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Ab ayyn al-Tawd

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Published Works
Unpublished Works
Lost Works

Ab ayyn al-Tawd, Al b. Muammad b. al-Abbs (ca. 310414/9221023), was a man of

letters and a philosopher. According to evidence in his own writings it is estimated that he was born
during the second decade of the 4th century of the hijra, probably in 310/922 (Yqt, 15/20; Ibrhm,
1617; Muy al-Dn, 10; Qazwn, 2/167), either in Shrz, Nsbr or Ws (see Yqt, 15/5; alafad, 22/39; al-Subk, 4/2).
According to Yqt (15/5), who wrote the most extensive account of Ab ayyn's life, he was
originally from Shrz; and according to Ibn al-Dimy (p. 196), although he grew up in Baghdad, he
was originally from Nsbr. This contention regarding the place of his birth gave rise to debate among
various contemporaneous writers as to whether he was a Persian or an Arab (Ibrhm, 1316; Kurd
Al, 2/498; Muy al-Dn, 1419). As al-Dhahab (Siyar, 17/121) stated, his title, al-Tawd, may be
an indication of the fact that Ab ayyn was either a Sufi or a Mutazil, or one of the so-called Ahl
al-tawd, another name by which the Mutazila referred to themselves. However, Ibn Khallikn claims
in his book that others have maintained that his father was a dealer in a sort of date called tawd (Ibn
Khallikn, 5/113; al-Isnaw, 1/302).
Ab ayyn was born to an obscure and destitute family; he lost his parents at an early age and was
brought up by his uncle, who treated him badly (Ab ayyn, al-Bar, 2/475). There are no detailed
accounts of his youth, and even Yqt (15/6) expresses surprise at the fact that he is not mentioned by
the biographers. He learnt various sciences such as literature, jurisprudence (fiqh), theology (kalm)
and philosophy, from distinguished scholars of his time. During the period between 348 and 368/959
and 979 he became the pupil of Ab Sad al-Srf who was a scholar, jurist and man of letters. Ab
ayyn was taught Qurnic sciences, grammar (naw), jurisprudence, rhetoric (balgha), theology,
prosody (ar) and poetic rhyming (qfiya) by him, and it may be that his inclination towards Sufism
was the result of his teacher's influence (Ab ayyn, al-Bair, 1/38 et passim; see Ibrhm, 30). He
was also taught grammar (naw) and theology by al-Rummn (d. 384/994) (al-afad, 22/39).
His other teachers included such figures as Ab Bakr al-Qaffl al-Shsh, a Shfi jurist, and al-Q
Ab al-Faraj al-Nahrawn (see al-Dhahab, Siyar, 17/122; al-Subk, 4/2; Ibn ajar, 6/370). Ab mid
al-Marwarrdh was another of his teachers, and it appears that it was from him that Ab ayyn learnt

Shfi jurisprudence. Ab ayyn narrated many of al-Marwarrdh's opinions, in particular those that
pertain to jurisprudence, in various places in al-Bair. It is also interesting to note that whenever Ab
ayyn was unwilling to express things on his own behalf, he appeared to do so in the name of Ab
mid (see Ibn Ab al-add, 10/286, 11/118; and see also Ab ayyn's works below).
Ab ayyn learnt such intellectual sciences (al-ulm al-aqliyya) as metaphysics and natural
philosophy, logic (maniq), Sufism (taawwuf) and ethics (akhlq), from Yay b. Ad and Ab
Sulaymn al-Sijistn (q.v.). It would appear from the sources that he went to Baghdad as a child where
he copied books. It also appears that his reclusive disposition, together with his foresight, as declared
by himself (al-Imt, 1/104), prevented him from accepting certain positions that were at times offered
him (e.g. see Ab ayyn al-Tawd, al-Imt, 1/5253, 3/227). Possibly in order to increase his
income and acquire an easier position, he entered the court of al-Muhallab, the vizier of the Byid
Muizz al-Dawla (d. 352/963); however, according to Ibn al-Fris he was denounced and expelled from
Baghdad by al-Muhallab because of his views (al-Dhahab, Mzn, 4/518; al-afad, 22/39; see also
Kraemer, 214). In around 350/961 he went to Rayy seeking to gain entry to the vizier Ab al-Fal b. alAmd's court. It is reported that he remained in Rayy during the period 358 to 360/969 to 971 (see Ab
ayyn, Mathlib, 7, 90, 137); however, he appeared to fall out with Ibn al-Amd and so returned to
Baghdad, and from 361 to 363/972 to 974 was the pupil of Yay b. Ad and Ab mid al-Marw alRdh (Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 151, 313314, al-Muqbast, 104). From time to time he also visited
the court of Ab al-Fat b. al-Amd (see Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 327332, 336, al-Muqbast, 227);
but he too was unable to satisfy the needs of Ab ayyn, and the latter eventually left for Rayy in
367/978 in the hope of receiving a salary from al-ib b. Abbd. He spent three years at his court
(Ab ayyn, al-Muqbast, 207), but he failed to see eye to eye with this vizier also. Ab ayyn
later admitted in Mathlib al-wazrayn (p. 360), albeit a work satirising Ibn al-Amd and al-ib b.
Abbd, that there was no one who could equal these two individuals at the courts of the Byids.
The clash between Ab ayyn and al-ib b. Abbd was apparently due to the fact that he expected
to receive special attention from the vizier (Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 325). However, because Ab
ayyn had praised Ibn al-Amd, al-ib disliked him from the moment he arrived at his court. He
also resented Ab ayyn's tendency to show off his literary expertise and ability (Ab ayyn,
Mathlib, 150151; Yqt, 15/2627), and in order to belittle him, gave him a position as one of his
copyists, while Ab ayyn had always claimed that it was to extricate himself from this very
occupation that he went back to Baghdad (Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 203, 325327). In any case, alib b. Abbd never regarded him as a literary figure, particularly since his prose (see below) was
entirely different from that of al-ib and the rest of the writers in the court whose manner of writing,
copying Ibn al-Amd, was moving towards a style marked by excessive formalism and artificiality,
which had been the trend since the 3rd/9th century. Ab ayyn's sensitivities, in consequence,
impelled him to leave al-ib after three years (370/980) without receiving any payment from him,
and so he returned penniless to Baghdad (Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 207, 325; Yqt, 15/3233). Back in
Baghdad, with the help of Ab al-Waf al-Bzjn, whose acquaintance he had made while staying in
Ibn al-Amd's court (360/971) in Arjn (Ab ayyn, Mathlib, 137138; also see idem, al-Imt,
1/4), he found a small job at the al-Aud hospital in Baghdad (al-Imt, 1/19), and later through the

