“During the quarter of the century that Ibn Khaldun spent in Egypt, he remained spiritually a complete stranger. Outwardly, he kept his Western attire and his manners were not softened by the civilised life of Egypt. But these were the external expressions of a deeper problem. Egypt had welcomed him, offered him protection, security, and leisure to follow his scholarly interests. It satisfied his curiosity to learn about the cultural pattern it represented. It was his second home, but he never considered himself fully at home in it. It appears that the more he learned about the character of its people, the more he preferred the rugged simplicity of North Africa to the decadence of the civilized ways of Egypt. He was in the paradoxical situation of a guest who was not in full accord with his host, yet was forced to remain his guest. Ibn Khaldun resigned himself to playing his new role, enjoying its privileges and performing its duties. As a result his conduct became more passive and more subtle than before.

“The uncontrollable urge to political activity and adventure, which characterized Ibn Khaldun’s life in the West, was now but a disquieting memory. His early political ventures and his early writings seemed now to have been unwise expressions of immature wisdom. In his old age, his thought went deeper and deeper, but with the courage, steadiness, and balance, of one who had seen his goal and is walking in full daylight. The more he learned about different peoples, the more he was convinced of the unchanging pattern according to which they all live and die. He was no longer haunted by the shadows or tempted by the dark caves on the edges of his pathway. He had searched his soul, conjured out the secrets of the world, and done his deeds.

“But despite his aloofness, the mellow and eternity-bound skies of Egypt had penetrated the recesses of his soul. He acquired an inner poise and a spiritual calm. As he reclined in his palace overlooking the Nile, fortune seemed less hostile and the world more friendly. He had reached the stage where he could feel the harmony permeating the universe, and see and enjoy it in the simple things of life: the wit and wisdom of vernacular poetry, the rhythm and movement of a dancing girl, and the beauty of a smiling face.

“The simple and direct expression of thought and emotion of his early youth had disappeared along with the bewilderment and questioning, and the piercing intuition of his middle age. Age had taught him many things, but above all how to protect the deeps of his soul from the inroads of others and keep the purity of his hopes and thought away from the imperfect world of realization and expression. He developed and mastered an enigmatic style that concealed more than it revealed.”

An excerpt from Ibn Khaldun’s Philosophy of History by Mushin Mahdi

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