History of Medieval Islamic PhilosophyJune 28, 2021
Within a few hundred years after the birth of Islam, Muslims dominated many of the great centers of thought of the ancient world. If the political authority they established had been used to destroy the old centers of thought, the Muslims would undoubtedly have been significantly successful in this.
However, they preferred to take advantage of the intellectual wealth of ancient civilizations, and the military conquests of Islam were followed by an enthusiastic intellectual effort to absorb the wisdom of the ancient world.
Islamic thinkers especially attempted to bring the main philosophy classics of the Ancient Greek civilization into Arabic. This process, which generally developed under the auspices of great politicians, resulted in philosophical concepts and methods gaining a unique and deep-rooted place in Islamic thought. Thanks to this translation movement, Islamic thinkers, who became acquainted with the impressive views of great Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, soon found themselves in fierce debates about the nature of the relations between religion and philosophy.
This discussion also referred to the deep theological problems of how to determine the relations between reason and faith, the truths of revelation and the truths of philosophy, and therefore it was also given importance by Islamic theologians.
Islamic thinkers faced more or less the same intellectual problems as their Christian counterparts in the West. Just like Christian thinkers, Islamic thinkers felt the need to justify the existence, unity and creative activity of God with rational explanations.
In addition, there is a great deal of information about God’s relationship with the universe, the situation of human will against divine will, how the evils on earth can be reconciled with God’s absolute goodness, what the fate of the human soul will be after death, how it will be resurrected if it is resurrected, what and to what extent man can know about the truths of the universe. They debated with intellectual competence and sought to resolve these issues in a way that would convince any properly functioning human mind.
Thanks to these fruitful intellectual efforts, the Islamic world has trained many great thinkers such as Kindi, Razi, Ibn Sina, Farabi, Ibn Khaldun, Gazali, Ibn Rushd, who deeply influenced Western thought, in a short period of time (9th-12th centuries) in terms of human history. He produced many important works in almost every field of science, some of which are considered to be the first and pioneering examples of their kind.
In this way, Arabic became the lingua franca of the period (the common language used by people who spoke different languages to do science) in a short time, and gained such importance that an important thirteenth-century thinker like Roger Bacon said that those who do not know Arabic cannot deal with science and philosophy effectively. For all these reasons, it is necessary to accept the two-three hundred-year period in question as one of the rare golden ages of human history, in intellectual terms.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook