Islamic Philosophy

Oliver Leaman

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Islamic Philosophy


The term “Islamic philosophy” is in itself controversial, since there are many ways of identifying the discipline. It is difficult to argue that Islamic philosophy can be carried out only by Muslims, as there were many Christians and Jews who were definitely committed to many of the techniques and principles of Islamic philosophy without being Muslims. There are some who prefer the label “Arabic” because this was certainly the scholarly language of the Islamic world during the classical period, and most Islamic philosophy was written in it, but it can be misleading to suggest that most of the philosophers were Arabs, when in fact the reverse was the case. A very high proportion of Islamic philosophers were and continue to be from the Persian cultural world, broadly defined. It is awkward to label Islamic philosophy Arabic philosophy, given that much of it does not take place in Arabic at all, but in any language that Muslims work in, including English. These issues may seem to be merely about language, but often they are about a lot more; the nature of the enterprise as a whole is often regarded as rather problematic in the sense that many think that Islam does not need philosophy, and philosophy does not need Islam. However, there are three main kinds of classical Islamic philosophy. There is falsafa, philosophy in the Peripatetic (mashshaʾi) tradition that models itself very much on Greek thought and a broader notion of rationality. Then there is ishraqi or illuminationist thought that distinguishes itself from falsafa and uses the concept of light as its chief conceptual device. Finally, there is mystical or Sufi thought that understands “philosophy” to be an essentially religious inquiry and one that accounts for personal religious experience.

Article.  8024 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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