O Beautiful Soul, Ahlan wa sahlan!
Alhamdulillah for another blessed day in Ramadhan. As we carry along in this blessed month, I pray for us productivity, health, ease and contentment.
Islam provides great impetus for the human pursuit of knowledge, and from its inception, has placed a high premium on education and has enjoyed a long and rich intellectual tradition. Knowledge ('ilm) occupies a significant position within Islam. The first verse that descended on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Was Iqra, meaning "read,” opening the door to read, write, and ponder. The Quran urges the mankind to think, ponder, reflect and acquire knowledge that would bring them closer to Allah and his creation.
Seeking knowledge was not just restricted to the religion by the scholars of our past. Muslim scholars were scientists and inventors, who made innumerable discoveries and wrote countless books about medicine, surgery, physics, chemistry, philosophy, astronomy, geometry and various other fields. And example of one such scholar is Abu Muhammad ʿAli ibn Ahmad ibn Saʿid ibn Hazm also known as Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi. He was not only renowned for his islamic knowledge, but also for his intellectual prowess in various other fields of knowledge and science.
Here are some excerpts from the book "Ibn Hazm: The Life And Ideas Of A Spanish Genius" by Syed Nooruzuha Barmaver, explaining more about the life of this spanish genius and a great scholar of our religion. The book focuses on the life of Ibn Hazm, his learnings, his quest for knowledge, his journey to ascetism and his debates from the opposition he faced for holding on to the truth of Islam. And it also clarifies and refutes some well known misconceptions about him.
Who is Ibn Hazm al Andalusi?
One of the greatest scholars and geniuses produced by Muslim Spain – indeed, the whole Islamic world – was Imam Ibn Hazm (May Allah have mercy upon him). He has huge and diverse literary works that makes him a Polymath. He was Faqeeh (jurist), Muhaddith (Hadith scholar), Mufassir (exegete of Quran), Adeeb (litterateur), theologian, thinker, psychologist, poet, historian, philosopher, politician and debator. He authored around 400 works in the cities of Islamic Spain like Cordoba, Jativa, Almeria, Majorca, Valencia, Seville and Niebla. A reader of his books will come to realize the smartness of Ibn Hazm and will be impressed by his intellectual voracity, deep knowledge in various sciences, razor-sharp critical analysis, eloquent language and originality of his research. He lived an isolated and unsettled life dogged by various difficulties and persecutions. The brilliancy of his style is charmingly displayed, in the graceful description of his early love in his book Tawq al-Hamama, which won him the distinction of being one of the most thoughtful poet of Spain.
Many of the writings of Ibn Hazm are pioneering works in the respective field. According to the great scholar Izz bin Abdul Salam, Al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm is the best work in the entire history of Islam and al-Dhahabi agreed with him. Likewise, his works on comparative religion in the refutation of Judaism and Christianity are unprecedented. Academics have concluded that Ibn Hazm knew different languages including Hebrew. His work on biblical criticism by quoting from the Old Testament and the New Testament reveals an intimate knowledge of other religions, which was quite unique during the middle ages. He saw a good deal of the world and came in contact with different conditions of men, turning this living experience into an excellent account in his literary works.
Quest for knowledge
From the age of about twenty-six, he started dedicated study and concentrated on intellectual task. Ibn Hazm studied Maliki Madhab under the expert Ibn Dahhun, learned its Usool (fundamentals) and details. For some time he took interest in Shaﬁee Madhab and studied its books, until ﬁnally he followed the path of Zahiri Madhab. Al-Dhahabi reported an account from a contemporary of Ibn Hazm in his book Tadhkirah al-Huffaẓ:
“We were in the city of Valencia studying Madhab (Maliki), Abu Muhammad (Ibn Hazm) listened to the discussion and was amazed at what he heard. He asked a question to those in the gathering, to which they merely replied. Ibn Hazm was not convinced with the answer, hence he argued back, to which someone said, This knowledge is beyond your level. Ibn Hazm was disturbed by this and he started studying Fiqh in detail, few months had passed, Ibn Hazm reached same place and held a splendid debate with them and said, ‘I follow the Haqq (truth) and do Ijtihaad, I do not restrict myself to any Madhab’”
Ibn Hazm studied and benefited from many teachers and he had a friendship with great scholars of his age like Abu Umar Yusuf bin Abdullah known as Ibn Abdul Barr al-Andalusi. Ibn Hazm mentioned his teachers in various works especially Tawq al-Hamama. Ibn Hazm benefited from books that compiled the Fiqh of scholars from Sahabah and Tabieen. He says, “Among the books I benefited from includes books of Qadhi Muhammad bin Yahya bin Mufri. He authored numerous works, he compiled Fiqh of Hasan al-Basari in 7 volumes and compiled Fiqh of Imam az Zuhri in other works.”
