The Case of the Toledan Accused of Heresy: Accused Heretics' Right to Challenge Witnesses (Early 11th-Century Toledo)

A Toledan man named Ibn Ḥātim was accused of being a heretic by sixty witnesses on the initiative of a fellow Toledan called Ibn Labīd al-Murābiṭ. The judge consulted with the local jurists, and following their legal opinions, he sentenced the accused to death. However, he granted the accused the right to challenge the witnesses (iʿdhār). Ibn Ḥātim escaped from Toledo and found refuge in the neighboring kingdom of Badajoz. Ibn Labīd went after him, carrying a copy of the judge’s sentence (tasjīl) along with the legal opinions of a number of non-Toledan jurists. In Badajoz, the ruler withdrew his support from Ibn Ḥātim, who fled again, this time to Cordoba. While in Cordoba, the “moral” police arrested Ibn Ḥātim, and the judge imprisoned him, giving him two months to prove his innocence. Unable to do so, Ibn Ḥātim was crucified alive. A number of legal issues arise in the course of this case: should the process of iʽdhār—the right to challenge witnesses—be granted to those accused of heresy (zandaqa)? Should refuge be granted to them? What happens with the estate or inheritance of an executed zindīq? Can a judge reverse a sentence given by another judge? The source is a collection of court cases by Andalusi scholar Ibn Sahl (d. 486/1093), and it is based on information directly available to the compiler, who was also a witness of most of the events described.

The historical context*

Toledo, 457/1064-464/1072

In 422/1031, when the Umayyad caliphate was abolished in Córdoba, al-Andalus had already begun fragmenting into “party-kingdoms” (mulūk al-awāʼif). The northern part of the Iberian Peninsula was divided into the Christian kingdoms of Galicia, León, Castille, Navarre, Aragon, and the county of Barcelona. Along the frontier were the Muslim kingdoms of Zaragoza, Toledo, and Badajoz, which were the most important towns of the Marches. The Eastern part of al-Andalus was divided into smaller units including the ṭāʾifa kingdoms of Denia and Murcia (this, for a time, having been incorporated by Seville). In the South, the ʿAbbādid party-kingdom of Seville developed into one of the most powerful states in al-Andalus through its expansionist policies. Other dominant party-kingdoms were those of Almería (which was visited, as we shall see by one of the characters involved in the affair, Ibn Labīd) and Granada (which was controlled by a Berber dynasty).[1]

A Berber family, the Banū Dhī al-Nūn, ruled Toledo. From the beginning of the dynasty under Ismāʽīl al-Ẓāfir (r. 409–435/1018–1043) and during the reign of his successor al-Maʾmūn (r. 435–467/1043–1075), the Banū Dhī al-Nūn had been supported by a powerful and distinguished Toledan family, the Banū al-Ḥadīdī,[2] whose most important members were Abū Bakr Yaḥyā b. Saʽīd b. al-Ḥadīdī (d. 468/1075) and his brother Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad. The Banū al-Ḥadīdī family maintained close ties with the philosopher Ṣāʿid b. Aḥmad al-Taghlibī, who famously authored the abaqāt al-umam, a book devoted to the non-Islamic sciences (ʿulūm al-awāʼil), which examined the history of mankind’s scientific development. From 438/1047 on, Ṣāʽidʼs father, Abū al-Walīd Aḥmad, served as judge of Toledo until his death in 449/1057. In 450/1058, Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ became judge, and it was he who presided over Ibn Ḥātimʼs trial. Ṣāʿid replaced Abū Zayd in 460/1067 but served for only a short period as he died two years later.[3] In 456/1064, during Abū Zaydʼs tenure as judge, a major event shocked the Muslim community: the town of Barbastro in the Upper March fell into Christian hands.[4]

It was in this climate, agitated by the Christians’ military threat, that Ibn Ḥātimʼs trial took place. To add additional context, in March of 460/1068, the judge Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ and three fuqahāʾ (jurists) involved in Ibn Ḥātimʼs trial, were accused by Yaḥyā b. Saʿīd b. al-Ḥadīdī of conspiring against the Toledan king al-Maʾmūn and imprisoned. In the same year, al-Maʼmūn signed a treaty with the ʿAbbādid king of Seville, al-Muʿtaḍid (r. 433–461/1041–1068), in which he secured al-Muʿtaḍid’s pledge to aide him in conquering Córdoba. Al-Maʼmūn laid siege to Córdoba in 461/1068, but al-Muʿtaḍid died later that year, and his successor, al-Muʿtamid (r. 461–484/1068–1091), reneged on the treaty. In 461/1069 al-Muʿtamid conquered Córdoba for himself, and during this period, Ibn Ḥātim—the protagonist of the affair—as we shall see, visited Córdoba on his way to Zaragoza.[5]

In the year 464/1072, Alfonso VI, king of Castilla, was in exile in Toledo. By 466/1074, having regained his kingdom, Alfonso VI was campaigning in the Muslim south-west of the Peninsula in concert with his Toledan ally, al-Maʼmūn. The campaign achieved two aims: the exaction of an annual tribute from the king of Granada and al-Maʾmūn’s conquest of Córdoba. The Toledans began paying tribute (parias) to the kings of Castilla and León in 1043. This payment became regular in 1062 under al-Maʾmūn, two years before Ibn Ḥātim’s trial. However, the tribute arrangement did not ultimately protect them from Christian conquest.[6]

Cordoba fell into Toledan hands in Jumādā II 467/ February 1075, the year of the death of the Toledan king al-Maʾmūn.[7] Later that year, during the reign of al-Maʾmūnʼs successor al-Qādir (r. 467–478/1075–1085), those fuqahāʾ who had been imprisoned for a short period due to criminal allegations from Yaḥyā b. Saʽīd b. al-Ḥadīdī rose up and assassinated Yaḥyā in revenge. Al-Qādir became increasingly dependant on Alfonso VI to maintain power and finally fled Toledo in 472/1080. Then, the Toledans offered his territory to the king of Badajoz, al-Mutawakkil. Yet, al-Qādir soon returned and regained control over Toledo with the help of Alfonso VI. However, in 474/1082 the Toledans rebelled against al-Qādir under the leadership of one of the fuqahāʾ who had been released from prison, Ibn Mughīth. Ibn Mughīth was the son of Aḥmad b. Mughīth al-Ṣadafī who was among the fuqahāʾ consulted in Ibn Ḥātimʼs trial. Finally, in 478/1085, Toledo fell under the control of King Alfonso VI, to never again return to Muslim hands. The Andalusis appealed to the Almoravids (al-Murābiṭūn) – who had established their rule in the extreme Maghreb (Morocco)- to halt Christian dominance in the Peninsula, feeling powerless to resist its expansion.

