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June 23, 2017

Asabiyah by Ibn Khuldun | Social Solidarity in Islam

Asabiya or Social Solidarity is Islam

The English equivalent of the term asabiyya is akin to “social solidarity” or “tribal loyalty.” It is an abstract noun that derives from the Arabic root asab, meaning “to bind.” It refers to a special characteristic or set of characteristics that defines the rather vague essence of what constitutes a particular group. As a sociological principle, it would be important within the political thought of Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406). Asabiyya, according to him, is the social bond that is particularly evident among tribal groups and is based more on social, psychological, physical, and political factors than on those of genetics or consanguinity. It is not unique among the Arabs; rather, each group possesses its own distinct asabiyya. In this way, Ibn Khaldun identified a Jewish asabiyah, a Greek asabiyya, and so on. He also perceived an intimate connection between asabiyya and religion. For a religion to be effective it must evoke a feeling of solidarity among all the members of the group. In this way one could have diverse asabiyyat; for example, an asabiyah to one’s tribe, one’s guild, and ultimately to one’s religion. Ibn Khaldun argues that Islam brought a strong sense of asabiyya to the Arabs and was responsible for the benefits that Islamic civilization produced.

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