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on Islamic Philosophy
Philosophy and Islam
Chapters in this essay
Groundwork on Islamic Philosophy
- Philosophy and Islam
- Analytical Arguments
- Cosmological Arguments
(Aristotle, Al-Kindi, Ibn Rushd, Al-Ghazzali,
Liebniz, Iqbal, & Craig)
- Teleological Arguments
(Paley, Sober, Alkindus, Iqbal, Russell, & Kant)
- Ontological Arguments
(Anselm, Descartes, Kant, & Avicenna)
- Arguments against the existence of God
Philosophy is concerned with the fundamental questions about nature and
reality. Al-Kindi called philosophy the most exalted science, since
it dealt with issues which are universal.
Al-Kindi (Alkindus, 800 – 873 CE) is recognized as the first Arab or Muslim
philosopher. He defines philosophy as the love of wisdom, from the
greek words philo (friend) and sophia (wisdom). (Kindi 18-19)
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) goes a step further and states that the Quran makes the
study of philosophy obligatory upon all believers. Ibn Rushd (Averroes, 1128 –
1198 CE) is considered a major Aristotelian Muslim and Spanish philosopher.
He states that philosophy is nothing more than the study of beings and
reflection upon them. The Quran encourages mankind to “Reflect,
you have vision.” At another place it states, “have they not
studied the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and whatever things God has
created?” Here God is urging the readers to study the world and
how and why objects and beings exist. Ibn Rushd concludes that
God requires man to try to obtain demonstrative knowledge of His existence.
But prior to having demonstrative knowledge, Man must be able to have
dialectical, theoritical and logical knowledge. That is for man to learn
he must know the basis of reasoning. Hence, philosophy is not only
necessary but also commanded by the divine. (Ibn Rusd 44-46)
Al-Ghazzali finds serious problems with the philosophers of his era.
He writes, “they have abandoned all the religious duties of Islam imposes on
its followers.” He thinks that the kind of reasoning used by
philosophers would never result in the proof of the existence of God.
Al-Ghazzali (Algazel, 1058 – 1111 CE) was an extremely influential orthodox
Muslim thinker who rebuffed many of the claims of the ‘philosphers’ who
claimed they could proof God by reason alone.
Ibn Rushd admits that philosophy may have its harms as a discipline, but
these harms are no greater than those resulting from the study of medicine or
law. Since, the study of philosophy is commanded by God Himself, it is
obligatory, although it is possible to misuse the science for other purposes. (Ibn
Rushd 47). As Al-Kindi and most
Muslim philosophers agree philosophy cannot reach as far as revealation can.
Hence, the basis of our actions should be based upon Islam, whereas philosophy
ought to be considered as an independent discipline. It should also
be noted that the thrust of Ghazzali’s argument is not against philosophy, but
rather its use. His main concern is that the philosophers are drawing
conclusions from their ‘arguments’ that are not valid.
Muhammad Iqbal sees no contradiction between faith and reason.
Iqbal (1877-1938 CE) in this century is considered the poet-philosopher of
Islam, his works have been extremely influential in the revival of Islamic
thought. He was born in (what is now) Pakistan but studied in Britian and
Germany, thus providing insight into both philosophical traditions. He
thinks that both thought and intuition arise from the same source and don’t
oppose each other, but rather are complimentary. Reason aims at understanding
the physical world and existence, whereas religious experience aims at
transcending this world and achieving the knowledge of the ultimate.
Iqbal then thinks that it is necessary for Muslims to engage themselves in the
study and science of philosophy in order to redefine Islamic culture, which is
now confronted with a more advanced western civilization. If Muslim
thinkers fail in this challenge, then Muslim thought may be absorbed by Western
philosophy, as the two cultures begin to integrate further.
This debate is not uniquely Islamic, similar debates have persisted in
Christian thought as well. While religious tensions in Europe were
hindering analytical thought, it was flourishing in Muslim lands. As the
Churches influenced decreased a more dynamic movement emerged in Europe brining
with it a whole new worldview moving towards reason and away from dogma.
Today many Christian theologians also use philosophy to justify their positions,
as is similar among certain Muslim groups. The irritating problem,
however, is to uphold the conclusion of these theists on purely philosophical
grounds, in the face of a challenge from radical skepticism.