The Muqaddimah - Ibn Khaldun (1/2)

The Various Kinds of Sciences

“On man's ability to think, which distinguishes human beings from animals and which enables them to obtain their livelihood, to co-operate to this end with their fellow men, and to study the Master whom they worship, and the revelations that the Messengers transmitted from Him. God thus caused 3 all animals to obey man and to be in the grasp 4 of his power. Through his ability to think, God gave man superiority over many of His creatures. 1. Man's ability to think. I T 5 SHOULD BE KNOWN that God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think which He made the beginning of human perfection and the end of man's noble superiority over existing things. This comes about as follows: Perception - that is, consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence - is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of all other being 6 and existent things. Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses God has given them, that is, the senses of hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. Man has this advantage over the other beings that he may perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses. It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain.7 With the help of these powers, man takes the pictures of the sensibilia, applies his mind to them, and thus abstracts from them other pictures. The ability to think is the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception, and the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis. This is what is meant by the word af'idah "hearts" in the Qur'an; "He gave you hearing and vision and hearts." 8 Af'idah "hearts" is the plural of fu'dd. It means here the ability to think”.

To read further: Chapter 6: The Various Kinds of Sciences, sections 34-38 from the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun

This post is part of our series of lecture reading excerpts from Sanad Foundation's 2018 course 'Islamic Scholarly Tradition' taught by Sidi Mohamed Acharki in Melbourne.