The case

In the year 457/1064, Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ served as the qāḍī of Toledo.[8] Ibn Ḥātim, a well-respected community member, was connected to the judicial court as he was asked to testify about the reliability of witnesses (tazkiya) appearing before the judge. Ibn Ḥātim’s reputation must have been excellent, as only the most upright and respectable members of the community were asked to perform tazkiya. However, in a surprising turn of events, charges of heresy (ilḥād, zandaqa) were brought against Ibn Ḥātim, tarnishing his reputation and making him the subject of a court case.

Sixty witnesses were gathered to testify against Ibn Ḥātim and they accused him of four expressions of heresy:

a) Denying the reality of the divine attributes (al-taʿṭīl).

b) Scorning the Prophet, ʿĀʾisha, ʿUmar, ʿAlī and other “less significant Muslims” (al-istikhfāf bi-ḥaqq al-nabī wa-ḥaqq ʿĀʾisha wa-ʿUmar wa-ʿAlī fa-man dūnahum) through derogatory statements. Specifically, Ibn Ḥātim was accused of referring to the Prophet as “the orphan,” “the orphan of the Quraysh” and “the father-in-law of Ḥaydara” (i.e. ʿAlī). It is clear from this accusation that Ibn Ḥātim was not a Shiʿi, because he was also reported to have called both ʿUmar and ʿAlī “two fools” (aḥmaqān). Furthermore, Ibn Ḥātim also allegedly stated that the Prophet’s asceticism was not intentional, but rather resulted from his life circumstances (law istaṭāʿa ʿalā raqīq al-ṭaʿām lam yaʾkul khashīnahu wa-inna zuhdahu lam yakun ʿan qaṣdin) and that the Prophet would have eaten finer food if he had been able to afford it.

c) Rejecting the major ritual ablution (al-ghusl) in the case of major ritual impurity (al-janāba).

d) Denying predestination (al-qadar).

Muḥammad b. Labīd (var. al-Walīd) al-Murābiṭ played a primary role in levying these accusations against Ibn Ḥātim, reportedly seeking God’s reward and acting in accordance with the precept of commanding right and forbidding evil (wa-tawallā kibrahu waʾl-itisāb ʿalayhi fīhi Muammad b. Labīd al-Murābi ʿalā sabīl al-isba).[9]

After the charges were brought against Ibn Ḥātim, the judge, Abū Zayd, consulted the four jurist-consults (fuqahāʾ mushāwarūn)[10] of Toledo: Aḥmad b. Mughīth al-Ṣadafī,[11] Aḥmad b. Saʿīd al-Lawrankī,[12] ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Muḥammad b. Salama,[13] and Muḥammad b. Qāsim b. Masʿūd al-Qaysī.[14] Aḥmad b. Mughīth al-Ṣadafī authored the Kitāb al-Muqniʿ fī al-shurūṭ, a collection of model contracts or formularies to be used in judicial cases, including the document to be drawn up by witnesses against heretics, which was likely employed in the trial against Ibn Ḥātim.[15] The four jurists unanimously condemned Ibn Ḥātim to death. However, they also granted him the option of challenging the prosecution’s witnesses (iʿdhār), which meant that his sentence would be annulled if he could produce convincing evidence against them. Judge Abū Zayd recorded and signed the verdict in a document (tasjīl) that included the testimonies of the witnesses and the advisory opinions (fatāwā) of the jurists on the matter. Several copies of the document were reportedly made, but unfortunately the complete document was not copied in Ibn Sahl’s record of this case. Ibn Sahl just gives us the description of the events in Toledo.

Before the verdict was pronounced, Ibn Ḥātim fled Toledo and took refuge in the neighbouring ṭāʾifa kingdom of Badajoz.[16]  In hot pursuit, Muḥammad b. Labīd al-Murābiṭ, who had played a primary role in bringing this case to court, departed Toledo to go after Ibn Ḥātim. He took a copy of the tasjīl and visited the towns of Denia, Murcia, Almería, Córdoba, and Badajoz—in each location consulting the resident jurists for their opinions on Ibn Ḥātim’s case.[17] Ibn Labīd compiled the additional set of opinions (fatāwā) by the non-Toledan jurists and added them to his copy of the tasjīl, including those of ʿUmar b. al-Ḥasan b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Hawzanī,[18] Muḥammad b. ʿAttāb b. Muḥsin,[19] and Aḥmad b. Muḥammad b. ʿĪsā Ibn al-Qaṭṭān.[20]

Specifically, the opinions included answers to a series of questions that Ibn Labīd had asked the jurists of each town to share:

    1. Should the judge grant Ibn Ḥātim the option to challenge the witnesses (iʿdhār)?

    2. Might Ibn Ḥātim challenge the witnesses on the grounds that there was a prolonged time-gap between his alleged heretical expression and their testimony against him in court?

    3. Who could inherit Ibn Ḥātimʼs property [were he convicted for heresy]?

    4. Did Ibn Ḥātimʼs flight from Toledo legitimate the confiscation of his inheritance for the public treasury (bayt al-māl) prior to his execution?

