Sunday, June 2, 2013

Hayy ibn Yaqzān


Falsafatu Ibnu Tufayl Wa Risalatihi [1]the Arabic philosophical fable known as Hayy ibn Yaqzān (حي ابن يقظان) is a classic of medieval Islamic philosophy written by ibn Tufayl (d.1185), the Andalusia philosopher. His full name was Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tufayl al-Qaisi.[2] The medieval scholars of Europe, with unusual accuracy in such matters, call him Abubacer. He was born in Guadix, province of Granada, probably between 1100 and 1110 A.D. [3] Hayy ibn Yaqzān not merely the first Arabic novel but also it is a magnum opus of Ibn Tufayl, written in December 1397.[4] The title and names of characters of this work borrowed from two of Ibn Sina's philosophical treatises, Hayy ibn Yaqzān and Salaman and Asal. The framework is borrowed from an ancient Western tale, "The story of the Idol and of the King and His Daughter."[5]

The Contents of Hayy ibn Yaqzān

The contents of the text can be summarized as follows. The exposition starts when the hero of the philosophical tale Hayy Ibn Yaqzān, grows up on an island having no contact with human society. Gradually, he gains knowledge of the world and this was the part of rising action in this philosophical tale. His intellectual development enables him to discover simple scientific truths. Finally, the climax of this tale is to recognize abstract philosophical truth, Aristotelian and Neoplatonic philosophies are combined in a mystical view of the world, the highest aim of which is beatific vision. Later, the falling action turn to Hayy meets a representative of traditional religion, Asal and realizes that the religion is symbolic reproduction of the same philosophical truth he had discovered for himself without any external help. The denouement part shows that Hayy does not require religion and keeps to his contemplative manner of looking at things, far away from human society. [7]

Subject Matter of Hayy ibn Yaqzān

The subject matter in this philosophical tale is the development of the human thought to find the truth which is using the intellect entirely which is based on religion and philosophy. It is through the observation by using reason or intellect leads the person to the truth as the person was able to perceive the highest heaven with the pure intellect only. It affirms the possibility of man's attaining the true knowledge of God and this world by using his own reason [8] which is pure intellect and not tended by misunderstanding, education and nothing else to disturb his intellect. 


The Influence of  Hayy Ibn Yaqzān

This twelfth-century philosophical tale has exerted a great influence on Arabic literature, Persian literature and European literature after it was translated in 1671 into Latin as "Philosophus Autodidactus" (The Self-Thought Philosopher ) by Edward Pococke. In English it was translated as "The Improvement of Human Reason :  Exhibited in the Life of HaiEbn Yokdhan" by Simon Ockley in 1708. It also translated in other languages such as Hebrew, Dutch, French, Spanish, German and Russian. It became as one of the most remarkable books of the Middle Age especially in the world of literature. Equally important, this story was adapting into another Western work such as Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe had done by Daniel Defoe in year 1719, the work of Gracian Baltasar in El Criticon and lastly the work of Rudyard Kipling in character of Mowgli in Jungle Book. All these work was influenced by Hayy ibn Yaqzān.[10]

The Most Important Parts of Hayy ibn Yaqzān

The most important part in this philosophical tale is when Hayy figures out that God exists, namely that all actions and everything on earth were brought by another being by using his intellect. He turns his mind to study the heavenly bodies. When Hayy reaches his twenty-eight year, he looks into the sky and among the stars, but comes to the conclusion that the sky and what is in it are all corporeal since they all have length, width, and depth. He proves to himself that an infinite body is impossible.[11]

He desperately seeks to recognize his existence in time and locate his life in space. His search takes him through various domains of knowledge, from anatomy and physiology, to metaphysics and mysticism. Hayy arrives at the unity of existence through reasoning and by himself discovers God. Imposing on himself ascetic conduct he uncovers the way to salvation and joyful happiness. It was interesting to know how Hayy can believes in God solely although he never met another human being only because of his reason and he also even manages to attain mystic experiences without any influence of organized religion. It is also interesting to see how beliefs in divinity may have evolved in primitive societies, spurred on by superstition and fear. 

We can say that the summit of Hayy's achievement is meant to represent the highest point man can attain, a point he reaches not by aid of institutions and instruction, but seemingly by being simply let alone. It is sort of educational philosophy permits belief in such a possibility that a child left alone and exposed will develop into a fulfilled human being. [12] 

Opinion Towards Hayy ibn Yaqzān

Hayy ibn Yaqzān is still relevant to be read until today because of its beneficial contents. For those who read  Hayy ibn Yaqzān, it is a beginner guide to philosophy which could be an impetus to learn philosophy. It is an exciting, its intelligence and entirely innovative philosophical tale which is written in a narrative manner. The admirable part in Hayy Ibn Yaqzān is the religious and philosophical lessons. Ibn Tufayl uses the method of the story tale to explains his notions. Perhaps this method of tale is suitable for general reading especially among the society. 

