Ibn Sa,di on Truth-Blindness
By Michael Cook
Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, Volume 33, 2007
Introduction: In his biographical dictionary, the well-known Andalusian scholar al-Humaydi (d. 488/1095) gives an account of the unhappy experience of an earlier compatriot of his, Abu ‘Umar Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Sa,di (still alive in 409/1018f), in the theological debating societies of Baghdad.
We can plausibly date his dialectical misadventure to the third quarter of the fourth/tenth century, since al-Humaydi tells us that Ibn Sa,di met the leading Malik jurist al-Abhar (d. 375/986) in the course of his journey to the east in search of learning, and that he subsequently related his experience of the debating culture to another Malik scholar of the day, the celebrated Abu Muhammad b. Abi Zayd (d. 386/996), in Qayrawan.
The account is reproduced by al-Dabbi (d. 599/1203), a later Andalusian biographer, together with some additional material. Modern scholars have been familiar with the story from the time of Dozy, who drew attention to it in a review published in 1853; since then it has been cited many times, sometimes with partial translations. My purpose here is to give a complete translation of the account, provide it with some necessary annotation, and say a few words about its wider significance.