History of Islamic Thought

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This article is intended to give a brief overview of key figures and movements in the history of Islamic thought and philosophy up to the contemporary tendencies of today. For the most part it summarises A short History of Islamic Thought, a 2022 book by historian Fitzroy Morrissey whose academic research focuses on Islamic intellectual history.[1] The rise of the legal and theological schools, philosophical explorations, and the spread of Sufi mysticism in the early centuries of the Islamic era are all described.

Islamic philosophy is a general term for the works of Islamic scholars who tried to reconcile the philosophical tradition of the ancient world (primarily of Aristotle and Plato) with the teaching of Islam. It covers the genesis and development of philosophical thought in the Islamic world, from Andalusia to India, from the ninth century to the present.

From the 19th century CE a number of movements arose in reaction to the political and intellectual ascendency of the West. They sought to explain the relative decline of the Muslim world and promoted varying reformist solutions. The final third of this article is concerned with these and earlier revival movements, including towards the end, Salafism and Islamism, which so often capture the world's attention today, but had by no means been a perennial feature of Muslim thought and society.

Early Developments

Legal Schools

In the second century of Islam the need for legal scholarship became pressing due to the insufficiency of the Quran to provide a comprehensive legal picture. Four major schools (madhabs) of jurisprudence emerged under the leadership of key figures in Islamic legal history. In Medina, Malik emphasised the practice ('amal) or custom (sunna) of the people in this city of the Prophet as a source of authority, while in the other prestigious centre of Islamic scholarship, Kufa, Abu Hanifa emphasised the role of reason in the formulation of law as well as the practice of the people in his city and the sayings of Muhammad. Next and most importantly came Shafi'i, who placed the sayings of Muhammad as the most authoritative legal source after the Qur'an, rejecting dependence on the practices and customs of the people over which there was in any case a lack of agreement, though allowing cautious use of juristic reasoning, especially the use of analogy (qiyas). This also laid the stage for hadith scholars to attain their important role in guiding the people in following the sunnah of the Prophet. The final major school of Islamic jurisprudence was founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who in the 9th century CE was himself an important hadith collector and was prominent in the revolt against the Mihna controversy mentioned below.[2]

The four Sunni schools of law (madhabs) thus emerged, and despite their differences, recognised each other as mainstream Sunnis. In a spirit of compromise and moderation they concurred on four sources of law: The Quran, the hadith and sunna of the Prophet (particularly a small number of authoritative hadith collections), consensus (ijma), and finally, legal analogy (qiyas).[3]


Another important movement had its beginnings in the 8th century CE. The Sufis were particularly interested in personal piety, the relationship of the believer with his Lord, and spirituality through which one may experience the divine, eventually developing into mysticism. Early Sufis followed the example of ascetic Christian monks, heading out to be alone in the desert or in caves. With their unworldly humility and by seeking the inner meaning of the Qur'an, Sufis were soon perceived as a threat, offering a rival source of knowledge outside the domain of the scholars (Ulema). Ibn Hanbal had many Sufi leaders arrested, though one, al-Junayd (d. 910 CE) offered a more acceptable, intellectual version, and in this way mysticism came to be more acceptable to the scholars, eventually becoming a central part of Islamic thought.[4]

While law and theology were sciences of outward commandments and beliefs, Sufis looked for Sunni acceptance as a science that combined this with the inner meanings. It was the Sufis who, for example, interpreted Quranic passages on jihad in terms of what they called the "Greater Jihad", that of internal spiritual struggle. Sufis adopted key mainstream Sunni theological positions and insisted that their mysticism be based only on what could be found in the Quran and hadith. In this way they were able to cement their respectability and acceptance as a key part of the Sunni compromise.[5]

