Who Was Ibn Rushd?
Abu'l Waleed Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Rushd, known as Averroes in the West, was born in 1128 C.E. in Cordova, where his father and grandfather had both been judges. His grandfather was well versed in Fiqh (Maliki School) and was also the Imam of the Jamia Mosque of Cordova. The young Ibn Rushd received his education in Cordova and lived a quiet life, devoting most of his time to learned-pursuits. He studied philosophy and law from Abu J'afar Haroon and from Ibn Baja; he also studied medicine.
Al-Hakam, the famous Umayyad Caliph of Spain, had constructed a magnificent library in Cordova, which housed 500,000 books, He himself had studied many of these and made brief marginal comments on them. This rich collection laid the foundation for intellectual study in Spain and provided the background for men like Ibn Rushd, who lived 2 centuries later.
Abu Yaqub, the Caliph of Morocco, called him to his capital and appointed him as his physician in place of Ibn Tufail. 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 made remarkable contributions. in philosophy, logic, medicine, music and jurisprudence. In medicine his well-known book Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb was written before 1162 C.E. 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. The book concentrates on specific areas in comparison of Ibn Sina's wider scope of al-Qanun, but contains several original observations of Ibn Rushd.
Ibn Rushd and Philosophy
In philosophy, his most important work Tuhafut al-Tuhafut was written in response to al-Ghazali's work. Ibn Rushd was criticised by many Muslim scholars for this book, which, neverthe- less, 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 commenlaries on the works of Aristotle, as these were known then through Arabic translations. The shortest Jami may be considered as a summary of the subject. The intermediate was Talkhis and the longest was the Tafsir. These three commentaries would seem to correspond to different stages in the education of pupils; the short one was meant for the beginners, then the intermediate for the students familiar with the subject, and finally the longest one for advanced studies. The longest commentary was, in fact, an original contribution as it was largely based on his analysis including interpretation of Qu'ranic concepts.
Ibn Rushd and Music
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.
Ibn Rushd and Astronomy
In astronomy he wrote a treatise on the motion of the sphere, Kitab fi-Harakat al-Falak. He also summarised Almagest and divided it into two parts: description of the spheres, and movement of the spheres. This summary of the Almagest was translated from Arabic into Hebrew by Jacob Anatoli in 1231.
What Did Ibn Rushd Write?
According to Ibn al-Abbar, Ibn Rushd's writings spread over 20,000 pages, the most famous of which deal with philosophy, medicine and jurisprudence. On medicine alone he wrote 20 books. Regarding jurisprudence, his book Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa-Nihayat- al-Muqtasid has been held by Ibn Jafar Thahabi as possibly the best book on the Maliki School of Fiqh. 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. This reveals his wider acceptance in the West in comparison to the East. The commentary on zoology is entirely lost. Ibn Rushd also wrote commentaries on Plato's Republic, Galen's treatise on fevers, al- Farabi's logic, etc. Eighty-seven of his books are still extant.
Ibn Rushd, Great Thinker and Scientist
Ibn Rushd has been held as one of the greatest thinkers and scientists of the 12th century. According to Philip Hitti, Ibn Rushd influenced Western thought from the 12th to the 16th centuries. His books were included in the syllabi of Paris and other universities till the advent of modern experimental sciences.