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Ibn Khaldun


The following text was originally published in

Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education

(Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIV, no. 1/2, 1994, p. 7-19.

©UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, 2000

This document may be reproduced free of charge as long as acknowledgement is made of the source.



(A.D. 1332-1406/A.H. 732-808)

Abdesselam Cheddadi


At first sight, the place held by education in Ibn Khaldun’s sociology appears uncertain to say the

least. What today we understand by the term ‘education’—the replication of individuals and

groups, firstly at the level of values and secondly at that of knowledge and know-how—is found in

the Muqaddima only in a scattered and incomplete fashion, in an order and pattern whose meaning

escapes us at first sight. More important, Ibn Khaldun makes no use of a general concept in

speaking of education. This is all the more surprising as he accustoms us elsewhere to a systematic

approach to the main phenomena of life in society. However, upon closer view we discover that

this ambiguity and these lacunae in fact reflect the state of the Muslim system of education, and we

are forced to admit that, in this field as in many others connected with the knowledge of Muslim

society, Khaldun’s contribution is the most complete at our disposal.

The education system in Muslim societies

The education system in Muslim societies was without a doubt one of the most extensive and most

developed of all those prevailing in pre-industrial societies, which was due to the very nature of

Muslim society itself. Compared to agro-literate societies contemporary with it, Muslim society

stands out for its more flexible and less hierarchically organized structures. The body composed of

scholars and the literati was open, non-centralized, non-hereditary, non-exclusive, with a fluid

organization that implied no formal hierarchy,


thus giving rise to a relatively broad education and

teaching system that in many ways prefigured our modern systems.


Like the society itself, the education system was both segmented and unified. It was a

reflection of the profound separation between the rural and urban worlds: agrarian or agro-pastoral

communities of peasants and stock-breeders on the one hand, and an urban society of merchants,

artisans, clerics and State civil servants on the other. And, at the same time, it was unified by the

common adherence to Islam, identification with which was tangibly represented by the universal

Koranic teaching that was virtually obligatory for all. Though education was informal and imparted

by the family and the community in rural areas and among the urban poor, there was formal

schooling for the children of the mercantile, clerical and political élite. Children were frequently

placed under a tutor or received longer, more diversified instruction in a school that went well

beyond the teaching of the Koran and the rules of religious practice. Independently of this

education of children and without any structural connection between the two, there was also

vocational teaching to prepare the learned for various professions. Theoretically available to all,

covering all fields of knowledge both ancient and Muslim, homogeneous in its methods, it came to

form part of institutions only on a partial basis and at a late date.


It is within this educational setting

that the madrasa (college), the model of the medieval university in France and Italy and of the

English ‘college’


—which was later to give rise to the modern university—came into being.

This basic education, religious above all, and this system of the replication of scholars, was

paralleled by what could be called a system of general adult instruction. In Islamic thought,2

education, which here takes in religion and morals, is a process that ends at no determined stage or

age but lasts an entire lifetime, as expressed in the saying attributed to the prophet Muhammad:

‘Learn science from the cradle to the grave’. Such figures as that of the literate man (adib), the

pious man, the fakir or dervish, and that of the burgher or governor consorting with the learned, so

typical of Muslim society, owed a great deal to this system of general instruction based on such

institutions as the mosque or the zaouia, and carried forward by such people as the sermon-writer

(khatib, wa iz), the poet, the religious reformer or the saint, and by a vast literature of

popularizations made up of literary anthologies, encyclopedias, local or general histories,

biographical dictionaries, pious works, mystical treatises, etc.

The educational and cultural Islamic system led to the production of an abundant literature

setting forth its organization and functioning, analysing its standards and values. Philosophers such

as al-Farabi


and Miskawayh


proposed a theory of education whose end was to allow human

beings to reach the perfection proper to their nature. At another level, al-Mawardi


proposed an

education programme reconciling worldly and religious interests, and al-Ghazali,


in his celebrated

Ihya’ ulum al-din [The Revival of the Religious Sciences], formulated a theoretical basis and

devised a practical method for attaining the religious ideal of the good Muslim. All these

educational theories, in line with a tradition that goes back to Graeco-Roman antiquity, are

interested in the human being per se, considered in every aspect of his or her being. They do not

concentrate on a particular stage of human life or a particular type of instruction or institution; they

lay down a number of fundamental educational principles, though in a subsidiary and cursory

manner: the restrained use of authority and corporal punishment, the need to awaken the child’s

interest, the value of example, and progression in learning. Above all, they insist on the importance

of the pedagogical relationship and define the respective roles and duties of master and student.

