The Oppressive Power and State Collapse: Ibn Khaldun and the Palestinian Reality

   I have immersed myself recently in reading Ibn Khaldun’s works, and it hasn’t been without leaving an impact on my thinking. Sometimes, it feels as if he is addressing us as nations, and I cannot help but imagine if our rulers would read his words and learn from them. Perhaps it’s because the ruler is a product of the people, and as the Hadith says; As you are, so shall you be governed.However, the issue goes beyond the mere equality between the ruler and the ruled and the burden of our bitter reality placed equally on the people and those in power. As Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi stated, “The despots and tyrants have clouded the minds of people, making them forget the pleasure of independence and the dignity of freedom. They have made them unable to comprehend how a nation can govern itself without an oppressive authority.”Yet, oppressive authority can only be unjust, as Ibn Khaldun says, “It heralds the destruction of civilization, and the consequence of this destruction upon the state is corruption and collapse.” He continues: “When justice disappears, the structure collapses, and production ceases. People become impoverished, and the chain of deterioration continues until the system collapses.” And consequently: “The ruler directs his fear and concern from the people to the fear for his own rule, resorting to killing and humiliation without hesitation.”We have witnessed how these statements manifest in the reality we live in, with injustice inflicted upon us from all directions. We can hardly raise our heads after a blow from the occupation, only to be struck by another blow that shatters our spirits and breaks our hearts from this totalitarian regime.While we see those in power sweating profusely after being expelled from the devastated camp in Jenin after a bloody week of loss and destruction. We witness the president of the Authority surrounded by his followers and soldiers as if he is engaged in a war against his enemies rather than facing his people; Ibn Khaldun’s words about the oppressive ruler who receives the people’s loyalty while concealing his hatred and animosity resonate. And when faced with challenges, Ibn Khaldun confirms he resorts to killing and humiliation without hesitation.The scenes we witness today, aimed at showcasing power and imposing oppression on the people with increasing intensity, do not require analysis. As the president boards the helicopter, surrounded by thousands of soldiers and military personnel, everyone realizes that the era of this authority has come to an end. Ibn Khaldun reminds us, “A state may appear to display signs of strength and oppression, but it is a prelude to its imminent decline. It resembles a candle whose oil is depleted; it flickers for a moment, then extinguishes.”It is not a coincidence that I immersed myself before Ibn Khaldun in the history of Andalusia and its fall, as well as the history of sectarian rulers. It is not a coincidence that the words resonate with the current events, despite the difference in time. However, the characteristics of the collapse of dominions remain unchanged. “If Allah decrees the extinction of monarchy in a nation, they will indulge in reprehensible acts and adopt disgraceful behavior, which happened in Andalusia, leading to its demise.”Perhaps it is true that Ibn Khaldun’s affirmation holds: “The flatterers prevail!” because “when a person becomes corrupt in their abilities, character, and religion, their humanity is corrupted, and they become a monster against reality.” And what we see today in the Palestinian street, the marginalization that has gnawed at the soul of individuals to the point where we have lost interest in everything around us, except for the struggle to survive and meet basic needs, ignites hatred and animosity, overshadowing ethics and leading to oppression among individuals. Ibn Khaldun states, “When a person is marginalized, they become like a beast, concerned only with food, drink, and instinct.”From the oppression inflicted by individuals upon each other to the corruption of the judiciary that, as Ibn Khaldun confirms, also leads to the end of a state, the oppression of individuals remains the least of evils because, according to Ibn Khaldun, “It can be rectified through the legal system, unlike the oppression of the ruler, which is more comprehensive and cannot be rectified. It heralds destruction.”And we witness how “the ruler directs his fear and concern from the people to the fear for his own rule, resorting to killing and humiliation.” What we have seen in terms of political arrests resembles, in their ferocity, the narratives of Abdul Rahman Munif, or perhaps they are even more grotesque, as these individuals have learned from the methods of Guantanamo and Mossad.”Lord, a people who once lived abundantly, enjoying a bountiful life. Time had left them undisturbed, but bloodshed brought them tears when they spoke.”Was Ibn Khaldun a genius in accurately describing Palestinian reality today? Was Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi insightful about the impending future? Was Abdul Rahman Munif writing the history of the future, whose details are unfolding before us?I conclude with Ibn Khaldun’s words: “Truth cannot resist its authority, while falsehood casts doubts through deceptive appearances. The messenger merely delivers and conveys, while insight critically examines the truth if it has been diluted, and knowledge reveals the pages of hearts and intellect.” “If I were given a choice between the downfall of the oppressors and the downfall of slaves, I would undoubtedly choose the downfall of the slaves because slaves create oppressors, but they do not build nations.”

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