Averroes, İbn Rushd


IBN RUSHD, Abu 'l-Walid Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Rushd, al-Hafid (the grandson),
the 'Commentator of Aristotle', famous in the Mediaeval West under the name of Averroes, scholar of
the Qur'anic sciences and the natural sciences (physics, medicine, biology, astronomy), theologian and

I. Life.

He was born at Cordova in 520/1126 and died at Marrakush in 595/1198. The Arabic biographical
sources are: Ibn al-Abbar, Takmila, BAH, vi, no. 853; Ibn Abi Usaybi'a, 'Uyun; al-Ansari, supplement to
the dictionaries of Ibn Bashkuwal and of Ibn al-Abbar (notice published in the complete works of
Renan, iii, 329); al-Dhahabi, Annales (ibid., 345); 'Abd al-Wahid al-Marrakushi, Mu'dhib.

Ibn Rushd belonged to an important Andulusian family. His grandfather (d. 520/1126), a Maliki
jurisconsult, had been qadi and imam of the Great Mosque of Cordova. His father was also a qadi. The
biographers stress the excellent juridical education of the future Commentator; his teacher was al-Hafií
Abu Muhammad ibn Rizq and he became very competent in the science of khilaf (controversies and
contradictions in the legal sciences). He learned by heart the Muwatta'. Ibn al-Abbar mentions that he
studied 'a little' with Ibn Bashkuwal, which implies that he touched on the science of the traditions of
the Prophet; but the same author says that the science of law and of the principles (usul), diraya,
interested him more than the science of traditions, riwaya. He worked also on Ash'ari kalam which he was
later to criticize. In medicine, he was the pupil of Abu Dha'far Harun al-Tadhali (of Trujillo), who was in
addition a teacher of hadith (cf. 'Uyun). Ibn al-Abbar mentions another of his teachers, Abu Marwan ibn
Dhurrayul (notice no. 1714), who (he says) was one of the foremost practitioners of his art. The
biographers do not mention philosophic studies. Ibn Abi Usaybi'a limits himself to reporting, following
al-Badhi, that Averroes studied 'philosophical sciences' (al-'ulum al-hikmiyya) with the physician Abu
Dha'far. Ibn al-Abbar mentions in passing that he 'inclined towards the sciences of the Ancients ('ulum
al-awa'il)', probably an allusion to his knowledge of Greek thought.

In 548/1153, Averroes was at Marrakush. Renan supposes that he was occupied there in carrying out
the intentions of the Almohad 'Abd al-Mu'min 'in the building of colleges which he was founding at
this time'. It is known, through the Commentary of the De Caelo, that he was engaged there in
astronomical observations. It is perhaps to this period of his life that he is referring in the Commentary
of book L of the Metaphysics, when he speaks of the researches which must be done on the movements of
the planets in order to found an astronomy which would be physical and not only mathematical: 'I
hoped in my youth that it would be possible for me to carry out this research successfully; but now that I
am old, I have lost this hope ...'. It is possible that he met at this time Ibn Tufayl, who was to play an
important part in his career as a philosopher by presenting him to Abu Ya'qub Yusuf, the successor of
'Abd al-Mu'min. Al-Marrakushi (Mu'dhib, ed. Dozy, 174-5) obtained the account of this interview from a
pupil of Ibn Rushd, who reported the actual words of his teacher. The prince questioned Averroes on
the sky: is it a substance which has existed from all eternity, or did it have a beginning? (It is known
that, ever since Plato's Timaeus and the De Caelo and the Metaphysics of Aristotle down to Proclus and
Johannes Philoponus (Yahya al-Nahwi), this problem had been fiercely debated). Ibn Rushd was worried
by this dangerous question, but Yusuf understood this and began a discussion with Ibn Tufayl, displaying
a wide knowledge of the ancient philosophers and of the theologians. Put thus at ease, Ibn Rushd in his
turn began to speak and was able to show the extent of his learning. He received rewards and
thenceforth enjoyed the prince's favour. This event may be dated to 1169 or slightly earlier.
Al-Marrakushi also tells us that the Commander of the Faithful complained to Ibn Tufayl of the
obscurity of the texts of Aristotle and of their translations. He wished them to be clearly explained. It is
said that Ibn Tufayl, considering himself to be too old and too busy, asked Averroes to undertake the

Averroes remained in favour throughout the reign of Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (558-80/1163-84). In
565/1169, he was qadi of Seville (Mu'dhib, 222). In a passage in the fourth book of the De partibus
animalium, completed in that year, he points out the duties of his post, and the fact that he was
separated from his books which remained in Cordova, all thingsQwhich made difficult the writing of his
paraphrase (Munk, 422). In 567/1171, he was back at Cordova, still as qadi. During this period he
increased his rate of production of commentaries in spite of his numerous obligations: he travelled to
various towns of the Almohad empire, in particular to Seville, from which he dates several of his works
between 1169 and 1179.

In 578/1182, at Marrakush, he succeeded Ibn Tufayl as chief physician to Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (Tornberg,
Annales Regum Mauritaniae, 182). Then he received the office of chief qadi of Cordova.

During the reign of Ya'qub al-Mansur (580-95/1184-99), Ibn Rushd still enjoyed the prince's favour. It
was only during the last years (from 1195) that he fell into disgrace. Several stories exist on this matter.
It seems that the caliph, at that time engaged in Spain in a war against the Christians, thought it
advisable to gain the support of the fuqaha', who had long imposed on the people their rigorous
orthodoxy (cf. D. Macdonald, Development of Muslim theology, New York 1903, 255). Indeed, not only was
Averroes banished to Lucena, near Cordova, and his doctrine pronounced anathema following his
appearance before a tribunal consisting of the chief men of Cordova, but edicts were issued ordering
that philosophical works be burned and forbidding these studies, which were considered dangerous to
religion. Those who were jealous of Ibn Rushd or doctrinally opposed to him took advantage of the
occasion to criticize him in vulgar epigrams, which have been published and translated by Munk
(427-8 and 517).

But once he had returned to Marrakush, to a Berber milieu which was less sensitive on matters of
doctrine, the caliph repealed all these edicts and summoned the philosopher again to his court. Ibn
Rushd did not have long to enjoy this return to favour, since he died in Marrakush on 9 ‘afar 595/11
December 1198. He was buried there outside the gate of Taÿhzut. Later his body was taken to Cordova,
where the mystic Ibn al-'Arabi, still a young man, was present at his funeral (cf. H. Corbin, L'imagination
creatrice dans le soufisme d'Ibn 'Arabi, 32-8).

