Ibn 'Aqil: Religion and Culture in Classical Islam

By George Makdisi | Go to book overview
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Ibn 'Aqil has already been the subject of a book published in 1963, in which he was treated in his milieu of eleventh-century Baghdad. In the Foreword of that book, I announced that a study of his thought would be the subject of another book at a future date. The long postponement was made necessary by the state of Ibn 'Aqil's works, in the early 1950s, when research for the first book was undertaken. Since that time, I have found some of his minor works and published them: Kitāb al-Jadal 'alā tarīqat al-fugahā ('The Book of Dialectic According to the Method of the Jurisconsults'), and a series of four brief articles on the divine attribute of speech, carrying the title ar-Radd 'alā 'l-Ashā'ira al-'uzzāl wa-ithbāt al-harf wa 's-saut kalām al-Kabīr al-Muta'āl ('Refutation of the Neo-Mu'tazili Ash'aris and Affirmation of the Sounds and Letters in the Speech of God, the Magnificent, the Sublime'). Of his major works, the only one that has come down to us, complete, is the Wāḍiḥ uṣ ū l al-fiqh, on the theory and methodology of the law. It consists of four books, the first of which is in press. The Kitāb al-Fun ū n is the most significant of all his works, as regards its size and the variety of its subjects, both scholastic and humanist; it is a monumental work of two hundred volumes or more, and constitutes, with the Wāḍiḥ, the most famous of his works, according to his biographers. Only one of its volumes is extant, in a manuscript in Paris, which I published in two parts.

The major concern of the present book on Ibn 'Aqil is the study of the main currents of his thought, based on the Wāḍiḥ, the Fun ū n, and what I could find quoted in the works of later authors, in manuscript and in print, since the 1950s. Passages of another major work, his (inextant) Irshād fi uṣ ū l ad-dīn, on theology, are quoted in works of Ibn Taimiya and in the Tuhfa of Yusuf Ibn "Abd al-Hadi, in the latter manuscript. Not all the materials, found in the pages of authors who cited him, have been used in the present study. The translated excerpts not cited in the present work will, God willing, be submitted for eventual publication, both Arabic text and translation. Because of the present state of the sources, the book now being offered to readers is far from being complete on this important religious intellectual. It is only a beginning, which will no doubt be superseded when more of his works are edited and made available for study. It is, nevertheless, a study of what I have found to be essential in Ibn ' Aqil's scholasticism and humanism. Despite the loss of the bulk of his writings, what has survived is sufficient to give us what I believe to be the essence of the main currents of his thought as a scholastic and humanist.

The state of Ibn 'Aqil's works does not enable us to establish their sequence: their chronology was unknown to Ibn Qudama in his Taḥrīm, in


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