Ibn Hazm

Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi
Born November 7, 994 (384 AH)
Córdoba, Caliphate of Córdoba
Died August 15, 1064[1][2] (456 AH)[3]
Montíjar, near Huelva, Taifa of Seville
Ethnicity Andalusian
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni Islam
Jurisprudence Zahiri
Creed Athari[4]
Notable work(s) Kitab al-Fisal fi al-milal wa-al-ahwa' wa-al-nihal

Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd ibn Ḥazm (Arabic: أبو محمد علي بن احمد بن سعيد بن حزم; also sometimes known as al-Andalusī aẓ-Ẓāhirī;[5] November 7, 994 – August 15, 1064[1][2][6] (456 AH[3]) was an Andalusian poet, polymath, historian, jurist, philosopher and theologian, born in Córdoba, present-day Spain.[7] He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought,[2] and produced a reported 400 works of which only 40 still survive, covering a range of topics such as Islamic jurisprudence, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology, as well as The Ring of the Dove, on the art of love.[6][7] The Encyclopaedia of Islam refers to him as having been one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim world,[2][8] and he is widely acknowledged as the father of comparative religious studies.[6]

Personal life

The Ring of the Dove
(Ms. in Leiden University Library)


Ibn Hazm was born into a notable family. His grandfather Sa'id who moved to Córdoba and his father Ahmad both held high advisory positions in the court of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham II.[9] bn Ḥazm was born into a notable family that claimed descent from a Persian client of Yazīd, the son of Muʿāwiyah, the first of the Umayyad dynasty rulers in Syria.


Having been raised in a politically and economically important family, Ibn Hazm mingled with people of power and influence all his life. He had access to levels of government by his adolescence that most people at the time would never know throughout their whole lives. These experiences with government and politicians caused Ibn Hazm to develop a reluctant and even sad skepticism about human nature and the capacity of human beings to deceive and oppress.[10] His reaction was to believe that there was no refuge or truth except with an infallible God, and that with men resided only corruption. Ibn Hazm was thus known for his cynicism regarding humanity and a strong respect for the principles of language and sincerity in communication.[2]


Ibn Hazm lived among the circle of the ruling hierarchy of the Umayyad government. His experiences produced an eager and observant attitude, and he gained an excellent education at Cordoba. His talent gained him fame and allowed him to enter service under the Caliphs of Córdoba and Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir, Grand Vizier to the last of the Umayyad caliphs, Hisham III. He was also a colleague of Abd al-Rahman Sanchuelo.

After the death of the grand vizier al-Muzaffar in 1008, the Umayyad Caliphate of Iberia became embroiled in a civil war that lasted until 1031 resulting in its collapse of the central authority of Córdoba and the emergence of many smaller incompetent states called Taifas.[11]

Historic map of Majorca and Minorca by the Ottoman admiral Piri Reis.

Ibn Hazm's father died in 1012 and as Ibn Hazm continued to speak in favor of a centralized political structure, he was accused of supporting the Umayyads, for which he was frequently imprisoned.[6][11] By 1031, Ibn Hazm retreated to his family estate at Manta Lisham and had begun to express his activist convictions in the literary form.[11] According to one of his sons, Ibn Hazm produced some 80,000 pages of writing, consisting of 400 works, only 40 of those works are still existent. A varied character of Ibn Hazm's literary activity covers an impressive range of anthropology, genealogy, jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, Islamic studies, Muslim prophetic tradition and theology.[12] He is also known to have been fond of adventure and travels, and wrote about his visit to the island of Majorca and its capitol Palma. His notes grant interesting insight into the invention and construction of caravels.

