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Ibn Khaldun’s Early Life and Education

Ibn Khaldun was an Arab Muslim historian and historiographer, who was regarded as an iconic founding figure and an essential contributor to the establishment of modern historiography, sociology and economics. Born in 1332 in Tunis, Khaldun was brought up by an upper class Andalusian family of Arab descent. His family’s rank and status provided him with a high-quality traditional education.

Given Khaldun’s top social position, he was able to study with the best teachers in Maghreb. Ibn Khaldun’s education encompassed learning the Qur’an, grammar, Jurisprudence, Hadith, rhetoric, Arab linguistics, sharia, philology and poetry. Ibn Khaldun’s early education was mainly provided by his own father, who was a significant scholarly person who favored learning over engaging in politics, unlike his ancestors. Ibn Khaldun received many certifications pertaining to the aforementioned subjects, given that he proficiently mastered them. Al Abili of Tlemecen, a mathematician and philosopher, introduced Khaldun to mathematics, logic and philosophy, which exposed him to the works of scholars such as Averroes, Razi and Tusi.

Unfortunately for Ibn Khaldun, he lost both of his parents to the Black Death at the age of 17. Khaldun continued his studies until the age of 19. After the great plague, which swept Tunis, he was given his first public assignments, which would drag him into a political career that would change his life forever. Under the Tunisian Hafsid dynasty, many of Khaldun’s family held political office, but his father and grandfather however chose to withdraw from the political life. At the age of 20, Khaldun began his political career at the Chancellery of the Tunisian ruler Ibn Tafrakin, in a position that required him to write, in fine calligraphy, the typical introductory notes of official documents. After Abu Ziad came to power, Khaldun, then aged 25, was sentenced to prison.