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Philosophical speculation in Islamic culture has triple roots in theology (kalam), philosophy proper (falsafa), and mysticism (tasawwuf).

Theological Beginnings

The genesis of Muslim philosophical theology is manifested in the marriage of Greek logic and monotheistic apologetics in the school of Mu˓tazilah initiated by Wasil ibn ˓Ata (d. 748) and developed by Abu al-Hudhayl al-˓Allaf (d. 849/850), his nephew al-Nazzam (d. c. 435/445), and the jurist ˓Abd al-Jabbar (d. 1204/1205). They inquired into such questions as the compatibility of free will for creatures and Divine omnipotence. Can a person act against the will or knowledge of God? If persons have no free will, how can a just God punish them for predetermined actions? If rewards and punishments are arbitrary, why does God send prophets and reveal sacred scriptures to guide His creatures? Wrestling with such key issues in theodicy, the prevalent adherents of the Mu˓tazilah position support the legitimacy of the doctrine of punishment and rewards by proffering their view that persons are free and that God is just. Their position criticized subjectivism in ethics and upheld a rationalist ethic that persons can reason about ethics and thus are responsible for moral actions. Against this family of doctrines arose the school of Ash˓arites (founded by Abu 'l-Hasan al-Ash˓ari, d. 935), which advocated the so-called theory of occasionalism. Popularized later in Europe by Nicolas Malebranche (d. 1715), occasionalists confronted the thorny problem of causality as follows. Among created occasions in the world, there is no causation (neither agent-patient nor an event-type of causation). Specifically, minds/mental events or bodies/physical actions are subject only to an ultimate cause, namely God. Belonging to the Sunni school of theology, this school questioned the meaningfulness of the notion of free will; by contrast, it advocated that God ordained a total resignation to the cosmos, which it claimed. This position does not imply any negative states for humanity; in this tenor, persons (including someone in the position of Job) should envision nature and themselves as mere gifts of the Divine grace; faith commands creatures to passively witness the glory of creation as an icon of the Creator. Other key issues included the controversy as to whether or not the Qur˒an is co-eternal with the Divine; this controversy is based on a reading of the Timaeus where Plato postulates a co-eternity among the ideas/forms/universals and the creator-artist-demiurge. Finally they have constantly debated the place of reason versus revelation and the place of philosophy in an Islamic society. A number of Sunni theologians like Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) and Ahmid ibn Taymiyya (d. 1327) criticized what they considered to be untenable attempts of philosophers to intrude into theology. In contrast, Shi˓a writers like Nasir Khusraw, Nasir ad-Din Tusi (d. 1274), and Sadr ad-Din Shirazi (known as Mulla Sadra), all of whom were philosophers in the school of Isfahan in the following three centuries, and even as recent as Ruhollah Khomeini (d. 1989), all view theology and philosophy as interdependent disciplines. The most philosophical group of Muslim sects consists of the so-called Isma˓ilis, among them Khosrow, Hamid al-Din Kirmani, and Nasir al-Din Tusi.

Classical Philosophy (Ninth to Thirteenth Century)

The classical age of Islamic philosophy is marked by the following features: (a) an increasing awareness of the importance of Greek philosophy, especially of Aristotelian delineation and division of philosophical studies such as ontology, epistemology, normative types of inquiry, analytical disciplines such as logic and mathematics, natural sciences, and theology; (b) the production of commentaries on the Greek texts, and the development of new and creative solutions to the traditional controversies such as the nature of imaginations and the problem of universals; and (c) the pursuit of philosophical investigations independent of religious concerns. A majority of recent and some contemporary investigators in Islamic philosophy focus on the so-called Greek into Arabic, or/and Arabic into Latin/Hebrew. There is no doubt that this historical-reductive approach is a legitimate field as illustrated in the case of the Persian-born philosopher and scientist Ibn Sina (known to the West by his Latin name, Avicenna). He claimed that he had read Aristotle's Metaphysics about forty times, and both peripatetic and Neoplatonic influences are imprinted over his several encyclopedic collections. In turn, Ibn Sina was mentioned over five hundred times by the most important Catholic thinker, St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), who grounded much of his metaphysics in Ibn Sina's concepts, such as the essence-existence distinctions. In this light Islamic texts may be useful both in tracing the development of Greek thought as well as in revealing the genesis of some Latin and Hebrew philosophical writings.