    5. Was it legal to provide Ibn Ḥātim refuge?


Figure 1: Ibn Ḥātim fled Toledo, eventually taking refuge in the neighbouring ṭāʾifa kingdom of Badajoz. Image credit: Víctor de Castro and Luis Molina


Figure 2: Ibn Labīd’s pursuit of Ibn Ḥātim began in Toledo and took him to Denia, Murcia, Almería, Córdoba, and Badajoz. Image credit: Víctor de Castro and Luis Molina

Fatwa 1: Ibn ʿAttāb

Ibn ʿAttāb’s fatwā in answer to Ibn Labīd’s questions was preserved in its entirety. On the first question, Ibn ʿAttāb claimed that there was no basis for iʿdhār because of a precedent established under the Umayyad Caliph al-Ḥakam II (r. 350–366/961–976). The case involved a man called Abū al-Khayr, who was accused of heresy (ilḥād, taʿṭīl).  At Abū al-Khayrʼs trial some of the jurists supported the process of iʿdhār, while others opined against it. The caliph sided with the latter group. Accordingly, Abū al-Khayr was executed without the opportunity to challenge the witnesses who had testified against him. This precedent, Ibn ʿAttāb reasoned, should be applied in the case of Ibn Ḥātim.[21]

Concerning the second question, Ibn ʿAttāb pronounced that the witnesses’ delay in levying the accusations was not a decisive argument (ujja) in favor of the accused.

In response to the fifth question, Ibn ʿAttāb opined that anyone familiar with the affair must not provide Ibn Ḥātim refuge. For textual proof, he relied on Qurʾān 58: 22 and referenced a adīth report wherein the Prophet stated, “Medina is sacred. Whoever introduces an innovation into it or shelters an innovator, upon him be the curse of God, the angels and the people all together.”[22] Both texts, he reasoned, demonstrate that aiding a heretic (mulid) is illegal and subject to punishment. Thus, those providing Ibn Ḥātim refuge ought to repent so that the fixed legal sanction (add) against him—that is, the death penalty—could be carried out.

Finally, Ibn ʿAttāb delivered longer responses to the third and fourth questions about inheritance. He maintained that, so long as Ibn Ḥātim remained alive, his property was inviolable. However, as for what should happen to his property upon his death, Ibn ʿAttāb produced a three-pronged response that referenced the differing opinions (ikhtilāf) prevailing in the Mālikī school: (a) In the Kitāb of Ibn al-Mawwāz (d. 269/882),[23] Ibn al-Qāsim (d. 191/806) cites Mālik b. Anas (d. 179/795), who argued that the inheritance of a heretic (zindīq) and a Muslim were the same. Saḥnūn’s (d. 256/870) edition of the Mudawwana[24] and other books record that Ibn al-Qāsim shared this approach. (b) In conflicting reports, Ibn al-Qāsim reportedly stated that if someone accused of heresy did not confess to heresy (zandaqa) and was not proven a heretic, then his inheritance could be transferred to his heirs. However, the inheritance would be confiscated if a heretic who confessed to heresy and tried to repent had his repentance rejected and was executed for his crime. Ibn al-Qāsim is also reported to have said that, if the heresy of the zindīq was publicized, his heirs could not inherit from him, and his inheritance would belong to the public treasury (bayt al-māl), as in the case of the apostate (murtadd).[25] Moreover, his will and his manumission of slaves would be invalidated. (c) In the Mustakhraja,[26] Ibn Nāfiʿ cites Mālik for the proposition that the inheritance of the heretic, like his blood (ie: referencing his execution), is in the purview of Muslims. On issues of inheritance, this means that his property belongs to the public treasury.


Fatwa 2: Ibn al-Qaṭṭān

Besides Ibn ʿAttāb’s response, the legal opinion of Ibn al-Qaṭṭān was preserved. Ibn al-Qaṭṭān declared that Ibn Ḥātimʼs inheritance must be confiscated immediately and that he should be executed without the opportunity for repentance (istitāba) or  witness challenge (iʿdhār), thereby agreeing with Ibn ʿAttāb in this respect. Ibn al-Qaṭṭān based his opinion on the fact that Mālik had not permitted iʿdhār in a case less severe than Ibn Ḥātim’s and on the notion that the granting of the iʿdhār posed the danger of weakening the testimony of a witness whose credibility had already been certified.[27] Although recording Ibn al-Qaṭṭān’s opinion here, Ibn Sahl (our source for the trial) comments that this transmission of Mālik’s conduct is unsound and to be rejected, as it belongs to the opinions attributed to Mālik that are not taken into account by magistrates—a fact supported by the argument that he never met a magistrate who followed this opinion attributed to Mālik. In contrast, Ibn Sahl argued that the correct approach accorded with Ibn Nāfiʿ’s transmission of reports from Mālik, which allowed every accused defendant the right to challenge his accusers due to the possibility of enmity existing between the accusers and the accused and influencing the case.


Proceedings in Córdoba

Meanwhile, Abū Zayd, the judge of Toledo, wrote to Ibn Baqī,[28] the judge of Córdoba, which was then the capital of the Jahwarid party-kingdom. Through this avenue, Ibn Baqī obtained a copy of the tasjīl and asserted his affirmation of the verdict of the Toledan judge Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ. Upon his arrival in Córdoba, Ibn Labīd requested that Ibn Baqī write to Marwān b. Saʿīd—the judge of Badajoz, where Ibn Ḥātim had taken refuge—to inform the judge of the contents of the judicial document (tasjīl), to affirm that he (Ibn Baqī) supported the verdict, and to urge against providing Ibn Ḥātim refuge. Two men aiding Ibn Labīd delivered the document to Badajoz. Meanwhile, in Badajoz Ibn Ḥātim had obtained the favor of the Afṭasī party-king al-Muẓaffar, for whom he served as a teacher or reader of books in court.[29] Upon Ibn Labīd’s arrival in Badajoz, al-Muẓaffar renounced his support for Ibn Ḥātim. Subsequently, Ibn Ḥātim fled Badajoz and hid in the nearby town of Santarem where he stayed for a while.

