IBN KHALDUN AND THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE SCIENCES

Early attempts to classify the sciences were followed with some modification and elaboration during the next century by Avicenna in The Book of Healing and his Treatise on the Classification of the Intellectual Sciences, as well as by the Brethren of Purity in their well-known Epistles. Moreover, the tradition of composing works on the classification of the sciences and the description of each science gradually became further enhanced, as the various sciences became more de­veloped. This can be seen in The Book of Sixty Sciences by the sixth/twelfth-century theologian, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in which, as the name indicates, sixty sciences are mentioned and described. The most complete and detailed study of the sciences and their classification, however, appears in the writ­ings of the authors of the eighth/fourteenth to the eleventh/ seventeenth century, such as the Happiness of Tashkubra-zadah; the neglected Persian encyclopedia of Shams al-Din al-Amuli, called Precious Elements of the Sciences; the Clarification of Doubts of Hajji Khalifah, and the well-known Introduction to History (Muqaddimah) of Ibn Khaldun, which contains one of the best descriptions and classifications of the Muslim sciences.

Coming at the end of the most active period of Islamic history, Ibn Khaldun's analysis of the sciences represents the results of the reflection upon and acute observation of, a whole epoch of history by a profound Muslim scholar and historian who, in a sense, stood outside it.

In his Introduction to History, Ibn Khaldun also surveys the arts and sciences of the Islamic world, defining the aim and scope of each discipline. Although his Introduction was not itself universally read during the later periods, his classification contains in summary fashion the plan according to which the arts and sciences have, in fact, been studied in most religious Islamic schools during the past several centuries. Even if many of these schools, especially in the Sunni world, have not studied all the subjects enumerated by Ibn Khaldun, they have usually accepted the principles of his classification, which can be considered the final version of the Islamic division of the sciences.

Ibn Khaldun's division may be summarized as follows:

--philosophical and intellectual or `aqli (such as can be learned by man naturally through the use of his innate reason and intelligence);

--transmitted or naqli (such as can be learned only by transmission, going back ultimately to the founder of the science and in the case of religious sciences to the origin of the revelation)

 

Philosophical or Intellectual Sciences:

1. Logic

2. Natural sciences or Physics: 

Medicine 
Agriculture

3. Sciences of beings beyond Nature, or Metaphysics:

Magic and talismans

Science of the occult properties of letters of the alphabet

Alchemy

4. Sciences dealing with quantity: 

Geometry (plain and spherical optics);

Arithmetic (property of numbers, art of calculation, algebra, commercial transactions, calculation of inheritance);

Music;

Astronomy (the making of astronomical tables, motion of heavenly bodies, astrology)

Transmitted sciences:

1. Quran, its interpretation and recitation

2. Hadith, the sayings of the Prophets and their chain of
transmission;

3. Jurisprudence, sacred law;

4. Theology (dialectics, or kalam)

5. Sufism

6. Linguistic sciences: grammar, lexicography, literature

 

(based on S. H. Nasr, Science and Civilization in Islam, pp. 62-64, with some revision)

Compare the Seven Liberal Arts of Western Europe (12th-13th cent.), based on classical Roman models.

The Trivium (Bachelor of Arts course) consisted of:

1 Grammar
2 Rhetoric
3 Logic

The Quadrivium (Master of Arts) consisted of:

1 Arithmetic -- Number in itself
2 Geometry -- Number in space
3 Music, Harmonics, or Tuning Theory -- Number in time
4 Astronomy or Cosmology -- Number in space and time