From the Muqaddimah of ibn Khaldun – with a note

Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people.


The reason for it is that the self in its natural state of creation is ready to accept whatever good or evil may arrive and leave an imprint upon it. Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, said:

“Every infant is born in the natural state, Fitrah. It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian.”

To the degree the self is first affected by one of the two qualities, it moves away from the other and finds it difficult to acquire it. When customs proper to goodness have been first to enter the self of a good person and has thus acquired the habit of (goodness, that person) moves away from evil and finds it difficult to do anything evil. The same applies to the evil person when customs (proper to evil) have been first to affect him.

Sedentary people are much concerned with all kinds of pleasures. They are accustomed to luxury and success in worldly occupations and to indulgence in worldly desires. Therefore, they are coloured with all kinds of blameworthy and evil qualities. The more of them they possess, the more remote do the ways and means of goodness become to them. Eventually they lose all sense of restraint. Many of them are found to use improper language in their gatherings as well as in the presence of their superiors and womenfolk. They are not deterred by any sense of restraint, because the bad custom of behaving openly in an improper manner in both words and deeds has taken hold of them.

Bedouins may be as concerned with worldly affairs as (sedentary people are). However, such concern would touch only the necessities of life and not luxuries or anything causing, or calling for, desires and pleasures. The customs they follow in their mutual dealings are, therefore, appropriate. As compared with those of sedentary people, their evil ways and blameworthy qualities are much less numerous. They are closer to the first natural state and more remote from the evil habits that have been impressed upon the selves (of sedentary people) through numerous and ugly, blameworthy customs. Thus, they can more easily be cured than sedentary people. This is obvious. It will later on become clear that sedentary life constitutes the last stage of civilization and the point where it begins to decay. It also constitutes the last stage of evil and remoteness from goodness. It has thus become clear that Bedouins are closer to being good than sedentary people.

 “God loves those who have taqwa.”


This relates to our instinct and observation in establishing the ‘Madinatuz Zahra’ project in a rural area of KwaZulu, South Africa. Over the last decades since the change of government from white to black there has been a steady influx of black people from the rural areas to the established towns and cities creating new conurbations. The townships have existed since the whites required the blacks to do their dirty work for them without having to have them living nearby, but this has changed since the advent of so-called democracy and the removal of legislation concerning movement and dwelling. So, to the distinction between rural and city has been added an air-lock or inter-space consisting of new arrivals from the former attempting to become part of the latter. These are euphemistically called ‘human settlements’, where in real terms the human element is removed in favour of the mechanistic slavery offered by modern society. In this environment people change and they begin to act and think in ways they would never have contemplated where they came from.

People arrive in the cities with nothing other than maybe a name of a relative or supposed relative, expecting the world to open up and welcome them. This, of course, does not happen and desperation soon dictates a change in behaviour; crime or degrading servitude become an option. Back home they also lived in difficult circumstances but always managed somehow, with the possibility of leaving for the city if necessary or desirable.

The necessary or desirable element of movement is in fact very significant and a study into which of the two were motivators to leave the rural areas would be interesting. My feeling is that these days the preponderance would be towards the desire of people to live in the cities. Anyway, with reference to ibn Khaldun’s observations this indicates a social movement away from what was wholesome and more connected to the best aspects of human nature, to a desire for the more inconsequential and superfluous things that modern living promulgate.

In the rural areas people have a much greater reliance upon intrinsic cultural practices and associations that bind their adherents together. Of course, this binding may vary in its nature producing different results in diverse communities, so that it may be fear in one, tyranny in another, but more generally it is pragmatic within a recognised ethos.

The rural ethos is closer to what ibn Khaldun terms ‘Fitrah’, that is closer to the natural and intended state of man, upon which is built the man worshipping through knowledge and insight, the man intended by His Creator. This natural state was the state of the African people before the greedy Europeans arrived grabbing what they could; a necessary element of which was the disruption of the traditional ways of living by levying taxes that necessitated earning cash through employment, and a skewing of beliefs that called for education, which had never been necessary before. These corrupters were the forebears of what is now known as the state; a tyranny imposing its own particular views and agendas upon all and sundry. So we have a people who live according to well-established, recognised and agreed upon practices and ethos at one end, and a society that is dictated to from the top, even if it is masquerading as the people’s choice.

This ‘sucking in’ of a workforce from the countryside has continued from the 19th century until now -although the emphasis has shifted from work to debt generation- to the detriment of the balance between ‘Bedouin and Sedentary’, but as we know there is always a necessary point at which the pendulum swings back. The government thinks that by introducing elements of sedentary society to the rural areas such as the amenities grid and social services that this is fulfilling the needs of the disparity between city and veldt, but this is erroneous and stems from the arrogance of the sedentary, who believe that luxury and ease are what life is really about. The truth of the matter is that it is the remains of the rural reality that can save the people, and people is what it is all about, not the state, which cannot be saved. As long as people struggle to maintain the state it is people who suffer and conversely the saving of the people spells the death of the state. This is axiomatic.

The re-affirmation of rural ethos and values, which are pragmatic and based upon inter-dependence with a belief in the Divine, connected to a new social patterning confirming all that is wholesome in the existing culture and clarifying the superstitious and corrupted as counter-productive will create a possible, and thereby dynamic existence for people to counter the disintegration of the human creature. I mean Islam and when I say that, I mean that social harmony that creates the armies of mundane activity that obviate the need for a state and its source, unnatural and destructive financial transactions. Islam is the only enemy left of those who wish to dominate everybody else and the more it is attacked; the more awaken to its promise.

There is no power or strength but with Allah.


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