Sometimes, the effect of one’s effort takes time. When that time is long, we may think that the way things are is the way they have always been, and not even know the players that had great influence. Today, we reach back to one of those people that perhaps few have heard of, but in the arc of time his influence has been big. Averroes (Latinized form of Ibn Rushd) lived from 1126-1198. He was a Muslim polymath who wrote on logic, philosophy, theology, Islamic jurisprudence, psychology, political and Adalusian classical music theory, geography, mathematics, medicine, physics and astronomy. Averroes was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy and his philosophical ideas were considered controversial in Ash’arite Muslim circles, but he had a great impact on Christian Euorpe. He has been described as the “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe,” and his commentaries on Aristotle were the foundation for the Aristotelian revival in the 12th and 13th century. Translations of his work had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy and within the Christian scholastic tradition. He had no discernible influence on Islamic philosophic thought until modern times. His rationalistic views collided with the more orthodox views of Muslim leaders of his times, resulting in his banishment from Marrakesh in 1195 and an order to burn his writings. And yet, to this day, many of his writings live on in various translations.
He was a true progressive, as evidenced by this quote: “Women should be treated as human beings, not as domestic animals.” Almost a millenium later, may his ideals and his courage continue to challenge us to grow in unity and have faith that what we do today will matter for future generations.