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by Dr.G.F. Haddad

Muhammad ibn `Umar ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Husayn1 Abu `Abd Allah al-Qurashi, al-Bakri, al-Taymi, al-Tabaristani al-Shafi`i, known as Ibn al-Khatib and as Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (543-606), Shaykh al-Islam, the imam of the learned scholars of kalam and the foundations of belief, a major jurist of the Shafi`i school, specialist of usul, Sufi, commentator of the Qur'an, philologist, genealogist, heresiographer, logician, and physician. "An ocean that contains more pearls than the ocean." The principal spokesman of Ahl al-Sunna in his time, he refuted all the sects with which he came into contact, particularly the multifarious groups of the Mu`tazila, Shi`a, and Hashwiyya as well as the Jews and Christians. A student of his father Khatib al-Rayy Diya' al-Din `Umar and Majd al-Din al-Jili al-Maraghi principally, then Abu Muhammad al-Baghawi and Kamal al-Din al-Simnani, he memorized early on Imam al-Haramayn's work in kalam entitled al-Shamil. He began his scholarly career in poverty and died at sixty-three at the height of fame and wealth, poisoned, it is said, by the Karramiyya2 of Herat who were envious of his great following among the princes of Khurasan.

A superb teacher, al-Razi could debate and preach in both Arabic and Persian, and he answered gracefully and at length the questions of the scholars of all four schools in Herat. He would often break into emotional states while preaching, moving to tears whoever listened to him. He was expelled from Khwarizm and Transoxiana by the Mu`tazila and returned to his native Rayy where he authored a series of works which achieved widespread fame in a short time. Among them:3

  1. Al-Tafsir al-Kabir, also known as Mafatih al-Ghayb, among the greatest commentaries of Qur'an in Islam, in twelve to thirty volumes depending on the edition, he spent the last fifteen years of his life working on it and did not finish it. The commentator Abu Hayyan criticized its prolixity in acerbic terms.4
  2. `Isma al-Anbiya'.
  3. Bahr al-Ansab.
  4. Kitab al-Mantiq al-Kabir.
  5. Al-Mahsul wa al-Muntakhab, in which he amended Abu al-Husayn Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Basri al-Mu`tazili al-Shafi`i's (d. 463) al-Mu`tamad fi Usul al-Fiqh.
  6. Al-Arba`in.
  7. Nihaya al-`Uqul
  8. Al-Bayan wa al-Burhan fi al-Radd `ala Ahl al-Zaygh wa al-Tughyan
  9. Al-Mabahith al-`Imadiyya fi al-Matalib al-Ma`adiyya
  10. Al-Mabahith al-Mashriqiyya.
  11. Ta'sis al-Taqdis fi Ta'wil al-Sifat, a methodical refutation of the anthropomorphists. Ibn Taymiyya attacked it in a book entitled al-Asas Radd al-Ta'sis.
  12. Irshad al-Nuzzar ila Lata'if al-Asrar.
  13. Al-Zubda.
  14. Al-Ma`alim fi Usul al-Din, a commentary on Abu al-Ma`ali al-Juwayni's Luma` al-Adilla.
  15. Al-Ma`alim fi Usul al-Fiqh
  16. Sharh Asma' Allah al-Husna
  17. Sharh Nisf al-Wajiz li al-Ghazzali
  18. Sharh al-Isharat.
  19. Al-Mulakhkhas fi al-Falsafa.
  20. Al-Matalib al-`Aliyya.
  21. Al-Milal wa al-Nihal.
  22. Sharh Kulliyyat al-Qanun fi al-Tibb.
  23. Manaqib al-Shafi`i.
  24. Sharh Siqt al-Zand li Abi al-`Ala'.
  25. Al-Tariqa al-Baha'iyya fi al-Khilaf. Siraj al-Din al-Ghaznawi translated it into Arabic from its original Persian.
  26. Sharh Mufassal al-Zamakhshari.
  27. `Uyun al-Hikma.
  28. The spurious Asrar al-Nujum on magic and divination, falsely attributed to the Imam.5

Imam al-Razi said in his "Testament" (wasiyya):

I have explored the ways of kalam and the methods of philosophy, and I did not see in them a benefit that compares with the benefit I found in the Qur'an. For the latter hurries us to acknowledge that greatness and majesty belong only to Allah, precluding us from involvement into the explication of objections and contentions. This is for no other reason than because human minds find themselves deadened in those deep, vexing exercises and obscure ways [of kalam and philosophy].

Therefore, I say that everything that stands established by literal proofs concerning the necessity of Allah's existence, His oneness, His exemption from any and all partners, as well as His beginninglessness and pre-existence, His disposal of all things, His exclusive efficacy: that is what I also believe, and what I hope to meet Allah with.

As for what is ultimately subtle and unclear, as well as all that is mentioned in the Qur'an and the sound books of hadith that specifically bears one meaning: it is all exactly as the text says. Whatever is otherwise, I say: O God of the worlds, I see that all of creation concur that You are the most generous of all generous ones, and the most merciful of them; therefore, concerning anything I wrote or thought, I bear witness that if You saw that I tried to declare true something false, or declare false something true, then do with me as I deserve; but if you saw that I only tried to declare transcendent whatever I considered truly transcendent, and believed so truthfully, then let Your mercy be commensurate with my intention, not with my outcome....

As for the books which I authored and in which I listed and explicated countless questions, let whoever looks into them remember me kindly and pray for me out of compassion and benevolence, or else, strike out any wrong words. For I did not intend other than abundant investigation and the sharpening of thought, all the while relying upon Allah.6

Ibn al-Subki quotes the following lines of poetry from Imam al-Razi:

The daring of minds ends in shackles, Most of mankind's undertakings are folly. Our souls are indifferent to what our bodies do, And the sum of our lives is affliction and harm. We did not benefit from our lifelong search Except in collecting what these said, and those. Atop many a mountain men have triumphed And gone, while the mountains remained. How many men and states have we seen Goaded to disappear one and all.

Al-Razi is, with al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, among those to whom Shaykh Muhyi al-Din Ibn `Arabi frequently refers in his books.

Main sources: Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 8:81-96 #1089; Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya 1:-396-398 #366.


1In Ibn Qadi Shuhba: Ibn `Umar Ibn al-Husayn ibn al-Hasan.

2 The Karramiyya are the followers of Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Karram al-Sijistani (d. 255) who used to say: "Allah is a body unlike bodies" and "Allah is firmly seated on the throne and He is in person (dhâtan) on the upper side of it." Al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa al-Nihal (1:108) and al-Dhahabi, Siyar (10:10). Al-Baghdadi gave an exhaustive description of their doctrines in al-Farq Bayn al-Firaq (1977 ed. p. 202-214).

3List taken from Ibn al-Subki's TSK, Ibn Qadi Shuhba, and Hajji Khalifa's Kasfh al-Zunun (1:224, 2:1198, 2:1527, 2:1561, 2:1864).

4To the point he said: "One of the scholars said that his Tafsir contains everything but Tafsir!" In Hajji Khalifa, Kashf al-Zunun (1:431) and elsewhere.

5Al-Dhahabi included an entry on Imam al-Razi in his compendium of narrator-discreditation entitled Mizan al-I`tidal in which he says: "He [al-Razi] authored a book named Asrar al-Nujum which contains blatant sorcery." Al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-I`tidal. Ibn al-Subki in TSK (8:88) rejects this attribution as spurious and rightly attributes its mention to al-Dhahabi's anti-Ash`ari bias, noting that since al-Razi is not even known as a hadith narrator he did not belong in the Mizan in the first place - the latter being a compendium of narrators whose name was brought up in connection with narrator-discreditation. `Abd al-Karim ibn Khaldun al-Maghribi al-Maliki in the introduction to his Tarikh and Ibn Qadi Shuhba cite the book as al-Sirr al-Maktum fi Mukhataba al-Shams wa al-Nujum and similarly cast doubt on the authenticity of its attribution to al-Razi.

6In Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (8:91-92

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (1149-1209)

Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi was one of the outstanding figures in Islamic theology. Living in the second half of the sixth century ah (twelfth century ad), he also wrote on history, grammar, rhetoric, literature, law, the natural sciences and philosophy, and composed one of the major works of Qur'anic exegesis, the only remarkable gap in his output being politics. He travelled widely in the eastern lands of Islam, often engaging in heated polemical confrontations. His disputatious character, intolerant of intellectual weakness, frequently surfaces in his writings, but these are also marked by a spirit of synthesis and a profound desire to uncover the truth, whatever its source. A number of his metaphysical positions became well known in subsequent philosophical literature, being cited more often than not for the purposes of refutation. His prolixity and pedantic argumentation were often criticized, but he was widely considered the reviver of Islam in his century.

  1. Theology and philosophy
  2. Metaphysics

1. Theology and philosophy

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi was born in Rayy near present-day Tehran in ah 543 or 544/ad 1149-50. Like his predecessor al-Ghazali, he was an adherent of the Shafi'i school in law and of the theology of Ash'arism (see Ash'ariyya and Mu'tazila). He was attracted at an early age to the study of philosophy, in which he soon became proficient. In his late twenties, he visited Khwarazm and Transoxania, where he came in contact with some of the last theologians in the Mu'tazilite tradition. Although he endured hardship and poverty at the beginning of his career, on returning to Rayy from Transoxania he entered into the first of a series of patronage relations with rulers in the east which contributed to his reputedly considerable wealth and authority.

Al-Razi's skill in polemic ensured that controversy followed him in his subsequent sojourns in Khurasan, Bukhara, Samarqand and elsewhere (he is said to have visited India). He consequently made several dangerous enemies, including among them the Karramiyyah (an activist ascetic sect, staunch defenders of a literal interpretation of scripture and of anthropomorphism), the Isma'ilis, and the Hanbalites, each of whom apparently threatened his life at various points. Al-Razi settled finally in Herat, where he had a teaching madrasa built for him, and where he died in ah 606/ad 1209.

In the religious sciences, al-Ghazali had legitimized the use of logic, while at the same time attacking those key metaphysical doctrines of the philosophers which most offended against orthodox doctrine. This move prepared the ground for the subsequent incorporation of philosophical argumentation into theology. It was through al-Razi that this marriage was most completely effected in the Sunni world. His major theological works all begin with a section on metaphysics, and this was to become the pattern for most later writers.

The problem of how far al-Razi should be considered a philosopher (rather than a theologian) is complicated by changes of view during the course of his life, and by his highly disputatious and often intemperate personality, which he himself acknowledged. His style is marked by an extensively ramifying dialectic, often ending in highly artificial subtleties, and is not easy to follow. The relentlessness and sometimes obvious delight with which al-Razi used this method to home in on his victims earned him among philosophers the sobriquet of Iman al-Mushakkikin (Leader of the Doubters). Nevertheless, al-Razi was scrupulous in representing the views he set out to criticize, manifesting his concern to lay out a rigorous dialectic in which theological ideas could be debated before the arbitration of reason. This predictably brought him under subsequent attack from those who believed that upholding orthodox doctrine was the primary task of theology, one of whom remarked that in al-Razi's works 'the heresy is in cash, the refutation on credit'.

One of al-Razi's major concerns was the self-sufficiency of the intellect. His strongest statements show that he believed proofs based on Tradition (hadith) could never lead to certainty (yaqin) but only to presumption (zann), a key distinction in Islamic thought. On the other hand, his acknowledgement of the primacy of the Qur'an grew with his years. A detailed examination of al-Razi's rationalism has never been undertaken, but he undoubtedly holds an important place in the debate in the Islamic tradition on the harmonization of reason and revelation. In his later years he seems to have shown some interest in mysticism, although this never formed a significant part of his thought.

Al-Razi's most important philosophical writings were two works of his younger days, a commentary (sharh) on the physics and metaphysics of Ibn Sina's Kitab al-isharat wa-'l-tanbihat (Remarks and Admonitions) (see Ibn Sina) and another work on the same subject, al-Mabahith al-mashriqiyya (Eastern Studies), which is based in large part on the latter's al-Shifa' and al-Najat as well as al-Isharat, but in which al-Razi frequently preferred the views of Abu 'l-Barakat al-Baghdadi (d. after ah 560/ad 1164-5). Also of great philosophical interest is his theological text Muhassal al-afkar (The Harvest of Thought). Perhaps al-Razi's greatest work, however, is the Mafatih al-ghayb (The Keys to the Unknown), one of the most extensive commentaries on the Qur'an, running to eight volumes in quarto and known more popularly as simply al-Tafsir al-kabir (The Great Commentary). As its more orthodox detractors have been happy to point out, this work, which occupied al-Razi to the end of his life and was completed by a pupil, contains much of philosophical interest.

The person who did the most to defend Ibn Sina, and philosophy in general, against the criticisms of al-Razi was Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, whose commentary on the Kitab al-isharat was in large measure a refutation of al-Razi's opinions. Al-Tusi also wrote a Talkhis al-muhassal al-afkar (Abridgement of the Muhassal al-afkar), where he likewise undertook a criticism of many of the philosophical criticisms in the Muhassal al-afkar.

2. Metaphysics

Al-Razi was associated by later authors with the view that existence is distinct from, and additional to, essence, both in the case of creation and in the case of God, and that pure existence is merely a concept (see Existence). This view is at variance with the Ash'arite and Mu'tazilite positions, as well as with that of Ibn Sina and his followers. Al-Razi only departed from this view in his commentary on the Qur'an, where he went back to a more traditional view that in God essence and existence are one.

Another challenge to the philosophers for which al-Razi achieved fame was his refutation of the emanationist principle ex uno non fit nisi unum (only one can come from one.) In Ibn Sina's formulation, if an indivisible single thing were to give rise to two things, a and b, this would result in a contradiction, for the same single thing would be the source of both a and of not-a ( TeX equation). Al-Razi's refutation was based on the claim that the contradictory of 'the emanation of a' is 'the non-emanation of a', not 'the emanation of not-a'. On a related point, he originally denied the possibility of a vacuum, but in his Mafatih he argues for its existence, and for the power of the Almighty to fill it with an infinity of universes.

The philosophers, following Ibn Sina, held knowledge to be an inhering in the knower of the form of the thing known, and that consequently God knew only universals and not particulars, knowledge of the latter implying inadmissible changes in God's essence as particulars changed (see Immutability). For the most part theologians were opposed to thus restricting God's knowledge, on the grounds that he was omniscient (see Omniscience). Al-Razi upheld the theological side of the debate through postulating that knowledge involved a relation between the knower and the thing known, so that a change in the thing known would produce a change in the relation but not in the essence of the knower. This notion of a relation involved the substitution of a philosophical term, idafa (relation), for a theological one, ta'alluq (connection), in an argument about the attribute of knowledge which belonged essentially to Abu 'l-Husayn al-Basri's Mu'tazilite school.

In ethics, al-Razi held that God alone, through revelation, determines moral values for man, it being these which give rise to praise and blame. God himself was beyond the moral realm and acted from no purpose extraneous to himself, be it out of pure goodness or for the benefit of his creation. Following al-Ghazali, and before him al-Juwayni, al-Razi's solution to the problem posed for divine subjectivists by God's threats of punishment and reward was to acknowledge a subjective rational capacity within man allowing him to understand what causes him pleasure and pain and thus enabling him to perceive where his advantage lies. In his 'Ilm al-akhlaq (Science of Ethics) al-Razi built upon al-Ghazali's ethical writings, particularly from the Ihya' 'ulum al-din, providing a systematic framework based on psychology, again under the influence of al-Baghdadi (see Ethics in Islamic philosophy).

On the question of free will, al-Razi took a radical determinist position and rejected outright the Ash'arite doctrine of kasb (acquisition). Al-Razi postulated two factors necessary for the production of an action: the power to do it or not to do it, and a preponderating factor, the motivation, which leads to the action being performed or not. Once the preponderating factor exists together with the power, either the act comes about necessarily or else it becomes impossible. Al-Razi pushed this essentially Mu'tazilite thesis, which is also similar to Ibn Sina's thinking, to its logical conclusion, arguing that both the power and the preponderating factor had to be created by God for the result to exist necessarily, and hence that all human actions have been produced through God's determination. We thus appear to be free agents because we act according to our motives, but in reality we are constrained. A consequence of this theory when it is applied to God's own acts is that since God acts through his power, he must himself either act through constraint (if there is a preponderating factor in this case) or else by chance (if there is not), both of which conclusions violate the central Sunnite position that God is a totally free agent. Those who came after al-Razi felt that he had never adequately solved this difficulty, and he himself confessed that, whether from the point of view of reason or of tradition, there was in the end no satisfactory solution to the free will problem (see Free will).

Al-Razi held the Ash'arite position that God could re-create what had been made inexistent, and this formed the basis of his literal understanding of bodily resurrection. However, he also expressed views which were influenced by the theory of the late Mu'tazili Ibn al-Malahimi, who held the contrary position on the restoration of non-existence, that the world did not pass into non-existence but its parts were dissociated, and that the essential of these parts were reassembled on the resurrection. This ambivalence on al-Razi's part perhaps reflects the changes in his position on atomism, which he vehemently denied in his earlier purely philosophical works but of which he was more supportive towards the end of his life.

See also: al-Ghazali; Ibn Sina; Islamic theology; al-Tusi

Copyright © 1998, Routledge.

List of works

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1185) al-Mabahith al-mashriqiyya fi 'ilm al-ilahiyyat wa-'l-tabi'iyyat (Eastern Studies in Metaphysics and Physics), Hyderabad: Da'irat al-Ma'arif al-Nizamiyyah, 1923-4, 2 vols; repr. Tehran, 1966. (One of al-Razi's most important philosophical texts.)

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1239) al-Tafsir al-kabir (The Great Commentary), Cairo: al-Matba'ah al Bahiyyah al-Misriyyah, 1938, 32 vols in 16; several reprints. (Al-Razi's commentary on the Qur'an, completed by his pupil al-Khuwayyi; useful in many places as in indication of his later philosophical positions.)

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1209) Muhassal afkar al-mutaqaddimin wa-'l-muta'akhkhirin min al-'ulama' wa-'l-hukama' wa-'l-mutakallimin (The Harvest of the Thought of the Ancients and Moderns), Cairo: al-Matba'ah al Bahiyyah al-Misriyyah, 1905. (Printed with al-Tusi's Talkhis al-Muhassal at the bottom of the page and al-Razi's al-Ma'alim fi usul al-din (The Waymarks and Principles of Religion) in the margin.)

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1209) Kitab al-nafs wa-'l-ruh wa sharh quwa-huma (Book on the Soul and the Spirit and their Faculties), ed. M.S.H. al-Ma'sumi, Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 1968; trans. M.S.H. al-Ma'sumi, Imam Razi's 'Ilm al-akhlaq, Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 1969. (Al-Razi's work on ethics.)

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1209) Sharh al-Isharat (Commentary on the Isharat). (No critical edition of al-Razi's commentary on Ibn Sina's Kitab al-isharat has appeared. Portions can be found in S. Dunya (ed.) al-Isharat wa-'l-tanbihat, Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1957-60, 4 parts, 3 vols in 2; also in al-Isharat wa-'l-tanbihat, Tehran: Matba'at al-Haydari, 1957-9, 3 vols. Both these editions contain al-Tusi's commentary as well as parts of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's commentary, to which al-Tusi is responding. The Tehran edition also contains Qutb al-Din al-Razi's commentary, which set out to adjudicate between al-Tusi and al-Razi.)

al-Razi, Fakhr al-Din (before 1209) Lubab al-Isharat (The Pith of the Isharat), ed. M. Shihabi in al-Tanbihat wa-'l isharat, Tehran: Tehran University Press, 1960; ed. A. 'Atiyah, Cairo: Maktabat al-Kharji, 1936/7. (Al-Razi's epitome of Ibn Sina's work, written after he had completed his commentary.)

References and further reading

Abrahamov, B. (1992) 'Fakhr al-Din al-Razi on God's Knowledge of Particulars', Oriens 33: 133-55. (Discussion of a key point of difference between Islamic theologians and philosophers.)

Arnaldez, R. (1960) 'L'oeuvre de Fakhr al-Din al-Razi commentateur du Coran et philosophe' (The Works of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Qu'ranic Commentator and Philosopher), Cahiers du Civilization médiévale, Xe-XIIe siècles 3: 307-23. (In this article, Arnaldez has dug into al-Razi's enormous commentary on the Qur'an to come up with his mature philosophical ideas. Can be compared with McAuliffe (1990) and Mahdi's response to McAuliffe.)

Arnaldez, R. (1989) 'Trouvailles philosophiques dans le commentaire coranique de Fakhr al-Dîn al-Râzî ', Études Orientales 4: 17-26. (A follow-up to Arnaldez (1960).)

Ibn Sina (980-1037) Kitab al-Isharat wa-'l-tanbihat (Remarks and Admonitions), trans.
A.-M. Goichon, Livre des directives et remarques, Beirut and Paris, 1951. (Introduction and notes by the translator. Contained in the notes are a number of al-Razi's comments from his commentary on this work, as well as some of al-Tusi's criticisms of al-Razi.)

Kholeif, F. (1966) A Study on Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and His Controversies in Transoxania, Pensée Arabe et Musulmane 31, Beirut: Dar al-Machreq Éditeurs. (Arabic text and English translation of al-Razi's text of sixteen questions (philosophical, logical, legal) broached with scholars in Transoxania; gives a good idea of al-Razi's style. Also contains a list of al-Razi's works.)

Kraus, P. (1936-7) 'Les "Controverses" de Fakhr al-Din Razi' (The 'Controversies' of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi), Bulletin de l'Institut d'Egypte 19: 187-214. (An important early study of the 'controversies' translated in Kholeif (1966). An English translation appears in 'The controversies of Fakhr al-Din Razi', Islamic Culture 12, 1938: 131-53.)

McAuliffe, J.D. (1990) 'Fakhr al-Din al-Razi on God as al-Khaliq', in D.B. Burrell and B. McGinn (eds) God and Creation: An Ecumenical Symposium, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 276-96. (An examination of al-Razi's late philosophical theology, with particular reference to the problem of creation; see also M. Mahdi's response in the same volume (297-303) on the general question of al-Razi as philosopher.)

Abû al-Walîd Muhammad Ibn Rushd, better known in the West as Averroës, but also in medieval times as Avén Ruiz and Averrhoes, was born in 1126 A.D. in Cordova, once the illustrious capital of Moorish Spain. The descendant of a distinguished Cordovan family of scholars, he was the third generation of his lineage to hold the office of qâdî (judge). One of the foremost figures of Arab civilization, he became known as the 'Prince of Science’
- the master of jurisprudence, mathematics, medicine and, above all, philosophy.

The twelfth century produced some of the most outstanding scholars of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), like the neo-Aristotelian school developed by vempace (Ibn Bajja), Ibn Tufayl and Maimonides (Ibn Maymûn) which was to have considerable influence on Christian Europe. However, Ibn Rushd, who it is said never missed reading or writing except the day he married and the day his father died, in medieval intellectual thought, was to overshadow them all.

In the Middle Ages, his ideas influenced the transformation of thought in medieval Europe. The last of the great Muslim thinkers, his beliefs were to have an affect of the minds of many of the Middle Ages intellectuals, living well beyond the borders of Moorish Spain.

As was the practise of the well-known families in his time, Ibn Rushd acquired his education within the family, excelling in Qur'anic studies, jurisprudence, theology and tradition. In addition, he became versed in astronomy, literature, mathematics, music and zoology, but his most outstanding accomplishments were in the areas of medicine and philosophy.

Ibn Rushd owes much of his success in life to his ardour for learning and to patronage by the two enlightened Almohade, (the ruling dynasty 145-1269 A.D.) caliphs Abû Ya'qûb Yusûf (1163-1184) and Abû Ya'qûb al-Mansûr (1184-1199). Under their rule, toleration and friendship were generally experienced by intellectuals in contrast to the hostility to philosophy by the Almoravides, 1056-1145 A.D., and the Malikite school in Islam which was the main intellectual faction of Islamic thought in Al-Andalus.
After appointing Ibn Rushd in 1169 as qâdî in Seville, the Almohade Caliph Abû Ya'qûb, two years later, brought him to Cordova and, bestowing on him favours and honours, made him chief judge and his personal physician. Under his sponsorship, Ibn Rushd took on the task of commenting on
Aristotle’s works. From their first meeting, arranged by their free-thinking companion Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd and Abû Ya'qûb became great friends.
Livermore writes describing this encounter:

“Averroës, the great reviewer of Islamic thought, tells how, on first being presented to Abû Ya'qûb, he found him alone with Ibn Tufayl and 'after a few friendly enquiries about my family, the Emir suddenly asked my opinion about the nature of Heaven and Creation’. Aware of the narrow views of the faqihs, Averroës cautiously replied that he had not given much thought to these matters, whereupon Abû Ya'qûb opened thediscussion by stating the opinions of Plato and Aristotle.”

Thereafter in private, Ibn Rushd was able to discuss Greek philosophy freely with Abû Ya'qûb who encouraged him to write his commentaries on the works of Aristotle.

Early in his life Ibn Rushd greatly admired Aristotle and considered him a giant who had attained the truth. He regarded Aristotle as embodying the highest development of the human intellect. It is said that Ibn Rushd understood, and interpreted and analytically discussed Aristotle’s true thoughts more than any of his Muslim predecessors or contemporaries.

Ibn Rushd maintained that the deepest truths must be approached by means of rational analysis and that philosophy could lead to the final truth. He accepted revelation and attempted to harmonize religion with philosophy without synthesizing them or obliterating their differences. He believed that the Qur'an contained the highest truth while maintaining that its words should not be taken literally. He argued that as the milk-sister of religion, philosophy confirms and does not contradict the sharî'ah (revelation).

To Ibn Rushd, the supremacy of the human intellect did not allow for the possible contradiction between science and revelation. He gives religion an important role in the life of the state, considering that the scriptures when philosophically understood are far more superior to the religion of pure reason. Striving to bring the two together, he wrote that in case of differences, provided scriptural language does not violate the principles of reason, that is, it does not commit a contradiction, science should give way.

Ibn Rushd is also noted for developing a theory of the intellect, which greatly influenced the history of Aristotelian scholarship. Many Aristotelian scholars, past and present, believe that it represents a correct understanding of Aristotle. It, however, goes beyond Aristotle and is rightly identified with Ibn Rushd. The theory is difficult and there has been controversy in interpreting it. It has been understood, in a general way, to mean that he envisaged the human soul as part of an all-embracing divine soul. Like a number of others in his time, he attempted to draw a picture of the ultimate truth by a mixture of analytical arguments and innate intuition derived from man’s participation in the world soul.

He contended that philosophy is nothing more the systematic probing into the phenomenon of creation, revealing God’s wisdom and might. Hence, evelation dictates the study of philosophy. Ibn Rushd tried to reconcile the Aristotelian precept of the eternity, which seemingly denied the creation of the world, to the creationism in Jewish, Christian and Muslim theology.

Ibn Rushd believed that God was timeless and His creative effort is continuous. He theorized that the world is continuously developing on what existed before and taking on new shape. According to Ibn Rushd, God created time as well as the world, and He may have created it from all eternity inasmuch as He is Himself without cause.

Chejne explains further some of Ibn Rushd’s ideas. He writes:

“To Averroës, the world has been moving from eternity and has an Eternal Mover (Muharrik), which is God. Matter and form are inseparable except in the mind; there is a hierarchy of existing beings and forms. Matter is always in motion, whereas the intellect is motionless and perceives itself. The soul is one in all men, but is maintained separately by bodies, and its relation to the body is like the relation between form and matter.”

