The opposition Averroes faced two generations later was not the radical scepticism of the Isma'llis.Isnia'ilismfailed to have an impact on al-Andalus and by the time Averroes wrote his paraphrase it had past its zenith in any event. Averroes was confronted with a different sort of scepticism in reasoning which had been well established in Andalusian Muslim society from its very beginning. Traditional Malikism has always been extremely reluctant to accept any form of rational approach. The main line of argument in Maliki scholarship was to return to the judgements of the founding fathers of that school and to apply their decisions. The early Maliki scholars were opponents of the translation movement from Greek into Arabic which led to the beginning of Muslim philosophy in the 2nd/8th century (Gutas 1998, 156f). The method of Maliki jurisprudence was perpetuated by the majority of Maliki scholars in their hostile attitude towards the Greek sciences up until the days of Averroes.
But there was a second reason which prompted Averroes and his mentor Abu Yusuf to apply a more rationalistic method in all branches of scientific research. Al-Ghazali's attack against philosophy implied that philosophy was not a demonstrative science but one that was ruled by dialectic arguments whose premises rely on common acceptance (al-Ghazali, Tahafut al-falasifa 73-85). His critique places philosophy on the same level as revelation, which relies on common acceptance as well. In this point Averroes did not agree. He was convinced that there is a science, which is superior to what is written in the QLir ^nand which can in fact illuminate the meaning behind all of the verses in the sacred text. Al-Ghazali's attempt to lower the status of the demonstrative sciences to mere dialectical ones could only be answered by employing a rigorously demonstrative method. Thus, as far as jurisprudence is concerned the attempts of both al-Ghazali and Averroes to rationalise converge even though they had rather different motives.
This different background of the two sages is the main cause of their disagreement in matters of Muslim jurisprudence. Al-Ghazali and Averroes agreed that well founded knowledge in jurisprudence relies upon the application of set rules (qawanin) and arrangements (<ll}tvdl) (Averroes, iJ^P£ir^ri"35). But Averroes disagreed with his predecessor on how these rules should be presented. He dismissed al-Ghazali's attempt to disregard the terminology of philosophy and to create a new language of logic based on the words used in the religious sciences. In his paraphrase Averroes leaves out the long methodological introduction at the beginning of al-Ghazali's book, since he himself wrote an introduction into the logic of al-Farabi in the same year. In cases where al-Ghazali employed his new terminology, Averroes used the original philosophical term and in this way re-philosophied al-Ghazali's language, for example by re-employing naaa 'definition' whereal-Ghazali used the word has the original meaning of 'core' or 'thruth of a matter' but was sometimes used by al-Ghazali as meaning 'definition'.
Al-Ghazali's juridical work contains a strong opposition to some kinds of taqlid, such as the belief that one should follow in the footprints of former generations. Al-Ghazali taught that only lay-men and minor jurists should practice taqlid, a qualified jurist should be capable of casting his own judgement on the basis of independent reasoning (al-
Ghazali, i,'~^ws'i3^l*2:387-392). In his paraphrase, Averroes takes up this line of argument and stresses that every scholar should have the ambition to achieve the qualified stage of a mujtahid. But since not everybody is blessed with the time and the means to achieve this education there should be three groups of Muslims. First the ordinary Muslims, who are excluded from any sort of judgements in religious matters and who should form their religious convictions by adopting those of the more superior and learned people. The second group are the inferior jurists whose task it is to spread the decisions and the teachings of the third group, the mujtahidun (Averroes, 137f., 143f). Here we have an early version of the three way division in the people of rhetoric, the people of dialectic, and the people of demonstration which will be so important in Averroes later works and which is clearly drawn from the writings of al-Ghazali (Frank 1991/92, 215-218).
The sources of law are again a case in which there is total agreement between
Averroes and al-Ghazali. Both were quite reluctant to accept the consensus doctors of law as an infallible source of law. Both Averroes and al-Ghazali argued that there is neither a single individual nor a group of people which is save from error. If is accepted by both Averroes and al-Ghazali as a source of law then only because the Muslim revelation states that the community of Muslims will not by united in an error
(al-Ghazali,Mustdfffl 1:173: Averroes, ^Dariiri 91)
Ironically, this agreement is the source of a misunderstanding between al-Ghazali and Averroes which puzzled many readers of the ^aslal-maqal (cf. Bello 1989, 43f). In this later work Averroes writes that al-Ghazali held the opinion that nobody should be charged with unbelief if he disagreed with the '/'Mi7 of the Muslim community
(Averroes, al-maqal 16f). Without getting into the details of this rather tricky problem it may be said that Averroes was ill-informed in this matter. His false conviction that al-Ghazali did not allow a judgement of unbelief if someone opposes the consensus, can be traced down to one of Averroes' early writings, namely to his short commentary on Aristotle's Rhetoric. This book was written in the same period as the paraphrase of al-
Ghazali's fli-Musiaj/ii.Here again Averroes writes that al-Ghazali held the opinion that any Muslim, who left the '/'Mi7 was not an unbeliever (Averroes, Three Short
Commentaries 76, 195). This misjudgement may be the consequence of al-Ghazali's presentation in his is in fact quite ambiguous.
