by GF Haddad

`Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sa`id ibn Hazm, Abu Muhammad al-Farisi al-Andalusi al-Qurtubi al-Yazidi (d. 465), praised by al-Dhahabi as "the peerless imam, the Ocean of sciences and disciplines, the jurist, hadith master, scholar of kalam, man of letters, Zahiri minister, and prolific author." He was born into a princely family of Cordova where his education first centered on Arabic poetry, philosophy, and kalam. Al-Dhahabi said: "I saw a volume of his in which he puts logic at the head of all the sciences, and I was pained for him, for he is a foremost leader in the Islamic sciences, profoundly erudite in hadith documentation and without peer - despite his dry strain and fanatic literalism - in the branches but not the principles" [i.e. in fiqh, not `aqida].

An example of Ibn Hazm's extreme positions is his declaration that any type of analogy (qiyas), or imitation (taqlid), or legislative opinion (ra'y) was outside the pale of Islam, a position in which he contravened the totality of the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna. An example of his positions is his explanation of the Prophet's -- Allah bless and greet him -- hadith: "Let no-one urinate in still, non-running water then use it to bathe."1 Ibn Hazm stated the following absurd inferences:

- The interdiction to bathe applied only to the one who urinated; thus, anyone other than him may use that water to bathe;

- It applied only if one urinated into the water. He and anyone else might therefore use the water to bathe if the urine reached the water indirectly, for example after falling on high or nearby ground first, or being poured in it from a container;

- It applied only if one urinated in it, not defecated in it.2

    Al-Nawawi said of the above opinions: "All this which Ibn Hazm held is in contravention of the consensus of the scholars, and is the ugliest example of hardened literalism reported from him."3

    In addition, Ibn Hazm in his books violated Islamic etiquette in his revilement of past scholars with whom he disagreed, to the extent that Abu al-`Abbas ibn al-`Arif compared his tongue to al-Hajjaj's sword. As a result some scholars had him exiled and his books burnt and condemned, while others considered them mines of "pearls mixed with trinkets" in al-Dhahabi's words. He is known for his rabid enmity to Ash`aris whom he all but declares disbelievers in al-Fisal fi al-Milal wa al-Nihal with statements such as: "This is the position of Jahm ibn Safwan, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari, and their followers." Ibn al-Subki comments: "Ibn Hazm has no idea of al-Ash`ari's school and does not distinguish between it and the Jahmiyya," noting that the Maliki scholar Abu al-Walid al-Baji and others had Ibn Hazm expelled, and the Fisal declared forbidden reading, because of its attacks on the Imams of the Muslims.4 Ibn Taymiyya imitated Ibn Hazm in this.5

    Nevertheless, Ibn Hazm is considered a reference on the determination of scholarly consensus (ijma`) - which he restricted to the Companions' time - and scholarly difference (khilaf). He is also highly respected in hadith and its sciences although, like al-Bayhaqi, he had no knowledge of al-Tirmidhi's and Ibn Majah's Sunan. His commentary on his own al-Mujalla ("The Brilliant Treatise"), al-Muhalla ("The Adorned Treatise"), is considered a masterpiece of fiqh literature. Ibn `Abd al-Salam said: "I did not see, in all the books of knowledge in Islam, anything like Ibn Hazm's al-Muhalla nor like Shaykh Muwaffaq al-Din's [Ibn Qudama] al-Mughni." Al-Dhahabi comments: "Shaykh `Izz al-Din is right, and the third is al-Bayhaqi's al-Sunan al-Kubra, and the fourth Ibn `Abd al-Barr's al-Tamhid. Whoever obtains these volumes, if he is one of the intelligent muftis and perseveres in reading them - he is truly a `alim."

Al-Dhahabi lists the following catalogue of Ibn Hazm's works:

1. Al-Isal ila Fahm Kitab al-Khisal in 15,000 folios.

2. Al-Khisal al-Hafiz li Jumal Shara'i` al-Islam in two volumes.

3. Al-Mujalla in two volumes.

4. Al-Muhalla in eight volumes.

5. Hujja al-Wada` in one volume.

6. Qisma al-Khumus fi al-Radd `ala Isma`il al-Qadi in one volume.

7. Al-Athar al-Lati Zahiruha al-Ta`arud wa Nafyi al-Tanaqud `Anha in 10,000 folios, unfinished.

8. Al-Jami` Fi Sahih al-Hadith, without chains of transmission.

9. Al-Talkhis wa al-Takhlis fi al-Masa'il al-Nazariyya

10. Ma Infarada Bihi Malik aw Abu Hanifa aw al-Shafi`I

11. Ikhtilaf al-Fuqaha' al-Khamsa Malik wa Abi Hanifa wa al-Shafi`i wa Ahmad wa Dawud [al-Zahiri]

12. Al-Tasaffuh fi al-Fiqh in one volume.

13. Al-Tabyin fi Hal `Alima al-Mustafa A`yan al-Munafiqin in 3 tomes.

14. Al-Imla' fi Sharh al-Muwatta' in 1,000 folios.

15. Al-Imla' fi Qawa`id al-Fiqh in 1,000 folios.

16. Durr al-Qawa`id fi Fiqh al-Zahiriyya in 1,000 folios.

17. Al-Ijma` in one small volume.

18. Al-Fara'id in one volume.

19. Al-Risala al-Balqa' fi al-Radd `ala `Abd al-Haqq ibn Muhammad al-Saqali in one small volume.

20. Al-Ihkam li Usul al-Ahkam in two volumes.

 21. Al-Fisal fi al-Milal wa al-Nihal in two large volumes.

22. Al-Radd `Ala man I`tarada `ala al-Fisal in one volume.

 23. Al-Yaqin fi Naqd al-Mu`tadhirin `an Iblis wa Sa'ir al-Mushrikin in one large volume.

24. Al-Radd `ala Ibn Zakariyya al-Razi in 100 folios.

25. Al-Tarshid fi al-Radd `Ala Kitab al-Farid li Ibn al-Rawandi fi I`tiradihi `ala al-Nubuwwat in one volume.

26. Al-Radd `ala Man Kaffara al-Muta'awwilin min al-Muslimin in one volume.

27. Mukhtasar fi `Ilal al-Hadith in one volume.

28. Al-Taqrib li Hadd al-Mantiq bi al-Alfaz al-`Ammiyya in one volume.

29. Al-Istijlab in one volume.

30. Nasab al-Barbar in one volume.

 31. Naqt al-`Arus in one small volume.

Ibn Hazm also wrote more than ten books on medicine. Among his translated works:

al-Akhlaq wa al-Siyar fi Mudawat al-Nufus (Morals and Right Conduct in the Healing of Souls"), 6 Tawq al-Hamama fi al-Ulfa wa al-Ullaf ("The Ring of the Dove: Love and Lovers"), 7 Maratib al-`Ulum ("The Categories of the Sciences"), 8 al-Mujalla, 9 and - partially - partial translations of his al-Fisal fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa' wa al-Nihal ("The Separators Concerning Religions, Heresies, and Sects").


Al-Dhahabi said:

I have affection for Abu Muhammad [Ibn Hazm] because of his love for sound hadiths and his knowledge of them, even if I disagree with him in many things which he says concerning the scholars and the defects of hadith and hadith narrators. Nor do I agree with him on [his] disgraceful questions in the principles and branches of the Religion. I am absolutely 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 also defer to his great intelligence and vast knowledge.... [But] if I were to cite every matter in which he erred, it would take too long. End of al-Dhahabi's words.

It has been observed that Ibn Hazm's acrimonious way of making a case against opponents had endeared him to some contemporary Muslim students.11 In contrast, the scholars of the past used to forbid the reading of al-Fisal which they considered among the most evil of books because of its attacks on the Imams of Islam.12 Another reason for this affinity of some contemporary readers is the misperception of Ibn Hazm as the champion of the Qur'an and Sunna "as opposed to man-made schools of Law." This misperception leads to taunts such as "Are you following the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- or your Imam?" which, as Shaykh Nur al-Din `Itr pointed out, constitutes disbelief (kufr) and shows that the difference between Dawud al-Zahiri's school and what he calls the "Neo-Literalists" (al-zahiriyya al-jadida) of today is that the excesses of the former were at least mitigated by true asceticism and fear of Allah.

Main source: al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 13:540-554 #4172.


1Narrated from Abu Hurayra by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

2Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla (1:181) as quoted in Nur al-Din `Itr, I`lam al-Anam (p. 51).

3Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim (3:188) as quoted in Nur al-Din `Itr, I`lam al-Anam (p. 51).

4Ibn al-Subki, TSK (4:132, 1:90-91).

5Ibn Taymiyya imitated Ibn Hazm in deliberately assimilating the Ash'aris with the Mu'tazila and Jahmiyya. The "Salafi" movement has revived this abuse in our time.

6Translated by Muhammad Abu Layla as In Pursuit Of Virtue: The Moral Theology And Psychology Of Ibn Hazm (London: TaHa Publishers Ltd., 1990).

7Translated by A.J. Arberry as The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art And Practice of Arab Love (New York: AMS Press, 1981).

8Translated by A. G. Chejne in Ibn Hazm (Chicago: Kazi Publications, 1982).

9Published under the misleading title of al-Muhalla in Islamic Fiqh, transl. Fouad Muhammad Ayad (Sherman, Texas: Islamic Mosque at Texoma, 1985).

10See Israel Friedlaender, "The Heterodoxies of the Shiites According to Ibn Hazm" in Journal of the American Oriental Society (1907) XXVIII:1-80, (1908) XXIX: 1-183; Ghulam Haider Aasi, "Muslim understanding of other religions: an analytical study of Ibn Hazm's Kitab al-Fasl [sic]," Ph.D. diss., Temple University, USA, 1986; Muhammad Abu Layla, "The Muslim view of Christianity with special reference to the work of Ibn Hazm," Ph.D. diss., Exeter University, UK, 1983; Nurshif Rif`at, "Ibn Hazm on Jews and Judaism," Ph.D. diss., Exeter University, UK, 1988. All of the above contain translated excerpts of the Fisal.

11Cf. Reliance of the Traveller (p. 1055).

12Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (1:90).