Perhaps the most well known Islamic scholar who wrote about economics was Ibn Khaldun of Tunisia (1332–1406), who is considered a father of modern economics. Ibn Khaldun wrote on economic and political theory in the introduction, or Muqaddimah (Prolegomena), of his History of the World (Kitab al-Ibar). In the book, he discussed what he called asabiyyah (social cohesion), which he sourced as the cause of some civilizations becoming great and others not. Ibn Khaldun felt that many social forces are cyclic, although there can be sudden sharp turns that break the pattern. His idea about the benefits of the division of labor also relate to asabiyya, the greater the social cohesion, the more complex the successful division may be, the greater the economic growth. He noted that growth and development positively stimulate both supply and demand, and that the forces of supply and demand are what determine the prices of goods. He also noted macroeconomic forces of population growth, human capital development, and technological developments effects on development. In fact, Ibn Khaldun thought that population growth was directly a function of wealth. Although he understood that money served as a standard of value, a medium of exchange, and a preserver of value, he did not realize that the value of gold and silver changed based on the forces of supply and demand. Ibn Khaldun also introduced the labor theory of value.
Ibn Khaldun introduced the concept popularly known as the Laffer Curve, that increases in tax rates initially increase tax revenues, but eventually increases in tax rates cause a decrease in tax revenues. This occurs as too high a tax rate discourages producers in the economy.
Ibn Khaldun used a dialectic approach to describe the sociological implications of tax choice (which now forms a part of economics theory):
“In the early stages of the state, taxes are light in their incidence, but fetch in a large revenue…As time passes and kings succeed each other, they lose their tribal habits in favor of more civilized ones. Their needs and exigencies grow…owing to the luxury in which they have been brought up. Hence they impose fresh taxes on their subjects…and sharply raise the rate of old taxes to increase their yield…But the effects on business of this rise in taxation make themselves felt. For business men are soon discouraged by the comparison of their profits with the burden of their taxes…Consequently production falls off, and with it the yield of taxation.”
This analysis is very similar to the modern economic concept known as the Laffer Curve. Laffer does not claim to have invented the concept himself, instead attributing it to Ibn Khaldun, and more recently, to John Maynard Keynes.
The first detailed studies on the subject of historiography itself and the first critiques on historical methods appeared in the works of the Arab Muslim historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who is regarded as the father of historiography, cultural history, and the philosophy of history, especially for his historiographical writings in the Muqaddimah (Latinized as Prolegomena) and Kitab al-Ibar (Book of Advice). His Muqaddimah also laid the groundwork for the observation of the role of state, communication, propaganda and systematic bias in history, and he discussed the rise and fall of civilizations in his theory of Asabiyyah.
Franz Rosenthal wrote in the History of Muslim Historiography:
“Muslim historiography has at all times been united by the closest ties with the general development of scholarship in Islam, and the position of historical knowledge in MusIim education has exercised a decisive influence upon the intellectual level of historicai writing….The Muslims achieved a definite advance beyond previous historical writing in the sociological understanding of history and the systematisation of historiography. The development of modern historical writing seems to have gained considerably in speed and substance through the utilization of a Muslim Literature which enabled western historians, from the seventeenth century on, to see a large section of the world through foreign eyes. The Muslim historiography helped indirectly and modestly to shape present day historical thinking.”
Ibn Khaldun’ makes the following comments on his scientific historical method in his Muqaddimah:
- “History is a science”
- “History has a content and the historian should account for it”
- “The historian should account for the elements that gather to make the human history”
- “He should also work according to the laws of history”
- “History is a philosophical science”
- “History is composed of news about the days, states and the previous centuries. It is a theory, an analysis and justification about the creatures and their principles, and a science of how the incidents happen and their reasons”
- “Myths have nothing to do with history and should be refuted”
- “To build strong historical records, the historian should rely on necessary rules for the truth comparison”
The Muqaddimah further emphasized the role of systemic bias in affecting the standard of evidence. Khaldun was quite concerned with the effect of raising standard of evidence when confronted with uncomfortable claims, and relaxing it when given claims that seemed reasonable or comfortable. He was a jurist, and sometimes participated reluctantly in rulings that he felt were coerced, based on arguments he didn’t respect. Besides al-Maqrizi (1364–1442), Ibn Khaldun had few successors in his thinking about history until Arnold J. Toynbee, a 20th century British historian.
