Evolution of Arabic philosophical tradition from religious theological ( kalam ) to neo- platonic school of thought. ( falsafa ).

Islam as a religion emphasizes on the importance of thinking and rationality. It also became the basis Islamic thought and philosophy in Middle East ,Persia and Muslim Spain. Muslim thought has a very pleasant blend of eastern and western philosophy .It first started as the translation movement and then the  theological disputes based on deep philosophical interpretation of religious text paved the way for Neo Platonic school of thought in medieval Islamic philosophy.

Islamic philosophy is not confined to either to one topic ,time or place. Islamic philosophy is used as a very broad generic term.


Origins of Muslim Philosophy

Firstly early Muslim tried to rationalize their religion because they feel the pressure from both the inner circle of believers who questioned various aspects of divine religion and on the other hand by the Jews and Christians who probed Islamic religious teachings and were needed to be answered. Later on Greek and on the lesser extent Indian and Persian philosophical concepts were fused into Muslim theoretical ideas.

Kalam or Religious Theology

Religion was on the central stage for medieval Islamic thinkers which became the basis of Al kalam that is actually the process to rationalize religion with the use of logic and dialectic reasoning.


the first group of theologians to use this approach were Mutazilites

Unity and justice were the main focal point of mutaziltes as they used to titled themselves as the ahl at tauhid wa,l adl the forbearers of unity and justice

According to Abu al-Hudhayl the mutazilites (Arabic: المعتزلة‎) doctrine included five basic principles.

1The doctrine of unity or tauhid التوحيد

Asharites were the firm believers of the unity of god the so thought divine attributes such as ‘powerful’ (qadir), ‘knowing’ (‘alim), ‘creating’ (kjaliq), ‘nourishing’ (raziq), etc. as mentioned in Quran should be taken in metaphorical sense. So they absolutely denied the anthropomorphism nature of divine attributes

In response to this Sunni proposed that these ‘entities’ called sifat are at the same time neither identical to God nor other than Him

2The principle of adl العدل or justcie Predestination and free will

They were of the opinions that god has given human free will and for evil deeds they are to be blame for their actions not god

3The doctrine of al waad wal waid , الوعد و الوعيد  promise of paradise

They also belived that it is the necessity of human to be promised something good like jannah or paradise and for the sinners a plce of eternal daamnation hell

4The doctrine of amr bil mahrooh wa nahi anil munkir الأمر بالمعروف و النهي عن المنكر

Mutazilites were of the view that it is their responsibility to advocate the good and forbid from evil

5The doctrine of al-manzila bayn al manzilataynالمنزلة بين المنزلتين

 or the doctrine of intermediary position

Mutazilites believe that a Muslim sinner has intermediary position he can neither be called an infidel or a believer if he commits a sin he holds an intermediary position between these two


The Reactionary Approach , Asharism

The second most influential school of thought in earlier religious tradition was Asharism it was founded by al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d. 324 AH / 936 AD). The disciples of the school are known as Ash’arites

The doctrine of bi la kayf or unquestioning conformism

They believe that tjere is limit to human rationalistic approach and it does not provide us with all necessary answeres so we have to ultimatly rely on divine truth which is the final and absolute truth.

Asharites were strong believers of atomism are the everlasting material other than that everything happened for just an instant, as every event that happened is directly commanded by God Himself they believed in constant divine intervention in worldly affairs

Asharites were also the strong adherents of Occasionalism.

The doctrine of predestination

They believe that everything is predestined and we humans are mere the agents to perform it


Translation movement

To make Arabic capable enough to express ideas of philosophy and contemporary sciences, around a whole century from 750 to 850 was dedicated to translation under the direct patronage of early Abbasid dynasty. It was mainly influenced by Greek philosophical tradition and a on a lesser extent by Persian and Indian traditions have also share in intellectual beginning of Islamic philosophical thought.

Translation happened in two ways first the Greek classics were translated from Syriac to Arabic and secondly the direct translation of Greek text into Arabic.

Translation was done in two ways as first new words were coined to express purely new ideas developed by Arabic thinkers and secondly Greek terms were arabisised e.g, jumatryia (geometry), falsafha(philosophy), iksir (elixir) , urghun(organ) , and jughrafyia (geometry).

Bayt al Hikma was commissioned by the official decree of the medieval Abbasid dynasty to translate the great works of Greek philosophers into Arabic language.


  Arabic philosophy

Arabic philosophy was coined by the combined efforts put forth by Muslim , Jews Christian and atheist philosophers of arab descent e.g,

  • Al-Kindi (d. 866): first Arab/Muslim philosopher; philosophy as “the search for truth” (talab al-haqq)
  • Al-Farabi (d. 950): elaborates Islamic Neo-Platonism;)


Persianized  Islamic  Philosophy

Ibn Sina/Avicenna (d. 1037): fully developed an elaborate and complete system of philosophy .

Avicenna’s philosophy, like that of his predecessors among the Arabians, is Aristoteleanism mingled with Neo-Platonism, an elucidation of Aristotle’s teaching in the light of the Commentaries of his own.

Avicenna worked on

the doctrine of being

the body mind relationship

theory of knowledge

doctrine of prophecy god and the world





Islamic philosophy in West

Islamic Spain produced many scholars like ibn hazm, Averroes

Ibn Rushd/Averroes represents full synthesis of Aristotelian thought and Islam Averroes openly admitted his inability to hold on philosophic grounds the doctrine of individual immortality, being content to maintain it as a religious tenet. Averroes’ greatest influence was as a commentator


Logic was considered as he philosopher’s tool kit in medieval Islamic philosophy and Avicenna and Ibn Hazm were the followers of the Aristotelian logic in Kalam but the use of logic in theological studies was successfully integrated by Al Ghazali .

End of Rationalist Thought Al Ghazali

Alghazali is traditionally believed to have refuted the popular philosophical beliefs in his famous book the incoherence of philosophers in which he gives three major contradiction of the philosophers to common in reference to common orthodox Islamic belief.

His objections on philosophers

the denial of resurrection of human’s bodily form

notion of eternal universe

and god knows only particulars

and due to these allegations he called philosophers  as  the heretics. He is also credited with converging the traditional Kalam with the new vibrant Sufi theology (mysticism).


Contemporary Islamic philosophy

Contemporary Islamic philosophy is more centered on political and theological aspects of philosophy.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, founder of Islamist political thought in the 20th century, was also the the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami a political organization. Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, was a famous teacher of the philosophical school of Hikmat-ul-Mutaliya. So the ideals of new Islamic Republic of Iran have also their roots in islamic philosophy.


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