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asabiyyah definition, asabiyyah ibn khaldun
`Asabiyya or asabiyyah Arabic: عصبيّة refers to social solidarity with an emphasis on unity, group consciousness and sense of shared purpose, and social cohesion,1 originally in a context of "tribalism" and "clanism" It was a familiar term in the pre-Islamic era, but became popularized in Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah where it is described as the fundamental bond of human society and the basic motive force of history `Asabiyya is neither necessarily nomadic nor based on blood relations; rather, it resembles philosophy of classical republicanism In the modern period, the term is generally analogous to solidarity However, it is often negatively associated because it can sometimes suggest loyalty to one's group regardless of circumstances, or partisanship2


  • 1 Overview
  • 2 Examples
  • 3 Notes
  • 4 Sources
  • 5 Further reading
  • 6 External links


Ibn Khaldun uses the term Asabiyyah to describe the bond of cohesion among humans in a group forming community The bond, Asabiyyah, exists at any level of civilization, from nomadic society to states and empires3 Asabiyyah is most strong in the nomadic phase, and decreases as civilization advances3 As this Asabiyyah declines, another more compelling Asabiyyah may take its place; thus, civilizations rise and fall, and history describes these cycles of Asabiyyah as they play out3

Ibn Khaldun argues that each dynasty or civilization has within itself the seeds of its own downfall He explains that ruling houses tend to emerge on the peripheries of great empires and use the much stronger `asabiyya present in those areas to their advantage, in order to bring about a change in leadership This implies that the new rulers are at first considered "barbarians" by comparison to the old ones As they establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful, and more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle at the centre of the empire—ie, their internal cohesion and ties to the original peripheral group, the `asabiyya, dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit Thus, conditions are created wherein a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control, grow strong, and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew


Nomadic invaders have on many occasions ended up adopting the religion and culture of the civilizations they conquered, which was true for various Circassians, Berber, some of the Crusades and Mongol invaders that invaded the medieval Islamic world and ended up adopting Islamic religion and culture

According to Khaldun, the Asabiyyah cycle was also true for every other pre-modern civilization, whether in China whose dynastic cycles resemble the Asabiyyah cycles described by Ibn Khaldun, in Europe where waves of barbarian invaders adopted Christianity and Greco-Roman culture, or in India or Persia where nomadic invaders assimilated into those civilizations


  1. ^ Zuanna, Giampiero Dalla and Micheli, Giuseppe A Strong Family and Low Fertility 2004, page 92
  2. ^ Weir, Shelagh A Tribal Order 2007, page 191
  3. ^ a b c Tibi, Bassam Arab nationalism 1997, page 139


  • The Muqaddimah, translated by F Rosenthal III, pp 311–15, 271-4 Arabic; Richard Nelson Frye p 91 He translated the Arabic word "Ajam" into "Persians"
  • Alatas, Syed Farid 2006, "A Khaldunian Exemplar for a Historical Sociology for the South", Current Sociology, 54 3: 397–411, doi:101177/0011392106063189 
  • Durkheim, Émile, The Division of Labor in Society, 1893 The Free Press reprint 1997, ISBN 0-684-83638-6
  • Gabrieli, F 1930, Il concetto della 'asabiyyah nel pensiero storico di Ibn Khaldun, Atti della R Accad delle scienze di Torino, lxv
  • Gellner, Ernest 2007, "Cohesion and Identity: the Maghreb from Ibn Khaldun to Emile Durkheim", Government and Opposition, 10 2: 203–18, doi:101111/j1477-70531975tb00637x 

Further readingedit

  • Ahmed, Akbar S 2003 Islam under siege: living dangerously in a post-honor world Cambridge: Polity
  • Turchin P 2003 Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
  • Andrey Korotayev 2006 Secular Cycles and Millennial Trends in Africa Moscow: URSS

External linksedit

  • Asabiyya: Re-Interpreting Value Change in Globalized Societies

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