Foundational Islamic Principles

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Ali ibn Aḥmad ibn Sa’eed ibn Ḥazm, Abu Muḥammad, that is Ibn Ḥazm, was born in Cordoba, Spain.  His own lifespan (born 994 CE, died 1064 CE) covered a period of Islamic rule in Spain often characterised by political turbulence, but also regarded as being a golden age of Islamic civilization in Europe.  A true polymath, the breadth of Ibn Ḥazm’s works and overall contribution to knowledge is quite exceptional: not only spanning the full range of the Islamic sciences, but also including philosophy, ethics, literature, poetry and being credited with pioneering what has become the study of comparative religion.[1]  Ibn Ḥazm’s contribution to the rich tapestry of Islamic thought ranks no less to that of other famous polymaths like al-Ghazāli and Ibn Taymiyyah.

Yet the study of his works has not achieved the same precedence.[2]  While often described as a being a radical and a free-thinker, Ibn Ḥazm’s works have all too often been ignored or completely overlooked, not least in part because of the scathing criticisms he levelled against mainstream Islamic schools of thought.  For those actively looking to reinvigorate Islamic discourse, the works of Ibn Ḥazm are though quite invaluable.  As has been noted by many commentators,[3] Ibn Ḥazm’s works cannot be characterised as representing a madhab (legal school of thought) per se.  Rather, the principles and approach that he sought to outline represent more of a legal method; one that is strictly based upon the texts of revelation: the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah.  That method, outlined in voluminous works of fiqh (jurisprudence) and Uṣul shouldn’t however be seen as an end product, like those of the current rigid schools, but rather a starting point.

For the first time in English, a complete translation of ‘Masā’il min al-Uṣul’ (issues or enquiries from Uṣul) is presented.  This has been taken from the second book of Ibn Ḥazm’s magnum opus of fiqh (jurisprudence), al-Muḥalla bil’Athār.[4]   Together with the translated text, several explanatory footnotes have been added to provide, where appropriate, additional explanation and references.  Ibn Ḥazm’s primary work relating to Uṣul is al-Iḥkām fi-Uṣul al-Aḥkām, which is often rendered into English as ‘Judgement on the Principles of Law.’  The abridgment of the Iḥkām is the shorter summary text which is entitled: al-Nubdtha al-Kāfiyah fi-Uṣul al-Aḥkām al-Deen, which we will be releasing shortly.

These key issues of Uṣul are utilised throughout that work and are a feature of Ibn Ḥazm’s unique legal method.  Many of these principles are though significant in themselves, not least because they provide a lucid empowering framework with which to approach some of the intractable debates that currently beset contemporary Islamic discourse.

For the updated edition of this text, we have tried to utilise a single-translation of the Qur’ān throughout.  In this regard, the translation is that produced by Professor M. A. S Abdel Haleem.[5]  Mainly this is for ease of reading, but also to try and ensure, as far as it practically possible, that there is a level of consistency to the translated meaning of each verse as it appears in context.  On occasion, some of the quoted verses are expanded to provide greater contextual clarity.

The revised paperback edition can be purchased here

The Kindle edition can be purchased here



[1] Muslim scholars and biographers have alluded to Ibn Ḥazm being credited with works numbering over four-hundred volumes.  Jose Vilchez has listed over 140 titles of known works.  See: ‘Inventory of Ibn Ḥazm’s works,’ by Jose Miguel Puerta Vilchez, in Ibn Ḥazm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker (Boston: Brill), (ed) Camilla Adang, Maribel Fierro and Sabine Schmidtke, 2013, pp. 683/760

[2] A. G. Chejne has an invaluable overview in English of the life and works of Ibn Ḥazm.  His text, though now quite dated, also includes a good translation of Ibn Ḥazm’s Marātib al-Ulum [Categorisation of (the branches) of Knowledge]. See: A. G. Chejne (1982), Ibn Ḥazm, (Chicago: Kazi Publications).

[3] See: Adam Sabra, ‘Ibn Ḥazm’s Literalism: A Critique of Islamic Legal Theory,’ pp. 97/160 in Ibn Ḥazm of Cordoba: The Life and Works of a Controversial Thinker.

[4] The eighteen issues (or enquiries) covered are taken from al-Muḥalla, Vol. 1, pp. 72/89.  Each individual reference is cited per chapter.

[5] The Qur’an (2008), A new translation by Professor M. A. S Abdel Haleem, Oxford World Classics, (Oxford University Press: Oxford)





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