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 Ibn Tufayls Hayy Ibn Yaqzan A Philosophical Tale
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Ibn Tufayl
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IBN TUFAYL’S HAYY IBN YAQZAN A PHILOSOPHICAL TALE – Book Sample

Contents

  1. The Life of Ibn Tufayl
  2. Educational Philosophy
  3. Religious Philosphy
  4. Man and Society

Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzān

Notes to the Text

Notes to the Introduction Bibliography

Index

The Life of Ibn Tufayl – IBN TUFAYL’S HAYY IBN YAQZAN A PHILOSOPHICAL TALE

It was considered unseemly for Muslim authors in the middle ages to discuss personal matters in writings intended for the public. Sons were an achievement, and of these we know Ibn Tufayl had three, but whether he had as many daughters, whether he was happily married, widowed, or divorced is no longer known.

He wrote once, quoting words attributed to Muhammad, that to make one wife happy is to make the other miserable, but even here it is not known whether his choice of adage is based on bitter experience, contented monogamy, or merely the exigencies of the argument.

 Those searching for a figure into which they may breathe again the colors of sentiment and passion had best be warned to find another. Ibn Tufayl will not respond to their efforts at resuscitation. Yet he lived and his life was an important one.

Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl was born shortly after the beginning of the twelfth century in the little Spanish town of Guadix, about 50 miles northeast of Granada. He was born a Muslim in a Muslim country and he remained a Muslim all his life. He was well educated and taught medicine as well as practicing it. He was minister to the governor of Granada and served several members of the Almohad dynasty in the same capacity. His highest post was that of minister and chief physician to the Almohad Sultan Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf.

The Sultan, Ibn Tufayl’s patron, was himself a learned man deeply involved in the intellectual movements of his time. The historian, ʿAbdu-l-Wāhid of Marrakesh, writes: “He continually gathered books from all corners of Spain and North Africa and sought out knowledgeable men, especially thinkers, until he had gathered more than any previous king in the west. Among the intellectuals that were his friends was Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl, a Muslim philosopher, expert in all branches of philosophy, who had studied the work of many of the

truest philosophers including Ibn Bājja. I have seen works of Ibn Tufayl’s on both natural and metaphysical philosophy, to name only two areas of his philosophical competence. One of his natural books is called Hayy Ibn Yaqzān. Its object is to explain the meaning of human existence according to philosophical ideas.

The book, written in the form of a letter, is slim but of tremendous benefit in this study. Among his metaphysical or theological writings is an essay on the soul which I have seen in his own hand (God rest his soul). In his last days Ibn Tufayl devoted all his energies to metaphysics and renounced everything else. He was eager to reconcile religion and philosophy and gave great weight to revelation, not only at the literal, but also at the more profound level. Besides this he was tremendously learned in Islamic studies.

I understand that he used to line up for his pay with all the regular employees, medics, engineers, secretaries, poets, archers, soldiers, etc. He said ‘If they’re in the market for musical theory, I can supply it.’ The Commander of the Faithful Abū Yaʿqūb loved him so well that he stayed with him in the palace, night and day, not coming out for days at a time.”

Ibn Tufayl’s duties presumably included giving advice on political questions as well as medical ones; and whether formally or informally, he seems to have performed the role of a minister of culture. Marrākushī writes: “Ibn Tufayl made it his practice to gather scholars from all over the world and saw to it that they obtained the interest and favor of the ruler.

READ  The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy pdf

It was he who recommended, to the Sultan, Ibn Rushd who first became known and appreciated as a result.”

Ibn Rushd (or Averroës, as he is known to the West) himself confirms this, according to one of his students whose words were taken down by the same historian: “I often heard Ibn Rushd relate the following story: ‘When I went in to the Sultan Abū Yaʿqūb, I found him alone with Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl. Ibn Tufayl began praising me and speaking of my family and my background, very kindly adding many good things which I really did not deserve.

Having inquired as to my name and origins, the first thing the Commander of the Faithful asked me was “What do they (he meant the philosophers) believe about the heavens? Are they eternal or created?” I was seized with consternation and did not know what to say.

