Ibn Hazm: Gleanings from his Thoughts on Philosophy and Science

The Editorial Board

Ali ibn Hazm (d. 456H/1064 CE) was an Andalusian polymath scholar. He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought, and produced many works covering a wide range of topics, such as Islamic jurisprudence, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology, as well as the famous Tawq al-Hamama (The Ring of the Dove), a literary text on the art of love. Through the variety and richness of his heritage, he was considered as one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim world, and he is widely acknowledged as the father of comparative religious studies. In this article, we seek to shed light on Ibn Hazm's ideas and thoughts related to philosophy and science, and how he linked both philosophy and science to morals.

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by The Editorial Board

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Biography

3. His Works and their historical assessment

4. Virtues of science

5. Territoriality of Science

6. Fundamental duties of the scholar

7. The perfect sciences

8. Conduct of scholars in disputations

9. Classification of sciences

10. Various considerations in science

10.1 Sciences of number and geometry

10.2 On astronomy

10.3 On physics

11. Conclusions

12. Bibliography

13. References

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Note of the editor

This article was previously published on www.MuslimHeritage.com in September 2003. The present version was revised and edited by FSTC Research Team in April 2013.

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1. Introduction


Fig. 1 Statue of Ibn Hazm in Cordoba. (Source).

Ibn Hazm grew up in the period of final collapse of Umayyad rule in Spain as the nation disintegrated into often conflicting local states. That period of turbulence and his early education by women, in whose midst he grew up, far from the company of other children, were to have profound effects on Ibn Hazm's thoughts and character. As a scholar, Ibn Hazm had a great reputation, and was one of the most original theologians and literati of Muslim Spain. He was a master of many disciplines, including history, grammar, poetry, genealogy, and logic, and wrote works of enduring importance in Islamic theology and law. He is the author of over 400 works, and enjoyed a great reputation for his vast capacity to memorize both lines and random facts.[1] Carra de Veaux seems to give little recognition to Ibn Hazm, though, stating amongst others that his production, although vast, was hardly devoid of errors.[2] Ibn Hazm, however, in his Kitab al-Taqrib (Book of Introduction), which is now extant, states that "science consist in knowing with certainty something according to what it really is, or by an evident proof which hence helps reach certitude."[3] This theme frequently occurs in his works. We seek in this article to look into this aspect as well as his philosophy and thoughts on science, its merits and its relationship to morals.

Nothing more appropriate to open this paper on Ibn Hazm's thoughts on science and philosophy than some of his sayings. According to him, "What fixes and preserves a nation's language, as well as its sciences and its history, is simply the strength of its political power, accompanied by the happy welfare and leisure of its inhabitants." [4]

In Kitab al-Akhlaq wa'l Siyar, he says: "Compare yourself, for wealth, status and health to those lower to you. For faith, science and virtue compare yourself to those who are higher than you."[5] He adds in the same book: "Complex sciences are like powerful drugs, which suit the strong and exhaust the weak. Likewise, complex sciences enrich a vigorous mind, and keep it off evil, but exhaust the mediocre mind."[6]

2. Biography


Fig. 2 Front cover of The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab Love, English translation of Tawq al-Hamama, by A. J. Arberry, London: Luzac, 1995. Online here.

Abu Muhammad 'Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sa'id, known as Ibn Hazm, was born in November 994 and died in August 1064. His family came from the city of Cordoba itself. Their earlier origins are much less clear, although evidence shows that they were of indigenous Iberian stock from Labla, West of Seville, a few miles from the Atlantic shores. One of the ancestors of Ibn Hazm was converted to Islam from Christianity. Ibn Hazm's father, Abu 'Umar Ahmad ibn Sa'id ibn Hazm (d. 1012), held the function of vizier (minister) at the court of al-Mansur ibn abi ‘Amir and his successor al-Muẓaffar, a father and son who ruled in the name of the third Umayyad Caliph Hishām II (r. 976-1013).[7]

This period of late 10th century and early 11th had been one of the greatest moments of Islamic Spanish history.[8] The Andalus was enriched economically and financially, and Muslim armies were led into victories of unprecedented scale in Muslim Spain. At Al-Mansur's death, though, ridden with intrigues, divisions, and conflict between numerous factions, the once most powerful state collapsed into chaos, and was never to recover.

Living in the circles of the ruling hierarchy provided Ibn Ḥazm, an eager and observant student, with excellent educational opportunities. Experiences in the surroundings of the harem made an indelible impression upon him. Circumstances for Ibn Ḥazm changed drastically upon the death of al-Muẓaffar in 1008, when the stability that the Umayyads had provided for more than two and one-half centuries collapsed. A 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. Ibn Hazm's family was uprooted, and his father Aḥmad died in 1012; Ibn Ḥazm continued to boldly and persistently support Umayyad claimants to the office of caliph, for which he was frequently imprisoned.[9]

The life and thoughts of Ibn Hazm are both good illustration and product of the chaos and collapse of the Muslim state. Such collapse had direct impact on Ibn Hazm who was at the centre stage of events. He held positions of power and prestige, followed by decline and disgrace following the political fortunes or misfortunes of his patrons. Hence, in 1016, for instance, Caliph Sulayman was overthrown, and Ibn Hazm, suspect for his Umayyad sympathies, was first imprisoned and then banished. Three years later, he returned to Cordoba, and four years after became the vizier of 'Abd al-Rahman V, whose rule, though, only lasted for seven weeks, and Ibn Hazm was again imprisoned.[10]

Ibn Hazm, who had already been terribly affected by the earlier demise of his own father, following earlier upheavals, now suffered even more and directly the effects of political chaos. That may account for his acerbic and harsh temperament, which made him both famous and feared for his sharp tongue, and it became well known that "The tongue of Ibn Hazm and the sword of al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf [the severe Umayyad governor of Iraq] are brothers."[11] The upheavals of his political career may also account for Ibn Hazm's withdrawal from public life to devote himself to study, teaching, and writing. By 1031 Ibn Ḥazm began to express his convictions and activist inclinations through literary activity, becoming a very controversial figure. With the exception of a short stay on the island of Majorca, he apparently spent most of his time on the family estate in Manta Līsham.

3. His works and their historical assessment

Ibn Hazm received a wide-ranging education, which, more than likely in his later life, impacted on his various and diverse learning. His thinking extends to all areas of Islamic sciences, including grammar, lexicology, the science of the Qur'an, Tradition and commentaries, canon law or fiqh and theology, etc. Thus to study his oeuvre, according to Arnaldez, "one has to be first well aware of matters which Muslim thinkers have addressed."[12] He was also seen as:

"One of the most original theologians and literati of Muslim Spain…, a master of many disciplines, including history, grammar, poetry, genealogy, and logic, and wrote works of enduring importance in Islamic theology and law'.[13]

Ibn Hazm's intellectual force is also recognized by Castro,[14] who states, that whilst the Muslims felt a "lively curiosity about everything religious," Ibn Hazm was the first religious historian ever. His work Al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa-‘l-Ahwa' wa-‘l-Nihal (translated as Critical History of Religions, literally The Decisive Word on Sects, Heterodoxies and Denominations)[15] is regarded as:

"The first of its genre and it is surprising that it was written in the 11th century when nothing like it existed in Christian Europe. Ibn Hazm proceeds like a scholar and a theologian who is acquainted through his own study and experience with the religions of his time and he analyses them in detail, quoting their texts."[16]

According to Yaqut and Al-Qifti, two important biographers, Ibn Hazm has written nearly four hundred works, amounting to nearly 80,000 pages. Amongst his surviving works, we mention:

- Kitab al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (the perfect knowledge of the foundations of jurisprudence). The manuscript can be found in the National Library of Cairo. It was recently edited in two volumes.[17] In Al-Ihkam, Ibn Hazm develops his method for classifying human acts within the five established juridical categories (ahkam) of obligatory, recommended, disapproved, forbidden, and lawful. For an action to fall into one of the first four categories, there must be a text (Qur'an or authentic hadith) that establishes its particular status; otherwise, the act is lawful. This method is further applied in his voluminous treatise on fiqh (Islamic law), Kitab al-muhalla (The Book of Ornaments).[18]

-Kitab jamharat Ansab al-‘Arab (on the Arab genealogy), known through the Cairo critical edition made by Levi Provençal in 1948.[19]

- Risala fi Fadhl al-Andalus wa-Dhikr Rijaliha (a letter on the merits of al-Andalus and the memory of its men), which was kept by al-Maqqari in his Nafh al-Tib.[20]

- Kitab al-Akhlaq wa-'l-Siyar (the book of morals and behaviour): its manuscript was discovered by Helmut Ritter alongside other works; and it was edited for the first time in 1908.[21]

- Another great book of Ibn Hazm is Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa-‘l-Ahwa' wa-‘l-Nihal. In the Fasl (detailed critical examination), the author offers a critical survey of different systems of philosophical thought in relation to religious beliefs among the Skeptics, Peripatetics, Brahmans, Zoroastrians and other dualists, Jews, and Christians. Using the examination of these religions to establish the pre-eminence of Islam, he also attacks all the Muslim theologians, the Mu'tazila and the Ash'ariya in particular, along with the philosophers and mystics. His main objection is that each of them raises questions about the revealed text only to resolve them by purely human means. Ibn Hazm does not deny recourse to reason, since the Qur'an itself invites reflection, but this reflection must be limited to two givens, revelation and sense data, since the so-called principles of reason are in fact derived entirely from immediate sense experience. Thus reason is not a faculty for independent research, much less for discovery.[22]

