Ibn Hazm: Medieval Muslim Thinker, Activist, and Polemicist

Ibn Hazm, who lived in Muslim Spain in the 11th century, is best known today for his literary achievements. But like many Jewish and Muslim writers of his day, he was also a scholar of Aristotelian science, a theorist of religious law, an interpreter of sacred texts, and a political activist. His thinking led him to a literalist, exclusionary interpretation of Islam that inspired the persecution of Jews and Christians in 12th- and 13th-century Spain, and for this he is much admired by Salafists today. Reviewing a new collection of essays, Paul Heck writes:

The studies in this volume illustrate the close connection between Ibn Hazm’s writings and his politics. While one did not flow automatically from the other, his life was one of earnest—even zealous—activism, both political and intellectual. One could characterize his activities on the whole as a twofold struggle for the rule of Islam over Andalusia and for the truth of its beliefs over all other religions. He lived during the twilight of the Umayyad Caliphate and the beginnings of its fragmentation into city-states. He was also disturbed at the presence of Jews and Christians in well-placed positions in Muslim Spain and the willful neglect of its rulers to enforce God’s decree, revealed in the Quran, that the people of the book occupy a place of lowliness in the Abode of Islam. The image we have of [medieval] Andalusia today is one of interreligious harmony, but the picture painted here is rather different.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: Andalusia, Arabic literature, Aristotle, Islam, Salafism


If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy