For somebody who is considered to be the father of sociology, Ibn Khaldun's--for lack of a better word--"racial" characterizations are so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Especially of Negroes and Bedouins. Read the following passage on blacks and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Ibn Khaldun says:
"We have seen that Negroes are in general characterized by levity[Defined as: behaviour intended to be amusing and not being serious], excitability, and great emotionalism. They are found eager to dance whenever they hear a melody. They are everywhere described as stupid." [pp 63]
He expresses similar views elsewhere but the above excerpt is a good example.
What's even funnier is his explanation to why it is so. Following is a continuation of the same passage.
"The real reason for these opinions is that, as has been shown by philosophers in the proper place, joy and gladness are due to expansion and diffusion of the animal spirit. [...] A drunken person experiences inexpressible joy and gladness because the vapour of the spirit in his heart is pervaded by natural heat, which the power of the wine generates in his spirit. The spirit, as a result, expands, and there is joy." [pp 63]
That explanation needs an explanation because it made no friggin sense to me.
Even though his views on blacks seem to be so, ah... politically incorrect, to say the least. It seems they are based on a stereotypical observation and not on some sort of racial bias against blacks. And the reason why I say that is because at other places he is actually arguing against the conventionally held racist beliefs of his time about blacks. Here is what I'm talking about:
"Genealogists who had no knowledge of the true nature of things imagined that Negroes were the children of Ham, the son of Noah, and that they were singled out to be black as the result of Noah's curse, which produced Ham's color and the slavery of God inflicted upon his descendants. It is mentioned in the Torah that Noah cursed his son Ham. No reference is made there to blackness. The curse included no more than that Ham's descendants should be the slaves of his brothers' descendants. To attribute the blackness of the Negroes to Ham, reveals disregard of the true nature of heat and cold and of the influence they exercise upon the climate and upon the creatures that come into being in it." [ pp 59]
You notice the same thing when it comes to other groups. At one place he is making outrageously prejudicial claims about a particular group and later in the book he is also admiring them. Bedouins of present day Saudia are another example.
So that's it on this topic. Hope to come across more similarly fascinating stuff as I read further into the book.
Monday, February 27, 2006
ibn-khaldun on african blacks
The following is a good argument for why Blackamerican Muslims need to be careful to distinguish between what Islam necessarily teaches as a part of the Quran and Sunnah on the one hand, and things which are merely the opinion of certain Muslim scholars on the other. InshaAllah I or one of the group blog members can follow-up with more information about Ibn Khaldun's opinions and how to better contextualize them.