Birthday: April 14, 1126
Died At Age: 72
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Ibn Rushd, often Latinized as Averroes, Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd
Born in: Córdoba
Famous as: Philosopher
father: Abu Al-Qasim Ahmad
Died on: December 10, 1198
place of death: Marrakesh
Who was Averroes?
Ibn Rushd was one of the most renowned Andalusian philosophers of the medieval era. Popularly known as Averroes, he made significant contribution to other fields such as astronomy, medicine, law, psychology, geography, physics and celestial mechanics, other than philosophy. Ever since his childhood he had an inclination towards acquiring knowledge on various topics which laid the foundation for his expertise on a vast range of subjects. He was the founder of the ‘Averroism’ school of philosophy and believed that contrary to popular opinion religion and philosophy are both tools that aid in the human quest of salvation. While religion was meant for everyone, philosophy was exclusive to those who possessed a greater intellect. He tried to draw parallels within Islamic faith and Greek philosopher Aristotle’s belief. Some of his most famous works were commentaries on Aristotle’s Politics and Republics. He was criticised by the orthodox caliphate and its followers for his views on religion and many of his works were banned. He was even forbidden to enter the Marrakesh, present day Morocco. Despite all criticism, he was highly regarded among his peers and the works of celebrated authors like Dante and James Joyce have made mention of this remarkable polymath. To know more about his life and works read on
Childhood & Early Life
Ibn Rushd, or Averroes as he is popularly known, was the grandson of Abu Al-Walid Muhammad and son of Abu Al-Qasim, both of whom were practitioners of law under the Berber dynasty of Almoravids, and born in Córdoba, Spain on April 14, 1126.
The young Averroes received education from the finest teachers in subjects that ranged from theology and Hadith to linguistics and law. He studied medicine under the tutelage of Abu Jafar ibn Harun al-Turjali.
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He started his career in the court of the ruler from Almohad dynasty Abu Yaqub Yusuf. The king was a patron of science and philosophy and Ibn Zuhr who was a renowned doctor was the court physician. Averroes befriended Ibn Zuhr and the latter took him under his wing.
His prowess in the field of medicine was established when he published ‘Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb’.
It was at the court of Abu Yaqub, that Ibn first authored a commentary on the works of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. His thoughts on religion and philosophy were also moulded by the works of philosopher Ibn Bajjah.
Dedicated to studies of various philosophical works that continued for the next three decades, he developed a new school of thought that was named ‘Averroism’.
He was appointed the judge of Seville province in 1160 and following this appointment Averroes donned the responsibility in many other courts throughout his life.
His body of works included close to hundred papers on subjects ranging from philosophy, theology, medicine, law, and grammar. Though he is most famous his translations of Aristotle’s work in particular ‘The Republic’.
Apart from analysing and translating Aristotle’s philosophical works he penned his own views on philosophy in an extensive compilation entitled ‘The Incoherence of the Incoherence’. His other writings on philosophy include ‘Fasl al-Maqal fi ma bayn al-Hikma wa al-Shariah min Ittisal’ and ‘Kitab al-Kashf an Manahij al-Adilla’.
The eminent physician authored ‘Kulliyat’, which comprised his extensive knowledge general medicine.
He is believed to be the first to propose the concept of ‘inertia’ and he even described the force as "the rate at which work is done in changing the kinetic condition of a material body". He also explained that the phenomenon behind rainbow formation is refraction and not reflection as was popularly believed.
A scholar of law he even wrote several books on the subjects which include ‘Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid’ or the ‘The Distinguished Jurist's Primer’.
He authored commentaries for almost all the works of Aristotle and they were detail analysis of each sentence. When he was unable to find the latter’s work on politics he turned to Plato. Rushd’s believed in many ideas propounded by Plato such as equal rights for women and vetting of literature texts.
His views, that religion and philosophy are different means to a same end, received harsh criticism from the orthodox caliphate and several of his writings were burned. From 1995-97, he was forbidden to preach his ideologies and enter the land of Marrakesh.
Ibn Rushd most famous work on philosophy is the book titled ‘The Incoherence of the Incoherence’. This was his most important piece of writing that revived the Aristotelian philosophy in the West, during the 12th and 13th century. His work was a retort on Al-Ghazali’s work ‘The Incoherence of the Philosophers’ that denounced ‘Aristotelianism’.
Personal Life & Legacy
The eminent theologian faced criticism for his views on philosophy and religion from the members of ‘Asharite’ school of Islamic theology. His works were burned and he was forbidden by the caliphate to enter Marrakesh, or present day Morocco. However the year before his death, the ban was lifted.
Averroes breathed his last on December 10, 1198 in Marrakesh and has left behind a legacy in the form of ‘Averroism’ school of Islamic philosophy.
The Egyptian film director Youssef Chahine portrayed the story of Averroes in his 1997 film ‘Destiny’.
The eminent philosopher is the eponym of several awards, which include the ‘Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought’, and even some astronomical structures like the crater on moon, asteroid ‘8318 Averroes’ and the genus of trees ‘Averrhoa’.