14 April 1126|
Córdoba, Al-Andalus, Almoravid emirate (in present-day Spain)
10 December 1198 |
(aged 72 years)
Marrakesh, Maghreb, Almohad Caliphate (in present-day Morocco)
|Era||Medieval philosophy (Islamic Golden Age)|
|Islamic theology, Philosophy, Mathematics, Medicine, Physics, Astronomy|
|Reconciliation of Aristotelianism with Islam|
Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد; 14 April 1126 – 10 December 1198), full name (Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد, translit. ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd), often Latinized as Averroes (//), was a medieval Andalusian polymath. He wrote on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography, mathematics, and the mediæval sciences of medicine, astronomy, physics, and celestial mechanics. Ibn Rushd was born in Córdoba, Al Andalus (present-day Spain), and died at Marrakesh in present-day Morocco. His body was interred in his family tomb at Córdoba. The 13th-century philosophical movement in Latin Christian and Jewish tradition based on Ibn Rushd's work is called Averroism.
Ibn Rushd was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against Ash'ari theologians led by Al-Ghazali. Although highly regarded as a legal scholar of the Maliki school of Islamic law, Ibn Rushd's philosophical ideas were considered controversial in Ash'arite Muslim circles. Whereas al-Ghazali believed that any individual act of a natural phenomenon occurred only because God willed it to happen, Ibn Rushd insisted phenomena followed natural laws that God created.
Ibn Rushd had a greater impact on Christian Europe: he has been described as the "founding father of secular thought in Western Europe" and was known by the sobriquet the Commentator for his detailed emendations to Aristotle. Latin translations of Ibn Rushd's work led the way to the popularization of Aristotle.
Averroes is the Medieval Latin form of the Hebrew translation Aben Rois or Rosh of the Arabic Ibn Rushd. It is also seen as Averroës, Averrhoës, or Averroès to mark that the o and e are separate vowels and not an œ or diphthong. Other forms of the name include Ibin-Ros-din, Filius Rosadis, Ibn-Rusid, Ben-Raxid, Ibn-Ruschod, Den-Resched, Aben-Rassad, Aben-Rasd, Aben-Rust, Avenrosdy, Avenryz, Adveroys, Benroist, Avenroyth, and Averroysta.
Ibn Rushd was born in Córdoba to a family with a long and well-respected tradition of legal and public service. His grandfather Abu Al-Walid Muhammad (d. 1126) was chief judge of Córdoba under the Almoravids. His father, Abu Al-Qasim Ahmad, held the same position until the Almoravids were replaced by the Almohads in 1146.
Ibn Rushd's education followed a traditional path, beginning with studies in Hadith, linguistics, jurisprudence and scholastic theology. Throughout his life he wrote extensively on Philosophy and Religion, attributes of God, origin of the universe, Metaphysics and Psychology. It is generally believed that he was perhaps once tutored by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace). His medical education was directed under Abu Jafar ibn Harun of Trujillo in Seville. Ibn Rushd began his career with the help of Ibn Tufail ("Aben Tofail" to the West), the author of Hayy ibn Yaqdhan and philosophic vizier of Almohad king Abu Yaqub Yusuf who was an amateur of philosophy and science. It was Ibn Tufail who introduced him to the court and to Ibn Zuhr ("Avenzoar" to the West), the great Muslim physician, who became Ibn Rushd's teacher and friend. Ibn Rushd's aptitude for medicine was noted by his contemporaries and can be seen in his major enduring work Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb (Generalities), influenced by the Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (Particularities) of Ibn Zuhr. Ibn Rushd later reported how it was also Ibn Tufail that inspired him to write his famous commentaries on Aristotle:
Abu Bakr ibn Tufayl summoned me one day and told me that he had heard the Commander of the Faithful complaining about the disjointedness of Aristotle's mode of expression — or that of the translators — and the resultant obscurity of his intentions. He said that if someone took on these books who could summarize them and clarify their aims after first thoroughly understanding them himself, people would have an easier time comprehending them. "If you have the energy, " Ibn Tufayl told me, "you do it. I'm confident you can, because I know what a good mind and devoted character you have, and how dedicated you are to the art. You understand that only my great age, the cares of my office — and my commitment to another task that I think even more vital — keep me from doing it myself. "
Ibn Rushd also studied the works and philosophy of Ibn Bajjah ("Avempace" to the West), another famous Islamic philosopher who greatly influenced his own Averroist thought.
However, while the thought of his mentors Ibn Tufail and Ibn Bajjah were mystic to an extent, the thought of Ibn Rushd was purely rationalist. Together, the three men are considered the greatest Andalusian philosophers. Ibn Rushd devoted the next 30 years to his philosophical writings.
In 1160, Ibn Rushd was made Qadi (judge) of Seville and he served in many court appointments in Seville, Cordoba, and Morocco during his career. Sometime during the reign of Yaqub al-Mansur, Averroes's political career was abruptly ended and he faced severe criticism from the Fuqaha (Islamic jurists) of the time.
A contemporary of Ibn Rushd, Abdelwahid al-Marrakushi writing in 1224, reported that there were secret and public reasons for his falling out of favor with Yaqub al-Mansour:
And in his days [Yaqub al-Mansur], Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd faced his severe ordeal and there were two causes for this; one is known and the other is secret. The secret cause, which was the major reason, is that Abu al-Walid —may God have mercy on his soul— when summarizing, commenting and expending upon Aristotle's book "History of Animals" wrote: "And I saw the Giraffe at the garden of the king of the Berbers".
And that is the same way he would mention another king of some other people or land, as it is frequently done by writers, but he omitted that those working for the service of the king should glorify him and observe the usual protocol. This was why they held a grudge against him but initially, they did not show it and in reality, Abu al-Walid wrote that inadvertently...Then a number of his enemies in Cordoba, who were jealous of him and were competing with him both in knowledge and nobility, went to Yaqub al-Mansur with excerpts of Abu Walid's work on some old philosophers which were in his own handwriting. They took one phrase out of context that said: "and it was shown that Venus is one of the Gods" and presented it to the king who then summoned the chiefs and noblemen of Córdoba and said to Abu al-Walid in front of them "Is this your handwriting?". Abu al-Walid then denied and the king said "May God curse the one who wrote this" and ordered that Abu al-Walid be exiled and all the philosophy books to be gathered and burned...And I saw, when I was in Fes, these books being carried on horses in great quantities and burned— Abdelwahid al-Marrakushi, "The Pleasant Book in Summarizing the History of the Maghreb", (1224)
Ibn Rushd's strictly rationalist views collided with the more orthodox views of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur, who therefore eventually banished Ibn Rushd in 1195 and ordered his writings burned, though he had previously appointed him as his personal physician. Ibn Rushd was not allowed to return to Marrakesh until 1197, shortly before his death in the year 1198 AD. His body was returned to Córdoba for burial.
Ibn Rushd's first writings date from his age of 31 (year 1157). His works were spread over 20,000 pages covering a variety of different subjects, including early Islamic philosophy, logic in Islamic philosophy, Islamic medicine, mathematics, astronomy, Arabic grammar, Islamic theology, Sharia (Islamic law), and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). In particular, his most important works dealt with Islamic philosophy, medicine and Fiqh. He wrote at least 80 original works, which included 28 works on philosophy, 20 on medicine, 8 on law, 5 on theology, and 4 on grammar, in addition to his commentaries on most of Aristotle's works and his commentary on Plato's The Republic.
Ibn Rushd commentaries on Aristotle were the foundation for the Aristotelian revival in the 12th and 13th centuries. Ibn Rushd wrote short commentaries on Aristotle's work in logic, physics, and psychology. Ibn Rushd long commentaries provided an in depth line by line analysis of Aristotle's "Posterior Analytics," "De Anima," "Physics," "De Caelo," and the "Metaphysics."
His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali's claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa).
In Fasl al-Maqal fi ma bayn al-Hikma wa al-Shariah min Ittisal (فصل المقال في ما بين الحكمة و الشريعة من إتصال translated as The Harmony of Religion and Philosophy, or The Decisive Treatise, Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy), Ibn Rushd proves that philosophy and revelation do not contradict each other, and are essentially different means of reaching the same truth. However, he warns against teaching philosophical methods to the general populace.
Other works include Kitab al-Kashf an Manahij al-Adilla كتاب الكشف عن مناهج الادلة .
Ibn Rushd is also a highly regarded legal scholar of the Maliki school. Perhaps his best-known work in this field is Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid ( بداية المجتهد و نهاية المقتصد), a textbook of Maliki doctrine in a comparative framework.
Jacob Anatoli translated several of the works of Ibn Rushd from Arabic into Hebrew in the 13th century. Many of them were later translated from Hebrew into Latin by Jacob Mantino and Abraham de Balmes. Other works were translated directly from Arabic into Latin by Michael Scot. Many of his works in logic and metaphysics have been permanently lost, while others, including some of the longer Aristotelian commentaries, have only survived in Latin or Hebrew translation, not in the original Arabic. The fullest version of his works is in Latin, and forms part of the multi-volume Juntine edition of Aristotle published in Venice 1562-1574.
Ibn Rushd wrote a medical encyclopedia called Kulliyat (Colliget) ("Generalities", i. e. general medicine), known in its Latin translation as Colliget. He also made a compilation of the works of Galen, and wrote a commentary on the The Canon of Medicine (Al-Qanun fi 't-Tibb) of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980–1037).
Ibn Rush also authored three books on physics namely: Short Commentary on the Physics, Middle Commentary on the Physics and Long Commentary on the Physics. Ibn Rushd defined and measured force as "the rate at which work is done in changing the kinetic condition of a material body" and correctly argued "that the effect and measure of force is change in the kinetic condition of a materially resistant mass". He took a particular and keen interest in the understanding of "motor force".
Ibn Rushd also developed the notion that bodies have a (non-gravitational) inherent resistance to motion into physics. This idea in particular was adopted by Thomas Aquinas and subsequently by Johannes Kepler, who referred to this fact as "Inertia".
Regarding his studies in astronomy, Ibn Rushd argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe, and explained sunspots and scientific reasoning regarding the occasional opaque colors of the moon. He also worked on the description of the spheres, and movement of the spheres.
The tradition of Islamic philosophy
Ibn Rushd furthered the tradition of Greek philosophy in the Islamic world (falsafa). His commentaries removed the neo-Platonic bias of his predecessors. Criticizing al-Farabi's attempt to merge Plato and Aristotle's ideas, Ibn Rushd argued that Aristotle's philosophy diverged in significant ways from Plato's. Averroes rejected Avicenna's Neoplatonism which was partly based on the works of neo-Platonic philosophers, Plotinus and Proclus, which were mistakenly attributed to Aristotle.
In metaphysics, or more exactly ontology, Ibn Rushd rejects the view advanced by Avicenna that existence is merely accidental. Avicenna holds that "essence is ontologically prior to existence". The accidental are attributes which are not essential, but rather are additional contingent characteristics. Ibn Rushd, following Aristotle, holds that individual existing substances are primary. One may separate them mentally; however, ontologically speaking, existence and essence are one. According to Fakhry, this represents a change from Plato's theory of Ideas, where ideas precede particulars, to Aristotle's theory where particulars come first and the essence is "arrived at by a process of abstraction."
Commentaries on Aristotle and Plato
Ibn Rushd wrote commentaries on most of the surviving works of Aristotle working from Arabic translations. He wrote three types of commentaries. The short commentary (jami) is generally an epitome; the middle commentary (talkhis) is a paraphrase; the long commentary (tafsir) includes the whole text with a detailed analysis of each line.
Not having access to Aristotle's Politics, Ibn Rushd substituted Plato's Republic. Ibn Rushd, following Plato's paternalistic model, advances an authoritarian ideal. Absolute monarchy, led by a philosopher-king, creates a justly ordered society. This requires extensive use of coercion, although persuasion is preferred and is possible if the young are properly raised. Rhetoric, not logic, is the appropriate road to truth for the common man. Demonstrative knowledge via philosophy and logic requires special study. Rhetoric aids religion in reaching the masses.
Following Plato, Ibn Rushd accepts the principle of women's equality. They should be educated and allowed to serve in the military; the best among them might be tomorrow's philosophers or rulers. He also accepts Plato's illiberal measures such as the censorship of literature. He uses examples from Arab history to illustrate just and degenerate political orders.
Independent philosophical works
His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali's claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa). Al-Ghazali argued that Aristotelianism, especially as presented in the writings of Avicenna, was self-contradictory and an affront to the teachings of Islam. Ibn Rushd's rebuttal was two-pronged: he contended both that al-Ghazali's arguments were mistaken and that, in any case, the system of Avicenna was a distortion of genuine Aristotelianism so that al-Ghazali was aiming at the wrong target.
Whereas al-Ghazali believed that phenomenon such as cotton burning when coming into contact with fire happened each and every time only because God willed it to happen -- "all earthly occurrences depend on heavenly occurrences"—Ibn Rushd, by contrast insisted while God created the natural law, humans "could more usefully say that fire cause cotton to burn -- because creation had a pattern that they could discern."
In Kitab al-Kashf, which argued against the proofs of Islam advanced by the Ash'arite school and discussed what proofs, on the popular level, should be used instead.
Ibn Rushd is most famous for his commentaries of Aristotle's works, which had been mostly forgotten in the West. Before 1150, only a few of Aristotle's works existed in translation in Latin Europe, although the tradition of great philosophers and poets of antiquity continued to be studied and copied in the Greek Byzantium. It was to some degree through the Latin translations of Ibn Rushd's work beginning in the thirteenth century, that the legacy of Aristotle was recovered in the Latin West.
Ibn Rushd's work on Aristotle spans almost three decades, and he wrote commentaries on almost all of Aristotle's work except for Aristotle's Politics, to which he did not have access. Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy. Moses Maimonides, Samuel Ben Tibbon, Juda Ben Solomon Choen, and Shem Tob Ben Joseph Falaquera were Jewish philosophers influenced by Ibn Rushd. His ideas were assimilated by Siger of Brabant and Thomas Aquinas and others (especially in the University of Paris) within the Christian scholastic tradition which valued Aristotelian logic. Famous scholastics such as Aquinas did not refer to him by name, simply calling him "The Commentator" and calling Aristotle "The Philosopher." Ibn Rushd had no discernible influence on Islamic philosophic thought until modern times. His death coincides with a change in the culture of Al-Andalus. In his work Fasl al-Maqāl (translated a. o. as The Decisive Treatise), he stresses the importance of analytical thinking as a prerequisite to interpret the Qur'an.
Jurisprudence and law
Ibn Rushd is also a highly regarded legal scholar of the Maliki school. Perhaps his best-known work in this field is "Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid, "a textbook of Maliki doctrine in a comparative framework, which is rendered in English as The Distinguished Jurist's Primer. He is also the author of "al-Bayān wa'l-Taḥṣīl, wa'l-Sharḥ wa'l-Tawjīh wa'l-Ta`līl fi Masā'il al-Mustakhraja, "a long and detailed commentary based on the "Mustakhraja" of Muḥammad al-`Utbī al-Qurtubī.
- Reflecting the deference that some medieval European scholars paid to him, Ibn Rushd is named by Dante in The Divine Comedy along with the thinkers and creative minds of ancient Greece and Rome whose spirits dwell in "the place that favor owes to fame" in Limbo.
- Ibn Rushd appears in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, entitled "Averroes's Search", in which he is portrayed trying to find the meanings of the words tragedy and comedy. He is briefly mentioned in the novel Ulysses by James Joyce alongside Maimonides. He appears to be waiting outside the walls of the ancient city of Cordoba in Alamgir Hashmi's poem "In Cordoba".
- The claim that Ibn Rushd deserves equal respect with Maimonides got the fictional Balthazar Abrabanel banished from Amsterdam by the Amsterdam rabbinate in Eric Flint's novel 1634.
- Ibn Rushd is the title of a play called "The Gladius and The Rose", written by Tunisian writer Mohamed Ghozzi, and which took first prize in the theater festival in Charjah in 1999.
- In his memoir, the British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie recalls that his father adopted the family name "Rushdie" in honour of Ibn Rushd, who also appears as a character in Rushdie's novel, "Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights".
- The asteroid 8318 Averroes was named in his honor.
- The plant genus Averrhoa was named after him.
- A lunar crater, ibn Rushd, was also named in his honor
- The Muslim pop musician Kareem Salama composed and performed a song in 2007 titled "Aristotle and Averroes".
- Ibn Rushd is the subject of the film Al Massir (Destiny) by Youssef Chahine.
- The Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought, awarded since 1999, is named after him.
- Liz Sonneborn: Averroes (Ibn Rushd)): Muslim scholar, philosopher, and physician of the twelfth century, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005 (ISBN 1404205144, ISBN 978-1-4042-0514-7) p.31
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Thomas Aquinas admitted relying heavily on Averroes to understand Aristotle.
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- Works of Averroes
- DARE, the Digital Averroes Research Environment, an ongoing effort to collect digital images of all Averroes manuscripts and full texts of all three language-traditions.
- Averroes, Islamic Philosophy Online (links to works by and about Averroes in several languages)
- The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes: Tractata translated from the Arabic, trans. Mohammad Jamil-ur-Rehman, 1921
- The Incoherence of the Incoherence translation by Simon van den Bergh. [N. B. : This also contains a translation of most of the tahafut as the refutations are mostly commentary of al-Ghazali statements that were quoted verbatim.] There is also an Italian translation by Massimo Campanini, Averroè, L'incoerenza dell'incoerenza dei filosofi, Turin, Utet, 1997.
- SIEPM Virtual Library, including scanned copies (PDF) of the Editio Juntina of Averroes' works in Latin (Venice 1550–1562)
- Information about Averroes
- Forcada, Miquel (2007). "Ibn Rushd: Abū al‐Walīd Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Rushd al‐Ḥafīd". In Thomas Hockey; et al. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer. pp. 564–5. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. (PDF version)
- Iskandar, Albert Z. (2008) [1970-80]. "Ibn Rushd, Abū'L-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muḥammad". Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Encyclopedia.com.
- Fouad Ben Ahmed. "Ibn Rušd: Knowledge, pleasures and analogy", in: Philosophia: E-Journal of Philosophy and Culture, 4/2013. ISSN 1314-5606
- Averroes on In Our Time at the BBC. (listen now)
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Averroes". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Averroes". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- DARE Bibliography, a comprehensive overview of the extant bibliography
- Averroes Database, including a full bibliography of his works
- "Averroes", BBC Radio 4 discussion, 5 October 2006, "In Our Time" programme.