Home » All My Posts » Pope should not waste time reading all the people who wrote about Ibn Hazm; he should instead read Ibn Hazm.

Pope should not waste time reading all the people who wrote about Ibn Hazm; he should instead read Ibn Hazm.

If Pope’s evidence (the famous 14th century dialogue) to beef up his argument against Islam being a violent religion was fragile, flimsier was this allusion that Islamic teachings defy all the inherent reason in the universe. In fact, his remarks were pathetically blatant lacking sufficient concern for historical reality and an in-depth knowledge of Muslim philosophy. After reading the text of Ratzinger’s speech quite a few times, I am still perplexed regarding the line of his reasoning; namely that faith in an absolutely transcendent God whose acts and will cannot be grasped completely by human reason can possibly lead one to conceive His images which are capricious and may be against all truth and goodness. The argument becomes further ironic as Pope strangely chooses to abduce views of a multifarious Muslim writer who can equally be classified as a quasi-liberal writer/poet, a literal jurist, a controversial philosopher, an innovative grammarian or above all a compassionate ethicist.

Even scanty readings of Ibn Hazm would fail to portray him primarily as an absolute fatalist which Joseph Ratzinger was able to do inadvertently for his Christian audience with such an ease. The intuitive reason which Ratzinger calls creative and self communicating when combined with sound human perception and understanding of language is the first and foremost source of all human knowledge according to Ibn Hazm. It was one of his earliest projects to advocate a sound system of logic so that the revealed word of God can be defended without taking refuge in circular arguments. Times right before his were famous for determining value of logic as a means for attaining absolute truth. There were debates, for instance between Christian logician Abu Bishr Matta bin Yunus and the Muslim philologist Abu Said al Sirafi in early tenth century, resolving controversies whether logic is a form of universal expression or not. Ibn Hazm wrote extensively against the holders of extreme view of man tamantaqa tazandaqa (whoever practices logic practices heresy). In reposnse to his opponents, who objected with the counter-argument that early generations of Muslims did not resort to demonstrative argumentation and proofs rooted firmly in logic, he replied that they witnessed the revelation directly and were not exposed to contrastive beliefs.

An alternate undertaking in parallel was to refute the philosophers and theologians who elevated logic to a station where it can be used independantly as a means for attaining truth thereby superceding and replacing revelation. Many consider him as a pioneer in methodological rejection of hellenistic metaphysics of that time which was voiced by many Muslim philosophers with slight shifts in semantics. Here, the Pope is partially right as Ibn Hazm advocates an unbridgeable gap between the Creator and creation. However the underlying aim in Ibn Hazm’s discourse is not to establish that human beings are not responsible for their own actions by being submitted to Divine Will but to define a supreme station for God where there is no room left for speculations. Ibn Hazm achieves this with ease as he has the revealed word of God to fall back to, and which he uses as a touchstone to establish veracity of any claim regarding His ultimate nature.

Ratzinger however speculates erroneously when he hypothesize that Ibn Hazm’s God could have done everything against the truth and virtue. Ibn Hazm does not push his God away in order to grant him more divinity (as the Pope contends) but asserts that we cannot comprehend fully the particulars of God’s wisdom and will instead remain in need of His favours always. He pits these arguments against some of the Mutizilites who were presumably in favor of basing ethics on human reasoning, even at the cost of statements in the Quran. His often misunderstood contention that God can reward evil and punish good is completely subjective as he never claimed that God in fact does so. His contentions are rooted in a constantly recurring theme that humanity always needs objectively sustainable communication from the Creator as we cannot achieve salvation through reason alone. He and his God calls it the divine mercy and love, on which depends the destiny of all creation; and that is the only real analogy as far as Ibn Hazm is concerned.

Ibn Hazm can easily be misunderstood if his different positions are not disentangled carefully. Moreover his various intellectual stances can be put forth as an evidence for contradictory assertions. He tried all his life to bridge gaps between reason and revelation and describe the human condition and thought in relation to revealed word of God. His literature is depictive of human beauty and love of God. According to Ibn Hazm, we constantly need God to reveal us who He is, why He created us and what should we do and what we should not in order to attain His pleasure. It is one of His favors that He gave us the power to reason and contemplate both within our selves and with others. However all human contemplation, cogitation and criticism should take revelation as the starting point.


On a different note, I completely agree with what thabet has said and do share his feelings. Pope’s speech may have been full of inaccurate assertions and misreadings of Muslim theology (kalam) yet he has asked some challenging question which should be responded satisfactorily by contemporary Muslim scholarship. His major contention is that Islamic weltanschauung incorporates violence as a valid methodology and this world view is theologically rooted in the understanding of God’s nature and character. Why should these questions invoke anger, hate and murder instead of inciting positive and objective confrontation on intellectual fronts.

Among 20+ people that I have asked in the past week, none cared to read what Pope has actually said though they were aware that he has said something very wrong. A Christian member of Pakistan’s parliament who proposed the house to ask clarification from Vatican before passing a unanimous resolution of condemnation was forced to sit in protest. No major or minor newspaper (of Pakistan) took pains to translate and publish the entire speech or even its controversial parts. However none of them failed to make a great news story out of it. Its sad that Muslims of the world seems to be a big rabble lead by the pirates of intellect. Even sadder is the realization that there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

9 thoughts on “Pope should not waste time reading all the people who wrote about Ibn Hazm; he should instead read Ibn Hazm.

  1. Excellent article, am having trouble understanding the following, though:

    “I am still perplexed regarding the line of his reasoning; namely that faith in an absolutely transcendent God whose acts and will cannot be grasped completely by human reason can possibly lead one to conceive His images which are capricious and may be against all truth and goodness.”