Theological Schools

As the Christian world started to respond intellectually to the new "Saracen" religion, the earliest major Islamic theological school of thought took to the stage, known as the Mu'tazila. The Mu'tazilities originated in groups that met in Basrah and Baghdad to discuss how Greek philosophical ideas might help to resolve certain theological problems, such as divine unity, and how human beings can be free even though God is omnipotent. They also developed proofs of the creation of the world, using Christian Neoplatonist ideas. They stressed the importance of reasoned theology (kalam), and attempted to prove that God is one by rational arguments. They emphasised Allah's divine justice ('adl), a concept closely connected with the tension between free will and determinism, and concluded that humans do have free will. They likewise established that God was more powerful than he was just, for the limitation of justice, they decided, could be restrictive upon a God powerful enough to be injust if he so desired. They also argued that the Quran was created. Despite falling out of mainstream favour following a controversy related to this (discussed next), their ideas nevertheless influenced Islamic thought in later centuries, particularly in Iraq.[6][7][8]

That early controversy was known as al Mihna. It concerned the ontological status of the Quran. While Allah was eternal (qadim), the world was his temporal creation, and the Quran was indentified with his speech (kalam), one of his divine attributes. The mainstream view was therefore that the Quran was uncreated. However, apparently in agreement with the Mu'tazila view, Caliph al Ma'mun in 833 CE issued an edict that jurists and scholars must testify that the Quran was created, citing Quran 4:33 as evidence. Within a few decades and faced with widespread discontent, Caliph al Mutawakkil revoked the Mihna persecution and so the uncreated argument won the day.[9]

Later, the Sunnis would come to recognise two schools of theology as legitimate. Al-Ash'ari (d. 936 CE) disgreed strongly with the Mu'tazila, most importantly on three major issues. He argued that the Qur'an was uncreated. He disagreed with their metaphorical interpretation of the divine attributes (God's 'hands' are his blessing, God's 'eyes' are his knowledge etc.[10]), rather they are real yet unlike a human body and cannot be understood by human reason. He also rejected their belief in free will, but instead everything in creation was sustained by the will of Allah. Ash'ari theology gained followers among the prominent figures of the major schools of jurisprudence, especially the Shafi'i school, though not among the Hanafis who instead followed Maturidi (d. 944 CE). Maturidi's doctrines were essentially close to al-Ash'ari's with subtle differences. He tended to be more rationalist on controversial questions, most notably arguing that there was a role for human intellect in discovering what was good and evil, whereas al-Ash'ari said this was determined by Allah alone and must be learned from the Qur'an and hadith. While there were some tensions between the two schools where they shared geographical proximity, a spirit of compromise and tolerance again prevailed.[11]

Shi'a Sources of Knowledge

For the Shi'a, importance was given to a living guide, which they called their Imam. The Imams were people of the Muhammad's household, 'Ali being the first, and the Imamate passed down through his and his wife Fatima's descendents. Their knowledge came from the divine, was infallible, and all-encompasing, including the inner meaning of the Qur'an. After a series of tragedies, the Imams withdrew from the political fray in the 8th century CE, resisting the Zaydi faction who advocated armed struggle. When the sixth Imam died in 765 CE without a clear successor, an "Isma'ili" faction split off, named after the son and prefered successor who had pre-deceased him. When the eleventh Imam died in 874 CE without a son, it came to be believed that there was in fact a son, a twelfth Imam, in hiding or "occultation" to escape Abbasid persecution. He could live for centuries like Noah and would return as the Mahdi at the end of time to eliminate evil, restore justice, wisdom, and true Islam. In this way the non-Isma'ili branch of Shi'ism became known as the Twelvers.[12]

Belief in the wait for the Mahdi's return was condusive to political quietism. The lack of a twelfth Imam to continue guiding them also forced the Twelvers to the create their own legal and theological thought traditions. As well as the Quran and sunnah, collecting and preserving the sayings of the Imams was an additional legal source. Like the Sunnis, there was also room and a need for human reason, especially in legal rulings, though rationalism also led the Twelvers to adopt Mu'tazilism as their theological school. In the 10th century CE the Ismai'li branch developed a number of highly distinctive doctrines, and had a living Caliph as an additional source of authoritive knowledge. Throughout the 10th and 11th centuries CE Sunni and Shi'a relations were marked by mutual hostility, mainly theological but sometimes spilling over to violence, with a Sunni recapture of lands earlier taken by the Shi'a adding to tensions.[13]

The rise of Islamic Philosophy

The Translation Movement

Whereas Judaism and Christianity began as a religion of small groups, Islam developed as the religion of an expanding empire. Within a hundred years of Prophet Muhammad's death in 632 AD, military conquest extended the Islamic world to India, North Africa and Southern Spain.[14] As a result, a variety of different communities came under Muslim rule, and Islam came into contact with the theological systems of Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastranism, and the philosophy of India and Greece. Philosophy, was already on the rise in the Byzantine and Persian empires at the time of the Arab conquests. It became known as falsafa in Arabic, and was the more rigorous exercise of reason without revelation, unlike rational theology (kalam).[15]

The first stage of this process was the translation into Arabic of Greek philosophical and scientific works that had been preserved by Eastern Christians in Mesopatamia, Syria and Egypt. The translators were mostly Nestorian and Jacobite Christians, working in the two hundred years following the early Abbasid period (c. 750). The most important translator of this group was the Syriac-speaking Christian Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-873), known to the Latins as Joannitius. The texts were first translated into Syriac, then into Arabic. Despite this process, the translations were generally accurate, aiming for a literal reading rather than elegance.[16]

In the tenth century another school arose among the Jacobites. These knew little Greek, and used only Syriac translations. The works translated included nearly all the works of Aristotle, the writings of commentators such as Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius and Theophrastus, most of the dialogues of Plato, and some Neoplatonist works.

Golden Age Islamic Philosophy

Ancient philosophy had come down in two strands, tracing back to Aristotle and to his teacher, Plato. There was already a trend seeking to harmonize the two, and for the Muslims philosophy was primarily associated with Aristotle. Since some of Plato's ideas became attributed to Aristotle during translation into Arabic, Islamic and European philosophy of late antiquity became an amalgamation of Aristotelianism and Neo-Platonism. The translation movement enabled the birth of an Islamic philosophical tradition, of which Al-Kindi (d. 870) was the first major figure. Known as the Philosopher of the Arabs (faylasuf al-'arab), al-Kindi made a famous defense of the use of philosophy in Islam, arguing that the truth should be embraced even if it came "from far-away peoples or nations that are different to us." Nevertheless, some Aristotalian ideas required refutation where they contradicted faith, such as that the world was eternal and uncreated. Al-Kindi helped make falsafa an accepted part of Islamic thought, and saw it as the best way to understand Islam and defend the faith from detractors.[17]

In the 9th century CE both Sunni and Shi'a scholars saw a threat from a number of rationalist philosophers with dismissive views towards prophecy and theology in comparison to thought and reason. Their tendancy was labelled zandaqa, a general term at that time for heresy or freethinkers. Such figures included Abu Bakr al-Razi (d. 935 CE), who cast prophetic miracles as fraudulent tricks and their teachings as contradicting each other, and al-Ma'arri (d. 973 CE), who mocked those who preferred Greek philosophy and Islamic theology over common sense and critical thought. Others found a middle ground, such as al-Farabi (d. 930 CE) who taught that demonstrative logic provided certain knowledge, while prophets provided symbols of truth and moved the imagination of the audience. Following the Neo-Platonists, al-Farabi viewed existence as flowing out from God, accessible to the human intellect. His greatest admirer was Ibn Sina (d. 1037 CE), known in Europe as Avicenna, who developed his own school of thought which reconciled Islamic theology with Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism. Ibn Sina was most famous for his "proof" of God through the concepts of a necessary being and possible beings which must have causes. These and some of his other arguments were later criticised by Fakr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210 CE). Under Ibn Sina's influence, Muslim philosophers came to focus less on defending scripture and more on fundamental philosophical questions.[18]

Reacting to this trend was al-Ghazali (b. 1111 CE). In his most famous book, The incoherance of the Philosophers, he identified twenty teachings that the philosophers had failed to actually prove. For him, a few of these philosophical doctrines went beyond mere innovation which was bad enough, but were akin to disbelief and anyone who accepted them was an apostate. Philosophy (falasafa) would henceforth never become an accepted part of Islam. Nevertheless, even its critics like al-Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun encouraged the integration of the methods of philosophy into theology, which became comparable to the European scholastic tradition.[19] Transmission of the classics from the East to the West had great influence on the development of Medieval Scholasticism.[20] The most recent period of Islamic philosophy (the early seventeenth century to the present day) is still distinguished by a scholastic method and style.[21]