The last point to be examined is the disagreement between al-Ghazali and the young Averroes over the application of ta'wiLAgain this a topic which will gain much importance in the later writings of Averroes. Here in his paraphrase to al-Ghazali's juridical work, his opposition to al-Ghazali is carefully concealed. On careful reading of both works, however, quite significant differences between al-Ghazali and Averroes become evident. In his F^y?^al-tafriqa, written only shortly before the "i'Musitij/fl, al-Ghazali puts forward a maxim which allows a less literal reading of the Muslim revelation. This maxim is called the 'rule of interpretation' (qanun al-ta'wil). in simple terms this rule allows a deviation from the wording of the revelation only in cases where an argument founded on reason contradicts the wording of revelation (al-Ghazali,
Fayf«ial-tafriqa 187-194). In his al-Ghazali reiterates this rule which here is put into the single sentence:
'One can only deviate, if there is proof.' 'la yatruk illa bi-daSl.' (Ibidem 1:92)
In his paraphrase of this book, Averroes totally misrepresents this element in al-Ghazali's teachings. He does not raise his opposition openly but instead, through his misrepresentation of al-Ghazali's message, leaves his readers with the opinion that his summary represents al-Ghazali's rule. The way in which the question of the applicability of ta'wilis raised is quite minor in either book by al-Ghazali or Averroes. But since this minor point sheds some light on a fundamental disagreement between the two it shall be examined here. Al-Ghazali argued against some Muslims who claimed that they cannot fulfil the duty to pray five times a day because they were often dirty and therefore not in the proper state to fulfil this duties. These rather lazy people argued that a Muslim is not obliged to fulfil his religious duty as long as he is not in a state to fulfil it. Consequently, if someone never cleans his body, he would never be under the obligation of performing the prayer (al-Ghazali, Al-Ghazali dismissed this rather weak argument by referring to a verse of the QLir *flwhere it says:
'What has brought you into hell? They will reply: "We did not perform the prayer (...)."' (^"'-"i'l 74.42f)
This group of people then argues that the words 'we did not perform the prayer' in the revelation are not to be understood literally, but these words mean: 'we were unbelievers'. The quintessence of this argument is that only the unbelievers will go to hell and this should be understood and read unanimously in all of the verses of the
Qur ^»-Al-Ghazali dismisses this line of thinking because, as he puts it, there is not the slightest trace of a rational argument which might contradict this Qur passage. God condemns to hellfire whomever he wants, and there can be no rational proof in favor of an indemnity for any group of Muslims.
In contrast, Averroes in his paraphrase accepts the interpretation of this group of Muslims who are in opposition to al-Ghazali. Averroes holds that the proposed interpretation of the quoted verse in the QLir ^nis correct. And he turns al-Ghazali's objection into its opposite when he writes:
'In these or similar cases he (scil. al-Ghazali) did not turn down any attempt to change the understanding of the wording of the ^nby means of reason. He employed uJ |,;'Jj'as it is common (even) in the case of a wording which is not improbable.' (Averroes, rtl-Dnrftri 55)
This can only mean that the young Averroes did not accept the 'rule of interpretation' as it was put down by al-Ghazali. For the young Averroes all of the Qur 5 verses were open to allegorical interpretation. For him there was no condition that the passage in the Qi.tr 3fimust be contradicted by an argument based on reason. If reason just provided a better explanation than the wording of the Q111^ ^11 > then the interpretation proposed by reason should be accepted. Al-Ghazali was much more strict in this matter. In his teachings, the understanding of any word in the QLir ^ncould only be altered if a number of conditions were fulfilled. The most common condition was that a passage in the
Qi.tr inwas contradicted by another, more important passage (al-Ghazali, al Mn$taffd fa 1:392). Averroes paraphrases this rule much more liberally, when he says that one has to stick to the wording of the verse unless reason suggests a different understanding
(Averroes, 107). in only one case does Averroes demand an argument founded on reason in order to justify a proposed interpretation: that is, if a verse in the revelation is to be read metaphorically and this unterstanding is inferior to the wording of the Qur According to the rules as set out by al-Ghazali such an interpretation would be far-fetched and hence not allowed.