assistance of this same person and Zayd b. Rifa, he was introduced to Ibn Sadn (see Ab ayyn,
al-Imt, 1/45, 2/34).
In 371/981, at the request of Ibn Sadn, Ab ayyn began writing al-idqa wa al-iddq (see pp. 9
10). After Ibn Sadn was chosen by the Byid, amm al-Dawla, to be his vizier, Ab ayyn
entered his court as his nadm (boon companion, intimate), and spent the evenings with him discussing
such topics as philosophy, ethics and literature; these discussions resulted in the composition of alImt al-munasa, a work that has survived (see below, Works). This vizier is referred to in this source
by such names as Ibn Sadn and at times Ab Abd Allh al-ri (al-Rdhrwar, 40), and these have
been mistakenly understood to refer to two different individuals (see Margoliouth, 88). Apparently it
was during this period that Ab ayyn took part in the sessions of Ab Sulaymn al-Sijistn, whose
opinions he also expressed, as his representative, in the assemblies held by Ibn Sadn (see Ab
ayyn, al-Imt, passim). These pleasant times, however, did not last very long, and with the
dismissal and later the murder of Ibn Sadn in 375/985 (see al-Rdhrwar, 106107), Ab ayyn
was robbed of his main defender. From this point onwards there is little information about his life. It
seems that because of his poverty and his fear of the vizier, Ab al-Qsim Abd al-Azz b. Ysuf, he
led a circumspect existence. Nonetheless he was probably in Baghdad until around 391/1001, which
was the year in which his teacher Ab Sulaymn al-Sijistn died.
For the years 375/985 to 400/1010 there is no information about Ab ayyn save a letter he wrote in
response to al-Q Ab Sahl (see Yqt, 15/26). Apparently during the later years of his life he became
disappointed with the courts of Rayy and Baghdad, and seeking to avoid the flurry of political life, and
in accordance with his reclusive disposition and Sufi inclinations, he joined a Sufi order in Shrz and
spent his time participating in discourses, as well as teaching and writing books. Many of his books,
such as al-Muqbast, al-Ishrt al-ilhiyya and Risla f al-ulm, were written during this period; he
also composed al-Muart during 382/992 for Ab al-Qsim Mudallij, the vizier of the Byid
amm al-Dawla in Shrz (see below, works). These works are entirely different from his other
compositions and are expressions of his mental state during this period, since al-Ishrt al-ilhiyya,
written probably around 400/1010, is a mystical work that is fraught with the spiritual turmoil and
inward torment of the author. It is at this juncture that, owing to various factors such as his sense of
disappointment and despondency, and also the neglect of his works over the previous twenty years, as
well as his fear that they might not be appreciated after his death, that he burnt all his compositions (see
Yqt, 15/1626).
It was only during the last years of his life, when he was more or less completely paralysed, that Ab
ayyn found some degree of inner peace. During the final moments of his life, he raised his head and
addressed those present, who were recalling him to God, by saying: Do you really think I am about to
be taken to an army or the field of battle? No, I am going to my compassionate Lord! (Ibn ajar,
6/370). The historians differ over the date of his death. Some give 400/1010 as the year of his death (alDhahab, Siyar, 17/122); however, it is reported that Ab Isq al-Shrz (q.v.) heard him delivering
discourses in Shrz around 410/1019 (Ibn ajar, 6/372; q.v. Ab Isq al-Shrz). According to alJunayd al-Shrz (p. 54), he died in 414/1023; the year 404/1014, recorded by Zarkb Shrz (p. 149)

