The Muqaddimah - Ibn Khaldun (2/2)

The Various Kinds of Sciences

“Thus, human action in the outside world materialises only through thinking about the order of things, since things are based upon each other. After (he has finished thinking), he starts doing things. His thinking starts with the thing that comes last in the causal chain and is done last. His action starts with the first thing in the causal chain, which thinking reaches last. Once this order is taken into consideration, human actions proceed in a well-arranged manner. On the other hand, the actions of living beings other than man are not well arranged. They lack the thinking that acquaints the agent with the order of things governing his actions. Animals 11 perceive only with the senses. Their perceptions are disconnected and lack a connecting link, since only thinking can constitute such (a connecting link). Now, the things that come into being 12 that are of consequence in the world of existent things, are those that are orderly. Those that are not orderly are secondary to them. The actions of animals, therefore, are subordinate to (orderly human actions). Consequently, their services are forcibly utilized by man. Thus, human actions control the (whole) world of things that come into being and all it contains. Everything is subservient to man and works for him. This is what is meant by the "appointing of a representative" mentioned in the Qur'an: "I am appointing a representative on earth." 13 The ability to think is the quality of man by which human beings are distinguished from other living beings. The degree to which a human being is able to establish an orderly causal chain determines his degree of humanity. Some people are able to establish a causal nexus for two or three levels. Some are not able to go beyond that. Others may reach five or six. Their humanity, consequently, is, higher. For instance, some chess players are able to perceive (in advance) three or five moves the order of which is arbitrary. Others are unable to do that, because their mind is not good enough for it. This example is not quite to the point, because (the knowledge of) chess is a habit, whereas the knowledge of causal chains is something natural. However, it is an example the student may use to gain an intellectual understanding of the basic facts mentioned here. God created man and gave him superiority over many of His creatures”.

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.