Thus, in Islamic thought education was perceived as a matter that, during infancy, devolved

upon the family, especially the father, whereas in adulthood it became the individual’s own

responsibility. Yet no clear awareness of a unified system of education as a fundamental component

of the social system bringing together all aspects of the replication of individuals and groups had

come into being. The accent was placed rather on the individual soul, which had to be corrected

(taqwim), improved (tahdhib), reformed (islah) and healed of its sickness (mudawat). General

concepts such as ta’dib (educate) or talim (instruct) concerned individuals and comprised acts or

relations involving person-to-person relationships. There was no generic term designating

education as a social institution or the education system as a set of institutions, practices and items

of knowledge, which in any case was not specific to Muslim society. Such a concept, together with

the reality behind it, is closely linked to the emergence of modern nations and States, one of whose

principal duties is in fact to manage and develop education.



Faithful to the general position he takes in the Muqaddima, that of a ‘science of human society’,

(ilm al-ijtima al-insani), Ibn Khaldun approaches education neither as a philosopher, a religious

thinker, a moralist nor as a jurist—the four approaches adopted by Muslim thinkers who

considered the phenomenon of education—but as a sociologist and historian. Yet, while his

approach faithfully reflects the fundamental structural features of the Islamic education system

(separation of the rural world from the urban world, discontinuity between the training of the

person and training for a trade, and the cowardly and badly structured character of educational

institutions), it does not apprehend the education system as forming a whole. The aspects of

education that we would today classify under the reproduction of values are scattered throughout

those chapters of the Muqaddima devoted to social organization and dynamics, power, and rural

and urban ways of life. On the other hand, the aspects involving training, knowledge and knowhow are brought together in the two successive chapters dealing with the arts and sciences.3

The well-known concept of asabiyya, generally rendered as esprit de corps, solidarity or

cohesion, is rarely seen other than from the sociological standpoint. But it also has to do with the

world of values. It may even be said that this concept is the underlying value in tribal society, as it is

the source of all forms of cohesion in a society organized according to an interlocking principle.

The foundations of asabiyya are what Ibn Khaldun calls nura (kinship), the feeling of affection for

and attachment to close relatives and all who are of the same blood.


When a relative suffers an

injustice or is attacked one feels humiliated and leaps to his or her defence in the same natural reflex

that causes one to reciprocate aggression against oneself. Ibn Khaldun calls it a natural tendency

that has always existed in human beings. It transmits itself spontaneously from one generation to

the next and needs to be neither learned nor taught. It is to be found at the deepest level of a sort of

instinct of preservation. But Ibn Khaldun admits that the relations that people are forced to

maintain between themselves out of vital necessity are orderly and obey rules and laws. One of the

functions of thought is to ‘allow people to acquire, through their dealings with their fellows,

knowledge of what they must do and what they must not do, of what is good and what is evil’.


Thanks to ‘empirical intelligence’ individuals are capable of discovering for themselves the rules

and values that must guide their acts and their social life; but, as Ibn Khaldun points out, this would

take too much time, ‘as everything that depends on experience requires time’.


A much shorter

way lies in imitating one’s parents, teachers and elders in general. Ibn Khaldun thus poses the

problem of the reproduction of values at the most general level, placing himself at the point of view

of the individual, however, not that of society, without considering the social function of the

reproduction of values as such. He fails here to disengage himself from a general attitude we find in

philosophers, religious thinkers and moralists, one that might be called ‘edifying’. Individual

improvement and salvation are the aims here, requiring the acquisition of certain forms of behaviour

and the assimilation of certain rules and values. Ibn Khaldun does not state exactly which ones, but

it can safely be affirmed that he means here what Muslim thinkers commonly call the adab, ways of

doing, social conventions or rules of behaviour. The adab reach into all fields of human activities

and behaviour. They have been codified down to the smallest details, as can be seen in al-Mawardi

and al-Ghazali, forming a part of that broad, permanent moral and religious mechanism for human

education referred to above.

In other respects, Ibn Khaldun adopts an approach that could without hesitation be

described as sociological. It can be illustrated by three examples—examples in which he analyses

the courage of rural folk, the corruption of urban dwellers and the phenomenon of imitation.