From the 10th century CE, Ismaelis followed by Fatimid philosophers developed neo-Platonist ideas of existence. A range of theologically radical groups arose particularly among Ismailis, including the Druze with a new scripture. Al-Ghazali saw them as polically threatening and sought to refute them, dividing Shias into those who were in error but still Muslim, and those in the other groups who were disbelievers. A branch of the Ismailis have lasted into the present time.[22]

Sick of philosophy towards the end of his life, al-Ghazali came to identify himself closely with Sufism and hierarchical schemes accounting for the outward and inward dimensions of the faith. This enhanced both his reputation as his century's "Renewer of the faith" as well as that of Sufism. He was rejected by the Maliki adherants in the Maghreb to the west, who were then overthrown in bloody fashion by a critic of their devotion to Malik. In al-Andulus, Islamic Aristotelianism reached its height with Ibn Rushd (d. 1198 CE), known to Europe as Averroes. Ibn Rushd argued against Ghazali's criticisms of Aristotelianism, although he is best known in the West for his commentaries on Aristotle. Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy. Averroes' school of thought is known as Averroism, which only survived in Latin West after Ibn Rushd's work was condemned and then ignored in the Islamic world. His younger contemporary, the Sufi Ibn 'Arabi was to have a larger subsequent influence. Ibn 'Arabi reemphasised mysticism as means of intellectual insight and gave the idea of Sufi saints (male and female) greater significance, for they could receive revelation through such experiences. Nevertheless, he took a strict literalist, uncompromising stance on legal matters such as the imposition of dhimmi restrictions on Jews and Christians.[23]

Around this time Rumi (d. 1273 CE) achieved lasting renown even to this day as a Sufi mystic poet whose most widely read work was a metaphor for the spiritual quest whereby God is found in the heart of the believer, and the relationship between them characterised by love ('ishq). At the same time he urged his followers to follow the sunna and to see the inner reality of the law, which was like enjoying true health. Not least through various Sufi orders or brotherhoods, Sufism diffused into all areas of Islamic intellectual and ritual life.[24]

Philosophy Continues under the Empires of the East

In the 13th and 14th centuries CE various rationalist, Sufi, and philosopher-theologian figures criticised each other. The most vociferous critic of these recent trends was Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328 CE), who stressed reliance on the Quran and Hadith, or failing that, on the interpretations of Muhammad's companions and their immediate successors (al salaf al salih, the pious predecessors). Anything else was innovation (bid'a). He was scathing about the philosophers, and moreso about the Sufis and their views. Rejected in his day, he would eventually inspire the modern Salafi movement. Nevetheless, Ibn Taymiyyah did share some views close to those of whom he attacked, and the trends he opposed continued, while Sufism was the glue that continued to unite the Muslims, complementing law as the guide for life, even as the Muslims were weakened by the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.[25]

The fifteenth century CE saw the Ottomans achieve their conquest of Constantinople, which they saw in terms of their role to sweep the world clean of polytheism. The office of Mufti of Istanbul attained a pope-like status, issuing thousands of fatwas. The Ottomans enforced the Hanbali school of law, supplemented with secular customary law called qanun. They adhered to Maturidi theology but were also receptive to the Ash'ari view. Philosophy and Sufism thrived under their rule and Ibn 'Arabi was revered through the 16th to 18th centuries.[26]

The 16th to 17th centuries CE similarly saw a revival of Shi'a philosophy with Safavid rule in Iran. The Safavid dynasty was a literate family from its early origin endowing centers of scholarship, and supported academic freedom. One important outcome was the creation of Shi'ite thought, reform of the law based on the principles set out by al-Farabi.[21]

The Safavids in Iran had begun as a Sunni Sufi order in the 14th century CE, but soon became another Shia group with radical theological ideas before embracing a more orthodox form of Twelver Shi'ism in the 16th century when they took control of Iran, making this the state religion (primarily as a defensive measure against the Ottomans, previously Iran had been mainly Sunni), and having Shi'i legal texts like the sayings of the Imams translated into Persian. Safavid Shi'ism was viciously anti-Sunni, and the feeling was mutual. Philosophy and mysticism nevertheless flourished under their rule.[27]

India, whose Islam was defined by Sufi mysticism, continued in the same way after the 3rd great modern Islamic empire, that of the Mughals, was launched there in the 16th century CE and under whose rule Hanafi legal study thrived. Akbar (d. 1605) played the biggest role in Mughal empire building, hosted interfaith debates and abolished the jizya tax on non-Muslims. Then he began to worship the sun and present himself as a semi-divine figure. Pressure generated by scholary opinion agaist him eventually had the effect of returning the Mughals closer to orthodox Islam under the rule of his grandson. Indian fatwa works came to define Hanafi law even in the Ottoman empire to the west.[28]

Islamic Revivalism as a Reaction to Decline

17th to 19th Centuries

In the 16th century concerns began to be voiced that under the Ottomans Muslims were falling behind Europe on a secular level, while scholars saw this as a symptom of spiritual malaise, including the Mufti's attempts to show that the secular customary law was in harmony with Islamic law. Islamic revivalists in the 18th century tried to eradicate all forms of innovation and sin, some turning to Ibn Taymiyyah for inspiration. One such figure was Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792), who saw signs of polytheism everywhere. He deplored the reverence towards Sufi ascetics and the scholars, while the Shi'a were particularly to blame for the sinlessness attributed to the twelve Imams. He believed that they all must be fought as apostates if they refused to return to Islam. Al-Wahhab made a pact with al-Sa'ud, recognising his political authority in Arabia in exchange for the latter supporting the implementation of his interpretation of Islam. The watching Ottomans were alarmed at their success together and labelled them Kharijites, after an early Islamic extremist sect, also coining the term Wahhabism.[29]

In India revivalism was a reaction following what Sirhindi (d. 1624) saw as misinterpretations of Ibn 'Arabi and his understanding of creation as eminating from Allah, which sounded to some rather like he and his creation were one. Shah Wali Allah (d. 1762) was to have greater influence, however. He saw Mughal political instability as a symptom of moral and intellectual decline, observing all manner of vices among ruling officials. People identified too much with their madhab or Sufi order. To him, the solution was again like that of Ibn Taymiyyah, a return to the Quran and study of Hadith. In addition, a reformulation of Sufism without innovations such as saints and consistent with Islamic law and scripture was integral to bringing back the best Islamic heritage. His approach found adherants as far as Africa, where in the late 18th and early 19th centuries revivalist movements stressed the importance of Sufi piety alongside Islamic law and militant jihad. In Iran, rationalist interpretation of law survived a brief revivalist movement known as Akhbarism in the 18th century which had placed primacy on the sayings of the Imams.[30]

19th century revivalists were confronted with the calamity of European expansion, and with their intellectual and scientific advances. Muslim weakness vis-a-vis the West would define Islamic thought through to the modern age. Modernists reacted by embracing Western scientific and intellectual achievements, reinterpreting Islam in light of them. The rationality of Islam, as they saw it, had been neglected in favour of legalism and mysticism. Some took practical steps, translating European books and set up schools. Others diagnosed the problem in Muslims having turned their backs on economic and political sciences. Both sets of modernists sought to make their ideas acceptable by pointing out that modern European civilisation had borrowed from an earlier Muslim intellectual inheritance.

In India under British rule, the Deobandi revivalist movement sought to recover Muslim strength by banishing innovation in religious practice while embracing modern educational methods in their madrassas. The Barelwis clung to Sufism, the People of Hadith emphasised the Quran and Sunnah, and the Ahmadiyyahs took their leader as messiah, perhaps even prophet, and reinterpreted jihad to mean inter-faith debate. The Indian modernists were led by Sayyih Ahmed Khan (d. 1898), who credited education as the root of the English success and set up an English-Indian male higher education college in Delhi. He urged a return to the Qur'an without the baggage of later interpretation, and aided by modern science. Hadiths were to be judged more critically, Islamic law interpreted in light of modern liberalism, jihad was defensive, slavery illegal, lending interest permitted, dining with Christians and their food permitted. His heritage is seen today in Islamic Modernism.[31]

20th Century

In opposition to Khan stood Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (d. 1897), who travelled the Muslim world advocating a pan-Islamic identity by which Muslim strength could be regained. He thought this would follow from Islam being the religion of rationality and the most intellectual religion. Some of his disciples, most notably Muhammad 'Abduh (d. 1905), advocated fresh, rationalist interpretations of the Quran without regard to centuries of later tradition, including a higher status for women, and a flexible approach to legal issues for the sake of regaining Muslim strength. Rashid Rida (d. 1935) was a disciple of 'Abduh, but was fervently anti-Western, hostile to Shi'ism and other heresies, and took a stricter line on issues like the status of women. His teacher's modernist vision of Islam as a religion of reason was merged in Rida's thought into a new movement, Salafism. Rida would later come to praise the Wahhabists of Arabia, fellow revivers of Ibn Taymiyyah's teachings.[32]

Other movements in places such as Indonesia and Algeria came under the influence of Abduh's modernist approach while others discussed similar ideas independently. Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938) first floated the idea that was to become the Pakistani state. He concluded that Allah had bestowed blessings on the disbelievers because the Muslims had abandoned Islam. While criticising the Sufis, he dreamed of an ideal community and greatly admired Rumi. Al-Afghani, Rida and Iqbal with their pan-Islamism paved the way for the Islamist doctrine, the idea of Islam as a political ideology sufficient for ordering the modern world. The Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna (assassinated in 1949), viewed his organization as an extension of that reformist tradition, famously describing it as "a Salafi message, a Sufi way, a Sunni path, a political organisation, an atheletics group, a cultural-educational union, an economic company and a social idea". He taught that the ultimate goal was to extend Islam across the world through a sequential strategy of learning, education, and jihad. The latter element was focused in the 1930s on the anti-Zionist struggle.[33]

In the Indian sub-continent Mawdudi (d. 1979) too advocated Islamism, drawing on the Khalifat movement and founding his own Jama'at-i Islami movement. He saw the need for divine government with strict rules on gender segregation, limited freedoms for non-Muslims and the death penalty for apostasy. He extended the term jahiliyya (the pre-Islamic age of ignorance) to the present day, applying it to Sufis, Shi'a and modern secular ideologies. He wanted a total revolutionary break from the medieval Islamic past and its society.

Meanwhile, in 1940s Egypt Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), was enraged by Imperialism, Zionism and poverty in Egypt, and felt repelled after visting America by what he saw as the moral and spiritual bankrupcy of the West. He turned to Islamism, and blamed Imperialism, West-pleasing scholars, Western orientalists, communists, and in his view behind them all, the Jews. Drawn to the Muslim brotherhood as the best defence against "Crusaders", and inspired by Mawdudi, Qutb wrote from prison a commentary on the Quran, interpreting it in a revolutionary and political way. He took up a starkly dualistic vision of Islam and jahiliyya, with even so-called Muslim societies sunk in the latter. Secular slogans must be abandoned and an Islamic vanguard established, a solution that would require violent jihad, including to overthrow the Egyptian state. For this, he was executed by the Egyptian ruler Nasser.[34]

In 1979, Islamism took hold in Shi'a Iran, where the new Republic's constitution proclaimed its basis on the exclusive sovereignty of Allah. From the 1940s Khomeini (d. 1989) wrote on Islamist themes about the overthrow of the government and by the 1960s was known as an Ayatollah (literally, 'sign of God') and Marja' al-Taqlid (source of emulation), the top scholarly titles in Twelver Shi'ism. He denounced the Iranian state for its US-inspired reform attempts and favourable treatment of Americans and Israel. Echoing Sunni Islamists, he taught that Jews, Crusaders, Imperialists and Orientalists had distorted Muslims' view of their own religion. Distinctly Shia, however, was his view that until the twelfth Imam returns, political authority had passed to the jurists to lead the people in defeating external enemies, establishing and governing the Islamic state.[35]

Contemporary Islam

According to Morrisey (writing in 2022), three broad tendencies define contemporary Islam: Neo-traditionalists represented by the scholars (Ulema) graduating from institutions like the prestigious al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Shi'i seminaries, or the Indonesian Nahdlatul Ulama, seek continuity with the traditional schools of legal thought and theology, and the Sufi orders. For them, Islam is a theological doctrine, a moral code, and spritual source, and is not conditional on establishing political government. Loyalty and patriotism towards the modern nation-state that grants them freedom of worship is advocated and a virtue. They are willing to make common inter-faith cause in their concern about a spiritual crisis of modernity and tend to be socially conservative, while seeing Islam as tolerant and moderate.