II. Works.

The chronology of the works of Averroes has been established by M. Alonso (La cronologia en las obras de
Averroes, in Miscelanea Camillas, i (1943), 411-60). When Ibn Rushd was presented to the caliph Yusuf, he
had already written some paraphrases or short commentaries (dhawami') on the Organon, the Physics and
the Metaphysics, as well as the first redaction of his great medical work, the Colliget (al-Kulliyyat, the Book
of Generalities), requesting his friend Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr to write a book on the 'particularities'
(al-umur al-dhuz'iyya, therapeutics), 'so that their two works together should form a complete treatise on
the art of medicine' (Ibn Abi Usaybi'a). He continued to write the short or middle commentaries (talkhis)
between 1169 and 1178. But from 1174 to 1180 was the period in which his original works were
produced: 'Treatises on the intellect', De substantia orbis, Fasl al-maqal, Kashf al-manahidh, Tahafut al-Tahafut.
The great commentaries (tafsir) did not begin until later. M. Cruz Hernandez (La filosofia arabe, Madrid
1963, 253) has produced a clear outline of the various tendencies which have governed the study of
Averroes's work. Whereas for the Latin schoolmen Averroes is essentially the Commentator: Averroes,
che'l gran comento feo (Dante, Inferno, iv, 144), Renan points out the differences which can exist between
the ideas contained in the commentaries and often presented as those of Aristotle, and the personal
ideas of the philosopher.QNevertheless, even where Ibn Rushd marks this distinction, Renan's attitude is
'this may have been only a precaution to allow him to express his philosophical ideas more freely under
the cover of someone else' (Oeuvres completes, iii, 61). A little later (67), on the subject of the Tahafut, he
claims that 'the doctrine set out in it is, on several points, in flagrant contradiction with that of Ibn
Rushd”. It is true that he bases his judgement on the Latin version, in which he suspects there
are interpolations. For him, as for the followers of Averroes in the Middle Ages, the Arab thinker is the
one who revealed in Aristotle a rationalist method and doctrine, which as such were opposed to
religious dogmas. This being so, Renan, following his preconceptions, considers the theological
writings as artifices intended to deceive or to provide a challenge to the inquisition of the Maliki fuqaha'.
An examination of the biography and the work of Averroes shows that this assessment is entirely
without foundation. Munk, on his side, has attempted to extract from the commentaries Ibn Rushd's
own ideas. Asin Palacios, studying the theological Averroism of St. Thomas Aquinas, considers that the
philosopher's personal ideas are to be found in the Tahafut, the Fasl and the Kashf. Gauthier takes a
middle line; he himself has produced a summing up of the question (La theorie d'Ibn Rochd, 1-18) and,
demonstrating the importance of the theory of prophethood, he ends (180-1) by attributing to Ibn
Rushd a doctrine fundamentally analogous to that of al-Farabi on the philosopher and the prophet:
'The double expression of one and the same truth, in terms which are abstract and clear on the one
hand, in sensitive and symbolic terms on the other, philosophy and religion will thus exist side by side,
without ever clashing, since, addressing themselves to two different categories of mind, their fields will
remain entirely separate'. Cruz Hernandez concludes his investigation by showing the absurdity of
making a priori a choice between the philosopher and the theologian. Since Averroes was never forced
to dissimulate his ideas, he considers that one must admit the sincerity of the whole work and the
fundamental unity of the thought it expresses.

Only a small number of works in Arabic survive. The majority have been preserved only in Latin or
Hebrew translations. Some manuscripts give the Arabic text in Hebrew characters. Brockelmann gives
(I, 461 f., S I, 833-6, I2, 604 f.) a list of the manuscripts, editions and translations. M. Bouyges, Note sur
les philosophes arabes connus des latins, v, a list of the Arabic texts of Averroes, in MFO, viii/1 (1922), may
also be consulted. Among the works in Arabic which are known so far to have survived are: short or
middle commentaries on the Physics (al-Sama' al-tabi'i); on the De Caelo et mundo (al-Sama' wa'l-'alam); on
the De Generatione et corruptione (al-Kawn wa 'l-fasad); on the Meteorologica (al-$thar al-'ulwiyya); on the De
Anima (al-Nafs); on metaphysical questions (Ma ba'd al-tabi'a); on the De Sensu et Sensibilibus (al-'Aql wa
'l-ma'qul), the great Commentary on the Metaphysics (Tafsir ..., ed. M. Bouyges, Beirut 1938-48), the Fasl
al-maqal and the 4amima (ed. with Fr. tr. L. Gauthier, Traite decisif, Algiers 1948, ed. G. F. Hourani,
Leiden 1959), the Kashf 'an manahidh al-adilla (ed. with German tr., with the Fasl, by M. J. Müller,
Philosophie und Theologie von Averroees, Münich, text 1859, tr. 1875). There should also be mentioned the
research and publications of 'Abd al-Rahman Badawi in Cairo.

III. The thought of Averroes.

It seems certain that Ibn Rushd approached philosophy through theQtheoretical sciences. As a jurist, he
was interested in the usul (on this question, see R. Brunschvig, Averroes juriste, in Etudes ... Levi-Proven±al, i,
Paris 1962, 35-68). Ibn al-Abbar mentions the important Kitab Bidayat al-mudhtahid wa-nihayat al-muqtasid fi
'l-fiqh, and adds: 'In it he gives the reasons for divergences, demonstrates their motivations and justifies
them'. What interested him in law was a strictness of thought which, without going as far as that of
philosophical syllogism, entailed a well-defined method of reasoning and a logic. On the other hand, it
is known that he received his first education in philosophy from a physician. At the end of his book on
the Generalities (Colliget), he stresses the method followed and writes: 'We have assembled, in our
propositions, the individual facts and the general questions ... Whoever has grasped the generalities
which we have written is capable of understanding what is correct and what is erroneous in the
therapeutics of the writers of kunnash' ('Uyun). At the time when he was writing the Colliget, Averroes was
studying the Organon and the Physics, which naturally led him to formulate the metaphysical problem.
He thus saw in Aristotle mainly the logician who follows a strict method of demonstration, the scholar
who starts from the concrete in order to explain it by linking it with general propositions. He was to
grasp even better the theory of knowledge when writing a commentary on the Posterior Analytics (1170).
This approach led him to discover the true Aristotle, and he thus learned to distinguish it from the
image of him given by the Greek commentators such as Alexander of Aphrodisias and the Muslim
falasifa such as Ibn Sina. This is why he criticized so vigorously the philosophy of Ibn Sina, while
respecting the medical work of his predecessor (he wrote a commentary on his medical poem al-Urdhuza
fi 'l-tibb). Among the other philosophers, he was interested in the ideas of al-Farabi on logic and was
inspired by his moral and political doctrines in the commentary which he wrote on Plato's Republic. But
he was chiefly in the tradition of Ibn Badhdha, and wrote a commentary on his Risala on union with the
Intellect and on his book on the 'Regime of the solitary'. His relations with Ibn Tufayl are well known:
Ibn Rushd wrote a commentary on Hayy b. Yaqían [q.v.]. There are definite similarities between the two
philosophers, but although both recognize the convergence of the two independent attitudes inherent
in philosophy and revealed faith, in Ibn Tufayl the duality of the persons Hayy and Absal who represent
them (this is resolved, at the end of the myth, in a common life devoted to contemplation far from
human society) leads to a mystic vision of knowledge, which is not at all to be found in Ibn Rushd, as
Renan has clearly pointed out.

A. The theologico-philosophic treatises.

It may be considered that they were written in the following order: Fasl al-maqal and its appendix the
4amima, Kashf al-manahidh (575/1179, which mentions the Fasl), Tahafut al-Tahafut (which does not mention
either of the two preceding works and which, according to Bouyges, was not written before 1180).

(a) The Fasl al-maqal wa-taqrib ma bayn al-shari'a wa 'l-hikma min al-ittisal

('An authoritative treatise and exposition of the convergence which exists between the religious law
and philosophy'). Ibn Rushd begins by giving a definition of philosophy entirely in accordance with the
Qur'anic recommendations. He himself quotes verses LIX, 2 and VII, 184, among others. It is a
rational view of creation which leads to the knowledge of the Creator. These sacred texts
areQinterpreted as a recommendation to use either purely rational inferences (qiyas 'aqli), or to use them
together with inferences based on the Law (qiyas shar'i). Thus the Law establishes the legitimacy of
rational speculation (naíar), whose method reaches perfection with demonstrative syllogism (burhan).
Here Averroes was involved in a quarrel among the theologians about the definition of faith and what
part it should play in intellectual knowledge. His reply is clear: 'The Law imposes an obligation on the
believer, since it must be obeyed when it commands rational speculation about beings: that is, before
undertaking rational speculation, to proceed by degrees and to take account of what plays the same
part in relation to speculation as instruments do in relation to action'. This is less a fides quaerens
intellectum than a perfect faith which embraces rational knowledge. It demands the knowledge of the
qiyas 'aqli, which is indispensable to the true knowledge of God, as it demands also that of the qiyas fiqhi,
thanks to which, in matters of law, it is possible to know exactly the Divine commandments.
Nevertheless this obligation is bounded by the intellectual capacity of each person, since God never
imposes more than an individual soul is able to carry out.

