Theories of decline from metochites to ibn khaldūn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Toward the end of the fourteenth century, a man from the bustling urban environment of the coastal Maghreb fled into the desert and disappeared. Interrupting his career as statesman, jurist, and religious authority, Ibn Khaldūn - or, less succinctly, Abū Zayd ‘Abdu r-Raḥmān bin Muḥammad bin Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍrami (1332-1406) - lived for several years in retreat at the oasis of Qal’at ibn Salama with the nomadic tribe of the Awlad ‘Arif, a time he spent systematizing thoughts, as he would later write, that had been “pouring into him like cream in a churn.” At length he reemerged, bearing with him in draft form the Introduction (Muqaddimah) to what would grow into a massive work: the Book of Lessons (Kitābu’ l-ibar). This work not only enhanced his fame in his native Tunis, but also earned him a prominent courtly appointment in Cairo, where he resided for the next twenty-three years. Cairo had declared itself to have replaced Baghdad as the seat of power of the reestablished caliphate, and therefore as the “center of Islam,” and it ceremonially invested members of the dispossessed Abbasid dynasty with the dignity of their ancestors. It had become known as the “thronging-place of peoples” and the “capital of the world.” Ibn Khaldūn’s avowed aim was to shake off the “drowsy complacency and langor” that had hitherto accompanied his “blind trust” in the intellectual tradition, inherited from “the Greeks” (Plato and especially Aristotle), in which he and all cultivated Muslims had been educated, and strike out alone in pursuit of a new and remarkable type of knowledge. Taking issue with the notion that the past was a subject unworthy of sustained study, which served up “stories of events” and “information about dynasties” without a deeper inner meaning, Ibn Khaldūn sought to establish history as an independent science that could explain human organization from antiquity to his own day, and thus merit inclusion within the curriculum of the places of learning where scholars worked and taught.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Intellectual History of Byzantium
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781107300859
ISBN (Print)9781107041813
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'Theories of decline from metochites to ibn khaldūn'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this