The Arabic philosophical fable Hayy Ibn Yaqzan is a classic of medieval Islamic philosophy. Ibn Tufayl (d. ), the Andalusian philosopher, tells of a child. Isolated from human civilization, the infant Hayy ibn Yaqzan is raised by a gazelle on a deserted island Through observation, experimentation, and speculation. Ibn Tufail’s Hayy ibn Yaqdhan had a significant influence on Arabic literature, Persian literature, and European literature after it was translated in into Latin.

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‘Hayy ibn Yaqdhan’ and the European Enlightenment

Chapman and Hall, Little is known concerning the reception of Hayy ibn Yaqzan in the medieval period apart from the survival of a handful of Arabic manuscripts and the Hebrew and Latin translations. One is uninhabited by man, and on it a child appears, either spon- taneously generated or floated thither in a box. URL of this page: And if he is not Body, we must not attribute to him any of the Properties of Body; the first of which is Extension, from which he is free, as also from all those Properties of Bodies which flow from it.

In Ibn TufayPs view, proper religious practice entailed speculation, meditation, and an allegorical approach toward law beyond what is required through the practice of precepts and literalist interpretation. Soon though, the doe died, and Hayy did not know what was happening. Salaman and his circle, while steadfast in the practice of religion, are unfamiliar with the symbolic nature of the Law.

Ibn Tufail’s Hayy ibn Yaqdhan was written as both a continuation of Avicenna’s version of the story and as a response to al-Ghazali ‘s The Incoherence of the Philosopherswhich had criticized many of Avicenna’s views.

This was the gist of the broad-minded philosophy of medieval Arabic thinkers. His attempt on the second only awoke misgiving and anger in their hearts. The natural development of its theme and the relevance and cogency of its details would be difficult to match in the literature of Islam.

There we meet two religiously devout men. He eats only what is sufficient to stave off hunger, attempting to control appetite. Consequently, that the whole World and whatsoever was in it, the Heavens, the Earth, the Stars, and what- soever was between them, above them, or be- neath them, was all his W ork and Creation, and posterior to him in Nature, if not in Time.

Hayy ibn Yaqdhan

As he grew up, he discovered that he is related to but hqyy from other animals. He and the doe were inseperable, she always leading him to good water and good food, helping him crack hard nuts open so he could eat them and they protected each other and spoke to each ahyy in calls suited for animals.


Thus at the end hxyy seven times seven years, without prophet or revelation, he achieves the utmost fullness of knowledge and ineffable felicity in mystical union with his Lord. But two of its features perplex him. The Boy observing this, said to himself: This Book contained the mightiest miracle of truth and eloquence the world had ever heard or ever would hear, and the illiteracy of the Prophet who delivered it was proudly emphasied by the devout as an enhancement of the miracle.

The protagonist Hayy ibn Yaqzan grows up from infancy to adulthood on a uninhabited island. In staying with the group hauy saw some means of fending off demonic promptings, dispelling distracting thoughts, and in general guarding against the goadings of the devil.

He recognized that whoever had offered this description had given a faithful picture and spoken truly. In the second stage he becomes more self-aware and independent, making clothes to hide ibnn nakedness hence the self-awareness that he is naked and learning to make weapons to defend himself.

Since the early days of Muslim conquest, when the Arabs forced their way along North Africa and in 7 1 1 crossed into Andalusia, those regions had seen the rise and fall of many Muslim states, varying in territorial extent and not of uniform doctrinal complexion. Hayy then sought to cut off sensory experience in order to pursue mystic ecstasy. For Folly had overwhelmed them, and what they have sought after has covered their Hearts like Rust; 1 God has sealed up yaqhan Hearts and their Earsand a Dimness covers their Eyesand a sore Punishment awaits them.

T o speed their nearer approach to God they strip themselves of earthly possessions and pur- sue their yaqdhaan in solitude. He died in the following year, 1 1 85, at the capital, the City of Morocco, and was buried there with great ceremony, the Caliph himself attending his obsequies. Encountering no other being on earth that pursues knowledge of the Being, he turns his attention toward the heavenly bodies, yaqrhan he surmises must have knowledge of the Necessarily Existent since they are not subject to the hindrances of sensory distractions.

Hayy sees fire as a symbol of the inner fire or warmth that animates living things, the inner life-source. Having possessed themselves of half the known world, the Mus- lims began to look with curious eyes on the treasures of Greek philosophy and science, of which the chief custodians within their borders were the Syriac-speakingcommunities, Christian and pagan, of Syria and Mesopotamia.

This is the Condition of all Animals deprived of reason, whether they be of human shape or no. The centre of government had been moved from Medina to Damascus, which was now the metropolis of a vast empire stretching from the Atlantic to the Indus and from the Caspian to the Cataracts of the Nile.


By now, Hayy is fifty years old. But Hayy’s understanding seems yaqdhaan have a striking clarity and precise conceptual form and thus is superior to the cumbersome and confused beliefs of Absal’s people. These centres were largely Christian, with the exception of Harran in Northern Syria, which was the home of a group referred to by the Arabs as Sabaeans; a now-extinct nature-cult who are mentioned in the Quran as worshippers of the Sun.

All the paths of exegesis lay open before him. He resorts to eating meat only when nourishing vegetables are unavailable ysqdhan even then takes only from what is most abundant. So completely did he put me at ease that I en- tered the discussion, and everything I said he fallowed intelligently.

He began therefore to teach him how to speak; first, ihn shewing him particular Things, and pronouncing their Names, and repeating them often, and perswading him to speak them; which he did, pointing to each Object as he spoke the Word.

Kant, Immanuel, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, trans. Hayy soon fashioned himself a home and learned to control fire for warmth. He told them that he had seen the light and realized that they were right. Ibn Tufayl was minister to the governor of Granada and other members of the Almohad dynasty, achieving the prestigious post of vizier a chief minister and chief royal physician to the Almohad Sultan Abu Yaqub Yusuf.

Hayy ibn Yaqzan |

His keen relish of the spirit of the original and his aversion from pedantry reveal themselves repeatedly in renderings of singular neatness. He reflects on his own experience and finds that indeed, he feels the presence of such an organ in his own body, the beating of which he cannot perceive himself as living without. In Plato’s Republic, the cave is darkness and ignorance contrasts with coming out of the cave into sunlight and enlightenment. Hayy attempts to bring his rational understanding of things to the people on Absal’s island.

His dissatisfaction with intellectual progress in his day is apparent in the introduction to Hayy ibn Yaqzan. Keith translated the book into English in from Pococke’s Latin translation with the hope that Hayy’s story could help Christians understand the importance of personal experience without the aid of Christian scripture.