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.
He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought. According to Ibn Hazm, Zahiriyyah is not Madhab, rather it is a methodology. Ibn Hazm believed that laws should be interpreted based on the apparent texts, not based on the figurative or metaphorical meaning unless it is other texts, consensus or the context indicates that figurative meaning is intended. Imam al-Shafiee has same position as he says in his al-Risalah,
“Narrations from Messenger ﷺ (should be accepted as general as they apparently are (ala al-Zahir min al-aamm), unless there is something to indicate that it is otherwise…or there is a consensus of scholars (of Islam), that the meaning in that particular instance is figurative not Zahir (apparent) and that it is Khaas (restricted) not Aamm (general).”
Ibn Hazm is quite famous in western world for his treatise on love called Tawq al-Hamama (The Ring of the Dove), mentioning signs of love, he writes in Tawq al-Hamama, “Love has certain signs, which the intelligent man quickly detects, and the shrewd man readily recognizes. Of these the first is the brooding gaze: the eye is the wide gateway of the soul, the scrutinizer of its secrets, conveying its most private thoughts, and giving expression to its deepest-hid feelings. You will see the lover gazing at the beloved unblinkingly; his eyes follow the loved one's every movement, withdrawing as he withdraws, inclining as he inclines, just as the chameleon's stare shifts with the shifting of the sun. I have written a poem on this topic, from which the following may be quoted.
My eye no other place of rest Discovers,
save with thee;
Men say the lodestone is possessed
Of a like property.
To right or left it doth pursue
Thy movements up or down,
As adjectives in grammar do
Accord them with their noun.
The lover will direct his conversation to the beloved, even when he purports however earnestly to address another: the affectation is apparent to anyone with eyes to see. When the loved one speaks, the lover listens with rapt attention to his every word; he marvels at everything the beloved says, however extraordinary and absurd his observations may be; he believes him implicitly even when he is clearly lying, agrees with him though he is obviously in the wrong, testifies on his behalf for all that he may be unjust, follows after him however he may proceed and whatever line of argument he may adopt. The lover hurries to the spot where the beloved is at the moment, endeavors to sit as near him as possible sidles up close to him, lays aside all occupations that might oblige him to leave his company, makes light of any matter however weighty that would demand his parting from him, is very slow to move when he takes his leave of him
Praise of scholars on Imam Ibn Hazm
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said about Ibn Hazm in Majmoo al-Fatawaa:
“Although he had Eemaan and Deen (religious commitment), vastness and depth in knowledge, that no one can deny except one who is stubborn, and knowledge of various (Aqwaal) opinions and different circumstances (Ahwaal) is found in his books, as well as his respect for the fundamentals of Islam and for the Messenger, which is a combination that cannot be found with anyone else…He was able to distinguish between Saheeh (authentic Hadith) from Daeef (weak Hadith) and and knowledge about the statements of Salaf, which you cannot find in anyone among other Fuqaha (jurists).”
Imam al-Dhahabi praised him in his book Tadhkirrah al-Huffaz, saying:
“al-Imam, al-Allamah ,al-Ḥafiẓ, al-Faqeeh, al-Mujtahid Abu Muhammad Ali bin Ahmad bin Saeed, bin Hazm bin Ghalib..”63 In his Siyar, Imam al-Dhahabi praised him with following titles “Al-Imam, the Unique, the ocean (of knowledge), expert in various sciences and disciplines Abu Muhammad Ali bin Ahmad bin Saeed bin Hazm”
Imam Ibn Kathir said about him in his book Al-Bidaayah wa al-Nihaayah:
“Al-Imam, al-Hafidh, alAllamah…He occupied himself with Quran and was engrossed in beneficial knowledge and surpassed his contemporaries in excellence. He authored famous books and it is said that he authored four hundred volumes consisting eighty thousand pages.”