Courage is a cardinal virtue among country people, he observes. They have neither militia

nor walls nor gates. They see to their own defence, bearing arms and keeping themselves on the

alert at all times. In them, therefore, ‘daring has become a character trait, and courage second

nature’. Among townsmen, however, this virtue is nearly absent since they are brought up in a state

of dependence, sheltered behind their walls and protected by their militia and their governors; they

are used to peace and comfort. In addition, their spirits are weakened and their courage annihilated

by the weight of the constraints imposed on them by ‘governmental and educational laws’.


Corrupt morals are virtually inescapable for urban dwellers. An affluent life leads to the

search for pleasure, the appearance of new habits and of new needs. These become increasingly

difficult to satisfy, particularly when dynasties decline and taxes become heavier. Townspeople use

any means, good or bad, to cope, ineluctably entering ‘the ways of immorality’.


In rural areas, on

the other hand, a life of making do with necessities constantly calls for control over appetites. The

vices and defects that can be acquired are few compared to those of townspeople, and country

people remain close to their original natural state and are more inclined to good.


Imitation is held by Ibn Khaldun to be a general phenomenon: the dominated always imitate

those who dominate them. This is true of children vis-à-vis their parents, pupils vis-à-vis their

teachers, subjects vis-à-vis their princes and dominated nations vis-à-vis dominant nations; it holds

true as much for custom and behaviour as for all aspects of civilization. Ibn Khaldun finds the4

explanation for this phenomenon in the fact that the dominated believe in the perfection of those

who dominate them.


In all three examples the question of values and their transmission is no longer presented as

an exclusively individual matter. The courage of rural folk, like the corrupted morals of

townspeople and the phenomenon of imitation, do not depend only on subjective will, nor are they

the result of incitement: they are the outcome of actual conditions.

As can be seen, without stating the matter explicitly or systematically, Ibn Khaldun deals

with all aspects of the reproduction of values in Muslim society. He begins by assuming, in a sort of

philosophical anthropological postulate, that human beings, who are endowed with the faculty of

thought, organize their relations with the world and each other according to laws and rules that

each individual learns through his or her own personal experience, and especially by impregnation

from the family and cultural milieu. At the same time, he reveals deeper values, connected with the

very functioning of society, whose reproduction occurs independently of individual wills.

Lastly, it is important to note that Ibn Khaldun brings up twice, although both times in an

incidental manner, the matter of the inculcation of religious values. Speaking of the consequences

of Koranic instruction on mental development, he points out that it has become ‘the symbol of

Islam in all Muslim cities’, as it allows articles of faith to be inculcated in the heart of the child from

the tenderest age. In his analysis of the methods practised in the various regions of the Muslim

world he stresses the ‘total’ linguistic ‘deficiency’ to which precocious Koranic instruction leads,

particularly when it is unique and exclusive, as it was in the North Africa. He approves, at least in

theory, of the reforms proposed by Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi, whereby the child would first be taught

language and the rules of calculation, but he finds that such ideas clash with habits too deeply

ingrained to allow those ideas to be implemented,


thereby confirming one of the structural

features of the Islamic education system, namely that of the basically religious nature of the

instruction given to children and of the discontinuity between that instruction and the training of

scholars. Moreover, when examining the matter of faith and works in the chapter he devotes to

theology, Ibn Khaldun gives a personal interpretation of it based on his theory of habitus (malaka,

see ‘Learning the Arts’ below). In substance, he says that what is required in faith and works is not

just a formal declaration or mechanical gesture but a ‘knowledge of state’, a ‘permanent

disposition’, an ‘indelible colouring’ of the soul.


The essential task of the religious institution is to

lead the individual towards such a realization. Ibn Khaldun leaves it up to men of religion to

determine and describe the exact practical rules and procedures.


Ibn Khaldun deals with the learning of trades and the teaching of the sciences in connection with

the ‘means of existence’ argument and the general table of the sciences of his time that drawn up in

the last and very long chapter of the Muqaddima. It is not certain that he would agree with our

reconciliation of the two, since he sees technology as a field of knowledge and of thought linked to

action and consequently inferior to science, which is pure speculation.