Better still, the views of Ibn Rushd are best expressed by himself:

“The world and its workings were necessary and invariable because God Himself, by definition, had to be and did not change. Informed by the active intelligence of the deity, they could be scarcely be otherwise. The fantastic flight of the mind into a realm of the ultimate, immaterial reality was thereby arrested. A world which had to be could not be at the bottom of the scale of being. The qualities which were the laws of its nature were realized in the physical objects they found from the matter of the elements. Seen by the eye as fleeting individual shapes, perceived by the intellect as permanent eneralizations, they remained locked into these things as the stamp of the die in the metal was locked in an Almohad coin. Here lay knowledge, for the mind, being itself a necessary part of the natural order, could be absolutely sure of its logic was that of creation, and that it could in consequence learn the final truth. The disclosures of revelation, the highest secrets of God, were susceptible to rational explanation. In a law-abiding universe, that was as much an article of faith as the converse, that rational explanation must be believed.”

On the other hand, Ibn Rushd believed that the words of God express truth in imaged symbolic language that the non-philosopher majority can understand.

Aware of the inconsistency between those who believed through religious faith and others who believed by use of reason, Ibn Rushd held that both philosophy and revealed religion were true, arguing that truth is comprehended on different levels. He contended that even if philosophers were mistaken in their interpretation of scriptures, their error is permissible.

One of the greatest exponent of Arab philosophy, he tried to modify philosophical ideas to harmonize with those of religion. In an essay, The harmony of Religions and Philosophy, he asserts that “since philosophy is true and the revealed scriptures are true there can be no disharmony between them.

Ibn Rushd proposed a dual method of expounding theology, one for intellectuals and another for the masses in general. Further, he wrote that Muslim leaders should prohibit books of religious science for those not versed in these works.

To him, the holy texts are clothed in perceivable images and their truths can be reached by exercising the process of thought. His views, in the intellectual world of medieval Christendom, earned him the undeserved reputation of having preached a 'double truth’, a theory which he did not teach, namely 'a proposition may be true in theology while its opposite is true in philosophy’.

Ibn Rushd explains that there are three types of men: the first and largest in number, is receptive to ideas that can be expressed logically; the second is amenable to persuasion and the third, few in numbers, will only be convinced by conclusive evidence. He believed that to the simple masses, one must speak of religion, but to the enlightened few one may disclose scientific truth.

In his daily life Ibn Rushd did not like power or possessions and was humble and generous, believing that a virtuous person is one who gives to an enemy. A compassionate and tender human being, he decried the position of women in society, who he said only lived for childbearing and suckling.
Moved to compassion for their misery, he wrote that women were so reduced in servitude that all their capacity for higher pursuits had been destroyed.
He was saddened by their fate, stating that they only live like plants, looking after their men. This compelled him to write:

“Our society allows no scope for the development of women’s talents. They seem to be destined exclusively to childbirth and the care of children, and this state of servility has destroyed their capacity for larger matters. It is thus that we see no women endowed with moral virtues; they live their lives like vegetables, devoting themselves to their husbands. From this stems the misery that pervades our cities, for women outnumber men by more than double and cannot procure the necessities of life by their own labours.”

Besides writing some 38 philosophical works, Ibn Rushd’s works spanned a wide field of knowledge which included: a commentary on Galen’s writings; and books in connection with astronomy, music, poetry and rhetoric. He was also a distinguished physician, having studied medicine in Seville under the famous physician, Abû Harun al-Tajali. His writings included 16 excellent medical works, topped by Kulliyat fî ‘l-tibb, a medical encyclopedia of seven volumes dealing with anatomy, diagnosis, materia medica, pathology, physiology and general therapeutics.

The volumes were translated, in 1255 A.D., into Latin under the title Colliget. This work was reprinted several times and surpassed all other medical works in the Middle Ages. As a memorial, Ibn Rushd’s statues have been placed in the vestibule of the University of Barcelona and along the ancient walls in the city of Cordova.

In the Muslim world, Ibn Rushd is known, above all, for his Tahâfut al-Tahâfut al-Falâsifa (The Collapse of Collapse of the Philosophers) and abâdi ‘l-Falâsifah) (The Beginning of Philosophy). In Tahâfut al-Tahâfut, al-Falâsifah, Ibn Rushd bitterly attacked Al-Ghazâlî’s - Tahâfut al-Falâsifah Self Destruction of the Philosophers), a work in which the l2th century theologian Al-Ghazâlî sought a strengthening of piety by attacking the philosophers.

Ibn Rushd, point by point, discussed the error in Al-Ghazâlî’s approach. He asserted that the evidence brought out by Al-Ghazâlî’s attack on philosophers arise when isolated parts of philosophy are taken out of context, appearing to contradict the remainder. He goes on to say that the only acceptable way would be to show the entire system in question contradicting reality as it is.

In the Christian and Jewish worlds, Ibn Rushd is renowned for his important commentaries on Aristotle; and in his works, namely Talkhîs (resume), Jâmi' (summary), and Tafsîr or Sharh (a long commentary). These had an important hand in paving the way for the European Renaissance. Strange as it may seem, even though Ibn Rushd’s Great Commentary left a deep impression on western students and caused an absolute upheaval in the West, it had hardly any effect on eastern Islamic thought.

Many of his commentaries have been lost. The only ones which still exist are a number of his translated works which have survived in Latin. Yet, even these few give us an idea of how outstanding were the thoughts of that renowned Muslim philosopher.

When, in 1184, Al-Mansûr took over as caliph, like his father, he kept Ibn Rushd as his physician and advisor. In the same fashion as he had with Abû Ya'qûb Yusûf, Ibn Rushd enjoyed great favour with the new caliph who always called him brother and gave him in marriage to one of his daughters.

In the ensuing years, Ibn Rushd was prolific in his literary output. The upper classes appreciated his controversial writings, but to the masses he was an enemy. He came under attack by fundamentalists for his vigorous defence in reconciling the tradition of Greek philosophy with the teachings of Islam. His views were so offensive to the zealots that once they had him stoned in the Great Mosque of Cordova. Referring to fanatics destroying a famous library in Cordova, Ibn Rushd is reported to have exclaimed, “There is no tyranny on earth like the tyranny of priests.”

Even though Al-Mansûr was an enlightened ruler, seeing the dangers facing Islam and wishing to appease the conservative scholars, he accused Ibn Rushd of heresy and ordered the burning of some of his books. He needed the support of the Malikite jurists in his fight against the Castilians. To maintain appearance, Al-Mansûr had to remove Ibn Rushd from his post as qâdî and exile him for a time from his court in Marrakesh to Al-Isalah, now known as Lucena, near Cordova.

However, another story has it that Ibn Rushd, in one of his works on zoology, referred to Al-Mansûr as 'King of the Berbers’ - a derogatory expression among the Arabs in Muslim Spain. This is supposed to have greatly displeased the caliph and was the reason for his exile.

After Al-Mansûr, in 1195, won the Battle of Alarcos, Muslim Spain relaxed and fanaticism subsided. Ibn Rushd was pardoned, but he was by this time utterly disillusioned. He returned, a short time before he passed away on December 10, 1198, to once again serve in the caliph’s court.

Nevertheless, his death did not sweep away his ideas. In the subsequent centuries, they were to ignite the fire of change in Christian Europe. It was through the translations of Ibn Rushd’s Commentaries on Aristotle into Latin in the 13th century by Michael Scotus, a Scot, and Hermannus Alemannus, a German, that the revival of true Aristotelianism took place in the West. In fact, Roger Bacon acknowledged that Scotus was largely responsible for the most important change in the history of medieval thought which resulted from the introduction of Ibn Rushd’s Aristotle to the Christian West.

Through these translations of Ibn Rushd’s works, the subject of harmony between reason and faith was passed on to Christian Europe, giving impetus to the development of rationalism. This new thought moving into Christian Europe, bringing about the West’s emancipation from the thoughts of Plato which was much less evident in the Muslim East.

In the previous centuries, before Ibn Rushd, there was much confusion among Muslim thinkers in understanding Aristotle and, hence, a good number distorted his thoughts. More than any other Muslim philosopher before him, Ibn Rushd was able to recover the genuine Aristotle which the West, by way of the translations, was later to discover.

In the ensuing centuries Ibn Rushd’s works were taught in the universities of Christian Europe, unleashing a movement in the West that led to the victory of Aristotelian ideas over the once prevailing Platonic thought. Through his commentaries on the works of Aristotle Ibn Rushd, now known in the West as Averroës, played a leading role in the revival and development of Christian scholasticism.

In spite of the fact that many Muslim scholars found his approach too rationalistic, his writings were a mine of ideas and information for Christian philosophers, creating turmoil in the minds of many medieval European intellectuals. For four centuries - from the 12th to the 16th - his works were subject to heated dialogue among the scholars in Christian Europe, forcing the Church to modify its teachings.

From among the medieval Latin religious literature, St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologia was to a great extent inspired by the views of Averroës, even though it also took issue with some of these views. Many of the free-thinking Latin-Christians of Europe felt him to be one of their own, even hispanizing his name to Avén Ruiz.

However, his commentaries held views unacceptable to Orthodox Christians and caused much perplexity for these traditional Christians since many of Averroës’s theories ran counter to the hallowed teachings of the Church. Yet, his views had a very profound effect on medieval Christian theology.

On the other hand, a number of Christians studied his works solely to comment on his errors. Some, like Arnold of Vila Nova (1240-1311), decried the reliance of Christian thoughts upon infidel teachings and, in order to defeat them, openly altered Ibn Rushd’s ideas. At about the same time, a group of scholars, in the 13th century, known as Averroists, whose principal exponent was Siger of Brabant, openly declared themselves as adherents of Averroës, incurring the fury of the Church leaders.

Also, a number of European scholars misunderstood some of his teachings and this led to a line of thought called 'Averroism’ which was once thought to mean that philosophy was true and revealed religion false. This Averroism was discredited by Aquinas, but which, also, Averroës himself would have disavowed. This false interpretation of Ibn Rushd’s doctrine was considered as sacrilegious by the Church and universally denounced by its leaders.

Yet, the Averroist conception of the eternity of matter and God’s communication with things through the medium of an active intellect, continued to be a vital factor in European belief until the dawn of modern experimental science. Averroës and Averroism, for hundreds of years, provoked intense arguments in the academic circles of Christian Europe.

Although the Islamic and Arab world were to see other great thinkers (Ibn Khaldun, d. 1406, Mulla Sadr, d. 1641, for example), Averroës remains one of the greatest of the Islamic philosophers. He became known in both East and West as the Shârih (the Commentator) because of his explanation
and comments on the works of Aristotle. The most genuine and last of all the Aristotelian philosophers, his ideas affected much of the philosophical and theological ideas in medieval Europe, strangely with the exception of the Christians in the Iberian Peninsula.

Endowed with powerful logic, a keen understanding and an sharp mind, he believed in the ability of reason to fathom the utmost secrets of the Universe. However, he came too late to bring about any revival of philosophy in the eastern Islamic countries - there, the theories of Al-Ghazâlî, whose books were banned in Al-Andalus by the Almoravides, were to reign supreme.

With Averroës, philosophy reached its epitome in Muslim Spain. But his ideas were far too advanced for the world of his time. The sophistication of his teachings can be seen by the ease with which his thoughts and interpretations can be adapted to include even the notion of evolution.

A convinced Aristotelian, his admiration of Aristotle never wavered all through his literary career. One must agree with Read when he writes:

“The great virtue of Averroës’ work was that he did not allow later thinkers to obscure the original; deeply imbued by Aristotle’s thought, he transmitted his writings for the first time in genuinely Aristotelian fashion.

With the passing away of what some historians say was the most eminent philosopher who wrote in Arabic, the long practised toleration of the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula came to an end. Yet, thanks to Averroës, the seeds of the Renaissance were sown in Europe.

* Habeeb Salloum is a writer from Ontario, Canada.


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This brief article is dedicated to the memory of Ibn Rushd (1128-1198). On the 800 hundredth anniversary of his death, I would like to remember the contributions of this great Muslim. Abul-Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd was born in Cardova, Spain in 520 A.H. (1128 C.E.).

During his life time Ibn Rushd worked as a Qadi (judge) in Morocco and Spain and was for over ten years the Chief Qadi of Cardova. He was also a physician and adviser at the courts of the Moroccan Caliph and the Spanish Caliph.

Ibn Rushd wrote over 87 books on philosophy and over twenty on medicine. He wrote commentaries on Aristotle’s Anima and Politics, on Plato’s Republic and on Farabi’s Logic. While his commentaries made him the most famous philosopher in the West from the 12th to the 17th century, his most original works in philosophy were Fas al-Maqal (The Decisive Treatise), al-Kashf `an Manahij al-Adillah (The Exposition ofthe Methods of Proof) and Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of Incoherence). In the first two books he challenges Asharite theology in order to emphasize the harmony of philosophy and religion, or reason and faith. In the third he takes on Al-Ghazali’s attack on philosophy head on and in the process makes his own position on the relation between philosophy and religion clear. He uses this opportunity to also provide an Islamic understanding of Aristotle.

Ibn Rushd, like Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina before him, saw no discordance between religion and philosophy. He maintained that both philosophy and religion were capable of leading humanity to truth. Interestingly, unlike other philosophers Ibn Rushd recognized the validity and significance of prophecy. He also believed that shariah derived from prophecy was definitely superior to the nomos (laws)derived from reason. However, Ibn Rushd was also convinced that the philosophers approach to both nature and revealed text was superior to that of the fuqaha (jurists) and the mutkallimoon (theologians).

Ibn Rushd identified three methods to knowledge. The burhan (method of logical demonstration) was the most superior method and in his opinion only the philosopher was capable of employing this approach. The second was jadal (dialectical). Jadal according to Ibn Rushd was the method used by theologians. And finally the art of Khatabah (rhetoric, sophistry and persuasion). This method Ibn Rushd argued was to be used while dealing with the masses. Indeed the theologians were masters of this art, which often prompted Islamic philosophers to use the Greek analogy of sophists for Muslim theologians.

Ibn Rushd represents a unique convergence of philosophy, religion, science and law. For over four decades he was a prominent judge in al-Andalus and was not only a major practitioner of Maliki law but he was also an important scholar of Maliki jurisprudence. As a court physician and the author of the famous text Kulliyat, known and widely used in Western medical schools as Colliget, Ibn Rushd was the preeminent medical practitioner of his time. His impact on the study of medicine was felt for over 500 years. He is well known for his commentaries on Aristotle and for his critique of Neoplatonism of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. But he is best known for his reconciliation of religion and philosophy, aql (reason) and naql (tradition).

Ibn Rushd used Quranic injunctions to reflect upon and to observe Allah’s signs as an injunction to philosophize. He genuinely believed that the methodology of the theologians was not adequate to elucidate the divine Shariah and in an extremely clever fashion underscored the religious necessity of philosophy. Ibn Rushd’s contribution to reconciling philosophy and religion actually was a deconstruction of the differences between Asharite theologians and ancient Greek philosophers. He was able to show that the elements of Aristotelian and Platonic philosophy that the Asharites deemed unIslamic was indeed within the domain of the freedom of thought allowed by Islamic shariah.

Philosophy, since Ibn Rushd has evolved very much and so has theology. Indeed we are living in an era which is witnessing the emergence of a philosophical tradition explicitly opposed to "reason" (postmodernism). Moreover modern philosophy and its secularized world view make us wonder whether even Ibn Rushd can bridge the gap between religion and modernity today?. One of the unfortunate consequences of the decline of philosophy in the Muslim world has been the stagnation of Islamic sciences.

Deprived of the intellectual challenge from philosophy, Islamic theology has become stunted and indeed in dire need of reexamination. Islamic philosophy had played a major role in the development of Islamic theology and Fiqh. Remember, initially the sources of Islamic Law were, The Quran and the Sunnah alone. But the development of the Usul al-fiqh and the use of ijtihad (independent reasoning) has led tothe recognition that public interest and reason can also contribute tolegislation, particularly in areas on which the original sources (Quranand Sunnah) are silent. This development transpired when Islamic theologians and jurists were forced to respond to challenges posed by rational theologians like the muttazalites and philosophers.

Thus the dialectics between reason and revelation was played out as debates between philosophers and theologians, between Sufis (mystics) and Fuqaha (jurists). The debates between Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd, and IbnRushd and Ibn Taymiyyah, are great milestones in the general development of Islamic thought. As inheritors of this great intellectual tradition we are indeed blessed. It is time that we remember the contributions of Ibn Rushd to Islamic thought.

The great Muslim philosopher enriched Islamic discourses through his writings on Law and his debates with the theologians. He also enriched and indeed transformed Christian theology through Aquinas and Jewish theology through Maimonides. We need to revive the spirit of Ibn Rushd to once again inject vitality into Islamic thought. Even though we lament the fact that Ibn Rushd did not have a great impact on Islamic thought and are jealous of the West which has benefited from him so much, we can remember with pride his role in the most fascinating debate between philosophers and theologians that spanned four centuries. This debate remains an integral part of the development of Islamic thought and Ibn Rushd played a central role in it. We conclude by reminding our readers that great scholars like Ibn Rushd are jewels not only in the heritage of Islam but also in the legacy of World civilization. Ibn Rushd may not have been a Philosopher-King but he was indeed a King amongst philosophers.

Ibrahim Bayyumi Madkour

translated from Persian by Shahyar Sa'adat

Vol. 1, No. 1 (Muharram 1404 AH)

For a long time Islamic philosophy was under a cloud of doubt and uncertainty. Some people denied its existence while others affirmed it. This uncertainty continued all through the nineteenth century. Those who denied the very existence of an Islamic philosophy feigned ignorance and maintained that the teachings of Islam opposed all free discussion and investigation, and therefore Islam has never risen to the aid of philosophy and science throughout the centuries of its existence. The only fruits Islam has borne for its followes have been intellectual despotism and dogmatism, they said. Christianity, in comparison, has been the cradle of free thought and discussion, they maintained, patronizing art and literature, encouraging the sciences, and becoming a fertile ground for the germination of new philosophy and helping it to develop and bear fruit. [1]

1. Racial Prejudice

Those who attacked and denigrated Islamic philosophy did not stop at the kind of arguments that have been mentioned. They went much further an extended their fallacious notions to general racial characteristics, and extended what they said about philosophy and learning to political matters. It is surprising that although the French politically opposed racial discrimination, they were among the people who sowed the seeds of this kind of attitude, the effects of which have continued well into the present century. For example, Renan was the first person who openly stated the view that the Semitic race is inferior to the Aryan race.[2] This judgement of Renan's had an effect on some of his contemporaries, and some of his disciples and students repeated his views and published them far and wide. This was because Renan was both an unequalled master of the Semitic languages and was more familiar with Islamic matters than other researchers of his day.

Advancing the notions of the 'Semitic spirit' in contrast to the 'Aryan spirit' by Leon Gauthier during the early part of the twentieth century was nothing other than the continuation of the argument made by Renan. In Gauthier's view, the Semitic mind is only capable of comprehending details and particulars which are disconnected with each other or are combined and incapable of conceiving any coherent order or relationship between details. In other words, the 'Semitic spirit' is that of division and separation, or in Gauthier's words, espirit separatiste. The 'Aryan spirit' on th other hand, is the spirit of integration and synthesis, espirit fusionniste, as he calls it.[3]

It follows naturally that since the Arabs are inherently able to understand only particulars and isolated facts, they would be unable to form any theories, propositions, laws or hypotheses. It would be futile therefore to look for any philosophical or scientific investigations on their part. This is especially true now when Islam has narrowed their intellectual horizons and closed the doors to any speculative discussions, so much so that the Muslim student denigrates and ridicules science and philosophy.[4]

Those who stated such views, held that Islamic philosophy is simply an imitation of Aristotelian philosophy, and Islamic philosophical texts are nothing other than repititions of Greek ideas in Arabic.[5]

The views of Renan, which I have just mentioned, were widespread during the nineteenth century. Fortunately the days when the habits, customs, ethical, moral, and intellectual characteristics of a nation were thought to be products of either its geographical conditions or racially inherited traits have passed. Other attempts in the same vein or formulating so-called 'national psychology' or 'group psychology' proved equally futile.

Moreover, who has claimed that Islamic philosophy is a creation of Arab thinking? It is a well established fact that many nationalities such as the Persians, Indians, Turks, Egyptians, Syrians, Barbars, and Andalusians contributed to the development and enrichment of Islamic philosophy.

Islamic civilsation at its zenith not only did not block the path of science, it both confirmed and encouraged it. And far from opposing philosophy, it welcomed and embraced it with open arms. It welcomed opinions and views of every shade and colour. How can Islam, which invites mankind to observe the heavens and the earth and to contemplate and meditate upon their mysteries, oppose discussion and inquiry and restrict the freedom of thought? Even Renan, who expressed the kind of views about Islamic philosophy and science that we have already mentioned, has confessed elsewhere that Muslims treated conquered peoples with an indulgence unheard of throughout history. For example, some among the Jews and Christians accepted Islam while others preserved their ancestral faith and attained to high and honoured official positions in the courts of the Muslim caliphs and rulers. Moreover, although Muslims differed with the Jews and the Christians in regard to beliefs and religious principles, they still married in those communities.[6]

Of course, this is not the first time that this French historian and philologist has contradicted himself. In one place he denies the very existence of such a thing as an Arab (Islamic) philosophy and says: "The only thing that the Arabs (Muslims) accomplished was to learn a Greek encyclopedia of the seventh and eighth centuries."[7] Then he goes on to contradict his denial and asserts that there is a uniquely Islamic philosophy whose special characteristics must be given attention. He confesses that, "the Arabs (Muslims), like the Latins, through engaging in interpretation of Aristotle's works learned how to formulate a philosophy full of peculiar chraracteristics and elements in serious opposition to what was taught at the Lyceum."[8] He then adds that "The original movement in Islamic philosophy should be sought in the various schools of the Mutakallimun (theologians)."[9] These contradictory statements of Renan's and the negligence evident in his works did not remain hidden from Dugat, one of his contemporaries. Dugat believed that the quality of thought such as witnessed in Ibn Sina could not result in anything other than original and sophisticated interpretations and views: and the schools of thought such as that of the Mu'tazilites and the Ash'arites are nothing other than original creations of Islamic thought.[10]

In the twentieth century what was expressed in the form of guess and speculation by menlike Dugat wad found to be irrefutable and proven fact. Researchers became gradually more familiar with Islamic topics than before, and their understanding of the original and unique characteristics of Islamic thought gradually increased. As they came to know more about Islam, their judgement of it became fairer and more even-handed. The truth of the matter is that the malicious intent of the nineteenth century European scholars was quite evident in their handling of various Islamic topics; because, while on the one hand they admitted that "the works of the Islamic philosophers have not been adeqautely studied and our knowledge of their substance and content of their writings is incomplete,"[11] in the next breath they made the most general and blanket statements and judgements on it and said that Islamic philosophy is nothing other than an imitation of Aristotle. It is well to keep in mind that these scholars had no direct access to Islamic philosophy because they did not have the original texts at their disposal, while the Latin translations could not give a full and accurate portrayal of the scope and depth of this philosophy. Today, however, we can speak with complete certainty of the accomplishments which the Islamic civilization had made in this regard and still claim that there are a large number of topics in Islamic thought which have not yet been fully investigated and discussed.

As to the question of whether we should call this philosophy "Islamic" or "Arab", such questions are nothing but futile arguments over words and names. This philosophy developed and grew in an Islamic environment and was written in the Arabic language. The fact however that these thoughts were written in Arabic does not mean that Islamic philosophy is a creation of the Arab element. We who have already condemned racism have never claimed any such things. Islam gathered in its fold numerous nationalities and all of them contributed to the growth and development of its thought. And as for this philosophy being called "Islamic", it can not be claimed that it is the product of the intellectual efforts of the Muslims alone, since such a claim would not sit well with the historical evidence available. Historical records show that the earliest teachers of the Muslims were Nestorian, Jacobites, Jews, and Sabaeans, and that Muslim scholars cooperated with their Nestorian and Jewish contemporaries in their philosophical and scientific investigations.

In any case, I am inclined to call this philosophy "Islamic" because of two reasons. Firstly, Islam is not just a religion it is also a civilization; and the topics of Islamic philosophy, despite the variety of its sources and backgrounds of writers, are rooted in the Islamic civilization. Secondly, the problems, the foundations, and aims of this philosophy are all Islamic, and it was Islam that formed this cohesive philosophy by gathering teachings and views belonging to many different cultures and schools of thought.

2. Islamic Philosophy

Islamic philosophy is unique in the sort of topics and issues with which it deals, the sort of problems it attempts to solve and the methods it uses in order to solve them

Islamic philosophy concerned itself with such matters as the problem of unity and multiplicity, the relationship between God and the world, both of which had been subjects of heated controversies and discussions among the theologians for a long time.[12]

Another aim of this philosophy was to reconcile revelation with reason, knowledge with faith, and religion with philosophy, and to show that reason and revelation do not contradict each other, and that religion would be accepted by the pagan when it is illuminated by the light of philosophic wisdom. It aimed to prove also that when religion embraces philosophy it takes on philosophical qualities just as philosophy too assumes the colour of religion. In all, Islamic philosophy is a creature of the environment in which it grew and flourished, and as is quite obvious, it is a religious and spiritual philosophy.

(a) Topics: Although Islamic philosophy is religiously oriented, it has not ignored any major philosophical issues. For example, it has extensively discussed the problem of being, and defended its position on issues like time, space, matter, and life. Its treatment of epistemology is both unique and comprehensive. It drew distinction between the self (nafs) and reason, inborn and acquired qualities, accuracy and error, surmise and certain knowledge. It has investigated the question of what is virtue and happiness and divided virtues into a number of categories and reached the conclusion that the highest virtue is uninterrupted contemplation and serene realization of the Truth.

Muslim thinkers divided philosophy into the two generally accepted categories of 'speculative' and 'practical' and their discussions extended over varied topics such as natural philosophy, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics and politics.[l3] Evidently, the Islamic thinkers believed philosophy to have a much greater scope than is generally given it today, and in this regard their work was similar to that of the Greek philosophers, specially Aristotle, whom they imitated and followed. Thus, Islamic philosophy was intermingled with medicine, biology, chemistry, botany, astronomy and music. Generally speaking, all the fields of science were considered to be nothing other than branches of philosophy.

Considering all that has been said, it would not be an overstatement to claim that Islamic philosophy encompasses all the various aspects of Islamic culture. It should, of course, be kept in mind that during the ages when Islamic philosophy was developing and maturing, learning and investigation were carried out in an encyclopedic and all-round manner. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that the full range of Islamic philosophical thought cannot be fully accessible through the study of philosophical texts alone. In order that a full understanding be attained, it is necessary to expand the range of investigation and research to include discussion of theology (kalam) and mysticism (tasawwuf). It might even be necessary to relate any discussion of Islamic philosophy to the history of Islamic Law and the principles of jurisprudence. It is not rare to discover philosophical ideas, concepts, and views in what are ostensibly Islamic scientific texts dealing with such topics as medicine, geometery, chemistry, and astronomy. Furthermore, some Muslim scientists showed more courage and freedom in expressing philosophical views than that shown by those specializing in the field of philosophy. Also, amongst Islamic mystical and theological discussions, views and positions are encountered which in their profundity and precision equal any found amongst the Aristotelians. These Muslim thinkers challenged Aristotle's philosophy and struggled against it for many years. This struggle led to the emergence of a distinctive Islamic philosophy and thought. Later on a certain methodology and forms of rational analysis were introduced into discussions about the foundations of Islamic law and the principles of jurisprudence which have a distinctly perceptible philosophical tinge. It is even possible to uncover in their involved procedures, rules and methods similar to those in use today.

