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Machiavelli's Arab Precursor: Ibn Zafar al-Siqillī

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Virtually unknown to contemporary Western scholars and most Arab intellectuals is the political thought of Ibn Zafar al-Siqillī, a distinguished Arab philosopher and political activist of the twelfth century. First discovered in mid-nineteenth century by an Italian Arabist, Ibn Zafar was considered a worthy precursor to Machiavelli by Gaetano Mosca. This paper presents an analysis of Ibn Zafar's theories of power and leadership and draws relevant parallels between Ibn Zafar's magnum opus, Sulwān al-Mutā, and Machiavelli's Prince. Written in the genre of 'advice to the prince', Ibn Zafar's book offers an empirical analysis of power and a set of maxims and strategies to be used by a virtuous ruler in order to preserve his power and secure his realm. It will be shown that Ibn Zafar's maxims, like Machiavelli's, transcended his historical milieu and therefore, deserve attention by modern students of Arab political thought.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2000

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