to recognize that even psychological depth could be expressed in many ways other than the lurid details of immediate, intimate relations. This chapter shows that Ibn Khaldun in fact provided some brief and fascinating clues about his own psychological make-up and personal disposition. These clues are abundant upon a close reading of his narratives and poetry. Rosenthal himself pointed out the rich source of information on the mind and thinking of Ibn Khaldun found in the Muqaddimah. Tensions, contradictions and conundrums exist in Ibn Khaldun's writings, as they might exist in the writings of any intellectual. It is thus with optimism that this book sets out to examine the life of Ibn Khaldun, the man, as much as it examines Ibn Khaldun, the philosopher of history.

Keywords: Ibn Khaldun; Muqaddimah; biography; Franz Rosenthal

Chapter.  9735 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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