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Maimonides (1138-1204) resurrects Ibn Rushd (Averroes) rational works

Maimonides (Mussa ibn Maimun) was 12 years younger than Ibn Rush (Averroes); they both were born in the same cultured city of Cordoba (southern Spain).

Cordoba was for over a century the center of intellect and civilization around the Mediterranean Sea basin.  In 1149, the family of Maimonides were given the option of leaving the city or convert to Islam:  A new Islamic tribe from Morocco (Almohades or the Al Muwahhidun) imposed a conservative climate in that free-spirited city where Moslems, Christians, and Jews lived in harmony.

The fathers of Maimonides and Ibn Rush are friends:  Ibn Rushd’s father is a Moslem judge while Maimonides’ father is a Rabbi of the Jewish community. Maimonides’ father encouraged the Jews who could not afford to leave to convert to Islam:  Islam is one of the purest monolithic religion and the mosques have no idols, icons, or pictures, on the basis that in due time, converted Jews can leave in order to resume their traditional ceremonies and way of life.

The family of Maimonides opted to leave:  It stays in Toledo (a city under King Alphonse VII of Castile), then move on to southern France to join a large Jewish community.  In 1160, the family is in Fez  (Morocco) and stayed there for 5 years; the family transfer to Tanger where Ibn Rushd is judge there.

In 1165, the family immigrated to Palestine. The father dies in Akka.  Maimonides is head of the family and they move to Alexandria (Egypt) and then to Fostat, 5 miles away from the Capital Cairo.  Maimonides will remain there and become the Ayubid Sultan’s physician.

Maimonides relied on Ibn Rushd’s works to perpetuate the rational and scientific trend.  He wrote:

“We may dispense of Platon’s works:  Aristotle’s works suffice, since they are the foundations and roots of scientific rational methods.  Aristotle’s works are difficult and many propositions cannot be comprehended without the commentaries and interpretations of Ibn Rushd.”

When Ibn Rushd was banned from publishing books or communicating what he wrote  in the last six years of his life, the increased pressures on Ibn Rushd’s freedom of expression resulted in regular events of  public burning of the scholars’ manuscripts.  Luckily, copies reached Cairo, northern Spain, and southern France (Languedoc province) where they were read and translated in Hebrew, Latin, and local languages.

As Ibn Rushd, Maimonides believes that “It is proven that all actions done by man emanate from his own volition.  No external forces oblige him to tend to virtue or evil doing.  Every man can become just or guilty, good or bad; it is his own will that select the way of what he desires.  If we suffer, it is by what we inflict upon ourselves; we tend to attribute our pains as originating from God. Mankind is but another species and element in this cosmos and the universe does not revolve around man.  God is but an abstract concept, even if the Books refer to hands and fingers of God just to accommodating the limited abstraction power of common people.  God should not be described as good, benevolent, compassionate, jealous or any other character attributes since they will break the unity of God.”

In 1199, Judah bin Tibon, who had been translating Maimonides works from Arabic to Hebrew in southern France, expressed the desire to visit him in Cairo. Maimonides discouraged Tibon to undergo this perilous voyage since he won’t have time to meet with him because of his tight schedule.

Maimonides wrote:  “Early every day I have to ride 5 miles to check on the health of the Sultan, his extended family, and the officials in the castle.  I rarely returns home before late in the afternoon.  When I arrive I am met by many visitors, judges, notable people, and mostly patients waiting for health check up.  I barely have time to have my only meal of the day.  By the time the patients are gone it is late at night, frequently until 2am.

On the Sabbath, the Jewish community pay me visit after morning prayer and we study till noon and give them instructions for the week. Frequently, they return after the afternoon prayer and we study some more til evening prayer.  Thus, I never have time for any private meeting.”

Maimonides spread the advice of Ibn Rushd:  “Have no fear searching for truth in sciences.  Truth cannot contradict truth; sciences is in accord with God’s revelations. God has nothing to fear when you use your rational intelligence to discovering the universe and the causes of phenomenon.  Dialectical and rhetorical reasoning cannot compensate for demonstrative reasoning.

Generally, common people confuse inferences with conclusions that are drawn from several premises. For example:  common people say “this person is a thief because he was seen wandering at night” and do not evaluate all the other factors that determine a thieving behavior.  Common people conclude that they will see God as we see the sun when they are told that God is light.

Learned people comprehend that beatitude and grace increase knowledge.  Truth is not intuitive but the accumulation of knowledge; we cannot become astronomer without learning and assimilating geometry and mathematics. Forbidding people from applying scientific methods on the ground that they lead to errors, abuse, and blasphemy is like forbidding someone from drinking lest he dies of thirst on the excuse that some people die from drowning.

Scientific methods of reasoning is not meant to defining God or the operations that lead to the creation of the universe:  It attests to its existence.  We cannot apply to God the categories and human concepts””

In 1180, Maimonides wrote to a Jewish community in Yemen asking for a second opinion:  A Jew proclaimed to be the Messiah

“It is not rare that such type of persons appears in history.  The Messiah cannot keep the promises that this person is spreading of happy eternal life:  The Messiah is not to change the laws of nature; pain, suffering, and injustice will not disappear; deserts will not become green and mountains will not be leveled out. The Messiah is not supposed to be a supernatural entity but someone to put an end to violence.  Those proclaiming to be messiah are but charlatans and mentally sick.”

One of the most known manuscripts of Maimonides is “Guide to the perplexed” or those who cannot help it but constantly raise questions relevant to the meaning of life, the universe, the identity of God… He suggested that the perplexed person gets on with the effort of studying philosophy and apply reason and scientific methods to resolving their uneasy conditions.

In Central Europe of the 18th century, the Hasidic Jewish sect would proclaim Maimonides and all the followers who consider him as their spiritual leader as “heretics”.  Nevertheless, Maimonides works influence Spinoza, Kant, Fichte, Darwin, Freud, Lancan, and Leo Strauss.

Ibn Rushd dared reflect on every single question exposed by the civilization of the period concerning the coherence among religious dogmas and scientific verities; he dared to write his answers.  Maimonides reflected too on the corny questions but refrained from writing them down; you could know his positions by inference to his answers.

A brief background:  In Maimonides life, Europe is still battling among its various Christian schisms of monophysite, Niceans  (Catholics), Nestorians, Arianus followers (predominant among the Germanic and Slavic people).  The Calif of Baghdad is reduced to a figure-head while the Turkish princes are the main power (the Mogul hordes will soon sack and destroy (in 1250) this famous city of Baghdad that concentrated 3 million urban citizens back then).

The Western Roman Empire had vanished, and the Byzantium Empire was weakening (soon will be reduced to a vassal condition to the Ottoman expanding power in Turkey).  Papal Rome is being selected by the Germanic monarchs as well as the bishops, and in many occasions, two popes are elected and backed by various monarchs. The political and military confrontations among the many Christian religious schisms on the nature of Jesus have taken their toll on Europe.

The crusaders are loosing their grips in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and Saladin recaptured Jerusalem.  The Catholic monarchs of Castile and Aragon (Spain) had started the “reconquista” and Andalusia was wracked by wars among the multiple small kingdoms of Islamic monarchs; these internal wars were called “wars of Tawaif”.  In

In 1112, Ibn Tumar, a literate Berber from Algeria who spent ten years in Iran, returned to proclaim that he is the awaited “hidden” Mahdi (since 874) of the Islam sect the Shias and formed the Almohades (Al Muwayidun) or united Islam.

The Spanish Catholic monarch Alphonse 7th put siege to Cordoba in 1148.  The  Caliph of Cordona Abd Mu2min calls on the Almohades for rescue and outset the Almoravids dynasty (Al murabitun) or the ones in vigilance.  The Almoravids originated from Mauritania and were a powerful tribe of traders in the western Sahara that captured Morocco.

In 1497, Papal Rome encouraged the institution of a university in Padua (Italy) to teaching Aristotle’s works and be translated directly from ancient Greek.  It was a strategy of ignoring the influence of Islamic culture that was spreading in Catholic Europe.  The Renaissance scholars dared not communicate the sources of their knowledge and learning.

Since then, European scholars have continued this custom of deliberately ignoring seven centuries of Islamic civilizations when accounting for western Europe civilization.

Note 1:  I refrained to approach the theological questions and their corresponding responses because I am not interested in abstract concepts that lack demonstrative methods for confirming or denying veracity. Mind you that current borders among the Maghreb States were delimited by the mandated powers of France and Spain. Unless we know exactly the name of the towns and regions, it is difficult to confirm from which current State the persons were from…

Note 2: Ahmed sent me an interesting comment stating that Maimoune had racist attitudes, pretty normal during the Middle Age and and still going strong even today.

“I copied and pasted the translation you mention from the following website:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2011/01/judaism-or-racism-the-rambams-view-of-black-people-456/comments/page/2/

This website gives the source as the following: Maimonides, Guide To The Perplexed, Translation from the Hebrew Version.

The popular Jewish Israeli thinker Israel Shahak confirms that Maimonides did indeed express anti-black racist views, also confirming that Kushite means Black people in his book called, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years,” which was first published in 1994 by Pluto Press. It can be found online here:

http://www.iamthewitness.com/books/Israel.Shahak/Jewish.History.Jewish%20Religion-The.Weight.of.Three.Thousand.Years.pdf

Understandably translations vary from author to author and an example of this can be downloaded from the University of California internet archive:

http://archive.org/details/guideforperplexe00maim

Download the PDF book. On page 384 you will see the racist quote and the context.

The version of the book I have at home is translated by Michael Friedlaender. You can find it Online here:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1256&Itemid=27

Go to Part Iii, Chapter Li. The second paragraph is the following:

“I will begin the subject of this chapter with a simile.

A king is in his palace, and all his subjects are partly in the country, and partly abroad. Of the former, some have their backs turned towards the king’s palace, and their faces in another direction; and some are desirous and zealous to go to the palace, seeking “to inquire in his temple,” and to minister before him, but have not yet seen even the face of the wall of the house. Of those that desire to go to the palace, some reach it, and go round about in search of the entrance gate.

Others have passed through the gate, and walk about in the ante-chamber; and others have succeeded in entering into the inner part of the palace, and being in the same room with the king in the royal palace. But even the latter do not immediately on entering the palace see the king, or speak to him; for, after having entered the inner part of the palace, another effort is required before they can stand before the king—at a distance, or close by—hear his words, or speak to him.

I will now explain the simile which I have made. The people who are abroad are all those that have no religion, neither one based on speculation nor one received by tradition. Such are the extreme Turks that wander about in the north, the Kushites who live in the south, and those in our country who are like these. I consider these as irrational beings, and not as human beings; they are below mankind, but above monkeys, since they have the form and shape of man, and a mental faculty above that of the monkey.”

Averroes (1126-1198): Civilization after Ibn Rushd of Cordoba

Have no fear searching for truth in sciences.

Truth cannot contradict truth; sciences is in accord with God’s revelations.  God has nothing to fear when you use your rational intelligence to discover the universe and the causes of phenomenon.

How unjust is the one raising obstacles between man and science:  Science is the road to perfection.  Opposing learning and applying science is contrasting with God’s purpose, since the divine project is to realize such perfection”

That is basically what Ibn Rush (known as Averroes) tried to convey to civilization through his abundant writings in medicine, sciences, astronomy, philosophy, jurisprudence, and theology.

Ibn Rush would be known as “Al hafeed” (the grandson): his grandfather Muhammad Ibn Rushd was a well-renowned judge in Cordoba.

A brief background:

Cordoba in Andalusia, southern Spain, was the main center of culture and civilization in that century:  Muslims, Christians and Jews were living in harmony and tolerance was the rule, while Europe is battling among its various Christian schisms.

Baghdad was declining and the Mogul hordes will soon sack and destroy this famous city in about 1250.

The Western Roman Empire had vanished, and the Byzantium Empire was weakening and soon will be reduced to a vassal condition to the Ottoman expanding power in Turkey.

Papal Rome is being selected by the Germanic monarchs as well as the bishops, and in many occasions, two popes are elected and backed by various monarchs.

The political and military confrontations among the many Christian religious schisms on the nature of Jesus have taken their toll on Europe.

The crusaders are loosing their grips in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Turks are counter attacking and recapturing lost territories.

The Catholic Prince of Castile and Aragon (Spain) had started the “reconquista” and the Andalousia was wracked by wars among the multiple small kingdoms of Islamic monarchs; these internal wars were called “wars of Tawaif“.

In 1070, the monarch of Seville conquered the tolerant republican Cordoba.

In 1112, Ibn Tumar, a literate Berber from Algeria who spent ten years in Iran, returned to proclaim that he is the awaited “hidden” Mahdi (since 874) of the Islam sect the Shias and formed the Almohades (Al Muwayidun) or united Islam.

The Spanish Catholic monarch Alphonse 7th put siege to Cordoba in 1148.

The Caliph of Cordoba Abd Mu2min calls on the Almohades for rescue and outset the Almoravids dynasty (Al murabitun) or the ones in vigilance.  The Almoravids originated from Mauritania and were a powerful tribe of traders in the western Sahara that captured Morocco.

In 1154, Ibn Rushd is presented to the heir of the Almohades monarch Abu Yaacub Yussuf by his friend Ibn Tufayl.

Abu Yaacub Yussuf asked Ibn Rushd to condense the works of Aristotle in a clear commentary so that most literate Moslems could read and understand.  Prince Abu Yaacub Yussuf had read the translated Aristotle’s works into Arabic but needed intelligent interpretations of difficult topics.   That is how Ibn Rushd ended up producing 88 volumes in 20,000 pages of Aristotle’s’ works from philosophy to zoology.

Ibn Rushd program was to decipher the Koran, discovering the means to comprehending the universe, and thus, extracting the truth.  For that end, he had to read the works of all philosophers, and first among them Aristotle. Complex concepts generated such remarks from Ibn Rushd: “If Aristotle didn’t study this topic, it would be very difficult to comprehend it.  Aristotle is such a norm in nature, a model that nature invented to seeking human perfection

Ibn Rushd is so versed in Aristotle rational thinking that he corrected many errors in translated versions.  To Ibn Rushd, rational thinking and revealed knowledge are independent and one method cannot explain the other:  the two ways lead to the same truth.  Al Farabi, a much earlier Islamic philosopher affirmed that reason should have the first and last word in matter of faith.

As Ibn Rushd commented: “Theologians distort sacred texts and interpose between the common people and men of knowledge to control the people. They are the kind of teachers who don’t teach art but the results of arts.  They don’t teach how to fabricate shoes but rather offer varieties of shoes to select from.”  They are our modern salesmen who ejaculate technical words but have no idea what they are talking about.

Dialectical and rhetorical reasoning cannot compensate for demonstrative reasoning.

Ibn Rushd wrote: “generally, common people confuse inferences with conclusions that are drawn from several premises.

For example:  common people say “this person is a thief because he was seen wandering at night” and do not evaluate all the other factors that determine a thieving behavior.  

Common people conclude that they will see God as we see the sun when they are told that God is light.  

Learned people comprehend that beatitude and grace increase knowledge.  

Truth is not intuitive and we have to accumulate knowledge; we cannot become astronomer without learning and assimilating geometry and mathematics.”

Ibn Rushd is not professing the existence of two truths:  The Koran is a guide toward acceding to truth, which is necessarily scientific.

What conforms to truth, which we receive from the Aristotelian scholars, we accept with joy and recognition. What does not conform to truth we will signal it so that to be on our guard and we excuse them for the untruth.

He stated that what counts in a method in satisfying the conditions of validity and that is sufficient in scientific methods, which he calls “sacrifice”:  Reason has the job of eliminating errors in order to re-establishing order in society.

Forbidding people from applying scientific methods on the ground that they lead to errors, abuse, and blasphemy is like forbidding someone from drinking lest he dies of thirst on the excuse that some people die from drowning.  

Scientific methods of reasoning is not meant to define God or the operations that lead to the creation of the universe:  It attests to its existence.  We cannot apply to God the categories and human concepts

Ibn Rushd believed in a collective soul “the abstract intellect” after death but not on individual basis; thus, after death individual memories and imagination power are lost for ever

Ibn Rushd dared reflect and answer all the corny questions that civilization was dealing with in order to finding order, coherence, and harmony between religious dogmas and rational thinking.

Reading, interpreting and commenting Aristotle’s works were back in fashion in Cordoba at the instigation of a new Sultan Abu Yaakub Yusuf, with Capital in Fez (Morocco).

Ibn Rushd wrote: “The future is dependent on the education of women and equality between genders.

Nations where the capabilities of women are ignored, where women are considered just good for procreation and maintaining the upkeep of the family are cancelling the other important activities of women.

As a female are not recognized human virtues they are reduced to vegetative status.  One of the main reasons that these nations are in poor economic situations is that women are terrible burden to development of the society.”

The successor of Sultan Yusuf came under heavy pressures from the salafist, very conservative Muslims to crack down on Ibn Rushd liberty of expression.

Ibn Rushd was banned from publishing books or communicating what he wrote for his own pleasure.  The pressures resulted to initiating public bonfires burning the scholars manuscripts.

Luckily, copies reached Cairo and southern France where they were read and translated in Hebrew, Latin, and local languages.

Moise ibn Maimuna (Maimonides), 12 years younger than Ibn Rushd and originally from Cordoba, was at the period settled in Cairo and was the official physician of the Caliph.  Maimonides relied on Ibn Rushd’s works to perpetuate the rational and scientific trend.  He wrote:

We may dispense of Platon’s works:  Aristotle’s works suffice since they are the foundations and roots of scientific rational methods.  Aristotle’s works cannot be comprehended without the commentaries of Ibn Rushd.”

In 1497, Papal Rome encouraged the institution of a university in Padoua (Italy) to teach Aristotle’s works and be translated directly from ancient Greek.  It was a strategy of ignoring the influence of Islamic culture that was spreading in Catholic Europe.

The Renaissance scholars dared not communicate the sources of their knowledge and learning. Since then, European scholars have continued this custom of deliberately ignoring seven centuries of Islamic civilizations when accounting for western Europe civilization.

Ibn Rushd medical textbook “Kulliyat” known as Colliget was taught in Europe for many centuries.  Another famous scholar, Ibn Sina, known as Avicenne, wrote in the 10th century, 300 manuscripts, of which 50 are in scientific fields and 40 in medicine. His “Canon of medicine” was taught in Europe till the 18th century as a fundamental textbook.

Note:  I refused to approach the theological questions and Ibn Rushd’s responses because I am not interested in abstract concepts that lack demonstrative methods for confirming or denying veracity.


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