is possibly a misreading of 414/1023. He was buried next to the Sufi saint Ibn Khaff (al-Junayd, 54).
The other ambiguous element in the life of Ab ayyn is his relationship with those professional
vagrants and beggars known as the Ban Ssn (see Yqt, 15/5; Bad al-Zamn, 106110; al-arr,
569582; al-Thalib, 3/354373, Ssniyya qada by Ab Dulaf Khazraj). Certainly this connection
either belongs to the interval between his leaving al-Muhallab and the beginning of his association
with Ibn al-Amd, when he was in hiding from al-Muhallab, or else to the period after Ab Sulaymn
al-Sijistn's death; however, given Ab ayyn's advanced years and ill-health at that point, the latter
scenario is unlikely.
The majority of the sources refer to him as a Sufi, and mention his devotion to God and his spiritual
quest (Yqt, 5/15; al-Yamn, 226; al-Subk, 4/2; Junayd, 53). It seems that his inclination for Sufism
took root when he was being taught by Ab Sad al-Srf and Jafar al-Khuld (al-Suy, 2/191;
Ibrhm, 30). He associated with the great spiritual masters of his time, and throughout his works he
narrated their sayings (see Junayd, 53). The Sufi tendencies of Ab ayyn were rooted in ethical,
philosophical tendencies, and according to al-Dhahab (Siyar, 17/121), like those philosophers who had
Sufi tendencies, he saw himself as belonging to the folk of unity and of the realisation of oneness (ahl
al-wada wa al-tawd). Ab ayyn refutes the doctrine of the oneness of being (wadat al-wujd),
together with the exaggerated beliefs that extremist Sufis held about the nature of the Prophet and the
saints (awliy).
According to Junayd (p. 54), there were disputes between Ab ayyn and some Sufis in Shrz, such
as Shaykh al-Shuykh Ab al-usayn, for reasons that are not clear. Al-Ghazl has been regarded as
an adherent of Ab ayyn's approach to Sufism (Ibn Taymiyya, 5/117). There are some accounts that,
in contrast to the stories illustrating his piety and spirituality, describe him as a heretic (mulid). The
majority of these reports are taken from Ibn al-Fris, Ab al-Waf b. Uqayl and Ibn al-Jawz. Ibn alJawz places Ab ayyn alongside Ab al-Al al-Maarr and Ibn al-Rwand, calling them the three
heretics (zindqs) among the Muslim scholars, and refers to him as the worst of the three (see Ibn alJawz, 8/185; Ibn Taymiyya, 5/118; al-Dhahab, Siyar, 17/119120; idem, Mzn, 4/518519). However
the truth of the matter is that there is no evidence in Ab ayyn's extant works to justify the
allegations against him (al-Subk, 4/3). It is possible to account for such accusations thus: his
touchiness, sensitivity and confrontational behaviour towards such significant individuals as Ibn alAmd and al-ib b. Abbd, who certainly had many supporters (for example, it must be
remembered that Ibn al-Fris was one of the followers and attendants of al-ib b. Abbd); his
animosity towards theologians (see below) and objections to leading authorities of Muslim schools and
sects; furthermore, some of his statements calling for freedom of expression which excited popular
opinion against him and gave rise to his being subject to takfr, that is, anathematised as a kfir; one
should also take into account the following points about the narrators of the above stories. In Ibn alFris's version there are a number of points that render his account weak, and hence unreliable; Ibn
Uqayl also harboured anti-Sufi prejudices, to such an extent that Ibn al-Jawz, who was his student,
included some of the major doctrinal points made in al-Muntaam and Talbs Ibls under his influence
(see Muy al-Dn, 6066). According to al-Subk (4/2), the reason for al-Dhahab's attack on Ab

