A HISTORY OF IPE THOUGHT AMONG EARLY WRITERS


IBN KHALDUN (1332-1406)

Ibn Khaldun followed in the pattern of analysis of Ibn Taimiyyah respecting to markets and the role of governments. But Ibn Khaldun's analysis of society differed from Ibn Taimiyyah's in respect to the former's much more empiricist approach rather than the normative-theoretical study of Ibn Taimiyyah's. Besides, Ibn Taimiyyah like Ghazzali invokes the Islamic eoistemology directly in his theory of the Islamic political economy. Ibn Khaldun does not go to an intensive study of Qur'an and Sunnah for delineating his ideas of society, historical change and politico-economic functions. He brings some of the Qur'anic epistemological touch in his theory of culture, which he treats as science rather than as a relativistic meaning of ways and conduct of life. He argues that the science of culture can be gained from the universality of the dynamics of historical change underlying which is the Divine Will with a series of causation for the empiricist's inferences. Within this science of culture relating to Ibn Khaldun's theory of history, comes his deduction that the pattern of change of all societies -- though Ibn Khaldun studied only Arab societies of his time -- would be from their state of cohesiveness motivated by high values and zeal, to a state of Asabiyyah, as progress breeds enervation of the moral spirit and decadence takes over. Immigration, human resource development, quest for the skills and their refinement in a framework of division of labour, the plenty, pomp and pamper of society as it progresses from the early states to city and nation states (umran), are all shown to be the variables that causes this destructive transformation to take place. Thus to Ibn Khaldun, the rise, progress followed by decline of nations is due to the enervation of the human spirit to cohesion and goodness of values with the progress from the rudimentary form of life to the complexities of umran.

Ibn Khaldun's concepts of population dynamics, human resource development, skill diversification and societal transformation together with the importance of governance, are the combination of statecraft with the economic order, which comprises well an empirical though not a conceptual approach to the study of political economy. In this sense, Ibn Khaldun link with epistemological questions of political economy, hence the characterization of what is an Islamic political economy and to suggest ways and means of integrating the Islamic state towards promoting the conditions amenable to the establishment of Islamic political economy, remained totally absent in Ibn Khaldun's writings. In Schumpeter's terminology, Ibn Khaldun may be characterized as a relativist rather than an absolutist in political economic thought.

Beyond this even, there does not appear in Ibn Khaldun any abiding philosophy of historicism, according to which the underlying and not simply the outer symptoms of rise and decline of civilizations can be studied. For example, The setbacks of so many Islamic movements in the hands of Occidental Powers since a long time now, cannot be assigned to the condition of enervation of the spirit. The check of the Muslim advance to the precints of France when it was finally stopped by Charles Martel in one of the most decisive battles, the battle of Tours, cannot be explained by the type of historical empiricism provided of Ibn Khaldun. The permanent continuity of Islam as the historical force over time, in spite of the setbacks that Muslims have experienced, cannot be explained by Ibn Khaldun's historical empiricism.

Ibn Khaldun had equally failed to present a Qur'anic philosophy of history to show the rise and decline of civilizations owes to the primal condition of the believers' commitment or otherwise to the observance of Shari'ah and Sunnat Allah in the midst of society and self. These were the undertakings of Al-Ghazzali and Ibn Taimiyyah. Hence, no philosophy of history could be afforded by Ibn Khaldun. He thus remained to be merely an empricist without the greater depth of epistemological-analytical vision that sways permanence of historical explanation. In the Western world, we find this attempt being made for occidentalism by Hegel. In the Islamic world, a better and deeper study of the philosophy of history was given by Shah Waliullah.

Only an empirical theory of political economy and no theory of Islamic political economy can be gained from the Muqaddimah. For those who believe in the reductionist philosophy of rationalism as the controller of destinies, and for those who treat the Divine Reality as outside the determining life of history as an endogenous force, will continue to take stock of Ibn Khaldun's work. Thus has Ibn Khaldun become popular in the West today, but not so Shar Waliullah, Imam Ghazzali and Ibn Taimiyyah. That is because, Ibn Khaldun championed his Greek leanage along with the Hellenic philosophers like, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, Razi and others. That was the fashion of intellectual of the time when Ibn Khaldun wrote and it was the very kind of inquiry that gained the privileges with the elites and rulers of the time. Ibn Khaldun's theory of statecraft is also Machivallean in this sense, as his thought toed the lines of the ruling class.

Where can we then place Ibn Khaldun in the order of Islamic scholarships with a purpose to give to posterity something that was authentically Islamic. Ibn Khaldun's theoretical flavour and his empiricist and condesending approach to political economy of Muslim governance of his time, reflected the sorry state of affairs of the Muslim world then, as the Muslim world fell to the reign of kings and despots. Ibn Khaldun defended this order in some ways as he wrote, "Dynasties are prior to towns and cities. Towns and cities are secondary (products of royal authority). .. As a matter of fact (human beings) must be forced and driven to (build cities). The stick or royal authority is wjat compels them,....Such reward amounts to so large a sum that only royal authority and dynasty can pay for it. Thus, dynasty and royal authority are absolutely necessary for the building of cities and the planning of towns." (Muqaddimah, Vol.II, p. 235). Ibn Khaldun continues on writing, "The owner of property and conspicuous wealth in a given civilisation needs a protective force to defend him." (Vol. II, pp. 250). "Royal authority requires soldiers, money and the means to communicate." (Vol. 2, pp. 23).

It is true that Ibn Khaldun thought of the pure economic functions of urban life -- division of labour, economic development and public finance -- long before Adam Smith and Keynes. He also argues that the transition from the state of dynasty to the state of towns and cities is a costly one, but he also promotes the importance of government functions. From Ibn Taimiyyah to Ibn Khaldun, the importance of government in the economy has increased albeit not without cost. Ibn Khaldun's taxes for the state have become increasingly onerous. In the above paragraphs, he is in a way defending the taxing powers of the state in spite of the costs that he recognizes in this state function. Thus, what can be concluded from these is the seemingly costly processes involved in the recommended transitions from basic needs regimes of development to industrial states of development with great degree of government presence in this transformation. This is the empirical observations of North African development for a long time now. It has taken off the human freedom to participate in development and has individuals have lost it to the overweening states. If Ibn Khaldun's ideas are taken first, as a prescription of development, it is a socially and economically costly way to develop in the face of capitalistic and elistist claim over the resources of development, ownership and empowerment of elistism. kings and rulers. This sorrowfully has happened in the Arab world contrary to the Islamic precepts of governance. Second, if Ibn Khaldun's ideas are taken as dynamics of the historical process of change, there is no relevance in all of these of the Islamic view to development, wealth and progress, growth and industrial advance while keeping the moral precepts in tact as was delineated by Ibn Taimiyyah and Imam Ghazzali. Likewise, while the great Shari'ah scholars described their politico-economic universe in the midst of equilibrium, Ibn Khaldun described it in terms of a disequilibrium dynamics. Economic development as an evolutionary process leading to the destruction of dynasties and the rise of cities and nation states as costly entities, means that this inevitable development must be increasingly costly in Ibn Khaldun's framework of political economy. Taken in this perspective, Ibn Khaldun's prescription and message of history are both contrary to the essentially Islamic methodology of socioeconomic development, political economy and historicism.