In Ibn Khaldun’s theory of society the development of the arts (i.e. the trades, in the

language of the period) and the sciences corresponds at the human level to the perfection of the

spiritual nature and at the social level to the final stage of the gradual transition of society from the

rural order to the urban order. The gulf between the rural and urban worlds is perceived as a natural

consequence of the passage from the ‘necessary’ to the ‘superfluous’, from the ‘simple’ to the

‘complex’. Rural society, being satisfied with the necessary, cultivates only the simplest of the arts,

such as agriculture and weaving; it has no knowledge of writing and the sciences, and though at

times some of its members may take an interest in such matters they can never reach perfection.



the cities, the arts and sciences develop as production expands and diversifies, as wealth increases

and as a taste for the superfluous and luxury comes into being.


The term art (sina a) is used by Ibn Khaldun in a very wide acceptation, covering even the

vocational and practical aspects of scientific activities. The various arts, presented in relation to ‘the

means of existence’, are classed according to their uses and their social importance before more

systematic exposés are made on the main ones. The religious and intellectual offices, such as those

of the judge, the mufti or the teacher, are placed on the same level as the other arts considered as

‘means of existence’. But, as Ibn Khaldun points out,


though these are ‘noble’ as to their ends,

they are generally poorly paid.


Ibn Khaldun limits himself here to two remarks: the arts must necessarily be learned from a master;

they are highly specialized, and a person who masters one art cannot generally master a second. He

does not conceive of technology as a body of knowledge independent of those who possess it.

Technique, though understood as something at once practical and intellectual (amr amali fikri), is

reduced to a skill that may be learned only by observation and imitation (naql al-mu ayana).

Learning itself is seen by Ibn Khaldun as the acquisition of a ‘habitus’ (malaka). He uses this

concept, which for philosophers


had an essentially moral and intellectual meaning, very widely to

cover a vast field going from language to faith, the arts and the sciences. He defines it as ‘a stable

quality resulting from a repeated action until its form has taken final shape’.


Habitus are like

gradually formed ‘colours’ of the soul. They take shape when a person is still in his or her ‘state of

natural simplicity’. Once the soul acquires a given aptitude it loses its primary simplicity, its

readiness weakens and its capacity to assimilate a second aptitude diminishes. We shall return to

this important concept later.


The ideas developed by Ibn Khaldun on teaching belong to his encyclopedic presentation of the

sciences. This opens with a theory of knowledge and a general presentation of the socio-historical

and epistemological bases of scientific development. Then the sciences, categorized as the

rational—‘those that people can apprehend by virtue of the very nature of thought’


—and the

traditional— ‘those founded upon authority’


—are described as to their subjects, their methods,

their results and their historical development. Teaching is approached at the end of this enumeration

and before the sections on language, the learning of language and the various forms of literary

production. Two sides can be distinguished to Ibn Khaldun’s presentation, one covering the

principles of teaching, the other its methods and content. The learning of language is dealt with



At birth, says Ibn Khaldun, we are entirely devoid of knowledge; we are still no more than ‘raw

material’. We then gradually gain ‘form’ ‘thanks to the knowledge we acquire through our organs’.

Essentially ignorant, we fulfil ourselves as human beings only through knowledge. Ibn Khaldun

distinguishes three types of knowledge corresponding to as many ‘degrees of thought’. There is

practical knowledge, the product of ‘the discerning intelligence’, which allows us to act in the

world in a controlled fashion; then ‘a knowledge of what we must or must not do and of what is

good or evil’, which we acquire through our ‘empirical intelligence’ and which guides us in our

relations with our fellows; and, lastly, theoretical knowledge of everything that exists in the world,

which we conquer by our ‘speculative intelligence’. Only this last type of knowledge, the subject of

the sciences, gives us the possibility of reaching perfection of soul.


The teaching of the sciences is necessary for two reasons: firstly, thorough knowledge of

them requires a lengthy period of learning that can be carried out only with the help of teachers;


secondly, their very development requires them to be communicated to others.


Ibn Khaldun’s pedagogical conception is based on the central concept of the habitus, mentioned

earlier in connection with the learning of the arts. Whether it concerns the child or the adult, the

practical arts or the sciences, moral or religious values, the aim of all pedagogical action is the

formation in the soul of a stable disposition. Once it has been acquired, this disposition will not

disappear. Ibn Khaldun often compares it to a dye that lasts until the cloth to which it has been

applied is destroyed.

All habitus, says Ibn Khaldun, are necessarily corporal. He understands the habitus as

something the soul can acquire only through the senses, as opposed to another type of knowledge

proper to the prophets and mystics, which can be obtained only through the contemplation by the

soul of its own essence. This concerns both the physical and the intellectual aptitudes, starting with

the very fact of thinking.