(b) Islamic Philosophy and Christian Scholasticism: What we have already said may give an idea of the wide scope of philosophical thought in Islam. And it would be a mistake to limit ourselves-as the nineteenth century European scholars did-to the study of a few scattered Latin and Hebrew translations. In fact, if the depth and the scope of Muslim philosophers' thinking is ever to be clearly and fully understood, it must be done through an examination of the original sources themselves.

However, even though not all the original texts have as yet been published and subjected to research, enough is known to convince us that the material gathered by the Muslim thinkers of the Middle Ages was greater than that gathered by the Christian scholars of that era, that the Muslim thinkers explored wider horizons, enjoyed more complete freedom, and made greater inventions and discoveries than their Christian counterparts. If, therefore, one is to speak of a Christian philosophy, or as it is better known, of Christian Scholasticism, it would be more apt to speak first of an Islamic philosophy and an Islamic Scholasticism, especially since Christian Scholastic thought owes much to Islamic Scholasticism for developing and clarifying many of its problems and issues.[14]

Islamic philosophy is to the East what Latin philosophy is to the West. The combination of these two philosophical traditions plus the scientific investigations carried out by Jewish scholars complete the history of speculative thought of the Middle Ages. In order that the true place of Islamic philosophy can clearly be understood, and a full understanding of the various stages in the development of human thought be attained, it is essential that we investigate the relationship of the Islamic philosophy with ancient, medieval, and modern philosophies.

(c) The Islamic and the Greek Philosophies: We do not deny the fact that philosophical thought in Islam has been influenced by Greek philosophy and that Islamic philosophers have mostly adoped Aristotle's views. Nor do we deny that Islamic thinkers looked upon Plotinus with wonder and followed him in many instances. If a word is not repeated it dies, and who has not been an apprentice at the school of his predecessors? We, the children of the twentieth century, are still relying on the scientific work done by the Greeks and Romans in a number of fields. If, however, we should go so far as to label the use and join the chorus sung by the likes of Renan who claims that Islamic philosophy is nothing other than a replica of Aristotelian philosophy, or of some others who say that it is an exact copy of Neo­Platonic philosophy, we would be completely mistaken.[15] The truth of the matter is that Islamic philosophy has been influenced by a number of factors, the result of which was birth of new ideas and views. Just as it has been influenced by Greek thought, it has also been influenced by the Indian and Persian cultural traditions.

The exchange and adoption of ideas do not always imply blind obedience. Several individuals may examine a particular topic and the result of their investigations may appear in a number of forms. A philosopher may utilize some of the ideas of another philosopher but this does not prevent him from giving birth to new ideas or to wholly new philosophical systems. Spinoza, for example, even though clearly followed Descartes, was the originator of an independent philosophical system of his own, and Ibn Sina, even though a loyal disciple of Aristotle, put forth views never professed by his master. Each of the Islamic philosophers lived in a particular environment distinct from the environment of the other, and it would be a mistake if we ignore the influence that these particular circumstances have had on their philosophical ideas and views. Thus the Muslim world could have a philosophy appropriate to its social conditions and religious principles. As to what the nature of this philosophy is, only an extensive discussion and analysis of its main ideas and principles could provide us with the answer.

(d) Islamic Philosophy and Modern Philosophy: It is not possible for us to adequately discuss the relationship of Islamic philosophy with modern philosophy in this article and speak of the chain of ideas that relate these two together. This is specially true since repeated attempts have been made during the middle of the present century to discover the principles of modern philosophy and their roots in Christian Scholasticism.

Today, when we are aware, of the relationship between modern and medieval philosophy, on the one hand, and the influence of Islamic philosophy on European medieval thought on the other, how is it possible to ignore the influence that Islamic thought has had on modern philosophy? In this study we shall discuss some examples of this influence and relation. As we shall prove, the similarity between Islamic philosophy and modern philosophy is so strong that one may speak of the existence of a kind of kinship between them.

Without going into details we can say that the history of modern philosophy originates with the consideration of two important issues: firstly, the significance of the experimental aspect, which deals with matters related to external reality; secondly speculation, which is concerned with the rational sciences. In other words, the experience of Bacon on the one hand and the doubt of Descartes on the other, have been the subjects of discussion and controversy in the modern age. Moreover, it has been pointed out before that Christian Scholastic thinkers and the Renaissance philosophers engaged in experimentation and paid attention to the world of nature a long time before Bacon. Roger Bacon, whom Renan calls "the real prince of thought during the middle ages" did not limit himself to carrying out chemical experiments but widened the scope of his experiments to include the world of nature. Now if it can be shown that he had contact with the works of Islamic scientists, we can conclude that his experimental approach, or rather the origin of experimentation during the Renaissance, were both products of Islamic thought and Muslim thinkers, because they were the ones who used observatories and laboratories in order to discover scientific truths.

As for the Cartesian doubt, there is evidence that it had some precedence during the Christian Middle Ages and we believe that any study of the origin of Cartesian doubt will remain defective without any attempt to discover it in Islamic philosophy. Who can say that the doubt of Descartes is not wholly or partially influenced by the doubt of Al-Ghazzali? Even if we set aside the question of influence, the two philosophers are still found to think in parallel and similar terms. Elsewhere in our discussions we have shown that Descartes' "cogito" is not entirely inspired by St. Augestine and that there is much similarity between it and Ibn Sina's idea of "man suspended in spaced."[16]

In short, since Christian and Jewish Scholasticism-which is closely related to the Islamic world-is the link connecting Islamic philosophy to modern philosophical speculation, the probability of transfer and exchange of ideas cannot be denied.

Indeed it would amount to hasty generalization if, without having first properly investigated and studied the issue, we were to say that there have been no connections between the East and the West in regard to the world of thought and philosophic and rational speculation. It has been proven today that an exchange dating back to the ancient times did exist and it was renewed during the middle ages. What is there then to stop such a connection from existing today? Ideas and opinions cannot be imprisoned in limited geographical boundaries, their movement cannot be restricted. What was once referred to as the secret of the atom, is common scientific knowledge today in all parts of the world.

Viewpoints of Islamic Philosophy

We cannot find any example of a full and complete study of Islamic philosophy either in the East or in the West before the middle of the nineteenth century. This is so because whenever the Western scholar turned his attention to the study of matters relating to the East, it was mostly with the economic or political aspects that he was concerned, not with the cultural aspect. If we encounter any instances of such cultural studies in the eighteenth century or the early part of the nineteenth century, it is mostly based on Latin sources. As for the Easterners, they were so lost in economic and political difficulties during this period that they had no interest in keepimg alive their ancient culture or revitalizing their Islamic heritage.

(a) The Movement of Orientalism: In the second half of the nineteenth century the European Orientalists became interested m Islamic subjects and became vanguards of a movement that rapidly developed and reached its zenith during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Some of these European scholars even travailed to the East and studied in its schools in order to better understand the spiritual and intellectual life of the Orient. Europe and America competed with each other in the publication of Islamic culture. Schools where Oriental languages were taught, and colleges where Islamic subjects were studied were established in Paris, Rome, London, and Berlin. Scholarly and historical societies were formed for the sole purpose of investigating and examining the various aspects of Islamic civilization.

Periodically, seminars were held by Orientalists, where valuable presentations and discussions occured. At the same time, learned and scholarly journals and publications were devoted to the study of Oriental subjects. These debates, discussions and exchanges of views, caused the cloud of ignorance and confusion to be scattered and the facts of the matter to be more cleady perceived.

This Orientalist movement had welcome results. Texts unknown up to the time were discovered. Precious manuscripts of texts were published. The new techniques of publication of books accompanied with notes and indices came into widespread usage, and a number of the most important works in the libraries of the Muslim world were translated into living European languages such as Italian, French, English and Gemman. The publishing of such translated works in turn stimulated interest and discussion in various aspects of Islamic civilization such as politics, economics, history, literature, Quranic interpretation and exegesis, science and philosophy all of which received brief treatment in articles published in scholarly journals and were dealt with extensively in books.

Research and study increased in proportion to the level of knowledge and information that became available. Scholars and investigators fell into the habit of spending years in scholarly research in order to clarify hidden or poorly understood points. Such intensive researches led various groups of scholars to specialize in different aspects of the Islamic civilization. Some became experts in the Arabic language and Islamic literature while others became specialists in Islamic theology and jurisprudence. Still a third group concentrated on Muslim mysticism, while a fourth group delved deep into the field of Islamic science and philosophy. The fruit of this expansion and specialization in the field of Islamic studies was the Encyclopedia of Islam which was published in French, German and English languages. This book is itself the clear proof of the extensive knowledge of Islam gathered by the Orientalists and their intense interest in Islamic culture and civilization. The Encyclopedia of Islam is indeed a rich and important source of information indispensable for every researcher of Islamic subjects.

The East was also influenced by the work of the Western Orientalists. The scholars of the East adopted many of their views, translated many of their texts, and following the path paved by them, became their partners in reviving the glory and brilliance of Eastern culture They also finished what had been left incomplete by the Western Orientalists or filled in gaps left in their treatment of various subjects. These contributions, although small in each instance, were spread over a wide range, so that none of the aspects of Islamic culture were ignored. Still what has been done is only the beginning of an effort that must grow and expand.

(b) The Orientalists And Philosophy: Philosophy was not left out of the general trend described above. Texts written by Muslim philosophers, which had remained in their original manuscript form, were published and the original Arabic versions were compared with the Hebrew and Latin translations of them which were extant. The study of their notes and commentaries helped a great deal in solving any problems which may have existed in regard to their meaning. Without the efforts of the Orientalists, these books would have remained in some corner of a library, unread, gathering dust. And if it were not for the fact that they understood a number of ancient and modern languages and possessed a correct methodology, the works published by them would not have been characterized by such care and authenticity.

The work of the European Orientalists was not limited to the printing and publication of books; they tried to discover and explore the whole horizon of intellectual life in Islam and to write about it. For instance, they wrote about the history of Islamic philosophy and philosophers, theology and the theologians, Sufism and the Sufies and described the various sects and schools of thought found in Islam. Sometimes they investigated the life, opinions and views of one individual. At other times they wrote books about scientific terms and definitions, so that their names were inseparably linked with the subject of their specialization. Who, for example, on hearing the name of Nicholson is not reminded of tasawwuf? It would be outside of the scope of this work to mention all the Orientalists alongside the subjects of their specialization which made them famous. It would suffice to say that Orientalism possessed a unique vigour and vitality during the first quarter of the present century which also included the study and investigation of speculative subjects. In spite of all this, the history of Islamic philosophy and the views of its most eminent thinkers are as yet insufficiently understood and it is the missing link in the chain of human intellectual history. We still do not know exactly how this philosophy came into existence, what was the manner of its development, what factors caused its flourishing and flowering, and what were the causes of its decay. Nor has the work of the Islamic philosophers ever been scrutinized one by one so as to show how much each one of them borrowed or inherited from his predecessors and how much of his philosophy was the result of his own original thought. The sad truth of the matter is that the shining stars of Islamic philosophy are strangers in their own lands and to their own people. What better proof of this than the fact that many of us Easterners know more about Rousseau and Spencer than about Al­Kindi and Al­Farabi? And if God had not so decreed that a group of Orientalists should make a study of them, today we would have known nothing useful about these great figures.

The work of the Orientalists, however, is too limited in scope to adequately deal with a subject such as Islamic philosophy. Moreover, in some cases they contain either literal or technical errors, or are deficient in some other manner. Sometimes these studies are so brief that it is not possible to fathom the intent of their writers. Perhaps the cause of all these difficulties is that some of the scholars who have investigated Islamic philosophy do not understand the Arabic language sufficiently and have not mastered the history of Islamic culture. Others, not lacking in any of the aforementioned aspects are completely ignorant of the history of Islamic philosophy. There are, of course, brilliant exceptions to this general weakness. Two examples of such beautiful and informative works are Van den Bergh's translation of the Metaphysics of Ibn Rushd, and De Boer's History of Islamic Philosophy. One cannot reall Van den Bergh's book and not feel that he is reading a philosopher commenting on philosophy.[16] And one cannot reall De Boer's book without wishing that he had made it a much larger work.[17]

Of course, much time has passed since the publication of the books mentioned above and the other works by the Orientalists. They are thus in need of revision, and the conclusions reached in them must be re­examined in the light of the far greater knowledge of Islamic thought now available. This is especially true since the more access we have attained to the original manuscripts, the greater was the rapidity by which our problems have been solved and our mistakes corrected.

Although the history of the efforts to gather the inheritance of Islamic tradition and attempts to revitalize the Islamic civilization date back only to the beginning of the twentieth century, a great deal of progress has been made and much material has been made available to the researcher. Nevertheless, the need for new analysis and discussion based on the study of these newly available facts and source material is absolutely undeniable.

(c) The Road Ahead: We must continue on the path that we have been following until now and fully discover this hidden link in the chain of human intellectual history, and put it in its proper place. Up to now, the Orientalists have made important contributions and have made great efforts to accomplish this task. It is our duty to try to overtake them; and if we are unable to do this, at least we should keep pace with them. It is not enough for us to make a thinker or an inventor famous by mentioning his ideas or his inventions, we must make an effort to revive his works. All the nations of the world are in a race with one another in trying to publish the works of their scientists and thinkers.

The field of our study is vast and there are innumerable opportunities for research. Our first duty is to gather and publish the writings of the philosophers of Islam; works which have remained as manuscripts until this day, or have been published in an unsatisfactory form. I say this because as long as we have not studied the works of our philosophers and scientists in the language in which they were originally written, we cannot understand the essence and the core of their teachings.

When we found out that treatises written by Al­Kindi are to be found in the libraries of the city of Istanbul, or that manuscripts of the works of Al­Farabi are scattered among libraries of London, Paris, and Escorial,[18] or that from the famous work of Ibn Sina, Shifa', the publisher has printed only the first volume, Logic,[19] then we realized the importance and necessity of gathering the texts of our philosophers and publishing them. It is unnecessary to mention the fact that Ibn Rushd is better known in the Latin world than he is in the Muslim world, and that some American Orientalists have been publishing his writings for some time now.

The publishing of these texts would take a long time. Therefore it is necessary that a number of individuals and academies cooperate with one another in accomplishing this important task. The Cairo University had at one time adopted an interesting and effective technique in that it gathered films of some of the manuscripts and printed some samples from them. Unfortunately it has recently stopped doing this. Maybe it has been because of the war, and the university will resume this practice. I also hope that the College of Alexandria will also join this effort, and finally that all the universities of the East shall compete with one another in accomplishing this task.

A comment about the libraries of Istanbul must be made here. In these libraries, the heritage of more than six centuries of Islamic culture is stored. Naturally, texts can be found there the copies of which do not exist anywhere else in the world. For example, a German Orientalist has recently found some precious volumes in these libraries among which Ash'ari's Maqalat al­Islamiyin can be mentioned. This book is an important source in the field of the history of Islamic doctrines. Since the publication of Ash'ari's book and the Nihayat al­Aqdam of Shahristani, some of the views we had held regarding Islamic theology (kalam) and theologians (mutakallimun) have changed.

I have no doubt that our Turkish brothers are aware of the value of this priceless heritage, and if they themselves are unable to publish these masterpieces they shall not hesitate to make them available to those who wish to do so.

Besides the publishing of these texts, we should also engage in investigation and discussion of the works of Islamic philosophers and get to know them just as well as we do the non­Islamic philosophers. We should prepare biographies of our thinkers, describe their views in detail, explain the factors which were instrumental in formation of their views, clearly evaluate their intellectual debt to the ancients and to their immediate predecessors, and examine the similarities existing between their ideas and those of their contemporaries.

I hope that the day will come when they will write about Al-Farabi just as they are writing today about Musa ibn Maymun, that they become as familiar with the works of Ibn Sina as they are with the writings of Thomas Aquinas, and shall discuss Al­Ghazzali just as they discuss Descartes. That would be the day when it can be justifiably said that Islamic philosophy has been given the recognition and stature it so rightly deserves.


[1]. See V. Cousin, Cours de l' histoire de la philosophie, pp.48­49, Paris l841.

[2]. E. Renan, Histoire Generale de systeme comparedes langues semitiques;

[3]. L. Gauthier, L'esprit semitique et l'esprit aryen, pp. 66~67, Paris 1923, see also I. Madkour, La Place d' al-Farabi, p, 14, Paris, 1934

[4]. Renan, "Le 'islamisme et la Science", dans Discours et Confe'rences, p. 337 Paris, 1887; Madkour, La Place d' al-Farabi, p. 54.

[5]. Renan, Averroe's et l'Averroesme, pp. 79, II, Paris, eighth edition.

[6]. Ibid, vol. I, p. 171. See also Goldziher, Le dogme et la loi de 1' Islam, pp. 29-34.

[7]. Renan, Averroe's, Avertissement, p.11.

[8]. Ibid, p.89.

[9]. Ibid.

[10] G. Dugat, Histoire des philsophes et des theologians musulmans, p. XV,

[11] G. Tennemann, Manuel de l' histoire de la philosophic (French translation by V. Cousin), T. I, pp.358­359, Paris 1839.

[12]. Madkour, La place d'al-Farabi, p.46 et suive.

[13]. Madkour, L'Organon d'Aristote, p. 49 et suive, Paris, 1934.

[14] L. Gauthier, "Scolastique musulmane et sehoiastique chretienne", dans Revue d'Histoire de la philosophie, Paris, 1928.

[15] Renan, Averroe's, p. 88; Duhem, Le systeme du monde T. IV p 321 et suive, Paris, 1917.

[16] S. Van den Bergh, Die Epitome der Metaphysik des Averroes, Leiden, 1924.

[17]. T.J. De Boer, Geschichte der Philosophie im Islam, Stuttgart, 1901, tr. ang., par E.R, Jones, The History of Philosophy in Islam, London, 1903.

[18] Madkour, La place, pp.223­225.

Main protagonists of falsafa and their critics

The twelfth century saw the apotheosis of pure philosophy and the decline of the Kalam, which latter, being attacked by both the philosophers and the orthodox, perished for lack of champions. This supreme exaltation of philosophy may be attributed, in great measure, to Al-Ghazali (1005-1111) among the Persians, and to Judah ha-Levi (1140) among the Jews. It can be argued that the attacks directed against the philosophers by Ghazali in his work, "Tahafut al-Falasifa" (The Destruction of the Philosophers), not only produced, by reaction, a current favorable to philosophy, but induced the philosophers themselves to profit by his criticism. They thereafter made their theories clearer and their logic closer. The influence of this reaction brought forth the two greatest philosophers that the Islamic Peripatetic school ever produced, namely, Ibn Bajjah (Avempace) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), both of whom undertook the defense of philosophy.

Since no idea and no literary or philosophical movement ever germinated on Persian or Arabian soil without leaving its impress on the Jews, the Persian Ghazali found an imitator in the person of Judah ha-Levi. This poet also took upon himself to free his religion from what he saw as the shackles of speculative philosophy, and to this end wrote the "Kuzari," in which he sought to discredit all schools of philosophy alike. He passes severe censure upon the Mutakallamin for seeking to support religion by philosophy. He says, "I consider him to have attained the highest degree of perfection who is convinced of religious truths without having scrutinized them and reasoned over them" ("Kuzari," v.). Then he reduced the chief propositions of the Mutakallamin, to prove the unity of God, to ten in number, describing them at length, and concluding in these terms: "Does the Kalam give us more information concerning God and His attributes than the prophet did?" (Ib. iii. and iv.) Aristotelianism finds no favor in Judah ha-Levi's eyes, for it is no less given to details and criticism; Neoplatonism alone suited him somewhat, owing to its appeal to his poetic temperament.

Ibn Rushd (or Ibn Roshd or Averroës), the contemporary of Maimonides, closed the first great philosophical era of the Muslims. The boldness of this great commentator of Aristotle aroused the full fury of the orthodox, who, in their zeal, attacked all philosophers indiscriminately, and had all philosophical writings committed to the flames. The theories of Ibn Rushd do not differ fundamentally from those of Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Tufail, who only follow the teachings of Ibn Sina and Al-Farabi. Like all Islamic Peripatetics, Ibn Rushd admits the hypothesis of the intelligence of the spheres and the hypothesis of universal emanation, through which motion is communicated from place to place to all parts of the universe as far as the supreme world—hypotheses which, in the mind of the Arabic philosophers, did away with the dualism involved in Aristotle's doctrine of pure energy and eternal matter. His ideas on the separation of philosophy and religion, further developed by the Averroist school of philosophy, were later influential in the development of modern secularism.[1][2] Ibn Rushd is thus regarded as the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.[3]

But while Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and other Persian and Muslim philosophers hurried, so to speak, over subjects that trenched on religious dogmas, Ibn Rushd delighted in dwelling upon them with full particularity and stress. Thus he says, "Not only is matter eternal, but form is potentially inherent in matter; otherwise, it were a creation ex nihilo" (Munk, "Mélanges," p. 444). According to this theory, therefore, the existence of this world is not only a possibility, as Ibn Sina declared—in order to make concessions to the orthodox— but also a necessity.

Driven from the Islamic schools, Islamic philosophy found a refuge with the Jews, to whom belongs the honor of having transmitted it to the Christian world. A series of eminent men—such as the Ibn Tibbons, Narboni, Gersonides—joined in translating the Arabic philosophical works into Hebrew and commenting upon them. The works of Ibn Rushd especially became the subject of their study, due in great measure to Maimonides, who, in a letter addressed to his pupil Joseph ibn Aknin, spoke in the highest terms of Ibn Rushd's commentary.

It should be mentioned that this depiction of intellectual tradition in Islamic Lands is mainly dependent upon what West could understand (or was willing to understand) from this long era. In contrast, there are some historians and philosophers who do not agree with this account and describe this era in a completely different way. Their main point of dispute is on the influence of different philosophers on Islamic Philosophy, especially the comparative importance of eastern intellectuals such as Ibn Sina and of western thinkers such as Ibn Rushd. (For more discussion, refer to the History of Islamic Philosophy by Henry Corbin.)

Some differences between Kalam and Falsafa

Aristotle attempted to demonstrate the unity of God; but from the view which he maintained, that matter was eternal, it followed that God could not be the Creator of the world. To assert that God's knowledge extends only to the general laws of the universe, and not to individual and accidental things, is tantamount to denying prophecy. One other point shocked the faith of the Mutakallamin — the theory of intellect. The Peripatetics taught that the human soul was only an aptitude — a faculty capable of attaining every variety of passive perfection — and that through information and virtue it became qualified for union with the active intellect, which latter emanates from God. To admit this theory would be to deny the immortality of the soul.

Wherefore the Mutakallamin had, before anything else, to establish a system of philosophy to demonstrate the creation of matter, and they adopted to that end the theory of atoms as enunciated by Democritus. They taught that atoms possess neither quantity nor extension. Originally atoms were created by God, and are created now as occasion seems to require. Bodies come into existence or die, through the aggregation or the sunderance of these atoms. But this theory did not remove the objections of philosophy to a creation of matter.

For, indeed, if it be supposed that God commenced His work at a certain definite time by His "will," and for a certain definite object, it must be admitted that He was imperfect before accomplishing His will, or before attaining His object. In order to obviate this difficulty, the Motekallamin extended their theory of the atoms to Time, and claimed that just as Space is constituted of atoms and vacuum, Time, likewise, is constituted of small indivisible moments. The creation of the world once established, it was an easy matter for them to demonstrate the existence of a Creator, and that God is unique, omnipotent, and omniscient

1. Philosophy and Christian Theology

Before we begin, it is worthwhile to consider in brief the general relationship between philosophy and Christian religious dogma. In the history of Christian theology, philosophy has sometimes been seen as a natural complement to theological reflection, while at other times the advocates for the two disciplines have regarded each other as mortal enemies. Some early Christian thinkers such as Tertullian were of the view that any intrusion of secular philosophical reason into theological reflection was out of order. Thus, even if certain theological claims seemed to fly in the face of the standards of reasoning defended by philosophers, the religious believer should not flinch. Other early Christian thinkers, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, argued that philosophical reflection complemented theology, but only when these philosophical reflections were firmly grounded in a prior intellectual commitment to the underlying truth of the Christian faith. Thus, the legitimacy of philosophy was derived from the legitimacy of the underlying faith commitments.

Into the High Middle Ages, Augustine's views were widely defended. It was during this time however that St. Thomas Aquinas described another model for the relationship between philosophy and theology. According to the Thomistic model, philosophy and theology are distinct enterprises. The primary difference between the two is their intellectual starting points. Philosophy takes as its data the deliverances of our natural mental faculties: what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. These data can be accepted on the basis of the reliability of our natural faculties with respect to the natural world. Theology, on the other hand takes as its starting point the divine revelations contained in the Bible. These data can be accepted on the basis of divine authority, in a way analogous to the way in which we accept, for example, the claims made by a physics professor about the basic facts of physics.

On this way of seeing the two disciplines, if at least one of the premises of an argument is derived from revelation, the argument falls in the domain of theology; otherwise it falls into philosophy's domain. Since this way of thinking about philosophy and theology sharply demarcates the disciplines, it is possible in principle that the conclusions reached by one might be contradicted by the other. According to advocates of this model, however, any such conflict must be merely apparent. Since God both created the world which is accessible to philosophy and revealed the texts accessible to theologians, the claims yielded by one cannot conflict with the claims yielded by another unless the philosopher or theologian has made some prior error.

Since the deliverances of the two disciplines must then coincide, philosophy can be put to the service of theology (and perhaps vice-versa). How might philosophy play this complementary role? First, philosophical reasoning might persuade some who do not accept the authority of purported divine revelation of the claims contained in religious texts. Thus, an atheist who is unwilling to accept the authority of religious texts might come to believe that God exists on the basis of purely philosophical arguments. Second, distinctively philosophical techniques might be brought to bear in helping the theologian clear up imprecise or ambiguous theological claims. Thus, theology might provide us with information sufficient to conclude that Jesus Christ was a single person with two natures, one human and one divine, but leave us in the dark about exactly how this relationship between divine and human natures is to be understood. The philosopher can provide some assistance here, since, among other things, he or she can help the theologian discern which models are, for example, logically inconsistent and thus not even candidates for understanding the relationship of divine and human natures in Christ.

For most of the twentieth century, the vast majority of English language philosophy went on without much interaction with theology at all. While there are a number of complex reasons for this divorce, three are especially important. The first is that atheism was the predominant opinion among English language philosophers throughout much of that century.

A second, quite related reason is that, philosophers in the twentieth century regarded theological language as either meaningless, or, at best, subject to scrutiny only insofar as that language had a bearing on religious practice. The former belief (i.e., that theological language was meaningless) was inspired by a tenet of logical positivism, according to which any statement that lacks empirical content is meaningless. Since much theological language, for example, language describing the doctrine of the Trinity, lacks empirical content, such language must be meaningless. The latter belief, inspired by Wittgenstein, holds that language itself only has meaning in specific practical contexts, and thus that religious language was not aiming to express truths about the world which could be subjected to objective philosophical scrutiny.