In conclusion it may be said that al-Ghazali's book on the principles of jurisprudence fitted into the program of rationalising the sciences which was pursued by Averroes and by his mentor Abu because amongst all jurists al-Ghazali's approach to jurisprudence was the most rational at that time. To propagate the views of al-Ghazali was one of the main aims of Almohadism as a whole, and there are no significant discrepancies between the young Almohad scholar Averroes and the great Ash'arite scholar from Khorasan who gave the inspiration for the Almohad movement. The issues where there was disagreement between al-Ghazali and Averroes were not openly adressed by Averroes and by no means did he criticise al-Ghazali or accuse him of any misdemeanour.
The existing disagreement between al-Ghazali and Averroes can be traced down to their contrasting assessment of the relationship between revelation and reason. This point is fundamental in the thinking ot both scholars, but again Averroes did not address this directly. This difference in his attitude to revelation is not evident in his very early writings. One has to proceed to Averroes' most important work on the principles of jurisprudence, his 'Introduction Into the Technique of Reaching Independent Verdicts'
(Bidayat al-mujtahid). This book was written around 563/1168—mid-way between his earliest works on logic and jurisprudence and his 'Ghazalian period' 575/1179 (al-'Alaw! 1986, 66f). This book displays a stage in Averroes' thinking where he is more conscious about the nature of the revelation, and here the issue over which he disagrees with al-Ghazali fundamentally, becomes clear.
For al-Ghazali the Muslim revelation was the source of a supererogatory knowledge to reason revealed to the Muslim community purely out of God's grace. This revelation contains branches of knowledge which cannot be obtained by any other means of insight. The knowledge of the afterlife, for example, cannot be achieved by reason or by any sort of meditation. The only source for man's knowledge of what will happen after his death is revelation. It would be futile for man to speculate on what will happen at the day of judgement in any form that disgresses from the text of the Qur ^n,We know that in this point Averroes disagreed. From the works of his 'Ghazalian period' it becomes clear that for Averroes the Muslim revelation is just a simplified rephrasing of a knowledge which can be attained more precisely by demonstrative science. From these works we also know that Averroes held the opinion that there is a way to attain knowledge of the afterlife, because man can determine the underlying principles of the word, and is justified in assuming that these principles must be valid even under circumstances which he has not yet witnessed, such as the afterlife (Averroes, al-Kashf anmanahij 162, 233).
This opinion cannot yet be found in his early writings. But there is an early stage to this conception of revelation, which he makes clear in his Bidayat al-mujtahid. In this text he claims, that a good jurist will not just end his investigation by finding out what the imperative of the revealed law is. A good jurist carries on and asks why the law contains this imperative and why it is advisable to follow it. Al-Ghazali would not allow any jurist to consider such a question. For al-Ghazali man cannot understand the wisdom of God and therefore it would be futile to ask why God wants us to do this or that. For al-Ghazali such an investigation would constitute a disrespect for the revealed law, which is sent to us for no reason understandable to man. Averroes on the contrary teaches in his book on the principles of jurisprudence that every imperative in the revealed law has a twofold nature. There is on the one hand a ritual nature in itself contains the necessity to obey this order of God. But apart from this there is in every revealed imperative something which is for the good of the society and this is its useful nature
Averroes explains the two natures by choosing the example of the ritual ablution. The ritual nature of the ablution is to purify the soul before one approaches to God. The useful nature of ablution is to maintain public health since dirt is a major factor for diseases. The ordinary jurist understands only the ritual nature and judges accordingly in his verdicts. But the good jurist also investigates the usefulness (wifkfcd) 0f ^g religious imperative and tries to inflict an increase of this usefulness into his verdict (Averroes, Bidayat 1:39, 165). This approach can even be followed in the case of the religious law as a whole. According to the jurist Averroes there is even an answer to the question, why God has revealed the religious law as a whole. This answer is not very different from the one Averroes the philosopher gives in his later writings. At the very end of his work on the principles of Muslim law Averroes writes that a good judge should always keep in mind that all religious directions and instructions discussed in this book follow just one aim: the establishment and maintenance of four cardinal virtues in society, these being modesty, justice, courage and generosity ('/fa* a^f^shafaa and sakhä') (Averroes, Bidäyat 4:1795).
Was this article helpful?