History of science
Ibn Khaldun discussed the history of science, and wrote the following on the history of Islamic science:
“The Muslims desired to learn the sciences of foreign nations. They made them their own through translations. They pressed them into the mould of their own views. They took them over into their own language from the non-Arab languages and surpassed the achievements of the non-Arabs in them.”
The Muqaddimah contains discussions on Islamic theology which show that Ibn Khaldun was a follower of the orthodox Ash’ari school of Sunni Islamic thought and a supporter of al-Ghazali‘s orthodox religious views. He was also a critic of Neoplatonism, particularly its notion of a hierarchy of being. He argued that theosis requires the participation of revelation and is not possible through reason alone. He based his argument on the “irreducibility of the empirical nature of our knowledge of facts, which cannot then be converted into abstract and pure concepts at a higher level of human consciousness.”
The Muqaddimah covers the historical development of kalam and the different schools of Islamic thought, notably the Mu’tazili and Ash’ari schools. Ibn Khaldun, being a follower of the orthodox Ash’ari school, criticizes the views of the Mu’tazili school, and bases his criticisms on the views of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari, who he describes as “the mediator between different approaches in the kalam.” Ibn Khaldun also covers the historical development of Islamic logic in the context of theology, as he viewed logic as being distinct from early Islamic philosophy, and believed that philosophy should remain separate from theology. The book also contains commentaries on verses from the Qur’an.
Science of hadith
Ibn Khaldun discussed the science of hadith. He disagreed with the use of reason in the evaluation of a hadith, arguing that “there is no place for the intellect in them, save that the intellect may be used in connection with them to relate problems of detail with basic principles.”
Ibn Khaldun wrote the following on the biological theory of evolution:
“This world with all the created things in it has a certain order and solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless.”
“One should then take a 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 newest 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 reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and preception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man. This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.”
Ibn Khaldun was a critic of the practice of alchemy in the Islamic world. In chapter 23 of his work, entitled Fi ‘ilm al-kimya, he discussed the history of alchemy, the views of alchemists such as Geber, and the theories of the transmutation of metals and elixir of life. In chapter 26, entitled Fi inkar thamrat al-kimya wa istihalat wujudiha wa ma yansha min al-mafasid, he wrote a systematic refutation of alchemy on social, scientific, philosophical and religious grounds.
He begins his refutation on social grounds, arguing that many alchemists are incapable of earning a living because of the thought of becoming rich through alchemy and end up “losing their credibility because of the futility of their attempts”.
He also argues that some alchemists resort to fraud, either openly by applying a thin layer of gold/silver on top of silver/copper jewelery, or secretly using an artificial procedure of covering whitened copper with sublimated mercury, though only skilled experimenters can carry out the latter. He admits, however, that most alchemists are honest and carry out their investigations in good faith with the belief that the transmutation of metals is possible, but on the basis that there has never been any successful attempt to date, he argues that transmutation is an implausible theory without any reliable scientific evidence to support it. He reports the earlier opinions of al-Farabi, Avicenna and al-Tughrai on alchemy, and then proceeds to advance his own arguments against it. One such argument is that “human science is powerless even to attain what is inferior to it” and that alchemy “resembles someone who wants to produce a man, an animal or a plant.” Another sociological argument he uses is that, even if transmutation were possible, the disproportionate growth of gold and silver “would make transactions useless and would run counter to divine wisdom.” He ends his arguments with a restatement of his position:
“Alchemy can only be achieved through psychic influences (bi-ta’thirat al-nufus). Extraordinary things are either miracles of witchcraft… They are unbounded; nobody can claim to acquire them.”
Sharia law and Fiqh jurisprudence
Ibn Khaldun was an Islamic jurist and discussed the topics of Sharia (Islamic law) and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in his Muqaddimah. Ibn Khaldun wrote that “Jurisprudence is the knowledge of the classification of the laws of God.” In regards to jurisprudence, he acknowledged the inevitability of change in all aspects of a community, and wrote:
“The conditions, customs and beliefs of peoples and nations do not indefinitely follow the same pattern and adhere to a constant course. There is rather, change with days and epochs, as well as passing from one state to another… such is the law of God that has taken place with regard to His subjects.”
Ibn Khaldun further described Fiqh jurisprudence as “knowledge of the rules of God which concern the actions of persons who own themselves bound to obey the law respecting what is required (wajib), forbidden (haraam), recommended (mandūb), disapproved (makruh) or merely permitted (mubah).”
Assessment on different civilizations
Ibn Khaldūn’s assessment on different civilizations in relationship to their habitation and way of life has drawn the attention of some scholars.
On the Greek contributions to science and philosophy:
- The sciences of only one nation, the Greeks, have come down to us, because they were translated through Al-Ma’mun‘s efforts. He was successful in this direction because he had many translators at his disposal and spent much money in this connection.
- Eventually, Aristotle appeared among the Greeks. He improved the methods of logic and systematized its problems and details. He assigned to logic its proper place as the first philosophical discipline and the introduction to philosophy. Therefore he is called the First Teacher.
On the culture of Bedouin nomads, which Ibn Khaldun uses the term Arabs to refer to, Ibn Khaldūn writes:
Arabs dominate only of the plains, because they are, by their savage nature, people of pillage and corruption. They pillage everything that they can take without fighting or taking risks, then flee to their refuge in the wilderness, and do not stand and do battle unless in self-defense. So when they encounter any difficulty or obstacle, they leave it alone and look for easier prey. And tribes well-fortified against them on the slopes of the hills escape their corruption and destruction, because they prefer not to climb hills, nor expend effort, nor take risks.’
On the Jewish civilization:
(Unlike Muslims), the other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty to them, save only for purposes of defence… They are merely required to establish their religion among their own people. This is why the Israelites after Moses and Joshua remained unconcerned with royal authority for about four hundred years. Their only concern was to establish their religion… The Israelites dispossessed the Canaanites of the land that God had given them as their heritage in Jerusalem and the surrounding region, as it had been explained to them through Moses. The nations of the Philistines, the Canaanites, the Armenians, the Edomites, the Ammonites, and the Moabites fought against them. During that time political leadership was entrusted to the elders among them. The Israelites remained in that condition for about four hundred years. They did not have any royal power and were harassed by attacks from foreign nations. Therefore, they asked God through Samuel, one of their prophets, that he permit them to make someone king over them. Thus, Saul became their king. He defeated the foreign nations and killed Goliath, the ruler of Philistines. After Saul, David became king, and then Solomon. His kingdom flourished and extended to the borders of the land of the Hijaz and further to the borders of Yemen and to the borders of the land of the Byzantines. After Solomon, the tribes split into two dynasties. One of the dysnaties was that of the ten tribes in the region of Nablus, the capital of which is Samaria(Sabastiyah), and the other that of the children of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem. Their royal authority had had an uninterrupted duration of a thousand years.
On the Arab conquests of the 7th century:
Religious propaganda gives a dynasty at its beginning another power in addition to that of the group feeling it possessed as the result of the number of its supporters… This happened to the Arabs at the beginning of Islam during the Muslim conquests. The armies of the Muslims at al-Qadisiyah and at the Yarmuk numbered some 30,000 in each case, while the Persian troops at al-Qadisiyah numbered 120,000, and the troops of Heraclius, according to al-Waqidi, 400,000. Neither of the two parties was able to withstand the Arabs, who routed them and seized what they possessed. 
