Ibn Hazm's Al-Risalah Al-Bahirah - The Magnificent Epistle

Abu Muhammad 'Ali ibn Abu 'Umar Ahmad ibn Sa'id ibn Hazm (b.384/994) attained a very high position in the knowledge of Islamic sciences and was a great poet, calligrapher, orator, debater, philosopher, writer, historian, philologist rhetorician and man of letters. A Zahirite, he relied on his understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah and the examples of the Companions, condemning taqlid and discarding qiy as (reasoning) as an unreliable method for obtaining knowledge. Known as much for his eloquence as for his sharp tongue, especially in his scathing criticisms of contemporary "uluma" and their taqlid, Ibn Hazm nonetheless respected Imams Malik, Abu Hanifah, al-Shafi'i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. His unforgiving criticisms of past savants caused al-Ghazzali to describe him as an "evil genius", and contemporary jurists declared the study of his writings haram. Amounting to as many as 400 volumes, a good number of his works were devoted to polemics. This work is important for many reasons. It provides historical data relating to the development of Islamic sciences and their exponents.
It is valuable also because Ibn Hazm records certain views either alleged or actually expressed in the past concerning the leading ulama of the first century after the hijrah. He throws light upon the intellectual pursuits and political climate of the early Umayyad period and explains a few concocted hadith which have found a place in authentic collections. The translation introduces this so far unknown work of Ibn Hazm to English speaking readers, and those who do not know Arabic. It can help in explaining the still relevant issue of following the mujtahid imams in matters pertaining to legal decision-making and the issue of what is the correct method of obtaining knowledge.
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