Ibn Khaldun on a Failed Nation–Seven Hundred Years Ago

“A defeated nation always admires the conqueror, imitating his dress and adopting the signs of his power, such as gold buttons and buttons of authority, insignia of honor, the manner of his seating and rising, all his conditions, customs, and practices, even connecting his past with its history, to the extent that they begin to follow the tactics and strategies of the invading conqueror, and the reason for this is that people, when defeated by a powerful force, close their eyes in admiration of his extraordinary skill.

“A condemned society becomes subservient to moral destinies. The longer the period of darkness, the more mentally and physically condemned society becomes, until a time comes when the condemned live only for the morsels of bread and the sexual appetites.

“When states fail and nations become decadent, they are infiltrated by astrologers, charlatans, hypocrites, fabricators of lies, gluttons, those who read the bones of dates, legalists who sell fatwas for dirhams and dinars, false narrators, singers with unpleasant voices, poets who flap their wings, bullies, drummers, self-proclaimed champions of truth, makers of calumnies, flatterers, jokers, and politicians who seek opportunities and spread rumors.

“Every day, the veils of false appearances are lifted, but no one believes, and whoever does not fit the description is considered an expert in the art, and the people of talent lose their value, poetry and rhythm become imperfect, spirituality disappears from speech, honesty is mixed with lies, and jihad is equated with terrorism.

“When states are ruined, every kind of terror spreads, and people begin to seek refuge in groups. Wonders appear and rumors spread, sterile debates become lengthy, friends become enemies and enemies become friends, the voice of falsehood rises while the voice of truth is silenced, suspicious faces become more visible, and the sincere faces disappear from the surface. Courageous dreams become rare, and hopes are shattered, the indifference of the wise increases, personal identities are lost, and groups, parties, or sects become their identity.

“In the clamor of the ignorant, the voices of the knowledgeable are lost. Markets become tumultuous, and the cries of affiliation are heard, patriotism, love of country, belief, and religion are all lost, and people of the same family accuse each other of betrayal.

“In the end, conditions reach a point where people have only one plan for escape from those situations, and that is ‘migration.’ Everyone talks about escaping from those situations, and the number of emigrants increases, the homeland changes into a slaughterhouse, people’s belongings are reduced to travel bags, the streets become deserted, the homeland is in memories, and memories turn into stories.”

Transmitted from the introduction to Ibn Khaldun’s work.
Translation by Dr. Abu Al-Khair Kashfi
Shared by Khalid Sharif, London