Ibn Hazm

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] 7 November 994 – 15 August 1064[2][3][6] (456 AH[4]) was an Andalusian-Arab Muslim polymath, historian, jurist, philosopher, and theologian, born in the Caliphate of Córdoba, present-day Spain.[7] Described as one of the strictest hadith interpreters, Ibn Hazm was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought[3] and produced a reported 400 works, of which only 40 still survive.[6][7] In all, his written works amounted to some 80 000 pages.[8] The Encyclopaedia of Islam refers to him as having been one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim world,[3][9] and he is widely acknowledged as the father of comparative religious studies alongside al-Biruni.[6]

Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi
Monumento a Ibn Hazm.jpg
Born7 November 994 (384 AH)
Died15 August 1064[2][3] (456 AH)[4]
Montíjar, near Huelva, Taifa of Seville
DenominationSunni Islam
Notable work(s)Kitab al-Fisal fi al-milal wa-al-ahwa' wa-al-nihal
Muslim leader

Personal lifeEdit

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


Ibn Hazm's grandfather Sa'id and his father Ahmad both held high advisory positions in the court of the Umayyad Caliph Hisham II.[10] Scholars believe that they were Iberian Christians who converted to Islam.[11]


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.[12] 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.[3]


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 Córdoba. 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.[7]

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

Ibn Hazm's father died in 1012. Ibn Hazm was frequently imprisoned as a suspected supporter of the Umayyads.[6][7] By 1031, Ibn Hazm retreated to his family estate at Manta Lisham and had begun to express his activist convictions in the literary form.[7] He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought,[3] and produced a reported 400 works of which only 40 still survive.[6][7][13] Due to his political and religious opponents gaining power after the collapse of the caliphate, he accepted an offer of asylum from the governor of the island of Majorca in the 1040s, and he continued to propagate the Zahiri school there before returning to Andalusia.[14]

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

As an Athari,[1] 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 orthodox schools such as juristic discretion.[15] While initially a follower of the Maliki school of law within Sunni Islam, he switched to the Shafi'i school later and, around the age of thirty, finally settled with the Zahiri school.[12][16] 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.[17]


Much of Ibn Hazm's substantial body of works, which approached that of Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari and as-Suyuti's, was burned in Seville by his sectarian and political opponents. His surviving works, while criticised as repetitive, didactic and abrasive in style [18] also show a fearless irreverence towards his academic critics and authorities.

Ibn Hazm wrote works on law, theology, and over ten medical books. He called for science to be integrated into a standard curriculum. In Organization of the sciences he diachronically defines educational fields as stages of progressive acquisition set over a five-year curriculum, from language and exegesis of the Qur'an, to the life and physical sciences, to a rationalistic theology.[19]

Detailed Critical ExaminationEdit

In Fisal (Detailed Critical Examination), a treatise on Islamic science and theology, Ibn Hazm promoted sense perception above subjectively flawed human reason. Recognizing the importance of reason, as 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.[20]


Perhaps ibn Hazm's most influential work in the Arabic in modern times (selections have been translated into English), is The Muhallah (المحلى بالأثار), Or the Adorned Treatise. It is reported to be a Summary of a much longer work known as al-Mujallah (المجلى). It is essential focused on matters of jurisprudence or fiqh (فقه), but also touches of matters of creed in its first chapter Kitab al-Tawheed (كتاب التوحيد), Which focuses on credal matters related to monotheism and fundamental principles of approach to divine texts. One of the main points that emerges from this masterpiece of jurisprudencial thought is that ibn Hazm rejects analogical reasoning or qiyas (قياس), preferring a far more direct and literal approach to the texts.


Ibn Hazm wrote the Scope of Logic, in which he stressed on the importance of sense perception as a source of knowledge.[21] 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.[22] The work was first re-published in Arabic by Ihsan Abbas in 1959, and most recently by Abu Abd al-Rahman Ibn Aqil al-Zahiri in 2007.[23]


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.[24]


A poem, or fragment of a poem, by him is preserved in Ibn Said al-Maghribi's Pennants of the Champions:[25]

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.


Ibn Hazm's teachers in medicine included al-Zahrawi and Ibn al-Kattani and he wrote some ten medical works,[26] including Kitab fi'l-Adwiya al-mufrada mentioned by al-Dhahabi.[27]



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.[28] 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.[28]


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,[29] 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.[30][31]


Ibn Hazm's works lightly touched upon the traditions of Greek philosophy. Agreeing with both Epicurus and Prodicus of Ceos, he stated that pleasure brings happiness in life and there is nothing to fear in death. He believed that these philosophical traditions, while useful, were not enough to properly build an individual's character, and stated that Islamic faith was also necessary.[14]

The concept of absolute free will was rejected by Ibn Hazm, as he believed that all of an individual's attributes are created by God.[14]


Ibn Hazm was highly critical of the Shia sect.[32] He said about them:

"The Persians possessed a great kingdom and an upper hand above all other nations. They magnified the danger they posed [to others nations] by calling themselves al-Ahrār (the free ones) and al-Asyād (the noble ones). As a result, they considered all other people their slaves. However, they were afflicted with the destruction of their empire at the hands of the Arabs whom they had considered a lesser danger among the other nations [to their empire]. Their affairs became exacerbated and their afflictions doubled as they plotted wars against Islam various times. However, in all of their plots, Allāh made the Truth manifest. They continued to plot more useful stunts. So, some of their people accepted Islām only to turn towards Shī'ism, with the claim of loving Ahl al-Bayt (the family of the Prophet) and abhorrence to the oppression against 'Alī. Then, they traversed upon this way until it led them away from the path of Guidance [Islām]."[33]