Perhaps feeling insecure, he later decided to proceed to Zaragoza, the capital of the ṭāʾifa kingdom of the Banū Hūd. However, Ibn Ḥātim never reached Zaragoza. He was captured on the way when he stopped in Córdoba, which was under the control of al-Muʿtamid, the ʿAbbādid king of Seville. In Córdoba, the “moral police” (mutasiba) heard of Ibn Ḥātim’s arrival and hastened to his lodgings to detain him.[30] They entered on his quarters, pulled him by the hair, slapped him, and brought him barefoot and with a shaven head before the judge, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad b. Manẓūr al-Qaysī. [31]  Ibn Manẓūr ordered Ibn Ḥātim sent to prison while he gathered information about the affair.

At this time, our source for this case, Ibn Sahl—who had previously been secretary of the Toledan judge Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ and had already met Ibn Ḥātim in this capacity—was serving as a legal advisor to the Cordoban judge Ibn Manẓūr. After reading the copy of the judicial document (tasjīl) signed by Abū Zayd, Ibn Manẓūr asked the jurist-consults (fuqahāʾ mushāwarūn) of Córdoba whether Ibn Ḥātim should be granted the right to confront the witnesses against him (iʿdhār). Only Ibn Sahl responded affirmatively, arguing that Ibn Ḥātim could not be deprived of his right to the iʿdhār based on Abū Zaydʼs judgement. Ibn Manẓūr and the Cordovan jurisprudents conceded that Ibn Sahlʼs position was correct, and they decided to grant Ibn Ḥātim the witness-challenger right of iʿdhār.

Accordingly, Ibn Ḥātim defended himself, arguing that the testimonies against him were false and that the Toledan judge Abū Zayd bore animosity against him. (The details here are not recorded by Ibn Sahl). The judge sent Ibn Ḥātim back to prison and granted him two months, beginning on 26th Rabīʿ II 464/21st January 1072, to provide additional evidence to challenge the testimonies levied against him. During this time, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Sawwār replaced Ibn Manẓūr as judge. After two months, Ibn Ḥātim appeared before the new judge, the local jurists, and the king, al-Muʽtamid; but he did not manage to refute the testimony of those who he alleged had slandered him. As a result, the judge enforced the death penalty.

Ibn Ḥātim was pierced to death on a cross with lances at midday on Monday 3rd Rajab 464/26th March 1072.[32] The judge, the king, and the jurists were present. Thus, Ibn Sahl witnessed both the beginning and the end of Ibn Ḥātimʼs affair and decisively intervened to provide the accused with an additional chance to defend himself.


The Case in Context: A Possible Explanation

In his records, Ibn Sahl did not provide any additional details regarding the reasons for the trial or the historical context (discussed above). However, if one delves beyond the accusations formulated against Ibn Ḥātim, his trial might be understood as product of the factional strife among the Toledan notables. Two discernable political factions seem to have played a role in the trial:

1) The Banū al-Ḥadīdī family which was affiliated with scholars such as Ṣāʿid b. Aḥmad al-Taghlibī, who were experts both in Islamic sciences and the non-Islamic sciences. These I would term the “Banū al-Ḥadīdī faction”.

2) The “traditional faction” which comprised other Toledan notable families (including the Banū Mughīth) and traditional scholars of the Islamic sciences.

Disagreements between these factions may have extended beyond the acceptance or rejection of the non-Islamic sciences to include disputes over social, economic, and political issues, especially concerning the relationship with nearby Christian powers. It is possible that the Banū al-Ḥadīdī faction was more favorable than the “traditional faction” toward collaboration with the Christian kingdoms. At the time, the Toledan ruler made no sustained effort to oppose Christian territorial expansion. He even allied with the Christians in a war against fellow Muslims and paid tribute to the Christians for protection.

The ruler of Toledo, al-Maʾmūn, appears to have collaborated with the two factions to retain power. Initially, Ṣāʿidʼs father, a member of the Banū al-Ḥadīdī party, served as judge. Yet the next appointment for the position was offered to a member of the “traditional group,” Abū Zayd al-Ḥashshāʾ, who served for ten years from 450–460/1058–1061. In 460/1068, the Banū al-Ḥadīdī regained power in Toledo. Ṣāʿid became judge, and members of the second faction were imprisoned by the Banū al-Ḥadīdī faction. This political strife provides broader context for understanding Ibn Ḥātimʼs trial. Assuming that Ibn Ḥātim belonged to the Banū al-Ḥadīdī faction, the trial may have been a pretext to discredit his faction.

Moreover, the charges brought against Ibn Ḥātim provide additional insight into the sensitive theological and social issues at stake. Historically, accusations involving the denial of the reality of the divine attributes and the rejection of predestination are repeatedly employed to attack political opponents, and thus are not revealing of the historical context. But the charge that Ibn Ḥātim said that the Prophet was an ascetic out of necessity and not out of choice, leading to the accusation of al-istikhfāf bi-aqq al-nabī (denigrating the truth of the prophethood) touches on an important religious debate of the period. In earlier centuries, Islamic scholarship did not necessarily associate the figure of the Prophet with an ascetic life. Indeed, the most influential Andalusi Mālikī scholar, Yaḥyā b. Yaḥyā al-Laythī (d. 234/849), argued that the Prophet had pronounced himself against poverty. The accusation against Ibn Ḥātim, that he disparaged the Prophet’s asceticism, indicates that, for some in the Toledan Muslim community, the fact of the Prophet’s asceticism was a matter that could not be discussed or challenged. This development might be traced back in al-Andalus to the late 4th/10th century and to the early 5th/11th century, when ascetics and mystics first began to emphasize the figure of the Prophet Muḥammad as a role model and to highlight ascetic aspects of his personality.

