The Legacy of Ibn Rushd

During the period of (750 C.E. – 1250 C. E.) Islamic culture reached heights unmatched by any other civilization at the time. The vast territories of Abbasid allowed the accumulation of knowledge from western and eastern cultures alike. Life works from scholars of many different regions and cultures were made available to Islamic scholars. These ideas were studied and built upon during this period of intellectual achievement. One Islamic scholar was Ibn Rushd or as the Europeans called him Averroes. There were many Islamic scholars at the time so what set Rushd apart from all the others? What were Ibn Rushd’s accomplishments and how did he influence his culture and the western world of Europe? Through his work as a philosopher, legal thinker, physician, and politician Rushd distinguished himself from his peers as one of the premier Islamic scholars of his time and forced the great thinkers in the cultures of the west to reevaluate many of its interpretation of Greek ideas and their own ideals.

Ibn Rushd was born 1128 CE in Cordova, Spain. He came from a strong heritage of learned men. Both his father and grandfather were judges and well established in the community. Rushd received his education in Cordova where he focused his attention on philosophy, law and medicine. Fortunate for Rushd two centuries prior to his birth Al-Hakam had constructed the library of Cordova which contained 500,000 books and was one of the largest at the time. This gave the opportunity for Rushd to become the intellectual he is famous for.  Thanks to his family’s lineage he was appointed to the Caliph’s physician where he was able to continue his studies while serving the ruler.  He continued this way until he fell out of favor with the Caliph and was banished to North Africa.  Rushd returned after being “rehabilitated” and died in 1198.

Rushd’s accomplishments have many different areas of expertise. In his life he wrote over 20000 pages on varying subjects. In medicine Rushd wrote the book called Colliget. In this book Ibn Rushd makes breakthroughs on diagnoses, curing and the prevention of diseases. He went on to write 20 books on the subject of medicine. In law Rushd wrote on jurisprudence and was received as one of the best writers of his time. With his understanding of Sharia he claimed women we the equals of men within the law.  He even wrote on the properties of astronomy. Rushd is accredited with being the first person to understand the transfer of motion and wrote on the movement of the planets. While all these writing are very impressive by themselves Ibn Rushd is most famous for his works on philosophy.  Thanks to his location Rushd was privy to the works of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers. His writing on Aristotelian logic and philosophy is still considered some of the best. In his philosophy he is accredited with the double truth scheme and the idea of “reasoning yourself to God”.  This is what Rushd called reasoning and revelation.  Rushd saw the world as based on cause and effect and therefore understanding of that was either attainable through religion or revelation and philosophy or reasoning.

While Ibn Rushd’s works were great and timeless much of it was dismissed by his own culture. Due to the view that the nature of some of his ideas was heretical he was cast out and only later allowed to return with the help of his peers. Even with Rushd’s return from North Africa, he was seen as tainted by the people and his death soon followed his homecoming. This is very different from his effect on western culture. His ideas on philosophy created a stir in Europe that had far reaching effect. The idea of the universe being a cog like in nature and based on reasoning gave wave to great minds like Descartes and changed Europe forever with the Enlightenment age.