The formation of a habitus initially requires continuous repetition until

the form is fixed. In order to obtain maximum efficiency, it must be a practice (bi-l-mubashara) and

modelled on the most perfect exemplars with the help of the best teachers, preferably following

methods of direct observation (bi-l-mu ayana). Ibn Khaldun thinks that the soul has but fairly

limited receptivity (isti dad). For one thing, it cannot receive several ‘dyes’ at a time; then, when it

has taken on one of these, its capacity to receive others gradually diminishes.


Training must thus

start from the earliest age, when the soul is still virgin, ‘because the first things to be imprinted into

hearts are like foundations for the habitus; and the building’s value is determined by that of its



Accordingly, the choice of content in the earliest instruction is of decisive

importance. Moreover, in the field of the arts as well as in that of the sciences, Ibn Khaldun advises

strictly against the teaching of more than one subject at a time. Moreover, he points out,

observation shows us that ‘it is rare to find a person skilled in one art who is then capable of

excelling in another and to the same degree’.


Ibn Khaldun calls attention to another important factor in the formation of habitus, namely

that of authority. An overly severe attitude on the part of the teacher leads to the most harmful

consequences, particularly for young children. In this connection, he cites the situation of slaves,

servants and oppressed nations. Constraint and oppression break the character, sap energy and in

the end destroy their subjects’ capacity for realizing ‘their destiny and their full humanity’.



therefore recommends moderate use of authority and punishment, taking into consideration the

personality of the pupil and the need ‘to instruct without afflicting the pupil and killing his or her


Finally, habitus can be either good or bad; they may take the form of either virtue or vice,

good or evil, good taste or bad, refinement or crudeness, clarity and exactness or confusion. They

also differ in degree, depending on the quality of teaching and of the models imitated and on the

general level of development of the civilization.

Methods and contents

The question of the teaching of the sciences Ibn Khaldun approaches from his concept of the

habitus. In order to master any discipline and fully possess it, he says, it is necessary to acquire ‘a

habitus that allows the principles and rules to be grasped, problems to be fully understood and

secondary questions to be drawn from principles’.


The formation of such a habitus demands a rigorous approach in which must be taken into

consideration the student’s ‘receptivity’ and power to assimilate, together with the quantity of7

information contained in the subject to be taught and its complexity. Ibn Khaldun considers that the

process must take place in three progressive stages, whose object and means he is careful to



The first of these is a preparatory stage. Its object is to familiarize the student with the

subject being taught and to prepare him or her to grasp its problems. This stage is limited to giving

an overall view of the subject and emphasizing its main points. Explanations must be kept simple

and general and allow for the student’s capacity for understanding and assimilating.

The second stage goes deeper. Now the subject must be looked at from every angle and

generalizations transcended. Explanations and commentaries must be exhaustive and all divergent

points of view examined.

The third stage is that of consolidation and mastery. The subject is again studied, in

extenso, from the beginning, but this time the most complex and obscure points are gone into.

Ibn Khaldun lays great emphasis on the principle of the progressive approach. He says it is

a serious error to begin by the most abstruse problems, as do many teachers who take no account

of the student’s state of preparation. Such a practice is most harmful, as the student tires rapidly

and becomes discouraged. Worse still, in the belief that the difficulties encountered are intrinsic to

the subject, he or she turns away from and abandons it. Going further into the matter, Ibn Khaldun

perceives clearly that the inculcation of a body of knowledge is inseparable from the development

of the mental aptitudes necessary for that knowledge to be assimilated. As he points out: ‘At the

beginning the student is literally incapable of understanding anything at all, except for a very few

points that, in any case, he or she grasps only in an approximate and summary manner, when they

are explained with examples drawn from sensory experience. Then the student’s readiness gradually

develops: the problems of the subject become more familiar with every repetition, and he or she

then goes from approximate knowledge to an ever deeper assimilation’.


Ibn Khaldun supplements these general principles with a number of practical

recommendations. He recommends to teachers that they present their students with consistent

teaching material suited to their capacities, keeping to the works selected for the course and seeing

to it that they are completely assimilated before passing on to others; not teaching two subjects at

the same time, not stretching out the study of a subject over too long a period, in order not to break

the interdependence between its different facets. He advises students not to ‘dwell on disputes over

words’ and especially not to weigh themselves down with formal logic. ‘Indeed’, he says, ‘the only

natural means of attaining truth is the natural readiness to think, once it is relieved of all false ideas

and the thinker places his or her entire confidence in divine mercy. Logic is nothing more than a

description of the act of thinking and in most cases follows it’.


