Ibn Khaldun - Philosopher, Politician, Historian, Traveller
In this current day and age, we are blessed with amazing and inspirational Muslim role models, whether we look at sports, education, food or even fashion. With now greater Muslim representation in the Western world, we are able to find inspiration everywhere. However, when it comes to writers, the Muslim travellers of the past were some of the best role models, their insights shedding light on the culture and attractions of the Islamic world. Pioneers in travel and the pursuit of knowledge, they documented their journeys which are still relevant for many today.
Our focus in this article is on the life of Ibn Khaldun, one of the most prominent Muslim philosophers, politicians, historians and travellers. In current times, more than ever, we would like to take the opportunity to appreciate writing and reading about different cultures and countries. This last year of the corona pandemic, which made travel very difficult and sometimes impossible for us, leads us to seek inspiration to travel differently, by reading insightful journals from philosophers such as Ibn Khaldun. Read about his life and seek inspiration from places that he once visited.
Who was Ibn Khaldun?
Abu Zayd, Abdur-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami, was born in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia on 27th May 1332 (732 AH). His family descended from a well-known and respected Arab tribe in Yemen. Coming from a familial background of scholars and politicians, his father taught him the Quran first hand, in which he became a Hafiz as well as gaining knowledge in jurisprudence, hadith, poetry and philology.
Ibn Khaldun was born shortly before the Black Death devastated Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. He lost both parents to the disease when he was sixteen when it was estimated that one third of the population of Europe and the Middle East was wiped out. During this period, much of the Islamic world fell into decline, with regimes rapidly changing and divisions among the people. It is against this backdrop of social and political turmoil that Ibn Khaldun rose to prominence.
His political career started thereafter, and he was given his first assignment to work within the government and court politics. Shortly after this period, he left Tunis. Ibn Khaldun was ambitious and he was involved in the court politics of Morocco, particularly in Fez where he furthered his studies. At the time of his stay in Fez, the city was a hotspot for scholars from all over the Middle East. As a result of his work he travelled through many countries namely, Algeria, Spain, Morocco and Egypt and worked in government positions.
However, his travels ended quickly when he was abruptly sent to prison. He had become involved with a dethroned ruler at the time and was imprisoned for 22 months for conspiring to dethrone the Sultan. He was released and travelled to Andalusia.
Through his travels across the kingdoms of north Africa, Khaldun became friendly with the nomadic Berber tribes – indeed, he was much sought after as an emissary by African rulers keen to communicate with the Berbers. When he tired of political life in 1375, he retired to the Sahara desert to live under the tribes’ protection. It was here that he began to meditate on the civilizations he had encountered and started to write his first version of his universal history at the age of forty-five years, his famous “Muqaddimah” (Introduction).
From his experiences, he wrote the Kitab al-ʻIbar (Book of Lessons), a 7-volume travel book. He began with focusing on the history of the Berbers and then expanded to universal history.
He is perhaps best known for the Muqaddimah, the most important study of history produced in the Islamic world, an evolutionary analysis of the dynamics of the Arab world.
Through this book, he had a great impact on the European world in the 19th century. He founded the science of human society and a new way of writing history - understanding why things are the way they are. His works appeared to have a minor impact on the Muslim world for centuries, but later he was proclaimed to be the creator of modern history.
Countries Ibn Khaldun Visited
So, where better a place from which to seek inspiration, than to follow the footsteps of Ibn Khaldun? Many of the places he once visited are still attractive Muslim tourist hotspots today and should be visited to get the fresh insights and inspiration that is needed now more than ever!
The family of Ibn Khaldun came to Tunisia after the fall of Muslim Spain. Tunis is where he received his education and learnt from his father, who was not involved in politics like the rest of his family. He received certification in knowing the Quran by heart and many other subjects and would continue his education until the age of 19. He received his first political assignment and gained inside knowledge of the workings of court politics. He accompanied the forces that tried to prevent the Emir of Constantine from taking over Tunis but was defeated. He then escaped Tunisia, and travelled back to Algeria.
The Khalduniyyah quarter in Tunis where he was born still stands today, and even the house where it is speculated he was born. The quarter is believed to be unchanged and there is even a statue of him, which can be found here. Enjoy the beautiful blue waterscape, the soft sandy beaches and the wonderful climate of Tunisia. Tunisia is perfect for any halal holiday, soak in the tranquil atmosphere and enjoy the delicious halal cuisine.
