I bear the name of ibn-Khaldun, whose biography appears
below. ``Haldun'' has no recognized meaning in modern Turkish.
Khaldun comes from the Arabic root ``khalada'' (kh-l-d), meaning to remain
or last forever, be everlasting; to be immortal, deathless, undying;
to abide forever; to remain, stay. The noun "khald" means infinite duration,
endless time, perpetuity, eternity (dar el-khald: paradise). Khaldi makes this
noun an adjective. Khaldun makes the adjective khaldi plural. Ibn Khaldun
is a last name which means son of immortals. This is a typical way of
forming a last name where the adjective refers to a place, an origin
or an attribute; in this case, immortality. The given male name
derived from this root is Khalid, which also means everlasting.
It is also interesting to note that form IV of the Arabic verb also
means ``to dwell on an idea, an image''. Halit and Haldun are both
used as male names and Halide is used as a female name in Turkish.
So essentially ``Haldun'' means ``of permanence'' or ``eternal,''
not a modest pseudonym!
My middle name ``Memduh'' was the name of my grandfather; this way of assigning middle names being of common practice. As for its meaning, I am informed that Memduh comes from the Arabic root ``medh'' or the verb ``medeha'' which essentially means to praise someone (``methetmek'' is recognized in Turkish as to mean the same), and memduh is the person being praised.
I used to think (now I believe wrongly), that ``Memduh'' was a
variety of Mehmet, Mehmed, Mahmut, and so on, all based on the Islamic
prophet Mohammed's name. These are common names in countries with an
Islamic heritage, just as varieties of Christ's and other prophets
names are common in countries with other monotheistic
heritages. (Incidentally, almost all such names, including Jesus,
Joseph, Joshua, Solomon, Mary and what not are also common names in
I was also told that in deriving words from Arabic roots, the order of the
letters are never interchanged: Memduh which comes from the root m-d-h and
Mehmed which comes from the root h-m-d are not derivatives of each other.
[I am grateful to Tijani Chahed (Tunisia)
for informing me of the Arabic meanings of Halid, Memduh, and Mohammed
and to Hatice Orun Ozturk for correcting several mistakes in an earlier
version and making many suggestions which greatly improved this note.]
My last name is a compound. ``Tas'' means ``stone.'' ``Ak''
means ``white.'' There are many people named ``Aktas,'' meaning
``Whitestone.'' My name has the additional ``Oz'' in front which has
no direct correspondence in English, neither as a word nor as a
concept. As an adjective it may mean ``pure,'' ``real,'' or ``essence
of.'' As a noun it refers to the inner essence of something, that
which gives it meaning or life or animation. If you pick up a phone
book anywhere in the world and look at the names starting with ``Oz,''
most will likely be of Turkish origin.
[Abdurrahman Aktas has pointed out that his last name has a different
meaning than ``Whitestone.'' ``Ak'' also means ``flow'' and ``tas''
also means ``overflow,'' so ``Aktas'' also means ``Flow-and-overflow,''
in the sense of a restless and energetic spirit. With this interpretation,
Ozaktas might be taken to refer to the flowing and overflowing of the
inner essence or spirit.]
Ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), Arabian historian and sociologist,
whose full name was Abu Zayd `Abd-al-Rahman ibn-Muhammad, was born
in Tunis. Scion of a family of high officials at the courts of the
sultans of North Africa, he served under the sovereigns of his
country who ruled during his lifetime, as well as under the kings
of Granada in Spain, as an adviser, a minister, and an ambassador,
shifting from one master to the other with great ease, in spite of
their rivalry or enmity. He finally retired in 1374, and in 1382
moved to Egypt, where until his death he occupied, with
interruptions, the position of a supreme judge of the Malikite
School, one of the four systems of law officially admitted in
From his long experience in political affairs ibn-Khaldun
conceived the plan of writing a universal history arranged
according to the different dynasties of sovereigns in Muslim and
foreign countries. His work, The Book of Examples (Kitab al-`Ibar),
which bears the full title Book of Good Advice Concerning the
Epochs of the Arabs, the Persians and the Berbers, and the
Sovereigns Who Were Their Contemporaries, and occupies seven thick
volumes, is a remarkable achievement in itself, although its author
does not always succeed in sifting his sources critically. Ibn-
Khaldun was, however, the only Arabian historian aware of the
existence of the Roman Republic (all other Arabian historians,
depending upon Byzantine sources, began the history of Rome with
Caesar) and one of the few who ever made use of Latin and Hebrew
authors, as they appeared in Arabic translations.
Ibn-Khaldun's amazing penetration and originality appear,
however, in the Introduction, or prolegomena (The Muqaddimah), to
his history, which is both a summary of Islamic sciences and a
theoretical approach to history. Antedating the European
philosophers of history by several centuries, ibn-Khaldun
considered the succession of human events from a purely
sociological viewpoint, emphasizing the contrast between nomadic
and sedentary life; tracing the origin and development of social
and political organization to the need for food, shelter, and
security; analyzing the racial and national motives that underlie
the birth and growth of states; carefully defining the various
kinds of political establishments; and elucidating the reasons for
their success, decline, and fall. Although attempts to study the
principles of politics had been made in Islam before him, ibn-
Khaldun's approach was entirely new: without denying God's
intervention in the deeds and acts of mankind, he ignored it while
dealing with his subject and proceeded on purely rational
The greatness of ibn-Khaldun's thought was recognized in
Europe only at the beginning of the 19th century; since then much
has been written about his philosophy of history, but the subject
is far from exhausted. His historical work has been translated, the
history of the Berbers being available in French, and in 1958 an
English translation of the Muqaddimah was published in three
volumes in the Bollingen Series.
G. L. Della Vida
Copyright 1996 by P.F. Collier, a division of Newfield Publications Inc.
Source: Collier's Encyclopedia, Item Number: IB01087400