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Ibn Kammūna, Saʿd Ibn Manṣūr

IBN KAMMŪNA, SAʿD IBN MANṢŪR (c. 1215–1285), philosopher, probably an oculist, who lived in Baghdad. Possibly a state employee for a time under the pagan Mongols, Ibn Kammūna was titled ʿIzz al-Dawla; his son, who served as an official, was titled Najm al-Dawla. When his life was in danger, high Muslim officials saved him.

In his studies on Islamic thought patterns (Avicenna, al-Suhrawardī, and Fakhr al-Dīn a-Rāzī) and in his use of the philosophical works of Judah Halevi and Maimonides, Ibn Kammūna's sympathies lay with the science-oriented rationalist trend of Hellenistic origin. This is indicated in the Tanqīh al-Abḥāth lil-Milal al-Thalath ("Critical Inquiry into Three Faiths"), a compendium of interfaith polemics written in 1280. This work begins with an introductory chapter on prophethood in general and is followed by individual chapters on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each with exposition and critique, presented with a conscious effort at objectivity and fairness toward all parties. The material is to a great extent a mosaic of quotations from Avicenna, al-Ghazālī, Maimonides (all unnamed), and al-Rāzī (named). Judaism is defended, or rather, arguments against it are rebutted; since the case for Christianity appears weak to the author, he considers it is his duty to improve upon it, for the sake of argument; and Islam, allotted the longest chapter, leaves an impression that is far from favorable. "The most interesting tract of inter-religious polemics in Arabic" (Steinschneider), the Tanqīḥ is remarkable for its freedom of discussion, presumably reflecting the fact that by the time it was written, Islam had been deprived of its dominant status for over two decades. However, the population was predominantly Muslim, and in 1284, a mob infuriated by a Friday sermon on the Tanqiḥ rioted against its author who had to be spirited out of the city in a cask; soon afterward he died.

One of three Muslim tracts against Ibn Kammūna has been preserved. A Christian, Ibn al-Mahrūma, wrote a tract against the chapters on Judaism and Christianity. Both tracts show respect and even admiration for Ibn Kammūna, and both return to arguments proffered by the 12th-century Jewish convert to Islam *Samawʾal al-Maghribī, whose Ifḥām is named, quoted, and rebutted by Ibn Kammūna.

Ibn Kammūna also wrote a tract on the differences between Rabbanites and Karaites. For internal use in the Jewish community, it is written in much the same spirit of detachment, rational analysis, tolerance, and humaneness as the Tanqīḥ. It includes chapters on the status and virtues of the talmudic sages; the Karaite arguments impeaching the sages; and the Rabbanites' allegations concerning the Karaites. Here, too, Judah Halevi and Maimonides are drawn upon extensively, and the author stresses that his is a new approach.

Among Ibn Kammūna's other writings are commentaries on the works of Islamic philosophers. A fine point in Islamic theology is known as Ibn Kammūna's query (Shubha). A number of his treatises and manuals of philosophical subjects are extant in manuscript, especially in Istanbul. However, there are apparently no references to him in Jewish sources.


M. Perlmann (ed.), Sa'd b. Mansur Ibn Kammuna's Examination of the Inquiries into the Three Faiths (1967), includes introd., bibliog., and Arabic text of the Tanqīḥ; D.H. Baneth, in: MGWJ, 69 (1925), 295–311; L. Nemoy, in: PAAJR, 36 (1968), 107–65. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Schmidtke, "Studies on Sa'd b. Mansūr ibn Kammūna (d. 683/1284): Beginnings, Achievements, Perspectives," in: Persica 19 (2003), 107–23; Y.T. Langermann, "Ibn Kammūna and the 'New Wisdom' of the Thirteenth Century," in: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 15 (2005), 277–327.