Personnage d'Averroès dans le film Le Destin de Youssef Chahine (1997)


Abu Al-Waleed Muhammad ibn Ahmad Al-Hafid Ibn Rushd

Cordoba 1126- Marrakesh 1198

Ibn Rushd, better known by his Latin name Averroes, was born in Cordoba (Spain) in 1126 to a family of famous judges. He studied fiqh (islamic law) and became qadi (islamic judge) and later Chief Judge of Cordoba. He also studied medicine, mathematics and philosophy.

He was student of the great Muslim philosopher Ibn Tufail (known under his Latin name Abubacer) who introduced him to the Mohavid Court of Sultan Abu Yaqub Yusuf. The Sultan asked him to comment works of Aristotle. Because of these commentaries Averroes is known in the West as The Great Commentator. The commentaries are divided into three parts – following thereby the three stages of traditional muslim education: the shortest (may be considered as a summary of the subject and meant for the beginners), the intermediate one (for the students familiar with the subject) and the longest commentary (in fact, an original contribution of the philosopher). Ibn Rushd also translated and abridged Aristotle’s book « De Anima » and wrote commentaries on other works of Aritotle including the one on Metaphysics. Until the fifteenth century students of philosophy in European universities used his commentaries as standard texts on Aristotle.

The main part of his philosophical commentaries were translated into Hebrew and Latin (few have been preserved in Arabic). His commentary on zoology has been lost completely. He also wrote commentaries on Plato’s Republic, the Treaties on Fever by Galien and the Logics of the Muslim philosopher Al-Farabi.

His most famous book on medicine is the Kitâb al-Kuliyya fi tibb. In the field of astronomy, he left a treaties on the movement of planets, the Kitâb harakat al-falak and a summary of Ptolemy’s Almageste.

Strangely enough, Ibn Rushd was soon forgotten in the Arab world. As an advocate of dialogue between religions he was criticized in his days by Islamic fundamentalists and during the Christian Reconquista his broad views became even more unpopular. According to him, philosophy was not incompatible with divine Revelation: both are an aspect of one and the same truth. He explained his views in treatises like The decisive Discours on Relations between Philosophy and Religious Law and The Refutation of the Refutation in which he reacts to the critical remarks of Al-Ghazali. His works were burned and his views condemned by Cordoban religious lawyers.

Ibn Rushd was not only the greatest encyclopedic genius of his days but also the Muslim philosopher who had the strongest impact on Western thought. As the 800th anniversary of death in 1998 has shown, he is largely forgotten although some artists and writers (such as the film maker Youssef Chahine who made a film about him) are trying to revive some interest in this tolerant and broad minded thinker.