The third reason is that a great deal of academic theology moved away from defending the claims of orthodox Christian theism in traditional ways, often seeking devices for re-interpreting these claims in ways congenial to contemporary modes of thought which often ran contrary to the methods employed in analytic philosophy.

In the last twenty years, however, philosophers have returned to many of the traditional claims of orthodox Christianity and have begun to apply the tools of contemporary philosophy in ways that are somewhat more eclectic than those described in the Augustinian or Thomistic models described above. In keeping with the recent academic trend, contemporary philosophers of religion have been unwilling to maintain hard and fast distinctions between the two disciplines. As a result, it is often difficult in reading recent work to distinguish what the philosophers are doing from what the theologians of past centuries regarded as strictly within the theological domain. However, like theologians of the medieval period, much recent work in philosophy of religion seems to fall into one of two categories. The first category includes attempts to demonstrate the truth of religious claims by appeal to evidence available apart from purported divine revelations. The second category includes attempts to demonstrate the consistency and plausibility of theological claims using philosophical techniques. In what follows, we will be considering work that falls into this second category.

2. Trinity

From the beginning, Christians have affirmed the claim that there is one God and that three persons are God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In AD 675, the Council of Toledo framed this pair of claims as follows:

Although we profess three persons we do not profess three substances but one substance and three persons … If we are asked about the individual Person, we must answer that he is God. Therefore, we may say God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; but they are not three Gods, he is one God … Each single Person is wholly God in himself and … all three persons together are one God.

Such formulations set forth the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., reflecting on the Council of Toledo's profession, remarks that it “possesses great puzzling power” (Plantinga 1989, 22). No doubt this is an understatement. The Christian doctrine is puzzling, and this has led some of Christianity's critics to advance the claim that it is, in fact, incoherent.

Perhaps the initial puzzling power of the doctrine of the Trinity is not immediately obvious. After all, someone might think that one thing, Fred, can be “many things” all at the same time, for example, a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. So why can't God be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all at the same time? Likewise, multiple distinct things can all be “one thing” at the same time. Thus, each member of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team can be Orioles taken individually, as well as “the Orioles” taken collectively. One might then think that defenders of the Trinity might be able to construct models out of such examples that would preserve the logical coherence of the doctrine. But things will not be quite that easy. To see why, we can take a brief detour and then come back to the two examples above.

Traditional Christian theologians have held that however the doctrine of the Trinity is understood, there are two extreme positions that are to be ruled out. These positions are modalism and tritheism. According to modalism, God is one single entity, object, or substance, and each person of the Trinty is simply a mode or a “way in which the one divine substance manifests itself.” This view has been rejected because it seems to sacrifice the distinctness of the divine persons in order to maintain the notion of divine unity. According to tritheism, on the other hand, the divine persons are each distinct individual persons which are so closely related that they together count as a single thing in some fashion. Nonetheless, despite this oneness, the three persons are still three gods. This view has been rejected for the opposite reason, namely, it preserves the distinctness of persons without maintaining any robust sense of the “oneness” of God.

One can now see why the “butcher, baker, candlestick maker” and the “Orioles” examples will not help us in providing a model for the Trinity. The first, like modalism, leans too heavily towards oneness at the expense of the distinctness of the three persons. It holds, that is, that there is really only one Fred, but that Fred can manifest himself in different ways by carrying out three different tasks. The second, like tritheism, leans too far in the opposite direction. On this example, the individual Orioles only form the “single team” because of certain agreements they have made to act cooperatively on the baseball team. There is no genuine, organic unity here.

Nonetheless, most models of the Trinity that have been proposed and defended have leaned in modalist or tritheistic directions. In order to help sort out which models can be regarded as plausible, one needs first to get clear about just what the Christian means to affirm in confessing the existence of three persons and one God. What is “a person” according to the doctrine, and what is “a God”? One can easily see some initial difficulties in even these questions. Even if we can come up with a single coherent description of God, we are still left with the ambiguous notion of person. Sometimes we use the word “person” in a metaphysical sense, to refer to an individual, rational substance. Other times we use it in a psychological sense to refer to a “center of consciousness or rational awareness.” In other cases we might have in mind a functional notion of person, according to which a person is whatever sort of thing is capable entering into certain sorts of relationships, such as love, friendship, and so forth. Or we might use “person” in a moral or forensic sense, according to which a person is a subject or moral accountability, praise, or blame. And there are others.

Since Christians claim that the doctrine of Trinity is discovered through divine revelation, perhaps the relevant conception of person should be drawn from revealed texts. Unfortunately, the Bible itself does not seem to narrow down the alternatives to a single candidate. As a result, there is a good deal of remaining latitude in constructing a model for the Trinity.

Recent defenses of orthodox conceptions of the Trinity understand the notion in a way that highlights the centrality of persons as distinct centers of rational, conscious, and morally significant volitional activity. Most have concluded that this conception of personhood is incompatible with regarding the three divine persons as somehow mere aspects or modes of presentation of an underlying singular entity. As a result, these recent defenses have leaned in the direction of regarding the divine persons as distinct entities whose unity arises in virtue of certain necessary relations that exist among them. In this way, these models lean more in the tritheistic direction. Still, the necessary relations that these models attribute to the divine persons unify them in special and unique ways.

Richard Swinburne, for example, defends a view according to which each of the three divine persons has all of the essential characteristics of divinity: omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, moral perfection, and so forth (Swinburne 1994, ch. 8). He further claims that the persons have necessarily harmonious wills, so that their volitions never come into conflict, and that there is a perfectly loving relation that also necessarily obtains among them. Further, this view is compatible with traditional claims of dependence relations among members of the Trinity. Traditional formulations of the doctrine hold that the Father generates the Son and that Father and Son jointly give rise to (or spirate, literally “breathe forth”) the Holy Spirit. Such relations are possible as long as one causes the other in such a way that the causing relation has always obtained, and it is impossible for the relation not to obtain.

On this sort of view, there is one God because the community of divine persons is so closely inter-connected that, though they are three distinct persons, they nonetheless count as a single entity in another respect. For if we were to consider a set of three human persons, for example, who exhibited these characteristics of necessary unity, volitional harmony, and love, it is hard to regard them as distinct in the way we do ordinary persons. And that is, of course, just what the doctrine aims to put forth.

Perhaps this view seems to lean too strongly in the tritheistic direction. How could the social Trinitarian respond to this worry? One way would be to focus attention on exactly what is required in order for many “things” to jointly constitute another single “thing.” My (one) body is composed of (many) atoms. My (one) car is composed of (many) parts. In order to assess whether or not social Trinitarianism is viciously tritheistic, one needs to ask what principles govern the relationship between parts and wholes generally. We know many atoms can make a single body and many ingredients can make a single cake. Can many persons constitute a single divine entity? One thing is sure: the answer is not an obvious “no.” And this, perhaps, leaves the door open for the social Trinitarian to make the case that divine unity is not lost on his view after all. Saving such unity, however, will require more metaphysical work.

3. Incarnation

The doctrine of the Incarnation concerns Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinty. Specifically, the doctrine holds that, at a time roughly two thousand years in the past, the divine person took on himself a second, fully human nature. As a result, he was a single person in full possession of two distinct natures, one human and one divine. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 put forth the canonical statement of the doctrine as follows:

We confess one and the same our Lord Jesus Christ … the same perfect in Godhead, the same in perfect manhood, truly God and truly man … acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation–the difference of natures being by no means taken away because of the union, but rather the distinctive character of each nature being preserved, and combining into one person and hypostasis—not divided or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only begotten God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ.

Critics have held this doctrine to be “impossible, self-contradictory, incoherent, absurd, and unintelligible.” The central difficulty for the doctrine is that it seems to attribute to one person characteristics that are not logically compatible. For example, it seems on the one hand that human beings are necessarily created, finite, not-omnipresent, not-omniscient, not-omnipotent, and so forth. On the other hand, divine beings are essentially the opposite of all those things. Thus, one person could bear both natures, human and divine, only if such a person could be both finite and not-finite, created and uncreated, and so forth. And this is surely impossible.

Two main strategies have been pursued in an attempt to resolve this apparent paradox. The first is the kenotic strategy. The kenotic view (from the Greek kenosis meaning ’to empty’) finds its motivation in a New Testament passage which claims that Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death…” (Phillipians 2:6-8). According to this view, in becoming incarnate, God the Son voluntarily and temporarily laid aside some of his divine attributes in order to take on a human nature and thus his earthly mission.

The main difficulty with this basic version of the kenotic view is that it entails that a thing can lay aside properties essential for it's being a member of a certain kind and still remain a member of that kind. In other words, it allows that God the Son could (temporarily) be non-omnipotent, non-omniscient, and so forth, and still be God. But if those attributes are essential to divinity, that is, essential for something's being counted as God, then this solution is simply mistaken. Some have offered more refined versions of the kenotic theory, arguing that the basic view mischaracterizes the divine attributes. Rather, God's properties should be characterized as: omniscient-unless-incarnate, omnipotent-unless-incarnate, and so forth. Thus, when the powers of omnipotence are laid aside at the incarnation, Jesus can be fully human while retaining these divine attributes without contradiction. (Feenstra 1989, 128-152)

The other main strategy, defended recently by Thomas V. Morris, is the “two minds view” (Morris 1986, 63-73, 102-7). This view unfolds in two steps, one defensive, the other constructive. First, Morris claims that the incoherence charge against the incarnation rests on a mistake. The critic assumes that, for example, humans are essentially non-omniscient. But what are the grounds for this assertion? Unless we think that we have some special direct insight into the essential properties of human nature, our grounds are that all of the human beings we have encountered have that property. But this merely suffices to show that the property is common to humans, not that it is essential. As Morris points out, it may be universally true that all human beings, for example, were born within ten miles of the surface of the earth, but this does not mean that this is an essential property of human beings. An offspring of human parents born on the international space station would still be human. If this is right, the defender of the incarnation can reject the critic's characterization of human nature, and thereby eliminate the conflict between divine attributes and human nature so characterized.

This merely provides a way to fend off the critic, however, without supplying any positive model for how the incarnation should be understood. In the second step, then, Morris proposes that we think about the incarnation as the realization of one person with two minds: a human mind and a divine mind. If possession of a human mind and body is sufficient for something's being a human, then “merging” the divine mind with a human mind and conjoining both to a human body will yield one person with two natures. During his earthly life, Morris proposes, Jesus Christ had two minds, with consciousness centered in the human mind. This human mind had partial access to the contents of the divine mind, while God the Son's divine mind had full access to the corresponding human mind.

The chief difficulty the view faces is the coherence of holding that a single person can possess two distinct minds. Does this view propose an Incarnate Christ with multiple personality disorder? Morris claims that this objection lacks merit. In fact, contemporary psychology seems to provide resources which support the viability of such a model. As Morris points out elsewhere, the human mind is typically characterized as a system of somewhat autonomous subsystems. The normal human mind, for example, includes the workings of the conscious mind, the seat of awareness, and the unconscious mind. Morris proposes that similar sorts of relations can be supposed to obtain between the divine and human mind of Christ.

4. Atonement

Traditional Christianity holds that sin separates human creatures from God, and that reconciliation can occur in virtue of something that happens through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But how are these claims of separation and reconciliation to be understood? The answer to these questions makes up the doctrine of atonement. Throughout the history of Christian theology, a variety of models have been proposed. Most of these models fall into one of four types. Ransom theories contend that sin has rendered humans enslaved to the Devil. In order to free his beloved creatures from this enslavement God was required to pay a ransom, and the price was the death of his sinless incarnate Son. Penal Substitution models contend that through sin humans have incurred a moral debt which needs to be paid. These views hold that the price to be paid is spiritual death and separation from God. No one man can pay the debt of any other since all men have sinned equally. Thus, God chose to send his incarnate Son, free from original or committed sin, to die on behalf of others, and so satisfy their debt.

Sacrifice models are similar to substitution models, but differ in that they do not think that any moral debt of human creatures can be transferred and satisfied by another. Sacrifice theories acknowledge that wrongdoers incur an obligation to “make things right” with the person wronged. Sometimes this means making restitution. Other times it means undertaking acts of penance which demonstrate the wrongdoer's genuine remorse. Thus, if I, in a fit of anger, throw a brick through the window of your house, I might come to seek forgiveness. In doing so I agree to fix the broken window (restitution) but might also do something more, such as bring you a gift as way of demonstrating my genuine remorse. This latter is the act of penance. However, sometimes restitution and suitable penance cannot be carried out by the wrongdoer himself because restitution or suitable penance is beyond his means. In the case of human sinfulness towards God, this is exactly the case. As a result, God sent Christ to earth, where Christ willingly offered his life as a restitution and penance for the sin of the world. Thus, although human sinful creatures cannot make restitution or penance for their wrongdoing on their own, they can, in their repentance, offer up to God the sacrifice of Christ which was made on their behalf.

Finally, Moral Exemplar theories hold that the atonement is secured by moral reform of the sinner. But such moral reform was not fully possible without someone to set the moral example for fallen creatures. Christ became incarnate, on these theories, in order to set this example and thus provide a necessary condition for moral reform and thus restoration of the relationship between creature and Creator.

Ransom theories have no defenders in the recent literature. While each of the remaining theories has defenders, each faces certain key difficulties as well. Substitution theories, for example, require a few central controversial claims. For one, these theories seem to entail that a person can incur an infinite moral debt for a finite amount of earthly wrongdoing. Second, they entail that the moral debt in question cannot simply be forgiven by God, but that it must be settled by full payment. Some have argued that this entails that God does not forgive sin at all. (Stump 1988, 61-5) Forgiveness involves remitting some of the payment owed. On these theories however, the debt is paid in full. Most controversial, however, is the claim that moral debts of the sort in question here are transferable. That is, on this view it seems that the punishment of one can be fairly borne by another. While this might be acceptable in certain cases where monetary fines are involved, many think that it cannot apply to specifically moral debts.

Sacrifice theories do not encounter these difficulties. Instead they, like moral exemplar theories, face difficulties of two main sorts. First, both views seem unable to account for the Biblical emphasis on the necessity of Christ's passion to remedy the problems brought forth by sin. It is hard to see why Christ's passion plays any essential role in establishing him as moral exemplar. Further, it is hard to see why Christ's death would provide a suitable sacrifice. Why would it not suffice for Christ to dwell among us and live a perfect human life, resisting all earthly temptation? Second, both views seem unable to account for the necessity of the horrible nature of Christ's death on the cross. The reason for this is that both hold that God either could or does forgive the sin of creatures without such grave sacrifices being offered. As a result, one is left to wonder why a solution which does not involve such horrific suffering is preferred to simple forgiveness. This is especially problematic for the moral exemplar theories, which lay almost exclusive emphasis on the importance of Christ's moral example during his life and on the centrality of creaturely moral reform for reconciliation with God.

Defenses of substitution models seem to be on the wane in recent literature, with sacrifice and exemplar theories becoming more widely defended. Can the substitution models overcome the difficulties posed for it above? Some have defended substitution models according to which punishment is a fitting response to human sin, and yet also such that it might nonetheless be fairly borne by a surrogate, in this case, the perfect Christ. Stephen Porter, for example, argues that our moral intuitions generally incline us to view punishment of a surrogate as a bad thing, and that some case needs to be made for its permissibility in this instance (Porter 2001). In run of the mill cases of punishment, the good reasons for punishment (such as reform of the wrongdoer, making reparation, deterrence, and so forth) usually weigh in favor of not transferring the punishment to a surrogate. But here, Porter argues, the good reasons for punishing human sinners are not undercut, and that, in fact, there are outweighing reasons for allowing Christ to bear the punishment due human sinners.

Specifically, Porter claims that the goods that come from God's punishment of sin (namely, reparation, manifesting an objective correction to distorted human values, and moral education/reform) justify the punishment. What is more, Porter claims, these ends are more fittingly served through the suffering of Christ on our behalf. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, were we to bear the punishment directly, it might further serve to alienate us from God. Second, the gravity of human sin against an infinite God cannot be suitably expressed by punishment of merely finite humans. Punishment of an infinite God-man better expresses the seriousness of sin.

In Porter's account we have an attempt to respond to the three objections raised earlier against substitution views. First, the (infinite) severity of the punishment is required in order to adequately express the gravity of human sin against an infinite and perfect God. Concerning the second objection (namely, that paying the full price of sin means that there is no forgiveness on God's part), Porter can reply that the objection is simply misguided. God can forgive without any punishment being exacted. However, certain goods arise as a result of punishment being meted out, and God thus metes out punishment suitable for securing those goods. The third difficulty (i.e., the non-transferrability of moral debts) initially seemed to be the most formidable of the three. Porter argues, however, that as long as (a) offender, offended, and surrogate are willing participants, and (b) the goods of punishing can be secured through the punishment of the surrogate, then substitution is permissible, perhaps even preferable. The reason it is permissible, however, is not because the moral debt is “transferred” from sinner to Christ (as the objection assumes) but simply because punishing wrong is a good and punishing a surrogate can equally or better serve the aims of punishing.



  • Brown, D., 1989, “Trinitarian Personhood and Individuality.” in Feenstra and Plantinga 1989, pp. 48-78.
  • Plantinga Jr., C., 1989, “Social Trinty and Tritheism”, in Feenstra, R., and Plantinga, Jr., C., (eds.), 1989, Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 21-47.
  • Swinburne, R., 1994, The Christian God. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • van Inwagen, P., 1995, “And yet they are not three Gods but one God”, in God, Knowledge, and Mystery. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 222-59.


  • Feenstra, R., 1989, “Reconsidering Kenotic Christology.” in Feenstra and Plantinga 1989, pp. 128-152.
  • Morris, T. V., 1986, The Logic of God Incarnate. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Relton, H. M., 1929, A Study in Christology. London: MacMillan.
  • Senor, T., 1991, “God, Supernatural Kinds, and the Incarnation.” Religious Studies, 353-370.
  • Swinburne, R., 1989, “Could God Become Man?” in The Philosophy in Christianity, G. Vesey, (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  • Jensen, P., “Forgiveness and Atonement”, Scottish Journal of Theology, 46, pp. 141-159.
  • Porter, S., 2001, “Substitution Reconsidered,” in Philosophy of Religion: A Contemporary Reader, W.L. Craig (ed.), Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002.
  • Quinn, P., 1989, “Aquinas on Atonement,” in Feenstra and Plantinga 1989, pp. 153-177.
  • Stump, E., 1988, “Atonement According to Aquinas” in Philosophy and the Christian Faith, T.V. Morris (ed.), Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 61-91.
  • Swinburne, R., 1989, Responsibility and Atonement. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Mystic, philosopher, poet, sage, Muhammad Ibn 'Arabi is one of the world's great spiritual teachers. Known as Muhyiddin (the Revivifier of Religion) and the Shaykh al-Akbar (the Greatest Master), he was born in 1165 AD into the Moorish culture of Andalusian Spain, the center of an extraordinary flourishing and cross-fertilization of Jewish, Christian and Islamic thought, through which the major scientific and philosophical works of antiquity were transmitted to Northern Europe. Ibn 'Arabi's spiritual attainments were evident from an early age, and he was renowned for his great visionary capacity as well as being a superlative teacher. He travelled extensively in the Islamic world and died in Damascus in 1240 AD.

He wrote over 350 works including the Fusûs al-Hikam , an exposition of the inner meaning of the wisdom of the prophets in the Judaic/ Christian/ Islamic line, and the Futûhât al-Makkiyya, a vast encyclopaedia of spiritual knowledge which unites and distinguishes the three strands of tradition, reason and mystical insight. In his Diwân and Tarjumân al-Ashwâq he also wrote some of the finest poetry in the Arabic language. These extensive writings provide a beautiful exposition of the Unity of Being, the single and indivisible reality which simultaneously transcends and is manifested in all the images of the world. Ibn 'Arabi shows how Man, in perfection, is the complete image of this reality and how those who truly know their essential self, know God.

Firmly rooted in the Quran, his work is universal, accepting that each person has a unique path to the truth, which unites all paths in itself. He has profoundly influenced the development of Islam since his time, as well as significant aspects of the philosophy and literature of the West. His wisdom has much to offer us in the modern world in terms of understanding what it means to be human.

Ibn Arabi believed in the unity of all religions and taught different prophets all came with the same essential truth.

"There is no knowledge except that taken from God, for He alone is the Knower... the prophets, in spite of their great number and the long periods of time which separate them, had no disagreement in knowledge of God, since they took it from God."

- Ibn Arabi


From The Wisdom of the Prophets, by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

Of the Wisdom of the Divine Inspiration (al-hikmat an-nafathiyah) in the Word of Seth

Know that the gifts and favours (of God), [1] that are lavished on this world through the mediation of creatures or without their mediation, distinguish themselves for men of spiritual leaning (adh-dhawq), by essential gifts (like immediate Knowledge) and by gifts which proceed from the Divine Names (that is to say the Divine aspects such as Beauty, Goodness, Life, etc.). Furthermore they differ according to whether they are received as the result of a direct request or if they correspond to undetermined requests, or again if they are received without any request at all, and that independently of their distinction between essential gifts, and gifts conforming to the Divine Names. It is a determined request if someone says: 'Oh Lord, give me such and such a thing' and if his aim is only of this thing. A request which is not determined, on the other hand, is that of a man who prays: 'Oh Lord, give me that which is for my good, for all parts, spiritual and corporal, of my being', without thinking of any one thing in particular.

As for those who ask, they can be divided into two groups; the one obeys a natural impulse to hurry the attainment (of the thing that they desire) - for 'man was created impatient' [2] and the others ask because they know that there are, near to God, things which, according to the Divine foreknowledge, can only be obtained by virtue of a request; so, then, they say to themselves: 'perhaps that which I ask of God is of this sort'. Their requests take into consideration, in a global manner, the possible methods of the Divine Order; they do not know what the Divine Science implies, nor that which will result from their own pre­disposition (isti'dâd) to receive; for it is one of the most difficult things to know the predisposition of a being at each single instant (of his life); moreover, if he had not been predisposed to such a request, he would not request it. As for the contemplatives who do not know their pre­disposition, they recognize it, in the best cases, at the very instant they live; for by the state of their presence (hudûr) (with God) they know that which God gives them at that instant; and know they receive it only by reason of their predisposition. They are divided, in their turn, into two categories: the ones who know their predispositions from what they have received; the others who know what they will receive because of their predisposition; and it is this latter knowledge which is the most perfect within this group.

Belonging to this category are those who ask, not to accelerate the obtaining of a gift, nor to take into consideration the possible modes (of the Divine favour) but to conform to the Divine Order expressed by the Word: 'Ask me and I will answer you!' It is the adorer (al-'abd) 'par excellence'; when he asks, his desire does not attach itself to the thing asked for, whether it be determined or not, but looks to conform to the order of his Lord. When his spiritual state requires abandon and tranquillity, he is quiet; thus, Job and others were tried, and did not ask God to comfort them in their trial, until their spiritual state re­quired, at a certain moment, that they should ask that it should be lifted; then they asked, and God comforted them.

That the granting of a request be immediate or that it be deferred depends on the measure (qadr) predestined by God; if the demand is made at the moment predestined for the answer, this is immediate, and if the granting is predestined for a subsequent time, be it in this world or beyond, the answer will be adjourned; I mean the effective granting of the request, not the Divine reply: 'I am present' (which is always immediate); understand me well!

As for the second category of gifts, of which we were saying that they are received without request, we must state precisely what we mean by request: prayer expressed in words; for in principle there must always be a request whether it be articulated, consists of a spiritual state (hâl) or, whether it results simply from the (intimate) predisposition of the being. In the same way, to praise God signifies, if necessary, to pronounce praise towards Him; but in the spiritual sense, this praise is necessarily determined by a spiritual state, for that which incites thee to praise God is (in compliance) with a Divine Name, expressing an activity of God or an aspect of His Transcendence. As for his predisposition, the individual being is not conscious of it, that which he feels is the state (al-hâl), for he knows that which incites him (to praise or request); the predisposition remains the most hidden thing.

That which prevents some from asking, is knowing that God has decided their destiny for all eternity; they have prepared their abode (that is to say their soul) to receive that which will come from Him, and they have divested themselves of their ego (an-nafs) and of their individual existence. Amongst these there is he who knows that the knowledge God has of him, in each of his states, is identifiable to that which he is himself in his state of (principial) immutability before his manifestation; and he knows that God will give him nothing that does not result from this essence (al-'ayn), that he is himself in his permanent principial state. He knows then from whence the Divine Knowledge comes towards himself. No other category from amongst those who know God is superior to those who realize thus the mystery of the pre­disposition. They are divided in their turn, into two groups: there are those who realize this in a general manner, others in a distinct manner; the latter occupy the superior rank; for he who has a distinct know­ledge of that which is in question realizes that which the Divine Know­ledge implies towards him, be it that God reveals to him that which, in the matter of knowledge, results from his own essence ('aynuh), be it that He reveals directly His own immutable essence (al-'ayn ath-­thâbitah) and endless unfolding of the states derived from it. It is this latter gnostic who occupies the superior rank, for in his knowledge of himself he adopts the Divine point of view, the object of his knowledge being the same as the object of Divine Knowledge. However, when one considers this identification (of the knowledge that the contemplative has of the Divine Knowledge) on the individual side, it seems like a Divine aid predestined to this individual in virtue of certain contents in his immutable essence, contents that this being will recognise as soon as God lets him see them; for when God shows him the contents of his immutable essence, which, itself, receives directly from the Being, [3] that, evidently, surpasses the faculties of a creature as such; for he is incapable of appropriating the Divine Knowledge which is applied to those archetypes (al-a'yân ath-thâbitah) in their state of non-existence ('udum), these archetypes being but the pure, essential relations (nisab dhâtiyah) without proper forms. It is in this respect (that is to say, because of the immeasurable magnitude of the Divine Knowledge and of individual knowledge) that we say of this identification (of the Divine Knowledge) that it represents a Divine aid predestined to a cer­tain individual.

It is in this same respect that one must understand the Divine Word '(We will try you,) until We know...' [4] (as if God did not know in advance what all creatures will do) which is an expression rigorously adequate, contrarily to that which is believed by those who do not drink from this source; for the transcendence of God affirms itself the most perfectly by the fact that Knowledge appears temporal by its relation (to something temporal, just as it appears eternal in connection with an eternal object). That is the most universal aspect that a theologian can logically conceive in this matter, unless he considers the Divine Science as distinct from the Essence and attributes the relativity to the Science in so far as' it differs from the Essence. From (this last point of view), he is distinguishable moreover from the real knowers of God, gifted with intuition (kashf) and realizing the Being (al-wujûd).