The expanding movement of veneration of the Prophet in the Islamic West was well expressed in the famous work by Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d. 544/1149) al-Shifāʾ bi-taʿrīf uqūq al-Muṣṭafā. This veneration movement developed in response to internal Islamic and interreligious polemical debates with Christians and Jews.[33] For example, in the late 4th/10th century and the early 5th/11th century, Andalusi and North African scholars debated the differences between miracles of the saints and those of the prophets and discussed whether there could be Muslims more excellent than the Prophet.[34] Simultaneously, a current of religious scepticism developed among Andalusi Jewish doctors who favoured the doctrine of takāfuʾ al-adilla or “the equivalence of proofs,” which maintained the impossibility of proving God’s existence, verifying prophecy, or establishing which, if any, Abrahamic religion contained the truth.[35] Probably as a consequence of this position, a famous Muslim scholar converted to Christianity upon Toledo’s capture by the Christians. When fellow Muslims censured him for having converted to Christianity, he attested that the God of both religions was, after all, the same. Thus, in practice, he had not changed.[36] These trends were seen as threatening to the belief in the prophecy of Muḥammad by some scholars, and thus, for them, it became important to stress Muhammad’s prophecy, his miracles, and his asceticism.

Additionally, a group of Muslim ascetics sought to justify their own behavior by attributing their values to the Prophet. While the towns of Toledo and Zaragoza (the town where Ibn Ḥātim had failed to seek refuge) were major centers of study of the ʿulūm al-awāʾil (the study of the sciences of the ancients) including philosophy, the Central March—of which Toledo was the capital—served as a center of ribāṭ (military frontier) life and attracted those who wanted to live a life of asceticism in connection with the call to jihād. The murābiṭūn, Ibn Labīd among them, idealized the example of the Prophet[37] and took it upon themselves to compel others to follow their example in accordance with their interpretation of the precept to “pursue right and avoid evil.”[38] Decades before Ibn Ḥātim’s trial (around 403/1012), one jurist (faqīh) had ruled Toledo with severity (shidda) and had forbade women to join funeral processions in an attempt to halt the illicit mixing of the sexes in cemeteries outside the city. The faqīh had also banned the processing of darmak or refined flour in what seems to have been an attempt to restrict the expensive consumption habits of Toledo’s upper-social groups.[39]

Thus, Ibn Labīd and those in his “traditional party” had started to play a central role in determining Toledo’s political and religious culture. Ibn Labīd may have acted on his own or along with others in his group of murābiṭūn in order to protect Muhammad’s prophecy (taḥṣīn al-nubuwwa) against what they considered was an attack on the part of Ibn Ḥātim. Ibn Labīd was likely shocked and roused to action at that moment (in the year 457/1064) by the Christian capture of Barbastro and Coimbra just one year before (in 456/1064). The capture revealed Islam’s weakness in the face of an expanding Christendom and raised difficult theological questions for Muslim believers. Ibn Labīd may have also considered the Muslim military defeat a symptom of spiritual weakness, indicating the community’s departure from the “true path.” For this reason, the dominance of the Banū al-Ḥadīdī faction in Toledo, which demonstrated openness to the rational sciences and was inclined to compromise with the Christians, represented a clear threat to Ibn Labīd’s worldview. Ṣāʿid noted in his book, abaqāt al-umam, that never before in al-Andalus had the rational sciences, and in particular philosophy, enjoyed such acceptance. Yet, he also remonstrated that the advance of the Christians complicated the political climate and made life increasingly difficult for scholars interested in such sciences, perhaps referencing attitudes such as that of Ibn Labīd.[40]

We might conclude then that Ibn Ḥātim was a victim of this complicated political and religious climate. For a long time, he was recognized as a respected member of the Toledan Muslim community and was responsible for witness verification (tazkiya). If we accept that the charges against him reflected to a certain degree his views (specifically those related to the Prophet and other members of the early Muslim community), Ibn Ḥātim had felt comfortable enough to express such opinions that he does not seem to have considered his statements problematic, probably because they had not been subject to attacks before. However, with an increasing Christian military threat, Ibn Ḥātim’s opinions were attacked by Ibn Labīd al-Murābiṭ and his faction.

Between 457/1064 and 460/1067 (the year in which al-Muẓaffar, king of Badajoz, died), Ibn Labīd al-Murābiṭ persecuted Ibn Ḥātim after he fled from Toledo and took  advantage of the political division of al-Andalus to prevent him from finding refuge in the kingdom of Badajoz. Ibn Labīd al-Murābiṭ visited the most important Andalusī towns and collected the opinions on the matter by their scholars. The absence of any central power in this process allowed Ibn Labīd to play a role that proved a necessary link between the legal and religious authorities of each of the party-kingdoms. Ibn Labīd eventually succeeded in pushing Ibn Ḥātim out from Badajoz between 460/1067 and 464/1071, when he secured the collaboration of the judge of Badajoz and pressured the local king to renounce responsibility for Ibn Ḥātim. Ibn Ḥātim fled through Córdoba, which was controlled by the king of Seville, al-Muʿtamid. But at this point, the ‘moral’ police (mutasiba) discovered Ibn Ḥātim and handed him over to the judge. Ultimately, Córdoba witnessed Ibn Ḥātimʼs execution with the approval of al-Muʿtamid. Al-Muʿtamid ʼs lack of support for Ibn Ḥātim might be interpreted as a decision to support “the enemy of his enemy”: the Toledan fuqahāʾ who had acted against Ibn Ḥātim in his trial had been in the meantime imprisoned by al-Muʿtamid’s rival, the king of Toledo al-Maʾmūn, and it was likely in al-Muʿtamid’s interest to support their faction by proving them right in their action against Ibn Ḥātim. Ibn Sahl was the one in Cordoba who was aware of the background of Ibn Ḥātim’s case in his capacity as secretary to the Toledan judge during his trial. But his efforts for giving him the opportunity to bring into light what had caused such a trial and thus perhaps to secure his freedom failed. Too many factors were against him: Ibn Ḥātim thus lost his life.


The source

  • The text was first edited by Th. El Azemmouri, “Les Nawāzil dʼIbn Sahl. Section relative a lʾitisāb,Hespéris-Tamuda 14 (1973), 7-107 (esp. pp. 93–96).

