Ibn Rushd , known in the West as Averroës, was a physician and religious judge in Muslim Spain. He was also one of the greatest thinkers of the Muslim world and a follower of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Ibn Rushd became well known for his writings on Aristotle, earning him the name of “The Commentator.”
Ibn Rushd was born in the Spanish city of Córdoba to a well-educated and cultured family. Both his father and grandfather served as judges in that city. Ibn Rushd devoted most of his time to scholarly pursuits, studying mathematics, medicine, Islamic law, and theology. He later became a physician and chief judge at the royal court in Muslim Spain.
In his philosophical commentaries, Ibn Rushd tried to harmonize the teachings of the Qur'an with those of Aristotle. He believed that religion and philosophy had the same goal—to help people live according to the truth so they could achieve salvation after death. He thought that religion was for everybody but that philosophy should be reserved for the most intelligent members of society. He argued that a philosopher-king, who could establish order and provide laws to guide the masses toward proper action, ruled in an ideal society.
Ibn Rushd's best known philosophical study is The Incoherence of the Incoherence. This was written in response to an earlier attack on philosophy, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, by Muslim theologian and mystic Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (died 1111 ). In addition to his philosophical works, Ibn Rushd produced commentaries on medicine, law, music, astronomy, and logic. His important medical treatise, known in Latin as Colliget, sheds light on the prevention, diagnosis, and cure of many diseases.
Ironically, Ibn Rushd's writings became better known in the West than in the Islamic world. For many medieval Europeans, his commentaries on Aristotle were their only source of knowledge about ancient Greek philosophy. His work influenced Jewish and Christian philosophers, including Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas . Some Islamic religious scholars, on the other hand, condemned Ibn Rushd's work as unorthodox, even though he was a devout Muslim. See also Ghazali, Abu Hamid al-; Philosophy.