Ibn Khaldun: Life and Times

By Allen James Fromhere | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
1
HISTORIAN MEETS HISTORY

… [M]an is not born every day. He was born with a specific historical setting
with specific historical priorities.

Carl Jung1

On January 10, 1401, a world historical figure and a world historian were seated across from each other in a Mongol tent pitched outside the city walls of Damascus, Syria. Ibn Khaldun, one of the greatest historians of all time, and Timurlane the Conqueror, one of the most powerful, and most vicious, rulers in history, had a civilized discussion about the underlying patterns of human history.

Ibn Khaldun described his visit with Timurlane in his detailed memoirs, an extraordinarily rich autobiography for the period. Although justifiably afraid of the terrible conqueror, Ibn Khaldun wrote about Timurlane with the wide-eyed fascination of a scientist who has just discovered a seemingly conclusive piece of evidence that proved a life-long theory. In order to avoid detection by the besieged citizens of Damascus who still refused to surrender, he was lowered over the city walls in the middle of night and made his way to the conqueror's tent. After showing deference to the great Sultan, Ibn Khaldun exclaimed rather cryptically, ‘May God help you sir! It has been today thirty or forty years since I have hoped for this encounter.’

Obviously puzzled and intrigued, since Ibn Khaldun could not have known about him so long ago, Timurlane asked, ‘For what reason?’

‘For two reasons,’ Ibn Khaldun responded, ‘The first, is that you are the Sultan of the world, the King of the earth; I have never known a king since the creation of Adam who is comparable to you.’

-1-

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Ibn Khaldun: Life and Times
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements and Preface vi
  • Timeline x
  • Chapter 1 - Historian Meets History 1
  • Chapter 2 - Ibn Khaldun's Early Life 39
  • Chapter 3 - Ibn Khaldun the Statesman 60
  • Chapter 4 - Egypt 97
  • Chapter 5 - Ibn Khaldun's Method 114
  • Chapter 6 - Modernity 149
  • Chapter 7 - On Being Ibn Khaldun 165
  • Bibliography 177
  • Index 183
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