In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ibn Ṭufayl

  • Introduction
  • General and Introductory Studies on Ibn Tufayl
  • Other Works by Ibn Tufayl

Islamic Studies Ibn Ṭufayl
Marco Lauri
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0240


Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al‐Malik ibn Muḥammad ibn Tufayl al‐Qaysi (al-Andalusi, al- Ishbili) (c. 1110–1185), also known in the West as Abentofail and Abubacer, was born in Wadi ‘Ash (modern Guadix, Spain). He was a prominent Andalusi physician and philosopher, and was active primarily at the Muwahhid court, where he served as a physician and courtier under the Muwahhid caliph Abu Ya’qub Yusuf. Little is known of Ibn Tufayl’s life and education. His fame rests on his only extant major work, the philosophical narrative treatise Risālat Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān fī asrār ḥikmat mašriqiyya (The Epistle of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan on the Secrets of Eastern Philosophy). The treatise, of considerable historical and literary importance, is also known in the West under the title of its 1671 Latin translation, Philosophus Autodidactus. His other surviving works are limited to some verse compositions, notably a political qasida and a didactic urjuza (poem in rajaz meter) of medical subject. Ibn Tufayl belongs to the tradition of Andalusian falsafa also represented by his predecessor Ibn Bajja (Avempace) and his younger colleague Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Some older sources incorrectly report Ibn Bajja to have been his teacher. It is attested that he knew Ibn Rushd and introduced him at court, but there is no evidence that the latter was Ibn Tufayl’s disciple. Risālat Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān is the sole extant direct document of Ibn Tufayl’s philosophical thought, and therefore the primary focus of scholarship about him. Ibn Tufayl’s thought generally reflects the Aristotelian-Platonic framework typical of Islamic falsafa, as Risālat Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān itself clarifies in its introduction with open references to preceding thinkers, but it also offers significant elements of originality. The text has attracted significant critical and scholarly attention through time and features among the most commonly translated and studied works of classical Arabic prose. The work also enjoys enduring success because of its narrative form and literary qualities, and has had many translations, reductions, and adaptations, including, in recent decades, filmed and animated versions of the story.

General and Introductory Studies on Ibn Tufayl

Kukkonen 2014 is the most complete and recent introduction to the philosopher and his work, featuring a comprehensive analysis of the main themes, their historical reception, and a balanced review of a large portion of existing scholarship. The second major scholarly reference on Ibn Tufayl is Conrad 1996, a collection of ten articles dealing with a wide range of specific aspects and themes. Much of the scholarship on Ibn Tufayl is in the form of journal articles, book chapters, and essays complementing editions or translations of his work. General histories of Islamic philosophy and encyclopedias usually dedicate entries or sections to Ibn Tufayl, offering valuable introductory discussions of his work, as seen in De Boer 1903, Nallino 1928–1936, Carra de Vaux 1960–2007, Inati 1998, Goodman 1996, and Puig Montada 2005.

  • Carra de Vaux, B. “Ibn Ṭufayl.” In Encyclopedia of Islam. 2d ed. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1960–2007.

    A short encyclopedic summary.

  • Conrad, Lawrence, ed. The World of Ibn Ṭufayl: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān. Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Sciences Series 24. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1996.

    A collection of ten essays detailing various specific aspects of the text and its reception, with an excellent introduction summarizing the state of scholarship in the mid-nineties and a rich section of bibliographical references.

  • De Boer, Tjitze J. History of Philosophy in Islam. Translated by E. Jones. London: Luzac, 1903. 181–187.

    A short and dated introduction to the author and his work, mostly now relevant for the history of scholarship.

  • Goodman, Lenn Evan. “Ibn Tufayl.” In History of Islamic Philosophy. Edited by S. H. Nasr and O. Leaman, 313–329. London: Routledge, 1996.

    An introduction to the author, offering some interpretive insights.

  • Inati, Shams. “Ibn Tufayl.” In Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol. 4. Edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, 1998.

    A brief introductory entry, largely summarizing older scholarship.

  • Kukkonen, Taneli. Ibn Tufayl: Living the Life of Reason. London: Oneworld Publications, 2014.

    An up-to date, detailed synthesis of Ibn Tufayl’s life and work, with a comprehensive analysis of Risālat Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān, its context, its historical reception, and its study.

  • Nallino, Carlo Alfonso. “Ibn Ṭufayl.” In Enciclopedia Italiana. Roma: Istituto per l’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1928–1936.

    At the time, this entry was detailed and informative. Now largely relevant to the history of scholarship.

  • Puig Montada, Josef. “Philosophy in Andalusia: Ibn Bājja and Ibn Ṭufayl.” In The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Edited by Peter Adamson and Richard C. Taylor, 165–179. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    A useful overview that helps put Ibn Tufayl’s work in its historical and intellectual context and offers interpretive insights.

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