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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36]

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 re-publishing of Al-Muhalla, Muhammad Abu Zahra's biography of Ibn Hazm, and the re-publishing of archived epistles on legal theory by Sa'id al-Afghani in 1960 and Ihsan Abbas between 1980 and 1983.[37]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b 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...
  2. ^ a b Ibn Hazm. The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab Love (Preface). Trans. A. J. Arberry. Luzac Oriental, 1997 ISBN 1-898942-02-1
  3. ^ a b c d e f R. Arnaldez, Ibn Ḥazm. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online, 2013. Reference. 9 January 2013
  4. ^ a b "USC-MSA Compendium of Muslim Texts". Usc.edu. Archived from the original on 28 November 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  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. ^ a b c d e Joseph A. Kechichian, A mind of his own. Gulf News: 21:30 December 20, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Fiegenbaum, J.W. "Ibn Ḥazm". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  8. ^ Ibrahim Kalin, Salim Ayduz (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Science, and Technology in Islam, Volume 1, p. 328
  9. ^ Islamic Desk Reference, pg. 150. Ed. E. J. Van Donzel. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1994. ISBN 9789004097384
  10. ^ The court was under the effective rule of the Grand Vizier al-Mansur and his successor and son al-Muzaffar
  11. ^ Britannica "Ibn 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. Muslim families of Iberian (Spanish) background commonly adopted genealogies that identified them with the Arabs; scholars therefore tend to favour evidence suggesting that Ibn Ḥazm was a member of a family of Iberian Christian background from Manta Līsham (west of Sevilla)."
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b c Sharif, M.M. (2013). A History of Muslim Philosophy: With Short Accounts of Other Disciplines and the Modern Renaissance in Muslim Lands, Volume 2. Adam. pp. 280–284. ISBN 9788174352880.
  15. ^ Bilal Orfali, "In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arab Culture." Pg. 34. Brill Publishers, 2011. Print.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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
  18. ^ Adang, Zahiri Conceptions, pg. 20.
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ Ibn Hazm, Islamic Philosophy Online.
  21. ^ Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, "The Spirit of Muslim Culture" (cf. [1] and [2])
  22. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Oliver Leaman (1996), History of Islamic Philosophy, pp. 107–109, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-05667-5.
  23. ^ Jose Miguel Puerta Vilchez, "Inventory of Ibn Hazm's Works". Taken from Ibn Hazm 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
  24. ^ In Pursuit of Virtue, section under Treatment to be given to Souls, and the Reform of Vicious Characters, #9
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Oliver Leaman (ed.), History of Islamic Philosophy, Routledge, 2013, p. 945
  27. ^ Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro, Sabine Schmidtke (ed.), Ibn ?azm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker, BRILL, 2012, p. 685
  28. ^ a b Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Linguistic Tradition, pg. 175. Volume three of Landmarks in Linguistic Thought. London: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 9780415157575
  29. ^ Robert Gleave, Islam and Literalism: Literal Meaning and Interpretation in Islamic Legal Theory, pg. 169. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012. ISBN 9780748625703
  30. ^ Robert Gleave, Islam and Literalism, pg. 170.
  31. ^ Ibn Hazm, al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam, vol. 7, pg. 976. Ed. Mahmud Hamid Uthman. Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 2005. ISBN 9772251191
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Ibn Hazm, 'Ali. Kitab al-Fisal fi al-milal wa-al-ahwa' wa-al-nihal. pp. 2/273.
  34. ^ Al-Waadi'i, Muqbil "Ijabat al-Sa`il fi Ahamm al-Masa`il", pg. 333
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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


  • The Ring of the Dove by Ibn Hazm, translation and preface by A. J. Arberry ISBN 1-898942-02-1
  • al-Fasl fi al-milal wa-al-ahwa' wa-al-nihal, by Ibn Hazm. Bairut: Dar al-Jil, 1985
  • Abenházam de Córdoba y su Historia crítica de las ideas religiosas vols. 1–5, by Miguel Asín Palacios. Madrid, 1928–1932
  • Muslim writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible : from Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm, by Camilla Adang. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996. ISBN 90-04-10034-2
  • Ibn Hazm et la polémique islamo-chrétienne dans l´histoire de l´Islam, by Abdelilah Ljamai. Leiden: Brill, 2003. ISBN 90-04-12844-1
  • Ibn Hazam Khilal Alf Aam, by Abu Abd al-Rahman Ibn Aqil al-Zahiri. Lebanon: Dar al-Gharab al-Islami, 1982. 303 pages.
  • Kitab al-'axlaq wa-s-siyar ou Risala fi mudawat an-nufus wa-tahdib al-'axlaq wa-z-zuhd fi r-rada'il / Ibn Hazm al-'Andalusi; introd., éd. critique, remarques par Eva Riad. Uppsala : Univ. ; Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell international (distr.), 1980. ISBN 91-554-1048-0
  • The Zahiris, Their Doctrine and Their History: a contribution to the history of Islamic theology by Ignaz Goldziher, trans. and ed. Wolfgang Behn. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971.
  • "Ibn Hazm of Cordova: on Porphyry's Isagoge", by Rafael Ramón Guerrero, in J. Meirinhos - O. Weijers (eds.): Florilegium mediaevale. Études offertes à Jacqueline Hamesse à l'occasion de son éméritat, Louvain-La-Neuve, FIDEM, 2009, pp. 525–540.

External linksEdit