Ali Ibn Hazm: lmam of Al-Andalus
A prominent scholar and activist during Islamic rule in Spain at the end of the fifth century AH. BY HASSAN AHMAD
His name is Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Hazm, and his nickname was Abu Muhammad, the great Muslim scholar, historian, and litterateur of Islamic Spain. As one of the chief exponents of the Dharuri or literalist school of jurisprudence, Imam Ibn Hazm produced some 400 works, covering jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology of which less than 40 are still existant.
Ibn Hazm was born into a notable family that claimed descent from a Persian Mawla or client of Yazid, the brother of Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan, the first of the Umayyad Chaliphs. Hazm, his great grandfather, probably converted to Islam, and his grandfather Sa'eed moved to Cordoba, the capital of the caliphate. Ahmad, his father, a devout and learned man, held a high position under al-Mansur and his successor, al-Muzatfar, a father and son who ruled efficiently in the name of the caliph Hisham ll. Living in the circles of the ruling hierarchy provided Ibn Hazm, an eager and observant student, with excellent educational opportunities. Experiences in the surroundings of the harem made an indelible impression upon him.
Ibn Hazm's circumstances changed drastically upon the death of al-Muzatfar in AD 1008, when the stability, that the Umayyads had provided for more than two and one-half centuries, collapsed. A bloody civil war ensued and continued until 1031, when the caliphate was abolished and a large number of petty states replaced any semblance of a centralized political structure. The family was uprooted, and Ahmad died in 1012; Ibn Hazm continued to persistently support Umayyad claimants to the office of caliph, for which he was frequently imprisoned.
By 1031 he began to express his convictions and activist inclinations through literary activity becoming a very controversial figure. He spent most of his time at the family estate in Manta Lisham.
The varied character of his literary activity covers an impressive range of jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology. His appreciation of the resources of the Arabic language and his skillful use of poetry and prose are evident in all his works. One delightful example is The Ring of the Dove (Tawq al-Hamamah), on the art of love. Probably best known for his work in jurisprudence and theology, for which the basic qualification was a thorough knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadith, he became one of the leading exponents of the Zahiri school of jurisprudence. The Zahiri principle of legal theory relies exclusively on the literal meaning of the Quran and Sunnah. Though his legal theories never won him many followers, he creatively extended the Zahiri principle to the field of theology. He made a comparative study on the religious pluralism of his day, which is among the earliest of such studies and is highly respected for its careful historical detail.
An activist by nature, with a deep sense of the reality, of God, Ibn Hazm lived very much in the political and intellectual world of his times. In spite of his activism, however, he was very much a nonconformist and a loner. He converced and debated with the leading contemporaries of his area, to whom he exhibited an insatiable thirst for knowledge as well as uncompromising convictions. Most observant, careful in analysis, meticulous in detail, and devoted to the clarity of his positions, he demanded the same of others. According to a saying of the period, the tongue of Ibn Hazm was a twin brother to the sword of al-Hajjaj, a famous 7thcentury general and governor of Iraq. He attacked, in his writings, deceit, distortion, and inconsistency; but at the same time Ibn Hazm exhibited a sensitive spirit and expressed profound in Sights about the dimensions of human relationships.
He was shunned and defamed for his political and theological views. When, one of his writings were burned in public, he said that no such act could deprive him of their content. Although attacks against him continued after his death, various influential defenders appeared. Though he apparently was easy to despise, Ibn Hazm could hardly be ignored. He was frequently and effectively quoted, so much so that the phrase: “Ibn Hazm said" became proverbial.