- Tawq al-Hamama (The Ring of the Dove, The Dove's Neck-Ring or The Dove's Necklace, online here), a youthful work that was clearly revised later, is interesting in several respects. As a collection of prose passages and poetic illustrations on the subject of love and lovers, it offers a fairly standard treatment of a popular theme in Arabic literature. What sets it apart, however, is Ibn Hazm's penetrating observation of human psychology, a trait found in his Kitab al-akhlaq wa-al-siyar, a later study of characters and conduct. Underlying the delicate charm of the prose and poetry in The Dove's Neck-Ring is an uneasy sensibility. Questioning, for example, the sincerity of exchanges between women and their lovers, Ibn Hazm finds a gap between what is said and what is thought and concludes that language often serves to mask thought. This otherwise commonplace discovery of dishonesty provides him in turn with a basis for profound reflection on language and its wider uses, and it is here that he introduces the notion of Zahir, the "apparent" or literal meaning of words, which he will expand in his other works of Islamic law.


Fig. 3 The title-page of the unique manuscript of Tawq al-Hamama by Ibn Hazm held at Leiden University Library: MS Or. 927, folio 1a. Lecture by Jan Just Witkam, Beyond the codex: Codicology in scholarship, TIMA's Workshop on Codicology (Cambridge, September 11, 2009).

Ibn Hazm is better known as one of the leading exponents of the Zāhirī (literalist) school of jurisprudence and theology, for which the basic qualification was a thorough knowledge of the Qurʾān and Hadīth (tradition. The Zāhirī principle of legal theory relies exclusively on the literal meaning of the Qurʾān and Ḥadīth. Though his legal theories never won him many followers, Ibn Hazm creatively extended the Zāhirī 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 regarded for its careful historical detail.[23]

Today, the literature on Ibn Hazm in English is rather scant . There is a good entry on Ibn Hazm in The Encyclopedia of Islam by Arnaldez. The main work of Ibn Hazm that has retained the attention of English speaking scholarship is Tawq al-Hamama translated by A.J. Arberry as The Ring of the Dove.[24] Otherwise, most information on Ibn Hazm is gleaned from French and Spanish sources. Miguel Asin Palacios, more than any other, has written considerably, most particularly his well-known, and lengthy Abenhazam de Cordoba.[25]


Fig. 4 The opening pages of Ibn Hazm's Tawq al-Hamama. Coloured paper, expert calligraphy, elegant lay-out. Source: MS Leiden, Or. 927, ff. 1b-2a. (Source).

Ibn Hazm's writing has been looked at from many perspectives, and from many directions. Roger Arnaldez, as an authority on Spanish history, had devoted his doctoral thesis to Ibn Hazm and published on several of his theories and contributions. On the influence Ibn Hazm had on post Islamic Spanish literature and thought, there is no better source than Américo Castro's Structure of Spanish History.[26]

Ibn Hazm's views on science have, however, been generally set aside. Possibly, as in the view of Baron Carra de Vaux, despite Ibn Hazm's prolific output, and his prodigious ability to memorize texts and facts, it is because his writing is not devoid of errors.[27] De Vaux also finds his work bearing an anti-intellectual trait, suppressing speculation, narrowing considerably the frontiers of jurisprudence, depriving jurists of freedom of conscience etc.[28] Arnaldez, however, observes that Ibn Hazm in Kitab al-Taqrib (the Book of Introduction), which is no longer extant, states that "science consists in knowing with certainty something according to what it really is, or by an evident proof which hence helps reach certitude."[29]

Maybe De Vaux's criticism stems from the fact that Ibn Hazm does not accept the notion of knowledge for its own sake; that satisfaction with independent knowledge just out of curiosity; traits that have distinguished the Greeks and their science. In Islam, science and knowledge have practical aims, and are according to Ibn Hazm shaped, or affected, by revelation. The object of science, for him, is to understand Divine orders.[30] Ibn Hazm further adds: "Our faculties of discerning and comprehending are helped by Divine grace, but on condition to use them as God wishes us to, and where he wants us to."[31] Regarding the role of experiment and observation, crucial to scientific advance, Ibn Hazm considers that:

"We know with certainty that never could man have acquired the sciences and arts by himself guided only by his natural abilities and without the benefit of instruction. (this applies, e.g., to) medicine, the knowledge of the physiological temperaments, the diseases and their causes, in all their numerous varieties, and the invention of adequate treatment and cure of each of them by drugs or preparations, which could never have been actually tried out. For how could anyone test every prescription on every disease since this would take tens of thousands of years and necessitate the examination of every sick person in the world?"[32]