On the question of the content of science teaching, Ibn Khaldun limits himself to a few

remarks inspired by the actual state of education in his time. He denounces three abuses: the

overload of work imposed on students; the excessive importance given to the ‘instrumental

sciences’; and the use of précis. The sciences, particularly religious and literary science, had

undergone considerable development under Islam, and Ibn Khaldun describes it in detail. In

agreement with his contemporaries, he judges this development to have reached its apogee and its



How and in what form should the enormous accumulated corpus be transmitted? During

the preceding centuries sustained efforts had been made to devise adequate didactic forms:

syntheses, treatises, précis and commentaries. For each subject there was a plethora of works

available. Each school of thought or trend had its own collection, often with methods and

terminologies that were peculiar to it. Ibn Khaldun wondered how the average student could be

required to assimilate it all. Teachers, he suggests, should limit themselves to teaching their students

the subject-matter of their own schools. But he barely believes in this solution himself, ‘owing to

force of habit’. Précis do not seem to him to furnish an effective remedy; on the contrary, they only

increase the harm done. Intended to ‘facilitate memorization for students, they render the task

harder for them’. Ibn Khaldun makes two reproaches: by trying to ‘fit a maximum number of ideas8

into a minimum number of words’, they are injurious to the quality of expression and lead to

comprehension difficulties; and they sow confusion in the students’ minds ‘by presenting them with

the ultimate findings of a subject before preparing them to take in those findings’.


Faced with such

a situation, it is understandable that he should speak out against the propensity of his age to dwell

on the study of the sciences described as ‘auxiliary’ or ‘instrumental’—such as grammar, logic and

legal principles. These are theoretically only means to be placed at the service of the fundamental

sciences that are sought for their own sakes. Thus, philology and arithmetic should serve the

religious sciences, while logic and philosophy should be similarly available to theology. Too much

time spent on the religious sciences is only further weighing down the burden borne by students and

distracting them from the essential.


This view of education is not seen by Ibn Khaldun as being linked to institutions or places.

It appears rather as a private, individual matter at the level of each of its three components: science,

teachers and students. The individual soul fulfils itself in and through knowledge. The invention and

development of the sciences meets a spiritual necessity above all. Though perfectible, the sciences

are conceived as constituting a closed universe, or at least one tending towards a certain

completion. The greater part of scientific activity must be devoted to the task of organizing the

various fields of knowledge into individualized subjects capable of being transmitted. Thus of the

objects assigned by Ibn Khaldun to ‘the composition of works’, five out of eight deal with

organization and the transmission of knowledge: definition of the subject, the systematic exposé of

results, the righting of errors, commentary and summary.


With the progress of civilization, science became professionalized, organizing itself

according to principles and rules, making use of a specialized methodology and terminology; it was

practised as a trade. When Ibn Khaldun attempts to trace out a history of education, he

concentrates on the sanad, i.e. the network of teachers, across space and time, who guarantee the

quality of the knowledge transmitted. Moreover, the history of the sciences is essentially epitomized

for him in that of the basic works that have been composed within each subject, with their main

commentaries and abstracts. Thus on the one hand, and within each subject, there are a number of

established works; on the other, chains of authorities to transmit them: this sums up the institution

of education. Ibn Khaldun barely mentions such places as colleges (madrasas) or convents

(khanqas, rubut), which he considers only in the role of material assistance to students and teachers

(board and lodging).


Thus indirectly, and several centuries in advance, he confirms one of the

invariable structural features of the education system in Muslim societies, namely the precarious

nature of its institutions.


1. The author’s original title was ‘Education in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddima’.

2. Abdesselam Cheddadi (Morocco). Professor in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University Muhammad

V, Rabat; former Associate Head of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris.

Translator of the autobiography of Ibn Khaldun under the title Le voyage d’occident et d’orient [The Journey to

West and East] (1980), extracts from the Kitab al-Ibar, under the title Peuples et nations du monde [The World’s

Peoples and Nations] (2 vols., 1986), and numerous studies on aspects of the thought of Ibn Khaldun. At present

preparing a new translation of the Muqaddima and of the History of the Arabs and Berbers of the Maghrib (to be

published by Editions Gallimard, Paris).

