>> Friday, December 18, 2009
So I have not updated because it was finals week and I had 3 final papers. I am going to post all 3 up (maybe two). They are my WORST papers I have ever written. I wrote them in back to back all nighters with no sleep within a week. But they have something to do with Islam. First one is a paper I wrote on Ring of the Dove by Ibn Hazm for my Literature of Muslim Spain class.
This paper will be about Ibn Hazm’s concept of love and how this concept of love is universal and not limited to time and place. This paper will explain Ibn Hazm’s discourse and then relate it to current situations or realities that exist today.
Ibn Hazm was a great Muslim scholar who lived in Andalusia during great political turmoil. Ibn Hazm is mentioned very little in Arab sources but is mentioned a century after his death by two Jewish writers. Ibn Daud referred to ibn Hazm’s argument against Ibn Negrila and Salomon ben Adereth refuted Ibn Hazm’s theories on the Pentateuch. Most of what we know about Ibn Hazm’s life is through his own writings.
Ibn Hazm has two genealogies. The long genealogy that is provided to us by Ibn Hazm himself traces back his lineage to a Persian convert Yazid Ibn Abi Sufyan. The first of Ibn Hazm’s family to come to the Iberian Peninsula was his ancestor Khalaf. Sa’id, Ibn Hazm’s grandfather, settled the family in Cordoba. Ibn Hayyan however believes that the only ancestor to Ibn Hazm was his great grandfather who was a Spanish citizen from Labla.
Ibn Hazm studied many subjects. He studied: history with the historian and man of letters, Ibn Al-Faradi, Maliki fiqh by Ibn Dahhun, Zahiri fiqh by Sulayman Ibn Muflit, philosophy by Ibn al-Kattani and calligraphy by slave-girls when he was a child. He served as minister three times and was also imprisoned three times.
He believed like others in his time, one did not write for the sake of writing; there was always a reason to write. Ibn Hazm believed there were seven reasons to write a book: the first is a writer may have something original to say, second he may complete something that was left incomplete, third he may right a wrong, fourth he may want to explain a difficult concept, fifth he may want to abridge someone else’s work, sixth he may collect information from various sources and seven he may assemble things that have been scattered.
Ibn Hazm wrote his book Ring of the Dove because he wanted to explain a difficult concept. He says, “You charged me – may God exalt you! 0 to compose for you an essay describing Love, where in I should set forth its various meanings, its causes and accidents, and neither adding anything nor embroidering anything, but only setting down exactly what I have to tell according to the manner of its occurrence, and mentioning all to the full extent of my recollection and the limit of my capacity.” Obviously he wishes to describe a difficult concept and that concept is love.
In his book, Morals and Right Conduct in the Healing of Souls, Ibn Hazm writes, “All the different kinds of love belong to the same family.” Love is longing for the loved one, the unwillingness to be separated and the hope of love being reciprocated. He disagrees with people who believe that the type of love varies according to the object because we see a father mourn the death of a son the same way someone may mourn the death of a wife, sister or brother. He believes the object changes by the lover’s desire or the amount of love one has for the loved; a father may not mourn his son or a husband may not mourn his wife. Maybe for this reason when Ibn Hazm speaks in his book Ring of the Dove he does not specify male or female, husband or wife, rather most of the time he uses the male third person pronoun and most of the examples he gives about love are of friends and not of spouses. His concept of love is not unique to only spouses or sexual partners but rather it is a universal. Love can be between two creatures or a creature and an object. He believes the greatest love is the love of God.
In Ring of the Dove, Ibn Hazm claims there are five ways to fall in love. They are: falling in love while asleep, falling in love through a description, falling in love at first sight, falling in love after a long association and falling love with a quality and thereafter not approving any other different. All of these are beyond time and space and still hold relevance today and will still hold relevance tomorrow.
Ibn Hazm claims falling in love while asleep is the most unlikely of all causes of love. He calls it falling in love while asleep because his friend literally fell in love while asleep. Ammar ibn Ziyad looked deeply troubled to Ibn Hazm. When Ibn Hazm asked what was wrong Ammar replied that he had fallen in love with a maiden from a dream he had. This woman did not exist in the world, she was out of pure imagination but Ammar loved her. Ibn Hazm tried to bring Ammar to his senses even going as far as saying to love the women in the pictures on the walls but not some fantasy, but in the end Ibn Hazm’s effort failed. Ibn Hazm concluded that this is one of the causes of love. This cause of love is a case of pure fantasy which cannot be reached. Today we see many people who hold out from committing to their significant other because they have a fantasy. We see people so hypnotized by what they cannot obtain that they fail to see what is in front of them, available to them and what may be better for them. People insist on holding on to a false hope that does not give them happiness.
The second cause of love is falling in love through a description. People fall in love with another simply through a description without ever actually seeing the object that is loved. After seeing the beloved the relationship can go either way, it may succeed because the lover had an accurate picture in his mind or it may fail because the beloved is nothing like the lover imagined. Usually this type of love takes place with ladies of the palace because no one has seen them. Ibn Hazm also gives the examples of friends because he once used to exchange correspondence with a member of a noble family. When he met the man in person he started to hate him. Similarly through a description Ibn Hazm hated Amir ibn Abi Amir but when he finally met him face to face they became the best of friends. This cause is also valid today. Many times men overhear or take part in conversations about how beautiful a woman is. They fall in love with the picture they obtained from this description however when they actually meet the lady they are either disappointed or satisfied. Similarly this type of love goes beyond human relationships. Many people fall in love with their cars, video games or other objects. People actually become obsessed with their cars or completely addicted to video games so much so their relationships are ruined. Some people read the reviews of cars and other products and spend time researching what they will buy. Others cannot wait for a certain product to be released such as a new sports car or a new video game. When they actually obtain the object of desire they are either disappointed or satisfied. The car may handle like they read in the reviews or it may not. The video game may be as fun as it was told to the consumer or it may not be. People fall for the hype that surrounds a certain thing let it be a person or product or even a city and then when they actually witness it they are either disappointed or satisfied.
The third cause is falling in love at first sight. Ibn Hazm divides this category into two: the first is when a man sees a lady and knows nothing about her and the second is a man who falls in love with a lady and her name, where she lives and everything about her is known to him. The difference between the two is that the one who does not know anything about the lady and does not have his love reciprocated his ordeal will last much longer. Ibn Hazm gives a story about his friend who followed a slave girl and she did not give him any information about herself and so the friend longs for her every day. Today we see people speaking about the one who got away. A man will see a woman and at first sight fall head over heels but never get the courage to go up to her. If they do get the courage they get rejected and then they will be sad about it or rethink in their minds how they should have done something differently to obtain the lady of the affections.
The next cause of love is falling in love after a long association. Ibn Hazm claims, “This is my own way in these matters.” It is his preferred cause of love. Ibn Hazm believes this way of falling in love is the most secure. This type of falling in love is also the opposite of the love at first sight. Ibn Hazm believes falling in love at first sight is just lust. Today we see people holding off their wedding or any type of commitment because they want to get to know each other better. Furthermore we see best friends falling in love. We see this type of falling in love as a theme to many pop songs such as Miley Cyrus’s song “If We Were a Movie.” Today we see many couples when they first start to date to be in complete awe of each other, others claim that they are the cutest couple and nothing can separate them. But when they move in together, they start to see they are not compatible. Ibn Hazm continues to describe a man he once knew who pulled away from his friend at the first sign of attraction because he did not want to ruin their friendship. Today we witness the same thing where people do not want to move on from the friend stage because they worry about ruining what they already have if the spousal stage does not work. Ibn Hazm also mentions a noble who used to buy slave girls. This noble fell in love with a slave girl but the girl hated him. After getting to know the noble the slave eventually reciprocated the love. There are many instances today where we see two people who cannot stand one another, end up marrying and starting a family.
The last type of love is falling in love with a quality and thereafter not approving any other different. In this type of love the lover only loves one quality and if someone or something does not have it he will not even give it a chance. Ibn Hazm personally liked blondes. If a person likes blondes he will pursue an ugly blond even if there are prettier brunettes. It will not matter the brunettes are pretty or not rather it will only matter if they were blonde. This cause of love, like the others, still holds relevance. Today there is a great prejudice against dark skinned people all over the world. In the Indian subcontinent people believe dark skin is a sign of ugliness. There are beautiful dark skinned people but no one wants them because they are dark skinned. People prefer light skin to a point they will buy creams that make their skin tone light or will force their spouses to use the cream. Furthermore there is plastic surgery that changes the size or shape or both to certain parts of the body. This cause of love is even more relevant today than it was during Ibn Hazm’s time. In his time people were stuck with the qualities they were born with. The most they could do was dye their hair. Today we have bleach creams and plastic surgery and we have been brainwashed that we must have certain qualities in order to be beautiful to a point we not only love to see those qualities in the people we love but also in ourselves and we change ourselves.
Anyone who reads The Ring of the Dove can relate the concepts in it to their own lives; from high school students who have crushes to car fanatics to people from the Indian subcontinent. The concepts written in The Ring of the Dove are universal concepts and surpass time and space. Ibn Hazm wrote about falling in love with a quality from his country Andalusia in his time hundreds of years ago, today people from the Indian subcontinent can relate to what he is talking about. He speaks about falling in love through a description, anyone who has been fooled into buying a product from an infomercial can relate to this cause of love. Anyone who heard about a beautiful woman only to discover she is not beautiful can relate to falling in love through a description. Anyone who married their best friend can relate to falling love after a long association. Anyone who had a crush, regardless if they obtained that love or not can relate to falling in love at first sight. Today falling in love while asleep is rare like it was during Ibn Hazm’s time. However if anyone had a fantasy that was completely unrealistic can relate to falling in love while asleep. Only the ways of falling in love are covered above but The Ring of the Dove as a whole is also universal and can be used as a self help book for people in strained relationships from all over the world and from any time. Books like The Ring of the Dove should be read rather than fantasy love storybooks like Twilight. Reading Ring of the Dove one realizes that nothing or very few things ever change and that we can take advice on love from our parent’s generation or from a man who lived hundreds of years ago.
 Muhammad Abu Laylah, In Pursuit of Virtue (Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, 1998), 13.
 Ibid., 16-17.
 Ibid., 18-19.
 Ibid., 21.
 Ibn Hazm, Ring of the Dove trans. A.J. Arberry, Litt.D., F.B.A (Luzac & company, LtD, 1953), 17
 Muhammad Abu Laylah, In Pursuit of Virtue (Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, 1998), 157.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibn Hazm, Ring of the Dove trans. A.J. Arberry, Litt.D., F.B.A (Luzac & company, LtD, 1953), 46-47.
 Ibid., 48-50.
 Ibid., 52-54.
 Ibid., 55.
 Ibid., 55-56.
 Ibid., 55.
 Ibid., 59.
 Ibid., 61.