Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy
During the fifth and sixth centuries, the Western Christian Roman world was declining and disintegrating under the pressure of the invasions of the Vandals, the Goths, the Visagoths, the Huns, and others. Centers of learning were destroyed or abandoned, and Europe entered into what has been termed, somewhat misleadingly, “The Dark Ages.” The Eastern Christian world continued as the Byzantine Empire, with Greek as its official language until the fifteenth century.
On the southern side of the Mediterranean, a new dynamic culture emerged as the Islamic religion—begun by Muḥammad (d. 632) with his reports of his revelations— spread from its original location in the southern Arabian peninsula, and across what is now Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Persia, North Africa, and into Spain. Within one hundred years, the Islamic Empire developed into a vital major force stretching from India in the east to Spain in the west, encompassing great social and cultural centers such as Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, and Jerusalem. Among the many sizable minorities within the empire—including Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians—were some, mostly Nestorian Christians, who still retained a good deal of Greek learning in philosophy, science, and medicine as well as literature.
As Muslim religious leaders felt the need to clarify their religion's underlying concepts and to deal with apparent inconsistencies in the Qur̕ān while arguing for their religion against other “people of the book” (the Jews and Christians), they found much that was useful in Greek thought. At first they used Greek philosophy to expound and defend their religion, rather than to construct either an intellectual