Strategic Research Circle


Ibn Khaldun in his book Muqaddimah discusses primitive and developed societies. He makes distinctions between nomads, semi-nomads and farmers. He further differentiates between those who live in the vicinity of the towns and those who live within its boundaries

Culture and luxury become highest goals of civilizations. But they also become their victims as corruption sets in within few generations. They eventually are overrun or replaced by others

According to Ibn Khaldun, The solidarity or group loyalty (asabiya) allows the tribal groups to defend themselves and to claim additional territorial rights by taking over cities. Using advanced technical skills of the craftsmen, they turn towns into large and complex urban settlements. Initially, the rulers sustain themselves through trade or spoils of the war. However, the rulers’ ties (asabiya) with its original supporters are weakened as wealth is wasted in luxury goods and activities and starts accumulating in fewer hands. In order to defend his authority and keep its loyalty, the ruler raises a standing army, is drawn into foreign conflicts to keep internal unity (asabiya). The expense of maintaining a mercenary army eats up a good portion of the state’s treasury, affecting quality of public services. Heavy taxes, corruption, internal conflicts further weakens the civilization. The cycle repeats itself by replacement of the rulers by another groups having stronger group loyalty (asabiya). With this, Ibn Khaldun concludes that there no historic record showing a civilization with sustained development

Among Muslims, the sense of group is found in umma whose members are united under universal belief of their faith. The early Muslims were bounded by two groups; Emigrants (Muhajireen) of Mecca and the helpers (Ansars) of the Medina. Both social groups were united under an ideology rather than ethnic (tribal) identity

Islam promotes group dynamics without suppressing individualism. The fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, pilgrimage (Hajj) and praying in groups promotes group loyalty, and identity

According to Goitein, unlike Europeans during Middle ages, Muslim societies did not develop an imposing hierarchy and tightly knit ranks and classes. Gibb says, Muslims had greater fluidity, class mobility, dissolving and regrouping of their groups

Due to rapid and vast territorial gains, early Muslims became exposed to a diverse and rich cultures of none Arab Muslims and non-Muslims. The breakdown of ethnic barriers helped form new forms of social organizations. Consequently, new groups emerged with high mobility and adaptability

Goiten specified four factors that enhanced status of a Medieval Muslim:

1. Origin and reputation of the family
2. Religiosity and knowledge
3. Integrity and sound business practices
4. Commitment to philanthropy or helping others

The last factor, along with humbleness, courage and tolerance was considered the most admired qualities that elevated his status in the society with people seeking his affiliation

Goitein then identifies five social classes; upper class, business and professionals, master artisans, craftsmen and labor, and farmers

Ali Ibn Talib however divided society into following groups:

1. Soldiers
2. Public and private secretaries

3. Administrators of justice
4. Social workers
5. Tax collectors

6. Merchants and craftsmen
7. Poor

Islamic perspectives on management and organization By Abbas Ali


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