The Scholar and the Sultan: A Translation of the Historic Encounter between Ibn Khaldun and Timur

Ballandalus

Ibn Khaldun’s account of his interviews and encounters with Timur outside Damascus in 803/1401 is taken from the autobiographical section of his monumental historical chronicle, the Kitāb al-‘Ibar. It is an invaluable piece of history which provides an important contemporary account of the conqueror Timur. It also brings together two of the most significant historical personalities of the late fourteenth century, one being a world conqueror and the other a first-class intellectual. These two figures conversed about topics including the topography of North Africa, the reliability of Tabari’s history, the nature of the caliphate, and Ibn Khaldun’s own theory of group solidarity (‘asabiyya). There are also many important tidbits of historical information provided within the text, especially with regards to Ibn Khaldun’s discussion of the expectation among astrologers and mystics in the fourteenth-century Islamic West that the conjunction of planets would announce the arrival of a figure…

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