Arabic Muslims, Sunni Muslims, history, Ibn Khaldun


Robert Irwin (b. 1946), a British historian, novelist, and essayist, became so enthralled by Arabic Muslim society, politics, language, literature, and culture that while reading modern history at Oxford University in the 1960’s, he became a Muslim during his first summer vacation which he spent at a Sufi Alawi foundation in Algeria. In parallel, he developed a fascination for the Tunisian polymath, Wali al-Din ‘Abd al Rahman Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) who has been variously described as the greatest Muslim intellectual, the greatest social scientist of the Middle Ages, the founder of Sociology and the critical study of history, and a precursor of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the Laffer Curve. Ibn Khaldun, however, did not view history as a separate discipline, nor himself as a philosopher of history. Rather, he viewed himself as a devout Sunni Muslim and as such an interpreter of history, and his most famous work, the Muqaddima (Prolegomena), as ‘an entirely original science’ (p. ix).