But let us return now to the distinction between the (Divine) gifts and the essential gifts and gifts conforming to the Names. As for those which are favours and essential gifts, they are only granted by virtue of a Divine revelation (or irradiation; (tajalfl)); now, the Essence only reveals itself in the 'form' of the predisposition of the individual who receives this revelation; never does anything else happen. From that time, the subject receiving the essential revelation will see his own 'form' in the 'mirror' of God; he will not see God - it is impossible that he should see Him, - knowing all the while that he sees only his own 'form' by virtue of this Divine mirror. This is completely analogous to that which takes place in a corporal mirror: in contemplating the forms in it, thou dost not see the mirror, at the same time knowing that thou seest these forms Thor thine own form - only by virtue of the mirror. [5] This phenomenon God has manifested as a symbol particu­larly appropriate to His essential revelation, so that he to whom He reveals Himself knows that he does not see Him; there exists no symbol more direct and more conforming to the contemplation and the revela­tion in question. [6] Try, then, thyself, to see the body of the mirror as well as looking at the form that it reflects; thou wilt never see it at the same time, This is so true that certain people, observing this law of reflected forms in mirrors (corporal or spiritual), have claimed that the reflected form interposes itself between the view of the contemplative and the mirror itself; and that is all that they have grasped of the highest sense in the domain of spiritual knowledge; but in reality it is as we have just said (in knowing that the reflected form does not essentially hide the mirror, but that the mirror manifests it). Moreover we have already explained this point in our book 'Revelations from Mecca' (al-Futûhât al-Makkiyah). If thou dost appreciate that, thou dost appreciate the extreme limit that a creature as such can attain (in 'objective' knowledge); do not aspire, then, beyond that and do not tire thy soul by surpassing this degree, for there is nothing there, in principle and definitely, but pure non-existence (the Essence being non-manifest). God, then, is the mirror in which thou seest thyself as thou art His mirror in which He contemplates His Names. [7] Now these are none other than Himself, so that reality reverses itself and becomes ambiguous. Some of us imply ignorance in their knowledge (of God) and cite in this respect the word (of Calif Abu Bakr): 'To realize that one is powerless to know the Knowledge is already knowledge'. But amongst us there is one who knows (truly), and does not say these words; his knowledge does not imply a powerlessness to know, it implies the inexpressible; it is this latter that has the most perfect consciousness of God.

Now, this knowledge is given only to the Seal of God's Messengers (khâtim ar-rusûl); [8] and to the Seal of the Saints (khâtim al-awliyâ); [9] none of the prophets and messengers [10] imbibe it anywhere else than in the tabernacle (mishkât) [11] of the messenger who is their seal. Again, none of the saints imbibes it elsewhere than in the tabernacle of the saint who is their seal; so that the messengers also imbibe this know­ledge, in so far as they imbibe it, in the tabernacle of the Seal of the Saints; for the function of the messenger of God and that of the prophet - I mean the prophetic function in so far as it brings about the promulgation of a sacred law - ceases, whereas saintliness never ceases; so, the messengers only receive this knowledge because they are also saints, and solely from the tabernacle of the Seal of Saints. [12]

Since it is thus (for the messengers and for the prophets) how would it be different for the other saints? And this is true, although the Seal ol the Saints conforms himself to the sacred Law given by the Seal of thc Prophets; that does not prejudice his spiritual rank and takes away nothing from that which we have just said; for it is possible that it is inferior from a certain point of view, at the same time being superior from another point of view. What we mean by that can be found confirmed, moreover, in the history of our religion, by the preferences (due to an ulterior revelation) of the judgement of Omar (to that of the Prophet) on that which concerned the treatment of the prisoners after the battle of Badr, (the Prophet having wished to accept a ran­som for them, whereas Omar advised liberating them or condemning them); in the same way it manifests itself in the episode concerning the fertilization of a date palm (where the advice of the Prophet failed, which led him to say: 'You are more expert than I in the affairs of your world down here'). It is not necessary that the perfect surpasses the others in every respect; but spiritual men consider only the superiority with regard to the Knowledge of God; as for ephemeral existences, their mind does not at all dwell on it. - Realize then, that which we have just revealed.

When the Prophet compared the prophetic function to a brick wall almost finished and which needed only one more brick, he identified himself with this last brick. [13] He saw, then, as he said, only the place for a single brick to fill. But, the Seal of the Saints will have an analo­gous vision; only, he will perceive, in that which the Prophet symbo­lized by the unfinished wall, the place for two bricks to fill; the bricks from which the wall is built will appear to him of gold and silver, and the two bricks still needed to complete the construction will be a brick of gold and a brick of silver; and the Seal of the Saints will see himself corresponding to the place which these two bricks are needed to fill. The reason that he sees himself in the form of two bricks is that he adheres externally to the law given by the Seal of the Messengers - that which corresponds to the silver brick, and that he imbibes internally in God exactly that which, according to his apparent form, presents itself as an adhesion to the law which preceded him; for he sees necessarily the Divine Order (al-amr) as it is - and it is that which corresponds to the golden brick, symbol of his internal nature - since the Seal of the Saints imbibes at the same source as that from which the Angel imbibed, who inspired the Messenger of God [14] - If thou understandeth that to which I allude, thou hast reached the fully efficacious knowledge. All prophets, without exception, since Adam until the last, imbibe, then (their light) in the tabernacle of the Seal of the Prophets; if the clay of the latter has been formed only after the others, it is no less present by its spiritual reality, conforming to the word (of Muhammed): 'I was a prophet when Adam was still between water and clay'. Every other prophet does not become one until he is awakened to his function. In the same way, the Seal of the Saints was saintly 'when Adam was still between water and clay', whereas the other saints only became saints after having realized the conditions of saintliness, which are the assimilation of the Divine Qualities flowing from the aspect of God which are expressed by His Names, the Saint, the Adored (al-walî; al-hamîd, this latter indicating the prototype of the positive qualities of the created one). The Seal of the Messengers is connected, then, in respect of his saintliness, to the Seal of the Saints, in the same way as the other messengers and prophets are connected to him. For he is himself simultaneously the saint (al-walî), the messen­ger (ar-rasûl) and the prophet (an-nabî). As for the Seal of the Saints he is the saint, the heir, (al-wârith) who imbibes in the origin, the one who contemplates all ranks...

Let us come now to the gifts which flow from the Divine Names: the Mercy (rahmah) which God lavishes on His creatures runs wholly through the Divine Names: it is, on the one hand of pure mercy, like everything that is licit from nourishment and natural pleasures, and which is not tainted with blame at the day of resurrection (conforming to the Koranic word: 'Say, who then would render illicit the beauty which God manifested for His servants and the lawful things of nourishment; say: they are for those who believe, in this world, and will not be subject to reproach on the day of resurrection ...') - and it is these gifts which flow from the name ar-rahmân, - on the other hand of mercy which is mixed (with punishment), like medicine which is disagreeable to take, but which is followed by relief. Such are the Divine gifts, for God (in His personal or qualified aspect) never gives except through the intermediary of one of the guardians of the temple which are His Names. Thus, God sometimes gratifies the servant by mediation of the name the Compassionate (ar-rahmân), and it is then that the gift is free from any mixture which would be momentarily contrary to the nature of he who receives it, or which would contradict the intention or anything else (of the petitioner); sometimes, He gives by the mediation of the Name the Vast (al-wâsî), lavishing His gifts in a global manner, or He gives by the mediation of the Name of the Wise (al-hakîm) judging by that which is salutory (for the servant) at the given moment, or by the mediation of the Name of He who gives freely (al-wahhâb), giving that which is good without the one who receives it, by virtue of this Name, needing to compensate for it by actions of grace or merit: or He gives by the Name of He who establishes the order (al-jabbâr), considering the cosmic environment and that which is necessary to it, or by the Name of the Forgiver (al-­ghaffâr), considering the state of he who receives the forgiveness: if he finds himself in a state which deserves punishment, He protects him from this punishment, and if he finds himself in a state which would not deserve punishment He protects him from a state which would deserve it, and it is in this sense that the Servant (saint) is said to be protected or safeguarded from sin. The giver is always God, in the sense that it is He the treasurer of all possibilities and that He only produces according to a predestined measure and by the hand of a Name concerning that possibility. Thus, He gives to everything its own constitution by virtue of His name the Just (al-'adl) and of its brothers (like the Arbitrator: (al-hakam), He who rules: (al-wâlî), the Victori­ous: (al-qahhâr) etc.).

Although the Divine Names may be infinite as to their multitude - for one knows them by that which flows from them and which is equally unlimited - they are none the less reducible to a definite number of 'roots' which are the 'mothers' of the Divine Names or the (Divine) Presences integrating the Names. In truth, there is but one single essential Reality (haqîqah) which assumes all the relations and associations which one ascribes to it by the Divine Names. Now, this essential Reality causes each of these Names which manifest themselves indefinitely to contain an essential truth by which it distinguishes itself from the other Names; it is this distinctive truth, and not that which it has in common with the others, which is the proper determination of the Name. It is in the same way that the Divine gifts distinguish themselves one from another by their personal nature, although they come from the same source - it is moreover evident that this one is not that one - the reason being precisely the distinction of the Divine Names. Because of His infinity, there is in the Divine Presence abso­lutely nothing that repeats itself - and that is a fundamental truth.

This is the science of Seth, Peace on him! His spirit communicates it to all spirits whom He has proffered something, with the exception however of the spirit of the Seal which receives this knowledge directly from God, and not by the mediation of some other spirit; much more, it is from the Seal's own spirit that this knowledge flows to each spirit, even though each may not be conscious of it while it exists in corporal form. In its essential reality, and in its purely spiritual function, it knows, then, directly, all that it is ignorant of by its corporal constitu­tion. It is, then, at the same time knowing and ignorant, and one can attribute to it apparently contrary qualities, in the same way that its (Divine) principle, which is its very essence ('aynuh), is at once terrible and generous, the First and the Last. It knows then and it does not know, at the same time, it perceives and it does not perceive, it con­templates and yet does not contemplate.

It is by virtue of this science that Seth received his name which signifies the gift, that is to say the gift of God, for he holds the key of the divine gift according to the various ways and in all aspects. It is thus, because God made of Seth a present for Adam, and he was the first gratuitous gift that God made (that is to say the first gift that did not demand from he who received it some sort of compensation) and it is from Adam himself that it came, for the son is the secret reality of his generator; it is from him that he issues and to him that he returns, so he does not, then, befall to him like something unknown to him. It is this which will be understood by he who sees things from a Divine point of view. Moreover, every gift in the entire universe, is manifested according to this law: nobody receives something from God, (that is to say) nobody receives anything which does not come from himself, whatever may be the unpredictable variation of the forms. But few know this, some only of the initiated know this spiritual law. So if thou dost encounter anyone who knows it, thou mayest have confi­dence in him, for such a man is the pure quintessence and the chosen amongst the chosen of the spiritual men.

Every time that an intuitive person contemplates a form which communicates to him new knowledge which he had not been able previously to comprehend, this form will be an expression of his own essence ('ayn) and nothing unknown to him. It is from the tree of his own soul that he gathers the fruit of his culture, in the same way that his image, reflected by a polished surface is nothing but himself although the place of reflection - or the Divine Presence - which returns to him his own form, provokes the inversions following the essential Truth inherent in such a (Divine) Presence. [15] It is. thus that, in the case of a concrete mirror, it so happens that it reflects things according to their real proportions, the large as the large, the small as the small, the lying down as the lying down, the moving as movement, but also (following the constitution or following the perspective) it can reverse the proportions; in the same way it is possible that a mirror reflects things without the usual reversions, showing the right side of the contemplative from his right side, whereas generally the right side of the reflected image is found opposite the left side of he who is looking at himself; there can, therefore, be exceptions to the rule, like in the case where the proportions are reversed; and all that applies equally to the diverse ways of the (Divine) Presence, in which the revelation takes place (of the essential 'form' of the contemplative) and which we have compared to the mirror.

He who knows his pre-disposition, knows from himself what he will receive. On the other hand, he who knows what he receives does not necessarily know his pre-disposition, unless he knows it after having received, be it only in a global manner.

Certain thinkers, intellectually feeble, starting from the dogma that God does all that He wishes, have declared it admissible that God should act contrarily to principles and contrarily to that which is the Reality (al-amr) in itself (that is in its principial state - as if the mani­festation of God did not proceed from the possibilities eternally present in the Divine Being and in the Universal Intellect). From this, they have gone so far as to deny the possibility as such and to accept (as logical and ontological categories) only the absolute necessity (that is the very 'existence' of God) and the necessity through others (that is to say the relative necessity). But the wise man admits the possibility, of which he knows the ontological rank: obviously, possibility (as such) is not the possible (in the sense of that which could exist or could not exist) and how could it be so since it is essentially necessary because of a (prin­ciple) other than itself. But in the end, from whence then comes this distinction between it and its principle which makes it necessary (and by which it constitutes precisely a possibility of manifestation)? But nobody knows the distinction in question except those who know God!

It is in the traces of Seth that the last of the human species will be manifested; he will inherit the mysteries of Seth; there will be no other begotten after him, so that he will be the Seal of the begotten, (as Seth had been the first Saint). With him will be born a sister; she will emerge before him (whereas the first woman was manifested after the first man); and he will follow her, having his head at the feet of his sister. The place of his birth will be in China (the country furthest east); and he will speak the language of the country of his birth. At that time, sterility will spread throughout woman and man; so that there will be much cohabitation without generation. He will call the people to God, but there will be no response. When God has taken his spirit and He has taken the last believer of that time, those who survive will be like brutes, and they will not distinguish the licit from the illicit; they will react according to their purely natural inclinations, following desire, independently of reason and law; and it is on them that the last hour will rise.

1 Seth was the gift of God for Adam. By his birth, the murder of Abel was compensated and the broken order re-established. As first prophet amongst the descendants of Adam, he was the true son, corporal and spiritual, of his father. But, as Ibn 'Arabi writes in the chapter on Enoch, 'the son is the secret of his father', that is to say that he symbolizes the interior aspect. Conforming to this symbolism, this chapter implies a spiritual perspective contrary to that which the preceding chapter represented. Whereas the chapter on Adam described the universal manifestation of God, or the 'vision' that God has of Himself in Universal Man, the chapter on Seth has for its subject the interior revelation of God or the knowledge which man has of himself in the divine mirror.

2 Koran XVII, 22.

3 The immutable essence or archetype has not a being as such, for it is but a non-manifested possibility contained in the Divine Essence. It is in an entirely symbolic manner that the archetype can be considered as a receptacle (qâbil) or a 'mould', as if 'opposing itself' to the Divine Being. See also the beginning of the chapter on Adam.

4 Koran XLVII, 31.

5 According to the Advaitic terminology, God is the absolute Subject - or the Witness (sâkshin) - which will never become the 'Object' of knowledge. It is in Him or from Him that everything is perceived, while He remains there always incomprehensible in the background. 'The looks do not reach Him, but it is He who reaches the looks' says the Koran, VI, 103.

6 In his 'Divine Comedy' Dante causes Adam to say when he explains to him his intemporal vision of the nature of the beings in God:

'Perch'io la veggio nel verace spegho,
Che fa di Se paregho all'altre cose,
E nulla face lui di se paregho,'
Paradise XXVI, 106 ss.

(Because I see it in the truthful mirror
Which makes of itself the equal of other things, And nothing makes of itself the equal).

7 Certain editions of the text add: 'and their principles'.

8 Title of the Prophet Muhammed as the last of the legislators inspired by God.

9 The role of 'Seal of the Prophets' corresponds to an apparent cyclic function, whereas the function of the 'Seal of Saints' is necessarily intemporal and hidden; it represents the prototype of the spirituality, independently of all 'mission' (risâlah).

10 Every 'messenger' (rasûl) is prophet (nabî) by his degree of inspiration; however, only the prophet who promulgates a new sacred law is called 'messenger'.

11 "The symbolism of the tabernacle (al-mishkât) or of the 'Niche of Light' refers to the following Koranic passage: 'God is the Light of heaven and of earth: the symbol of His light is as a tabernacle (or niche), wherein there is a lamp, and the lamp enclosed in a case of glass; the glass appears as it were a shining star. It is lighted (with the oil) of a blessed olive tree, which is neither of the east, nor of the west, and whose oil is almost luminous, although no fire touched it. Light upon light. God will direct unto His light whom He pleaseth; and God proposes parables unto men; and God knoweth all things.' (Koran XXIV, 35). In Sufism, the 'Niche of Light' is identified to the deepest interior of Universal Man.

12 In the Futûhât al-Makkiyah, Ibn Arabi speaks also of the 'Seal of the Sainthood of the Prophets and the Messengers' (IV, 57); by that he means Christ at the time of his second coming before the end of time. This function, which may seem contradictory in itself is explained in the following manner: the 'messenger' who 'will seal' the present great cycle of humanity and will save the chosen ones by causing them to pass into the future cycle, evidently cannot carry a new sacred law, which would only have a sense for a collectivity having to exist as such, but will, on the other hand bring forth the intrinsic truths common to all the traditional forms; he will address himself, then, to humanity in its entirety, which he will be able to do only by situating himself to a certain degree on an esoteric plane, which is that of the contemplative saint (al-walî); he will be at once prophet and messenger in an implicit manner, because of his eminently cyclic function, but he will be explicitly a 'saint', whereas the opposite took place for almost all the preceding prophets. Let us remark here that Christ, of whom the Koran speaks as a 'messenger' (rasûl) manifested already at the time of his first coming, such an 'extraversion' of 'saintliness' (wilâya) and of esotericism, which made of him, moreover, in the eyes of the Sufis the model of saint 'par excellence'; and it is necessary that it be thus so that there is, outside any question of cosmological order, a veritable spiritual identity between Christ preceding Muhammed and Christ 're-descended' at the end of time. - In the same passage of the Futûhât, Ibn 'Arabi talks of the 'Seal of the Muhammedan Sainthood' which he distinguishes from the 'Seal of Sainthood of the Prophets and Messengers'; it is the former which is also the 'Seal of Universal Sainthood'.

13 'My figure among the Prophets is thus: a man built a wall, he has finished it, except that it needs one more brick; it is I who am this brick; after me there will be no more messengers (rasûl) nor prophets (nabî)' (Hadith).

14 C.f. The word of Christ 'Before Abraham was, I am.' (St. John VIII, 58.)

15 The contemplative states may be conceived as Divine 'Presences' (hadarât) or as diverse modalities of the single Presence of God. There is an indefinite number of Divine Presences; however, one distinguishes generally, five funda­mental Presences, and these according to the diverse 'schemes' of which we will mention here the following: To the 'Presence of the Absolute non-manifestation' (hadarât al-ghayb al mutlaq) is opposed - not in the Divine Reality but accord­ing to a point of view strictly human and provisional - the 'Presence of the achieved manifestation' (hadarât ash-shahadat aI-mutlaqah), that is to say the 'objective' world. Between these two 'Presences' is situated the 'Presence' of the 'relative non-manifestation' (hadarât al-ghayb al mudâfî) which is subdivided in its turn into two distinct cosmic regions, of which one, that of the supraformal existence (al-jabarût) is the closest to the Absolute 'non-manifestation', whereas the other, that of the world of subtle forms (âlem al-mithâl) approaches the 'achieved manifestation'. These four Presences are all englobed by a fifth, the total 'Presence' (aI-hadarât al-jâm'iyah) which is identified with Universal Man (al-insân al-kâmil). - We will add that this distinction of the 'Presences' is in conformity with a perspective in some ways 'practical', that is to say connected with the contemplative way and not to the pure metaphysical doctrine.

The One and the Many

From The Twenty-Nine Pages - An Introduction to Ibn 'Arabi's Metaphysics of Unity

According to Ibn 'Arabi there is only one Reality in existence. This Reality we view from two different angles, now calling it Haqq (the Real) when we regard it as the Essence of all phenomena, and now Khalq (the Immanence), when we regard it as the manifested phenomena of that Essence. Haqq and Khalq, Reality and Appearance, the One and the Many, are only names for two subjective aspects of One Reality: it is a real unity but an empirical diversity. This Reality is God. "If you regard Him through Him", Ibn 'Arabi says, "then He regards Himself through Himself, which is the state of unity; but if you regard Him through yourself then the unity vanishes"

The One is everywhere as an Essence, and nowhere as the Universal Essence which is above and beyond all 'where' and 'how'. "Unity has no other meaning than two (or more) things being actually identical, but conceptually distinguishable the one from the other; so in one sense the one is the other; in another it is not." "Multiplicity is due to different points of view, not to an actual division in the One Essence ('Ayn)."

The whole of Ibn 'Arabi's metaphysics rests on this distinction and there is not a single point in his system where it is not introduced in one form or other.

Owing to our finite minds and our inability to grasp the Whole as a Whole, we regard it as a plurality of beings, ascribing to each one characteristics which distinguish it from the rest. Only a person possessed of the vision of a mystic, Ibn 'Arabi would say, can transcend, in a supra-mental state of intuition, all the multiplicity of forms and 'see' the reality that underlies them. What seem to multiply the One are the ahkam (predications) which we predicate of external objects - the fact that we bring them under categories of colour, size, shape, and temporal and spatial relations, etc. In itself the One is simple and indivisible.

To express it in theological language, as Ibn 'Arabi sometimes does, the 0ne is al-Haqq (the Real or God), the Many are al-Khalq (created beings, phenomenal world); the One is the Lord, the Many are the servants; the One is a unity (jam'), the many are a diversity (farq) and so on.

Now we are in a position to understand the apparent paradoxes in which Ibn 'Arabi often revels, such as "the creator is the created"; "I am He and He is I"; "I am He and not He"; Haqq is Khalq and Khalq is Haqq"; "Haqq is not Khalq and Khalq is not Haqq"; and so on and so on. Explained on this relative notion of the two aspects of Reality, these paradoxes are no paradoxes at all. There is a complete reciprocity between the One and the Many as understood by Ibn 'Arabi, and complete mutual dependence. Like two logical correlatives, neither has any meaning without the other.

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Relating astrology to metaphysical principles

From Mystical Astology, by Titus Burckhardt

The written work of the 'greatest Master' (ash-sheikh al-akbar) Sufi, Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, contains certain considerations on astrology which permit one to perceive how this science, which arrived in the modern occident only in a fragmentary form and reduced only to some of its most contingent applications, could be related to metaphysical principles, thereby relating to knowledge self-sufficient in itself. Astrology, as it was spread through the Middle Ages within Christian and Islamic civilizations and which still subsists in certain Arab countries, owes its form to the Alexandrine hermeticism; it is therefore neither Islamic nor Christian in its essence; it could not in any case find a place in the religious perspective of monotheistic traditions, given that this perspective insists on the responsibility of the individual before its Creator and avoids, by this fact, all that could veil this relationship by considerations of intermediary causes. If, all the same, it were possible to integrate astrology into the Christian and Muslim esotericism, it is because it perpetuated, vehicled by hermeticism, certain aspects of a very primordial symbolism: the contemplative penetration of cosmic atmosphere, and the identification of spontaneous appearances - cosmic and rhythmic - of the sensible world with the eternal prototypes corresponding in fact to a mentality as yet primitive, in the proper and positive sense of this term. This implicit primordiality of the astrological symbolism flares up in contact with spirituality, direct and universal, of a living esotericism, just like the scintillation of a precious stone flares up when it is exposed to the rays of light.

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi encloses the facts of the hermetic astrology in the edifice of his cosmology, which he summarizes by means of a schemata of concentric spheres by taking, as the starting point and as terms of comparison, the geocentric system of the planetary world as the Medieval world conceived it. The 'subjective' polarisation of this system - we mean by that the terrestrial position of the human being serving as the fixed point to which will be related all the movements of the stars - here symbolises the central role of man in the cosmic whole, of which man is like the goal and the centre of gravity. This symbolic perspective naturally does not depend upon the purely physical or spatial reality, the only one envisaged by modern astronomy, of the world of the stars; the geocentric system, being in conformity with the reality as it presents itself immediately to the human eyes, contains in itself all the logical coherence requisite to a body of knowledge for constituting an exact science. The discovery of the heliocentric system, which corresponds to a development both possible and homogeneous but very particular to the empirical knowledge of the sensible world, obviously could not prove anything against the central cognition of the human being in the cosmos; only, the possibility of conceiving the planetary world as if one were contemplating it from the non-human position, and even as if one could make abstraction of the existence of the human being - even though its consciousness still remains the 'container' of all conceptions - had produced an intellectual dis-equilibrium which shows clearly that the 'artificial' extension of the empirical knowledge has in it something of the abnormal, and that it is, intellectually, not only indifferent but even detrimental.

The discovery of heliocentricism has had effects resembling certain vulgarisations of esotericism; we are here thinking above all of those inversions of point of view which are proper to esoteric speculation; the confrontation of respective symbolisms of geocentric and heliocentric systems shows very well what such an inversion is: in fact, the fact that the sun, source of the light of the planets is equally the pole which rules their movements, contains, like all existent things, an evident symbolism and represents in reality, always from a symbolic and spiritual point of view, a complementary point of view to that of the geocentric astronomy.

Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi englobes in a certain fashion the essential reality of heliocenticism in his cosmological edifice: like Ptolemy and like those all through the Middle Ages he assigns to the sun, which he compares to the 'Pole' (qutb) and to the 'heart of the world' (qalb al-'alam), a central position in the hierarchy of the celestial spheres, and this by assigning equal numbers of superior skies and inferior skies to the sky of the sun; he amplifies nevertheless the system of Ptolemy by yet again underlining the symmetry of the spheres with respect to the sun: according to his cosmological system, which he probably holds from the Andalusian Sufi Ibn Massarah, the sun is not only in the centre of the six known planets - Mars (al-mirikh), Jupiter (al-mushtari) and Saturn (az-zuhal) being further away from the Earth (al-ardh) than the Sun (ash-shams), and Venus (az-zuhrah), Mercury (al-utarid) and the Moon (al-qamar) being closer - but beyond the sky of Saturn is situated the vault of the sky of the fixed stars (falak al-kawakib), that of the sky without stars (al-falak al-atlas), and the two supreme spheres of the 'Divine Pedestal' (al-kursi) and the 'Divine Throne' (al-'arsh), concentric spheres to which symetrically correspond the four sub-lunar spheres of ether (al-athir), of air (al-hawa), of water (al-ma) and of earth (al-ardh). Thus is apportioned seven degrees to either side of the sphere of the sun, the 'Divine Throne' symbolising the sythesis of all the cosmos, and the centre of the earth being thereof both the inferior conclusion and the centre of fixation.

It goes without saying, that among all the spheres of this hierarchy, only the planetary spheres and those of the fixed stars correspond as such to the sensible experience, even though they should not be envisaged only within this relationship; as to the sub-lunary spheres of ether - which do not signify here the quintessence, but the cosmic centre in which the fire is re-absorbed - of air and water, one should rather see a theoretical hierarchy according to the degrees of density, rather than spatial spheres. As for the supreme spheres of the 'Divine Pedestal' and the 'Throne' - the former containing the skies and the earth, and the latter englobing all things - their spherical form is purely symbolic, and they mark the passage from astronomy to metaphysical and integral cosmology: the sky without Stars (al-falak al-atlas), which is a 'void', and which because of this fact is no more spatial, but rather marks the 'end' of space, also marks by that discontinuity between the formal and informal; in fact this appears like a 'nothingness' from the formal point of view, whereas the principial appears like a 'nothingness' from the point of view of the manifested. One would have understood that this passing from the astronomic point of view to the cosmological and metaphysical point of view has in it nothing of the arbitrary: the distinction between the visible sky and the sky avoiding our view is real, even if its application is nothing but symbolic, and the 'invisible' here spontaneously becomes the 'transcendent', in conformity with the Oriental symbolism; the spheres of informal manifestation - the 'Throne' and the 'Pedestal' - are expressly called the 'invisible world' ('alam al-ghaib), the word ghaib meaning all that is beyond the reach of our vision, which shows this symbolic correspondence between the 'invisible' an

Chapers 1 and 2

From The Kernel of the Kernel, by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

One of the special matters that Ibn 'Arabi wants to explain in his Futuhat al-Makkiyah is this: "If a gnostic is really a gnostic he cannot stay tied to one form of belief."

