An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy

An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy

An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy

An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy

Synopsis

Although Islamic philosophy represents one of the most important philosophical traditions in the world, it has only relatively recently begun to receive attention in the non-Islamic world. This is a new edition of a successful introductory book, expanded and updated to take account of recent scholarship. It focuses on what is regarded as Islamic philosophy's golden age, and will appeal to students and to any general reader interested in this philosophical tradition.

Excerpt

Although this book is in no way a guide to the religion and history of Islam itself, it is as well to consider some of the main aspects of that religion before discussing the contribution which philosophy sought to make to it. We might naturally start by considering Muḥammad, the son of 'Abd Allah and Amīna, a member of the tribe of Quraish, who was born in Mecca in the late sixth century CE. Although his parents were of distinguished lineage, they were far from wealthy, and Muḥammad's father died before his son's birth while his mother died when he was about six years old. He was brought up first by his grandfather and later by his uncle, and spent a great deal of time as a youth and young man in the hills which are near to Mecca guarding his family's flocks of sheep. His fortunes improved when in his mid-twenties he married an older and wealthy widow, whose business affairs he came to manage. Yet it is said that he often spent time alone in the hills of his youth to consider the tribal warfare which caused such great loss of life in Arabia and the idolatry and loose behaviour which prevailed in the local towns. When he was about forty years old he started to hear a voice, interpreted as coming from the angel Gabriel, which commanded him to recite the revelations which were thus made to him.

The sum of those revelations were eventually written down in the Qur'ān (or 'recitation'). This consists of a highly variegated set of elements, with pictures of heaven and hell and warnings about the consequences of immorality, legal regulations and accounts of the tasks of former prophets. The Qur'ān is a confirmation of the teachings and messages of such prophets, including Abraham who is said to have built the shrine (Ka'ba) at Mecca, Moses the legislator of the Jews and Jesus son of Mary, who was not as the Christians insist killed upon the Cross at all, since God substituted a likeness of him at the last moment. The messages which Muḥammad transmitted were critical of the arrogance and egoism of the rich and powerful, and also of the gods whose shrines . . .

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