ayyn was his deep dislike of the Sufis. In fact, as with Ibn al-Rwand, the pressures of his life may
probably have pushed him to object to the social order (as opposed to the order in Creation), while his
enemies, either wittingly or otherwise, misinterpreted his criticisms as the sign of an absence of sound
religious faith. In the 88th problem of al-Hawmil wa al-shawmil (pp. 212214), presented to Ab
Al Miskawayh, he asks: Why are those less endowed with wisdom prosperous, and the virtuous
unsuccessful? [or] Why do fools prosper and the wise suffer?
One might describe the story of Ab ayyn's life as a tragedy of a hungry and deprived genius, a
thoughtful scholar who was ill at ease in an oppressive and dishonest society in which ignorance
prevailed. According to the sources he not only was not a heretic (mulid) but, as the majority of them
indicate, he was in fact a respected Shfi jurist (al-Nawaw, 1(2)/223; al-Subk, 4/2; al-Isnaw, 1/301;
al-usayn, 114). He was taught Shfi jurisprudence by the likes of Ab mid al-Marwarrdh and
Ab Bakr al-Shsh and, as mentioned before, his discourses were heard by Ab Isq al-Shrz, who
was an eminent Shfi jurist. It seems that as an eminent Shfi jurist himself, he expressed some
unique opinions in the field of fiqh (al-Nawaw, 1(2)/223; al-Dhahab, Siyar, 17/122; al-Subk, 4/3).
Although Ibn al-Najjr viewed him as a person of sound beliefs (al-Dhahab, Siyar, 17/122), and in
an exaggerated description refers to him as man of strong religiosity (shadd al-diyna) (Junayd, 53),
he nonetheless offers opinions contrary to these in various other places throughout his works, in which,
however, there are signs of distortion and falsification (see Ibn ajar, 6/371; Muy al-Dn, 84119). It
would appear that, for a while, Ab ayyn had confrontations with the Shiis (see al-Dhahb, Siyar,
17/123). However, this disagreement was later toned down, so that, like many Mutazils, he held that
Al possessed a privileged position as compared to the other Companions (Ab ayyn, al-Bair,
1/204), and often narrated adths from him as well as other Imams and Shii authorities, such as alShaykh al-Mufd, al-Sharf al-Ra and al-Sharf al-Murta (see Ab ayyn, al-Imt, 1/141 et
passim; al-Bair, passim). Ab ayyn also explained the appearance of the extreme Shiis (ghult)
as a reaction to the Khawrij (Ab ayyn, al-Bair, 4/285).
Many sources explicitly called him a Mutazil (Yqt, 15/5; Balba, 280282) and Yqt calls him
muaqqiq al-kalm wa mutakallim al-muaqqiqn (a scholar of theology, and the theologian of the
scholars) (Yqt, 15/5). However, Ab ayyn never saw eye to eye with the theologians and always
viewed them with derision. He followed the path of those philosophers who employed an unfettered
intellect to find answers to their problems (e.g. see al-Bair, and al-Imt, passim), to such an extent
that some modern scholars call him flsf al-tasul (the questioning philosopher) (Ibrhm, 151173).
By bringing philosophy down to the level of his readers' understanding, he strove to raise their
intelligence and extricate them from constant repetition as well as imaginings and superstitions, and
thus to lead the most talented of them in the direction of wisdom and knowledge, inspiring them by
means of intellectual brilliance (Ibrhm, 162). As mentioned before, he was taught the intellectual
sciences (al-ulm al-aqliyya) by Yay b. Ad and Ab Sulaymn al-Sijistn, who were the two
scholars who filled the gap between al-Frb and Ibn Sn (Avicenna). He was particularly influenced
by Ab Sulaymn's Neoplatonism, for which Ab ayyn was a spokesman in the second part of his
al-Muqbast, a work that clearly reflects the philosophical environment of the 4th/10th century.

Special features of Ab ayyn's works: One might call Ab ayyn a man of letters par excellence,
one who had studied every discipline. He was praised for his knowledge of grammar (naw) and
lexicology (lugha) (al-Yamn, 226; Ibn al-Dimy, 196). He was thoroughly familiar with subjects
such as philosophy, theology and logic and also jurisprudence and the principles of Sufism. In addition
to what he learnt from his teachers, his extensive knowledge was acquired through reading and the
copying that was his main source of income. Of the literary styles then current, Ab ayyn followed
that of his exemplar, al-Ji, to whom he was profoundly attached (Yqt, 15/5); this, to such an
extent that he was called the second al-Ji (al-Ji al-thn) and he has even, in a somewhat
hyperbolic manner, been regarded as greater than his teacher (see Ab ayyn al-Tawd, al-Bair,
Cairo ed., p. ).
Like the works of his predecessors, such as Ibn Qutayba's Uyn al-akhbr, al-Ji's al-Bayn wa altabyn and Ibn Abd Rabbih's al-Iqd al-fard, Ab ayyn's works are filled with narrations and
sayings relating to various fields, such as jurisprudence and philosophy, prosody (ar) and rhyme
(qfiya), history, theology, ethics, lexicology, grammar and literature, in which aspects of oratory and
rhetoric prevail; and in many cases the subject matter is presented in the form of questions and answers.
The harmony between form and meaning, proper composition (wal) and appropriate use of
conjunctions and breaks between sentences (fal), simplicity and effortlessness, and the use of izdiwj
(coupling) in his writing, as well as his inclination for long and intricate descriptions, are the features of
his style that make it resemble that of al-Ji (see also Berg, 188195).
According to Yqt (Yqt, 15/56), Ab ayyn was short-tempered, and a glaring feature of his
writings is his sarcastic tone towards others. He even delivered some bitingly critical remarks about his
teachers, for instance Ab Al Miskawayh (q.v.) (see al-Imt, 1/3536). Despite this, Ab ayyn's
descriptions of his friends and acquaintances, which appear in different parts of his books, are
significant from both literary and critical points of view. Another feature of his works is an element of
despair. Ab ayyn constantly complains and bewails his own sorrows, and he would appear to be the
only Muslim author to discuss suicide (see al-Muqbast, 196). However, the most significant aspect
of his works is their blend of literature and philosophy, this also being a feature of Ab Sulaymn's
philosophical discourse. All these qualities and characteristics make Ab ayyn's style so distinctive
that he has even been referred to as the great master of Arab prose (see Mez, 1/229).

