Friday, April 21, 2017

R.I.P. John Freely (1926–2017)


"The beginning of Arabic philosophy in al-Andalus comes with the work of Ibn Hazm (994–1064), who was born and spent most of his life in Cordoba, where his father and grandfather had been functionaries in the Umayyad court. His best-known philosophical work is his Book on the Classification of the Sciences. Aside from his many philosophical works, he also wrote poetry and treatises on history, jurisprudence, ethics and theology. His most famous poetical work is entitled Tawq al-hamama, or The Dove’s Neck-Ring, a treatise on the art of love, which he says is ‘a serious illness’.

Love, may God honor you, is a serious illness, one whose treatment must be in proportion to the affliction. It’s a delicious disease, a welcome malady. Those who are free of it want not to be immune, and Those who are stricken by it want not to be cured.

Ibn Hazm was particularly qualified to write a book on the art of love, he writes, having been brought up to the age of fourteen in the harem, or women’s quarters, of his family home: ‘I have observed women at first hand and I am acquainted with their secrets to an extent that no one else could claim, for I was raised in their chambers and I grew up among them and knew no one but them.’ He goes on to say that ‘women taught me the Qu’ran, they recited to me much poetry, they trained me in calligraphy’.

The Islamic schools of the time in Cordoba employed several women copyists, as did the city’s book market, whereas more highly educated women worked as teachers and librarians, while a few even practised medicine and law.

Ibn Hazm believed in revelation, but he felt that ‘the first sources of all human knowledge are the soundly used senses and the intuition of reason, combined with the correct understanding of a language’. He said that the first Muslims had experienced divine revelation directly, whereas those of his own time were exposed to contrary beliefs and needed logic to preserve the pure teachings of Islam, so that they can know ‘the reality of things and…discern falsehood without a shred of doubt’.

Ibn Hazm also wrote a work on ethics entitled The Characters and Conduct Concerning the Medicine of Souls. There he describes the Socratic ideal of moderation in all things that governed his own way of life: ‘In this book I have gathered together many ideas which the Author of the light of reason inspired in me as the days of my life passed and the vicissitudes of my existence succeeded one another. God granted me the favour of being a man who has always been concerned with the vagaries of fortune.’"

John Freely, Light from the East: How the Science of Medieval Islam Helped to Shape the Western World (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015), pp. 128-9.

Music in Islam: Ibn Hazm, al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Qaisarani, Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi and Hassan al-‘Attar

Music in Islam: The mathematical origin of melodic tones



"A group of scholars comprehended the prohibition of music from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah [peace and blessings be upon him] in which he says: “There will be [at some future time] people from my Ummah [nation] who will seek to make lawful the following matters: fornication, the wearing of silk, alcohol drinking and the use of musical instruments” [included by Bukhari]


However, Ibn Hazm said that this does not mean the prohibition of musical instruments and that the Prophet was talking about the social features of the spread of corruption which may accompany some instrumentalists or artists . 

Fornication [Allah forbids], wearing silk, drinking alcohol, singing and musical instruments are the concomitant features of the licentious night. But this does not mean that all what the Prophet has mentioned is prohibited or an ingredient of prohibition.

The mere association between one matter and another is not an evidence that they both share the same legal ruling. Therefore, when the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him] mentions something which is prohibited and associates another thing with it, it does not mean that the second matter is also prohibited. Same goes for mentioning an obligatory matter and associating another matter with it, this does not mean that the second matter is also obligatory. Allah the Almighty says: “Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives”. Justice is an obligatory matter whereas good conduct and giving to relatives are recommended matters. Based on this, the obligatory matter is associated with the recommended matter and thus association between two matters does not indicate that both matters share the same legal ruling.

Therefore, the hadith which associates between fornication, drinking alcohol, wearing silk and using musical instruments does not indicate an obligatory association between all these matters but carries within its fold the potentiality of carrying out prohibited acts. The renowned scholars Abdul-Ghani al-Nabulsi, Imam al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Qaisarani and Ibn Hazm stated that music is a sound if it is beautiful, it is good and if it is ugly, it is bad. 

Moreover, music is a natural disposition to which our souls are inclined. Therefore, it is good when the soul finds its comfort in and it is bad when it disturbs the human soul. Therefore for Muslim scholars, music is one of the mathematical sciences and we have seen the scholars’ opinions that its good is permitted and its bad is impermissible. Therefore, we have seen Muslims throughout history playing these instruments. 

To the extent that Sheikh al-Islam Hassan al-‘Attar has said in the first third of the 19th century that a person who listens to strings tone accompanied by water murmur and the view of trees without being affected is a donkey."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Manuscript Collections and Scholar-Editors of the Twentieth Century (5)


Salah al-Din al-Munajjed (1920-2010)

Some edited works (taken from "Obituary: Salah al-Din al-Munajjed"):

The History of Damascus (Volume I) by Ibn ʿAsākir

Promoting Virtue and Forbidding Vice by Ibn Taymiyyah

The Literature of Foreigners by Abū al-Farāj al-Asbahānī

The Qur'an Schools In Damascus by al-Nuʿaymī

Letters and Poems by al-Jāhiẓ

The Fatwas of Imām Muḥammad Rashīd Riḍā

In Addition To:


(c) Jibreel Delgado. From the personal library of Muhammad Hamidullah

Some original works:

Proverbs About Arabian Women

The Arab Canons of Women's Beauty

Sexual Life of the Arabs

The Rules of Editing Manuscripts

The Rules of Cataloguing Manuscripts

The Bolshevization of Islam

The Socialist Delusion

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

“There is No Greater Harm to Knowledge” - Maydan



“There is No Greater Harm to Knowledge” - Maydan: There are objective criteria by which to determine who has greater expertise, whether on specific events, ideas, or people in history. Scholars of the Middle East risk committing blunders when claiming to speak with authority...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women in Public Space: Ibn Hazm vs. Kawthari

Camilla Adang, “Women’s Access to Public Space according to al-Muhalla bi-l-Athar” in Manuela Marín and Randi Deguilhem (eds.),Writing the Feminine: Women in Arab Sources. London, New York: I.B. Tauris: 2002, 75-94.




The Conservative Traditionalist Hanafi Opinion of the Last Ottoman Deputy Şeyḫülislām

Saudi Supreme Judicial Council: Evening courts to marry women without male guardians