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Ibn Khaldun

An Intellectual Biography
Written by: Robert Irwin
Narrated by: John Telfer
Length: 9 hrs and 34 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

The definitive account of the life and thought of the medieval Arab genius who wrote the Muqaddima

Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) is generally regarded as the greatest intellectual ever to have appeared in the Arab world - a genius who ranks as one of the world's great minds. Yet the author of the Muqaddima, the most important study of history ever produced in the Islamic world, is not as well known as he should be, and his ideas are widely misunderstood. In this groundbreaking intellectual biography, Robert Irwin provides an engaging and authoritative account of Ibn Khaldun's extraordinary life, times, writings, and ideas. 

Irwin tells how Ibn Khaldun, who lived in a world decimated by the Black Death, held a long series of posts in the tumultuous Islamic courts of North Africa and Muslim Spain, becoming a major political player as well as a teacher and writer. Closely examining the Muqaddima, a startlingly original analysis of the laws of history, and drawing on many other contemporary sources, Irwin describes how Ibn Khaldun's life and thought fit into historical and intellectual context, including medieval Islamic theology, philosophy, politics, literature, economics, law, and tribal life. Because Ibn Khaldun's ideas often seem to anticipate by centuries developments in many fields, he has often been depicted as more of a modern man than a medieval one, and Irwin's account of such misreadings provides new insights about the history of Orientalism.

In contrast, Irwin presents an Ibn Khaldun who was a creature of his time - a devout Sufi mystic who was obsessed with the occult and futurology and who lived in an often-strange world quite different from our own.

©2018 Robert Irwin (P)2018 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"A compelling new account of the 14th-century Arab historian and polymath.... Irwin has produced an exemplary work." (Gavin Jacobson, Financial Times)

"Irwin wears his immense erudition lightly and gives an often very funny account of how orientalists, historians, and modern Arab nationalist have interpreted Ibn Khaldun’s most famous work.... Irwin offers his readers a superb work of intellectual recovery, one which presents Ibn Khaldun as a creature of his time.... He has resurrected for us the medieval Muslim mind." (Francis Ghilès, The Spectator)

"In Robert Irwin, Ibn Khaldun has finally found a biographer and interpreter almost as versatile and learned as he was himself." (Eric Ormsby, Wall Street Journal)

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  • Moh 3aly
  • 02-01-19

Issues with accuracy, pronounciation

This book would have received a higher rating if the author had spent more time learning Arabic, or perhaps reviewed translation before producing his own. In Chapter one he quotes the Qur'an 17:16 in an entirely lopsided manner, confusing what fafasaku means in the context. Not a single Qur'anic translation, Muslim or otherwise had confused it in the way he did, where as his version says that God has ordered the people to be bad, the actual verse says they did ill DESPITE receiving commandments from God. How could he has so thoroughly corrupted the verse is embarrassing and says a lot about the author.

Also, he criticizes some of Ibn Khaldun's theories without taking into context what was known at the time. Such as his idea heat is produced as a result of reflections of light, not of distance to the sun. A good idea why he might have thought that is how mountains are snow capped, same with alexander's submarine, he wouldve had no idea that a person could suffocate from being trapped in a room with no air from outside, his idea that heat would be the primary cause of mortality is a result of direct observation that the air you exhale is hotter than that which you inhale.

17 people found this helpful

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  • R. Saeed
  • 15-03-20

Good but one serious let down

Great book, as many other reviews will testify, but the performance was poor, specifically the awful pronunciation of Arabic terms, which the book is littered with. can't blame the narrator, he did his best, it's the publishers that need to be more sensible.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-20

Perfect if studying it at uni,but no casual listen

It's not a bad book per se, just too scholarly for what I'm looking for

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  • Ahmed L.
  • 20-01-20

Fabulous

An interesting and balanced interpretation of the life and times of Ibn Khaldun. Enjoyable listening.

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  • Just me
  • 24-09-19

GREAT BIOGRAPHY

it is great to be able to have this as an audio book. a lot of work goes into creating story telling of this amazing character in history of islam. the narrator is awesome and really enjoyable to listen to.