It is not clear how many of Ab ayyn's works were actually destroyed when he burnt them. What is
available now consists of a few works mentioned by Yqt (Yqt, 15/78) and in some other sources.
The following is a list and brief description of those works:

Published Works
1. al-Ishrt al-Ilhiyya. This is the only surviving work by Ab ayyn on Sufism; it consists of
fifty-four treatises on Sufi exhortations and supplications. It is clear from certain passages in the
book that they were written when he was old (Ibrhm, 100, 101). In this work Ab ayyn refers

to many terms commonly used by the Sufis. Zakariyy Ibrhm points out the influence of the
Psalms as well as the teachings of Jesus in this work (Ibrhm, 101102). The first section of the
work was published in Cairo (1950), edited by Abd al-Ramn al-Badaw. It seems that those
parts from the second section of al-Ishrt that Ibn Ab al-add quotes in his Shar Nahj albalgha (11/269278), have been lost (see Ab ayyn al-Tawd, al-Ishrt, 28). Wadd al-Q
produced an edition of this work, which included hitherto unpublished materials, in 1982 in Beirut.
al-Imt wa al-munasa. This book is a description of Ab ayyn's sessions with the vizier, Ibn
Sadn, and is arranged in a similar fashion to the tales in The Arabian Nights, in forty nights. The
format of the book is one in which the vizier presents a question in such a way that Ab ayyn
may present his answer in a calm and relaxed frame of mind (al-Imt, 1/19). The topics of these
discussions include philosophy, ethics, theology, law, Sufism, literature and mathematics, and even
though this work is a literary compilation, it nonetheless includes many philosophical discussions.
Each meeting ends with a poem or a witty remark under the title of milat al-wid (a parting
witticism) or khtimat al-majlis (conclusion of the session). The issues under discussion are
expressive of the courtly culture of the nobility of the time, containing reflections on social
upheavals and the various activities of those days (see al-Imt, 2/26, 3/8588). In such reflections,
Ab ayyn assumes the role of the people's author. The other useful aspect of this work is the
information that it offers about the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwn al-af), writers of the famous
philosophical treatises (Rasil Ikhwn al-af) (see al-Imt, 2/46). Zak Mubrak (2/143)
maintains that Ab ayyn was possibly one of the brethren himself. In fact it is possible that at
one point his life Ab ayyn may have had some sympathy with them and shared some of their
views because of the resemblance between his perspectives and theirs (see Ab ayyn, al-Imt,
2/157160, the discussion between a Jew and a Zoroastrian taken from Al b. Hrn al-Zanjn; cf.
Rasil Ikhwn al-af, 1/308 ff. for other similarities see Dhakwat, 49). Another of this work's
significant features is the discussion between Ab Sad al-Srf and Matt b. Ynus comparing
grammar with logic (al-Imt, 1/107129). It is not altogether clear whether what is given in the
book is the actual content of the discussions in those meetings with Ibn Sadn or whether Ab
ayyn added to it, including elements of his own creation when composing the book. This work
was composed after 373/983 and, as can be seen from Ab ayyn's own introduction, it was
written at the request of Ab al-Waf al-Bzjn (al-Imt, 1/23, 12, 13, 50, 51). This is one of the
most comprehensive works by Ab ayyn, and was published in Cairo (19391944) in three
volumes, revised and edited by Amad Amn and Amad Zayn.
3. al-Risla al-Baghddiyya, edited by Ubd al-Shlj and published in Beirut in 1980.
al-Bair wa al-dhakhir. According to the author, this work (see 1/3) was written between
350/961 and 365/976; however, some of the historical accounts in the book, such as the death of
Ab al-Qsim al-Drak (375/985), indicate that the author subsequently made additions to it. The
sources used in this work are the Qurn, the Prophet's sunna as well as the author's own intellect
and personal experience (see 1/78). Its most important feature con- sists of the notes taken by
4. Ab ayyn while copying other works. He mentions works such as Ibn al-Arb's al-Nawdir, alMubarrad's al-Kmil, Ibn Qutayba's Uyn al-akhbr, al-Thalab's Mujlast and Ibn Ab alhir's al-Manm wa al-manthr, as well as other works, as the main sources for this book (1/4
6). He uses the same method as al-Ji for al-Bayn, whereby various topics are mentioned in a
miscellaneous fashion without any particular order. The book is made up of sayings and narrations,
together with the author's own critiques and a number of thought-provoking questions. Here Ab
ayyn offers some useful information on various theological approaches, such as those of the

