Saturday, September 26, 2009


Brief Life History

Abu Muhammad' Ali Ibn Abu 'U mar Ahmad Ibn Said Ibn Hazm al-Qurtubi al-Andalusi, or more commonly referred to as Ibn Hazm, was born on the last day of Ramadan 384 AH / Nov. 994 AD in Cordoba (Qurtabah), Spain or Andalus at that time. His family's origins are quite obscure in terms of confirmed records. But it is widely accepted that his family originated from the village of Manta Lisham in the district of Niebla.

lbn Hazm's family was of notable status and wealthy position. The family claimed decadency from a Persian client of Yazid, the brother of Muawiyah, the first of the Umayyad dynasty rulers in Syria.lbn Hazm's father, Abu 'Umar Ahmad attained a high position in the administrative hierarchy, holding the rank of a wazir for aI-Mansur and his son aI-Muzaffar, a father and son who ruled efficiently in the name of the Caliph Hisham II.

However, the period during which Ibn Hazm lived was a period of decisive crises for IsIam in Andalusia. Among others, political conflicts against the Slavs caused negative effects for the family of Ibn Hazm. Ibn Hazm himself faced several political and military escapades.

Despite the fluctuations in the political stability, Ibn Hazm was to follow his father's footsteps as a wazir for three different occasions. Firstly, he became a wazir to 'Abd aI-Rahman IV al-Murtada, an Umayyad claimant to the throne. He also became a wazir to 'Abd aI-Rahman V al-Mustazhir and finally, he became a wazir again under Hisham al-Mu'tad.

Ibn Hazm was not involved in state administration throughout his life. A point came when he entered a semi-retirement situation, hence devoting his efforts towards intellectual work, teaching and writing various works. In 456 AH, he died in his village in Manta Lisham, near Seville.

As a personality of his times, Ibn Hazm attained respect as one of the greatest thinkers in the Arab-Muslim civilization. He proved to be a forceful litterateur, historian, philologist, rhetoricist, jurist, philosopher and theologian. The highly educative and exposing environment that accompanied the family stature gave him a thorough education. As a result, he was well-informed on all the main currents of thought, and productivity, breadth of learning and sound mastery of the Arabic language and fundamental tools of scholarship.

Several factors may be listed as to how and why Ibn Hazm could elevate to a high degree of scholarship and leadership, leading him to be endowed with the position of al-Imamah:

Possessing personal traits that are essential for the molding of a great scholar: strength and rigour of memory, sharpness in thought and words, and highly commendable powers of observation and analysis.

Having the benefit of undergoing a thorough education coupled with his personal enthusiasm to learn and indulge in current concerns, hence widening his breadth and depth of knowledge, His teachers comprised Abu'I-Qasim 'Abd aI-Rahman Ibn Abi Yazid al-Azdi al-Misri (for traditions, grammar, lexicography, rhetoric, dialectic and theology),Abu:I-Khiyar al-Lughawi (for fiqh), Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn al-Jasur (for Hadith), Abu' Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn al-Madhhiji (for philosophy) and Abu Said al-Fata' al-Ja'fari (for poetry).

Command over various foreign languages.

Benefiting from a conducive environment (which accompanied Ibn Hazm's notable family), that promoted and nurtured his scholarly development.

Active participation as a wazir in public affairs and administration and, military and political concerns, while subsequently undergoing the hardened aspects of such experiences. Ibn Hazm thus spoke with soundness of thought and richness of experience.

Positively reacting to his opposition by bearing upon himself, the personal discipline of ensuring that he should be widely knowledgeable of his opposition, thus allowing him to counter their criticisms in a more effective way. Hence, the virtue of striving to be more prepared than one's adversaries.

Major Works

With the demise of Ibn Hazm, his son Abu Rafi' reported that Ibn Hazm had completed as many as 400 works, comprising 80,000 sheets. These works encompass subjects such as jurisprudence, logic, history, ethics, comparative religion and theology. However, less than 40 of these works still exist. A list of the more famous works of Ibn Hazm is presented in the appendix to this chapter.

Thoughts of Economic Relevance

Ibn Hazm is an example of what can be referred to as of the total 'ulama - that is, those whose expertise in many issues of the human life are not restricted to that of conceptual juristic viewpoints, but rather are able to provide an Islamic-based opinion and rationale on the more mundane concerns, out of their true expertise and not merely out of their status as 'ulama.

Broadly discussing, four commonly highlighted economic concerns of Ibn Hazm may be projected to illustrate his "total" concern of the economic aspects of Muslims during his time. These are:

Basic needs and poverty



Land tenure systems

Basic Needs and Poverty

Ibn Hazm listed four forms of needs which make up the essentials of a basic standard of living for a human being: food, drink, clothing and shelter.

Each should satisfy the necessary conditions (as delineated by Islam). The food and drink should be sufficient for the provision of health and energy. The clothing should be sufficient to cover the aurat (parts of the Muslim's body that must be concealed from the non-mahram) and suitable for both the hot and cold seasons, and for rainy conditions. The shelter should be such that it protects the person from effects of the weather and provides a reasonable degree of privacy.

The question of who should bear the responsibility of ensuring the satisfaction of these basic needs must obviously be met by the state. However, Ibn Hazm emphasized also the role to be played by the rich, especially in helping out the needs problem prevalent within their regions. Ibn Hazm wrote:

"The rich are obliged to provide sustenance to the poor living in their region. If they try to neglect or avoid it or deflect from this responsibility, the Head of the State must compel them to part with some of their wealth for the maintenance of the poor and the needy. In case the zakah is not sufficient to satisfy the basic needs of the poor, tax should be levied upon the rich Muslims to provide the poor with enough food, reasonable clothing and accommodation."

The discussion of poverty is highly interrelated with the conceptual understanding of basic needs in the preceding sections. Non-fulfillment of basic needs is in fact a fundamental indicator to the existence of poverty.

In this context, the writer would like to remind that poverty may accrue in a situation where the level of needs increases faster than the income necessary for the fulfillment of basic needs. This may occur from a drastic increase in population (either from birth or immigration), increase in the types of necessities necessary for any particular time and place or due to an increase in the number belonging to particular age groups. The existence of a wide disparity between the rich and the less well-off can compound the severity of the problem when the rich influence the structure, administration, tastes and strategic variables such as the general price level of an economy.


Under the discussion of zakah, Ibn Hazm emphasized its obligatory status, simultaneously stressing the role of the wealthy in eradicating poverty among the poor and the indigent. Ibn Hazm wrote that the penalty for those who do not support zakah suffices with the state collecting the zakah due either through voluntary means or through force. And if opposition against zakah still persists, then that person(s) should be fought. If this opposition denies zakah as an obligation, it should be declared murtad (apostate). Whichever way it is, punishment must be meted out to those who still persist in opposing this obligation, either hidden or explicitly.

Ibn Hazm's emphasis on the position of zakah is such that the deceased who should have and have not paid the zakah due during his or her lifetime should have that obligation to be fulfilled from his or her wealth. Such unpaid zakah is a form of debt to Allah (SWT) and those entitled to zakah. And if debts to human beings are required to be settled, what more when it comes to debts owed to Allah (SWT)?

The unpaid zakah is never written off. (This is of course in contrast to some conventional tax provisions which do allow' long-unpaid taxes to be considered as bad debts to the state if the time lapse has by-passed a certain time period). Zakah is different. Regardless of the type of zakah to be paid and regardless of the cause for non-payment of zakah (intentionally-done, delayed collection by the zakah-collectors, ignorance of obligation or otherwise), the zakah debt due is never written off, at least in the sight of Allah (SWT). (This is at least one major difference with conventional tax systems and regulations.)


Ibn Hazm was very much concerned with the factor of justice in the tax system. To him, before anything else is considered, the interests of the people must be considered when planning to impose tax compulsorily. The interests of the people must also be considered carefully' in times of collecting taxes because the people are the pool of tax payers. Hence, whatever losses that need to be borne by the people can ultimately affect the (system and amount of) tax collection. This should remind us of discussions in conventional public finance theories pertaining to willingness or propensity to pay taxes.

Ibn Hazm was especially concerned over the nature of the tax collection system. Abusive and exploitative means of collecting taxes must be prevented. Taxes were to be collected by not transgressing the limits of the Shari'ah. Losses to taxpayers (arising from such shortcomings) can mean losses to the state too. This can possibly refer to the fall in the propensity to pay taxes, the lack of public support for the ruling government and the decline in potential tax revenues either arising from unpaid taxes or some of the paid taxes being siphoned by unscrupulous tax collectors.

An account of the tax administration in Andalus during Ibn Hazm's time is recorded by S.M. Imamuddin:

"The lowest branch of the finance department was located in the villages and supervised by a divisional head called 'amil. The harvest being ready, the field was inspected and the value of the produce was estimated by an officer called 'ashshar. There was a mutaqabbil to collect market and other duties within the fiscal area of his qabalah. In order to check these officers from cheating and charging more than the dues, strict vigilance was kept on them.

An accounts register was maintained and census was taken during the time of Yusuf al-Fihri and the bishop Hostages prepared a complete descriptive list of tax and jizyah-payers during the time of Muhammad I and made annual visits to see that the taxes were properly realized.

The rate of land-tax generally varied from V6th to 1I3rd according to the quality of the land. The practice of collecting the tax on cattle in kind was given up by the Ummayyad Amirs but that of land-tax in kind or cash continued. The land-tax collected in kind during the time of Hakam I amounted to 4,700 mudd of wheat and 7,747 mudd of barley. Ali Ibn Hammud (1009-1 018 AD) ordered the people of Jaen to pay the land-tax in cash at the rate of six dinars for a mudd of wheat and three dinars for that of barley instead of paying in kind. Muslims paid zakah at the rate of 2½% on their wealth and young earning members of non-Muslim families paid poll-tax (jizyah) varying from 12 to 48 dirhams a year in monthly installments. There were custom-houses in big and small towns, commercial centers and ports. Idrisi speaks of an office of Rihadrah (the custom-house) at Lorca and Himyari of that at Qalab. Arms, war-horses, books and bridal ornaments were exempted from import duties.

After meeting the expenditure of local administration, the amount of taxes deposited in the local treasury was passed on to the provincial bait aI-mal and from there, the balance was transmitted to the Central headquarters at Cordova which controlled all the treasuries of the country and replenished the coffer of a province which fell short of fund. The taxes collected from the mustakhlas (the royal land) were passed on directly to the Bait al-Nail al-Khas (the royal treasury) for the personal expenses of the ruler. The royal Khas lands accumulated in the provinces due to the confiscation of lands from the nobles from time to time. The administrative head of the royal property was Sahib al-Diya. The annual revenue from these lands and markets alone amounted to 765,000 dinars during the time of 'Abd aI-Rahman III. Some rulers showed due consideration to the tax-payers when they suffered from any natural calamity. Abd aI-Rahman III on his accession to the throne abolished all illegal taxes. Hakam II reduced the military and extraordinary taxes by one-sixth in 975 AD."

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