Friday, 7 August 2015

What Ibn Khaldun can teach us about the world today

A new Kindle Single by Ed West

The author has also written a summary, which can be read here and here. There is also a summary in the Spectator. As a side note, it should be kept in mind that Imam Ibn Khaldun's description of a hierarchy of species was just that, a hierarchy, and by no means was he implying that any species evolved from another. Imam Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy on him, explains in his creed book:

The idea of evolution is one thing…and the equated, gradual progress between species is something else:

            Then you must know that everything we have mentioned is connected only to the hypothesis of man’s evolution, after he first came into existence, from one species of creatures to another.
            As for the equated, gradual progress and what exists at the foundation of creation, it begins from inanimate objects, then plants, then animals and then man. This has been an established fact ever since the most ancient times until today, and the eye cannot deny it, let alone the intellect and the mind. Thus the series of categories of existent beings contains consistency in the path of ascending to the highest, which makes it similar to grains laid out in succession, gradually becoming more and more beautiful and rare.
            All of the scientists[1] have talked about the phenomenon of this ascending alignment, which is the most manifest proof of the Creator’s existence and His awesome power to create.
            Ibn Khaldūn says: ‘One should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word “connection” with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group. The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect.’[2]
            Ibn Miskawayh says: ‘As for the connection of created beings of which we say that wisdom is prevalent in them, such that if we were to produce and present the masterful plan of The One True Lord regarding all of them, such that the last of each species is connected to the first of another species, it thus becomes like one thread that strings several pearls in a perfect combination, until all of them come from one knot. This is what we draw attention to in order to prove Allah’s help…’[3] Then he started to go into greater detail about this gradual manner and elucidate it, in the same way that Ibn Khaldūn clarified it.
            This is a fact that is witnessed and described, and established as it is, ever since the most ancient times that man is aware of. All scientists see it and talk about it. Indeed, all intelligent people who look at it are astonished, and it has nothing to do whatsoever with what Darwinists and their ilk have supposed, i.e. the evolution of each species from the species beneath it, be it man or any other species. It is a false hypothesis without any foundation, as you have learned.
            Something rather curious is that some of those who are still enchanted by the researches and ideas of westerners take every idea that is put forward by a western researcher and try to find something that corroborates it from the Qurʾān, or the Sunnah or what some Muslim scholar has written! Whenever they hear the theories of evolution they rush to find something that corroborates it from any Islamic source, even if they find what has been said by many Muslim scholars such as Ibn Khaldūn and Ibn Miskawayh. They put their hands in it as if they have discovered a priceless treasure chest and then they set about confirming, with vehement pride and joy, that Muslims scholars preceded Darwin by hundreds of years!
            We say: if it were the case that a Muslim scholar preceded Darwin with regards to his theory that he put forward, all it would show is that that scholar preceded him in idiocy and falsehood, and we turn to Allah to free us from that.
            Indeed it is one of the most severe forms of oppression to strip sound speech of its meaning and then attach falsehood to it in order to support the whisperings of liars, being diligent in blindly imitating them and following them wherever they go.

[1] (tn): Ar. ʿulamāʾ, which could also be translated as scholars
[2] Al-Muqaddimah,  p.47 and 48, Būlāq edition. (tn): The Muqaddimah; An Introduction to History by Ibn Khaldun, translated by Franz Rosenthal (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2005) p.75
[3] Al-Fawz Al-Asghar by Ibn Miskawayh, p.90

This is not to knock Ed West's efforts; he's not a Muslim. Rather, the fact that people like him, Benedikt Koehler and others are studying our 'ulama and looking for answers to the problems of the world suggests that we should be doing likewise. Muslims do not need to look to Adam Smith or Karl Marx to solve their various economic, political and social woes. The answers are to be found in our own history and from our own scholars and leaders.

And with Allah is every success.

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