During his time in politics, Ibn Khaldun was valuable to the rulers of North Africa as he stood out with his forward thinking, political skills and relationship with the Berbers. However, he began to grow tired of the destructive political scene. Algeria is the country where Ibn Khaldun sought refuge from the tumultuous political sphere with the tribe of Awlad 'Arif between 1375 and 1379. He stayed in the ancient fortress of Qalat Ibn Salama, particularly in its caves, in the small village of Taghazout. The famous Caves of Ibn Khaldun can be visited today. Back in his time, the caves of varying sizes would serve as living areas, study areas and even meeting areas. During his four years here, he began to write the Muqaddimah, which gave him the great reputation he has today.
The architecture of the 16th century can be witnessed in the golden city of Tlemcen. The Islamic culture of the Ottoman Empire was once at its prime here, and the walls of the streets have many stories to tell. Ibn Khaldun's legacy in Algeria can be admired in the caves. His bust stands at the entrance to the Bejaia Kaaba.
Explore this country’s rich history, with Roman and Ottoman ruins and exciting stretches of desert for your perfect halal holiday. Visit the Caves of Ibn Khaldun and discover the secrets hidden within its walls.
Ibn Khaldun visited Fez during his time in politics. At this time it was the capital of Morocco, visited by many scholars from all over the world. His initial visit was in 1354 when he was promoted to the post of seal bearer. He was, however, reluctant to accept this post as it was deemed inferior in comparison to the works of his ancestors. As well as the Black Plague, North Africa was in a state of political chaos as it was ruled by the Marinids, a Berber dynasty. Fez at the time was the bustling court of all of North Africa. Ibn Khaldun had great relations with the Berbers, even writing in their praise:
"They belong to a powerful, formidable, brave and numerous people; a true people like so many others the world has seen - like the Arabs, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. The men who belong to this family of peoples have inhabited the Maghreb since the beginning."
Fez is home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Al-Karaouine, today part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city hosts a wealth of historic Islamic buildings and monuments and its Medina is recognised by UNESCO. In the maze of streets, you will see the Berber and Arab cultures intertwined, creating a unique Moroccan atmosphere with the locals on the streets, enjoying mint tea and playing board games. Appreciate the culture, beauty and relics from ancient times. Visit and create your own halal holiday in the blue and white hues of Morocco.
The family of Ibn Khaldun came from Andalusia, they were once a prestigious family who were involved in the political and cerebral life of running the city. The family was forced to leave Spain during La Reconquista, when the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula. Ibn Khaldun stated that he always felt attached to the traditions of Muslim Spain, the warmth and the culture of Andalusia. However, he stated that due to the Reconquest, civilisation seemed to be moving from North Africa and Arabia to Europe and Central Asia.
In 1364, Ibn Khaldun visited the Alcazar palace which still stands tall today. Follow in his footsteps and admire the beautiful patios of the palace and the detailed ornate arches. Discover the Muslim history of Andalusia and enjoy the Mediterranean climate and the halal food. Explore the bustling cities as well as the coastal and countryside scenic towns. Everywhere you go, you will be welcomed by the warm Spanish hospitality.
Ibn Khaldun spent his last years of life in Egypt. At the age of 50, he arrived in Egypt after leaving Tunisia due to the jealousy of a scholar and suspicion of the ruler at the time. Whilst the other Arab countries were in political turmoil, Egypt was flourishing and Cairo was the most opulent city in the Arab world. He went on to teach at Al-Azhar University, Cairo and other schools.
In his work he praised Egypt, stating:
“He who has not seen it does not know the power of Islam.”
Ibn Khaldun regarded Egypt as the ‘garden of the world’ and the ‘palace of Islam’. He died on March 17th, 1406.
Many of the treasures he witnessed in Egypt can be found in the country today as well as modern attractions. With sun, sea and beach mixed with history and culture, Egypt is the perfect destination for a halal holiday. Explore the amazing cities of Cairo and Alexandria and others, with their mixing pot of attractions, from the pyramids of Cairo to the pristine waters of the Red Sea.
Create Your Own History
The aforementioned countries make a phenomenal bucket list of Muslim-friendly destinations to visit. All with rich Muslim heritage to read and gain knowledge from, and create an exceptional itinerary. Be inspired by how Ibn Khaldun's life experiences paved the way for him to travel through North Africa, and tailor-make your own highlights.
Wherever you choose to visit, you are sure to find a halal-friendly hotel, villa or apartment on HalalBooking.com which will allow you to create your own travel memories - you may even decide to write about them for yourself.