  • A-W. Khallaf edited the text in “Masʾalat Ibn Ḥātim al-Ṭulayṭulī al-maḥkūm ʿalayhi biʾl-zandaqa,” Al-Manāhil 18 (1980), 304–31 and reprinted it later in Thalāth wathāʾiq fī muḥārabat al-ahwāʾ waʾl-bidaʿ fī al-Andalus (Cairo, 1981), 111–24.

  • The text is also included in the extant complete edition of the work: Ibn Sahl, Dīwān al-aḥkām al-kubrā, ed. R. al-Nuʽaymī, 2 vols. (al-Riyāḍ: al-Ṣafaḥāt al-Dhahabiyya, 1417/1997). The edition by Yaḥyā Murād (Cairo: Dār al-Ḥadīth, 2007) reproduces al-Nuʿaymī’s edition.

  • The episode is also recorded in al-Wansharīsī, al-Miʿyār al-muʿrib waʾl-jāmiʿ al-mughrib ʿan fatāwā ahl Ifrīqiya waʾl-Andalus waʾl-Maghrib, 13 vols. (Rabat 1401/1981), 2:328–31.

  • There is a partial French translation of al-Wansharīsīʼs text, based on the lithograph editition of Fez in 1214AH, by E. Amar in Archives Marocaines XII-XIII (1908), 12:312–13.

  • It was previously examined by Maribel Fierro, “El proceso contra Ibn Ḥātim al-Ṭulayṭulī (años 457/1064-464/1072),” in Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Andalus. VI , Manuela Marín (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), 187–215.

  • Finally, this text also references a previous case that was recorded by Ibn Sahl, which contains a relevant precedent.[43]



* This essay is a revised and summarized English version of Maribel Fierro, "El proceso contra Ibn Ḥātim al-Ṭulayṭulī (años 457/1064-464/1072)", Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Andalus. VI, ed. M. Marín (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), 187–215. I have presented it in different versions at The Joseph Schacht Conference on Theory and Practice in Islamic Law (October 1994, Leiden-Amsterdam), the University of Seville (November 2009), the University of California-Santa Barbara (May 2014), and the Islamic Law Workshop at the Program in Islamic Law [formerly the Islamic Legal Studies Program] at Harvard Law School (March 2017). I wish to thank Víctor de Castro, Hannah Hess, Luis Molina, Intisar Rabb, and Sharon Tai for their help. Image credit: Víctor de Castro and Luis Molina.

[1]  David Wasserstein, The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings. Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002-1086 (Princeton, 1985); María Jesús Viguera, Los reinos de taifas y las invasiones magrebíes (Madrid, 1992); María Jesús Viguera, ed.,  Los Reinos de Taifas, vol. VIII of the Historia de España R. Menéndez Pidal (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1994).

[2] The first member of this family on whom we have information was Aḥmad, the founder of the mosque of Bāb al-Mardūm in Toledo. See Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik (8 vols., Rabat, 1983), 7:187. His son, Abū al-Ṭayyib Saʿīd (d. 428/1036), was an important scholar. See Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, ed. F. Codera and J. Ribera (Madrid, 1882-3, vols. I-III), No. 493; Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:38–39. On this Family, see Manuela Marín, “Familias de ulemas en Toledo,” in Estudios Onomástico-Biográficos de al-Andalus, V (Madrid: CSIC, 1992), 229–71, at 248–50; Isabel Toral, “Yaḥyà b. al-Ḥadīdī, un notable en la corte de los Ḏū-l-Nūn de Toledo,” Estudios Onomástico-Biográficos de al-Andalus, VI (Madrid: CSIC, 1994), pp. 395–14.

[3]  Ṣāʿid was born in Almería in 420/1029 and died there as the judge of Toledo in 462/1069. See Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 535; F. Pons Boigues, Ensayo sobre los historiadores y geógrafos arábigo-españoles (Madrid, 1898), 139–40, No. 106; EI1, 4:874–75 (R. Blachère); E. Llavero Ruiz, “al-Ṭulayṭulī, Ṣāʽid,” Biblioteca de al-Andalus, vol. 7: De al-Qabrīrī a Zumurrud, ed. Jorge Lirola Delgado (Almería: Fundación Ibn Tufayl de Estudios Árabes, 2012), 484–99, No. 1789. On Ṣāʿidʼs fatherʼs career as a judge, see A. C. López, “Sobre la cronología del Muqtabis,” Al-Qanara VII (1986), 476–77.

[4]  Manuela Marín, “Crusaders in the Muslim West: The View of Arab writers,” The Maghreb Review 17 (1992), 95–102; Philippe Sénac and C. Laliena Corbera, 1064, Barbastro. Guerre sainte et djihâd en Espagne (Paris: Gallimard, 2018).

[5]  On the struggle for the possession of Córdoba see Kh. Soufi, Los Banū Ŷahwar en Córdoba 1031-1070 d.J.C. - 422-462 H. (Córdoba, 1968).

[6]  Bernard F. Reilly, The Kingdom of León-Castilla under King Alfonso VI 1065-1109 (Princeton, 1988), 117–18.

[7] On the short-lived Toledan takeover of Córdoba, see David Wasserstein, “Toledan Rule in Cordoba,” Israel Oriental Studies XIII (1993), 247–70.

[8] From Córdoba, he was judge of Toledo from 450/1058 until 460/1067 and died in 473/1080. See Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 725; ʽIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:143.

[9]  On the private application of this precept, see Michael Cook, Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). There is no indication that Ibn Labīd acted in any official capacity. No information about him is found in the biographical dictionaries of scholars.

[10]  That is, the jurists who were asked to provide legal opinions by the judge. The advisory council of the judge in al-Andalus has been studied by Manuela Marín, “Šū et ahl al-šū dans al-Andalus,” Studia Islamica 62 (1985), 25–51. See also David S. Powers, “Legal Consultation (futyā) in Medieval Spain and North Africa,” in Ch. Mallat, ed., Islam and Public Law: Classical and Contemporary Studies (London, 1993), 1–21.