But Ibn Rushd states that a study of this magnitude cannot be made without taking previous research
into account. Thus the pursuit of the above reasoning involves the obligation to examine the works of
the ancients (cf. a similar idea developed by Fakhr al-Din al-Razi in his Mafatih al-ÿhayb, introduction). It
is therefore contrary to the Law to forbid such an examination, provided that the person carrying it
out possesses dhaka' al-fitra (a technical term, derived from a Qur'anic root, to indicate a gift which is
given to man of remembering things and recognizing the truth, which may be translated by 'a keen
sense of the truth'), and al-'adala al-shar'iyya accompanied by ethical virtue, that is a religious and moral
qualification defined by the Law. But not all men accept proof by demonstration: some give their assent
(tasdiq) only to dialectical discourses (al-aqawil al-dhadaliyya), others only to rhetorical discourses (khitabiyya).
God speaks to men through these three types of discourse in order to reach them all (cf. Qur'an, XVI,
126). If rational research ends in a truth which is not mentioned in the Qur'an, there is no problem; it is
the same as in law (this new comparison with fiqh deserves to be noted), when there are inferred by a
juridical syllogism ahkam which are not to be found in the text of the revealed Law. In cases where the
Qur'an does not employ rational demonstration, either it is, in its manifest meaning, in agreement with
the conclusion of the syllogism, and there is no difficulty, or else it is in apparent disagreement, and it is
then necessary to make an interpretation (ta'wil) of the literal meaning in a figurative (madhazi) meaning,
in accordance with the usual practice of the Arabic language. In all this Ibn Rushd's thought follows
the best established categories of Muslim hermeneutics. This, he points out, is what the jurists do; for
tthem it is simply a case of making a text agree with the conclusion of a

The Encyclopaedia of Islam © 1999 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands


Abū 'l-Walīd Muḥammad bin Aḥmad bin Rushd (Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد بن احمد بن رشد‎), better known just as Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد‎), and in European literature as Averroes (pronounced /əˈvɛroʊ.iːz/) (1126 – December 10, 1198), was an Andalusian Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics, physics and celestial mechanics. He was born in Córdoba, Al Andalus, modern-day Spain, and died in Marrakech, modern-day Morocco. His school of philosophy is known as Averroism. He has been described by some as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe and "one of the spiritual fathers of Europe," although other scholars oppose such claims.

His name is also seen as Averroës, Averroès or Averrhoës, indicating that the "o" and the "e" form separate syllables. Averroes is a Latinate distortion of the actual Arab name Ibn Rushd.

According to Ernest Renan, he was also called as Ibin-Ros-din, Filius Rosadis, Ibn-Rusid, Ben-Raxid, Ibn-Ruschod, Den-Resched, Aben-Rassad, Aben-Rois, Aben-Rasd, Aben- Rust, Avenrosdy Avenryz, Adveroys, Benroist, Avenroyth, Averroysta, etc.


Averroes 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.

Averroes’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. Averroes 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 amir Abu Yaqub Yusuf. It was Ibn Tufail who introduced him to the court and to Ibn Zuhr ("Avenzoar" to the West), the great Muslim physician, who became Averroes's teacher and friend. Averroes'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) the work was influenced by the Kitab al-Taisir fi al-Mudawat wa al-Tadbir (Particularities) of Ibn Zuhr. Averroes 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.”

Averroes was also a student 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 Averroes was purely rationalist. Together, the three men are considered the greatest Andalusian philosophers.

In 1160, Averroes was made Qadi (judge) of Seville and he served in many court appointments in Seville, Cordoba, and Morocco during his career. At the end of the 12th century, following the Almohads conquest of Al-Andalus, his political career was ended. Averroes's strictly rationalist views which collided with the more orthodox views of Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur who therefore eventually banished Averroes, though he had previously appointed him as his personal physician. Averroes was not reinstated until shortly before his death in the year 1198 AD. He devoted the rest of his life (more than 30 years) to his philosophical writings.


Averroes's works were spread over 20,000 pages covering a variety of different subjects, including early Islamic philosophy, logic in Islamic philosophy, Arabic medicine, Arabic mathematics, Arabic 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 67 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.

He wrote commentaries on most of the surviving works of Aristotle. These were not based on primary sources (it is not known whether he knew Greek), but rather on Arabic translations. There were three levels of commentary: the Jami, the Talkhis and the Tafsir which are, respectively, a simplified overview, an intermediate commentary with more critical material, and an advanced study of Aristotelian thought in a Muslim context. The terms are taken from the names of different types of commentary on the Qur'an. It is not known whether he wrote commentaries of all three types on all the works: in most cases only one or two commentaries survive.

He did not have access to any text of Aristotle's Politics. As a substitute for this, he commented on Plato's The Republic, arguing that the ideal state there described was the same as the original constitution of the Arab Caliphate, as well as the Almohad state of Ibn Tumart.

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. Averroes' 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. Other works were the Fasl al-Maqal, which argued for the legality of philosophical investigation under Islamic law, and the 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.

Averroes 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.

In medicine, Averroes wrote a medical encyclopedia called Kulliyat ("Generalities", i.e. general medicine), known in its Latin translation as Colliget. He also made a compilation of the works of Galen (129-200) and wrote a commentary on The Law of Medicine (Qanun fi 't-tibb) of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037).

Jacob Anatoli translated several of the works of Averroes 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.



According to Averroes, there is no conflict between religion and philosophy, rather that they are different ways of reaching the same truth. He believed in the creating of the universe by an all perfect god contrary to Avicenna's ideology which was the universe is eternal since god doesn't have specific knowledge(this is the view of Avicenna). He also held that the soul  is divided into two parts, one individual and one divine; while the individual soul is not eternal, all humans at the basic level share one and the same divine soul. Averroes has two kinds of Knowledge of Truth. The first being his knowledge of truth of religion being based in faith and thus could not be tested, nor did it require training to understand. The second knowledge of truth is philosophy, which was reserved for an elite few who had the intellectual capacity to undertake this study.

The concept of "existence precedes essence", a key foundational concept of existentialism, can also be found in the works of Averroes, as a reaction to Ibn Sina's concept of "essence precedes existence". Averroes's most famous original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence, a rebuttal to Al-Ghazali's The Incoherence of the Philosophers. In medieval Europe, his school of philosophy known as Averroism exerted a strong influence on Jewish philosophers such as Gersonides and Maimonides, and was opposed by Christian philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas.


At the age of 25, Averroes conducted astronomical observations near Marrakech, Morocco, during which he discovered a previously unobserved star.

In astronomical theory, Averroes rejected the eccentric deferents introduced by Ptolemy. He rejected the Ptolemaic model and instead argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe. He wrote the following criticism on the Ptolemaic model of planetary motion:

"To assert the existence of an eccentric sphere or an epicyclic sphere is contrary to nature. [...] The astronomy of our time offers no truth, but only agrees with the calculations and not with what exists."

Averroes also argued that the Moon is opaque and obscure, and has some parts which are thicker than others, with the thicker parts receiving more light from the Sun than the thinner parts of the Moon. He also gave one of the first descriptions on sunspots.

Celestial mechanics

In celestial mechanics, while discussing the celestial spheres, Averroes rejected John Philoponus' 'anti-Aristotelian' solution to his refutation of Aristotelian celestial dynamics, and instead restored Aristotle's law of motion by adopting the 'hidden variable' approach to resolving apparent refutations of parametric laws that posits a previously unaccounted variable and its value(s) for some parameter, thereby modifying the predicted value of the subject variable. For, he posited a non-gravitational, previously unaccounted, inherent resistance to motion, as hidden within the celestial spheres. This was a non-gravitational inherent resistance to motion of superlunary quintessential matter, whereby R > 0 even when there is neither any gravitational, nor any media resistance, to motion.