According to a saying of the period, "the tongue of Ibn Hazm was a twin brother to the sword of al-Hajjaj" (an infamous 7th century general and governor of Iraq)[11] and he became so frequently quoted that the phrase “Ibn Hazm said” became proverbial.[11]

As an Athari,[4] he opposed the allegorical interpretation of religious texts, preferring instead a grammatical and syntactical interpretation of the Qur'an. He granted cognitive legitimacy only to revelation and sensation and considered deductive reasoning insufficient in legal and religious matters. He rejected practices common among more heterodox schools such as juristic discretion.[13] While initially a follower of the Malikite school of law within Sunni Islam, he switched to the Shafi'ite rite later and, around the age of thirty, finally settled with the Zahirite school.[10][14] He is perhaps the most well-known adherent to the school, and the main source of extant works on Zahirite law. He studied the school's precepts and methods under Abu al-Khiyar al-Dawudi al-Zahiri of Santarém Municipality, and was eventually promoted to the level of a teacher of the school himself. In 1029, the two of them were expelled from the main mosque of Cordoba for their activities.[15]


Ibn Hazm has been described as the second most prolific author in Muslim history, only surpassed by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari in terms of works authored. While much of Ibn Hazm's work was burned in Seville by an alliance of his sectarian and political opponents, a number of his books have survived. His writing style has been described as repetitive, which was Ibn Hazm's way of emphasizing a point he felt was important to a given discussion.[16] His method of dialogue was harsh, and he appeared to have little fear or respect for those who disagreed with him, be they fellow academics or government officials.

In addition to works on law and theology, Ibn Hazm also wrote more than ten books on medicine. He also addressed the issue of integrating the sciences into a standard curriculum for education; his work Organization of the sciences divides education of the various fields diachronically into stages of progressive acquisition. The entire curriculum he suggests spans five years, starting with language and exegesis of the Qur'an, includes the life and physical sciences and culminates with a sort of rational theology.[17]

Detailed Critical Examination

In his Fisal (Detailed Critical Examination), a treatise on Islamic science and theology, Ibn Hazm stressed the importance of sense perception as he realized that human reason can be flawed. While he recognized the importance of reason, since the Qur'an itself invites reflection, he argued that this reflection refers mainly to revelation and sense data, since the principles of reason are themselves derived entirely from sense experience. He concludes that reason is not a faculty for independent research or discovery, but that sense perception should be used in its place, an idea that forms the basis of empiricism.[18]


Ibn Hazm wrote the Scope of Logic, in which he stressed on the importance of sense perception as a source of knowledge.[19] He wrote that the "first sources of all human knowledge are the soundly used senses and the intuitions of reason, combined with a correct understanding of a language." Ibn Hazm also criticized some of the more traditionalist theologians who were opposed to the use of logic and argued that the first generations of Muslims did not rely on logic. His response was that the early Muslims had witnessed the revelation directly, whereas the Muslims of his time have been exposed to contrasting beliefs, hence the use of logic is necessary in order to preserve the true teachings of Islam.[20] The work was first republished in Arabic by Ihsan Abbas in 1959, and most recently by Abu Abd al-Rahman Ibn Aqil al-Zahiri in 2007.[21]


In his book, In Pursuit of Virtue, ibn Hazm had urged his readers with the following:

Do not use your energy except for a cause more noble than yourself. Such a cause cannot be found except in Almighty God Himself: to preach the truth, to defend womanhood, to repel humiliation which your creator has not imposed upon you, to help the oppressed. Anyone who uses his energy for the sake of the vanities of the world is like someone who exchanges gemstones for gravel.[22]


A poem, or fragment of a poem, by him is preserved in Ibn Said al-Maghribi's Pennants of the Champions:[23]

You came to me just before
the Christians rang their bells.
The half-moon was rising
looking like an old man's eyebrow
or a delicate instep.
And although it was still night
when you came a rainbow
gleamed on the horizon,
showing as many colours
as a peacock's tail.



In addition to his views on honesty in communication, Ibn Hazm also addressed the science of language to some degree. He viewed the Arabic language, the Hebrew language and the Syriac language as all essentially being one language which branched out as the speakers settled in different geographic regions and developed different vocabularies and grammars from the common root.[24] He also differed with many Muslim theologians in that he didn't view Arabic as superior to other languages; this was due to the fact that the Qur'an does not describe Arabic as such, and in Ibn Hazm's view there was no proof for claiming any language was superior to another.[24]


Ibn Hazm was well known for his strict literalism, and is considered the champion of the literalist Zahirite school within Sunni Islām. A commonly cited example is his interpretation of the first half of verse 23 in the Qur'anic chapter of Al-Isra prohibiting one from saying "uff" to one's parents; Ibn Hazm said that half of the verse only prohibits saying "uff" and doesn't prohibit hitting one's parents for example,[25] but rather that hitting them is prohibited by the second half of the verse as well as verse 24 which command kind treatment of parents.[26][27]

Physics and dynamics

Ibn Hazm's views on sound is that it travels at specific speeds. He gave examples of echo inside the Mosque of Córdoba to prove his statements; among the examples he proposed was the reference to the interval between lightning and the thunder that follows it. He also implicitly believed that lightning causes thunder. [28]

Ibn Hazm also presented a notion on Dynamics regarding the "nature of motion of bodies". Ibn Hazm explained that: "there are mobile objects and stationary objects, but there is no motion nor staticness". [28]

Spherical Earth

By the 9th century, scholars like Ibn Hazm supported the view that the Earth was a sphere, and he is known to have started his debate by stating verses from the Quran: "He makes the Night overlap the Day, and the Day overlap the Night" (Zumar;5)- the word "to make [something] overlap" here, in Arabic kawwara ( كَوَّرَ ), is derived from kura( كُرَة ), which means "ball" or "sphere". And after detailed studies using celestial globes he concluded proof, and the now astronomer Ibn Hazm stated publicly that: "the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth". Ibn Hazm's proof inspired generations later on including the geographer al-Idrisi, who depicted the world as a globe.[29][30]


Ibn Hazm was highly critical of the Shia sect.[31]


Muslim scholars, especially those subscribing to Zahirism, have often praised Ibn Hazm for what they perceive as his knowledge and perseverance. Yemeni preacher Muqbil bin Hadi al-Wadi'i was one of Ibn Hazm's admirers in recent times, holding the view that no other Muslim scholar had embodied the prophetic tradition of the Muhammad and the Sahaba.[32] Similarly, Pakistani cleric Badi' ud-Din Shah al-Rashidi taught Ibn Hazm's book Al-Muhalla to students in Masjid al-Haram, while living in Mecca.[33] al-Wadi'i himself taught Al-Muhalla in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, while in Medina. Abu Abd al-Rahman Ibn Aqil al-Zahiri, the primary biographer of Ibn Hazm in the modern era, has authored a number of works on Ibn Hazm's life and career, many published through Ibn Aqil's printing press which is named after Ibn Hazm.[34]

Modernist revival of Ibn Hazm's general critique of Islamic legal theory has seen several key moments in Arab intellectual history, including Ahmad Shakir's republishing of Al-Muhalla, Muhammad Abu Zahra's biography of Ibn Hazm, and the republishing of archived epistles on legal theory by Sa'id al-Afghani in 1960 and Ihsan Abbas between 1980 and 1983.[35]

