Abū al-Walīd Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd—or Averroës, as he was known to Latin readers—was born in 1126 at the far western edge of the Islamic world, in Córdoba, Spain. His father and grandfather were prominent scholars and religious figures, and he, in turn, developed close ties with the Almohad caliphs who reigned over southern Spain and northwestern Africa during the twelfth century. These connections allowed him to serve as an influential religious judge in Seville and Córdoba and, later, as court physician in Marrakesh. Supposedly in response to the caliph’s complaint about the obscurity of Aristotle’s writings, Averroës devoted much of his scholarly efforts to a series of commentaries on Aristotle, producing both brief epitomes and exhaustive, line-by-line studies. These commentaries would eventually take on a life of their own, but the most striking feature of Averroës’s career is how little influence he had on the Islamic world of his time, despite his obvious brilliance. Many of his works no longer survive in Arabic at all, but only in Latin or Hebrew translation. Indeed, even during his life, Averroës became a controversial figure. For in 1195, when the then-reigning caliph felt the need to make concessions to conservative religious figures, he banished Averroës to the small Spanish town of Lucena, and ordered that his philosophical works be burned. Not long after, the caliph moved to Marrakesh, a position from which he evidently was able to restore Averroës to favor. The philosopher rejoined the caliph’s court, where he died in 1198.
How far back?
2020 | Present