Arnaldez further compares Ibn Hazm with the French rationalist philosopher Descartes, with whom he shares a love for certainty; and like him seeks it in proof. Like him, also, he suspects that all that edges away from proof becomes close to error.[33] Perhaps more appropriately, comparisons should have been drawn between Ibn Hazm and the other French philosopher-scientist, Pascal (1623-62). Indeed, like Ibn Hazm, Pascal is also highly imbued with faith, at all steps, seeking to reconcile them; the moral aspect of each issue always imposing itself in the end. Moreover, Pascal, in his work Les Pensées (Thoughts) also seeks to order his thoughts, a sort of listing found in Ibn Hazm, whereby each thought carries a function, and conveys a specific injunction or idea. All thoughts are related, coherently assembled in batches, and all aiming at one and single end: the cohabitation, or the working together, of science and God-inspired morality.

4. Virtues of science

Ibn Hazm's most extensive thoughts on philosophy and science are to be garnered from his Kitab al-Akhlaq wa-'l-Siyar which was translated into French under UNESCO sponsorship by N. Tomiche. We use this book as a source of reference, and we translate into English the excerpts we need.


Fig. 5a-b Scenes from The Tale of Bayâd and Riyâd, an Andalusian manuscript of the 13th century, Biblioteca Apostólica Vaticana in Rome, MS Vat. Ar. Ris. 368. (Source bSource c).

Science in Ibn Hazm's thought is by no means a single entity devoid of any moral dimension, nor the most important moral outlet in life. He constantly asserts the real meaning of life, how all worldly things are of lesser value in comparison to the spiritual and moral. He says:

"I have come across most people ‒with the exception of those that God most High has protected‒ they rush into misery, worry, the exhaustion of this world, and amassing terrible sins, that will earn them hell-fire, gaining nothing in pursuing their evil deeds… And they know that their evil intentions will neither fulfil their wishes, nor bring any gains; and that with purer intentions they will obtain great rest for their souls."[34]

He adds:

"Whoever harms his kinship and his neighbours is worse than them. Whomsoever returns ill that he receives from them is like them. Whomsoever does not return ill done to him is the master, the best and most virtuous amongst all."[35]

In another meaningful sentence, he asserts: "Whomsoever rises above things of this world, in front of which you kneel, is much stronger than you."[36] And also: "Blame from a man with a corrupt soul in opposing him, and refraining from evil deeds is better for you than his esteem if you did evil."[37]

Having, thus, declared his moral stands, Ibn Hazm finds adequate room for science, and looks at it in different contexts and situations. First, he gives it its real due, stating: "Should the merit of science being fear of the ignorant, and love and honour for the scholars, that alone should encourage striving for it. What then about its other virtues in this world and the other."[38]

5. Territoriality of science

Science, in the mind of Ibn Hazm, has some territoriality, which itself has a number of dimensions. Hence, , Ibn Hazm, has a word of warning against those who intrude in the realm of science whilst not being worthy of it, saying: "There is no worse calamity for science and for scholarship than those intruders who are foreign to them. They are ignorant and yet think they know; they ruin everything whilst convinced they are fixing all."[39]


Fig. 6a-b: Front covers of two Arabic editions of Ibn Hazm's works: Tawq al-Hamama and Rasa'il ibn Hazm.

In the same vein, Ibn Hazm warns those who stretch themselves beyond what they are capable of, stating: "Whomsoever has a natural leaning towards a science, even if it was less noble than another, should not abandon it for the other because if he did he would be like someone who would be growing coconuts in al-Andalus and olive trees in India, crops that would never fructify."[40]

6. Fundamental duties of the scholar

Ibn Hazm is not satisfied with scholars who are only contented with their own self-fulfilment. The duty of the scholar is to enlighten others. He observes: "Whomsoever is miserly with the gift of his knowledge deserves more blame than whomsoever is miserly with his money, because the man miserly with his money fears exhausting what he has, but the one miserly with his science is with an object which does not become exhausted with use, and that he would lose nothing in sharing it."[41]

And humility amongst men of science is what he praises most: "If you pride yourself with your science, then you must realize that you have no merit; science is a gift that God has granted you. Thus do not acknowledge it in a way that angers the Highest, because he could erase it from your head through an illness of some sort."

Ibn Hazm reinforces this statement with the following: "Also be aware that many men eager for science, read, study, and research with application, but derive no fruit. The man of science must realize that if application alone was enough, many other men would be superior to him. Science, thus, is certainly a gift from the Highest. What place is left for pride, thus? We can only accept in humility, and give thanks to God, asking him to increase his bounty, and beg him not to deprive us of it."[42]

7. The perfect sciences

Crucial for Ibn Hazm is that not all knowledge and science are acceptable. He states that clearly: "The most noble sciences, are those which bring us closer to the Creator; those which help us be pleasing to Him."[43] He specifies: "Whomsoever wishes for happiness in the other life, wisdom in this world, equity in their deeds, having all moral qualities, the practice of all virtues, ought to follow in his deeds the example of Mohammed (PBUH) the Messenger of God."[44]


Fig. 7 Manuscript showing poems of Ibn Hazm. (Source).

