Islamic Philosophy Term Paper

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Islamic Philosophy

Abul-Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd: His Work and Philosophy

Abul-Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 C.E), also known as Averroes, is regarded by many as one of the foremost Islamic philosophers and a pivotal figure in the history of Andalusian philosophy. He is also deemed an important figure in the history of Western philosophy. An important contribution to Islamic culture and philosophy was his defense of Greek philosophy in the Islamic world as well as his emphasis on the philosophy of Aristotle. Ibn Rushd is credited with the introduction of "rationalism" into Islamic philosophy.

A as Etienne Gilson has written in his Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, Rationalism was born in Spain in the mind of an Arabian philosopher, as a conscious reaction against the theologism of the Arabian divines, by whom he means the Ash'arite Mutakallimun. (Fakhry)

In global terms it has been asserted that not only did he make an invaluable contribution to Islamic thought but that his 'philosophical rationalism', which was created five centuries earlier than Descartes writings, is even more comprehensive that the rationalism of the famous Western philosopher. This is an indication of the stature of Ibdn Rushd, as Descartes is generally regarded as the father of modern philosophy. His influence even extended to Christian Ecclesiastes in the Middle Ages, including men like St. Thomas Aquinas. Another important aspect of his thinking was his insistence "that there is no incompatibility between religion and philosophy when both are properly understood." (Zahoor)

Abul-Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd was born in Cordova, Spain in 520 A.H. Or 1128 C.E. He came from a well-known judicial family and both his father and grandfather were judges. His family was also well-known for their scholarship. He studied religious law, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. Ibn Rushd was appointed as judge in Seville at the age of forty-four. He wrote commentaries on the works of Aristotle, including the Metaphysics. After serving as a judge in Cordova he was called to Marrakech to work as a physician for the Caliph there. On his return to Cordova he was appointed as Chief Judge. Ibn Rushd was interested in philosophy and logic and was intent on integrating philosophy and religion in many of his works. He was also interested in medicine and "According to the French philosopher Renan, Ibn Rushd wrote seventy-eight books on various subjects." (ibid) The International Islamic Digital Library sums up his contribution to Islamic thought and to philosophy in general, as follows:

Ibn Rushd a.k.a Averroes was one of the brightest intellectual luminaries of the Middle Ages. Coming from a family well-known for scholarship, he excelled in Islamic religious law, medicine, mathematics and philosophy. Western intelligentsia considers Averroes great because of the tremendous stir he caused in the minds of men for centuries.


Ibn Rushd produced an extensive range of writings, the most famous of which deal with philosophy, logic, medicine and jurisprudence. He also made significant contributions in the field of music. The influence of his thought and philosophy has been widely felt in the Islamic world as well as in the Western philosophic tradition. Legend has it that his philosophical writing began with a discussion with Almohad Prince Abu Ya'qub Yusuf over the origin of the world and the nature of the mind.

His ruminations on Aristotle's account of existence and the nature of the soul so impressed the ruler that he commissioned Ibn Rushd to write an entire set of commentaries. A few years later the prince appointed him his personal physician. Under this royal patronage, Ibn Rushd spent the rest of his life writing commentaries on virtually all of Aristotle's works, producing detailed and original reconstructive commentaries on metaphysics, physics, posterior analytics, De Caelo and De Anima, as well as Plato's 'Republic'. (ibid)

Ibn Rushd was a deeply religious man and one of his major contributions was his attempt to reconcile philosophy and religion. "He keenly tried to reconcile philosophy and religion in many of his works, which reveal that he was a deeply religious man with in-depth knowledge of the Qur'an and the Prophetic Traditions." (ibid)

Central to his philosophy are the following aspects: Ibn Rushd believed that true happiness for man can be achieved through mental and psychological health, which is dependent on a belief in God and His Oneness. His point-of-view was that the objective of Islam was true knowledge, which in essence means knowledge of God and of His creation.