I tried to excuse myself by denying that I had studied philosophy. I had no idea how far his prior discussions with Ibn Tufayl had gone. His Excellency saw that I was frightened and confused. He turned to Ibn Tufayl and began to discuss the question with him, referring to the positions of Aristotle and Plato and all the other philosophers, and citing the arguments of the Muslims against them.

I soon realized that he was more learned than I would have expected a full time specialist to be. He put me so well at ease that I myself spoke up and he soon saw that I was not as ignorant as I had seemed. When I had gone he sent me a gift of money, and a splendid robe of honor, and a horse.’”

Despite the disappointing performance of the great champion of philosophy, Averroes, at his first interview with the Sultan, it was Ibn Tufayl’s evaluation of the man that prevailed at court, and it was through Ibn Tufayl that Ibn Rushd was commissioned to write his monumental commentary on the works of Aristotle. Marrākushī writes: “The same student reports the following words of Ibn Rushd: ‘Ibn Tufayl sent for me one day and said, “The Khalif was complaining today about the difficulty of Aristotle’s language—or perhaps that of his translators—and the resultant difficulty in understanding his ideas.

He suggested that if these books could be furnished with a good interpreter who could explain them after he had thoroughly mastered them himself, then people might grasp them more readily.” Ibn Tufayl then said “If you have the energy for such an undertaking, go ahead. I believe you can do it because I see that you are sincere and I know how brilliant and dedicated you are.

Only my age and the responsibilities of my office, (and the fact that I must devote myself to something that seems to me to be more important) keep me from doing it myself.” It was this that determined me to write my first outlines of the works of Aristotle.’”

When Ibn Tufayl retired as court physician in 1182, Ibn Rushd was asked to serve as his successor.

Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf died in 1184 of wounds received at the siege of Santarem in Portugal. His son Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb succeeded him and continued his father’s patronage of the elderly Ibn Tufayl and deference to his advice. In 1185 Ibn Tufayl died at Marrakesh.

The Sultan himself officiated at the funeral. Behind him Ibn Tufayl left his disciples, his children, and his books. The books include poetry and textbooks on medicine and astronomy—some of which are in verse. One philosophical work survives, Hayy Ibn Yaqzān. About the progress of the inner life, as distinct from the private life, Muslims were not reticent. It is through this book that we know Ibn Tufayl

READ  Method and Theory in the Study of Islamic Origins

The Life of Ibn Tufayl – IBN TUFAYL’S HAYY IBN YAQZAN A PHILOSOPHICAL TALE

It was considered unseemly for Muslim authors in the middle ages to discuss personal matters in writings intended for the public. Sons were an achievement, and of these we know Ibn Tufayl had three, but whether he had as many daughters, whether he was happily married, widowed, or divorced is no longer known. He wrote once, quoting words attributed to Muhammad, that to make one wife happy is to make the other miserable, but even here it is not known whether his choice of adage is based on bitter experience, contented monogamy, or merely the exigencies of the argument.

Those searching for a figure into which they may breathe again the colors of sentiment and passion had best be warned to find another. Ibn Tufayl will not respond to their efforts at resuscitation. Yet he lived and his life was an important one.

Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl was born shortly after the beginning of the twelfth century in the little Spanish town of Guadix, about 50 miles northeast of Granada. He was born a Muslim in a Muslim country and he remained a Muslim all his life. He was well educated and taught medicine as well as practicing it.

He was minister to the governor of Granada and served several members of the Almohad dynasty in the same capacity. His highest post was that of minister and chief physician to the Almohad Sultan Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf.

The Sultan, Ibn Tufayl’s patron, was himself a learned man deeply involved in the intellectual movements of his time. The historian, ʿAbdu-l-Wāhid of Marrakesh, writes: “He continually gathered books from all corners of Spain and North Africa and sought out knowledgeable men, especially thinkers, until he had gathered more than any previous king in the west. Among the intellectuals that were his friends was Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl, a Muslim philosopher, expert in all branches of philosophy, who had studied the work of many of the

truest philosophers including Ibn Bājja. I have seen works of Ibn Tufayl’s on both natural and metaphysical philosophy, to name only two areas of his philosophical competence. One of his natural books is called Hayy Ibn Yaqzān. Its object is to explain the meaning of human existence according to philosophical ideas. The book, written in the form of a letter, is slim but of tremendous benefit in this study.