Words of some Non-Muslim academics on Imam Ibn Hazm
Paul L. Heck, the founding director of The Study of Religions across Civilizations (SORAC) and Professor of Islamic Studies in Georgetown University said in his article “The Activist of Andalusia: Ibn Hazm of Cordoba”: “Ibn Hazm was a polymath who contributed to thinking in law, linguistics, art and aesthetics, theology, philosophy, ethics, history, genealogy, astronomy, and mathematics — on top of his contributions to interreligious polemics. These contributions deserve a more sustained look alongside his literary work, and this monumental collection of articles on his life and thought, edited by three leading scholars of Islam, consolidates over a century of Western scholarship on Ibn Hazm. It will serve as a critical reference point and provide firmer scholarly grounding for reflection on the meaning Ibn Hazm has for Islam today.”
Sir Thomas Arnold, English educator and historian said: “The name of Ibn Hazm is proverbial in Islam for religious Puritanism and biting controversy, and honoured in the West as that of the founder of the science of comparative religion.”
Reynold A. Nicholson, English orientalist, widely regarded as one of the greatest Rumi (Mevlana or Mawlana) scholars and translators in the English language, said in his book
“A Literary History of the Arabs”: “The greatest scholar and the most original genius of Moslem Spain is Abu Muhammad Ali Ibn Hazm, who was born at Cordova at 994 A.D"
Aqeedah of Ibn Hazm
Ibn Hazm started his magnum opus “Al-Muhalla bil Athaar” with a book called ‘Kitab at-Tawheed’, where he wrote about issues of faith. Below, I will summarize some issues of faith from his book Al-Muhalla Bil Aathaar:
1) The thing which is obligatory on everyone for validation of one’s Islam is to bear witness with certainty, free from all doubts and Ikhlaas (sincerity) to the testimony of “La ilaha illa Allah” (There is no god worthy of worship but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is his Messenger.
2) Proof that al-Arsh (Throne) is the creation. The proof is the statement of Allah: “He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.” (al-Quran 9:129).
3) Proof that there is nothing like Allah. There is nothing like him and there is no similitude between him and his creation. “There is nothing like Him” ((al-Quran 42:11).
4) Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent for the entire mankind and Jinn. “ Say (O Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم :((O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah — to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth” (al-Quran 7:158)
5) Proof that Islam abrogated all previous Millah (religions). Allah has abrogated all previous scriptures and made it binding upon everyone from mankind and Jinn to obey Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم .(Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم (is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. (al-Quran 33:40)
6) Proof that Isa (Jesus) (peace be upon him) will descend during the end times. And Ibn Hazm quoted various proofs to prove this point.
7) Jannah (paradise) is creation and Haqq (reality) and the Hellfire is reality.
8) Believer will not abide forever in hell-fire.
9) Jannah (paradise), hell-fire and its inhabitants will never perish. He gave various evidences for this.
10) The one who rejects established Hadith whose authenticity is agreed upon is a disbeliever. “And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم ((after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell - what an evil destination.” (al-Quran 4: 115)
11) Quran is a speech of Allah, and the one who rejects even one letter from the Quran is a disbeliever. “So that he may hear the Word of Allah (the Quran).”(al-Quran 9: 6)
12) Intercession of Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم (for major sinners of this Ummah is truth. “Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission.” (al-Quran 2: 255).
Criticisms on Ibn Hazm
Ibn Hazm (May Allah have mercy on him) fell into some mistakes and Muslim scholars highlighted them and warned against them. Imam al-Dhahabi said in Siyar Alam an-Nubala :
“I have affection for Abu Muhammad (Ibn Hazm) because of his love for Saheeh (authentic) Hadith and his knowledge of them, even though I disagree with him in many things which he says concerning the Hadith narrators and the Ilal (hidden defects) of Hadith. Nor do I agree with him in his deductions in the Usool (fundamentals) and Furoo (branches) of the Religion. I am certain that he was wrong on several matters, but I do not declare him a disbeliever, nor do I declare him misguided. I hope that he and all Muslims will be forgiven. I am overwhelmed by his great intelligence and vast knowledge.” [Siyar A’lam al-Nubala]
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said:
“Even though with regard to issues of al-Eemaan and al-Qadr (the divine decree) Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm was more correct than others and had more knowledge of Hadith and more respect for the scholars of Hadith than others, But his views on these issues were influenced by the ideas of the Falasifa (philosophers) and Mu‘tazilah with regard to issues of the Sifaat (divine attributes), which led to his view not being in agreement with the people of Hadith with regard to these issues. His wording was in agreement with Ahl al-Hadith (scholars of Hadith) but the meanings were in agreement with the other group.” [Majmoo al-Fatawaa]
Have fun reading more about Ibn Hazm!
About the Author
Syed Nooruzuha Barmaver is a scientist, author and public speaker. He is also a founding member of our project Arriqaaq.