The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism

The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism

The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism

The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism

Synopsis

Challenging beliefs about intellectual culture, Makdisi reaffirms the links between Western and Arabic thought and shows that although scholasticism and humanism have long been considered to be exclusive to the Western world, they have their roots in the medieval Islamic world.

Excerpt

Humanism and scholasticism are two movements that dominate the intellectual history of classical Islam. Humanism is the subject of the present study, which includes special reference to scholasticism, subject of a previous study, The Rise of Colleges. The approach to these two studies is the same; namely, that intellectual movements are made intelligible in the extent to which they are studied in reference to the forces which produced them; and intellectual products, in the extent to which the methods of instruction, study and composition are understood in their essential details.

The present study, like its companion and predecessor, seeks to throw light on the development of education in classical Islam, but neither study is meant as a survey of Islamic education. The Rise of Colleges is essentially a study of the scholastic movement, with its representatives, its institutions, its 'licence to teach', the doctorate, and the scholastic method leading to it. The present study treats of the rise of humanism, with its representatives, its institutions, its 'art of dictation', and its emphasis on books for autodidacts. In both studies an attempt was made to answer the questions what? and who?, when? and where?, how? and, especially, why?. For it is especially the answer to the question why? that holds the key to the origins of these two intellectual movements. We have an adequate answer to the question of origins in the case of Islam; we do not in the case of the Christian West.

In classical Islam, each of the two movements has its raison d'être, distinct from the other; yet both sprang from concern for a common source: the Sacred Scripture. The history of their developments is one of interaction in which there was conflict, but never a clean break. The day of humanism dawned some time before Islam's first century came to an end. The movement arose because of deep concern for the purity of the classical Arabic of the Koran as the living language, as well as the liturgical language, of Islam. Scholasticism owed its rise to a struggle between opposing religious forces, the conflict coming to a head in the third-/ninth-century inquisition (mihna), over a century after the dawn of humanisn. The conflict turned on the question of whether the Koran was the uncreated co-eternal Word of God. Both movements aimed for orthodoxy: humanism, for 'orthodoxy' in language; scholasticism, for orthodoxy in religion.

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