وَٱللَّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّنۢ بُطُونِ أُمَّهَٰتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْـًٔا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلسَّمْعَ وَٱلْأَبْصَٰرَ وَٱلْأَفْـِٔدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“And Allah has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect (heart) that perhaps you would be grateful.” (16:78)
The historical backdrop of current political theory is fragmented without inspecting the commitments of Muslim masterminds whose scholarly works are seen as notable in their individual fields during the occasions they lived in. While examining history, we are taught that due to the socio-economic changes in nineteenth-century Europe, modern nation-states were carved out to devolve power from royalty and to build the foundation of democracy. However, this historical analysis is incomplete as it ignores the fact that 800 years of Muslim rule in Spain heavily influenced the rest of Europe. In fact, Ibn Khaldūn, whose family was originally from Seville, Spain, traveled to and fro between Europe and North Africa dispensing his governing duties and recording his observations in his writings. In essence, birth and the formation of human civilization cannot be separated from the existence of a wise leader who is responsible for governing and ruling the state. Ibn Khaldūn is regarded to be one of the brightest and most brilliant minds of the Muslim world. He memorized the Qurʾān, studied its principal commentaries, gained a good grounding in Muslim law, familiarized himself with the masterpieces of Arabic literature, and acquired a clear and forceful style and a capacity for writing fluent verse that was to serve him well in later life when addressing eulogistic or supplicatory poems to various rulers. Striking by their absence are books on philosophy, history, geography, or other social sciences; this does not mean that he did not study these subjects—he wrote summaries of several books by the 12th-century—but it is to be presumed that Ibn Khaldūn acquired most of his very impressive knowledge in these fields after he had completed his formal education. He is considered the founder of the science of human society as well as the forerunner of the original theories in social science, philosophy of history, and economics.
Ibn Khaldūn took judicial duties quite seriously too; he claimed to have been guided in his judgments solely by the merits of each case and attempted to reform the numerous abuses that had developed in the administration of justice. He must have struck the tolerant and easygoing Egyptians as somewhat dour and puritanical, and his own opinion is recorded by one of his students: “These Egyptians behave as though the Day of Judgement would never come!” At any rate, “trouble gathered against me from every quarter and darkened the atmosphere between me and the rulers”; he was dismissed and served again as a chief judge only for one year, toward the end of his life.
Theory of the Establishment of Human Civilization
Ibn Khaldūn’s theory of the establishment of Human civilization suggested in his writings that empires rise to power, reach maturity, and then eventually decay. This theory was examined in his writings in the 14th century, approximately 400 years before empires fell in the rest of Europe, including Spain. His predictions were played out in history as the European feudal lords lost power and were unable to keep up their high taxes and exploitation of the common people, leading to a fall of their empires and revolts by peasants. According to Ibn Khaldūn in his Kitab al-Ibar, he had stated that he himself was involved in politics and government for quite a significant period of time. Therefore, he was able to write and carefully scrutinize the theory of good governance in-depth in his writing.
His economic concept for society implies an economic system that requires five components, namely sharia, government, society, ownership, free and fair economic activity. He has examined in the pattern sociology of knowledge, the theological, metaphysical and physical causes of humanities from emerging to collapse, and has presented a single image of the process of social changes in societies, states, individuals, and humanities. His instrument’s mental for study and observation of the historical course of humanity is a function of experimental wisdom. Today, the average, modern citizen claims loyalty to their nation-state. This loyalty is perhaps most evident during sporting events that release patriotism from even the most seemingly unpatriotic individual. The waving of flags, the chanting of slogans, and the reverence for the national anthem by players and audience alike point to a deep-rooted historical and sociological phenomenon in humans that Ibn Khaldūn calls ‘asabiyyah’. This can be roughly translated to mean ‘group loyalty. He explains that this feeling originates from blood ties, but it changes over time until it grows into a feeling in an individual that they are part of a greater group and that group is consequently a part of the individual. He further explains that loyalty to a state is beneficial to both individual and state, as it provides the state with economic benefits and the individual with security against possible threats from enemies.
