Ibn Khaldūn’s theory of the rise and decline of states, and the key concept of social solidarity, ‘aṣabīya, provides rich source material for elaborating normative or prescriptive discussions on the nature of a good polity or civilised society. This renders him extremely relevant to the study of modern societies, even those that lack the nomadic-sedentary dynamic that furnished the material for Ibn Khaldūn’s original science of human society. Ibn Khaldūn’s concepts of authority are of great relevance to the modern Muslim world, not least because of the prevalence today of mulk tabī‘ī or unbridled kingship in Muslim realms. In line with his overall science of human society was his interest in the relationship between education and society. The relevance of his outlook on education lies more in the area of the philosophy of education and displays timeless and universal applicability. Ibn Khaldūn covered the proper methods of teaching and learning and discussed learning capacity, memorisation, curriculum, teacher strictness and the breadth and depth of education.
The madīna, the form of social organisation which he saw all around him, was not all bad, in his view, but there was an inevitable movement towards degeneration and decay. In the early stages of the up cycle, the madīna displayed numerous political, economic and social dimensions that are worthy of emulation, and Ibn Khaldūn expounds on these in his discussions of the nature of authority, the role of the government in the economy, and the nature of education. Life in the madīna is founded on certain universal values such as the rule of law, justice, accountability, responsibility, and the quest for knowledge and truth. Unfortunately such values do not inform many modern societies of the Muslim world today and should be given more emphasis in our discussions on civilisational renewal. At the heart of the problem is perhaps education. Ibn Khaldūn’s reflections on education take into account politics, language, city life and social class. He also dealt with the methods and procedures of education and can be seen to be an innovator in pedagogy. For Ibn Khaldūn, the way to the good madīna is through an holistic education that produces not just competent but moral individuals. This view implies an entire corpus of practical recommendations in the educational realm in Muslim nations today.