Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey

Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey

Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey

Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey

Excerpt

Between Muḥammad's migration to Medina in 622 and his death in 632 he was able to build up a state of considerable power. A measure of the size of the state is that on an expedition towards Syria at the end of 630 Muḥammad had 30,000 men behind him. Many, perhaps most, of the nomadic tribes of Arabia were in alliance with him, the chief exceptions being those in the Byzantine sphere of influence. The immediately following period, from 632 to 661, is known as that of the 'rightly-guided caliphs'. Abū-Bakr (632-4) was mostly occupied in quelling the revolt of certain tribes against the Medinan political system. Under 'Umar I (634-44) a phenomenal expansion took place; Syria and Egypt were wrested from the Byzantine empire and Iraq from the Persian. For the first half of the reign of 'Uthmān (644-56) expansion continued into North Africa and Persia; but about 650 it slowed down, discontent appeared among the troops (who were identical with the citizen body), and in 656 'Uthmān was killed by mutineers. 'Alī, the cousin and son-in-law of Muḥammad, was then acclaimed as caliph in Medina, but Mu'āwiya, governor of Damascus, among others, refused to recognize him. In the struggle between 'Alī and Mu'āwiya the latter was slowly gaining the upper hand when in 661 'Alī was murdered for a private grievance. Mu'āwiya's caliphate was then generally recognized, and the Umayyad dynasty thereby established.

This recital of historical events is not irrelevant to our theological concern. Exponents of the sociology of knowledge would hold that all theological and philosophical ideas have a political or social reference; and the standpoint of this survey is in accordance with such an outlook. The connection between theology and politics is particularly close and obvious in the Middle East. The Old Testament is full of it. In the early seventh century the disaffection of the native Christians of Syria and Egypt to the Byzantine emperor found a focus in the Monophysite and Nestorian heresies. It is therefore not surprising that in the discussions in chapters 1-3 it will be difficult to . . .

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