Ibn Khaldun `Abd al-Rahman

   One of the most brilliant social thinkers ever produced in the Maghrib and also undoubtedly one of the most famous figures from the Marinid period. His theories about society and political development have been of great value to contemporary concepts of philosophy of history and sociology. The complete title of Ibn Khaldun's monumental work is Kitab al-`Ibar wa Diwan al-Mubtada'wa l-Kahbar fi Ayyam al-`Arab wa l`Ajam wa l-Barbar wa man Asharahum min Dhawi al-Sultan (Book of Advice and First Council and Information about the Days of the Arabs, the Non-Arabs, and the Berbers and Their Relations with the Greatest Sultans). The prolegomena to this work, al-muqaddimah, provides a theoretical explanation for the historical rise and fall of empires that has been the primary reason for Ibn Khaldun's fame in the contemporary era.
   Considered to be the historian of the Berbers, Ibn Khaldun, in his History of the Berbers (translated into French by W. Mac. Guckin De Slane, "Histoire des Berbères," Alger, 1852-1856), stores a very comprehensive knowledge of Berber history and appears sympathetic to their aspirations. He divided Berbers into two great branches: al-Baranis (sedentary from the plural of Bernous) and Madghis al-Abtar or al-Botr (nomadic). Furthermore, he distinguished three major groups among the Berbers-Masmuda, Sanhaja, and Zanata-and ascribed to each a separate genealogy leading to a common ancestor. Although this dichotomy of Berber history, al-Baranis and al-Botr, is linked to Ibn Khaldun's rural-urban dichotomy, it is less valuable and has probably caused much confusion in Berber scholarship. His simplified classification, based in part on classic ideas, appears to be misguided in stating that Berbers were relatively new settlers from the east, specifically the Goliath folktale of migration to the Maghrib after his defeat. From a modern anthropological perspective, not only is this folk history discredited, but so also is the notion that ethnic groups in a region such as the Maghrib can be neatly classified into sedentary or nomadic. Human adaptation in the Maghrib is far too complex for such a simple and static dichotomy to explain.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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