Abu Al-Waleed Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Hafid Ibn Rushd (1126- 1198)

More commonly known in the West as Averroes, ibn Rushd was born in Cordoba, Spain. His commentaries of Aristotle's works earned him the title as The Great Commentator. Students used his commentaries as standard texts on Aristotle, until the 15th century.

Like his predecessor, Avicenna, Averroes had a passion for medicine, and wrote a famous book: Kitâb al-Kuliyya fi tibb (somebody please translate). Eighty-seven of his books are still extant.

Averroes is arguably the Muslim philosopher who has had the greatest influence on Western thought. His influence on Thomas Aquinas is evident, and both believed that there is no conflict between reason, and divine revelation.

A broad minded man and deep thinker, Averroes advocated dialogue between religions, for which, at various times in history, he was condemned by both Christians and Muslims alike.

      Averroës was born est. 1126 - 1130 C. E. in Cordoba, Spain, which had been under Moslem control by the Umyyad Caliphate since the 8th century. Three generations of his family had been dominated by lawyers. His grandfather was also the Imam of the Jamia Mosque of Cordoba. The young Ibn Rushd received his education in Cordoba and lived a quiet life, devoting most of his time to learned pursuits. He studied philosophy, medicine and law.
      Around 850 C. E., Al-Hakim, one of the most influential of the Umayyad Caliphs in Moslem Spain, had constructed a magnificent library in Cordoba, which was said to have housed as many as 500,000 books (this at a time when the largest libraries of Europe would have contained at most a few hundred). This immense collection and the pursuit of scholarship associated with the period laid the foundation for intellectualism in Moslem Spain and provided the background for men like Ibn Rushd, two centuries later.
      Averroes' life was not always full of idyllic study, especially in his senior years. Abu Yaqub, the Caliph of Morocco, called him to his capital and appointed him as his physician. After the Caliph's death, his son Yaqub al-Mansur retained him for some time. However, Ibn Rushd's views on theology and philosophy began to stir controversy in the Court, especially his thoughts On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy. All his books, barring strictly scientific ones, were burnt and he was banished to Lucena. However, as a result of intervention of several leading scholars he was eventually pardoned and recalled to Morocco in 1198; but he died towards the end of the same year.
      As a philosopher, Averroës most important work is the Tuhafut al-Tuhafut, or Destruction of the Destruction, written in response to al-Ghazali's work. He was sharply criticized by many scholars for the unorthodoxy of this book, which had a profound influence on European thought. He outlines in the work a views of fate wherein man is neither in full control of his destiny nor is it fully predetermined. Ibn Rushd also wrote three vast commentaries on the works of Aristotle, developed from Arabic translation. æ The shortest Jami may be considered as a summary of the subject. The intermediate was Talkhis and the longest was the Tafsir. These three commentaries would seem to correspond to different stages in the education of pupils; the short one was meant for the beginners, then the intermediate for the students familiar with the subject, and finally the longest one for advanced studies. None of them are of great value as textual criticism of Aristotle, since Averroës was unacquainted with Greek and Syrian, and therefore based his exposition on a very imperfect Arabic translation of the Syrian version of the Greek text. They were, however, of great influence in determining the philosophical and scientific interpretation of Aristotle. He also wrote a commentary on Aristotle's book De Anima which deals with music (later translated into Latin by Mitchell the Scot) and commentaries on Plato's Republic, Galen's treatise on fevers, al- Farabi's logic, etc.
      According to Ibn al-Abbar, Ibn Rushd's writings spread over 20,000 pages, the most famous of which deal with philosophy, medicine and jurisprudence. His writings were translated into various languages, including Latin, English, German and Hebrew. Most of his commentaries on philosophy are preserved in the Hebrew translations, or in Latin translations from the Hebrew, and a few in the original Arabic, generally in Hebrew script. St. Thomas Aquinas used the "Grand Commentary" of Averroes as his model, being, apparently, the first Scholastic to adopt that style - exposition. Aquinas carfully refuted the errors of Averroës and even spoke of the Arabian commentator as one who'd perverted the Peripatetic tradition, but he was always respectful of Ibn Rushd's intellect and contribution. The same may be said of Dante's references to him. It was after the time of St. Thomas and Dante that Averroës came to be represented as "the arch-enemy of the faith".
æ There is a story by Jorge Luis Borges titled Averroës' Search which reflects a scene in Moorish Spain as Ibn Rushd is sitting at dinner with his friends discussing the glories of the Koran and the limits of nature. It is a scene unusual for Borges, the naturalism of its setting, but he soon focuses on Averroës' translation of Aristotle's Poetics into Arabic. The problem, as Borges depicts the scene, is his trouble with the word "tragedy". The term means nothing to him; on account of there being no tradition of performed drama in Islam. Still, he feels he must try to elucidate the phrase, as Aristotle has become a sort of sacred Islamic text. Finally, in frustration, he settles for "...in the Koran we find many examples of tragedy", which he's aware is pure sophism and says nothing. It is at this point in the narrative that Borges makes the whole scene collapse. The scholar and desk simply vanish, with only Borges voice to explain, " I have no faith in Averroës after this assertion ; therefore Averroes can have no faith in himself; therefore he cannot exist. " See Anthony Burgess', 'On the Short Story', Journal of the Short Story in English, n° 2, janvier 1984, pp. 31-47.

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