  2. Jazak Allah and I apologise to be able to respond so late.

    How can it logically follow from God’s absolute transcendency that He might act on whims and invest in something evil and false? The question itself is philosophically wrong if we assume His absolute excellence.

    From Ibn Hazm’s perspective God reveals Himself completely in Quran. And ‘completely’ means everything which human language can encompass. Speculation beyond which is absurdity. In addition to that, Ibn Hazm wrote extensively on the meaning of changelessness of Allah’s Sunnah which Allah mentions in Quran. He relates it to laws of nature which are already the part of complete creative structure and not beyond the generally comprehendible and sometimes incomprehensible reason of the working of universe.

    Moreover he also wrote about names of Allah which he understands as attributes but refrains from the title ‘attribute’ (due to his literalist methodology) as Allah does not mention it (the word sift) in the Quran. It is also noteworthy that all the names of Allah are good again denying any claim that He can act evil.

    Now if I am at Pope’s place I will reject all this as a circular argument because its absurd to validate a text through itself. But than I would never quote someone like Ibn Hazm. I would instead quote some one like Jahm ibn Safwan.

    I hope this helps. Insha’Allah.


  3. Didn’t Hazm write about the earlier abrogated verses in the Quran? Doesn’t “abrogation” negate the “the changelessness of Allah’s Sunnah which Allah mentions in Quran.”

  4. For that matter which Muslim scholar did not write about abrogation in Quran. Quran itself mentions in 2:106:
    None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?

    Abrogation in Quran does not include verses related to morality or belief but only those through which a legal directive is implementated. A valid example is 8:66 abrogating 8:65. Ibn Hazm’s opinion (as far as abrogation in Quran is concerned) is not something unique as he defines it as a phenomena in which time limit of a particular directive expires.

    I fail to understand how you see it in contrast with changelessness of Allah’s Sunnah which can be best understood as 1) a coherent, consistent and ordered structure of universal laws and 2) Allah’s consistent response towards specific issues which He mentions in Quran.

    Ibn Hazm expounds upon the former in al-fasl where he discusses that Allah can empower the Prophets temporarily to break the laws of nature in order to show miracles. The latter is evident in the context of Quran whenever Allah mentions this changelessness of sunnah. See for instance the verses 17: 71 to 17:77, where Allah clarifies the consistence of His methodology in case of messengers:

    One day We shall call together all human beings with their (respective) Imams: those who are given their record in their right hand will read it (with pleasure), and they will not be dealt with unjustly in the least. But those who were blind in this world, will be blind in the hereafter, and most astray from the Path. And their purpose was to tempt thee away from that which We had revealed unto thee, to substitute in our name something quite different; (in that case), behold! they would certainly have made thee (their) friend! And had We not given thee strength, thou wouldst nearly have inclined to them a little. In that case We should have made thee taste an equal portion (of punishment) in this life, and an equal portion in death: and moreover thou wouldst have found none to help thee against Us! Their purpose was to scare thee off the land, in order to expel thee; but in that case they would not have stayed (therein) after thee, except for a little while. (This was Our) way with the messengers We sent before thee: thou wilt find no change in Our ways.

    For more such examples of Allah’s Sunnah, read 33:62 and 35:43 and 48:23 in respective contexts.

    Abrogation in Quran and Changelessness of Allah’s Sunnah are two different concepts which are seperately mentioned in Quran itself. There is no contradiction here. Ibn Hazm has written on both subjects like most Muslim scholars and there is nothing alarming about it.

    I hope my clarification helps.


  5. I stumbled across your blog from the Muslim Carnival and I have to say – that was an amazing essay! Thanks for posting.

    Now I understand why Muhammad Asad made reference to Ibn Hazm so much, and am looking forward to the day when my Arabic is good enough to begin reading some of these great thinkers.

    Keep up the good work – we need more subtlety and nuance in our discourse, especially on te likes of Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim and others who are often misrepresented these days!

  6. Brother if you sincerely seek to understand the development and roots of Islamic thought and get familiar with Islamic culture, you have to start from the basics. The foremost source of all Islamic thoought is Quran which Muslims believe to be divinely revealed to Muhammad, the last messenger of God. The cheapest and quickest way to disregard all revelation is to say that Prophet Muhammad had some psychological problems or hysterical experiences. In pre-modern times before the advent of modern psychology, unbelievers among the direct recipients of revelation escaped from the same easy route. Quran refers to this on number of occassions, for instance:

    [51:52] Similarly, no messenger came to the People before them, but they said (of him) in like manner, “A sorcerer, or one possessed”!
    [51:39] But (Pharaoh) turned back with his Chiefs, and said, “A sorcerer, or one possessed!”
    [54.009] Before them the People of Noah rejected (their messenger): they rejected Our servant, and said, “Here is one possessed!”, and he was driven out.

    Dr. Abbas Sadeghian is not the first one to make this baseless claim. People like Margoliouth and Aloy Sprenger had made such claims before. Montogomery Watt rejected these claims as baseless. I hope you can research all these opinions well while reading accounts of Prophet’s life from as many sources as you can lay your hands on and judging for yourself the authenticity and legitimacy of his Message.

    I have moved from this site and cannot excess or comment on Blogger in Pakistan. Please visit my new blog at https://hangingodes.wordpress.com if you want this to be an extended discussion or reach me by e-mail at asembuxi at yahoo dot com.

    -regards and peace

  7. Pingback: Is Javed Ghamidi a True Scholar? « Non Skeptical Essays

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