Dune: A Sci-Fi Muqaddimah?

Although hailed as a sci-fi masterpiece, Frank Herbert’s Dune is honestly a rather dry read (pun intended). It is not really a straight forward narrative but framed within (fictional) history and science textbook. Set in a distant world and time, the twists and turns feels close to heart as if proving human nature will not change forever.

The covers kinda have the same mood

And that brings us to Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, the ancient text still perfectly explains political shenanigans that happen today. The concept of asabbiyah brought forward still holds true and his critique of historians is sadly still relevant to this day.

The most striking idea that both of these book champions throughout is that nomadic people is superior to sedentary city people. Desert nomadic people with scarce water to be exact. Frank Herbert also heavily borrows and mangles Arabic terms to describe his fictional Freemen culture which curiously very similar to pre-Islamic Bedouins.

Ibn Khaldun describes how people oppressed in the city run away to join nomadic tribes and later came back to conquer the city. Spoiler alert: That is exactly what happened to the main characters of Dune.

Beyond socio-economic factors, Ibn Khaldun also describes the role of geography, climate, religion and superstitions in the rise and fall of empires. In Dune, the role is split into two characters (the scientist and the historian) to describe this fictional world to readers. The historian even distorts some of the facts to suit her liking.

This is just scratching the surface, there’s actually lots more to dig but I don’t feel like wandering in the desert of Dune for now. Perhaps we can return to a full dive later when new Dune TV series and films get released.

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