Salafis and Islamists are concerned with purity of belief and preventing innovation, heirs to Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Wahhab. They are opposed to most other tendancies in Islam such as neo-traditionalism, Sufism and Islamic modernists. Quietest Salafis such as the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia are focused on what they call purification and education, while Islamist Salafi political parties are commited to advancing "the Islamic solution" (al-hall al-islam) to all social and political problems. The latter will work with their governments with a view to eventually overthrowing them, and are strongly opposed to the West, Israel, and secularism. At the far end of the spectrum are the Salafi-Jihadists like al-Qaeda and ISIS. These groups advocate violent jihad in order to destroy the enemies of Islam and ultimately achieve a global Caliphate, drawing their heritage from Sayyid Qutb. To them, democracy is "the tribulation of the age", while Shi'a, secularist Muslims, and rulers of Muslim countries are apostates, supported by "clerics of evil". They and the Judeo-Crusader west must all be fought and killed. These groups take an extreme abrogationist approach to reading the Quran (like some classical scholars).

Finally, there is liberal Islam, an extension of Islamic Modernism (which is a growing trend dating from the 19th century, these days often applying modern historical-critical scholarship to critique medieval interpretions of the Quran and the authenticity of hadiths). They advocate modern human rights including on gender and freedom of individual conscience, limiting the applicability of Quranic rulings on jihad, polygamy, slavery, and gender segregation to the 7th century. At the same time they draw on the rationalism of earlier movements like the mu'tazila and Ibn Rusd, or the Sufi spiritual masters in order to show Islamic precedent for their views.[36]

See Also

  • Philosophy - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Philosophy


  1. Fitzroy Morrisey (2022) A short History of Islamic Thought, UK: Head of Zeus, ISBN: 9781789545661
  2. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 33-40
  3. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 59-63
  4. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 41-44
  5. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 72-73
  6. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 47-51
  7. Hyman, J. and Walsh, J.J., "Philosophy in the Middle Ages", Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 205, ISBN 9781603842082, 1973, http://philpapers.org/rec/HYMPIT. 
  8. Rahman, F., Islam, University of Chicago Press, p. 90-100. 1979.
  9. Fitzroy Morrissey, A short history of Islamic thought, pp. 31-32, 50
  10. Ash'ariyya and Mu'tazila - Muslimphilosophy.com
  11. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 64-70
  12. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 74-77
  13. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 78-90
  14. Hyman, J. and Walsh, J.J., "Philosophy in the Middle Ages", Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 203, ISBN 9781603842082, 1973, http://philpapers.org/rec/HYMPIT. 
  15. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 51, 56
  16. Hyman, J. and Walsh, J.J., "Philosophy in the Middle Ages", Indianapolis: Hackett, p. 204, ISBN 9781603842082, 1973, http://philpapers.org/rec/HYMPIT. 
  17. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 52-56
  18. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, 91-100, 132
  19. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 100-102
  20. Scholasticism is a style of philosophy that arose in the Latin West in the middle ages (10th century to 15th century. The defining characteristics of scholasticism are: the project of reconciling Christian faith with classical philosophy, particularly the philosophy of Aristotle; a particular style of teaching and writing; a system arranged round certain books, such as the Sentences of Peter Lombard, Aristotle's logical works, the works of Augustine; focus on a characteristic set of questions, the most famous being the problem of universals.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Ted Honderich, "Oxford Companion to Philosophy", Oxford University Press, (article 'Islamic Philosophy'), ISBN 9780198661320, 1995. 
  22. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 102-110
  23. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 111-125
  24. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 126-130
  25. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 131-140
  26. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 141-148
  27. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 148-154
  28. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 154-161
  29. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 163-167
  30. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 167-173
  31. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 174-180
  32. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 180-192
  33. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought,193-198
  34. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 198-202
  35. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 203-205
  36. Fitzroy Morrisey, A short History of Islamic Thought, pp. 206-213