Ibn Hazm takes great care to make parallels between knowledge and science on one hand, and the practice of good and evil:

"The use of science in the practice of virtue is considerable: the man who knows the beauty of virtue will follow it, however possible. Knowing the evil of wrong, he will avoid it, however possible. He listens to worthy praise, and keeps his distance from unworthy praise. From this is derived that science has a part in every virtue, and that ignorance has one in every vice. Man who is illiterate and who still practices virtue must be extremely pure, a virtuous being. This is the state of Prophets (PBUH) because God had conveyed goodness to them without they acquiring it from men."[45]

He points out also:

"I have seen men who had studied the sciences, who knew the messages of the Prophets, the recommendations of the wise, and yet who surpassed the most evil men in their worse deeds, and their depravation. This is very frequent, and so I have understood that these two moral attitudes were favours granted or denied by the Most High."[46]

8. Conduct of scholars in disputations


Fig. 8 Spanish stamp of Ibn Hazm.

Then, as now, discussions and disputations, used to take place between scholars. Ibn Hazm, in the last chapter of his book Kitab al-Akhlaq wa-'l-Siyar delves into this matter, and "On the manner to attend study sessions." He begins by saying:

"If you attend a study session, only behave like a man wishing to expand his knowledge and seeking a higher reward from God. Do not act like a man content with what he holds, who is waiting for a weakness (from someone) to criticize (it or him), or an oddity to raise. This will be acting like vile people who have never mastered science.

"If you attend with good intentions you will obtain the best results. Otherwise just stay at home, awarding yourself rest, a good morality, and a salutary outcome in front of God."[47]

He adds: "If you attended (a study session), strictly adopt three attitudes, there is no fourth. First: You can lock yourself in the silence of ignorance. Second: If you do not behave as such, ask for the questions a man seeking to learn asks… This man will ask only about what he does not know, not about what he knows. Asking about matters one knows is making proof of ineptitude; this is only ranting, waste of time for everyone…. If the person you are questioning does not give satisfactory answers, stop questioning… Third: You can answer like a scientist, refuting clearly the other's arguments. If you are not capable of that, do not insist."[48]

Ibn Hazm also warns against those who "ask questions stubbornly, very proud men who seeing themselves right without knowing anything about the matter. This shows lack of piety, a tendency to ranting, a weak mind, and excessive vanity." He advices also: "If you hear, or read writing (you object to), do not react with violence until you have proof that what is expressed is wrong. Do not accept that with the enthusiasm of the credulous man either until being wholly convinced of that. In both situations you blind yourself and drift away from truth… Act like a person who has no preconceived views, one ready to know and accept what is right and reject what is wrong."[49]

9. Classification of sciences

Ibn Hazm's thoughts and philosophy on science have also another dimension. It is common with Islamic scholars, such as Al-Ghazali, to classify sciences, to provide some sort of division that helps in their understanding, study and promotion. This division, has gradually led to our modern learning system in departments, faculties, and courses.

Ibn Hazm did not make the classification of sciences as such. Instead, he provided the boundaries, and the rules within science as a whole. He brings in all dimensions looked at above. He does, moreover, which is quite important, provide the seeker of science indications of how to go on about it, integrating the highly complex, abstract, moral and also the most down to earth, such as the prudent conduct in scientific gatherings.

In his book Al-Taqrib li-had al-Mantiq, Ibn Hazm divides knowledge into two parts: innate sense-oriented knowledge and rational deductive knowledge.[50] Innate sense-oriented knowledge is knowledge that Allah has created in everyone, nobody being favored by it; as he says: "It is Allah's work in the soul."[51] Knowledge, then, is divided into two kinds: The first is intuitive knowledge, which is, by necessity, of the mind, such as "knowing that the whole is bigger than the part, and a person that was not born before you cannot be older than you."[52]

The second, sense-oriented knowledge, is knowledge that depends on the senses to reach the truth such as: knowing that "a fire is hot and ice is cold, aloe is bitter, and dates are sweet."[53] Included in this kind of knowledge is the knowledge that comes through successive transference and that provides its authenticity by this transference, such that as the "knowledge we have that elephants exist even though we may not have seen them, or that Egypt and Mekka are in the world, and that humans have brains in their heads and intestines in their abdomens."[54]