Hence, in refuting the prediction of Aristotelian celestial dynamics:

[ (i) v α F/R & (ii) F > 0 & (iii) R = 0 entail v is infinite

the alternative logic of Averroes' solution was to reject its third premise "R = 0" instead of rejecting its first premise as Philoponus had.

Thus Averroes most significantly revised Aristotle's law of motion "v α F/R" into "v α F/M" for the case of celestial motion with his auxiliary theory of what may be called celestial inertia M, whereby R = M > 0. But Averroes restricted inertia to celestial bodies and denied sublunar bodies have any inherent resistance to motion other than their gravitational (or levitational) inherent resistance to violent motion, just as in Aristotle's original sublunar physics.

However, Thomas Aquinas, also a student of Aristotelianism, rejected this denial of sublunar inertia and extended Averroes' innovation in the celestial physics of the spheres to all sublunar bodies. He posited all bodies universally have a non-gravitational inherent resistance to motion constituted by their magnitude or mass. In his Systeme du Monde, the pioneering historian of medieval science Pierre Duhem, stated:

"For the first time we have seen human reason distinguish two elements in a heavy body: the motive force, that is, in modern terms, the weight; and the moved thing, the corpus quantum, or as we say today, the mass. For the first time we have seen the notion of mass being introduced in mechanics, and being introduced as equivalent to what remains in a body when one has suppressed all forms in order to leave only the prime matter quantified by its determined dimensions. Saint Thomas Aquinas's analysis, completing Ibn Bajja's, came to distinguish three notions in a falling body: the weight, the mass, and the resistance of the medium, about which physics will reason during the modern era....This mass, this quantified body, resists the motor attempting to transport it from one place to another, stated Thomas Aquinas."

Some five centuries after Averroes' and Aquinas' innovations, it was Johannes Kepler who first dubbed this non-gravitational inherent resistance to motion in all bodies universally 'inertia'. Hence the crucial notion of 17th century early classical mechanics of a resistant force of inertia inherent in all bodies was born in the heavens of medieval astrophysics, in the Aristotelian physics of the celestial spheres, rather than in terrestrial physics or in experiments.

However, having discounted the possibility of any resistance due to a contrary inclination to move in any opposite direction or due to any external resistance, in concluding their impetus was therefore not corrupted by any resistance, Jean Buridan also discounted any inherent resistance to motion in the form of an inclination to rest within the spheres themselves, such as the inertia posited by Averroes and Aquinas. For otherwise, that resistance would destroy their impetus, as the anti-Duhemian historian of science Annaliese Maier maintained the Parisian impetus dynamicists were forced to conclude, because of their belief in an inherent inclinatio ad quietem (tendency to rest) or inertia in all bodies. But in fact, contrary to that inertial variant of Aristotelian dynamics, according to Buridan, prime matter does not resist motion.

Law and jurisprudence

As a Qadi (judge), Averroes wrote the Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtasid, a Maliki legal treatise dealing with Sharia (law) and Fiqh (jurisprudence) which, according to Al-Dhahabi in the 13th century, was considered the best treatise ever written on the subject. Averroes's summary the opinions (fatwa) of previous Islamic jurists on a variety of issues has continued to influence Islamic scholars to the present day, notably Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. While Averroes himself claimed that women in Islam were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine in peace and in war, he summarized the opinions of previous jurists and Imams on the status of women's testimony in Islam as follows:

"There is a general consensus among the jurists that in financial transactions a case stands proven by the testimony of a just man and two women on the basis of the verse: ‘If two men cannot be found then one man and two women from among those whom you deem appropriate as witnesses’. However; in cases of Hudud, there is a difference of opinion among our jurists. The majority say that in these affairs the testimony of women is in no way acceptable whether they testify alongside a male witness or do so alone. The Zahiris on the contrary maintain that if they are more than one and are accompanied by a male witness, then owing to the apparent meaning of the verse their testimony will be acceptable in all affairs. Imam Abu Hanifah is of the opinion that except in cases of Hudud and in financial transactions their testimony is acceptable in bodily affairs like divorce, marriage, slave-emancipation and raju‘ [restitution of conjugal rights]. Imam Malik is of the view that their testimony is not acceptable in bodily affairs. There is however a difference of opinion among the companions of Imam Malik regarding bodily affairs which relate to wealth like advocacy and will-testaments which do not specifically relate to wealth. Consequently, Ash-hab and Ibn Majishun accept two male witnesses only in these affairs, while to Malik Ibn Qasim and Ibn Wahab two female and a male witness are acceptable. As far as the matter of women as sole witnesses is concerned, the majority accept it only in bodily affairs, about which men can have no information in ordinary circumstances like the physical handicaps of women and the crying of a baby at birth."

He also discussed Islamic economic jurisprudence, particularly the concept of Riba (usury). He reported that Ibn ‘Abbas, a sahaba (companion) of Muhammad, did not accept Riba al-Fadl (interest in excess) because, according to him, the Prophet Muhammad had clarified that there was no Riba except in credit. He also discussed the role of Islamic criminal jurisprudence in the Islamic dietary laws in regards to the consumption of alcohol. He stated that physical punishment for alcoholic consumption was not originally established as part of the Sharia in Muhammad's time but was later decided by the Shura (consultive council) of the Rashidun Caliphate. He wrote:

"The general opinion in this regard is based on the consultation of ‘Umar (rta) with the members of his Shura. The session of this Shura took place during his period when people started indulging in this habit more frequently. ‘Ali (rta) opined that, by analogy with the punishment of Qadhf, its punishment should also be fixed at eighty stripes. It is said that while presenting his arguments, he had remarked: ‘When he [– the criminal –] drinks, he will get intoxicated and once he gets intoxicated, he will utter nonsense; and once he starts uttering nonsense, he will falsely accuse other people’."


Averroes was the last major Muslim logician from Al-Andalus. He is known for writing the most elaborate commentaries on Aristotelian logic.[26]


As a physician, Averroes wrote twenty treatises on Arabic medicine, including a seven-volume medical encyclopedia entitled Kitābu’l Kulliyāt fī al-Tibb (General Rules of Medicine), better known as Colliget in Latin. This encyclopedic work was completed at some time before 1162 and elaborated on physiology, general pathology, diagnosis, materia medica, hygiene and general therapeutics. He argued that no one can suffer from smallpox twice, and fully understood the function of the retina. He improved on Alhazen's Book of Optics (1021) which, though providing a largely correct optical theory on vision, incorrectly assumed the lens of the eye to be the organ of sight. Averroes corrected this by showing that sight is the function of the retina.

His Colliget was largely overshadowed by the earlier medical encyclopedias, Continents by Muhammad ibn Zakariya ar-Razi (Rhazes) and The Canon of Medicine by Ibn Sina (Avicenna). As a result, Averroes' fame as a physician was eclipsed by his own fame as a philosopher. His Kulliyāt was translated into Latin by the Jewish translator Bonacosa in the late 13th century and again by Syphorien Champier in circa 1537, and it was also translated into Hebrew twice. Max Meyerhof notes that the prototypes for the physician-philosophers that predominated in Spain were "Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) and Averroes (Averroes)".

Averroes discussed the topic of human dissection and autopsy. Although he never undertook human dissection, he was aware of it being carried out by some of his contemporaries, such as Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar), and appears to have supported the practice. Averroes stated that the "practice of dissection strengthens the faith" due to his view of the human body as "the remarkable handiwork of God in his creation." Despite his criticism of Al-Ghazali's theological views, Averroes agreed with him on the issue of anatomy and dissection, and wrote:

"Whoever has been occupied with the science of anatomy/dissection (tashrfh) has increased his belief in God."

In urology, Averroes identified the issues of sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction, and was among the first to prescribe medication for the treatment of these problems. He used several methods of therapy for this issue, including the single drug method where a tested drug is prescribed, and a "combination method of either a drug or food." Most of these drugs were oral medication, though a few patients were also treated through topical or transurethral means.

