Notes on Ibn Hazm's Rejection of Analogy (Qiyas) in Matters of Religous Law

Ibn Hazm (994-1064) was no doubt one of the most outstanding intellectual figures of Muslim Spain in particular and of the whole Muslim world in general. Though it is beyond the purpose and scope of this paper to give a complete profile of the man and his place in the intellectual history of Islam, it remains necessary to make some introductory remarks that would help in understanding the topic under discussion?

In Ibn Hazm’s scholarly preparation the second stage was characterized to be a juridic-theological preparation to which he fully devoted himself following his political failure; the year 1031 is usually proposed to be the turning point in this new orientation of Ibn Hazm’s intellectual life. It was during this second stage that he wrote profusely on a variety of subjects and distinguished himself as a master dialectician and polemicist. His major works on religious matters such as Fisal, Ihkam, and Muhalla were the products of this period; in them as well as in many other treatises, Ibn Hazm discusses his religious ideas and doctrine and enthusiastically refutes his adversaries. “ As a master dialectician he insisted on proofs (barahin), whether arrived at on the basis of the holy texts (nusus), or through logical demonstration, or both.” His use and reliance on analysis of textual material and information was perhaps the most clear feature of Ibn Hazm’s polemics; this method was always in  conformity with his Zahirite doctrine; and was largely employed in his disputation with Jews, Christians, or his co-religionist opponents.

Since Ibn Ham’s religious ideas originated within the framework of his Zahirite doctrine, a word about this doctrine seems to be necessary as a prerequisite to understand his rejection of analogy in matters of religious law. The Zahirite doctrine was founded in the East by Dawud ibn Khalaf (d. 883) who was a Shafi‘ite before developing his new doctrine. For this reason it is believed that the Shafi‘ite theology was responsible for paving the way for the appearance of the new doctrine. It is also believed that this new doctrine originated as a reaction to the widespread activities of those who applied analogical deduction (qiyas) to arrive at legal decisions in matters of religion. Then the new doctrine reached Muslim Spain and was adopted by a small number of Andalusian theologians through whom it reached Ibn Hazm who developed the new doctrine and became the most eloquent spokesman of it. The essence of the Zahirite doctrine centers around the idea that the Qur’an and the authenticated traditions ought to be the sole guiding criteria for arriving at juridico-theological decisions. They should be understood in the context of what they say rather than what they may imply. This can be done by adhering strictly to the apparent meaning (zahir) of the text and by conforming to the grammatical and lexical rules of the Arabic language.’ Hence the name of the new doctrine (al-Zahiriyyah) which emphasized the exoteric meanings of the texts as opposed to the traditional way of emphasizing the esoteric (batin) meanings of the texts.

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