Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2006
Abū al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd (ca. 1126-98), who came to be known in the Latin West as Averroes, was born at Cordoba into a family prominent for its expert devotion to the study and development of religious law (shar'īa). In Arabic sources al-Hafīd (“the Grandson”) is added to his name to distinguish him from his grandfather (d. 1126), a famous Malikite jurist who served the ruling Almoravid regime as qādī (judge) and even as imām (prayer leader and chief religious authority) at the magnificent Great Mosque which still stands today in the city of Averroes' birth and where Averroes himself served as Grand Qādī (chief judge). When the governing regime changed with the success of 'Abd al-Mu'min (r. 1130-63), founder of the Almohad (al-Muwahhidūn) dynasty, the members of the family continued to flourish under a new religious orientation based on the teachings of the reformer, al-Mahdī ibn Tumart (d. ca. 1129-30). Although insistent on the strict adherence to religious law, Ibn Tūmart’s teachings were at the same time equally insistent on the essential rationality of human understanding of the existence and unity (tawhīd) of God and his creation as well as the rationality of the Qur'ān and its interpretation. This approach was embraced – even exploited – by Averroes in his own writings on dialectical theology and thereby played a role in the development of his thought on the nature of religious law and revelation in relation to philosophy founded on the powers of natural reason.