Model of the State
The model of the state that has been drawn out in Ibn Khaldūn’s “Muqaddimah” is not one that has a monolithic culture, rather it is a mixture of cultures and backgrounds that unite under loyalty to the main authority. It is very similar to the modern multi-cultural states that we see today, where historically different people claim loyalty to one nationality whilst retaining their ethnic roots. Perhaps this is shocking to readers, as a state governed by Islam is often imagined as an intolerant, monolithic society where the government only allows for the expression of a single religious belief in public life. Readers forget that Islam allows for a diversity of views and their expression, as long as there is no collective harm being done to the people. Laws are in place to govern hate speech and any circulation of views that can lead to loss of life or safety (as is the case in the UK as well). Essentially, Ibn Khaldūn explained that civilization secured cooperation among people and their participation in the socio-cultural-political process which are carried out through ethical and good moral conduct. Ibn Khaldūn affirmed that civilization cannot be achieved through coercion instead it had to be attained through cooperation among human beings. Hence, certain values need to be inculcated in the individual self and spread in everyone’s heart.
Brexit and CWC
Given the most recent tensions of today’s political climate with the question of Brexit, the accompanying rise of populism, and the scapegoating of Muslim communities; it is a time when Muslims in the UK are urgently trying to rediscover their own traditions. Particularly considering the UK’s colonial history and wealth of diversity stems from the contributions of its commonwealth citizens, whatever types of borders and legislative developments Westminster law-makers enact at the end of this process, British Muslims and all minority groups should be confident in their rights within a multicultural society for respect, equality, and access to fundamental freedoms. Traditional Islamic political science is rich with Muslim political thinkers who proposed ideas of co-existence predicated upon loyalty to nationality and tolerance of other nationalities, faiths, and cultures.
Politicians Must Act Model
In a time of political divisiveness where minority ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities are at the center of hate-filled political rhetoric, it is essential that politicians promote a universal and unifying message as did Ibn Khaldūn in his time. Good governance and the characteristic of good leadership are arguably virtually essential to sustain the effective administration of a state and at a broader level, an excellent civilization.
Allah the Almighty has given the responsibility to man as His vicegerent on earth. As inheritors of the Prophets, leaders are tied directly to fulfill the obligations towards Allah the Almighty and carrying out the task to govern the people. In this case, a leader must exercise the law of God, perform kindness, and respect the religious clerics. Ibn Khaldūn stressed that a leader is entitled to loyalty and support of the people when he has a sense of respect for the scholars, the righteous, those who are respected among the family of the Prophet, the rank, the traders and foreigners, and he must be able to practice justice. Accordingly, Ibn Khaldūn believed that an exemplary leader is the most convenient for the people under his rule. This is due to the fact that the public generally tends to imitate and follow their revered leader. That is the case as people generally view the leader as someone who possesses the values of an ideal figure with much perfection. This can be compared to how the children see and imitate the behavior of their parents and the students imitate their teachers. As a matter of fact, Ibn Khaldūn was the first to systematically analyze the function of the economy and the role of government in its stabilization and to increase its output and employment. Ibn Khaldūn viewed that the government has to play a significant role to establish law and order conducive for economic activities. Good governance must focus on the enforcement of property rights, protection of trade routes, and security in order to ensure peaceful and harmonious trade relations and production. Likewise, the government needs to enforce a minimum amount of surplus through taxation in order to provide appropriate services and necessary public works. Ibn Khaldūn asserted that good governance is the one that has minimum bureaucracy, minimum mercenary armies to keep law and order, and minimum taxation on its citizens to finance the activities of the state administration. Likewise, the actualization of good governance will reduce and eliminate tribal strives and communal confrontations in society. Moreover, considering the lack of awareness of the contributions of thought to the development of our society, policymakers must commit to supporting academic freedoms and initiatives to decolonize education, whilst giving greater emphasis within the national curriculum to shared histories and the contributions of minority communities in building our society.
Ibn Khaldūn noted a clear connection between property rights and justice. Similarly, al-Ghazali also affirmed that economic progress will be achieved if there is justice, peace, prosperity, and stability. Injustice acts such as collecting unjustified taxes, infringe upon property rights, taking property by force, and so forth can ruin a civilization. In addition, Ibn Khaldūn highlighted the facts that civilization and its well-being as well business prosperity depend on productivity and people’s efforts to do their best and gaining profits. Nevertheless, when people no longer do business in order to make a living and they cease all gainful activity, the business of civilization starts to slump and deteriorate.
Ibn Khaldūn wrote:
“Therefore, today, the scholar in this field needs to know the principles of politics, the (true) nature of existent things, and the differences among nations, places, and periods with regard to ways of life, character qualities, customs, sects, schools, and everything else. He must be aware of the different origins and beginnings of (different) dynasties and religious groups, as well as of the reasons and incentives that brought them into being and the circumstances and history of the persons who supported them.”