The Muqaddimah | Ibn Khaldun

Summary of: The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History – Abridged Edition
By: Ibn Khaldun


Delve into the timeless wisdom of Ibn Khaldun in his book, ‘The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History – Abridged Edition,’ where we explore human civilization, the role of climate in shaping societies, and the impact of diet on human character. Gain insights into the significance of group feeling and royal authority, the stages of a dynasty’s life cycle, and the importance of trade and profit in civilizations. Embark on this historical journey that illuminates the foundations of human societies and offers valuable lessons applicable in the modern world.

The Power of Thought

The book discusses how the evolution of human civilization was not a result of physical prowess but the ability to think critically. Unlike other animals that rely on their physical strength, humans have survived and developed by organizing and cooperating in social communities. Our ability to think creatively and innovate has enabled us to create tools and structures that have helped us protect ourselves and grow as a society. However, our primal instincts, including aggression and injustice, need to be restrained by a strong authority to maintain peace and achieve success. According to the author, it is our duty to use our gift of thought to settle the world and act as God’s representatives on earth.

The Influence of Climate on Civilization

The human civilization has spread across the world, but the author believes that temperate climates produce greater civilizations. Fourteenth-century Islamic thinkers considered Iraq and Syria to be the most temperate areas that cradled many great civilizations. Climate can even influence the character of the region’s inhabitants, according to the author. Heat expands the animal spirit, causing joy, and cold contracts it, causing sadness. Egyptians on the coast are more carefree while Fez’s people tend to be gloomier. The author argues that temperate climates produce more moderate people who live in well-constructed homes and are known for their moderation in food, clothes, and crafts. The animal spirit expansion is the reason for our joy while taking a hot bath and is the origin of our singing.

The Relationship between Diet and Character in Humans and Animals

The book explores the relationship between diet and character in both animals and humans. The author argues that eating high-moisture foods, such as butter and seasonings, is bad for both the body and mind. The author also believes that different diets can affect one’s character, as seen in people who eat the meat of large, strong animals tend to be large and strong themselves. Those who live off the milk and meat of camels become like the camel: patient, persevering, and capable of bearing large burdens. The book also discusses the differences in physiognomy between animals that inhabit wastelands, where food is scarce, and those that roam in a coastal plain or a fertile pasture. Similarly, the differences in diets between the North-African Berbers and the Masumudah Berbers are said to affect their cognitive and physical abilities.

The Chosen Prophets

The book discusses how God chooses certain individuals for prophethood and how their souls attain higher levels of connectivity with the divine. The author emphasizes the unique nature of the revelations granted to Muhammad, making the Qur’an the greatest miracle in Islam.

The Importance of Group Feeling

The defeat of the Americans by the Viet Cong in the mid-twentieth century can be attributed to a lack of group feeling. Group feeling is the solidarity one feels towards their group and is essential for support and protection. Strong group feeling depends on the intimacy between group members. When there is a conflict, the group with the strongest group feeling dominates. The defeated group tends to imitate the victor, leading to their destruction. A community that follows its neighbors becomes apathetic and ultimately perishes.

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