These two kinds of knowledge, Ibn Hazm believes, do not need evidence to prove their authenticity,[55] because they are human intuitive and innate knowledge, and as such they are the basis upon which all other knowledge is built.[56] Rational, deductive knowledge is knowledge that is based on premises somehow related to the mind and the senses. Part of it is contained in the knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, theological regulations, worship, physics, medicine, arithmetic, and geometry.[57]

In his other book related to we can call methodology and philosophy of science, Maratib al-‘Ulum, Ibn Hazm proposed a general scheme dividing the sciences and knowledge into seven parts:

"At all times and in all nations everywhere the sciences have been divided into seven parts. The first three are (1) the science of the religious law as possessed by every nation, since every nation has some belief, which can be positive or negative, (2) the history of the nation concerned, and (3) the science of the language it speaks. The various nations all differ from one another in respect of these three sciences. The remaining four sciences, however, are the same everywhere, namely (4) astronomy, (5) arithmetic, (6) medicine, that is concern with the human body, and (7) philosophy."[58]

He divided religion into four branches: the sciences of the Qur'an, the Prophet's traditions, jurisprudence, and scholastic theology. Medicine also was divided by Ibn Hazm into two parts: physiology and psychology. Then he adds to these main seven divisions of sciences the vocational sciences such as agriculture, commerce, navigation and sewing. Ibn Hazm believed that these sciences, even though they are useful and important, are inferior to the seven sciences mentioned earlier, because their object is to serve people in this life only, but the other sciences guide people to the path of salvation in the afterlife, therefore they should take priority over the others.[59]

What is significant in Ibn Hazm's formulation is the specific reference to the fact that non-religious sciences are outside the faith, language or history of a people. In other words, science is science whether it is practiced by Asians, Africans, or Europeans, by Jews, Christians, or Muslims. Water boils and freezes at a certain degree, the human body responds with fever to a virus, and the Earth rotates around the Sun whether the observer speaks Latin or Arabic.

10. Various considerations in science

In addition to his vast contribution in the fields of philosophy, religious dialogue, jurisprudence, literature, theory of knowledge and social sciences, Ibn Hazm commented on natural sciences. His views are scattered throughout his books and it would require a special task to collect them in a cohesive manner. However, much of his comments on siences can be found in his texts Al-Taqrib li Had al-Mantiq, Al-fasl fi al-Milal wa-‘l-Nihal, and the Response to Al-Razi in which he objected to his views on the origin of the universe . Below we give excerpts on various sciences.

10.1 Sciences of number and geometry

Like the Pythagoreans, Ibn Hazm credited a special status and significance to the numeral one. He maintains that "one is not a number, because there is no other number like it. If you split it, it becomes a fraction (hence looses its Oneness)… and therefore, it becomes necessary that the True One is Allah, the starter of all creation and He is not several but all creations are."[60]

On geometry, again like the followers of Pythagoras, he defines the line, "as the ultimate edge of any surface" and defines a point "as the crossing between two lines."[61] He also commented on the concept of infinity or limitlessness and the limited. He refers to the universe as limited and bounded, because it was created. Because the universe is made of limited parts, it will follow that it will also be limited. He also refers to the present objects and living creatures and plants, as limited, yet the ones which have not yet been created (such as humans who are not yet born) are unlimited.[62]

10.2 On astronomy

Ibn Hazm refutes astrologers who believed that stars and planets had souls and minds and influence people. He maintains that "the stars are celestial bodies with no mind or soul. They neither know the future nor affect people. Their effect on people however can be through their physical characteristics, such as the effect of the sun's heat and rays on the planets and the effect of the moon on the tides of seas."[63]

He explains that Saturn's orbit takes 33 years.[64] He actually meant the orbit around the Earth, which is wrong. Today's astronomy recognises Saturn's orbit around the Sun (not the Earth) taking 29 years. He argued further against those who believe that the Sun sets in one of the seas on Earth. He questions how is it the larger Sun, sets in the smaller Earth?[65] On the form of the Earth, he clearly affirms its sphericity. He says: "the Earth is spherical despite what is popularly believed… The proof is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth."[66] He also challenged all theories on the age of the Earth. He says, ‘we Muslims do not have definite knowledge yet of the age of the Earth. It could be many multiples of the ages suggested by others."[67]

10.3. On physics

Ibn Hazm made an interesting assertion concerning the nature of motion of bodies when he affirmed in Al-Fasl bayna al-Milal that "there are mobile objects and stationary objects, but there is no motion nor staticness."[68]

In physics too, Ibn Hazm did not seem to know about the discoveries of Ibn al-Haytham. Ibn Hazm was nearly 40 years when ibn al-Haytham died around 1040, yet he still believed in the old Greek understanding of vision according to which the eye produces rays which illuminate the object which make it visible. Communications of learning at the time being slower, most particularly in times of turbulence in Muslim Spain, may explain this. Ibn al-Haytham, of course was the first to prove that light is reflected from the object and passes through the eyes that detects the light (image). He proved that the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. He constructed a dark box with one pin hole on its side (he called qamara, translated later as camera) to prove his theory.

Ibn Hazm's view on sound is that it travels at specific speeds. He gave examples to prove this. Such examples include reference to the interval between lightening and the thunder that follows it. In this, he implicitly believes that lightening causes thunder.

11. Conclusions

Much of Ibn Hazm's work is still in Arabic, untranslated into other languages. Although there are numerous Spanish and French translations of some of his books, there are very few in English. This paper attempted to review, using material from various languages, his thoughts on philosophy and science, and the methods he recommended for the acquisition of knowledge. The paper also alluded to some of his ideas on natural and physical sciences.

As we explained, Roger Analdez linked Ibn Hazm to Descartes. Perhaps more appropriately, comparisons should have been drawn between Ibn Hazm and Pascal:, on the basis of their common reference to the cohabitation, or the working together, of science and high, God inspired morality.

Ibn Hazm's thoughts and philosophy on science also have another dimension. It is common in later Islamic scholars, such as Al-Ghazali, to classify sciences, to assist in their understanding and promotion. He drew the boundaries, and the rules within science as a whole. He moreover, which is quite important, provided the learner with indications of how to go about it, integrating the highly complex, abstract, and moral knowledge, and also the most down to earth, such as the correct behaviour at a scientific gathering. This classification, gradually perfected, has led to our modern system of learning. Any scholar, imbued with science, often at odds with themselves, and the hows, and above all the whys of their science, has to return to Ibn Hazm. He has cleared massive ground unnecessary, and very much impossible for someone to do now.

12. Bibliography

- Miguel Asin Palacios, Abenhazam de Cordoba y su historia crítica de las ideas religiosas, Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1927-1932, 5 vols.

- M. Asin Palacios, "El origen del lenguaje y problemas conexos, en Algazel, Ibn Sida e Ibn Hazm," Al-Andalus, vol. 4 (1939): pp. 253-281

- Roger Arnaldez, Grammaire et Théologie chez Ibn Hazm de Cordoue. Paris : Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1956.

- R. Arnaldez, "La Guerre Sainte Selon Ibn Hazm de Cordoue," in Etudes d'Orientalisme dédiées à la mémoire de Lévi Provençal,Paris, 1962, vol. 2, pp 445-459.

- R. Arnaldez, "Ibn Hazm," Encylopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Leiden: Brill, vol. 3, 1971, pp. 790-799.

- Américo Castro, The Structure of Spanish History, translated by E. King. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954.

- Baron Carra De Vaux, Les Penseurs de l'Islam, Paris : Guethner, 1923, vol. 3.

- Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-Akhlaq wa-'l-siyar, translated into French by N. Tomiche. Beyrouth, 1961.

- Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-fassl fi'l-milal wa-l-ahwa' wa-l-nihal. Cairo, 1899-1903, 2 vols.

Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-Taqrib Li-hadd al-Mantiq, in: Rasa'il Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, vol. 4, edited by Ihsan Abbas, Arab foundation for Research and Publishing, 1983.

13. References


[1] Baron Carra de Veaux, Les Penseurs de l'Islam, Paris: Geuthner, 1922, vol. 3, p. 333.

[2] Ibid.

[3] R. Arnaldez, Grammaire et théologie chez Ibn Hazm de Cordoue, Paris: Vrin, 1956, p. 105.

[4] Ibn Hazm, Usul al-ahkam, vol. 1, p. 182; quoted also in Miguel Asin Palacios, "El origen del lenguaje y problemas conexos, en Algazel, Ibn Sida e Ibn Hazm," Al-Andalus, vol. 4 (1939): pp. 253-281; p. 278.

[5] Translated by Nada Tomiche under the title: Epitre Morale, Beyrouth: Commission Internationale pour la Traduction des Chefs-D'oeuvre, 1961, (Collection UNESCO d'oeuvres representatives, Série arabe), p. 21.

[6] Ibid.

[7] "Ibn Hazm", in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, edited by J.R. Strayer, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980, vol. 6., pp 117-118.

[8] A general work for the study of Ibn Hazm is W. Montgomery Watt and Pierre Cachia's A History of Islamic Spain (Edinburgh, 1965), which provides a useful summary of cultural and political history as well as a detailed bibliography.

[9] J.W. Fiegenbaum, Ibn Ḥazm, Encyclopedia Britannica (accessed April 2013).

[10] Roger Arnaldez, Grammaire et théologie chez Ibn Hazm de Cordoue, op. cit.

[11] "Ibn Hazm," Dictionary of the Middle Ages, op cit., p. 117.

