1. Primary Source AVERROES, THE DECISIVE TREATISE (C. )1. Islam arose in the seventh century when Muhammad (c. –) received what he. THE DECISIVE TREATISE, DETERMINING THE NATURE OF THE lawyer, imam, judge, and unique scholar, Abul Wahd Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd. Averroës (Ibn Rushd, ) emerged from an eminent family in Muslim Spain to become the first and last great Aristotelian of the classical Islamic world; .

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In the name of God, the Merciful and the Compassionate. May God be prayed to for Muhammad and his family, and may they be accorded peace. Praise be to God with all praises, and a prayer for Muhammad, His chosen servant and messenger. Now, the trestise of this statement is for us to investigate, from the perspective of Law-based 1 reflection, whether reflection upon philosophy and the sciences of logic is permitted, prohibited, or commanded — and this as a recommendation or as an obligation — by the Law.

If the activity of philosophy is nothing more than reflection upon existing things and consideration of them insofar as they are an indication of the Artisan — I mean insofar as they are artifacts, for existing things indicate the Artisan only through cognizance 2 of the art in them, and the more complete cognizance of deciwive art in them is, the more complete is cognizance of the Artisan — and if the Law has recommended and urged consideration of existing things, then it is evident that what this name indicates is either obligatory or recommended by the Law.

That the Law calls for consideration of existing things by decisivw of the intellect and for pursuing cognizance of them by means of it is evident from various verses in the Book of God may He be blessed and exalted. And God may He be exalted has made it known that one of avergoes whom He selected and venerated by means of this knowledge was Abraham peace upon him ; thus, He may He be exalted said, “And in this way we made Abraham see the kingdoms of the heavens and the earth, that he might be And He said, “And they ponder the creation of the heavens and the earth” [3: And it is evident that this manner of reflection the Law calls for and urges is the most complete kind of reflection by means of the most complete kind of syllogistic reasoning and is the one called “demonstration.

For just as the jurist infers from the command to obtain juridical understanding of the statutes the obligation to become cognizant of the kinds of juridical syllogistic reasoning and avereoes of them is syllogistic reasoning and which not, so, too, is it obligatory for the one cognizant [of God] to infer from the command to reflect upon the beings the obligation to become cognizant of intellectual syllogistic reasoning and its kinds.

Nay, it is even more fitting that he do so; for if the jurist infers from His statement may He be exalted”Consider, you who have sight” [ It is not for someone to say, “Now, this kind of reflection about intellectual syllogistic reasoning is a heretical innovation, since it did not exist in the earliest days [of Islam].

So it is obligatory to believe the same about reflection upon intellectual syllogistic reasoning — and for this there is a reason, but this is not the place to mention it. Moreover, most of the adherents to this religion support intellectual syllogistic reasoning, except for a small group of strict literalists, and they are refuted by the texts [of the Quran].

For it is difficult or impossible for one person to grasp all that he needs of this by himself and from the beginning, just as it is difficult for one person to infer all he needs to be cognizant of concerning the kinds of juridical syllogistic reasoning.

Nay, this is even more the case with being cognizant of intellectual syllogistic reasoning. For when a valid sacrifice is performed by means of a tool, no consideration is given, with respect to the validity of the sacrifice, as to whether the tool belongs to someone who shares in our religion or not, so long as it fulfills the conditions for validity.

And by “not sharing [in our religion],” I mean those Ancients who reflected upon these treatiise before the religion of Islam. And if it is all correct, we will accept it from them; whereas, if there is anything not correct in it, we will alert [people] to it. It is evident, moreover, that this goal is completed for us with respect to existing things only when they are investigated successively by one person after another and when, in doing so, the one coming after makes use of the one having xverroes — along the lines of what occurs in the mathematical sciences.

For if we were to assume the art of geometry and, likewise, the art of astronomy to be nonexistent in this time treatjse ours, and if a single man wished to decisiive on his own the sizes of the heavenly bodies, their shapes, and their distances from one another, averroess would not be possible for him — for example, to become cognizant of the size of the sun with respect to the earth and of other things about the sizes of the planets — not even if he were by nature the most intelligent person, unless it were by means of revelation or something resembling revelation.

Indeed, if it were said to him that the sun is about or times greater than the earth, he would count this statement as madness on the part of the one who makes it. There is hardly any need to use an example from the art of mathematics, for reflection upon this art of the roots of jurisprudence, and jurisprudence itself, has been perfected only over a long period of time.


If someone today wished to grasp on his own all of the proofs inferred by those in the deisive schools who reflect upon the controversial questions debated 9 in most Islamic countries, even excepting the Maghrib, 10 he would deserve to be laughed at, because that would be impossible for him — in addition to having already been done.


