An important Islamic philosopher and scientist whose work also played a major influence in Christian and Jewish thinking during the Middle Ages. Known as Averroes in the Western tradition, Ibn Rushd lived in Spain and Morocco, the westernmost edge of the Islamic world. He spent many years as personal physician to the leaders of the Moroccan Almohad dynasty and produced a medical text, known as General Medicine, which was to prove a basic physician’s resource for centuries. Ibn Rushd’s work, as well as his reputation, also helped to revive respect for the writings of ancient Greece throughout the Mediterranean world and in northern Europe, laying the groundwork for humanism, an important revival of classical scholarship associated with the Renaissance.
Ibn Rushd’s most important philosophical work involved an attempted reconciliation between Islamic thought and the work of ancient Greek writers such as Aristotle and Plato. Thanks partly to his study of the Greeks, Ibn Rushd was inspired to argue that only thinkers able to employ definitive proofs should be eligible to interpret sharia, Islamic law. This assertion brought him into conflict with more orthodox Islamic thinkers, and in 1195 resulted in his temporary banishment from Morocco. Ibn Rushd also argued that religious law was the only ultimate truth, and that philosophy had to be directed toward
gaining that truth. Although all human beings could gain a sense of religion, only philos0phers could understand its true inner meaning. This was why, Ibn Rushd argued, ordinary believers required the stories and metaphors contained in the Qur’an and other scriptures; they allowed most believers to grasp symbolically the religious truths that only philosophers could fully understand. Ibn Rushd also claimed that, despite their deeper search for religious truth, philosophers, like ordinary people, also had to accept the literal teachings of scripture, and were not exempt from such aspects of those scriptures as rituals or rewards and punishment.
SEE ALSO: al-Ghazali; sharia; al-Tabari
Ibn Rushd in his darkest hour Travel088