See also


  1. 1 2 Ibn Hazm. The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab Love. Trans. A. J. Arberry. Luzac Oriental, 1997 ISBN 1-898942-02-1
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 R. Arnaldez, Ibn Ḥazm. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. 09 January 2013
  3. 1 2 "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Usc.edu. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  4. 1 2 Halverson, Jeffry R. (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 22. Indeed, Ibn Hazm, who was an Athari scholar of the now extinct Zahirite school of law in Spain...
  5. A. R. Nykl. "Ibn Ḥazm's Treatise on Ethics". Also as Ibn Khazem by some medieval European sources. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 40, No. 1. (Oct., 1923), pp. 30–36.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Joseph A. Kechichian, A mind of his own. Gulf News: 21:30 December 20, 2012.
  7. 1 2 Encyclopædia Britannica. "'''"Ibn Hazm."''' Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Oct 23. 2006". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  8. Islamic Desk Reference, pg. 150. Ed. E. J. Van Donzel. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1994. ISBN 9789004097384
  9. The court was under the effective rule of the Grand Vizier al-Mansur and his successor and son al-Muzaffar
  10. 1 2 Lois A. Giffen, "Ibn Hazm and the Tawq al-Hamama. Taken from The Legacy of Muslim Spain, pg. 428. Ed. Salma Jayyusi. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1994.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ibn Hazm." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. October 23, 2006
  12. Camilla Adang, This Day I have Perfected Your Religion For You: A Zahiri Conception of Religious Authority, pg. 19. Taken from Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Ed. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006.
  13. Bilal Orfali, "In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arab Culture." Pg. 34. Brill Publishers, 2011. Print.
  14. Adang, "From Malikism to Shafi'ism to Zahirism: The Conversions of Ibn Hazm," pg. 73-87. Conversions islamiques. Identites religieuses en Islam mediterraneen, ed. Mercedes Garcia-Arenal. Paris: 2001.
  15. Delfina Serrano, "Claim or complaint?" Taken from Ibn Hazm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, pg. 200. Eds. Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro and Sabine Schmidtke. Volume 103 of Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9789004234246
  16. Adang, Zahiri Conceptions, pg. 20.
  17. Francoise Micheau, "The scientific institutions in the medical Near East." Taken from Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, Volume 3: Technology, Alchemy and Life Sciences, pg. 1008. Ed. Roshdi Rashed. London: Routledge, 1996. ISBN 0415124123
  18. Ibn Hazm, Islamic Philosophy Online.
  19. Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, "The Spirit of Muslim Culture" (cf. and )
  20. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman (1996), History of Islamic Philosophy, pp. 107–109, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-05667-5.
  21. Jose Miguel Puerta Vilchez, "Inventory of Ibn Hazm's Works." Taken from Ibn ?azm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, pg. 743. Eds. Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro and Sabine Schmidtke. Volume 103 of Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9789004234246
  22. In Pursuit of Virtue, section under Treatment to be given to Souls, and the Reform of Vicious Characters, #9
  23. Gómez, translated by Cola Franzen from the Spanish versions of Emilio García (1989). Poems of Arab Andalusia. San Francisco: City Lights Books. ISBN 978-0-87286-242-5.
  24. 1 2 Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, pg. 175. Volume three of Landmarks in Linguistic Thought. London: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 9780415157575
  25. Robert Gleave, Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory, pg. 169. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780748625703
  26. Robert Gleave, Islam and Literalism, pg. 170.
  27. Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam, vol. 7, pg. 976. Ed. Mahmud Hamid Uthman. Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 2005. ISBN 9772251191
  28. 1 2 http://www.muslimheritage.com/uploads/Main%20-%20Ibn%20Hazm.pdf
  29. "How Islamic inventors changed the world". The Independent. London. 2006-03-11.
  30. http://en.islamstory.com/contributions-of-muslim-scientists-to-geography.html#_ftnref11
  31. Israel Friedlaender (1908). "The Heterodoxies of the Shiites in the Presentation of Ibn Hazm" (PDF). Journal of the American Oriental Society. American Oriental Society. 29. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  32. Al-Waadi'i, Muqbil "Ijabat al-Sa`il fi Ahamm al-Masa`il," pg.333
  33. Abdullaah Nasir Rehmaani, "A Biography of Shaykh Badee-ud-Deen Shah Rashidee as-Sindhee." Trns. Abu Naasir and Abu Handhala. Prepared by al-Meezaan.com.
  34. See:
    *Maribel Fierro, "Heresy in al-Andalus." Taken from The Legacy of Muslim Spain, pg. 905. Ed. Salma Jayyusi. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1994.
    *Ibn Hazam Khilal Alf Aam. Lebanon: Dar al-Gharab al-Islami, 1982. 303 pages.
    *Tahrir ba'd al-masa'il 'ala madh'hab al ashab. 1st Ed. Riyadh: Maktabat Dar al-Ulum, 1981.
  35. Adam Sabra, "Ibn Hazm's Literalism: A Critique of Islamic Legal Theory." Taken from: Ibn Ḥazm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, pg. 98. Volume 103 of Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 1: The Near and Middle East. Eds. Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro, and Sabine Schmidtke. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9789004234246


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