Abd al-Rahman Ibn Mohammad is generally known as IbnKhaldun after a remote ancestor. His parents, originall y YemeniteArabs, had settled in Spain, but after the fall of Seville, had migratedto Tunisia. He was born in Tunisia in 1332 A.D., where he receivedhis early education and where, still in his teens, he entered the serviceof the Egyptian ruler Sultan Barqu q. His thirst for advanced know-ledge and a better academic setting soon made him leave this serviceand migrate to Fez. This was followed by a long period of unrestmarked by contemporary political rivalries affecting his career.This turbulent period also included a three year refuge in a smallvillage Qalat Ibn Salama in Algeria, which provided him with theopportunity to write Muqaddimah, the first volume of his worldhistory that won him an immortal place among historians, sociolo-gists and philosop hers. The uncertainty of his career still continued,with Egypt becoming his final abode where he spent his last 24 years.Here he lived a life of fame and respect, marked by his appointmentas the Chief Malakite Judge and lecturing at the Al-Azhar Universit y,but envy caused his removal from his high judicial office as many asfive times.
Ibn Khaldun's chief contribution lies in philosophy of historyand sociology. He sought to write a world history preambled by afirst volume aimed at an analysis of hist orical events. This volume,commonly known as Muqaddimah or 'Prolegomena', was based onIbn Khaldun's unique approach and original contribution andbecame a masterpiece in literature on philosophy of history andsociology. The chief concern of this mon umental work was toidentify psychological, economic, environmental and social factsthat contribute to the advancement of human civilization and thecurrents of history. In this context, he analysed the dynamics ofgroup relationships and showed how group-fe elings, al-'Asabiyya,give rise to the ascent of a new civilisation and political power andhow, later on, its diffusion into a more general civilization invitesthe advent of a still new 'Asabiyya in its pristine form. He identifiedan almost r hythmic repetition of rise and fall in human civilization,and analysed factors contributing to it. His contribution to historyis marked by the fact that, unlike most earlier writers interpretinghistory largely in a political context, he emphasised environ mental,sociological, psychological and economic factors governing theapparent events. This revolutionised the science of history and alsolaid the foundation of Umraniyat (Sociology).
Apart from the Muqaddimah that became an importantin dependent book even during the lifetime of the author, the othervolumes of his world history Kitab al-I'bar deal with the history ofArabs, contemporary Muslim rulers, contemporary European rulers,ancient history of Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Pers ians, etc.,Islamic History, Egyptian history and North-African history,especially that of Berbers and tribes living in the adjoining areas.The last volume deals largely with the events of his own life and isknown as Al-Tasrif. This was also written in a scientific manner andinitiated a new analytical tradition in the art of writing autobio-graphy. A book on mathematics written by him is not extant.
Ibn Khaldun's influence on the subject of history, philosophyof history, sociology, political s cience and education has remainedparamount ever since his life. His books have been translated intomany languages, both in the East and the West, and have inspiredsubsequent development of these sciences. For instance, Prof. GumPloughs and Kolosio conside r Muqaddimah as superior in scholarshipto Machiavelli's The Prince written a century later, as the forrnerbases the diagnosis more on cultural, sociological, economic andpsychological factors.