In neurology and neuroscience, Averroes suggested the existence of Parkinson's disease, and in ophthalmology and optics, he was the first to attribute photoreceptor properties to the retina. In his Colliget, he was also the first to suggest that the principal organ of sight might be the arachnoid membrane (aranea). His work led to much discussion in 16th century Europe over whether the principal organ of sight is the traditional Galenic crystalline humour or the Averroist aranea, which in turn led to the discovery that the retina is the principal organ of sight.

Music theory

As an Arabic music theorist, Averroes contributed to music theory with his commentary on Aristotle's On the Soul, where Averroes dealt perspicuously with the theory of sound. This text was translated into Latin by Michael Scot (d. 1232).


In Averroes' commentary on Aristotle's Physics, he commented on the theory of motion proposed by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace) in Text 71, and also made his own contributions to physics, particularly mechanics. Averroes was the first to define and measure force as "the rate at which work is done in changing the kinetic condition of a material body" and the first to correctly argue "that the effect and measure of force is change in the kinetic condition of a materially resistant mass." It seems he was also the first to introduce the notion that bodies have a (non-gravitational) inherent resistance to motion into physics, subsequently first dubbed 'inertia' by Johannes Kepler. But he only attributed it to the superlunary celestial spheres, and in order to explain why they do not move with infinite speed as was predicted by the application of Aristotle's general law of motion v α F/R to celestial motion, given the assumption that the spheres have movers and thus F > 0, but no resistance to their motion, whereby R = 0.

John Philoponus had earlier rejected Aristotle's theory of motion because of this celestial empirical refutation in favour of his alternative theory v α F - R that avoided it because v is finite even when R = 0 and when F > 0 and is finite. But contra Philoponus, Averroes restored it by positing inertia instead, whereby R > 0 even in the absence of any external resistance to motion and of any inherent gravitational resistance, as in the quintessential heavens in Aristotelian cosmology. But Averroes denied sublunar bodies have inertia, and it was Thomas Aquinas, also a student of Aristotelianism, who extended this inherent force to terrestrial bodies as well, thus also rejecting Aristotle's prediction that the speed of gravitational fall of all bodies in a vacuum would be infinite because there would be no resistance to motion in the absence of an external resistant medium (i.e. R = 0). For Aristotle had assumed the only inherent resistance to motion in bodies is that of gravity, without which bodies would not inherently resist any motion, and which does not resist gravitational (i.e. 'natural') motion where it acts as the motor rather than as a brake as it does in violent motion. The Averroes-Aquinas notion of inertia was eventually adopted by Kepler, but not by scholastic Aristotelian impetus dynamics nor Galileo Galilei who maintained like Jean Buridan, for example, that prime matter does not inherently resist any motion and so is indifferent to motion or rest. It eventually became the central concept of Newton's dynamics in its notion of the inherent force of inertia in all bodies, with the minor revision that the force of inertia resists all motion except for uniform straight motion, a purely fictitious ideal motion whose perseverance it would cause. But Newton's inherent force of inertia resists all actual motion, given it is all accelerated motion in the Newtonian cosmos populated by many gravitationally attractive massive bodies. Thus on this analysis Averroes is creditable with one of the two most crucial innovations in the history of the development of Aristotelian dynamics into Newtonian dynamics, namely its two auxiliary notions of the force of impetus and of the force of inertia.


Averroes did not have access to any text of Aristotle's Politics. As a substitute for this, he commented on Plato's The Republic, arguing that the ideal state there described was the same as the original constitution of the Islamic Caliphate, as well as the Almohad state of Ibn Tumart. He also believed that a wise philosopher should be commander and chief of a nation.

Averroes also claimed that women were equal to men in all respects and possessed equal capacities to shine in peace and in war, citing examples of female warriors among the Arabs, Greeks and Africans to support his case. In Muslim history, examples of notable female Muslims who fought as soldiers or generals included Nusaybah Bint k’ab Al Maziniyyah, Aisha, Kahula and Wafeira, and Um Umarah.


H. Chad Hillier writes the following on Averroes's contributions to psychology:

There is evidence of some evolution in Averroes's thought on the intellect, notably in his Middle Commentary on De Anima where he combines the positions of Alexander and Themistius for his doctrine on the material intellect and in his Long Commentary and the Tahafut where Averroes rejected Alexander and endorsed Themistius’ position that "material intellect is a single incorporeal eternal substance that becomes attached to the imaginative faculties of individual humans." Thus, the human soul is a separate substance ontologically identical with the active intellect; and when this active intellect is embodied in an individual human it is the material intellect. The material intellect is analogous to prime matter, in that it is pure potentiality able to receive universal forms. As such, the human mind is a composite of the material intellect and the passive intellect, which is the third element of the intellect. The passive intellect is identified with the imagination, which, as noted above, is the sense-connected finite and passive faculty that receives particular sensual forms. When the material intellect is actualized by information received, it is described as the speculative (habitual) intellect. As the speculative intellect moves towards perfection, having the active intellect as an object of thought, it becomes the acquired intellect. In that, it is aided by the active intellect, perceived in the way Aristotle had taught, to acquire intelligible thoughts. The idea of the soul's perfection occurring through having the active intellect as a greater object of thought is introduced elsewhere, and its application to religious doctrine is seen. In the Tahafut, Averroes speaks of the soul as a faculty that comes to resemble the focus of its intention, and when its attention focuses more upon eternal and universal knowledge, it becomes more like the eternal and universal. As such, when the soul perfects itself, it becomes like our intellect.

Averroes succeeded in providing an explanation of the human soul and intellect that did not involve an immediate transcendent agent. This opposed the explanations found among the Neoplatonists, allowing a further argument for rejecting of Neoplatonic emanation theories. Even so, notes Davidson, Averroes’s theory of the material intellect was something foreign to Aristotle.


In the West, Averroes is most famous for commentaries on Aristotle's works, most of which had been inaccessible to Latin Europe during the Early Middle Ages. Before 1100 only a few of Aristotle's logical works had been translated into Latin by Boethius, although the entire extant Greek corpus was known in Byzantium. After Latin translations of Aristotle's other works from Greek and Arabic were made in the 12th and 13th centuries, Aristotle became more influential on medieval European philosophy. Averroes' commentaries on Aristotle contributed to his growing influence in the medieval West.

In medieval Europe, Averroes' school of philosophy, known as Averroism, exerted a strong influence on Christian philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas and Jewish philosophers such as Gersonides and Maimonides. Despite negative reactions from Jewish Talmudists and the Christian clergy, Averroes' writings were taught at the University of Paris and other medieval universities, and Averroism remained the dominant school of thought in Europe through to the 16th century.

Averroes' argument in The Decisive Treatise provided a justification for the emancipation of science and philosophy from official Ash'ari theology, thus Averroism has been regarded as a precursor to modern secularism.

George Sarton, the father of the history of science, writes:

"Averroes was great because of the tremendous stir he made in the minds of men for centuries. A history of Averroism would include up to the end of the sixteenth-century, a period of four centuries which would perhaps deserve as much as any other to be called the Middle Ages, for it was the real transition between ancient and modern methods."

Averroes'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. Averroes' philosophical works had less influence on the medieval and early modern Islamic world than the contemporaneous Latin Christian world, as indicated by the fact many of them works did not survive in the original Arabic but rather in Latin and Hebrew translation. However, his works on specifically Islamic topics such as fiqh (Islamic law), which were not translated into Latin, naturally influenced the Islamic world rather than the West. 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; this is in contrast to orthodox Ash'ari theology, where the emphasis is less on analytical thinking but on extensive knowledge of sources other than the Qur'an, i.e. the hadith.

Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy, in particular Gersonides, who wrote supercommentaries on many of the works. In the Christian world, 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 believed him to be so important they did not refer to him by name, simply calling him "The Commentator" and calling Aristotle "The Philosopher." Averroes's treatise on Plato's Republic has played a major role in both the transmission and the adaptation of the Platonic tradition in the West. It has been a primary source in medieval political philosophy. On the other hand he was feared by many Christian theologians, who accused him of advocating a "double truth" and denying orthodox doctrines such as individual immortality, and an underground mythology grew up stigmatising him as the ultimate unbeliever; these accusations were largely based on misunderstandings of his work.

A later importation of Averroism into Europe is associated with the University of Padua in the early Renaissance, important names being Zabarella, Cremonini and Niphus.

Cultural influences

Reflecting the respect which medieval European scholars paid to him, Averroes is named by Dante in The Divine Comedy with the great pagan philosophers whose spirits dwell in "the place that favor owes to fame" in Limbo.

Averroes 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. He is also the main character in Destiny, a Youssef Chahine film. The Muslim pop musician Kareem Salama composed and performed a song in 2007 titled Aristotle and Averroes.

Averroes is also the title of a play called "The Gladius and The Rose", written by Tunisian writer Mohamed Ghozzi, and which had the first price in the theater festival in Charjah in 1999.

The asteroid "8318 Averroes" was named in his honor.


Ibn Rushd ( Averroës ), medieval Latin AVERROËS, also called IBN RUSHD, Arabic in full ABU AL-WALID MUHAMMAD IBN AHMAD IBN MUHAMMAD IBN RUSHD (b. 1126, Cordoba--d. 1198, Marrakech, Almohad Empire), influential Islamic religious philosopher who integrated Islamic traditions and Greek thought. At the request of the caliph Ibn at-Tufayl he produced a series of summaries and commentaries on most of Aristotle’s works (1162-95) and on Plato’s Republic, which exerted considerable influence for centuries. He wrote the Decisive Treatise on the Agreement Between Religious Law and Philosophy (Fasl), Examination of the Methods of Proof Concerning the Doctrines of Religion (Manahij), and The  Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut) at-Tahafut, all in defense of the philosophical study of religion against the theologians (1179-80).

Early life.

Averroës was born into a distinguished family of jurists at Cordoba and died at Marrakesh, the North African capital of the Almohad (al-Muwahhidun) dynasty. Thoroughly versed in the traditional Muslim sciences (especially exegesis of the Qur`an--Islamic scripture--and Hadith, or Traditions, and fiqh, or Law), trained in medicine, and accomplished in philosophy, Averroës rose to be chief qadi (judge) of Cordoba (Qurtubah), an office also held by his grandfather (of the same name) under the Almoravids (al-Murabitun). After the death of the philosopher Ibn Tufayl, Averroës succeeded him as personal physician to the caliphs Abu Ya’qub Yusuf in 1182 and his son Abu Yusuf Ya’qub in 1184. In 1169 Ibn Tufayl introduced Averroës to Abu Ya’qub, who, himself a keen student of philosophy, frightened Averroës with a question concerning whether the heavens were created or not. The caliph answered the question himself, put Averroës at ease, and sent him away with precious gifts after a long conversation that proved decisive for Averroës’ career. Soon afterward Averroës received the ruler’s request to provide a badly needed correct interpretation of the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s philosophy, a task to which he devoted many years of his busy life as judge, beginning at Seville and continuing at Cordoba. The exact year of his appointment as chief qadi of Cordoba, one of the key posts in the government (and not confined to the administration of justice), is not known.

Commentaries on Aristotle.

Between 1169 and 1195 Averroës wrote a series of commentaries on most of Aristotle’s works (e.g., the Organon, De anima, Physica, Metaphysica, De partibus animalium, Parva naturalia, Meteorologica, Rhetorica, Poetica, and the Nicomachean Ethics). He wrote summaries, and middle and long commentaries--often two or all three kinds on the same work. Aristotle’s Politica was inaccessible to Averroës; therefore he wrote a commentary on Plato’s Republic (which is both a paraphrase and a middle commentary in form). All of Averroës’ commentaries are incorporated in the Latin version of Aristotle’s complete works. They are extant in the Arabic original or Hebrew translations or both, and some of these translations serve in place of the presumably lost Arabic originals; e.g., the important commentaries on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and on Plato’s Republic.

Averroës’ commentaries exerted considerable influence on Jews and Christians in the following centuries. His clear, penetrating mind enabled him to present competently Aristotle’s thought and to add considerably to its understanding. He ably and critically used the classical commentators Themistius and Alexander of Aphrodisias and the falasifah (Muslim philosophers) al-Farabi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina), and his own countryman Avempace (Ibn Bajjah). In commenting on Aristotle’s treatises on the natural sciences, Averroës showed considerable power of observation.

Averroës’ defense of philosophy.

His own first work is on General Medicine (Kulliyat, Latin Colliget), written between 1162 and 1169. Only a few of his legal writings and none of his theological writings are preserved. Undoubtedly his most important writings are three closely connected religious-philosophical polemical treatises, composed in the years 1179 and 1180: the Fasl with its Appendix: Manahij; and Tahafut at-Tahafut in defense of philosophy. In the two first named Averroës stakes a bold claim: only the metaphysician employing certain proof (syllogism) is capable and competent (as well as obliged) to interpret the doctrines contained in the prophetically revealed law (Shar’ or Shari’ah), and not the Muslim mutakallimun (dialectic theologians), who rely on dialectical arguments. To establish the true, inner meaning of religious beliefs and convictions is the aim of philosophy in its quest for truth. This inner meaning must not be divulged to the masses, who must accept the plain, external meaning of Scripture contained in stories, similes, and metaphors. Averroës applied Aristotle’s three arguments (demonstrative, dialectical, and persuasive--i.e., rhetorical and poetical) to the philosophers, the theologians, and the masses. The third work is devoted to a defense of philosophy against his predecessor al-Ghazali’s telling attack directed against Avicenna and al-Farabi in particular. Spirited and successful as Averroës’ defense was, it could not restore philosophy to its former position, quite apart from the fact that the atmosphere in Muslim Spain and North Africa was most unfavourable to the unhindered pursuit of speculation. As a result of the reforming activity of Ibn Tumart (c. 1078-1130), aimed at restoring pure monotheism, power was wrested from the ruling Almoravids, and the new Berber dynasty of the Almohads was founded, under whom Averroës served. In jurisprudence the emphasis then shifted from the practical application of Muslim law by appeal to previous authority to an equal stress on the study of its principles and the revival of independent legal decision on the basis of Ibn Tumart’s teaching. Of perhaps even more far-reaching significance was Ibn Tumart’s idea of instructing the heretofore ignorant masses in the plain meaning of the Shari’ah so that practice would be informed with knowledge. These developments were accompanied by the encouragement of the falasifah--”those who,” according to Averroës’ Fasl, “follow the way of speculation and are eager for a knowledge of the truth”--to apply demonstrative arguments to the interpretation of the theoretical teaching of the Shari’ah. But with the hands of both jurists and theologians thus strengthened, Averroës’ defense of philosophy continued to be conducted within an unfavourable atmosphere.

Averroës himself acknowledged the support of Abu Ya’qub, to whom he dedicated his Commentary on Plato’s Republic. Yet Averroës pursued his philosophical quest in the face of strong opposition from the mutakallimun, who, together with the jurists, occupied a position of eminence and of great influence over the fanatical masses. This may explain why he suddenly fell from grace when Abu Yusuf--on the occasion of a jihad (holy war) against Christian Spain--dismissed him from high office and banished him to Lucena in 1195. To appease the theologians in this way at a time when the caliph needed the undivided loyalty and support of the people seems a more convincing reason than what the Arabic sources tell us (attacks on Averroës by the mob, probably at the instigation of jurists and theologians). But Averroës’ disgrace was only short-lived--though long enough to cause him acute suffering--since the caliph recalled Averroës to his presence after his return to Marrakesh. After his death, Averroës was first buried at Marrakesh, and later his body was transferred to the family tomb at Cordoba.

It is not rare in the history of Islam that the rulers’ private attachment to philosophy and their friendship with philosophers goes hand in hand with official disapproval of philosophy and persecution of its adherents, accompanied by the burning of their philosophical writings and the prohibition of the study of secular sciences other than those required for the observance of the religious law. Without caliphal encouragement Averroës could hardly have persisted all his life in his fight for philosophy against the theologians, as reflected in his Commentary on Plato's Republic, in such works as the Fasl and Tahafut at-Tahafut, and in original philosophical treatises (e.g., about the union of the active intellect with the human intellect). It is likely that the gradual estrangement of his two masters and patrons from Ibn Tumart’s theology and their preoccupation with Islamic law also helped him. That Averroës found it difficult to pursue his philosophical studies alongside the conscientious performance of his official duties he himself reveals in a few remarks scattered over his commentaries; e.g., in that on Aristotle’s De partibus animalium.

Contents and significance of works.

To arrive at a balanced appraisal of Averroës’ thought it is essential to view his literary work as a whole. In particular, a comparison of his religious-philosophical treatises with his Commentary on Plato’s Republic shows the basic unity of his attitude to the Shari’ah dictated by Islam and therefore determining his attitude to philosophy, more precisely to the nomos, the law of Plato’s philosopher-king. It will then become apparent that there is only one truth for Averroës, that of the religious law, which is the same truth that the metaphysician is seeking. The theory of the double truth was definitely not formulated by Averroës, but rather by the Latin Averroists. Nor is it justifiable to say that philosophy is for the metaphysician what religion is for the masses. Averroës stated explicitly and unequivocally that religion is for all three classes; that the contents of the Shari’ah are the whole and only truth for all believers; and that religion’s teachings about reward and punishment and the hereafter must be accepted in their plain meaning by the elite no less than by the masses. The philosopher must choose the best religion, which, for a Muslim, is Islam as preached by Muhammad, the last of the prophets, just as Christianity was the best religion at the time of Jesus, and Judaism at the time of Moses.

It is significant that Averroës could say in his Commentary on Plato’s Republic that religious law and philosophy have the same aim and in the Fasl that “philosophy is the companion and foster-sister of the Shari’ah." Accepting Aristotle’s division of philosophy into theoretical (physics and practical (ethics and politics), he finds that the Shari’ah teaches both to perfection: abstract knowledge commanded as the perception of God, and practice--the ethical virtues the law enjoins (Commentary on Plato’s Republic). In the Tahafut he maintains that “the religious laws conform to the truth and impart a knowledge of those actions by which the happiness of the whole creation is guaranteed.” There is no reason to question the sincerity of Averroës. These statements reflect the same attitude to law and the same emphasis on happiness. Happiness as the highest good is the aim of political science. As a Muslim, Averroës insists on the attainment of happiness in this and the next life by all believers. This is, however, qualified by Averroës as the disciple of Plato: the highest intellectual perfection is reserved for the metaphysician, as in Plato’s ideal state. But the Muslim’s ideal state provides for the happiness of the masses as well because of its prophetically revealed law, which is superior to the Greek nomos (law) for this reason. The philosopher Averroës distinguishes between degrees of happiness and assigns every believer the happiness that corresponds to his intellectual capacity. He takes Plato to task for his neglect of the third estate because Averroës believes that everyone is entitled to his share of happiness. Only the Shari’ah of Islam cares for all believers. It legitimates speculation because it demands that the believer should know God. This knowledge is accessible to the naive believer in metaphors, the inner meaning of which is intelligible only to the metaphysician with the help of demonstration. On this point all falasifah are agreed, and all recognize the excellence of the Shari’ah stemming from its divinely revealed character. But only Averroës insists on its superiority over the nomos.

Encyclopedia Britannica

(Abul Walid Mahommed Ibn Achmed, Ibn Mahommed Ibn Roschd).

Arabian philosopher, astronomer, and writer on jurisprudence; born at Cordova, 1126; died at Morocco, 1198.

Ibn Roschd, or Averroes, as he was called by the Latins, was educated in his native city, where his father and grandfather had held the office of cadi (judge in civil affairs) and had played an important part in the political history of Andalusia. He devoted himself to jurisprudence, medicine, and mathematics, as well as to philosophy and theology. Under the Califs Abu Jacub Jusuf and his son, Jacub Al Mansur, he enjoyed extraordinary favor at court and was entrusted with several important civil offices at Morocco, Seville, and Cordova. Later he fell into disfavor and was banished with other representatives of learning. Shortly before his death, the edict against philosophers was recalled. Many of his works in logic and metaphysics had, however, been consigned to the flames, so that he left no school, and the end of the dominion of the Moors in Spain, which occurred shortly afterwards, turned the current of Averroism completely into Hebrew and Latin channels, through which it influenced the thought of Christian Europe down to the dawn of the modern era.

Averroes' great medical work, "Culliyyat" (of which the Latin title "Colliget" is a corruption) was published as the tenth volume in the Latin edition of Aristotle's works, Venice, 1527. His "Commentaries" on Aristotle, his original philosophical works, and his treatises on theology have come down to us either in Latin or Hebrew translations. His "Commentaries", which earned for him the title of the "Commentator", were of three kinds: a short paraphrase or analysis, a brief exposition of the text, and a more extended exposition. These are known as the Minor, the Middle, and the Major Commentary, respectively. None of them is of any value for the textual criticisms of Aristotle, since Averroes, being unacquainted with Greek and Syriac, based his exposition on a very imperfect Arabic translation of the Syriac version of the Greek text. They were, however, of great influence in determining the philosophical and scientific interpretation of Aristotle. His original philosophical treatises include: a work entitled "Tehafot al Tchafot", or "Destructio Destructiones" (a refutation of Algazel's "Destructio Philosophorum") published in the Latin edition, Venice 1497 and 1527, two treatises on the union of the Active and Passive intellects, also published in latin in the Venice edition; logical treatises on the different parts of the "Organon", published in the Venice edition under the title "Quaesita in Libros Logicae Aristotelis"; physical treatises based on Aristotle's "Physics" (also in the Venice edition); a treatise in refutation of Avicenna, and another on the agreement between philosophy and theology. Of the last two, only Hebrew and Arabic texts exist.

Averroes professed the greatest esteem for Aristotle. The word of the Stagirite was for him the highest expression of truth in matters of science and philosophy. In this exaggerated veneration for the philosopher he went farther than any of the Schoolmen. Indeed, in the later stages of Scholastic philosophy it was the Averroists and not the followers of Aquinas and Scotus who, when accused of subservience to the authority of a master, gloried in the title of "Aristotle's monkey". Averroes advocated the principle of twofold truth, maintaining that religion has one sphere and philosophy another. Religion, he said, is for the unlettered multitude; philosophy for the chosen few. Religion teaches by signs and symbols; philosophy presents the truth itself. In the mind, therefore, of the truly enlightened, philosophy supersedes religion. But, though the philosopher sees that what is true in theology is false in philosophy, he should not on that account condemn religious instruction, because he would thereby deprive the multitude of the only means which it has of attaining a (symbolic) knowledge of the truth. Averroe's philosophy, like that of all other Arabians, is Aristoteleanism tinged with neo-Platonism. In it we find the doctrine of the eternity of matter as a positive principle of being; the concept of a multitude of spirits ranged hierarchically between God and matter and mediating between them; the denial of Providence in the commonly accepted sense; the doctrine that each of the heavenly spheres is animated; the notion of emanation or extraction, as a substitute for creation; and, finally, the glorification of (rational) mystical knowledge as the ultimate aspiration of the human soul — in a word, all the distinctively neo-Platonic elements which Arabians added to pure Aristoteleanism.