Imms and the Sufis. In contrast, some of the descriptions in it contain coarse and vulgar language
(see Ibrhm, 215226). This is Ab ayyn's most extensive work and is divided into ten sections.
In modern times al-Bair has been published twice, by Amad Amn and Amad al-aqr in Cairo
(1953), and then again in four volumes in Damascus by Ibrhm al-Kln (19641966).
ikyat Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd. This work was first printed by Adam Mez, who gives Ab alMuahhar al-Azd (q.v.) as the author. In an article published in al-Ustdh magazine in 1964, called
ikya Ab al-Qsim al-Baghdd hal hiya li Ab ayyn al-Tawd, Muaf Jawd seeks to
5. focus attention on this work as well as on al-Imt wa al-mnasa and by highlighting the
similarities between them, to attribute it to Ab ayyn (see h, 15). In addition, Ab ayyn's
interest in the vocabulary and terms of abuse used by ruffians and the ordinary mass of people in
al-Bair wa al-dhakhir (1/128) can be seen as a confirmation of Muaf Jawd's opinion.
Rislat al-ayt. This is an account of the tenfold significations of life (ayt) and, according to
the author, the essence of the ninth and tenth significations, i.e. the use of this word (ayt) with
reference to the angels and the divine attribute, al-ayy (the Living), in respect of God, is unclear
to humanity (pp. 5455, 62). This treatise is really a compilation of the views of the philosophers
and thinkers about life after death, as well as being an anthology of the opinions of Greek
philosophers, such as Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato, about life and death. The descriptions at the
6. end of the treatise indicate that it was written during the latter days of the author's life, and
probably after 390/1000. In it Ab ayyn says: Those poor, unfortunate and impoverished folk
who are in need of the compassion of their fellow men because of their perpetual grief, constant
sorrow and overwhelming pain, yearn for death (pp. 7374). One might well ask if the author was
not describing here his own inner state. In 1951 Ibrhm al-Kln published this treatise in Thalth
rasil, in Beirut, and again in Rasil Ab ayyn al-Tawd. Claude Audebert translated it into
French, with annotations, and this was printed in Damascus in 1964.
Rislat al-Saqfa. The contents of this treatise, which illustrate the disagreements between the
Shiis and the Sunnis under the rule of the Byids, take the form of quoting pronouncements by
Ab Bakr, Umar, Ab Ubayda and Al b. Ab lib. Ibn Ab al-add, while citing the work in
his Shar Nahj al-balgha (10/271285), offers a full discussion of its contents and states that it is
really a product of Ab ayyn's imagination, and as with other similar instances he is in fact
7. speaking on behalf of Ab mid al-Marwarrdh (see Shar Nahj al-balgha, 10/285287).
Apparently some years later Ab ayyn said that this work was written in order to counter the
claims of the Shiis, whom he refers to pejoratively as the rfia (al-Dhahab, Siyar, 17/122
123). In addition to Ibn Ab al-add, other scholars such as al-Qalqashand (1/237247) also
recorded the subject matter of this treatise. It was published first in Thalth rasil and again in the
Rasil Ab ayyn al-Tawd.
al-idqa wa al-iddq. Ab ayyn started writing this book around 371/981, at the request of Ibn
al-Sadn; however, with the appointment of the latter as the vizier and his preoccupation with his
new post, for a long time the work remained unfinished. It was finally completed in 400/1010. It is
a collection of prose and poetry by intellectuals both earlier than and contemporaneous with Ab
ayyn, on the subject of friends and friendship. Ab ayyn not only collected the finest sayings
by scholarly and literary figures from the pre-Islamic and Islamic eras, but also made use of the
sayings of Greek, Persian and other scholars. Since there was a thirty-year gap between the
commencement and completion of the work, it is therefore possible to observe the author over this
long period of time, and see him as a man plagued by hopelessness, despondency and

disappointment with the people of his time, demonstrating the constant sense of pain he
experienced during his life (see al-idqa, 910, 475; Muy al-Dn, 200203). In brief, Ab
ayyn believed that it is rare to find true and genuine friendship except amongst those who are
truly pious. This book has been published a number of times in Cairo (1972), edited by Al
Mutawall al.
Risla f al-ulm. This work was composed as a response to someone who claimed that logic
(maniq) has no place in jurisprudence (fiqh), that philosophy has no connection with religion (dn),
and that legal rulings (akm) are devoid of wisdom (ikma) (Risla f al-ulm, 2). It was
9. published in Istanbul in 1301/1884 together with al-idqa wa al-iddq, and then again in 1964
together with a French translation by M. Berg. Ab ayyn defends science (ilm) in this work
and endeavours to offer definitions of various fields of knowledge such as jurisprudence, theology,
grammar, rhetoric and Sufism.
Risla f ilm al-kitba. There is no mention of this work in the available sources, and it is only in
the text itself that Ab ayyn's name is mentioned as the author, the contents of the treatise,
however, confirm the authenticity of its attribution to him. This work is the result of many years of
10 copying by the author, and is the first of its kind in presenting different modes of calligraphy and
. technical penmanship in the domain of Arabic composition. It was published by Rosenthal together
with an English translation in 1948, and again by Ibrhm al-Kln in Thalth rasil (pp. 2749)
and then also in the Rasil Ab ayyn al-Tawid. A Persian translation appeared in the journal
Mishkt in 1371 Sh./1992 (no. 34).
Mathlib al-wazrayn or Akhlq al-wazrayn. This is a work attacking the misdeeds of Ibn alAmd and al-ib b. Abbd, in which the author has quite skilfully satirised their physical and
psychological traits, and takes his revenge, in particular upon Ibn Abbd. Ab ayyn's powers of
expression are clearly manifested here. Some later authors viewed this sort of work as
contradictory to the spiritual principles of a Sufi and so criticised it (see Jabr, 139). Some earlier
authors were of the opinion that this was a work that brought misfortune to those who possessed it
(see Ibn Khallikn, 5/113). It is not unlikely that such a belief was spread by the followers of alib b. Abbd in order to prevent people reading it. It was published in 1961 in Damascus, edited
by Ibrhm al-Kln, and in 1965, again in Damascus, edited by Muammad Twt al-anj.
From the point of view of style and in respect of literary skill, it can be considered Ab ayyn's
best work.
al-Muqbast. This was compiled by Ab ayyn between 360/971 and 390/1000 (see alMuqbast, pp. 104, 219). It consists of 106 episodes of the type of philosophical sessions that
were common in the 4th/10th century, sessions attended by such philosophers as Ab Sulaymn alSijistn (for further information about Ab Sulaymn's views see Jadaane, 6795), Ab al-Fat alNshjn, Ghulm Zual and others. This is a significant work, despite being overlooked by many
12 other writers of the period; it contains some interesting and unique information about the
. philosophers of the second half of the 4th/10th century. What it is worth examining al-Muqbast
for, is to discover whether Ab ayyn simply recorded the oral proceedings of those meetings or
was himself the author of some parts of the discourse. Whatever the case may be, he must be
viewed as a genuine representative of the milieu and ambience of the philosophical sessions of that
time. Like Plato who recorded the dialogues of Socrates (or dialogues on behalf of Socrates), Ab
ayyn familiarises his readers with the various opinions and points of view that existed at that
time regarding certain subjects, withoutin most casesbeing judgemental or presenting his own