This is a self-evident matter, not only with respect to the scientific arts, but also with respect to the practical ones. For there is not averrkes art among them that a single person can bring about on his own.

So how can this be done with the art of arts — namely, wisdom? Thus, we trearise accept, rejoice in, and thank them for whatever agrees with the truth; and we will alert to, warn against, and excuse them for whatever does not agree with the truth. And [it aaverroes become evident] that whoever forbids reflection upon them by anyone suited to reflect upon them — namely, anyone who unites two qualities, the first being innate intelligence and the second Law-based justice and moral virtue — surely bars people from the door through which the Law calls them to averros of God — namely, the door of reflection leading to true cognizance of Him.

That is extreme ignorance and estrangement from God may He be exalted. If someone goes astray in reflection and stumbles — due either to a deficiency in his innate disposition, poor ordering of his reflection, being overwhelmed by his passions, not finding a teacher to guide him to an understanding of what is in them, or because dfcisive a combination of all or more than one of these reasons — it does not follow that they 12 are to be forbidden to the one who is suited to reflect upon them.

For this manner of harm coming decisiev due to them is something that attaches treatisee them by accident, not by essence. It is not obligatory to renounce something useful in its nature and essence because of something harmful existing in it by accident.

That is why he [that is, the Prophet] peace upon him said to the one who complained about having been ordered to give his brother honey to drink for his diarrhea — because the diarrhea increased when he was given the honey to drink — “God spoke the truth, whereas your brother’s stomach lied.

Averroes. The Decisive Treatise

Indeed, we say that anyone avsrroes prevents someone decisiev to reflect upon the books of wisdom from doing so on the grounds that it is supposed some vicious people became perplexed due to reflecting upon them is like one who prevents thirsty people from drinking cool, fresh water until they die of thirst because some people choked on it and died.

For dying by choking on water is an accidental matter, whereas [dying] by thirst is an essential, necessary matter.

And what occurred through this art is something treatose, [occurring] through the rest of the arts. To how many jurists has jurisprudence been a cause of diminished devoutness and immersion in this world! Indeed, we find most jurists to be like this, yet what their art requires in essence is practical virtue.

Therefore, it is not strange that there occurs, with respect to the art requiring scientific virtue, what occurs with respect to the art requiring practical virtue. That is because people’s natures vary in excellence with respect to assent. Thus, some assent by means of demonstration; some assent by means of dialectical statements in the same way the one adhering to demonstration assents by means of demonstration, there being nothing greater in their natures; and some assent by means of rhetorical statements, just as the one adhering to demonstration assents by means of demonstrative statements.

That is because, when this divine Law of ours called to people by means of these three methods, assent to it was extended to every human being — except to the one who denies it obstinately in speech or for whom no methods have been determined in it for summoning to God may He be exalted due to his own neglect of that.

Therefore, he [that is, the Prophet] peace upon him was selected to be sent to “the red and the black” 14 — I mean, because of his Law containing [different] methods of calling to God may He be exalted. And that is manifest in His statement, “Call to the path of deciwive Lord by wisdom, fine preaching, and arguing with them averroes means of what is finest” [ For truth does not oppose truth; rather, it agrees with and bears witness to it.

If it is passed over in silence, there is no contradiction here; it has the status of the statutes passed over in silence that the jurist infers by means of Law-based syllogistic reasoning. If the Law does pronounce about it, the apparent sense of the pronouncement cannot escape either being in agreement with what demonstration leads to, or being different from it. If it treaties in agreement, there is no argument here.

Averroes, the Decisive Treatise

And, if it is different, that is where an interpretation is teatise. The meaning of interpretation is: The jurist has only a syllogism based on supposition, whereas the one who is cognizant has a syllogism based on certainty. And we firmly affirm that, averres demonstration leads to something differing from the apparent sense of the Law, that apparent sense admits of interpretation according to the rule of interpretation in Arabic.

No Muslim doubts this proposition, nor is any faithful person suspicious of it.

Averroes (d. ), The Decisive Treatise – Oxford Handbooks

Its certainty has been greatly increased for anyone who has pursued this idea, tested it, and has as an intention this reconciling of what is intellected with what is transmitted. Indeed, we say that whenever the apparent sense of a pronouncement about something in the. Law differs from what demonstration leads to, if the Law is considered and all of its parts scrutinized, there will invariably be found in the utterances of the Law something whose apparent sense bears witness, or comes close to bearing witness, to that interpretation.