Among his metaphysical or theological writings is an essay on the soul which I have seen in his own hand (God rest his soul). In his last days Ibn Tufayl devoted all his energies to metaphysics and renounced everything else. He was eager to reconcile religion and philosophy and gave great weight to revelation, not only at the literal, but also at the more profound level. Besides this he was tremendously learned in Islamic studies. I understand that he used to line up for his pay with all the regular employees, medics, engineers, secretaries, poets, archers, soldiers, etc. He said ‘If they’re in the market for musical theory, I can supply it.’

 The Commander of the Faithful Abū Yaʿqūb loved him so well that he stayed with him in the palace, night and day, not coming out for days at a time.”

Ibn Tufayl’s duties presumably included giving advice on political questions as well as medical ones; and whether formally or informally, he seems to have performed the role of a minister of culture. Marrākushī writes: “Ibn Tufayl made it his practice to gather scholars from all over the world and saw to it that they obtained the interest and favor of the ruler. It was he who recommended, to the Sultan, Ibn Rushd who first became known and appreciated as a result.”

READ  Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians pdf

Ibn Rushd (or Averroës, as he is known to the West) himself confirms this, according to one of his students whose words were taken down by the same historian: “I often heard Ibn Rushd relate the following story: ‘When I went in to the Sultan Abū Yaʿqūb, I found him alone with Abū Bakr Ibn Tufayl. Ibn Tufayl began praising me and speaking of my family and my background, very kindly adding many good things which I really did not deserve. Having inquired as to my name and origins, the first thing the Commander of the Faithful asked me was “What do they (he meant the philosophers) believe about the heavens? Are they eternal or created?” I was seized with consternation and did not know what to say.

I tried to excuse myself by denying that I had studied philosophy. I had no idea how far his prior discussions with Ibn Tufayl had gone. His Excellency saw that I was frightened and confused. He turned to Ibn Tufayl and began to discuss the question with him, referring to the positions of Aristotle and Plato and all the other philosophers, and citing the arguments of the Muslims against them.

I soon realized that he was more learned than I would have expected a full time specialist to be. He put me so well at ease that I myself spoke up and he soon saw that I was not as ignorant as I had seemed. When I had gone he sent me a gift of money, and a splendid robe of honor, and a horse.’”

Despite the disappointing performance of the great champion of philosophy, Averroes, at his first interview with the Sultan, it was Ibn Tufayl’s evaluation of the man that prevailed at court, and it was through Ibn Tufayl that Ibn Rushd was commissioned to write his monumental commentary on the works of Aristotle. Marrākushī writes: “The same student reports the following words of Ibn Rushd: ‘Ibn Tufayl sent for me one day and said, “The Khalif was complaining today about the difficulty of Aristotle’s language—or perhaps that of his translators—and the resultant difficulty in understanding his ideas. He suggested that if these books could be furnished with a good interpreter who could explain them after he had thoroughly mastered them himself, then people might grasp them more readily.” Ibn Tufayl then said “If you have the energy for such an undertaking, go ahead.

I believe you can do it because I see that you are sincere and I know how brilliant and dedicated you are. Only my age and the responsibilities of my office, (and the fact that I must devote myself to something that seems to me to be more important) keep me from doing it myself.” It was this that determined me to write my first outlines of the works of Aristotle.’”

When Ibn Tufayl retired as court physician in 1182, Ibn Rushd was asked to serve as his successor.

Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf died in 1184 of wounds received at the siege of Santarem in Portugal. His son Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqūb succeeded him and continued his father’s patronage of the elderly Ibn Tufayl and deference to his advice. In 1185 Ibn Tufayl died at Marrakesh. The Sultan himself officiated at the funeral. Behind him Ibn Tufayl left his disciples, his children, and his books.

The books include poetry and textbooks on medicine and astronomy—some of which are in verse. One philosophical work survives, Hayy Ibn Yaqzān. About the progress of the inner life, as distinct from the private life, Muslims were not reticent. It is through this book that we know Ibn Tufayl

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