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The history of Hayy ibn Yaqzan by Ibn Ṭufayl - PDF ebook (1929)

The history of Hayy ibn Yaqzan.

The history of Hayy ibn Yaqzan.
Hayy ibn Yaqzan 


The story revolves around Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, a little boy who grew up on an island in the Indies under the equator, isolated from the people, in the bosom of an antelope that raised him, feeding him with her milk. Ḥayy has just learned to walk and imitates the sounds of antelopes, birds, and other animals in his surroundings. He learns their languages, and he learns to follow the actions of animals by imitating their instinct. 

He makes his own shoes and clothes from the skins of animals and studies the stars. He reaches a higher level of knowledge, of the finest of astrologists. 

His continuous explorations and observation of creatures and the environment lead him to gain great knowledge in natural science, philosophy, and religion. He concludes that, at the basis of the creation of the universe, a great creator must exist. Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān lived a humble modest life as Sufi and forbade himself from eating meat. Once 30 years old, he meets his first human, who has landed on his isolated island. By the age of 49, he is ready to teach other people about the knowledge he gained throughout his life.

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excerpt from the book's introduction:

Since the early days of Muslim conquest, when the Arabs their way along with North Africa and in 711 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. 

At the period we now speak of the puritanic Berber dynasty of Almohads dominates the whole stage, and Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf, claiming the proud title Commander of the Faithful, second of his line, rules from his capital, the City of Morocco, overall North Africa, from the Atlantic shore to the borders of Egypt, as well as a large tract of Southern Spain. 

This empire he inherited from his father, ‘Abd al-Mu’min, who had conquered it in his own life in a series of brilliant campaigns lasting about thirty years, and most of it had been torn from the grasp of another great Berber house, the Almoravids. Except in the Balearic Islands the power of the Almoravids was now extinct. Their sultans had always formally recognized the supremacy of the ruling Caliph at Baghdad. Abu Ya‘qub, however, like all his house, brooked no dictation from the Eastern Caliphate—either temporal or spiritual. 

He was lord of the Muslim West, and the religious doctrine on which his empire rested was that laid down by his spiritual ancestor and founder of the Almohad sect, the Berber Mahdi Ibn Tumart, one of the many Mahdis or Rightly-Guided Ones of Islamic history, divinely sent to fill the earth with justice, who died in 1130 (or 1128) and whose grave at Tinmal in the Atlas mountains was now a holy place. Briefly, this reformed doctrine demanded two things: in belief, a purely spiritual conception of Allah; in conduct, a literal acceptance of Koranic teaching. 

In the first place, every anthropomorphic element must be swept out of religion; secondly, Muhammadan law must be based on nothing but the actual statements of the Koran and the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad as transmitted by authentic Tradition. “ Reasoning,” said the Mahdi, “ can have no place in the divine Law.” The name of the sect was al-Muwahhidun, i.e. the Unitarians, or in its Spanish form, Almohades. Any Muslims who rejected its puritan principles were destined for hell-fire and must be helped thither at every opportunity by the swords of the faithful; indeed, in the eyes of the Almohads, the spiritual condition of such heretics was just as hopeless as that of the Christians, who had by this time succeeded, to the vexation of Islam, in restoring their sway over much the larger part of the Spanish peninsula. 

The first three centuries of Muslim rule in Spain had been distinguished on the whole by a high level of culture and religious tolerance unparalleled anywhere in contemporary Christendom. But these later in¬ versions from Africa, first by the Almoravids and then by the Almohads, established a regime of Berber fanaticism, the brunt of which fell cruelly on the non-Muslim inhabitants and compelled many of them to flee for refuge into Northern Spain and Provence. In view of this ruthless theology which the Caliph publicly enforced, it is somewhat of a surprise to discover that his private delight was philosophical speculation and the society of thinkers far removed from orthodoxy. 

But of this, we have abundant evidence. In his scheme of life speculation and practical politics appear to have dwelt severely separate. It was one thing to preside, as he often did, over the discussions of the intelligentsia in Marrakesh and Seville, but quite another to discharge his office as Commander of the Believers. For preserving the spiritual health of the masses and the empire’s welfare, no specific, in his judgment, could equal the strict letter of the Koran and the Almohad brand of dogma.

 Let his faithful people, therefore, concentrate on their divinely appointed duties —performing their five daily prayers and the other rites of the faith, harassing at intervals “ the accursed Adhfunsh,” i.e. King Alphonso, whose growing power menaced the security of the Muslims in Spain, planning horrid surprises for the Christian fleet when it issued from Lisbon, taming the lawless tribes of the African desert. The “ thinking man,” on the other hand, belonged to select and privileged order. Be¬ tween him and the great masses lay an intel¬ lectual gulf which he must never attempt to cross, for he would only let anarchy loose by tampering with their simple faith and discipline. In the seclusion of his patron’s library, he was welcome to indulge his philosophic doubt, but on no account from the house-top.

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