That is to say, if a possessor of knowledge is cognizant of the being in his own ipseity, in all its meanings, he will not remain trapped in one belief. He will not decrease his circle of belief. He is like materia prima and will accept whatever form he is presented with. These forms being external, there is no change to the kernel in his interior universe.

The knower of God, whatever his origin is, remains like that. He accepts all kinds of beliefs, but does not remain tied to any figurative belief. Whatever his place is in the Divine Knowledge, which is essential knowledge, he remains in that place; knowing the kernel of all belief he sees the interior and not the exterior. He recognizes the thing, whose kernel he knows, whatever apparel it puts on, and in this matter his circle is large. Without looking at whatever clothing they appear under in the exterior he reaches into the origin of those beliefs and witnesses them from every possible place.

Both the worlds are by the revelation of God.
Look upon the Beauty of Truth from whichever side you want.

A hadith explains like this: When people destined for Paradise reach their stations, the Lord offers a glimpse by parting a little the curtain which hides His Greatness and Grandeur, and says: "I am your most great Lord." That is to say, I am that great God whom for years you have yearned and pined to see. This revelation of God astonishes them and they deny it and they say "Never could you be our Lord," and saying this they rant and rave. At that moment the revelation changes three times and each time they again deny. Then God asks them: 'Is there an indication among you concerning your Lord!' and they answer "Yes, there is." Then He appears to each one according to the degree and ability of understanding of each one's supposition and belief. After this revelation they accept and say, "You are our Lord, the greatest of the greatest." Accordingly the hadith: "You will be looking at your Lord as if at the full moon and will be lost in ecstasy." In spite of it being like this, the people of gnosis definitely affirm God during the first revelation because they have appropriated all the beliefs, and have gained aptitude for all revelations.

They who see their beloved today
Are the ones who see tomorrow.
What will they know of the beloved there,
They who are of the blind here?

Indeed, in the Holy Quran it is said thus: "The person who is blind in this world is also blind in the other," which means: he who has not opened his eye of meaning here will be in the same way blind when he has moved to the other world. Consequently, he will not be able to see the Divine Revelation (when it is first presented to him). What we beg for from God is this that He may preserve all His servants from a belief which goes no further than imitation and pretence.

Here a certain question arises: how does the person who has the aptitude for the state of gnosis understand his own reality! It is answerable in this way: It is necessary that he finds a gnostic who knows his own self and after he has found him, from the bottom of his heart, and with all his soul, make his character to be his character. The person of gnosis, to find his own origin, should hold on to this way and the following Quranic verse points to this meaning: "Search for the means that will take you to Him." The explanation of this may be as follows: There are of My servants those who have found Me. If you want to find Me follow in their footsteps. They become a means for you and they finally lead to Me. If this is so then by serving those people, a person comes to know himself. He will understand whence he came and where he is going and he will have an inkling of the station of the present state.

A hadith explains the purpose of coming into this world thus: "I was a hidden treasure and I loved to be known, and I created the creation so that I be known." This order is like this but to know God is not an easy matter, until one becomes a knower of one's self.

The following hadith explains: "He who knows himself knows his Lord." The opposite is also so and this the people of that state understand. Many people of the elite or commoners give different meanings to this hadith as much as their intelligence allows them. God willing, a meaning will be expressed at the level of the elite. However, at this station seven different forms have been noticed, which will be expounded below.

First Form

If a person in his body understands the partial spirit in his form which may be called the speaking self (nafsi-n nâtiqa), if that person's state is like this, he is in the first form. This station is called the station of progress. According to the people of Union, self, heart, spirit, intellect, mystery all mean the same thing. These different names are given to the same thing which takes different forms at different times.

This thing known as the speaking self has neither life nor body but has influence and action outside and inside the body, yet it has neither place nor a sign of existence. Though it has no special location, when ever you put your finger on something it is there and it appears there existent in all its totality. Furthermore, division, partition and things of this sort are not possible for it. It is that which holds in the man's hand, which looks in his eye, which speaks in his tongue, which walks in his foot, which hears in his ear, and in short is present and in control in all his feelings.

It is totally and essentially present in every part of the body, and having circumscribed the whole body, it is transcendent and free from every part of the body. If a finger or a foot were to be cut off, it would suffer no diminution, nor does it lose any part of itself. In any case, it is at its centre as it was always, and remains permanent and present. If the body is annihilated it suffers neither loss of existence nor dispersion. To be able to understand this there are meanings which do not fit into any limit or calculation.

Second Form

Let the one who is in this second form look to the horizons. That is, let him look at the horizons where the Total Self is. . . This is called Intellect, the Qualified Total Spirit, Viceregent. It has no bodily shape and it is not even outside this universe and its heavens, but is englobes all existents and therein it is present and in control. In relation to it, highest top and the bottom of the bottom are the same. It is present in every one of those degrees with its own ipseity. It cannot be parcelled or partitioned. If the skies fell in and the earth shattered, nothing would happen to it.

For example, what difference does it make to the sun and how does it suffer though it enters every tower, palace or house that is built in the world. However, each chimney, room or hall receives light from it according to its window. Just as if those houses were to fall down and the palaces be ruined, nobody would imagine anything would happen to the sun, equally nothing would happen to it. No matter how many people or creatures God has created, He can have determination in, and control over, all of them. No matter how many die from among those that are alive that Qualified Spirit remains present forever and in whatever state it was.

Thus the one who possesses that spirit, when he looks at the horizons, if he knows these states, will understand what the second form is.

Third Form

In this station man receives further developments and sees what is called his partial spirit to be non-existent and annihilated in the Total Spirit, and he comes alive in the Qualified Spirit.

Let him observe that the spirit is the Total Spirit, and that the intellect is the Total Intellect, and observe this with the certainty of the Truth (haqqu-l yaqin) and then throw away from himself anything called 'partial'. Let him understand that everything is tied to the Total. Thus is the third form.

Fourth Form

Then . . . let him continue to ascend in this station. Let him find his spirit annihilated in the Qualified Spirit. And now let him see that the Qualified Spirit is annihilated in the Ipseity of God. Let him be liberated both from the partials and the totals. When this happens to him he sees all businesses annihilated in the acts of God, all Names and Qualities annihilated in the Name and Quality of God, and equally, all ipseities annihilated in the Ipseity of God, and he sees them as non-existent. When he is secure in this then he has reached what is known as closeness through Knowledge ('ilmu-l yaqîn) and closeness through Truth (haqqu-l yaqîn) and he reaches the station of complete witnessing.

Under the cloak of the existents there is nothing other than Him: he comes to know the meanings in this through the interior, and also, having acquired an understanding of the meaning of the Quranic quotation: "Today, to whom does everything belong? To God, the One and Complete Annihilator," he knows certainly that in the interior, there is nothing other than God.

Up to now we have mentioned four forms. These can also be called as follows:

1. Enfus - Interior
2. Âfâq - Horizons, outside existence
3. The union of the first and second forms
4. The annihilation of the first, second and third forms in the Ipseity of God.

Fifth Form

This is such a station that here every station that has been mentioned before should be seen and observed as one. The person who has reached this station is often referred to as Son of Time (ibnu-l waqt).

Sixth Form

The person who has reached this station is a mirror for everything. The traveller in this station finds on his road no one else but himself and thinks of everything as tied to himself. He says: "Inside my cloak there is nothing but God. Could there by anybody else in the two worlds except me?" That is, he is a mirror to everything and everything is mirrored in him. Perhaps, even, also he is the shine of the mirror and what is reflected. He was before this the Son of Time and he used to say: "There is no other existence but God." When he has found this station he will say: "There is only 'I'", and he is often referred to as the Father of Time (abu-l waqt).

Seventh Form

The man who comes to this station is now in complete annihilation. Completely and simply he has reached non­existence, and from now on in subsistence (baqâ') he reaches subsistence (baqâ'). After this one would not speak of him as having state or station. He has here neither observation nor witnessing nor gnosis, and the explanation or interpretation of these is not possible because this place is a station of complete non-existence. Even the word station is used here only to explain because the person here knows of neither station nor sign. Only those with taste understand through taste. May God make this state easy for us.

When the gnostic has reached this station he is in the universe of Oneness and Collectivity ( 'alemi jam'). If it is necessary for him to separate from here he is adorned with a Divine existence. He knows his reality and consequently comprehends God, and then he is no more tied to any of the laws, regulations, beliefs that we understand in the exterior. This is what one wanted explained, and the meaning desired was this.

Without being I did not find the road to that Truth;
There I became alive with the Truth; I found subsistence (baqa').
Myself I annihilated myself; Myself I found myself again.
You will be all when you make nothing of yourself

At last the gnostic understands that whether it be in the enfus or whether it be in the âfâq whatever is manifested is the Ipseity; that existence is One Existence, One Soul, One Body; it is neither separated nor individuated; that everything in immanence is nothing other than His Manifestation and Tools; that from every particle or stem to the greatest mass, God (al haqq) is manifested with all His Qualities and Names, and that this manifestation is according to the understanding and belief of each person. In each place and in each station He shows a different face.

He is able to show His Being either within or without; that which is in the image of everything, that which is understandable in every intellect, the meaning that is in every heart, the thing heard in every ear, the eye that sees in every eye, is Him. . . If He is manifest in this face he is also looking from the other.

The meaning of these again refers to the sentence at the beginning. The demander and the demanded, the lover and the beloved, the believer and the belief, is the same for the gnostic. All this comes to mean that for the gnostic to be tied to any aspect which is to be according to any one belief is not allowed.

Several blind people were gathered in a place. They began to discuss a matter: "We wonder if we could see an elephant." The keeper of the elephants took them to the elephant house. Each one found a part of the elephant and held on to it - some to the ear, some to the foot, some to the belly, some to the trunk. After having known the elephant in this fashion, they began to argue among themselves. The one who clung to the leg of the elephant said the elephant was like a column. The one that held the ear said the elephant was like a napkin, and the one who knew the elephant by its belly said it was like a barrel. In short, whatever member they held on to they knew the elephant like that part; their beliefs were such.

The person who has belief through imitation is in this state, he clings onto something definite and remains there. In that dimensional state they remain imprisoned.

Whoever remains in prison in the definite dimension
Will be totally saddened when laid out in the ea

Origins of Mulla Sadra’s School

Mulla Sadra’s philosophy is an independent school of thought, possessing a specific system of its own. He has established a philosophical system which comprises all philosophical problems, so that one can claim that this school, in the light of its basic principles, could efficiently solve even those peripheral problems which might arise in field of philosophy in future. The available documents strongly indicate that, apart from the ancient Illuminationist school, Peripatetic philosophy, and gnosis, no other independent school of philosophy, except for Transcendent Philosophy, has been developed either in the East or the West to possess such universality, all-inclusiveness, and answerability to problems.[1]

It is a widely accepted fact that the independence of a school does not indicate that it has put up with all the ideas and theories of previous schools, since each and every new philosophical system certainly requires some input from preceding ones to be able to utilize them as its components and building blocks. However, it normally puts the previous coherence governing the combination of those constituent parts aside, grants them new versatility, and transforms them quite efficiently in the light of its own principles.

Mulla Sadra’s creative soul and scientific power and perfection allowed him to create a school which was independent of all philosophical, gnostic, and theological schools and, at the same time, enjoyed all their strength and positive aspects.

Sadrian philosophy is similar to Peripatetic philosophy in its surface form. In fact, one can say that the body of his philosophy is Peripatetic, while its soul is Illuminationist. At the same time, most of the problems of the science of Islamic theology can be found there in a philosophical form. Mulla Sadra’s Transcendent Philosophy, on the one hand, comprises all schools of philosophy, gnosis, theology, and the like, and connects them to each other; on the other hand, it reacts as a rival against all of them.

The other important point which is worth a mention here is Mulla Sadra’s strong and logical belief in the Qur’an and hadith. He is inspired by the spirit of the Qur’an in solving some complexities and problems and tries to expand the dimensions of his philosophical and theological ideas and thoughts by resorting to the hadith and Sunna (traditions) of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) and his descendants. At the same time, he sometimes directly refers to some Qur’anic verses as evidence for his arguments or, perhaps, for demonstrating the rationality of this Holy Book.

Unlike other heavenly books, the Qur’an involves some very profound and discussion raising verses and statements on theology, worldview, and anthropology. This Holy Book, from the very early days of the prevalence of Islam - when there was no word of Greek or Oriental philosophy – could introduce a series of important philosophical issues such as God’s knowledge, the meaning of His Will and Attributes, the concepts of Divine Decree and Destiny, predestination, renunciation, life after death, resurrection, and the Hereafter to the field of thought and philosophy. Moreover, it makes references to the quality of the creation of the material world, the birth of prime matter, the end of world, the annihilation of matter, and, basically, cosmology.

It is true that the collection of such verses and their interpretations, which had been given by the Prophet (p.b.u.h), Imam Ali (AS) and Muhammed’s descendants, planted the seeds for the growth of Shi’ite theology and, later, for the so-called science of theology; however, it was not limited to theologians’ use. The gate of knowledge and teaching in the Qur’an has always been open to all, as it became a source of inspiration for Mulla Sadra, too. Our great philosopher, who always criticized theologians’ ideas, viewed Qur’anic verses and the interpretations given by Muhammed’s (P.b.u.h) descendants with utter respect, relied on them, and was inspired by their heavenly words.[2]

The other point to be emphasized here is Mulla Sadra’s power of intuition in the sense of communicating with the hidden world and unveiling the realities. This was a power possessed by all prominent masters of Ishraqi philosophy. In some of his books, Mulla Sadra emphasizes that he first perceives the truth of every philosophical and rational problem through intuition, and then demonstrates it on the basis of rational and philosophical arguments.

He claims that he is the only philosopher who has been able to transform the issues that Ishraqi philosophers had perceived through unveiling and intuition, and presented as undemonstrated theories into logical and philosophical arguments. He does this so conversantly that even those who do not believe in intuitive perception surrender to his ideas. As we will discuss later, a great number of his well-known theories and ideas had been previously stated by Ishraqi sages; however, they had not been philosophically proved.

Mulla Sadra has profoundly benefited from Peripatetic, Ishraqi, theological, and sophist schools of thought and can be said to owe a great part of this knowledge to the masters of these schools. Apart from the Qur’an, the Prophet (p.b.u.h), Imam Ali (As), and the Prophet’s descendants, he has a deep-rooted belief in Muhyaddin, Ibn-Sina, Aristotle, Plotinus, Suhrawardi, Tusi, Sadr al-Din, Qiyath al-Din Dashtaki, Dawani, and pre-Socratic philosophers, particularly Pythagoras and Empedocles. He also agrees with Qazzali’s ideas concerning ethics, and favors Fakhr Razi’s method of analyzing theological and philosophical problems; nevertheless, he does not consider them as philosophers and refutes their philosophical ideas in many respects. However, in cases where he agrees with their views, he never hesitates to praise them, and, in order to show his confirmation and acceptance of their ideas, he quotes from them verbatim, as if he himself has originally uttered those words.

One of the sources of Mulla Sadra’s philosophy is the pre-Socratic history of philosophy. The philosophers of that time mainly consisted of Ishraqi sages, who followed Oriental and Iranian ancient philosophies to a great extent.

Generally speaking, unlike the case with Peripatetic philosophy, Mulla Sadra’s sources of philosophy were not merely confined to the intellect, so that he would ignore other sources such as revelation and inspiration. In the same way, he did not limit himself only to inspiration and illumination, so that, like gnostics and sophists, he would regard the intellect as being incapable of the perception of realities. He even considered revelation as the most important, valid, and reliable source of knowledge, and, as we mentioned previously, he also attached too much importance to what can be learnt from the Qur’an and hadith.

Mulla Sadra is one of the exceptional philosophers who has graded these sources. He believes that the first basis for accessing truth is the intellect; however, he does not consider it as being capable of solving the subtle problems of metaphysics. Therefore, a philosopher or sage should not stop halfway through seeking the reality and deprive himself from intuition and using prophets’ revelation.

He states that man’s intellect confirms revelation, and revelation completes the intellect. One who has a religion and depends on revelation must accept the role of the intellect in discovering the truth; likewise, one who follows the intellect and wisdom, must confirm and accept revelation. Intuition and illumination can be demonstrated by means of argumentation and reasoning and, as a result, grant universality to personal experiences, exactly in the same way that the hidden principles of nature could be proved by resorting to mathematical laws.

However, one must admit that the power of wisdom is limited, but intuition and love have no boundaries and can aid man in attaining the truth. The vastness and breadth of Mulla Sadra’s domain of views, and the plurality of the origins of his thoughts granted more freedom to him to expand the realm of philosophy. As a result, there is no trace of different types of narrow-mindedness witnessed in other schools of philosophy in his philosophy.


[1]. Among the philosophers of the modern era, Hegel is said to have been able to develop an independent and systematic school of philosophy. Unfortunately, this Hegelian system involves a series of controversies that disrupt its orderliness; therefore, it cannot be considered a perfect philosophical system.

[2]. For example, Mulla Sadra has been inspired by one of the verses in the Qur’an in formulating his famous and important theory of the ‘trans-substantial motion’. He has also resorted to other verses in his other works.


Mulla Sadra’s Interpretation and Hermeneutics

The discussion of the issues related to the interpretation of the Heavenly Book became quite common right from the beginning of its descent in Muslim societies. Naturally, different methods of interpretation were also developed later. Mulla Sadra followed a method and a number of principles in interpretation which can be said to have been more or less known to Batini Shi’ites (Esoterics).

As mentioned previously, he believes in the vertical three-fold worlds, consisting of the sense world, imaginal or Ideal world, and, finally, the intellectual world. According to a gnostic theory, ‘revelation’ or the Divine language is not directly descended to the world of matter; descent means going through the intellectual, Ideal, and material or sense stages in a stepwise fashion, and the Prophet’s soul must first go through the two material and Ideal stages, so that it could receive revelation at the stage of intellects, and hear and perceive God’s language. This language is later transformed into a language comprehensible to ordinary people, and descended to the world of matter. Mulla Sadra believes that to perceive the Qura’nic concepts, one must go beyond the words and understand the concepts behind them in superior worlds. This is technically called ‘ta’wil’ (interpretation). In Arabic, this word means ‘reaching the origin’, i.e., one must discover the depth of such concepts without dispensing with the surface meaning of the words in the Qur’an. This can be done through seeking help from inwardly senses, and is not possible without revelation.

* * * * * * * * * *

On the other hand, Mulla Sadra and some sophists regard God’s language as one of His Acts, since, as written in the Qur’an, when God wishes for something, He orders it: ‘Become’, and that thing comes into being. This language is called ‘existential becoming’, which might be of the same meaning with Logos. Thus God employs the ‘existential language’ for creation, and the common and conventional language for speaking to people.

It can be inferred from this point that, generally speaking, the interpretation of God’s language involves the interpretation of worldly phenomena as well. Mulla Sadra combined philosophical hermeneutics with the traditional hermeneutics of the Holy Book three centuries before Heidegger and other philosophers, and we might conceive of his philosophy of interpretation as a bridge filling the gap between these two schools of thought.

Revitalisasi Ilmu-ilmu Rasional

Dr. R. Mulyadhi Kartanegara, MA

Runtuhnya Tradisi Filsafat dalam Islam

Satu masa dalam hidupnya, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (w. 505/1111) merasa perlu untuk menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu agama (naqli) karena adanya ancaman yang membahayakan ilmu-ilmu tersebut dari ilmu-ilmu rasional (‘aqli). Sebenarnya gerakan anti ilmu-ilmu rasional telah dimulai kira-kira dua abad sebelum al-ghazali oleh Abu Hasan al-Asy’ari (w. 324/935) terhadap aliran teologis rasional, Mu’tazilah. Meskipun gerakan tersebut telah berhasil menggoyah kedudukan Mu’tazilah sebagai mazhab resmi kekhalifahan saat itu, namun rupanya belum berhasil meredam gerakan rasional filosofis, terbukti dengan munculnya dua filosof yang lebih besar daripada yang sudah ada, al-Farabi (w. 339/950) yang dikenal sebagai “al-Mu’allim al-Tsani,” dan Ibn Sina (w. 430/ 1038), “Syaikh al-Rais,” yang menandai puncak perkembangan filsafat Neoplatonik Muslim atau dikenal juga sebagai “peripatetik.”

Sebagai pengikut, bahkan salah seorang tokoh utama Asy’ariyah, tentu saja al-Ghazali merasa terpanggil untuk meneruskan perjuangan pendiri mazhabnya dalam menghadapi atau melawan dominasi ilmu-ilmu rasional. Hanya saja tantangan yang dihadapi al-Ghazali jauh lebih berat, karena yang ia hadapi bukan hanya sekedar sebuah sistem teologis yang didasarkan pada metode dialektis (jadali), melainkan sebuah sistem filsafat yang lebih solid karena didasarkan pada metode demonstratif (burhan).

Meskipun begitu, dengan kejeniusan dan kesungguhan serta cara yang sangat metodik, al-Ghazali berhasil menjawab tantangan itu dengan baik. Kecermatan metodologisnya terlihat misalnya dalam ungkapannya: “Janganlah anda mengkritik sesuatu (dalam hal ini filsafat) sebelum menguasai betul hal tersebut, bahkan kalau bisa anda mengungguli ahli-ahlinya.” Selama kurang lebih dua tahun, al-Ghazali mengabdikan dirinya untuk mempelajari filsafat secara sistematik, dengan tujuan untuk mengkritiknya. Ternyata ia betul-betul menguasainya. Hasil penelitiannya itu ia abadikan dalam karyanya, Maqasid al-Falsifah. Setelah ia menganggap dirinya menguasai filsafat, barulah ia melancarkan kritiknya yang tajam dan jitu terhadap ajaran-ajaran para filosof daalam karyanya yang lebih dikenal Tahafut al-Falasifah.

Kritiknya terhadap filsafat ternyata sangat efektif. Peringatannya kepada kaum Muslimin agar berhati-hati terhadap beberapa ajaran (proposisi) para filosof dan pengkafirannya terhadap mereka dan pengikut-pengikut mereka yang percaya pada keabadian alam, ketidak-tahuan Tuhan pada juz’iyyat dan penolakan mereka terhadap kebangkitan jasmani, ternyata sangat sangat efektif dalam membangkitkan antipati umat bahkan permusuhan terhadap filsafat dan ilmu-imu rasional lainnya yang terkait, seperti fisika, psikologi, matematika, astronomi dan sebagainya. Dikatakan efektif karena setelah serangan itu filsafat tidak pernah dilihat, terutama di dunia Sunni, kecuali dengan rasa curiga. Bahkan di beberapa tempat pengkajian filsafat secara resmi dilarang, dan banyak karya-karya utama filosofis dibakar dan dihancurkan. Dengan demikian dapat kita simpulkan bahwa kritik al-Ghazali terhadap filsafat memang sangat efektif dan “telak,” sehingga di belahan dunia Sunni--di mana pengaruh al-Ghazali adalah terbesar--filsafat tidak pernah bisa bangkit hingga saat ini.

Dengan demikian, usaha al-Ghazali dalam menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu agama--setelah mengkritik filsafat--sangat berhasil. Dengan usahanya itu ia mampu mengangkat derajat ilmu-ilmu agama ke jenjang yang sangat tinggi, bahkan barangkali tertinggi. Di dunia Sunni ia sangat dikagumi dan mendapat gelar “hujjat al-Islam” karena keberhasilannya itu. Akibatnya, kini “titik tekan” ilmu telah bergulir dari ilmu-ilmu rasional ke ilmu-ilmu agama. Sehubungan dengan itu, ia menegaskan bahwa mempelajari ilmu-ilmu agama adalah fardlu ain, sedangkan ilmu-ilmu rasional, fardlu kifayah, artinya tidak wajib bagi setiap Muslim. Tapi sayang, keberhasilan al-Ghazali dalam mengangkat derajat ilmu-ilmu agama ini harus ditebus dengan harga mahal, yaitu sirnanya disiplin ilmu filsafat dan cabang-cabangnya, dan kemudian dengan tradisi keilmuan rasional yang menyertainya.

Tantangan-tantangan Filosofis Kontemporer

Dibanding dengan tantangan filosofis yang dihadapi al-Ghazali sekitar seribu tahun yang lalu, tantangan-tantangan filosofis yang dihadapi kaum muslimin saat ini jauh lebih serius dan radikal, karena sementara tantangan yang dihadapi al-Ghazali muncul dari para filosof yang masih percaya teguh pada yang ghaib (realitas-realitas metafisik), tantangan-tantangan filosofis yang dihadapi kaum intelektual Muslim saat ini muncul dari para filosof dan ilmuwan yang telah kehilangan kepercayaannya pada hal-hal yang bersifat metafisik. Tidak cukup dengan itu, mereka juga menyebarluaskan pandangan-pandangan anti-metafisik mereka dengan cara menyerang fondasi-fondasi metafisik yang dikatakannya sebagai ilusi dan tak bermakna. Karena itu tantangan itu jauh lebih serius dan radikal. Mereka bukan lagi memberikan tafsir yang tidak ortodoks terhadap realitas metafisik, tetapi menafikannya dengan menyerang status ontologis dari dunia metafisik itu sendiri.

Tantangan filosofis yang paling berbahaya terhadap dunia metafisik adalah yang ditimbulkan oleh “positivisme.” Menurut pandangan positivis, satu-satunya wujud yang real adalah yang positif yakni yang bisa diobservasi melalui indera. Segala wujud yang berada di balik dunia fisik (metafisik) hanyalah hasil spekulasi pikiran manusia yang tidak memiliki realitas ontologis di luar kesadaran manusia. Konsep-konsep agama mengenai Tuhan, hari akhir, malaikat dan wujud-wujud ghaib lainnya tak lain daripada kreasi manusia ketika mereka berada pada awal tahap perkembangannya. Pada tahap berikutnya, manusia memperbaiki konsep-konsep keagamaan dengan mengem bangkan sistem-sistem filosofis yang rasional. Namun pendirian yang terakhirpun, menurut mereka, masih berdasar pada ilusi karena percaya pada dunia metafisik. Tahap akhir yang paling sempurna dalam perkembangan manusia tercapai pada tahap positif di mana manusia menemukan bahwa satu-satunya realitas yang sejati adalah dunia fisik yang bisa diverifikasi secara positif-obyektif. Yang mereka hasilkan bukanlah sistem keper-cayaan religius, atau sistem filosofis rasional, melainkan ilmu pengetahuan (sains) yang didasarkan pada observasi inderawi.

Pengaruh positivisme semakin besar --dan karenanya semakin berbahaya sebagai tantangan filosofis bagi kita-- karena mendapat dukungan yang luas dari para ilmuwan di berbagai bidang ilmu, seperti astronomi, biologi, psikologi dan bahkan sosiologi. Pengaruh ini terlihat misalnya dari keengganan banyak ilmuan Barat untuk memandang entitas-entitas metafisik, seperti Tuhan atau malaikat, sebagai sebab dan sumber bagi alam semesta. Dalam pandangan mereka Tuhan telah berhenti menjadi apapun. Ia telah menjadi pencipta, pemelihara dan pengatur alam semesta. Mereka lebih suka melihat alam semesta sebagai mesin raksasa yang berjalan menurut hukum alam (the law of nature), dan menjelaskan fenomina alam sesuai dengan hukum tersebut daripada menganggap alam sebagai hasil ciptaan Tuhan.