Ibn Rushd concludes that God requires man to try to obtain demonstrative knowledge of His existence, but prior to having demonstrative knowledge, man must be able to have dialectical, theoretical and logical knowledge. That is for man to learn he must know the basis of reasoning. Hence, philosophy is not only necessary but also commanded by the Divine. (Allahhakbar. Net)

This true knowledge also includes understanding and wisdom which is of a practical nature. This type of practical knowledge includes "Jurisprudence, which deals with the material or tangible aspect of human life; and the spiritual sciences, which deal with matters like patience, gratitude to God and morals." (IIDL) Ibn Rushd likened Spiritual Laws to medicine in their affect on human beings. He empathized 'spiritual health', termed 'Taqwa' (righteousness and God-fearing) in the Qur'an.

His most important philosophical work is the Tuhafut al-Tuhafut, which also had a profound influence on European thought. This work was written in response to a work by the Islamic philosopher al-Ghazali's attack on Western influences and thought. Ibdn Rushd was criticized by al-Ghazali's and other Islamic thinkers and schools of thought as they felt that it incorporated a "western" approach and was not compatible with a pure Islamic perception of religion.

Ibn Rushd's views on fate and mankind are that nothing is fully predetermined. Mankind is not in full control of its fate, but neither is it fully predetermined. In relation to this understanding he envisages the role of the intellect and its place in relation to religious issues was one of his central contributions to Islamic thought.

The question of the intellect occupies an obviously important place both in the general history of philosophy and in the particular context of the historical study of Ibn Rushd. no other aspect of the Rushdi discourse has such a unique and distinguished history behind it; and while other aspects have failed to leave lasting reverberations, this one led on to the crucially important intellectual current subsequently known as Latin Averroism.


One of Ibn Rushd;s central contentions is that Law or religious truth commands the study of philosophy. This aspect relates to his view that there is an intrinsic link between religion and philosophy. He refers to the fact that many Quranic verses insist upon intellectual understanding and mediation on religious aspects. Verses from the Quaran such as " 'Reflect, you have a vision' (59.2) and 'they give thought to the creation of heaven and earth' (3:191), command human intellectual reflection upon God and his creation." He also states that "This is best done by demonstration, drawing inferences from accepted premises, which is what both lawyers and philosophers do. Since, therefore, such obligation exists in religion, then a person who has the capacity of "natural intelligence" and "religious integrity" must begin to study philosophy."


The intellectual stimulation that Ibn Rushd brought to Islamic philosophy and thought is possibly one of his greatest contributions to Islam. While many Islamic thinkers such as al-Ghazali's were of the opinion that he brought too many ideas for outside of Islam, it is precisely this richness of thought and the diversity of his works that adds so eloquently to the depth and riches of the Islamic world of thought.

George Sarton, in his introduction to the History of Science said: "Averroes was great because of the tremendous stir he made in the minds of men for centuries. A history of Averroism would include up to the end of the sixteenth-century, a period of four centuries which would perhaps deserve as much as any other to be called the Middle Ages, for it was the real transition between ancient and modern methods." (IIDL)

The wide range and quality of his writings have ensured his place as one of the foremost thinkers in the Islamic world. In the field of music for example, Ibn Rushd wrote a commentary on Aristotle's book De Anima. In astronomy he is credited with a treatise on the motion of the sphere, Kitab fi-Harakat al-Falak. He also made a remarkable contribution in the areas of logic, medicine, and jurisprudence. In medicine he is particularly well respected and in his book, Kitab al-Kulyat fi al-Tibb. He is equally renowned for his studies in aspects of medicine, including the diagnoses, cure and prevention of diseases. He is also credited by many as the discoverer of sunspots. His book on jurisprudence, entitled 'Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa-Nihayat-al-Muqtasid', was also renowned. Many of his works have been translated into different languages including English, German and Hebrew. However, some works such as his work on zoology…[continue]

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