Because of this idea, Muslims have formed a consensus 16 that it is not obligatory for all the utterances of the Law to be taken in their apparent sense, nor for all of them to be drawn out from their apparent sense by means of interpretation, though they disagree about which ones are to be interpreted and which not interpreted.

The Ash c arites, 17 for example, interpret the verse about God’s directing Himself [2: The reason an apparent and an inner sense are set down in the Law is the difference in people’s innate dispositions and the variance in their innate capacities for assent. The reason contradictory apparent senses are set down in it is to alert “those well grounded in science” to the interpretation that reconciles them.


This idea is pointed to in His statement may He be exalted”He it is who has sent down to you the Book; in it, there are fixed verses So, is it permissible for demonstration to lead to interpreting what they have formed a consensus to take in its apparent sense, or to taking in its apparent sense what they have formed a consensus to interpret? What may indicate to you that consensus is not to be determined with certainty about theoretical matters, 23 as it is possible for it to be determined about practical matters, is that it is not possible for consensus to be determined about a particular question at a particular epoch unless: It has been transmitted that many in the earliest days [of Islam] used to be of the opinion that the Law has both an apparent and an inner sense and that it is not obligatory for someone to know about the inner sense if he is not an adept in knowledge of it nor capable of understanding it.

There is, for example, what al-Bukhari relates about c Ali ibn Abu Talib may God be pleased with himsaying, “Speak to the people concerning what they are cognizant of. Do you want God and His messenger to be accused of lying? So how is it possible to conceive of consensus about a single theoretical question being transmitted to us when we firmly know that no single epoch has escaped having learned men who are of the opinion that there are things in the Law not all of the people ought to know in their true sense?

That differs from what occurs with practical matters, for everybody is of the opinion that they are to be disclosed to all people alike; and, for consensus about them to be reached, we deem it sufficient that the question be widely diffused and that no difference [of opinion] about it be transmitted to us. Now, this is sufficient for reaching consensus about practical matters; but the case with scientific matters is different.

For in his book known as The Incoherence [of the Philosophers], Abu Hamid [al-Ghazali] has firmly charged both of them as unbelievers with respect to three questions: These are “those well grounded in science” — for we choose to place the stop after His statement may He be exalted”and those well grounded in science” [3: Yet God has already described them as those who have faith in Him, and this refers only to faith coming about from demonstration.

And it comes about only along with the science of interpretation. Those faithful not adept in science are people whose faith in them 29 is not based on demonstration. So, if this faith by which God has described the learned is particular to them, then it is obligatory that it come about by means of demonstration. And if it is by means of demonstration, then it comes about only along with the science of interpretation.

For God may He be exalted has already announced that there is an interpretation of them that is the truth, and demonstration is only of the truth. Since that is the case, it is not possible for an exhaustive consensus to be determined with respect to the interpretations by which God particularly characterized the learned. This is self-evident to anyone who is fair-minded. Rather, they are of the opinion that He knows them may He be exalted by means of a knowledge that is not of the same kind as our knowledge of them.

That is because our knowledge of them is an effect of what is known, so treatisf it averrroes generated when the known thing is generated and changes when it changes. And the knowledge God glorious is He has of existence is the opposite of this: So, whoever likens the two kinds of knowledge to one another sets down two opposite essences and their particular characteristics as being one, and that is the extreme of ignorance.

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126—1198)

If the name “knowledge” is said of knowledge that is generated and tratise knowledge that is eternal, it is said purely as a name that is shared, just as many names are said of opposite things — for example, al-jalal, said of great and small, and al-sarim, said of light and darkness. Prompted by one of tteatise friends, we have devoted a averroe to this question. Moreover, it is not only particulars that they are ddecisive the opinion He does not know in the way we know them, but universals as well.

For, the uni-versals known to us are also effects of the nature of the existing thing, whereas, with that knowledge [of His], it is the reverse. Therefore, that knowledge [of His] has been demonstrated to transcend description as “universal” or “particular.

That is because they agree that there are three sorts of existing things: And they agree about naming the two extremes but disagree about the intermediate. One extreme is an existent thing that exists from something other than itself and by something — I mean, by an agent cause 32 and from matter.

And time precedes it — I mean, its existence.

This is the case of bodies whose coming into being is apprehended by sense perception— for example, the coming into being of water, air, earth, animals, plants, and so forth.

The Ancients and the Ash c arites both agree in naming this sort of existing things “generated. The extreme opposed to this is an existent thing that has not come into existence from something or by something and that time does not precede. About this, too, both factions agree in naming it “eternal. The sort of being between these two extremes is an existent thing that has not come into existence from something and that time does not precede, but that does come into existence by something — I mean, by an agent.

This is the world as a whole.