The reasons of calling Islamic philosophy as “Islamic philosophy”

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Why we have called Islamic philosophy Islamic philosophy. First of all, the tradition of Islamic philosophy is deeply rooted in the world view of the Qur’anic revelation and functions within a cosmos in which prophecy or revelation is accepted as a blinding reality that is the source not only of ethics but also of knowledge. It is therefore what Henry Corbin quite righty called la philosophie prophetique. Secondly, while being philosophy in the fullest sense of the term, its very conception of al-‘aql (reason intellect) was transformed by the intellectual and spiritual universe within which it functioned in the same way that reason as transformed by the rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment began to function differently from the ratio and intellectus of a St Thomas. This fact is an undeniable truth for anyone who has studied Islamic philosophy from within the tradition and remains an essential reality to consider despite the attempt of a number of not only Western but also Westernized Muslim scholars who, having surrendered to the rationalism of modern philosophy, now wish to read this understanding of reason back into Islamic philosophy. Thirdly, the Islamic philosophy were Muslim and nearly all of them devout in their following of the Shari’ah. It should never be forgotten that the paragon of rationalistic philosophy in Islam, Ibn Rushd, long considered in the robe of Averroes as the epitome of rationalism in the West, was the chief religious authority of Cordova (modern Spanish Cordoba) and the Mulla Sadra, one of the greatest of Islamic metaphysicians, journeyed seven times on foot to Mecca (Makkah) and died during the seventh pilgrimage. There are also other reasons which it is not possible to discuss here but which are mentioned in several of the essays that follow.

All these factors converge to point to the Islamic nature of Islamic philosophy in the same way that Christian philosophy is Christian and Jewish philosophy is Jewish. It is strange that no one protests against the use of the term Jewish philosophy because a number of Talmudic scholars over the centuries have opposed it, and the same hold true mutatis mutandis for Christianity. In the case of Islam, however, most Western scholars of the subject have chosen to identify other school of Islamic though such as kalam as Islamic and Islamic philosophy as “foreign”, appealing to those very voices within the Islamic world which, like the Talmudic scholars in Judaism , have opposed Islamic philosophy.

Furthermore, this Western view has been adopted by a number of Muslim scholars trained in the rationalistic and sceptical modes of Western thought and impervious to the still of Islamic philosophy within the Islamic world the possibility of gaining certitude (al-yaqin) intellectually. Certainly, Islamic philosophy has had its opponents in Islamic circles but it has also had its defenders in not only the Shi’ite world but also in certain areas and school of the Sunni world, although, as already mentioned, falsafah became more or less wed to either kalam or ma’rifah in later centuries in much of Sunnism at least in the Arab world. In any case Islamic philosophy has remained a major intellectual activity and a living intellectual tradition within the citadel of Islam to this day while continuing to be fully philosophy if this term is not limited to its recent caricature in the Anglo-Saxon world which would deny the title of philosopher to even Plato and Aristotle.

Islamic philosophy is not Arabic philosophy for several reasons, although this term has a respectable history in the West while having no historical precedence in the Islamic world itself before the fourteenth/ twentieth century. First of all, although most works of Islamic philosophy were written in Arabic, much was also written in Persian going back to Ibn Sina himself, Secondly, while many of the Islamic philosophers were Arabs, such as al-Kindi or Ibn Rushd , many and in fact most were Persian while some were from Turkish or Indian ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, Persia has remained the main centre of Islamic philosophy during most of Islamic history.

And then there are arguments from the other side. Much of Jewish philosophy was written in Arabic but is not called Arabic philosophy and there is whole Christian Arabic literature of philosophical nature which is of some significance in the early history of Islamic philosophy but which belongs to a distinct philosophical tradition. If one puts modern nationalistic and chauvinistic ideas aside and looks upon the whole of the Islamic philosophy tradition, one cannot but call it Islamic philosophy for both intellectual and historical reasons, and if the Arabic philosophy is still used European languages it must be understood strictly in its medieval sense and not transposed into the modern understanding of this term. Islamic philosophy was created by Muslims who were Arabs, Persians and later Turks, Indians, Malays etc. on the basis of translations often made by Christians and influenced to some extent by Christian and Jewish interactions with Greek philosophy. And yet, Islamic philosophy functioned in a universe dominated by the Qur’anic revelation and the manifestation of the nature of the Divine Principle as the One. In such a world, a philosophical tradition was created which acted as catalyst for the rise of medieval Jewish philosophy and had a profound impact upon both philosophy and theology in the Christian West. It also exercised an influence upon Hindu India with the Islamic philosophy tradition reacted in numerous ways with schools of Islamic thought and , on the basis of much of the wisdom of antiquity, created one of the richest intellectual traditions in the world , one which has survived as a living reality to this day.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:16to18


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