Wednesday, August 26, 2009

MIS Comprehensive Examinations (Part III, 4 of 4)

Master in International Studies' Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman

August 24, 2009


B. Islamic Studies 221 (Arab Historiography)

Question number THREE:
Ibn Khaldun’s idea and method of historiography are rare elements in both classical and modern historical and sociological writings. Why? Discuss fully.


Ibn Khaldun’s thesis on the “Science of Sociology” is highly regarded as a rare phenomenon in both classical and modern historical and sociological writings because it is a convergence of history and sociology encompassing the temporal and spatial elements of classic and modern writings. It does not only tells past events as a historical alone but it also tells how did these past events affects the socio-development of a society and the psychological, even biological, developments of man - as a social being in a community.

His thesis transcends both time-bounded and place-bounded. He said, “there’s a clear delineation between History and Sociology: History has so many explanations with less theories while Sociology has so many theories but lacks explanations.” In this premise, he tried to bridge a gap by converging the two disciplinal fields. The rarity of his study was that classical writers of history and sociology refer him as a prime source while modern writers consider his study a ‘still’ appropriate and applicable in the contemporary times.

He questioned the veracity of other historians/sociologists in their works because he senses that there is normative bias in their writings. He warned future writers that they should be cautious in trying to describe and explain their studies so as not to accused of tending to favor something or someone. It is imperative to say that Robert Cox was right when he said, “theories are always for someone and for some purpose.”

He included the concept of umran or culture in trying to converge history and sociology. He classified umran into primitive and civilized cultures with differing characterizations. Primitive umran is located in rural places where there is a strong ‘Asabiya’ or sense of solidarity through blood kinship, while Civilized umran in cities (urban places) has weak ‘Asabiya’ because of a large mobilization of its population.

Moreover, when studying civilizations, he suggested three important cyclical evolutions of it. First is that when a group of people discovered ‘Asabiya’, then a civilizational birth takes place. Second is when the ‘Asabiya’ was strengthened and institutionalized, then you have a young civilization wherein a peak of exhausting the resources to suffice the luxurious way of life by the people especially by the leaders. Who will impose higher taxes on its subjects. Last, is the decaying stage when everybody is contended and all of its resources were exhausted. This is the age of senility.

Consequently, Ibn Khaldun’s Science of Sociology is an epitomic level of knowledge that can be applied in politics, economics, law, anthropology and various bodies of sciences. 

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