A book burner or not? History and myth: Revisiting al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ and the controversies over al-Ghazālī in the Islamic West

Nora S. Eggen

Abstract


A number of scholars in the medieval Islamic West engaged with the work of Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111), and he was both celebrated and criticised. Among the scholars who are allotted with a prominent role in the controversies around his work, is the Ceutan judge and scholar al-Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d. 544/1149). To some extent, his role in the controversies which allegedly resulted in the burning of some of al-Ghazālī’s books, has become a significant element in ʿIyāḍ’s intellectual and historical biography and in construing him as a somewhat fanatic defender of a particular scholarly tradition, the Mālikī tradition, and a particular political order, the Almoravid dynasty. Although ʿIyāḍ’s own writings clearly position him within the Mālikī scholarly tradition and although historical evidence clearly suggests that he sided with the Almoravids in the Almoravid–Almohad conflict of the early twelfth century, the image of a fierce fanatic and a book burner seems to stem from a later date. The earliest traceable source for this image is an anecdote in al-Shaʿrānī’s (d. 973/1565) Lawāqiḥ al-anwār. In other, later sources additional and partly different images of ʿIyāḍ are construed, motivated by the controversies over al-Ghazālī. However the basis for these images is likewise neither to be found in ʿIyāḍ’s own work nor in available historical sources earlier than al-Shaʿrānī.

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