The language used in Hayy Ibn Yaqzān is intermediate. Therefore to understand the text is not very difficult. Thus, there are many translated version of Hayy in other languages as this could help the reader to gain their understanding. In Arabic version, Hayy Ibn Yaqzān only 49 pages, perhaps the reader won't take a very long time to finish their reading. 

The Useful of Hayy ibn Yaqzān Towards Islam

From Hayy ibn Yaqzān's story, it told us on how philosophy develops in acceptance from spiritual aspects. It holds the religions is needed in the society. Ibn Tufayl utilizes the idea of Ibn Bajjah to show how philosophy is not against Islam, how reason is left on its own would arrive at the same conclusions as the teachings of religion. 

Furthermore, Ibn Tufayl also included how philosophy is not suitable for the masses and why the masses should be left alone to follow the external aspects of law ( shari'ah ). It shows how the religion and philosophy are needed to enhance an understanding either from internal or external aspects. However, still the understanding of philosophy does require according to the person's intellectual. It is a good introduction in explaining the way to reach the truth and the knowledge of God by using the intellect and the help of nature. 

The authentic Holy Qur’ān also encourages the human being to think by using their intellect but it must be protected from just following without reason. Still the knowledge of God and the practice of Shari'ah needed the revelation. Religion itself could not be separated from the person and religion is something which is rational to refute any mystical element. Thus, this philosophical tale is very useful towards Islam as it related with the concept of intellect and revelation.[13]


Hayy Ibn Yaqzān is the story of man's ability to survive in a natural state, free of language, society, history and tradition. It supports the empirical method of science and emphasizes the power of human reason. It affirms the possibility of man's attaining the true knowledge of God and things is necessary to salvation without the help of established religious institutions and formal instruction. Human reason, the story stresses many by observation and experience arrive the knowledge of natural things, and from there progress to supernatural and divine matters. The work questions traditional doctrines and values, suggests innovations in religious and educational concepts and advocated religious, nonviolence, and peaceful coexistence among people who adhere to various sects and who have different interpretations of religion. People, we are told different as they use various means in search of the ultimate truth. All of them are endowed with the same reason, but only a few are capable of applying this natural gift go the right uses. Hayy the prototype of the enlightened human being believes that there is a place for everyone on this earth, whether one chooses to live on  a desert island, or with other people. Conformity is not recommended and heated arguments, or attempts to force others to change their views, may lead to violence and endanger the social and spiritual fabric of society. 

[1] Dr. Abd Halim Mahmud. ( 1964). Falsafatu ibn Tufayl Wa Risālatu  : Hayy ibn Yaqzān. Kaherah : Maktabah al-Anjalu al-Misriyah.
[2] Selin, Helaine. (Edt.). (1997). Encyclopedia  of  the History of  Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Kluwer Academic Publishers : Netherlands. pp.437.
[3] The History of Hayy Ibn Yaqzān.  ( Ockley, Simon, Trans. ). Frederick A.Stokes Company Publishers : New York. pp. 9-10. retrieved from
[4]Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady. (n.d). Peranan  Pemikiran Mohd Natsir Dalam Konteks Memodenkan  Pemikiran Umat retrived from PerananPemikiranMohdNatsir.htm
[5]Ahmad Sunawari Long. (2008). Sejarah Falsafah. Selangor: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. pp.233
[6] Dr. Abd Halim Mahmud. ( 1964). Falsafatu ibn Tufayl Wa Risālatu  : Hayy ibn Yaqzān. Kaherah : Maktabah al-Anjalu al-Misriyah.
[7] Butterworth, Charles E. & Kessel, Blake Andree. (Eds. ). (1994). The Introduction of Arabic Philosophy into Europe. Netherlands : EJ Brill. pp.76.
[8] Butterworth, Charles E. & Kessel, Blake Andree. (Eds. ). (1994). The Introduction of Arabic Philosophy into Europe. Netherlands : EJ Brill. pp.76.
[10] ibid
[11] Ibn Tufayl. (1963). Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. (N. Atiyeh, George, trans). from Gauthier’s 2nd edition, abridged, in Medival Political Philosophy, eds. Ralph Lerner and Muhsin Mahdi. Toronto: Free Press. pp.3.
[12] Goodman, Lenn Evan .(2003). Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan : A Philosophical Tale.USA: University of Chicago Press. pp.12.
[13] Ahmad Sunawari Long. (2008). Sejarah Falsafah. Selangor: Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. pp.195-196.


1 comment:

  1. Selamat berjuang kepada semua kawan2 yang akan mengambil madah Philosophical Texts. Best !