[12] R. Arnaldez, Grammaire et théologie chez Ibn Hazm de Cordoue, op. cit., p. 1.

[13] "Ibn Hazm," Dictionary of the Middle Ages, op cit., p. 117.

[14] A. Castro, The Structure of Spanish History, translated by E. King, Princeton University Press, 1954, p.140.

[15] Translated into Spanish by Miguel Asin Palacios in his book: Abenhazam de Cordoba y su historia crítica de las ideas religiosas, Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1927-1932, 5 vols.

[16] Ibid, p. 291.

[17] Ibn Hazm, Al-ihkam fi usul al-ahkam, Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1992, 2 vols.

[18] Roger Arnaldez, Ibn Hazm, translated from French by Miriam Rosen, page last modified on 4 December 2007; accessed April 2013.

[19] Re-edited Cairo: Sharikat nawabigh al-fikr, 2009. Another edition is that of Abdusalam Harun, Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arfi, 1982.

[20] In: Rasa'il Ibn Hazm, edited by Ihsan ‘Abbas, Beirut, 4 vols., vol. 2 (1983), pp. 171-188.

[21] See the recent edition by Ahmad Makki, Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1981.

[22] D. B. Macdonald's Development of Muslim Theology, Jurisprudence and Constitutional Theory (1903; reprint, New York, 1965) and Ignacz Goldziher's classic work The Zahiris: Their Doctrine and Their History, translated and edited by Wolfgang Behn (Leiden, 1971), shed light on the legal and theological currents of which Ibn Hazm was a part.

[23] See Ignaz Goldziher, Die Zāhiriten, ihr Lehrsystem und ihre Geschichte (1884), English translation by Wolfgang Behn: The Zāhirīs: Their Doctrine and Their History, Leiden: Brill, 1971. This is a basic work on the Ẓāhirī school of law and its application by Ibn Ḥazm to theology.

[24] Ibn Hazm, The Ring of the Dove. A treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab Love, translated by A.J. Arberry, London: Luzac & Co, 1953.

[25] M. Asin de Palacios, Abenhazam de Cordoba, op. cit. It contains an analytical edition and partial translation of Ibn Hazm's most famous work, Kitab al-fals fi al-milal wa-al-ahwa' wa-al-nihal.

[26] Américo Castro, The Structure of Spanish History, translated by Edmund L. King, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954.

[27] Baron Carra de Vaux: Les Penseurs de l'Islam. Vol. 3. Paris, Geuthner, 1922, p. 333.

[28] Ibid, p. 334.

[29] R. Arnaldez, Grammaire et Théologie chez Ibn Hazm de Cordoue, op. cit., p. 105.

[30] Ibid, p. 193.

[31] Ibid, p. 194.

[32] Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-fasl fi 'l-milal wa-‘l-ahwa' wa-‘l-nihal, Cairo, 1899-1903, 2 vols.; vol. 1, p. 72.

[33] Ibid, p.106.

[34] Ibn Hazm, Kitab al-Akhlaq wa-'l-Siyar, French translation: Epitre Morale, op. cit., p. 17.

[35] Ibid, p. 18.

[36] Ibid, p. 116.

[37] Ibid, p. 22.

[38] Ibid, p. 19.

[39] Ibid, p. 22.

[40] Ibid, p. 21.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid, pp. 83-84.

[43] Ibid, p. 21.

[44] Ibid, p. 23.

[45] Ibid, p. 24.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid, p.114.

[48] Ibid, pp. 114-115.

[49] Ibid, p. 116.

[50] Ibn Hazm, Al-Taqrib lihad al-Mantiq, Beirut: Maktabat al-Hayat, 1959, p. 156.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid, p. 156.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid, p. 157.

[55] Ibid., p. 157.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid, p. 158.

[58] Ibn Hazm, Maratib al-‘Ulum, edited by Ihsan ‘Abbas, Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, n. d., pp. 78-79. See also on this scheme of the sciences in Ibn Hazm, Hamid Dabashi, Being a Muslim in the World, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012 , pp. 75-76.

[59] Ibn Hazm, Maratib al-‘Ulum, op. cit., pp. 78-80.

[60] Ibn Hazm, Al-Taqrib, op. cit., p. 52.

[61] Ibid, p. 47.

[62] Ibid, p. 128.

[63] Ibn Hazm, Al-Fasl fi al-milal, vol. 5, pp. 35-39.

[64] Ibid, p. 34.

[65] Ibid, vol. 2, p. 101.

[66] Ibid, p. 98.

[67] Ibn Hazm, Al-Taqrib, p. 141; Al-Fasl, vol. 2, pp. 105-106.

[68] Ibn Hazm, Al-Fasl, vol. 5, p. 55.

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