Ibn Khaldun conceptualized history in terms of transformations of social and political power, leading to cultural changes. This was especially true for the expanding Muslim world, of which Ibn Khaldun was a part. During the Middle Islamic periods, scholarship and learning became entrenched throughout the Muslim world and would have a tremendous impact on the evolution of human consciousness and society. Art, architecture, science, medicine, math, and engineering all flourished during the Middle Islamic period. Although these were the primary external features of the Middle Islamic period, also referred to as a golden age, there were underlying political, socio-religious, and economic developments that caused and characterized changes taking place throughout the Mamluk, Mongol, and Timurid periods.
Abbasid rule had a major impact on political, socio-religious, and economic developments. The Abbasid caliphates stressed schools of learning and formal modes of education that were rooted in Islam but which also transcended it by being applicable to global institutions. One of the effects of the Abbasid focus on education was the centralization of learning and training. Centralization of learning and training in turn created motivation for population migration, as well as urbanization throughout the Muslim world. Thus, Ibn Khaldun was correct to notice prevailing cycles of agrarian and nomadic groups rising to and falling from power. Throughout the Muslim world during this time period, small groups and agrarian societies, as well as nomadic groups, became influenced by Islam. Local laws were transformed to reflect the new legal codes and systems taught, if not imposed, by the Abbasid caliphate. As these laws and worldviews supplanted those of the indigenous codes, the world became metaphorically smaller even as it remained culturally diverse. Thus, Turks, Mongols, and Arabs fell within the same Muslim rubric while retaining unique cultural identities.
Pluralism became a core strength of Islam during the Middle period. Some of the core features of learning during this time, in the realms of politics, law, medicine, and math, for example, were universal in scope. This was true in spite of the fact that regional artistic and creative expressions heralded the great diversity of cultures in the Muslim world. This diversity gave character to Islam, and highlighted some of the main religious sentiments related to the centrality of Muslim law in society. Literature could be codified in any number of languages to appeal to readers in a variety of geographic locations, which would eventually spread as far as south Asia. Official documents, and especially religious texts, remained codified in Arabic. This lent cohesion to an increasingly pluralistic society.
Politically, the Middle Period was not characterized by a strong central government. This is why Ibn Khaldun was able to observe the role that smaller societies played in transforming the entire region. The rise and fall of local regimes was all possible because of political decentralization. In many cases, agrarian and nomadic societies became supremely powerful and left indelible marks on the Muslim and para-Muslim worlds. The Mamluk sultanate and its slave soldiers highlights some of the ways otherwise powerless societies made their mark on the greater Muslim world. A peculiar social, political, and economic institution, the Mamluk armies reflected the diversity of the Muslim world. Mamluk soldiers could be from anywhere, and served the Mamluk sultanate. The Mamluks emboldened the broader Muslim cause during the conflict with European Christian crusaders, and also allowed for the strengthening of regional leaders in Egypt. Mamluks created a broad standing army, a new social class with its own unique status in the society.
Social, cultural, and linguistic diversity became important from a political, military, and economic perspective. The spread of Turkish culture throughout the region started as small tribes migrating, but would eventually result in the Ottoman Empire. Selcuk tribes, for example, became predominant in a way that could seem almost arbitrary. The expansion of Timur's empire during the Timurid period also represented a phenomenon whereby nomadic groups could become politically powerful. The Middle Islam period differed dramatically from the early Islamic period precisely because it would have been impossible for such cultural and political diversity to emerge within an Arab-centric framework. The culture clashes between Persia and the Arab lands over the social, economic, religious, and political institutions of Islam were, however, harbingers of the Middle Period.
There was a degree of religious and ethnic tolerance that characterized life…