"On the way of truth": IBN Hazm's Tawq Al-Hama¯mah and the epistemology of love

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Ibn Hazm's (d. 456/1064) Tawq al-Hama¯mah is a sui generis work in the history of mediaeval Arabic culture. Modern scholarship on Ibn Hazm's Tawq proceeds along three lines: (1) editing and translating the Tawq; (2) explicating the Tawq and enquiring into its originality; and (3) looking into the Tawq from a comparative perspective. I intend, however, to pursue further the question of the Tawq al-Hama¯mah's uniqueness, and I would also suggest a new reading of the text based on the exposition of its epistemology. My main proposition is that the Tawq al-Hama¯mah's idiosyncracies rest on Ibn Hazm's endeavour to advance an epistemic justification of the concept of love. Ibn Hazm stresses that writing on love is beyond any fictional narrative. He underlines the idea that entering into the phenomena of love should adhere to al-haqi¯qah (the truth) and should avoid any kind of flawed explorations. To arrive at an understanding of the work through the angle of al-haqi¯qah, Ibn Hazm further contends that writing on love should be based on three key principles': (i) testimony; (ii) observation; (iii) and knowledge stored in memory. These principles are behind the Tawq al-Hama¯mah's epistemology that renders any writing on love not merely a fictional narrative but a textual attempt to depict the actual human experience. By deploying the principles of epistemology to investigate love, Ibn Hazm's Tawq al-Hama¯mah not only modifies the existing genre of writing on love and lovers but also considers some aspects of this emotion that had hitherto evaded literary and scholarly treatment. This paper will explore Ibn Hazm's perspective on the ways of writing on love and manifest his epistemological approach in exploring the essence of this emotion as well as its causes and symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-62
Number of pages26
JournalActa Orientalia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest.


  • Al-Ja¯hiz
  • Epistemology
  • Ibn Abi¯da¯wu¯d al-Za¯hiri¯
  • Ibn Hazm
  • Mediaeval Arabic theory of love
  • Tawq al-Hama¯mah

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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