[11] He died in 459/1066. Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 122; Manuela Marín, “Familias de ulemas en Toledo,” Estudios onomástico-biográficos de al-Andalus. V, 265–66; Prosopografía de los ulemas de al-Andalus (=PUA): ID No. 1918.

[12] He belonged to an important family of Toledo and died in 469/1076: ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:146–48; Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 134; PUA, ID No. 1023.

[13] He died in Badajoz in 478/1085. Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 729; PUA, ID No. 4524.

[14]  He was secretary (tib) of the judges of Toledo and died in 466/1073. Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 1081; Marín, “Familias de ulemas en Toledo,” 264; PUA, ID No. 10291.

[15]  Ibn Mughīth, Kitāb al-muqniʿ, ed. F.J. Aguirre (Madrid, 1994), No. 63. His is the only among the Andalusi kutub al-shurūṭ to include such a document.

[16] See Figure 1 with his itinerary.

[17] See Figure 2 with his itinerary.

[18] He is from Seville and is known for the verses he composed that incited the king of Seville, al-Muʿtaḍid, to perform jihād against the Christians after the fall of Barbastro in 456/1064. He was killed by al-Muʿtamid in 460/1068. See Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 860; ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:156; Ibn Bassām, al-Dhakhīra fī maḥāsin ahl al-Jazīra, ed. I. ʿAbbās, 8 vols. (Libya /Tunis, 1975-9), II/1:81-94; PUA, ID No. 6969.

[19] He was the most important muftī of his time. Leader of the fuqahāʾ mushāwarūn of Córdoba, he always refused the qāḍī-ship and died in 462/1069. See Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 1077; ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:131; PUA, ID No. 9876.

[20] He was second in importance to Ibn ʿAttāb as a muftī in Córdoba, where he died in 460/1068. Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 128; ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:135.

[21] On Abū al-Khayr’s case see María Isabel Fierro (= Maribel Fierro), La heterodoxia en al-Andalus durante el periodo omeya (Madrid, 1987), 149–55.

[22] The tradition is found in the major adīth collections and was quoted by the Cordoban Muḥammad b. Waḍḍāḥ (d. 287/900), Kitāb al-bidaʿ, ed. and transl. M. I. Fierro (Madrid, 1988), 299, No. IV, 1.

[23] Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums, Band I: Qurʼānwissenschaften. Ḥadīṯ. Geschichte. Fiqh. Dogmatik. Mystik (Leiden: Brill, 1967), 1:474 (No. 17). For its transmission in al-Andalus see Historia de los Autores y Transmisores de al-Andalus (HATA) at

[24] Sezgin, Geschichte, 1:472–73 (No. 13).

[25]  In the Mālikī legal school a zindīq is considered an apostate (murtadd) who hides his apostasy, his hypocrisy being the reason that repentance cannot be accepted from him as he cannot be trusted: see below note 27.

[26]  The Cordoban al-ʿUtbī (d. 255/869?) was the author of al-Mustakhraja min al-asmiʿa al-masmūʿa min Mālik b. Anas. On this work, see Sezgin, Geschichte, 1:472; Ana Fernández Félix, Cuestiones legales del islam temprano. La ʽUtbiyya y el proceso de formación de la sociedad islámica andalusí (Madrid: CSIC, 2003).

[27] On questions concerning the granting of iʿdhār, istitāba, and the inheritance of a zindīq, see Fierro, La heterodoxia en al-Andalus, 179–86; María Isabel Fierro (= Maribel Fierro), “Accusations of Zandaqa in al-Andalus,” Quaderni di Studi Arabi V-VI (1987-1988), 251–58, providing a detailed account of the Mālikī doctrine on zandaqa.

[28] He was a descendant of the famous Cordoban traditionist of the 3rd/9th century Baqī b. Makhlad. He served for two terms as a judge of Córdoba. The first took place during the rule of Abū al-Walīd Muḥammad b. Jahwar (r. 435–462/1043–1069), starting after 456/1064. The second took place once Córdoba had fallen under the rule of al-Maʾmūn of Toledo in 467/1075. The events now described happened during the first term. On him, see Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, No. 108; Manuela Marín, “Baqī b. Majlad y la introducción del estudio del adīṯ en al-Andalus,” Al-Qanara I (1980), 175–76; María Jesús Viguera, “Los jueces de Córdoba en la primera mitad del siglo XI (Análisis de datos),” Al-Qanara V (1984), 129.

[29]  One reading has it that Ibn Ḥātim yaqraʾu al-Kitāb ʿalayhi, and another yaqraʾu al-kutub ʿalayhi. While the first reading may indicate that Ibn Ḥātim was acting as muqriʾ of the Qurʼān for the ruler, the second suggests that he taught at the kingʼs court using the method of qirāʾa. Another possible interpretation is that he was a reader in a general sense, that is, someone who reads aloud books for the entertainment of the ruler and his court.

[30] In the Spanish version of this paper I took this term to mean a group of volunteers who performed the duty of commanding right and forbidding evil, what Pedro Chalmeta calls muḥtasib mutaawwiʿ. See his El Señor del zoco en España (Madrid, 1973), 403–08 (see also pp. 388–93 on Ibn Sahlʼs concept of isba). But now I am convinced that in this case the term refers to officers named by the judge or the ruler.

[31]  According to the information given in the biographical dictionaries, he was replaced by ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Sawwār in the year 464/1071 and died in Seville in 469/1076. Ibn Sahlʼs text, on the other hand, says that Ibn Manẓūr died in the year 464/1071 and that Ibn Sawwār was then named as his successor. The biographical dictionaries record that, in that year, the death of a judge did take place, but it was Ibn Sawwārʼs, as he died in the same year in which he was named to replace Ibn Manẓūr. On Ibn Manẓūr, see Ibn Bashkuwāl, Kitāb al-ila, no. 1080, ʿIyāḍ, Tartīb al-madārik, 8:155; María Luisa Avila, “Los Banū Manẓūr al-Qaysī,” Estudios Onomástico-Biográficos de al-Andalus. V, 28–29.

