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Huazhong Normal University, Wuhan, China

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Professor Steven Mall

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Man’s Return to Nature: An Ecocritical Approach to Ibn Tufail’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan




  1. Research Significance

Hayy Ibn Yaqzan is an early Arabic novel written by Ibn Tufayl, a Muslim Moorish physician as well as philosopher in early 12th century Andalus.

Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, Alive son of the Awake, best demonstrates the relationship of man with nature. It also depicts man as an essential living element in his quest  in trying to figure out nature to finally make it his comfortable shelter.

The story of Hayy is well-known; a lonely child who was cast ashore an equatorial island inside a box by his own mother in fear of her brother, a cruel king for he opposed her marriage with one of her relatives Yaqzan, the mother in fear for her child of merciless death she decides to send Hayy away to his fate in the vast ocean.

The little Hayy is eventually found by a gazelle who herself had lost her child, her motherhood and longing for her lost child made her ears sensitive to the cries of the little Hayy. She eventually embraces Hayy as her own child, unfortunately the mother gazelle has grown old and has to die--nature's code. Though Hayy was never taught anything by a human so far, he learns to cry his mother gazelle who has apparently left him alone.

Hayy now learns that there are powers far beyond him though he cannot fathom them now at this early stage, but he discovers that there is an organ inside his mother gazelle after which he held an autopsy on the gazelle's body and which has now stopped and which apparently has caused his mother gazelle to be deceased.

From here it becomes apparent that Hayy has something which his mother gazelle had not and which is reason, and it is up to this reason that Hayy was born with but had to develop it by himself that he would eventually culminate to fathom nature.

Stranded on an island all alone unaided as well as not hindered by the outside world, Hayy undertake many discoveries about god, nature and the world in general, the novel appears to have occurred as a mere challenge to the culture and society in which it was written.

Returning to my main point of focus in this paper and which is man's return to nature to finally be part of the harmonious ecosystem. And thus, in Hayy Ibn Yaqzan we find that all of what Hayy has been doing on that island was to try to find that unfound harmony between him and the environment he was living in, and since Hayy suckled his first milk from the island one can notice that Hayy took it on himself to payback what the island gave him in the first place.

  1. Analysis of Previous Researches

Ibn Tufayl 's story Hayy Ibn Yaqzan was quite derivative both in its title and mostly the characters namely Absal and Salaman. It is quite known that Ibn Tufayl's Hayy Ibn Yaqzan was inspired by Ibn Sina's story (Avicenna), so, basically Ibn Tufayl rephrased the fable trying to prove alternative ideas, mainly philosophical as well as religious. And, thus the name of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan became related to the name of Ibn Tufayl.

When talking of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, several other works that came later occur here. Take for instance Daniel Defoe's famous story Robinson Crusoe; though, literally it has never been proved that Defoe had ever read Ibn Tufayl's story, yet many critics declare that given his voracious nature to literary works, Defoe must have encountered the story somewhere before he decided to write his mast.....[read full text]

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