Ibn Khaldūn’s description of the various Sub-Saharan African states:
The Western Sahel:
The first section of the first zone contains the mouth of the Nile which has its origin in the Mountain of the Qumr, as we have mentioned. (This Nile) is called the Sudanese Nile. It flows toward the Surrounding Sea and into it at the island of Awlil.63 The city of Sila, Takrur, and Ghanah are situated along this Nile. At this time, all of them belong to the Mali people, a Negro nation. Moroccan merchants travel to their country. Close to it in the north is the country of the Lamtunah and of the other groups of the Veiled Berbers (Sinhajah), as well as the deserts in which they roam. To the south of this Nile, there is a Negro people called Lamlam. They are unbelievers. They brand themselves on the face and temples. The people of Ghanah and Takrur invade their country, capture them, and sell them to merchants who transport them to the Maghrib. There, they constitute the ordinary mass of slaves. Beyond them to the south, there is no civilization in the proper sense. There are only humans who are closer to dumb animals than to rational beings.
In the middle of the first zone along the Nile, lie the countries of the Nubah and the Abyssinians and some of the oases down to Assuan. A settled part of the Nubah country is the city of Dongola, west of the Nile. Beyond it are ‘Alwah 83 and Yulaq.84 Beyond them, a six days’ journey north of Yulaq, is the mountain of the cataracts. This is a mountain which rises to a great height on the Egyptian side but is much less elevated on the side of the country of the Nubah, The Nile cuts through it and flows down precipitately in tremendous cascades for a long distance. Boats cannot get through. Cargoes from the Sudanese boats are taken off and carried on pack animals to Assuan at the entrance to Upper Egypt. In the same way, the cargoes of the boats from Upper Egypt are carried over the cataracts. The distance from the cataracts to Assuan is a twelve day’s journey. The oases on the west bank of the Nile there are now in ruins. They show traces of ancient settlement.
In the middle of the first zone, in its fifth section, is the country of the Abyssinians, through which a river flows, which comes from beyond the equator and 85 flows toward the land of the Nubah, where it flows into the Nile and so on down into Egypt. Many people have held fantastic opinions about it and thought that it was part of the Nile of the Qumr (Mountain of the Moon). Ptolemy mentioned it in the Geography. He mentioned that it did not belong to the Nile. 
Hadith of Persians and belief
Ibn Khaldūn expresses a great admiration for the Persians and their sedentary culture:
“It is a remarkable fact that, with few exceptions, most Muslim scholars both in the religious and intellectual sciences have been non-Arabs.”
Some of the content in the book is also related to the “Hadith of Persians and belief”:
“Thus the founders of grammar were Sibawaih and after him, al-Farisi and Az-Zajjaj. All of them were of Persian descent…they invented rules of (Arabic) grammar…great jurists were Persians… only the Persians engaged in the task of preserving knowledge and writing systematic scholarly works. Thus the truth of the statement of the prophet becomes apparent, “If learning were suspended in the highest parts of heaven the Persians would attain it”…The intellectual sciences were also the preserve of the Persians, left alone by the Arabs, who did not cultivate them…as was the case with all crafts…This situation continued in the cities as long as the Persians and Persian countries, Iraq, Khorasan and Transoxiana, retained their sedentary culture.”
Here he uses the term “Arabs” to refer to the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula (not including Arabized populations), and “Persians” to refer to the sedentary Persian culture of the Iranian plateau (including all Iranian peoples). Also note that in Islamic literature, there are two Iraq‘s: the Iraq-e-Ajam (Persian Iraq) and Iraq-e-Arab (Arab Iraq). The Persian Iraq mentioned by Ibn Khaldun is the historic Iraq-e-Ajam (Persian Iraq) which constitutes the triangle of Isfahan, Shiraz and Hamadan.
- ^ a b Dr. S. W. Akhtar (1997). “The Islamic Concept of Knowledge”, Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought & Culture 12 (3).
- ^ Akbar Ahmed (2002). “Ibn Khaldun’s Understanding of Civilizations and the Dilemmas of Islam and the West Today”, Middle East Journal 56 (1), p. 25.
- ^ a b c d H. Mowlana (2001). “Information in the Arab World”, Cooperation South Journal 1.
- ^ Salahuddin Ahmed (1999). A Dictionary of Muslim Names. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850653569.
- ^ Mohamad Abdalla (Summer 2007). “Ibn Khaldun on the Fate of Islamic Science after the 11th Century”, Islam & Science 5 (1), p. 61-70.
- ^ Ibn Khaldun, Franz Rosenthal, N. J. Dawood (1967), The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, p. x, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691017549.
- ^ Muqaddimah 2:272-73 quoted in Weiss (1995) p 30
- ^ Schumpeter (1954) p 136 mentions his his sociology, others, including Hosseini (2003) emphasize him as well
- ^ a b I. M. Oweiss (1988), “Ibn Khaldun, the Father of Economics”, Arab Civilization: Challenges and Responses, New York University Press, ISBN 0887066984.
- ^ Jean David C. Boulakia (1971), “Ibn Khaldun: A Fourteenth-Century Economist”, The Journal of Political Economy 79 (5): 1105-1118.
- ^ Weiss (1995) p29-30
- ^ Weiss (1995) p31 quotes Muqaddimah 2:276-278
- ^ Weiss (1995) p31 quotes Muqaddimah 2:272-273
- ^ Weiss (1995) p33
- ^ Weiss (1995) p 32
- ^ The Laffer Curve: Past, Present, and Future
- ^ Mohamad Abdalla (Summer 2007). “Ibn Khaldun on the Fate of Islamic Science after the 11th Century”, Islam & Science 5 (1), p. 61-70.
- ^ S. Ahmed (1999). A Dictionary of Muslim Names. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 1850653569.
- ^ Historiography. The Islamic Scholar.
- ^ a b Muhammad Kujjah. Survey on the Development of the Historical Method among Muslim Scholars until Ibn Khaldun. FSTC. Retrieved on 2008–02-21.
- ^ Aga Khan IV at the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Aga Khan University (1993). Retrieved on 2008–01-26.
- ^ Debate God’s Attributes with Mutazilah & Ibn Khaldun, TheoGnostus Encycoptic.
- ^ Zaid Ahmad (2003), The Epistemology of Ibn Khaldun, p. 57-59. Routledge, ISBN 0415302854.
- ^ Fancy, Nahyan A. G. (2006), “Pulmonary Transit and Bodily Resurrection: The Interaction of Medicine, Philosophy and Religion in the Works of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288)”, p. 67-72, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, University of Notre Dame.
- ^ Muqaddimah, p. 74-75.
- ^ a b Anawati, Georges C., “Arabic Alchemy”, pp. 880, in (Morelon & Rashed 1996, pp. 853-885)
- ^ a b Anawati, Georges C., “Arabic Alchemy”, pp. 881, in (Morelon & Rashed 1996, pp. 853-885)
- ^ Prof. Hamed A. Ead (1998), Alchemy in Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, Heidelberg University.
- ^ Anawati, Georges C., “Arabic Alchemy”, pp. 880-1, in (Morelon & Rashed 1996, pp. 853-885)
- ^ Anawati, Georges C., “Arabic Alchemy”, pp. 881-2, in (Morelon & Rashed 1996, pp. 853-885)
- ^ Kourides, P. Nicholas (1972), “Traditionalism and Modernism in Islamic Law: A Review”, Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 491: 491-506
- ^ Levy, Reuben (1957). The Social Structure of Islam. UK: Cambridge University Press, 150. ISBN 978-0521091824.
- ^ Muqaddimah, Translated by Franz Rosenthal, p.39 and p.383, Princeton University Press, 1981.)
- ^ . The Muqaddimah, Translated by F. Rosenthal
- ^ Muqaddimah, Translated by Franz Rosenthal, pp.183-184, Princeton University Press, 1981.
- ^ Muqaddimah, Translated by Franz Rosenthal, p.126, Princeton University Press, 1981.
- ^ Muqaddimah: Chp 1, Second Prefatory Discussion – – The parts of the earth where civilization is found. Some information about oceans, rivers, and zones.
- ^ The Muqaddimah, Translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311-15, 271-4 [Arabic];
- ^ The Golden age of Persia, Richard N. Frye, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London 1975 pg. 150
- ^ “The Muqaddimah”, Translated by F. Rosenthal (III, pp. 311-15, 271-4 [Arabic]; R.N. Frye (p.91). He translated the Arabic word “Ajam” into “Persians”.
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