point of view, instead allowing readers to make their own judgement about the matters discussed.
Ab ayyn explains skilfully and dexterously the most complex philosophical issues, using
language that has both beauty and literary merit. For instance, while he focuses more on literature
in al-Imt, without being unmindful of philosophy, in al-Muqbast he discusses philosophy
while taking the literary merit of his language into account, and it is for this reason that Yqt
(15/5) refers to him as adb al-falsifa wa faylasf al-udab (the litterateur of the philosophers,
and the philosopher of the litterateurs). Much research has been undertaken by both Western and
Islamic scholars on al-Muqbast; however, there are still many areas of research waiting to be
explored as regards this work (see Ab ayyn, al-Muqbist, ed. usayn, 447). Many editions of
this book have been produced, including by al-Sandb (Cairo, 1347/1929) and Muammad Tawfq
usayn (Baghdad, 1970).
al-Hawmil wa al-shawmil. This work was written when Ab ayyn was at the court of Ibn alAmd in Rayy. It consists of questions (al-hawmil) and answers (al-shawmil) exchanged
between Ab ayyn and Ab Al Miskawayh, the famous historian and philosopher, who was Ibn
al-Amd's librarian. This is an important work insofar as the questions raised reveal the author's
preoccupations. Ab ayyn's questions are not designed to deride or entangle his rival, but instead
are meant to be educational. It can even be said that, in forming these questions, Ab ayyn was
thinking aloud. He also presented questions similar to these, later on, to Ab Sulaymn's assembly.
Although in al-Imt wa al-munasa (1/136) the author makes a scornful reference to Ab Al
13 Miskawayh, reproaching him for dealing in alchemy, one can nonetheless observe from the manner
. of the questions, that when presenting them to Ab Al, Ab ayyn regarded him as his master.
There are 175 questions in this work, covering the philosophical, scientific, sociological,
psychological and other fields. It was published in 1951, edited by Amad Amn and Amad alaqr.
Ibrhm al-Kln compiled and printed Ab ayyn's treatises in a collection called Rasil Ab
ayyn al-Tawd. In addition to such treatises as al-Saqfa, F ilm al-kitba, al-ayt and
F al-ulm referred to earlier, this compilation includes Risla il Ab al-Fat b. al-Amd,
Risla il Ab al-Waf al-Muhandis al-Bzjn, Risla il al-wazr Ab Abd Allh al-ri and
Risla il al-Q Ab Sahl Al b. Muammad.

Unpublished Works
1 al-ajj al-aql idh q al-fa an al-ajj al-shar. As mentioned above, Ab ayyn was
. accused in some sources of heresy (ild), and although no other instances of heterodox ideas have
been found in his other works to confirm this allegation, nonetheless the existence of this work has
been taken as a confirmation of this charge. As for its title, referring to the possibility of the
intellectual ajj, when the opportunity for performing the legal, outward pilgrimage is restricted,
might be taken to imply that the first, purely intellectual pilgrimage, can be legitimately performed
as a substitute for the second, outward pilgrimage. Thus al-Khwnsr, who had not himself read this
work, interprets it as similar to what usayn b. Manr al-allj describes in his own writings as the
pilgrimage of the poor (ajj al-fuqar) (8/9394), Ab ayyn, however, did perform the ajj, in
353/964 (Ab ayyn, al-Imt, 2/155), and according to Junayd al-Shrz (p. 53) he lived in Mecca
in the neighbourhood of the Kaba for a while. In most of the sources it is claimed that this work no
longer exists, and it is referred to as one of Ab ayyn's lost works. Muammad Kurd Al,
however, mentions a book by al-Tawd called al-ajj in the collection of Ab ayyn's works, of
which there is a copy in Leningrad (2/499). Despite not having seen a copy himself, Zakariyy

Ibrhm (pp. 112113) introduces the work with the title of al-ajj al-aql.
2 al-Radd al Ibn Jinn f shir al-Mutanabb. A copy of this work is held in Aleppo (alab) (Sezgin,
. 2/493).
3 Fihrist al-makht (1/383) mentions a work called Risla f al-tashwq il al-ayt al-dima wa
. al-baq al-sarmad.