What is peculiar in Averroes' interpretation of Aristotle is the meaning he gives to the Aristotelean doctrine of the Active and Passive Intellect. His predecessor, Avicenna, taught that, while the Active Intellect is universal and separate, the Passive Intellect is individual and inherent in the soul. Averroes holds that both the Active and the Passive Intellect are separate from the individual soul and are universal, that is, one in all men. He thinks that Alexander of Aphrodisias was wrong in reducing the Passive Intellect to a mere disposition, and that the "other Commentators" (perhaps Themistius and Theophrastus) were wrong in describing it as an individual substance endowed with a disposition; he maintains that it is, rather, a disposition in us, but belonging to an intellect outside us. The terms Passive, Possible, Material are successively used by Averroes to designate this species of intellect, which, in ultimate analysis, if we prescind from the dispositions of which he speaks, is the Active Intellect itself. In other words, the same intellect which, when in the act of actually abstracting intelligible species is called active, is called passive, possible or material so far as it is acted upon, is potential, and furnishes that out of which ideas are fabricated. Besides, Averroes speaks of the Acquired Intellect (intellectus acquisitus, adeptus), by which he means the individual mind in communication with the Active Intellect. Thus, while the Active Intellect is numerically one, there are as many acquired intellects as there are individual souls with which the Active Intellect has come in contact. (The Scholastics speak of continuatio of the universal with the individual mind, translating literally the Arabic word which here means contiguity rather than union.) The sun, for instance, while it is and remains one source of light, may be said to be multiplied and to become many sources of light, in so far as it illuminates many bodies from which its light is distributed; so it is with the universal mind and the individual minds which come in contact with it.

The weakness of this doctrine, as a psychological explanation of the origin of knowledge, is its failure to take account of the facts of consciousness, which, as the Scholastics were not slow to point out, indicate that not merely an individual disposition but an active individual principle enters into the action which ones expresses by the words "I think". Another weakness of the doctrine of monopsychism, or the doctrine that there is but one mind, a weakness at least in the eyes of the Scholastics, is that it leaves unanswered the question of the immortality of the individual soul. Indeed, Averroes openly admitted his inability to hold on philosophic grounds the doctrine of individual immortality, being content to maintain it as a religious tenet. Averroes' greatest influence was as a commentator. His doctrines had a varying fortune in Christian schools. At first they secured a certain amount of adherence, then, gradually, their incompatibility with Christian teaching became apparent, and finally, owing to the revolt of the Renaissance from everything Scholastic, they secured once more a temporary hearing. His commentaries, however, had immediate and lasting success. St. Thomas Aquinas used the "Grand Commentary" of Averroes as his model, being, apparently, the first Scholastic to adopt that style of exposition; and though he refuted the errors of Averroes, and devoted special treatises to that purpose, he always spoke of the Arabian commentator as one who had, indeed, perverted the Peripatetic tradition, but whose words, nevertheless, should be treated with respect and consideration. The same may be said of Dante's references to him. It was after the time of St. Thomas and Dante that Averroes came to be represented as "the arch-enemy of the faith".

Insisting on the prerogative of the metaphysician--understood as a duty laid upon him by God--to interpret the doctrines of religion in the form of right beliefs and convictions (like Plato’s philosopher-king), he admits that the Shari’ah contains teachings that surpass human understanding but that must be accepted by all believers because they contain divinely revealed truths. The philosopher is definitely bound by the religious law just as much as the masses and the theologians, who occupy a position somewhere in between. In his search for truth the metaphysician is bound by Arabic usage, as is the jurist in his legal interpretations, though the jurist uses subjective reasoning only, in contrast to the metaphysician’s certain proof. This means that the philosopher is not bound to accept what is contradicted by demonstration. He can, thus, abandon belief in the creation out of nothing since Aristotle demonstrated the eternity of matter. Hence creation is a continuing process. Averroës sought justification for such an attitude in the fact that a Muslim is bound only by consensus (ijma’) of the learned in a strictly legal context where actual laws and regulations are concerned. Yet, since there is no consensus on certain theoretical statements, such as creation, he is not bound to conform. Similarly, anthropomorphism is unacceptable, and metaphorical interpretation of those passages in Scripture that describe God in bodily terms is necessary. And the question whether God knows only the universals, but not the particulars, is neatly parried by Averroës in his statement that God has knowledge of particulars but that his knowledge is different from human knowledge. These few examples suffice to indicate that ambiguities and inconsistencies are not absent in Averroës’ statements.

The Commentary on Plato’s Republic reveals a side of Averroës that is not to be found in his other commentaries. While he carried on a long tradition of attempted synthesis between religious law and Greek philosophy, he went beyond his predecessors in spite of large-scale dependence upon them. He made Plato’s political philosophy, modified by Aristotle, his own and considered it valid for the Islamic state as well. Consequently, he applied Platonic ideas to the contemporary Almoravid and Almohad states in a sustained critique in Platonic terms, convinced that if the philosopher cannot rule, he must try to influence policy in the direction of the ideal state. For Plato’s ideal state is the best after the ideal state of Islam based on and centred in the Shari’ah as the ideal constitution. Thus, he regrets the position of women in Islam compared with their civic equality in Plato’s Republic. That women are used only for childbearing and the rearing of offspring is detrimental to the economy and responsible for the poverty of the state. This is most unorthodox.

Of greater importance is his acceptance of Plato’s idea of the transformation and deterioration of the ideal, perfect state into the four imperfect states. Mu’awiyah I, who in Muslim tradition perverted the ideal state of the first four caliphs into a dynastic power state, is viewed by Averroës in the Platonic sense as having turned the ideal state into a timocracy--a government based on love of honour. Similarly, the Almoravid and Almohad states are shown to have deteriorated from a state that resembled the original perfect Shari’ah state into timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Averroës here combines Islamic notions with Platonic concepts. In the same vein he likens the false philosophers of his time, and especially the mutakallimun, to Plato’s sophists. In declaring them a real danger to the purity of Islam and to the security of the state, he appeals to the ruling power to forbid dialectical theologians to explain their beliefs and convictions to the masses, thus confusing them and causing heresy, schism, and unbelief. The study of The Republic and the Nicomachean Ethics enabled the falasifah to see more clearly the political character and content of the Shari’ah in the context of the classical Muslim theory of the religious and political unity of Islam.

Leaning heavily on the treatment of Plato’s political philosophy by al- Farabi, a 10th-century philosopher, Averroës looks at The Republic with the eyes of Aristotle, whose Nicomachean Ethics constitutes for Averroës the first, theoretical part of political science. He is, therefore, only interested in Plato’s theoretical statements. Thus he concentrates on a detailed commentary on Books II-IX of The Republic and ignores Plato’s dialectical statements and especially his tales and myths, principally the myth of Er. He explains Plato, whose Laws and Politikos he also knows and uses, with the help, and in the light, of Aristotle’s Analytica posteriora, De anima, Physica, and Nicomachean Ethics. Naturally, Greek pagan ideas and institutions are replaced by Islamic ones. Thus Plato’s criticism of poetry (Homer) is applied to Arab pre-Islamic poetry, which he condemns.

Averroës sees much common ground between the Shari’ah and Plato’s general laws (interpreted with the help of Aristotle), notwithstanding his conviction that the Shari’ah is superior to the nomos. He accepts al-Farabi’s equation of Plato’s philosopher-king with the Islamic imam, or leader and lawgiver, but leaves it open whether the ideal ruler must also be a prophet. The reason for this may well be that, as a sincere Muslim, Averroës holds that Muhammad was “the seal of the prophets” who promulgated the divinely revealed Shari’ah once and for all. Moreover, Averroës exempts Muhammad from the general run of prophets, thus clearly rejecting the psychological explanation of prophecy through the theory of emanation adopted by the other falasifah. No trace of this theory can be discovered in Averroës’ writings, just as his theory of the intellect is strictly and purely Aristotelian and free from the theory of emanation. In conclusion, it may be reiterated that the unity of outlook in Averroës’ religious-philosophical writings and his commentary on The Republic gives his political philosophy a distinctly Islamic character and tone, thereby adding to his significance as a religious philosopher.

Catholic Encyclopedia

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