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(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

Ibn Hazm 994-1064

(Full name Abū Muhammad ‘Alī ibn Ahmad ibn Sa‘īd ibn Hazm) Spanish (Andalusian) theologian, historian, poet, philosopher, and critic.

An eminent humanist and prose writer of eleventh-century Muslim Spain, Ibn Hazm was a controversial figure. A polymath whose encyclopedic knowledge reached across all major intellectual disciplines of the era—from logic, ethics, theology, literature, history, and law to medicine and the natural sciences—Ibn Hazm was an innovative scholar and outspoken proponent of radical views that often prompted harsh criticism. Credited with the composition of an estimated 400 literary and scholarly works, Ibn Hazm's crowning achievement is usually considered to be his uniquely realized treatise on love, the Tawq al-hamāma fī al-ulfah wa al-ullāf (c. 1027; The Ring of the Dove: A Treatise on the Art and Practice of Arab Love), regarded as one of the finest compositions of Arabic belles-lettres. Ibn Hazm's other exceptional works include a history of religion, Kitāb al-fasl fi al-milal wa al-ahwā' wa al-nihal (c. 1027-38), and the legal treatise al-Ihkam li-usul al-ahkam (c. 1035-64). A master scholar of the Arabic holy books the Qur’ān and Hadīth, Ibn Hazm was also the outstanding figure of the Zāhirī school of theology, proponents of which have offered literal interpretations of Islamic scripture as the foundation of a system of Muslim jurisprudence. One of the greatest and most recognizable Arab authorities of his age, Ibn Hazm also stands alone among his Islamic contemporaries in his vast knowledge of Christian and Jewish theology and scripture.

Biographical Information

Ibn Hazm was born in 994 Islamic Cordova to a respected and affluent family, descendants of Persian émigrés who had converted from Christianity and resettled in Andalusian Spain. His father, Ahmad, an erudite scholar and devout Muslim, served as a high functionary to al-Mansūr and to his son and successor, al-Muzaffar, regents to caliph Hishām II of al-Andalus. His father's connections to the Umayyad dynasts offered Ibn Hazm access to the finest education available. Taught by the women of the caliph's harem, the boy spent the first fourteen years of his life in comfort and seclusion absorbing knowledge of the Qur’ān. He composed verse in his youth, but none of his early writings have survived. The demise of al-Muzaffar in 1008 roughly coincided with the rise of political unrest in Cordova. Civil war raged between rival dynasties and competing ethnic groups—including the Spanish, Berbers, Slavs, and Arabs—for more than two decades, signaling the brutal and drawn out end of Umayyad rule. Ibn Hazm's father died in 1012 and the following year Berber rebels sacked Cordova, forcing Ibn Hazm to flee to the city of Almeria. ’Ali ibn Hammud's 1016 usurpation of the caliphate did little to restore order, and Ibn Hazm was expelled from Almeria by its governor, who was sympathetic to the Hammudid cause. He subsequently traveled through al-Andalus during the years of his banishment, returning to a Cordova still controlled by the Hammudid in early 1019. Power shifted back to the Umayyads in 1023 with the rise of ‘Abd-er-Rahmān V al-Mustazhir to the position of caliph. Ibn Hazm was appointed his vizier, a position he held for only seven weeks before the new ruler was assassinated and his regent jailed. In about 1027, after his release from a subsequent term of imprisonment, Ibn Hazm settled in Játiva. He is generally thought to have completed his The Ring of the Dove there during this period. In 1030, the epoch of violent conflict precipitated by the struggle between the Hummudid and Umayyad families for the throne of Cordova subsided with the complete dissolution of the caliphate, which was replaced by a conglomeration of cities and small republics independent of any centralized authority. Ibn Hazm never renounced his support for the displaced Umayyad but moderated his public sponsorship of the doomed cause. For the...

(The entire section is 1,953 words.)