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Ibn Rushd (Averroës)

(520/1126, Cordova -595/1198, Marrakush)

Abu'l Waleed Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Rushd, stands out as a towering figure in the history of Arab-Islamic thought, as well as that of West-European philosophy and theology.
Averroës was born into a distinguished family of jurists. 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) ofCordoba, an office also held by his grandfather under the Almoravids. 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 1169Ibn 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.
His son Yaqub al-Mansur retained him for some time but soon Ibn Rushd's views on theology and philosophy drew the Caliph's wrath. 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 forgiven after about four years and recalled to Morocco in 1198; but he died towards the end of the same year.

Ibn Rushd has been held as one of the greatest thinkers and scientists of the l2th century. In the Western world, he was recognized, as early as the thirteenth century, as the Commentator of Aristotle, contributing thereby to the rediscovery of the Master, after centuries of near-total oblivion in Western Europe. His books were included in the syllabi ofParis and other universities till the advent of modern experimental sciences.

Ibn Rushd's writings [1] spread over 20,000 pages, the most famous of which deal with philosophy, medicine, and jurisprudence. On medicine alone he wrote 20 books and his well-known bookKitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb was written before 1162 A.D. Its Latin translation was known as 'Colliget'. In it, Ibn Rushd has thrown light on various aspects of medicine, including the diagnoses, cure and prevention of diseases.
In philosophy, his most important workTuhafut al-Tuhafut was written in response to al-Ghazali's work. Ibn Rushd was criticized by many Muslim scholars for this book, which, nevertheless, had a profound influence on European thought, at least until the beginning of modern philosophy and experimental science. His views on fate were that man is neither in full control of his destiny nor is it fully predetermined for him. He wrote three commentaries on the works of Aristotle, as these were known then through Arabic translations. The shortestJami may be considered as a summary of the subject. The intermediate wasTalkhis and the longest was theTafsir. The latter commentary was, in fact, an original contribution as it was largely based on his analysis including interpretation of Qur'anic concepts.
Regarding jurisprudence, his bookBidayat al-Mujtahid wa-Nihayat-al-Muqtasid has been held by Ibn Jafar Zahabi as possibly the best book on the Maliki School of Fiqh.
In the field of music, Ibn Rushd wrote a commentary on Aristotle's book De Anima. This book was translated into Latin by Mitchell the Scott.
In astronomy he wrote a treatise on the motion of the sphere,Kitab fi-Harakat al-Falak. He also summarizedAlmagest and divided it into two parts: description of the spheres, and movement of the spheres. This summary of theAlmagest was translated from Arabic into Hebrew in 1231.

Ibn Rushd's 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. Eighty-seven of his books are still extant.


Taken from:
1995 Encyclopædia Britannica in: http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ir/art/ir-eb.htm

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