3. Cf. E. Gellner, Nations and nationalism, Oxford, Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1983, p. 11-18, 29-35.

4. Cf. G. Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1981; The Rise of Humanism in

Classical Islam and the Christian West, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1990.

5. See H.J. Cohen, The Economic Background and Secular Occupations of Muslim Jurisprudents and Traditionists

in the Classical Period of Islam (until the Middle of the Eleventh Century), J.E.S.H.O., January 1970, p. 16-61;

J.E. Gilbert, The Ulama of Medieval Damascus and the International World of Islamic Scholarship, Ph.D.

dissertation, Ann Arbor, University Microfilms, 1977.

6. G. Makdisi, op. cit.9

7. See particularly Ara’ ahl al-madina al-fadila [The Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City] and Kitab

tahsil as-sa ada [The Book of the Attainment of Happiness]. A profile of al-Farabi is included in this series of

‘100 Thinkers on Education’.

8. See Kitab tahdhib al-akhlaq [The Book of Moral Education].

9. See Adab ad-dunya wa-d-din [The Rules of Propriety for the Wordly Life and the Religious Life].

10. A profile of al-Ghazali is included in this series of ‘100 Thinkers on Education’.

11. E. Gellner, op. cit., p. 35-38.

12. Cf. Muqaddima Ibn Khaldun, ‘Abd al-Wahid Wafi, Cairo, undated, Vol. II, p. 484-85; French translation by

Vincent Monteil, Vol. I, p. 256-58; English translation by F. Rosenthal, Vol. I, p. 264-65, (hereafter designated

as Fr. tr. and Engl. tr). All quotations from the Muqaddima given in the present essay were translated from

Arabic to French by the author.

13. Muqaddima, III, p. 1012-13; Fr. tr. II, p. 878-80; Engl. tr. II, p. 417-19.

14. Ibid., III, p. 1012; Fr. tr., II, p. 878; Engl. tr., II, p. 418.

15. Ibid., II, p. 478-81; Fr. tr., p. 249-54; Engl. tr., p. 257-61.

16. Ibid., II, p. 888 ff.; Fr. tr., II, p. 765 ff.; Engl. tr., II, p. 291 ff.

17. Ibid., II, p. 474-79; Fr. tr., I, p. 246-51; Engl. tr., p. 253-58.

18. Ibid., II, p. 510-11; Fr. tr., I, p. 291-92; Engl. tr., p. 290-300.

19. Ibid., III, p. 1249-53; Fr. tr., p. 1222-26; Engl. tr., III, p. 300-05.

20. Ibid., III, p. 1072 ff.; Fr. tr., III, p. 965 ff.; Engl. tr. III, p. 39 ff.

21. Ibid., II, p. 935, 961; Fr. tr., p. 816, 847; Engl. tr., II, p. 346, 378.

22. Ibid., II, p. 936-39; Fr. tr., II, p. 817-19; Engl, tr., II, p. 347-49.

23. Ibid., II, p. 925-26; Fr. tr., p. 805-07; Engl. tr., p. 334-35.

24. See Avicenna, for example, in Shifa’.

25. Muqaddima, II, p. 935; Fr. tr., II, p. 816; Engl. tr., II, p. 346.

26. Ibid., III, p. 1025-26; Fr. tr., II, p. 897; Engl. tr., II, p. 436.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid., III, p. 1008-09; Fr. tr., II, p. 873-75; Engl. tr., II, p. 411-13.

29. Ibid., III, p. 1017-18; Fr. tr., p. 887-88; Engl. tr., II, p. 424-426.

30. Ibid., III, p. 1019; Fr. tr., II, p. 889; Engl. tr., II, p. 426.

31. Ibid., II, p. 942; Fr. tr., p. 824-25; Engl. tr., p. 354-55.

32. Ibid., III, p. 1249; Fr. tr., II, p. 1222; Engl. tr., II, p. 301.

33. Ibid., II, p. 942; Fr. tr., p. 824-25; Engl. tr., p. 354-55.

34. Ibid. , III, p. 1253-54; Fr. tr., III, p. 1226-29; Engl. tr., p. 305-07.

35. Ibid., III, p. 1019; Fr. tr., II, p. 888; Engl. tr., II, p. 426.

36. Ibid., III, p. 1243-45; Fr. tr., III, p. 1218-21; Engl. tr., III, p. 292-94.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid., III, p. 1248; Engl. tr., p. 298.

