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 


In addition to the works mentioned in the article: M. Alonso, Averroes observador de la naturaleza,
in al-And., v (1940)

idem, El 'ta'wil' y la hermeneutica sacra de Averroes, ibid., vii (1942)

R. Arnaldez, La pensee religieuse d'Averroes, I. La creation dans le Tahafut, in St. Isl., vii (1957), II. La
theorie de Dieu dans le Tahafut, ibid., viii (1957), III. L'immortalite de l'ame dans le Tahafut, ibid., x

M. Asin Palacios, El averroismo teologico de Santo Tomas de Aquino, in Homenaje a F. Codera,
Saragossa 1904

T. J. De Boer, Die Widersprüche der Philosophie und ihr Ausgleich durch Ibn Roschd, Strasbourg 1894

idem, The history of philosophy in Islam, London 1903

Carra de Vaux, Les penseurs de l'Islam, iv, Paris 1923

P. S. Christ, The psychology of the active intellect of Averroes, Philadelphia 1926

Cruz Hernandez, Historia de la filosofia hispano-musulmana

Madrid 1957, ii

idem, La libertad y la naturaleza social del hombre segun Averroes, in L'homme et son destin, Louvain

idem, Etica e Politica na filosofia de Averrois, in Rev. Portug. de Filos., xvii (1961)

H. Corbin, Histoire de la philosophie islamique, Paris 1964

H. Derenbourg, Le Commentaire arabe d'Averroes sur quelques petits ecrits physiques d'Aristote, in Arch. f.
Gesch. d. Phil., xviii (1905)

J. Freudenthal and S. Fraenkel, Die durch Averroes erhaltene Fragmente Alexanders zur Metaphysik des
Aristoteles, in Abhandl. d. kgl. Akad. d. Wiss. zu Berlin, 1884

L. Gauthier, La theorie d'Ibn Roschd sur les rapports de la religion et de la philosophie, Paris 1909

M. Horten, Die Metaphysik des Averroes, Halle 1912

idem, Die Hauptlehren des Averroes nach seiner Schrift: Die Widerlegung des Gazali, Bonn 1913

F. Lasinio, Il commento medio di Averroe alla Poetica di Aristotele (Ar. and Hebr.), in Annali delle
Universita Toscane, Pisa 1872

idem, Il commento medio di Averroe alla Retorica di Aristotele, Florence 1877

idem, Studi sopra Averroe, in Annuario delle Societa Italiana per gli studi orientali, 1872-3

G. M. Manser, Die göttliche Erkenntnis der Einzeldinge und die Vorsehung bei Averroees, in J. f. Phil.
und spek. Theol., xxiii (1909)

idem, Das Verhaeltnis von Glauben und Wissen bei Averroees, ibid., xxiv (1910) and xxv (1911)

I. Mehren, Etudes sur la philosophie d'Averroes concernant ses rapports avec celle d'Avicenne et de Gazzali,
in Museon, vii (1888-9)

S. Munk, Melanges de philosophie juive et arabe, Paris 1859 (repr. 1927)

C. A Nallino, art. Averroe in Enciclopedia Italiana

S. Nirenstein, The problem of the existence of God in Averroes, Philadelphia 1924

G. Quadri, La philosophie arabe dans l'Europe medievale des origines a Averroes, Fr. tr. by R. Huret,
Paris 1947

M. Worms, Die Lehre der Anfangslosigkeit der Welt bei den mittelalterlichen arabischen Philosophen ...
(Append. Abhandl. des Ibn Roàd über das Problem der Weltschöpfung), in Beitr. der Gesch. d.
Phil. d. Mittelalters, iii/4, Münster 1900

M. Allard, Le rationalisme d'Averroes d'apres une etude sur la creation, in BEO, xiv (1952-4)

J. Windrow Sweetman, Islam and Christian theology, ii, 2nd part, London n.d., 73-210.

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