Pandangan-pandangan naturalis positivis seperti ini dapat dengan mudah kita temukan dalam karya-karya atau ungkapan-ungkapan ilmuwan-ilmuwan Barat yang besar dan berpengaruh seperti Pierre de Laplace, Darwin, Freud, dan Emile Durkheim. Meskipun tidak semua ilmuwan sependapat dengan pandangan mereka, tetapi pengaruh mereka dalam dunia ilmu (sains) masih sangat besar dan menentukan, mereka masih sering dianggap sebagai “Nabi-Nabi” ilmu pengetahuan. Sehingga panda- ngan-pandangan mereka masih sangat berarti sebagai tantangan terhadap sistem kepercayaan Islam. Pierre de Laplace (w. 1827), seorang astronomer dan matematikus Perancis, yang dikenal sebagai penemu (bersama Kant) teori “Big Bang,” tidak merasa perlu untuk menyinggung sepatahpun kata Tuhan, ketika ia menjelaskan teori penciptaan alam semesta dalam bukunya The Celestial Mechanisme. Alasannya adalah karena bagi dia Tuhan adalah hipotesa yang tidak diperlukan dalam penjelasan astronomisnya, atau dalam ungkapannya sendiri: “Je nai pas besoin de cet hypothesie.”

Demikian juga Charles Darwin (w. 1882), seorang naturalis Inggris yang terkenal dengan teori evolusinya, tidak lagi menganggap bahwa makhluk-makhluk biologis yang ada di alam semsta ini sebagai ciptaan Tuhan yang bijak, melainkan semata-mata sebagai hasil mekanisme hukum seleksi alamiah (natural selection). Dalam otobiog- rafinya, Darwin mengatakan: “dulu orang boleh mengatakan bahwa bukti terkuat adanya Tuhan Sang Pencipta adalah keteraturan dan harmoni pada alam. Tetapi setelah hukum seleksi alamiah ditemukan kita tidak bisa lagi mengatakan bahwa engsel kerang yang indah, misalnya, harus merupakan ciptaan agen dari luar dirinya (Tuhan), seperti halnya kita mengatakan bahwa engsel pintu mestilah merupakan ciptaan seorang Tuhan.”

Pengaruh pandangan positivisme ini juga sangat kentara dalam pandangan Sigmun Freud (w. 1939), seorang dokter dan perintis psikoanalisa. Dalam bukunya The Future of an Illution, Freud memandang agama sebagai ilusi. Eric Fromm, menjelaskan bahwa “bagi Freud agama berasal dari ketidak-berdayaan manusia dalam mengahadapi daya-daya dari alam luar dan daya imaginatif dari dalam dirinya. Agama muncul pada tahap awal perkembangan manusia ketika ia belum lagi menggunakan akalnya untuk menghadapi daya-daya eksternal dan internal ini dan harus menekan atau mengendalikan mereka dengan bantuan dari kekuatan lain yang efektif. Jadi, alih-alih menanggulangi daya-daya tadi dengan akal, ia mengatasinya dengan “counter affects,” yakni dengan daya-daya emosional yang fungsinya adalah untuk menekan dan mengandalikan apa yang tidak sanggup ia hadapi secara rasional.” Nah, kalau agama dipandang sebagai ilusi, maka sudah barang tentu keper-cayaan-kepercayaan agama terhadap yang ghaib (realitas-realitas metafisik), seperti Tuhan, malaikat, ruh dan hari akhir, dengan sendirinya juga ilusi. Hal seperti itu jugalah yang menjadi pandangan Emile Durkheim (w. 1917), seorang fiolosof dan sosiolog Perancis. Dalam karya-karyanya ia memandang agama sebagai proyeksi nilai-nilai sosial, sedangkan Tuhan tidak lain daripada Masyarakat (Society) itu sendiri, dan bukan sebuah entitas metafisika yang personal, seperti yang kita yakini.

Serangan terhadap metafisika juga akan berdampak pada sistem epistimilogi Islam, terutama dalam kaitannya dengan sumber ilmu pengetahuan. Dengan ditolaknya dunia metafisik, maka satu-satunya sumber dari ilmu pengatahuan bagi kaum positivis adalah pengalaman, atau dengan kata lain indera. Mereka tidak percaya pada sumber lain, yang menempati posisi penting dalam epistimilogi Islam, yaitu akal, intuisi dan wahyu. Laplace pernah mengatakan: “I mistrust anything but the direct result of observation and calculation.” Jadi dengan begitu mereka tidak mempercayai wahyu dan juga “pengalaman mistik” sebagai salah satu sumber ilmu pengetahuan. Padahal dalam tradisi epistimologi Islam, ketiga sumber ilmu pengetahuan tersebut yang oleh Mulla Shadra (w. 1050/1640), seorang filosof besar Muslim abad ketujuh belas, disebut masing-masing sebagai “burhan, irfan dan Qur’an,” diakui sebagai sumber-sumber ilmu yang sah sebagaimana hanya indera.

Kaum positivis, karena itu, hanya mengakui indera (melalui observasi) sebagai satu-satunya sumber ilmu yang sah dan dapat dipercaya. Sumber-sumber ilmu penge- tahuan yang lain, seperti wahyu dan intusi, tidak dapat dipercaya karena tidak berpijak pada realitas tapi pada ilusi manusia. Alasan mereka mengatakan begitu adalah karena wahyu dan pengalaman mistik selalu mengandaikan adanya hubungan yang erat dengan dunia metafisik, sehingga validitasnya tergantung pada status eksisitensi (ontologis) dunia metafisik itu sendiri. Sekali eksistensi dunia metafisk ditolak, maka validitas sumber-sumber ilmu yang bergantung padanya akan tertolak dengan sendirinya. Karena wahyu dan pengalaman mistik memang begitu sifatnya, maka validitas mereka hanya bisa dipertahankan apabila kita mengafirmasi status ontologis realitas-realitas metafisik tersebut. Sekali realitas-realitas itu ditolak keberadaannya, maka kemungkinan wahyu dan pengalaman mistik yang disandarkan padanya dengan sendirinya tertolak dan tidak punya pijakan logisnya. Padahal kita tahu apa yang akan terjadi kalau wahyu (dalam hal ini al-Qur’an) ditolak sebagai sumber ilmu yang sah, maka seluruh sistem kepercayaan, teologis, dan mistiko-filosofis Islam akan runtuh. Inilah menurut saya tantangan filosofis kontemporer yang amat serius dari pemikiran positivis Barat terhadap sistem epistimologi Islam, terhadap mana kita sebagai kaum intelektual Muslim “wajib” memberikan respons filosofis yang sebanding, bahkan lebih baik dan meyakinkan daripada argumen-argumen mereka.

Tantangan lain yang terkait dengan serangan kaum positivis terhadap metafisika berdampak pula pada bangunan etika Islam, baik yang religius maupun filosofis, tentu saja disandarkan sampai taraf tertentu pada perintah-perintah Tuhan. Namun, ketika eksisitensi Tuhan sendiri sebagai salah satu entitas metafisik ditolak, maka etika Islam akan kehilangan dasar pijakannya. Freud pernah mengatakan “Jika validitas norma-norma etika bersandar pada perintah-perintah Tuhan, maka masa depan etika akan berdiri atau jatuh bersama-sama dengan kepercayaan pada Tuhan. Dan karena Freud menganggap bahwa kepercayaan agama sedang memudar, maka ia terdesak untuk berpendapat bahwa mempertahankan hubungan agama dengan etika akan membawa kehan- curan pada nilai-niali moral itu sendiri.

Karena itu, satu-satunya sistem etika yang mereka akui adalah sistem etika humanis yang bersandar semata-mata pada ilmu pengetahuan dan kebijaksanaan manusia belaka, bukan pada sumber-sumber lain yang transenden. Bagi mereka, apa yang disebut wahyu tidak lain daripada hasil pemikiran manusia (dalam hal ini Nabi) belaka, dan bukan sebagai pancaran dari alam ilahi yang mereka tolak eksistensinya. Akibatnya, nilai-nilai apapun yang terdapat dalam wahyu tersebut dipandang tidak mutlak dan tidak bisa berlaku sepanjang masa, sebagaimana yang diyakini para pemeluknya. Wahyu bagi mereka tidak ubahnya seperti pemikiran manusia lainnya dan karena itu bersifat relatif dan tunduk pada perubahan ruang dan waktu, dan karena itu bisa diubah atau diganti apaabila tuntutan zaman menghendakinya. Inilah pandangan kaum positivis tentang nilai-nilai etis skriptual, yang seperti halnya karya-karya filsafat biasa, rentan terhadap perubahan dan bahkan koreksi total.

Kritik yang sama juga mereka arahkan pada pengalaman mistik dan validitasnya sebagai bias etika. Kaum positivis sering menganggap pengalaman mistik sebagai halusinasi seseorang. Bahkan hal tersebut juga mereka alamatkan bagi validitas pengalaman intelektual yang mendukung realitas-realitas metafisik. Dan semua ini mereka lakukan karena mereka telah kehilangan kepercayaan pada alam metafisik. Bagi mereka satu-satunya basis yang dapat dipercaya untuk etika adalah ilmu pengetahuan yang didasarkan pada pengalaman yang cermat terhadap alam. Freud menginginkan supaya etika tidak didasarkaaan pada kepercayaan agama yang bersifat “illusory,” tetapi pendayagunaan akal pikiran manusia.

Inilah di antara tantangan-tantangan filosofis yang dihadapi kaum intelektual Muslim dewasa ini, suatu tantangan yang --kalau kita renungkan--jauh lebih radikal dan serius dibanding dengan tantangan-tantangan yang dihadapi oleh kaum intelektual muslim pada masa al-Ghazali. Karena demikian sifat dasar tantangan tersebut, maka kewajiban kita selaku kaum cendikiawan untuk berusaha menjawab tantangan-tantangan tersebut dengan baik, yang antra lain bisa dibantu dengan menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu rasional yang telah menghias khazanah klasik Muslim sekian lama tetapi yang kini telah diabaikan bagai benda-benda yang tak berguna.

Menghidupkan Kembali Ilmu-Ilmu Rasional

Tentu saja kritik atau tantangan filosofis yang begitu serius dan berbahaya terhadap bangunan metafisik, epistimologis dan etis Islam ini tidak boleh dibiarkan begitu saja, tanpa respon dan bahkan kritik yang dapat diper-tanggungjawabkan secara filosofis, karena kritik terhadap sebuah ide atau pendirian akan dianggap benar selama tidak ada yang membantahnya. Mungkin saja banyak orang (khususnya kaum intelektual) yang diam-diam telah termakan oleh tesis-tesis yang dikemukakan oleh ilmuwan-ilmuwan terkenal seperti yang telah disinggung di atas (Darwin, Freud, dan Durkheim) berkenaan dengan realitas-realitas metafisik, mengingat mereka telah dipandang oleh para pengikutnya sebagai “nabi-nabi” modern di bidangnya masing-masing. Kalau ini benar, maka bisa dibayangkan dampaknya bagi kepercayaan kita pada hal-hal metafisik. Oleh karena itu, adalah kewajiban moral kita sebagai kaum cendikiawan Muslim untuk sedapat mungkin memberikan jawaban-jawaban yang setimpal atau kritik logis terhadap pendirian filosofis mereka, agar dengan demikian keyakinan kita pada yang ghaib dapat terpeli-hara dengan baik dalam hati kita, di bawah naungan benteng filosofis yang tangguh dan tahan serangan.

Namun kitapun segera menyadari bahwa tugas ini maha berat, jauh lebih berat daripada yang dihadapi misalnya oleh al-Ghazali, apalagi al-Asy’ari. Karena yang kita hadapi, seperti telah disinggung di atas, adalah tantangan-tantangan filisofis yang berasal dari kaum positivis yang tidak percaya pada ajaran-ajaran agama, maka mereka hanya bisa dihadapi secara filosofis juga, yakni, berdasarkan kekuatan nalar rasional dan logik, bukan kekuatan religius dogmatik. Seperti halnya al-Ghazali telah menggunakan argumen filosofis ketika menjawab tantangan filosofis, maka kitapun harus meng- gunakan argumen-argumen filosofis untuk menjawab tantangan-tantangan yang kita bicarakan. Tetapi untuk dapat merumuskan jawaban-jawaban filosofis berdasarkan argumen-argumen rasional, mau tidak mau kita harus memperkuat bidang kajian filsafat kita, dengan misalnya mengkaji secara intensif karya-karya agung para filosofis Muslim, baik yang berkenaan dengan doktrin maupun metodologi. Namun hal tersebut mustahil kita capai kecuali dengan menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu rasional yang telah berabad-abad dikembangkan oleh para filosof Muslim, tetapi yang di sebagian dunia Islam telah diabaikan kira-kira satu millenium, setelah serangan al-Ghazali terhadap mereka. Namun sebelum kita melanjut-kan pemerian kita mengenai tujuan dan sasaran yang hendak kita capai dalam upaya revitalisasi ilmu-ilmu rasional ini, barangkali ada baiknya kita mencoba terlebih dahulu untuk menaksir “potensi” revitalisasi ini untuk menjawab tantangan-tantangan filosofis kontemporer. Dan ini tidak boleh hanya berdasarkan perhitungan hipotesis, melainkan harus bersandar pada data historis yang nyata. Oleh karena itu, saya ingin mengangkat kasus dunia Syiah, untuk mengambil pelajaran yang sangat berharga dari apa yang dilakukan saudara-saudara kita sesama Muslim yang dibesarkan dalam tradisi Syiah, yang senantiasa memelihara tradisi keilmuan rasional Islam bahkan hingga detik ini.

Kasus Dunia Syiah --yang merupakan minoritas dari umat Islam-- dalam perkembangan ilmu-ilmu rasional ini cukup berbeda dengan kasus dunia Sunni. Di dunia Syiah tradisi keilmuan rasional-filosofis tidak pernah betul-betul mati. Bahkan dari abad ke abad tradisi tersebut senantiasa dijaga dan dikembangkan sehingga mampu melahirkan beberapa filosof terkemuka hampir di setiap abad. Tidak sampai satu abad setelah serangan al-Ghazali terhadap filsafat, tradisi dan sistem filsafat Ibn sina telah dihidupkan kembali dan dikembangkan dengan modifikasi illuminatif oleh Syihab al-Din Suhrawardi al-Maqtul (w. 587/1191) yang dikenal dengan “Syaikh al-Isyraq.” Demikian juga serangan terhadaap filsafat Ibn Sina oleh Fakh al-Din al-Razi (w. 606/1209) dijawab oleh Nasir al-Din Thusi (w. 673/1274), seorang fiolsof dan astronom Syiah yang terkenal. Dalam kapasitasnya sebagai direktur observatori Maraghah, Thusi mengembangkan tradisi filsafat Ibn Sina dengan gigih dan konservatif. Sedangkan tradisi-tradisi illuminasionis dipertahankan dan dikembangkan dengan warna Peripatetik oleh Qutb al-Din Syirazi (w. 701/1311), murid dan rekan kerja Thusi di observasinya, yang juga seorang astronom-filosof Syiah yang cukup terkemuka pada masanya.

Demikian juga pada masa kejayaan kerajaan-kerajaan Shafawi, pada abad keenam belas dan tujuh belas, tradisi filsafat dan ilmu-ilmu rasional--yang pada saat itu telah diperkaya oleh tradisi illuminasionis yang diprakarsai Suhrawardi dan tradisi mistiko-filosofis yang berasal dari Ibn al-’Arabi (w. 638/1240)--terus dilestarikan dan dikembangkan dalam apa yang kemudian dikenal dengan “mazhab Isfahan” (The School of Isfahan) yang dipimpin oleh Muhammad Baqir Astarabadi atau lebih dikenal dengan sebutan Mir Damad (w. 1042/1632), yaitu salah seorang guru yang berpengaruh dari Mulla Shadra.

Tentu saja perkembangan ilmu-ilmu filsafat mencapai puncaknya dalam karya-karya agung Shadr al-Din Syirazi (Mulla Shadra) yang telah berhasil mensintesakan berbagai tradisi filsafat bahkan tradisi mistik--Ibn al-’Arabi dan juga Rumi (w. 672/1273)--yang berbeda-beda ke dalam sebuah sistem filosofis yang solid yang dikenal sebagai “teosofi transenden” (al-hikmah al-muta’aliyah). Ajaran filsafat Mulla Shadra kemudian dikembangkan oleh kedua muridnya, Mulla ‘Abd al-Razzaq Lahiji (w. 1072/1661) dan Mulla Faidl Kasyani (w. 1091/1680) dalam karya-karya mereka yang agung. Hasil dari semaian mereka muncullah filosof-filosof besar lainnya, seperti Syaikh Ahmad Ahsha’i (w. 1241/1826) dan Mulla Hadi Sabzawari (w. 1295/1878) yang keduanya hidup pada masa Qajar. Bahkan, sampai abad kedua puluh inipun dunia Syiah masih melahirkan filosof-filosof yang disegani dunia, seperti Murtadla Muthahhaari (w. 1400/1979), Sayyid Muhammad Thabathaba’i (w. 1402/1981), Sayyid jalal al-Din Asytiyani dan Mahdi Ha’iri Yazdi, yang kedua- nya masih hidup sampai detik ini. Dan tentu saja kita tidak boleh mengabaikan tokoh lain yang lebih akrab dengan kita seperti Shadr al-Baqir dan Sayyed Hossein Nasr, yang telah banyak kita kenal lewat tulisan-tulisan mereka.

Yang menarik dan lebih relevan dengan persoalan kita kali ini adalah bahwa di tangan para filosof yang telah disebutkan di atas inilah tradisi filsafat dan ilmu-ilmu rasional dipelihara, diolah dan dikembangkan secara sistematik sehingga mencapai tingkat kecanggihan yang tinggi. Konservasi dan pengembangan tradisi filosofis dan ilmiah inilah yang memungkinkan para filosof Syiah untuk membangun sistem-sistem filosofis yang besar, kokoh dan independen dan juga menyusun metodologi filosofis yang cocok dengan semangat pencaharian filosofos (philoso- phical inquiries) dan sesuai dengan perkembangan zaman. Sistem-sistem filosofis yang mereka bangun ini pada gilirannya memungkinkan mereka untuk mengadakan respon, dialog dan bahkan koreksi yang konstruktif dengan rekan filosofisnya dari dunia Barat. Oleh karena itu, tidak heran kalau seorang Thabathaba’i misalnya telah berhasil dengan baik dalam memberikan dialog atau lebih tepat kritik yang jitu terhadap Marxisme yang pernah dikembangkan di Iran oleh Partai Tudeh dan sangat berpengaruh terhadap kaum intelektual muda Iran. Dalam bukunya Osul-e Falsafeh va Ravesh-e Realim atau Prinsip Filsafat dan Metode Realistik, Thabathaba’i (dibantu dan dipopulerkan olah Murtadla Muthahhari) telah melakukan kritik yang sistematik dalam 14 risalah filosofis terhadap Marxisme, sehingga mampu memperkuat revolusi Iran dari dimensi filosofisnya. Demikian juga Mahdi Ha’iri Yazdi, murid dari Asytiyani dan Imam Khomeini, dan kini seorang professor filsafat di Universitas Teheran, telah mempersembahkan eksposisi filosofis--terutama dri sudut epistimologi--yang kemungkinan “pengalaman mistik” secara filosofis dalam sebuah kayanya yang penting, The Principles of Epistimology in Islamic Philosophy: Knowledge by Presence. Di sini ia menjelaskan dengan fasih dan dengan terminologi modern bahwa pengalaman mistik merupakan pengalaman obyektif dan bisa dijelaskan secara logis, dan bukan seperti yang sering dianggap oleh sementara ilmuwan sekuler sebagai “halusinasi.”

Cukuplah kiranya dua contoh di atas menjadi illustrasi kepada kita bahwa tradisi rasional dan filosofis Islam, kalau terus menerus dipertahankan dan dikembangkan akan sangat potensial untuk mampu menjawab tantangan-tantangan filosofis kontemporer yang muncul dari berbagai sistem filosofis dan ilmiah yang bersumber pada ajaran positivisme, materialisme, dan atheisme.

Setelah kita mengetahui tantangan-tantangan filosofis yang kita hadapi saat ini dan urgensi untuk menjawabnya secara memadai, dan setelah menganalisa potensi dan aktualitas dari konservasi dan pengembangan tradisi rasional-filosofis dalam memberikan jawaban-jawaban yang diharapkan, dengan mengetengahkan kasus para filosof Muslim Syiah, maka saatnya kini bagi kita untuk merumuskan tujuan ideal dan sasaran-sasaran tertentu yang hendak kita capai dalam upaya kita menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu rasional.

Adapun tujuan tersebut dapat kiranya dirumuskan sebagai berikut: Revitalisasi ilmu-ilmu rasional kita usahakan untuk mengenal lebih dekat doktrin dan metode penelitian para filosof Muslim. Dari segi metodologi kita ingin mengetahui misalnya berbagai jenis metode ilmiah dan logis yang mereka gunakan (misalnya retorik, puitis, dialektik, dan demonstratif) serta tingkat validitasnya. Selain itu kita juga ingin mengenal lebih jauh lagi kegiatan-kegiatan ilmiah macam apa yang mereka lakukan baik di bidang ilmu-ilmu kealaman (seperti penelitian fisika dan kimia di laboratorium atau eksperimen-eksperimen di bidang optik atau astronomi dan juga instrumen-instrumen pembantu yang mereka ciptakan dan gunakan) maupun bidang-bidang spekulasi filosofis dan pengalaman mistik. Selain tentang metodologi, kita juga ingin mengenal lebih baik lagi ajaran-ajaran (doktrin) filosofis mereka baik yang berkenaan dengan aspek metafisik, epistimologis dan aksiologis termasuk di dalamnya asumsi-asumsi dasar filosofis, rancangan-rancangan metafisik, epistimologi dan etik yang didasarkan pada asumsi-asumsi tersebut dan juga proses evolusi kreatif bangunan filsafat mereka dari yang sederhana sampai yang paling canggih.

Selain itu, revitalisasi ilmu-ilmu rasional ini juga mempunyai tujuan praktis yang tidak kalah pentingnya, yaitu melindungi kepercayaan agama dengan dan dalam sebuah benteng filosofis yang dibangun di atas dasar-dasar logika yang handal. Jadi berbeda dengan tujuan tujuan al-Ghazali dalam menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu agama yaitu untuk menghantam ilmu-ilmu rasional, revitalisasi ilmu-ilmu rasional kali ini justru untuk menguatkan dan melindungi kepercayaan agama dari serangan-serangan filosofis dan ilmiah yang dilancarkan oleh para pendukung filsafat positif-sekuler, dan bukan untuk menggugat apalagi menyerang kepercayaan agama. Tantangan filosofis seperti ini tentunya haarus dihadapi secara filosofis dengan argumen-argumen rasional yang solid dan sistematik, dan bukan dengan dogmaa-dogma religius.

Pusat Kajian Filsafat Islam

Untuk menghidupkan kembali ilmu-ilmu rasional dan merealisasi tujuan ideal yang telah dirumuskan di atas tentu diperlukan suatu upaya kolosal yang tidak mungkin dapat dicapai oleh sekelompok kecil manusia, tetapi harus digarap oleh, dan menjadi tanggung jawab moral dari kaum intelektual Muslim di manapun berada. Tetapi di lingkungan kita yang terbatas ini (IAIN Jakarta) apa yang bisa dan perlu dilakukkan, sebagai partisipasi kita dalam ikhtiar kolosal ini, adalah membentuk pusat kajian filsafat Islam yang kira-kira sejajar dengan STF Driyarkara sebagai pusat kajian filsafat Barat. Faktor yang mendukung pendirian pusat kajian ini di antaranya adalah kenyataan bahwa gerakan pembaharuan yang dilakukan di IAIN Jakarta oleh almarhum Prof. Dr. Harun Nasution masih lebih condong pada pembaharuan teologis, jadi belum lagi mengarah secara khusus pada aspek filosofis. Adapun kegiatan-kegiatan yang diselenggarakan PPIM juga lebih mengarah pada kajian Islam kontemporer dan lebih bersifat sosio-politis ketimbang filosofis. Sementara kajian-kajian yang marak dalam pengajian-pengajian paket akhir-akhir ini lebih terfokus pada tasawuf populer dan jarang yang menyentuh aspek filosofis.

Untuk mencapai sasaran-sasaran di atas, Pusat Kajiaana Filsafat telah merancang kegiatan-kegiatan utamanya yang meliputi: (1) penerjemahan karya-karya klasik; (2) diskusi dan penelitian tentang isu-isu filosofis yang relevan; (3) penerbitan sejumlah jurrnal ilmuah, dan; (4) penyelenggaraan paket-paket kajian.

Penerjemahan Karya-Karya Klasik

Penerjemahan karya-karya utama pemikir besar dunia ke dalam sebuah bahasa merupakan langkah esensial dalam pembangunan dan perkembangan ilmu pengetahaun, dan bahkan peradaban sebuah bangsa. Ini misalnya berlaku bagi perkembangan ilmu dan peradaban dunia Islam setelah menerjemahkan karya-karya klasik dari pelbagai negara terutama Yunani, maupun bagi ilmu dan peradaban Barat yang berkembang pesat setelah penerjemahan karya-karya klasik Muslim dan Yunani ke dalam bahasa Latin dan Ibrani (Yahudi). Dikatakan esensial karena penerjemahan karya-karya tersebut ke dalam suatu bahasa yang kita mengerti ibarat menyediakan bahan baku bangunan yang tentunya sangat diperlukan (indispensiple) kalau kita hendak membangun sebuah rumah. Karena itu penerjemahan dari karya-karya klasik Islam diperlukan, karena bagaimana kita akan bisa membangun sebuah sistem filsafat atau ilmiah Islam yang canggih untuk menjawab tantangan zaman, kalau bahan-bahan bakunya yang utama tidak tersedia di hadapan kita. Karena itu menurut hemat kami penerjemahan karya-karya klasik ini perlu mendapatkan priorotas sebelum melakukan langkah-langkah berikutnya, yaitu membangun sebuah sistem filosofis yang kita dambakan sendiri, karena penerjemahan seperti ini masih sangat tidak memadai.

Adapun karya-karya klasik yang perlu mendapat prioritas untuk saat ini dapat kita bagi ke dalam tiga kelompok. Pertama, karya-karya utama (masterpiece) dari filosof Muslim seperti al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, al-Ghazali, Suhrawardi, Ibn Rusyd, Quthb al-Din al-Syirazi, Nashir al-Din Thusi, Mir Damad, Mulla Shadra, Mulla Hadi Sabzawari dan sebagainya. Kedua, karya-karya tentang biografis para filosof, seperti yang ditulis oleh Ibn al-Nadim (al-Fihrist), Ibn Abi Ushaibi’ah (‘Uyun Anba fi Thabaqat al-Athibba’), Syams al-Din Syahrazuhri (Nuzhat al-Arwah wa Raudlat al-Afrah), dan lain-lain, yang secara keseluruhan bisa memuat biografi dari ribuan filosof dan ilmuwan Muslim, yang banyak di antaranya belum kita kenal. Yang ketiga, adalah beberapa monograf yang bermutu dan lengkap tentang hidup dan karya para filosof Muslim tertentu baik yang sudah dikenal, seperti Ibn Sina dan Ibn Rusyd, maupun yang belum dikenal seperti Abu Sulaiman al-Sijistani, al-’Amiri dan Quthb al-Din al-Syirazi.

