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Questionable history

Posted May. 26, 2020 07:41,   

Updated May. 26, 2020 07:41


Ibn Khaldun (1332~1406) was a Muslim politician and historian of the 14th century who was born in Tunisian but of Yemeni ancestry. He was a politician of the Emirate of Granada, a Muslim state in Spain, and of an Islamic kingdom of North Africa. He wrote “The Muqaddimah,” which is known as his best work. He was going to write a book about human history but could not finish it, which was such a broad subject. The author, who came from a family of conservative scholars, was extremely rational even though he was a 14th-century Muslim scholar. His sharp criticism of ancient society and religious myths shows that he was more intelligent than the 17th-century intellectuals of the Enlightenment

If Islamic fundamentalists such as the Islamic State were as smart as Ibn Khaldun, the world would be a much better place. The Muqaddimah tells a story about King As’ad Abu Karib of Tubba, a small country in Yemen. He sent his three sons on an expedition. Two of them looted Iran and advanced to China and left some of their soldiers in Tibet, while the youngest son subjected the Byzantine Empire. People of Yemen rejoiced at their achievements, but Khaldun was not one of them. He pointed out that such a long expedition was not possible without looting the locals and that advancing to China required subjecting many countries in between including the Persian Empire. There is no evidence that shows Tubba conquered them.

However, the lack of proof cannot stop people from getting drunk on pride. Some even argue that it does not matter because it is in the past. This is when intelligence succumbs to emotions, undermining and paralyzing our ability to think logically. Would we still able to make the right decisions in life if we cannot think rationally? It might seem irrelevant to our daily lives, but the impact of being swept by emotions when remembering what happened in the pst is more insidious than we think.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com