[32] The death penalty for those accused of heresy and blasphemy in al-Andalus seems to have been to be crucified alive and then pierced. See the cases of ʿAjabʼs nephew, of the false prophet in the times of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān II and of Abū al-Khayr in Fierro, La heterodoxia en al-Andalus, 57–63, 70–74, 149–55; Maribel Fierro, "Religious Dissension in al-Andalus: Ways of Exclusion and Inclusion,” Al-Qanara XXII (2001), 463–87; Intisar A. Rabb, Doubt in Islamic Law (Cambridge, 2015), 92–93. On crucifixion in general see Sean Anthony, Crucifixion and Death as Spectacle: Umayyad Crucifixion in its Late Antique Context (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 2014).

[33] Javier Albarrán El Profeta: veneración y polémica. Muhammad en el cadí ‘Iyāḍ (s. XII) (Madrid: La Ergástula, 2015).

[34] Maribel Fierro, “The Polemic about the Karāmāt al-awliyāʾ and the Development of Ṣūfism in al-Andalus (4th/10th-5th/11th centuries),” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 55 (1992), 236–49.

[35]  Miguel Asín Palacios, “La indiferencia religiosa en la España musulmana según Abenházam, historiador de las religiones y las sectas,” Cultura Española 5 (1907), 297–320; Moshe Perlmann, “Ibn Ḥazm on the Equivalence of Proofs,” Jewish Quarterly Review 40 (1949-50), 279–90; A.M. Turki, “La réfutation du scepticisme et la théorie de la connaissance dans les Fial dʼIbn Ḥazm,” Studia Islamica 50 (1979), 37–76.

[36]  Elías Terés, “Le développement de la civilisation arabe á Toléde,” Les Cahiers de Tunisie XVIII (1970), 73–86, at 84–85.

[37] See María Isabel Fierro (= Maribel Fierro), “El proceso contra Abū ʽUmar al-Ṭalamankī a través de su vida y sus obras,” Sharq al-Andalus 9 (1992), 93–127. See also Michael Brett, “Mufti, murabit, marabout and mahdi: Four Types in the Islamic history of North Africa,” Revue de l’Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée  29 (1980), 5–15.

[38]  For an example of a Toledan whose biography must have been similar to that of Ibn Labīd see Ibn Bashkuwāl, see Kitāb al-ila, No. 585.

[39] Maribel Fierro, “The Qāḍī as Ruler,” Saber religioso y poder político. Actas del Simposio Internacional (Granada, 15-18 octubre 1991) (Madrid, 1994), 71–116, at 72–78; David Waines, “The Darmak Decree,” Al-Qanara 13 (1992), 263–65.

[40]  Ṣāʿid, abaqāt al-umam, ed. Ḥ. Bū ʿAlwān (Beirut, 1985), 165.

[41]  For Ibn Sahl’s biography, see Rocío Daga, “Aproximación a la obra al-Aḥkām al-kubrà del cadí ʽĪsà Ibn Sahl,” Miscelánea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos XXXVI (1987), 237–49; Samir Kaddouri, “Al-Faqīh al-qāḍī ʿĪsā b. Sahl al-Asadī al-Jayyānī (t. 486 h.),” Majallat al-taʾrīkh al-ʿarabī 37 (1427/2006), 307–32; F.J. Aguirre Sádaba, “Ibn Sahl al-Asadī, Abū l-Aṣbag,” Biblioteca de al-Andalus, vol. 5: De Ibn Saʽāda a Ibn Wuhayb, ed. Jorge Lirola Delgado (Almería: Fundación Ibn Tufayl de Estudios Árabes, 2007), 94-104, No. 1056; Delfina Serrano Ruano, in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History, ed. David Thomas et al., eds., 5 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2009–2013), 3:210–13. Biographical information on all the characters mentioned here can now be found in Prosopografía de los ulemas de al-Andalus (=PUA): Information on figures who authored and/or transmitted books can be found in Historia de los Autores y Transmisores de al-Andalus (HATA) at

[42] Daga, “Aproximación a la obra al-Aḥkām al-kubrà del cadí ʿĪsà Ibn Sahl,” 237–49; Muḥammad ʽAbd al-Wahhāb Khallāf, Taʾrīkh al-qaḍāʾ fī al-Andalus min al-fat al-Islāmī ilā nihāyat al-qarn al-khāmis al-hijrī / al-hādī ʿāshar al-mīlādī (Cairo, 1413/1992); Rocío Daga, “Crítica y política en los Aḥkām al-kubrà de Ibn Sahl,” Boletín de la Asociación Española de Orientalistas  28 (1992), 159–66; Rocío Daga Portillo, Organización jurídica y social en la España musulmana. Traducción y estudio de al-Aḥkām al-kubrà de Ibn Sahl (s. XI), 2 vols. (Ph.D. Thesis, Universidad de Granada, 1990); Manuela Marín, “Law and Piety: a Cordovan Fatwa,BRISMES Bulletin 17, no. 2 (1990), 129–36; Chritian Müller, Gerichtspraxis im Stadstaat Cordoba, zum Recht der Gesellschaft in einer malikitisch-islamischen Rechtstradition des 5./11. Jahrhunderts (Leiden: Brill, 1999); Christine Mazzoli-Guintard, Vivre à Cordoue au MoyenÂge: solidarités citadines en terre d’Islam aux Xe/XIe siècles (Rennes, 2003); Rachid El Hour, “Una reflexión acerca de Ibn Sahl y su obra jurídica Dīwān al-aḥkām al-kubrà,”  Studi Magrebini, nuova serie, IX (2011), 143–61.

[43]  During the caliphate of al-Ḥakam II (r. 350–366/961–976) a zandaqa trial against a man called Abū al-Khayr took place in Cordoba. See María Isabel Fierro, La heterodoxia en al-Andalus durante el periodo omeya (Madrid, 1987), 149–55.