Adapun langkah-langkah teknis yang kita tempuh bisa seperti berikut: pertama kita mendaftarkan karya-karya klasik yang perlu kita terjemahkan. Dari daftar tersebut kita akan periksa mana yang telah ada di tangan kita dan mana yang belum. Yang belum kita miliki akan kita usahakan mencari dan mendapatkannya, baik dari dalam negeri maupun dari luar negeri. Dari naskah yang sudah kita miliki, kita juga akan memeriksa (dengan bantuan penerbit misalnya) mana yang sudah diterjemahkan, sehingga tidak terjadi penerjemahan ulang dari karya yang sama kecuali kalau terjemahan yang ada kita pandang tidak memadai. Setelah semua bahan telah tersedia, kita kemudian akan menyeleksi karya mana yang perlu dan mungkin kita terjemahkan terlebih dahulu, berapa karya yang kita rencanakan untuk tahun pertama, dan seterusnya--yang tentu saja akan disesuaikan dengan tenaga, dana, dan fasilitas yang tersedia pada saat ini.

Untuk menerbitkannya kita bisa misalnya bekerja- sama dengan sebuah penerbit yang sudah dikenal atau diterbitkan oleh IAIN Press sendiri kalau sudah terbentuk. Selain itu, kita bisa meminta supaya penerjemahan ini dicetak dalam format yang sama (seragam) dan tahan lama (hard cover) sebagai terjemahan serial karya klasik Pusat kajian Filsafat, sehingga sangat ideal untuk koleksi pribadi maupun perpustakaan. Penerjemahan harus diusahakan sebaik mungkin dengan menyeleksi para penerjemah yang disyaratkan bukan saja mahir dalam bidang bahasa, tetapi juga menguasai atau paling tidak akrab dengan bidang filsafat. Selain itu untuk memelihara mutu penerjemahan, perlu dibentuk tim penyunting yang betul-betul kompeten dan bekerja secara serius dan kritis. Untuk itu juga dimungkinkan ada revisi terhadap terjemahan yang sudah ada.

Diskusi Intensif dan Penelitian Filosofis yang Relevan

Penerjemahan karya-karya klasik tersebut di atas, betapapun bermutunya, bukanlah tujuan akhir dari pusat kajian ini, tetapi sarana untuk menfasilitasi kegiatan-kegiatan ilmiah lainnya, seperti diskusi-diskusi tentang perbagai isu filosofis mapun kontemporer yang relevan dengan tujuan pendirian pusat kajian ini, dan penelitian-penelitian yang serius dan kreatif yang memungkinkan terciptanya sebuah sistem filosofis yang dibutuhkan pada saat ini untuk menjawab dengan baik tantangan-tantangan real yang kita hadapi.

Diskusi-diskusi tersebut tentu saja bisa kita arahkan pada isu-isu penting di bidang filsafat baik yang klasik maupun modern. Filsafat modern dan kontemporer kita akan diskusikan bahkan kalau perlu kita teliti, terutama agar kita dapat melihat dengan jelas apa sebenarnya tantangan atau kritik yang muncul dari filsafat modern terhadap filsafat Islam baik yang berkenaan dengan metafisik, epistimologi maupun etik. Tanpa pemahaman yang benar dan mendalam terhadap tantangan dan kritik mereka, tidak mungkin kita akan bisa memberikan jawaban atau dialog yang bermakna dan efektif. Pengkajian terhadap filsafat Barat juga bisa dilakukan dengan maksud untuk mencari tahu jawaban apa yang mereka berikan terhadap tantangan filosofis yang diajukan misalnya oleh kaum materialistk, positivis, dan sekuler terhadap mereka. Dengan begitu kita bisa berharap mendapat dukungan yang berguna dalam merumuskan solusi terhadap tantangan-tantangan filosofis zaman kita.

Adapun diskusi dan penelitian terhadap isu-isu klasik dapat diarahkan pada pendalaman tema-tema filosofis tertentu di bidang metafisik, epistimologi, etis, estetis, politik dan sebagainya, yang selama ini tampaknya kurang mendapatkan perhatian seharusnya. Pendalaman-pendalaman itu misalnya bisa kita arahkan pada konsep para filosof Muslim tentang wujud, yang sangat hangat diperdebatkan oleh mereka, konsep epistimologis, terutama yang berkaitan dengan sumber dan metodologi ilmu yang akan melibatkan pembicaraan tentang metodologi-metogologi dan signifikansinya bagi pemba- ngunan sebuah sistem filsafat, konsep etika sebagai pengobatan spiritual dan pembianaan moral masyarakat, konsep kosmologis, yang menjembatani dunia fisik dan dunia metafisik (yang oleh para filosof Muslim klasik sebenarnya telah secara sangat intensif diperdebatkan dan dikaji dan saat ini juga digandrungi oleh para ilmuwan alam kontemporer), dan konsep-konsep filosofis lainnya yang kita pandang relevan dengan tujuan pusat kajian ini. Pendalaman itu bisa kita arahkan pada metode-metode ilmiah dan filosofis yang telah mereka (para filosof Muslim) bina dan dikembangkan selama berabad-abad dan telah berhasil membangun bermacam-macam sistem filosofis dan sufistik yang canggih dan solid. Demikian juga tradisi dan etos kesarjanaan Muslim adalah hal yang menarik untuk dikaji dan diteliti lebih lanjut di pusat kajian.

Adapun partisipasi dari kegiatan ini bisa terdiri dari “inner circle” yang akan anggota-anggotanya ditentukan berikutnya, para sarjana yang bersimpati dan punya komitmen terhadap cita-cita pusat kajian ini, dan juga mahasiswa pascasarjana, baik IAIN maupun non-IAIN, yang punya minat khusus untuk meneliti aspek-aspek filosofis penting yang selama ini terabaikan. Atau mereka yang tertarik secara khusus pada penelitian terhadap tokoh-tokoh filsafat yang belum banayak dikenal, yang disenut sebagai the Minor Philosopher, atau karya-karya filosofis mereka yang masih langka, dan karya-karya ilmiah lainnya.

Penerbitan Jurnal Ilmiah

Kehadiran sebuah jurnal dalam suatu lembaga ilmiah saperti pusat kajian ini sangatlan diperlukah. Jurnal inilah yang akan merekam perkembangan pemikiran lembaga tersebut, aspirasi, konsep dan aktivitas-aktivitasnya. Perkembangan pemikiran bisa direkam di dalamnya dalam bentuk artikel-artikel pilihan, resume dari penelitian dan riset yang dilakukan pusat kajian, hasil-hasil seminar dan diskusi intensif yang dilakukan inner circle, ataupun tulisan-tulisan terpilih dari paket-paket kajian yang akan melibatkan audiensi dana narasumber yang lebih luas. Termasuk juga di dalamnya resensi atau analisis kritis terhadap karya yang dikaji atau diterjemahkan. Aspirasi dan konsep-konsep anggota atau pihak terkait bisa tercermin dalam jurnal tersebut dalam arikel-artikel lepas yang inspirasional baik yang ditulis oleh sarjana-sarjana dalam maupun luar negeri yang kita pandang sangat bagus dan membangkitkan minat pembicaraan intelektual yang lebih intensif. Kegiatan-kegiatan ilmiah dapat direkam baik dalam laporan khusus tentang kegiatan-kegiatan akademis atau rekreasional yang dilakukan lembaga itu, maupun dalam tema-tema tertentu dan topik-topik yang dipilih untuk jurnal tersebut.

Karena itu Pusat Kajian Filsafat Islam bermaksud untuk menerbitkan sebuah jurnal ilmiah dengan nama “Philosophia.” Namun ini dipilih sesuai dengan fokus jurnal ini --yang juga pada gilirannya merupakan refleksi dari fokus pusat kajian itu sendiri-- yaitu filsafat, khususnya filsafat Islam. Jadi jurnal ini akan berbeda dengan jurnal-jurnal lain yang semakin marak akhir-akhir ini, karena fokusnya pada filsafat. Sumber-sumber tulisan yang akan dimuat dalam jurnal ini akan fleksibel: bisa artikel lepas, artikel terjemahan, artikel hasil-hasil diskusi, penelitian dan seminar yang akan diselenggarakan pusat kajian. Bisa juga sumbangan dari tulisan sarjana-sarjana dalam dan luar negeri yang kita pandang punya relevansi yang jelas dengan misi dan visi pusat kajian. Jurnal ini akan dengan gembira memuat resensi buku-buku terbaru dalam dunia filsafat yang sangat perlu diketahui dan diikuti perkemba- ngannya; seperti juga laporan-laporan mutakhir perkem- bangan filsafat baik di dunia Islam maupun Barat yang relevan. Selain itu jurnal ini akan tertarik tulisan-tulisan ilmiah yang menelusuri perkembangan metafisis di dunia Barat, baik di bidang sains maupun filsafat sendiri, dan pelbagai tulisan yang bermanfaat bagi perkembangan pusat kajian ini.

Penyelenggaraan Paket-paket kajian

Kegiatan-kegiatan ilmiah yang sejauh ini kita bicarakan mungkin akan bersifat terbatas karena dishare oleh kelompok kecil yang terlibat langsung dalam kegiatan pusat kajian. Tetapi manakala dipandang perlu untuk mengkomunikasikan hasil-hasil temuan dan eksplorasi ilmiah filosofis kepada kalangan yang lebih luas, maka pusat kajian akan menyelenggarakan paket-paket kajian dengan mengambil tema-tema khusus dalam bidang metafisika, epistimologi, etika, politik, dan sebagainya atau kalau mungkin kajian-kajiaan tokoh dan topik topik ilmiah lainnya.

Untuk itu pusat kajian akan membuat panitia khusus sebagai penyelenggara paket-paket kajian secara profesional dengan tema-tema tertentu yang akan diputuskan terlebih dahulu oleh rapat pusat kajian. Dalam penyeleng-garaan program tersebut pusat kajian akan menggalang kerjasama dengan pelbagai instansi yang berminat baik instansi akademik, lembaga-lembaga pemerintahan dan pendidikan, ataupun kelompok-kelompok studi dan media massa yang merasa yakin akan mendapat keuntungan dari kerjasama tersebut.

Adapun nara sumber akan kami seleksi dari sarjana-sarjana yang betul-betul menguasai bidangnya. Kalau perlu kita akan mencoba datangkan pakar-pakar dari luar negeri baik dari Timur Tengah maupun Barat, baik Muslim maupun non-Muslim. Sedangkan peserta program paket kajian ini terbuka bagi siapa saja yang merasa akan mendapatkan manfaat dari kegiatan tersebut di atas, terutama dalam menghadap pelbagai tantangan zaman yang semakin tidak menentu. Jadi, tujuan program paket kajian filsafat ini tidak lain daripada mempopulerkan diskursus filsafat kepada yang lebih luas dan beragam agar dengan demikian pusat kajian dapat memberikan sumbangan pikiran yang konstruktif dan bermanfaat bagi bangsa dan negara tercinta.[

Menarik sekali membahas tokoh yang satu ini, yang sejak dahulu selalu menuai kontroversi. Tulisan ini hanya merangkum dari berbagai nara sumber, hanya untuk mengetahui siapakah sebenarnya tokoh yang satu ini, yang sering mendapat tuduhan murtad, dan penganut agama lainnya.

Ibn Arabi – nama lengkapnya Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Arabi Al Thai Al Hatimi – adalah seorang tokoh sufi – filsuf kontroversial dari Andalusia, lahir 560 H/1165 M – 638H/1240M. Karya-karyanya dikenal memadukan antara syariat, rasio dan intuisi (dzauq). Diantaranya Futuhat Al Makiyyah (Penyingkapan Mekah), buku yang berisi 560 bab, berisi ajaran dari banyak topik, Fushus Al Hikam (Permata Kebijaksanaan) – berisi tentang sabda kenabian – keragaman – kesempurnaan yang mewujud pada masing-masing 27 nabi besar, Al Tadbirat al Illahiyah Fi Ishlah al Mamlakah al Insaniyah (Menata diri Dengan Tadbir Ilahi), Kunh Mala Budda Al Murid (Selamat Sampai Tujuan), Risalah al Anwar fi ma Yumnah Shahib Al Kalwah Min Al Asrar (Risalah Kemesraan, berisi panduan menjalani khalwat), Ruh al Quds (Jiwa Yang Suci), Al Durrat al Fakhrah (Butiran Permata Keagungan).

Ibn Arabi dipandang sebagai tokoh terbesar muslim dalam menyusun doktrin-doktrin metafisis, sehingga disebut sebagai Syeikhul Akbar yang artinya Syekh Yang Agung. Ada juga yang menyebutnya sebagai “Belerang Merah” (al Kabrit Al Ahmar) sebuah term kimiawi yang mengandung pengertian bahwa Ibn Arabi mampu mencipta suatu pengetahuan terlepas dari ketidak tahuannya sebagai belerang yang mampu membentuk kuning emas dari sebuah timah.

Tuduhan Murtad

Banyak kaum salafi yang menuduh bahwa dirinya adalah murtad dan pengikut Nasrani, apakah benar demikian? Lalu, kenapa sampai bisa dtuduh sedemikian rupa, adakah alasannya?

Tulisan Ibn Arabi banyak yang mengandung pengertian ganda, dan berapa corak kemusyrikan telah ditemukan didalam pemikirannya yang melahirkan bentuk keyakinan yang berlebihan. Karenanya, ia sering dituduh sebagai orang pantheisme. Hanya saja disini ada keanehan, andai kata saja ada kesalahan dalam pemikirannya Ibn Arabi, tetapi para pengikutnya mempertahankan dan tetap mempraktekannya, bahkan menolak untuk kompromi.

Tuduhan bahwa dia adalah penganut Nasrani karena konsep kesatuan hakikat agama. Menurutnya hakikat agama adalah sama atau satu, hanya saja bentuk luarannya yang berbeda-beda. Ia menjelaskan panjang lebar tentang hal itu, yang mana pada posisi tersebut ia memiliki sifat-sifat sebagaimana yang dimiliki Yesus.

Didalam syairnya pada kitab “Tarjuman Al Asywaq”, Ibn Arabi mengungkapkan sebagai berikut :

Hatiku terbuka untuk segala macam bentuk;

ia bagaikan padang rumput untuk kawanan rusa, dan bagaikan biara bagi pendeta-pendeta Kristen,

Bagaikan candi untuk sebuah berhala, dan sebagai Ka’bah untuk menjalankan perjalanan haji,

bagaikan lembaran Taurat dan sekaligus kitab suci Al Quran.

Milikku adalah agama cinta, kemanapun kabilah Allah bergerak, agama cinta akan tetap menjadi

agama dan keyakinanku.

Rasanya, syair di atas lah yang dijadikan rekomendasi oleh kalangan para Salafi, untuk menuduh bahwa Ibn Arabi adalah Nasrani.

Lalu, bagaimana dan alasan apa sampai dituduh bahwa Ibn Arabi itu SESAT dan Menyesatkan, terutama dengan konsep Kesatuan wujudnya (wahdatul wujud)?

Ibn Arabi merumuskan tentang konsep kesatuan wujud atau non dualitas, yang merupakan konsep Islam tentang Advaita Vedanta dan semakna dengang konsep Tao. Konsep itu menyatakan bahwa tidak ada satupun eksistensi yang terwujud melainkan hanya Allah.

Ajaran Ibn Arabi tentang wahdatul wujud ini meluas, dan menjadikan ajaran wahdatul wujud ini sebagai ajaran metafisika sufisme, pada masanya ajaran ini menyebar di mana saja, bahkan sampai ke Indonesia.

Setelah Ibn Arabi memunculkan konsep Wahdatul Wujud, kemudian diikuti oleh beberapa sufi lainnya yang terlibat dalam meng-estafetkan ajaran ini, sehingga seolah-olah Ibn Arabi ini menjadikan penghubung antara tradisi Sufi Spanyol-Maroko dengan tradisi sufi timur Mesir –Siria melalui muridnya Shadr Al Din Al Qunawi (1210). Di Persia atau Iran ajaran Ibn Arabi ditebarkan melalui Qutb Al Din Asy-Syaerazi, sehingga mempengaruhi tasawuf Persia secara umum. Ajaran sufi ini dilanjutkan oleh Abdul Karim Al Jilli, seorang pemimpin tharekat Al Syadzili, dan oleh Jalaluddin Rumi. Nah, pada jaman kemajuan pemikiran intelektualitas Islam ini, ajaran ini merebak sampai Aceh – Indonesia, nama Ibn Arabi dengan muridnya Ibn Athaillah cukup dikenali dengan baik. Menurut saya, ajaran Ibn Arabi ini ke Indonesia merebak melalui Tharekat Al Sadziliyah, yang mana Tharekat ini didirikan oleh Imam Syadzili, dan dilanjutkan oleh Ibn Athaillah(W.1309), putra salah seorang seorang sufi. Ibn Athaillah ini semula seorang fuqoha pengikut mazhab Malikiyah, dia seorang pengajar di Al Azhar Kairo, dan perguruan Al Manshuriyah tetapi waaupu dia putra seorang sufi tapi justru fikirannya berlawanan, bahkan memerangi tasawuf, terutama ditujukan kepada sufi Abu Abbas Al Mursi (w. 1288), tetapi pada tahun 1276 M, Ibn Athaillah mendatangi Al Mursi, dan menyatakan dirinya menjadi murid tharekat Al Shadziliyyah, bahkan Ibn Athaillah menulis sebuah karya besar dalam bidang Tashawuf, yakni Kitab Al Hikam yang ditujukan untuk meningkatkan kesadaran spiritual di kalangan murid-murid tasawuf. Kitab Al Hikam ini sangat populer di kalangan pecinta tasawuf di Indonesia.

Jadi benar, semula Ibn Athaillah melawan ajaran tasawuf tetapi selanjutnya dia justru berbalik, bahkan menjadi pecinta tasawuf dan mengembangkannya melalui berbagai karya tulisnya.

Kesimpulan :

Tuduhan para fuqoha (ahli fiqih), kaum salafi yang memegang teguh ajaran ajaran nabi hanya Al Quran dan al Hadits, dan kalangan Wahabi yang tidak mengakui keabsahan otoritas pandangan dan praktek setelah tabiin dan menganggapnya inovasi (bid’ah) yang tidak mendasar secara teoretis, walaupun dalam praktis tidak demikian, yang menjelaskan bahwa ajaran Ibn Arabi adalah sesat dan menyesatkan, tetap tidak terpecahkan, dalam arti kata masing masing memiliki ajarannya. Kalau boleh dimisalkan, itu seperti minyak dan air dalam satu wadah, walaupun tidak akan bersatu tetapi sebenarnya satu dan saling melengkapi, bisa jadi tasawuf dengan keaneka ragamananya adalah kekayaan Islam di ranah spiritual.

Adapun tentang wahdatul wujud, adalah merupakan ekpressi sufistik yang bisa dijangkau atau dipahami secara transendental yang umumnya tidak sembarangan dipaparkan di kalangan awam, biasanya pengajaran ini melalui suatu tharekat yang mengajarkan tahap demi tahap (maqamat) sampai memahami dan merasakan (dzauq). Untuk memahami ilmu hakikat, biasanya di awali dari Syariat, Tharikat, Hakikat sampai memahami akan makrifat (gnostik).

Tataran wahdatul wujud ini sudah masuk ke pemahaman makrifat, yang mana sudah tidak lagi menggunakan nalar atau akal fikiran, tetapi melalui peningkatan kesadaran. Kalau di ibaratkan, nalar adalah bumi, sementara makrifat adalah langit, tentunya membahas suatu langit kita harus berimijinasi dan berempathi tentang langit terlebih dulu, tidak semerta-merta menolak karena langit bukanlah bumi, atau mudah memurtadkan orang karena itu adalah kepicikan diri yang tak mampu mencerap, karena hakikat kebenaran adalah milik Yang Haq, dan yang memiliki hak prerogatif itu adalah Sang Haq itu sendiri.

Tetapi memahami Wahdatul Wujud ini memang sulit karena akan menjerumuskan di kalangan awam, banyak martir yang digantung oleh karenanya, tengoklah Al Hallaj di Baghdad atau Syekh Siti Jenar dengan konsep Manunggaling Kawula Gustinya di Nusantara ini.


Mulla Sadra’s philosophical methodology can be inferred from what we have so far stated concerning his school of thought. In Asfar, when dealing with almost every problem, he firstly presents its Peripatetic sketch, and propounds it within the framework of the principles that conform to it in the Peripatetic school. Then he restates the different old and new ideas which are related to that problem. Following this, he rejects, modifies, confirms, or completes it, or presents a series of new and more comprehensive arguments.[1]

Moreover, when necessary, he provides evidences from sophism, particularly from Muhyaddin, Ibn-Arabi, and Plotinus (like other Muslim philosophers preceding him, Mulla Sadra sometimes mistakes him for Aristotle, because, even until recently, Plotinus’s book of Tasu’at (Ennead) was considered to have been written by Aristotle).

Mulla Sadra has his eyes on the Qur’an in dealing with all major philosophical problems, and benefits from its Divine Graces so much so that some assume that he employs the Qur’anic verses in his philosophical reasonings. This is totally absurd; however, as mentioned before, the Qur’an was always a source of inspiration for him. Accordingly, he managed to discover certain realities that were not accessible to others.

Mulla Sadra’s most important characteristic, which can rarely be seen (if at all) even in Ishraqi philosophers, is his reliance on intuition, unveiling, and perception of the realities of the world, and solving intricate philosophical problems through ascetic practice, worship, and connecting to the world beyond the matter and sense, which he believes means the real sense. However, he neither suffices to this, nor gives a decree in this regard to others; rather, his methodology is to dress the realities that have been unveiled to him through intuition, and that have been hidden under the cover of logical reasoning in guise of a kind of reasoning which employs the common terminology used in Peripatetic philosophy. He, himself, has referred to this unique method of his in the introduction of Asfar.

As discussed above, he cast even those theories and ideas of his preceding philosophers (whether before or after Socrates) which also enjoyed an intuitive aspect, and which had not assumed an inferential nature into the mould of common (or Peripatetic) philosophical problems, and presented a series of philosophical arguments and reasonings for them. Mulla Sadra prefers to call his school of thought as one of wisdom rather than philosophy. As the readers are well aware, he chose the name of Transcendent Wisdom[2] for his school. This is because, firstly, wisdom has an outstandingly long historical record, and is assumed to be the same as what was called ‘Sophia’ in the past. Secondly, long ago, wisdom consisted of a vast field of knowledge embracing all natural and mathematical sciences, and possessed a worldview which was wider than that of modern scholars. Thirdly, wisdom has been frequently praised in the Qur’an and hadith, while there is no word of philosophy thereinside.

The subtle point here is that we can employ wisdom as a bridge to fill the gap between philosophy and gnosis, which are two totally different fields of knowledge. Wisdom was Mulla Sadra’s secret key for having access to and mastering the philosophical and gnostic schools of his time, and making peace between them.

The Peripatetics agreed that wisdom or philosophical journey is, in fact, a process of becoming which comes to an end through the development and growth of material intelligence (intellectus materialis) into intellectus in habitu and, then, into actual reason (intellectus in actu) and acquired reason (intellectus adeptus or acquisitus), and through connection to the origin of knowledge (perhaps the same Promete of ancient Greece), which Aristotle called active intellect. The end result of this process is man’s transforming into a wiseman.

Gnostics and sophists, too, believed that gaining knowledge or becoming a wiseman means knowing the world, passing through the sense and material world (which they called traversing the heavens and Unity of Divine Acts), beginning the process of knowing the human self (or traversing the soul), and passing through the immaterial depth of the world: that is, the Ideal and rational world, or traversing the Unity of Acts and observing the pre-eternal beauty and eternal truth, which is usually referred to as the four-fold spiritual journey; a journey whose first stage is moving from existents and creatures towards absolute reality (the Truth); the second is moving towards the Truth, accompanied with and aided by the Truth; the third is traversing in the Truth and attaining all existential realities; the fourth is returning towards creatures and existents with a new outlook and fresh step.

Wisdom is consistent with both interpretations of knowledge and the real and beyond-matter knowledge of the world. Accordingly, Mulla Sadra innovated a method which was based on both philosophy and gnosis, and employed it to solve the problems related to the knowledge of the world. It is from here that one can grasp the reason behind calling his philosophical school as ‘Transcendent Wisdom’ or superior philosophy. Therefore, it was not just by accident that he named his magnum opus as ‘Transcendent Wisdom in Four-Fold Journeys’. The superiority of his school lies in his smart methodology, through which he could make peace between two opposite schools of thought, namely, Peripatetic and Ishraqi philosophies (and sophism), and brought them into unity and, in fact, to transcendence – he showed this superiority by means of employing the word ‘transcendence’.

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jangan ingat-ingat hanya mengingat allah saja

Bagaimana ketika sedang sedih, stress, lari ke kuliner? Lari ke 21, lari ke taqeye, lari ke bacaan?

Mengapa tidak sabar saja?

Aku bisa menjadi mursyid, murid

Aku bisa menjadi ahlullah

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Aku juga bisa menjadi seorang dosen dalam usia 43 tahun, dan selama itu


Jadi ada dominasi, ada keterkungan

Imajinasi minor

Imajinasi dalam terma filsafat merujuk kepada potensi manusia untuk melakukan abstraksi, melampaui keterbatasan-keterbatasan materi, jadi …….

Jadi harus ada materi, objek, kesadaran kepada objek itu akan merefleksi dalam bentuk kesadaran pesimis, optimis, cinta, harapan, semangat, antusias, karena itu if you think can you can, pabila kamu berpikir bisa maka kamu bisa.

Tetapi jika mata kita terus-terus melihat objek yang memancing hasrat maka imajinasi murni mansia akn terkontaminasi, kamu adalah apa yang kamu lihat, meskipun menunjuka kekuaran indera tapi sebenarnya yang banyak berperan adalah imajinasi

Eidos adalah ide atau visi dan kontemplasi

Eidos ada dalam eidola (gambaran inderawi)

Hobbes mengaitkan erat sekali ide-idde dengan data-data indera atau fantasma

Berbangga di hadapanmakhluk? ,megapa tidak berbangga diri dihadapan allah?

Seinin 8-9 otober 2007

Khayalan bahwa makhluk menyanjung adan mengkhayalam kita tersanjung? Dan kita sulit lari dari khayalan ini,

Megnapa sulit, mengapa harus yang enak di ajak biacara dan megnapa harusyang ramah, dnegan yang cudes, judes dan jahat sekalipun kita bisa enjoy menikamti precakapan tanpa beban apapun?

Apa aku salah? Apakah aku diistimewakan, sehingga aku harus jadi maksum?

Hari ini apa? Telepon bapak, pinjam buku, minta 5 antologi, bersukur dan minta ampun?

Saya harus menjadi pengubah paradigma, siapapun!

Kenapa malas, kenapa segan kalau ada istri?

Kenapa segan dalam meminta dan kenapa tidak tegas, selalu berpikir ragu-ragu

Kenapa mudah termakan dalam debat dan kenapa tidak lancar?

Ketidak enakan hati, ketakutan demi ketakutan dalam menjalankan bisnis, ketenangan dan kebahagiaan dalam kemandirian kerja.

Tapi berkumpul terus dengan keluarga menciptakan problem, kekurangan dana dan uang itulah problem. Kalau tidak sekarang kapan lagi? Sekarang juga mandiri, atau engkau akan jadi budak terus, menerus seumur hidup!

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