39. Ibid., III, p. 1027; Fr. tr., II, p. 901; Engl. tr., II, p. 439.

40. Ibid., III, p. 1242; Fr. tr., p. 1217-18; Engl. tr., p. 291.

41. Ibid., III, p. 1248-49; Engl. tr., p. 298-300.

42. Ibid., III, p. 1237-40; Fr. tr., III, p. 1211-14; Engl. tr., III, p. 284-88.

43. Ibid., III, p. 1021, 1025; Fr. tr., II, p. 892, 897; Engl. tr., II, p. 430, 435.

Works by Ibn Khaldun


Kitab al-Ibar [The Book of Advice]. Ed. by N. Hurini. 7 vols. Cairo, Bulaq, 1867 (H. 1284).

Muqaddima Ibn Khaldun [Ibn Khaldun’s Introduction to History]. 4 vols. Cairo, Abd a-Wahid Wafi, 1957.

[The Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun]. 3 vols. Paris, E. Quatremère, 1858. (In Arabic)

Shifa’ as-sa’il li tahdh ib al-masa’il [Satisfying Questions on the Correction of Problems]. Istanbul, M. Ibn Tawit atTanji, 1958.

at-Ta rif bi-Ibn Khaldun wa rihlatuhu gharban wa sharqan [An Introduction to Ibn Khaldun and His Travels in West

and East]. Cairo, M. Ibn Tawit at-Tanji, 1951 (H. 1370).

Tarikh ad-duwal al-islamiya bi-l-Maghrib [A History of Islamic Countries in the Maghreb]. Algiers, W.M. de Slane,

1847 (H. 1263).10


Les Prolégomènes d’Ebn Khaldoun [The Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldun]. Fr. tr. W.M. de Slane. 3 vols. Paris, 1863.

Ibn Khaldun: discours sur l’histoire universelle [Ibn Khaldun: a Presentation of Universal History]. Fr. tr. by V.

Monteil. 3 vols. Beirut, 1967.

The Muqaddima: an Introduction to History. Engl. tr. by F. Rosenthal. 3 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1958, new ed. 1967.

Nations et peuples du monde [The World’s Nations and Peoples]. Fr. tr. introd. and notes by Abdesselam Cheddadi. 2

vols. Paris, Sindbad, 1986. (Extracts from the ‘Ibar.)

La voie et la loi ou le maître et le juriste [The Way and the Law of the Master and the Lawyer]. Fr. tr. from Arabic

presented and annotated by René Pérez. Paris, Sindbad, 1991.

Le voyage d’occident et d’orient : autobiographie [Travels in West and East: an Autobiography]. Fr. tr., introd. and

notes by Abdesselam Cheddadi. Paris, Sindbad, 1980.

Works about Ibn Khaldun, education and Islam

Ahmad, A. The Educational Thought of Ibn Khaldun. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society (Karachi), Vol.

XIV, 1968, p. 175-81.

Berque, J., Ville et université aperçu sur l’histoire de l’Ecole de Fès [Town and University: a Glimpse on the History

of the Fes School]. Revue historique de droit français et étranger (Paris), 1948-1949, p. 64-117.

Buhs, H. The Educational System of the Muslims in the Middle Ages. Islamic Culture (Hyderabad), Vol. 1, 1927, p.


Bulliet, R. The Patricians of Nishapur: a Study in Medieval Islamic Social History. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard

University Press, 1972, p. 249-54.

Keddi, N. (ed.). Scholars, Saints and Sufis. Berkeley, Calif., University of California Press, 1972.

Muhasib, J. At-Tarbiya ind Ibn Khaldun [Education according to Ibn Khaldun], al-Mashriq, XLIII, 1949, p. 365-98.

Qurayshi, M.A. The Educational Ideas of Ibn Khaldun. Journal of the Maharaja Sayajirao University (Baroda), Vol.

XIV, 1965, p. 83-92.

Sourdel, D.; Makdisi, G. (eds.). L’Enseignement en Islam et en Occident au Moyen Age [Education in the Islamic

World and in the West in the Middle Ages]. Revue des Etudes Islamiques (Paris), special issue, Vol. XLIV,


Tibawi, A. L. Philosophy of Muslim Education. Islamic Quarterly (Hyderabad), Vol. IV, No. 2, 1957, p. 78-89.