Lost Works
Other works by Ab ayyn have also been mentioned, but we have no idea as to whether or not they
are extant (for the titles of these lost works, see Yqt, 15/78; jj Khalfa, 1/140; al-Baghdd,
1/685; Ab ayyn, al-Muqbast, 227). These works include:
al-Risla f akhbr al-fiyya (see Yqt, 15/8). This seems to be about the generations (abaqt)
of the Sufis;
Taqr al-Ji. Ab ayyn greatly admired al-Ji, imitated his literary style and praised him
in the most beautiful and eloquent language. Even though this treatise is no longer available to us,
a detailed portion of it appears in Yqt's work (who was himself inspired by al-Ji and Ab
ayyn), in the sections devoted to the life and times of al-Ji, Ab Sad al-Srf and Amad
b. Dwd al-Dnawar (Yqt, 3/2729, 8/150151);
al-Zulf (or al-Zulf): other authors have also made use of this work (e.g. see al-Rdhrwar, 75
77; see also Ibrhm, 113);
al-Muart wa al-munart. This was composed in Shrz for amm al-Dawla's vizier, Ab
al-Qsim al-Mudallij, between 382/992 and 383/993, and it would appear from the title to
consist of a series of literary and lexicological discourses (Ibrhm, 113).
Alireza Zekavati Gharagozlou
Tr. Farzin Negahban

Ab ayyn al-Tawd, Al b. Muammad, al-Bair wa al-dhakhir, ed. Ibrhm al-Kln
(Damascus, 1964)
idem, al-Bair wa al-dhakhir, ed. Amad Amn (Cairo, 1373/1953)
idem, al-Hawmil wa al-shawmil, ed. Amad Amn and Amad aqr (Cairo, 1370/1951)
idem, al-Ishrt al-ilhiyya, ed. Abd al-Ramn al-Badaw (Beirut, 1981)
ibid., ed. Wadd al-Q (Beirut, 1982)
idem, Mathlib al-wazrayn, ed. Ibrhm al-Kln (Damascus, 1961)

idem, al-Muqbast, ed. Muammad Tawfq usayn (Baghdad, 1970)

idem, Risla f ilm al-kitba, Rislat al-ayt, in Thalth rasil li Ab ayyn, ed. Ibrhm alKln (Damascus, 1951)
idem, Risla f al-ulm, trans. and ed. Mark Berg, Bulletin des tudes orientales, 18 (1964), pp.
idem, al-idqa wa al-iddq, ed. Al Mutawall al (Cairo, 1972)
Bad al-Zamn, Maqmt, ed. and annotated by Muammad Muy al-Dn Abd al-amd (Beirut,
al-Baghdd, Hadiyya
Balba, Abd al-akm, Adab al-Mutazila (Cairo, 1959)
Berg, M., al-Tawd et al-, Arabica, 12 (1965), pp. 188195
al-Dhahab, Muammad, Siyar alm al-nubal, ed. Shayb al-Arna et al. (Beirut, 1404/1984)
idem, Mzn al-itidl, ed. Al Muammad al-Bajw (Cairo, 1382/1963)
Dhakwat Qarguzl, Al Ri, Kitb-i Muqbast, Nashr-i Dnish, 8, 3 (1367 Sh./1988), pp. 48
Fihrist al-makht, ed. Fud Sayyid (Cairo, 1380/1961)
jj Khalfa, Kashf
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Hamdani, Abbas, Ab ayyn al-Tawd and the Brethren of Purity, IJMES, 9 (1978), pp. 345353
al-usayn, Ab Bakr, abaqt al-Shfiiyya, ed. dil Nuwayhi (Beirut, 1402/1982)
Ibn Ab al-add, Abd al-Hamd, Shar Nahj al-balgha, ed. Muammad Ab al-Fal Ibrhm (Cairo,
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(Beirut, 1399/1978)
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Ibn al-Jawz, Abd al-Ramn, al-Muntaam (Hyderabad, 1358/1939)
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al-Khwnsr, Muammad Bqir, Rawt al-jannt (Qumm, 1382/1962)
Kraemer, J., Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam (Leiden, 1986)
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Cite this page

Gharagozlou, Alireza Zekavati; Negahban, Farzin. "Ab ayyn al-Tawd." Encyclopaedia Islamica.
Editors-in-Chief: Wilferd Madelung and, Farhad Daftary. Brill Online, 2015. Reference. Emory
University. 02 December 2015
First appeared online: 2008