The Mahdi and the Autodidact: Ibn Ṭufayl’s "Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān" as a Challenge to Almohad Doctrine

By Ben Hardman.

Published by The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 11, 2016 $US5.00

The spread of Islam to the “farthest west” (Maghrib and Andalusia) was marked by the articulation of the faith into a non-Arabic milieu that was far removed from the intellectual centers of Baghdad and Mecca. As a civilizational force, the introduction of Islam to the “wild west” depended on charismatic strongmen boasting of either visionary or genetic links to the Prophet. One such man was Ibn Tūmart, the founder of the Almohad Dynasty, who claimed to be the Mahdi. Yet, as a man educated in Baghdad, he also justified his claim by the use of reason in determining the necessity of God and divine guidance, in part based on the philosophy of Al Ghazālī. The subtleties of Ghazālī’s illuminationist philosophy, however, questioned the need for a Mahdi, emphasizing instead a personal struggle for knowledge of the Divine in which God is both subject and guide. This dimension of Ghazālian thought was championed by Ibn Ṭufayl using the indirect discourse of an ostensible fantasy to argue that a quest for knowledge of the divine and natural orders is essential to human nature.

Keywords: Ibn Ṭufayl, Ghazālī, Almohads, Mahdi, Sufism, Islamic Philosophy

The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies, Volume 14, Issue 2, June 2016, pp.33-45. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 11, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 512.251KB)).

Dr. Ben Hardman

Assistant Professor, Philosophy and Religion, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA