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Popul Bull ECWA. 1982 Jun-Dec;(22-23):159-77.

The Arabs and the science of population distribution.



Before the establishment of demography as a scientific discipline, Arab writers had developed and utilized demographic principles in their scientific writings about geography. Early Arab advances in demographic thought, especially in regard to population distribution, were discussed. (All dates were given as anno Hegira (AH), i,e., the dates accord with the Muslim calendar in which the 1st year coincides with Mohammed's flight from Mecca in 622). As early as the 2nd century Hegira, a number of historical writers mentioned population movements, and Arab rulers conducted censuses of conquered areas; however, it was not until the 3rd century Hegitpra that population distribution was treated in a scientific manner. During that century Al-Jahiz made the 1st scientific observation when he noted the importance of enviromental influences on the distribution and disposition of people, and Al-Razi noted that when people came together in large groups they divided up functions between themselves, i.e., he identified the division of labor hundreds of years before Adam Smith. Between 300-900 AH many other writers utilized demographic principles in their writings, but the major contributions to demographic thought were made by Ibn Khaldun (732-800AH) and elaborated by his followers Al-Maqrizi (766-845 AH) and Ahmed Ibn Al-Dalji (770-838 AH). Although scholars recognize the contributions of Ibn Khaldun to sociology and philosophy, little attention is paid to his writings in demography. Ign Khaldun was the 1st to recognize the importance of examining socioeconomic development from a demographic perspective. Many of his writings dealt with the impact of population on socioeconomic factors. Ibn Khaldun estimated that only 1/4 of the world's area was inhabited; modern day estimates are that 30% of the earth's surface is inhabited. He divided the inhabited areas of the then known earth into 7 regions and observed that the population was distributed unevenly in these areas. In his writings he identified most of the factors recognized today as the major determinants of population distribution, e.g., climate, topography, soil quality, and a number of socioeconomic factors. According to Ibn Khaldun, moderation in geographical conditions promoted population growth and population growth promoted prosperity. He identified the study of this process leading to prosperity as the science of Omran, and noted that populations distribute themselves into agglomerations in order to enjoy social contacts and to satisfy their needs through the development of harmonious patterns of exchange and occupational specialization. Ibn Khaldun classified populations as rural and urban and further categorized rural populations into settled agriculturalists, semisedentary livestock raisers, and less settled camel herdsmen and urban populations into small towns, medium cities, and large cities. Prosperity increased as the size of the population agglomerations increased. In the larger population clusters, basic necessities, e.g., food, were produced in great quantities due to the the harmonious patterns relationships between the residents and the industrious nature of the people. Consequently, the price of basic necessities was low. Luxury items were not as abundant. These items were, therefore, expensive.

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