Ibn Hazm

Andalusian Muslim polymath, historian, jurist, philosopher and theologian (994-1064)

Abū Muḥammad ʿAlī ibn Aḥmad ibn Saʿīd ibn Ḥazm (7 November 994 – 15 August 1064) was an Andalusian poet, polymath, historian, jurist, philosopher, and theologian, born in Córdoba, present-day Spain. He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic thought and produced a reported 400 works, of which only 40 still survive. The Encyclopaedia of Islam refers to him as having been one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim world, and he is widely acknowledged as the father of comparative religious studies.

Ibn Hazm


  • 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.
    • M. Asin in Al-Andalus; 1939; vol IV; p. 278.
  • Compare yourself, for wealth, status and health to those lower than you. For faith, science, and virtue, compare yourself to those who are higher than you.
    • Kitab al-Akhlaq wa’l Siyar ; Trsltd by N. Tomiche under the title: Epitre Morale, Collection UNESCO, Beyrouth, 1961, p. 21.
  • 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.
    • ibid
  • 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?
    • Regarding the role of experiment and observation, Ibn Hazm: Kitab al-fisal fi’l-milal wa-l-ahwa wa-l-nihal, 5 parts in two vols; Cairo, 1899 and 1903; Vol I, p. 72.
  • 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 fulfill their wishes, nor bring any gains; and that with purer intentions they will obtain great rest for their souls.
    • Kitab al-Akhlaq wa’l Siyar p: 17
  • Whoever harms his kinship and his neighbors is worse than them. Whosoever returns ill that he receives from them is like them. Whosoever does not return ill done to him is the master, the best and most virtuous amongst all.
    • ibid, 18
  • Whosoever rises above things of this world, in front of which you kneel is much stronger than you.
    • ibid, p: 116
  • 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.
    • ibid, 22
  • 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.
    • ibid, 19
  • If science, and devoting oneself to it, had no other use than avoiding exhausting temptations, rushes of hope that give worry, and thoughts that sadden the soul, that alone should give us reasons to seek it… Kinglets have sought distraction in chess, wine, music, hunting and much else that only bring harm in this world and the other.
    • ibid
  • 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.
    • itab al-Akhlaq wa’l Siyar p: 22
  • Whosoever 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.
    • ibid, 21
  • Whosoever is miserly with the gift of his knowledge deserves more blame than whosoever 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.
    • ibid
  • 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.
    • ibid, 83-4
  • 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.
    • ibid
  • The most noble sciences, are those which bring us closer to the Creator; those which help us be pleasing to Him.
    • ibid, 21
  • Whosoever 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.
    • ibid. 23
  • 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.
    • ibid, 24
  • 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.
    • ibid
  • 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.
    • ibid, 114
  • 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….”
    • ibid, 114-5
  • 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. [...] 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.
    • ibid, 116
  • There are mobile objects and stationary objects, but there is neither motion nor staticness.
    • Al-Fassl Fil Milal, vol 5, pp. 55.
  • 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.
    • Al-Fassl Fil Milal, vol 5, pp 35-39
  • The Earth is spherical despite what is popularly believed … the proof is that the Sun is always vertical to a particular spot on Earth.
    • ibid, vol 2 p. 98
  • May God make us amongst those he allows to do good, and to practice it, and those who see the right path as none of us is without weakness; whosoever sees his weakness will forget those of others. May God make us die in the faith of Muhammad. Amen, Oh Master of the Universes.



Quotes on ibn Hazm

  • (His book The Decisive word on sects, heterodoxies and denominations is)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.
    • A.Castro in The Structure of Spanish History; Trsltd by E. King. Princeton University Press; 1954; p. 291.