Major Muslim thinkers of the classical period. A key figure is Abu Ya˓qub Al-Kindi (d. 873), who proffered a search for truth over reliance on authority. Moreover, he supported the theory of creation by arguing that the eternity of the world would imply the existence of an actual infinite, which was proven to be impossible by Aristotle. Abu Nasr Al-Farabi (d. 950), is known as "the second teacher," an original thinker and a logician. His numerous contributions include: (a) construing a Muslim version of the theory of emanation adopted by a majority of subsequent Muslim philosophers; (b) holding a Platonic position that philosophizing takes place in context of a polity and its societal ethics; and finally (c) having insights in analytical ontology on topics such as the relation between language and ontology. He demonstrated that in the spite of the fact that Semitic languages like Arabic do not contain the copula, they are nevertheless as capable as any Indo-European language like Greek or Persian to express primary ontic concepts designated by terms such as being, existence, existent, and substance. Abu ˓Ali ibn Sina (d. 1037), who is perhaps the most original and systematic Muslim thinker, as is illustrated by the following ideas.

With respect to the logical structure of metaphysics, Ibn Sina modified the ontology of the peripatetic substance-event language ontology (where the first division of being was into the categories of substances and accidents) to a primary encounter with being and the threefold modalities of necessity, contingency, and impossibility. A concatenation of being with necessity leads to necessary being, which, in the second version of the ontological arguments, leads to the notion of The Necessary Existent, the cause of the actualization of all contingent beings.

With respect to the epistemic meditative experience, he postulated a four-phase hermeneutic phenomenological encounter as follows: (i) being, (ii) the field of experiencing the world as the immediate phenomenon, (iii) a search from a contingency of the agent to the inner essence of the agent, which is the necessary existent, and (iii) finally an aim toward dealienation through a unity of existents. Ibn Sina's system may be used to reread the ontological argument of both St. Augustine (d. 430) and René Descartes (d. 1650). In this light the most celebrated argument for the existence of God is not a static, empty logical argument based on definition, but a phase of transformation due to a search from being, to the self-field of experience, to God and finally a desperate attempt to form a dealienating unity among all existents.

In the field of mysticism, Ibn Sina's account of metamysticism and his distinctions between mystical, religious, and ascetic, as well as his description of states and stations of mystics, paved the way for subsequent scholarships on mysticism.

His original system integrated various aspects of Aristotelian and Neoplatonic Greek theories with the Islamic intellectual tradition. Subsequent philosophers had to take account of Ibn Sina's system, criticizing him, in the case of al-Ghazali, Fakhr al-Din Razi (b. 1149), and Ibn Taymiyya, following him (as with Tusi), or including in their philosophy some of his visions, like Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), Shihab ad-Din Suhrawardi (d. 1191), Aquinas, and Sadr ad-Din Shirazi (known as Mulla Sadra). In sum, a comprehensive Islamic philosophical system emerged through Ibn Sina's encyclopedic works.

A parallel vibrant tradition of original philosophy, mysticism, and scholarly commentaries developed in Islamic Spain. Mention has already been made of Ibn Rushd—known to the West by his Latin name, Averroes—who also wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle's work as well as on Plato's Republic. He is known in Christian medieval circles as the originator of the so-called double-truth theory, which renders religious and philosophical languages to be isomorphically compatible, although scholars today question this interpretation of his theory of truth. Noteworthy among the list of other philosophers is Ibn Tufayl (d. 1185), who presents in a Robinson Crusoe–like tale, an allegorical account of various phases of the development of persons in light of which issues are portrayed such as the acquisition of language, communication with nature and human being, and finally with God.

The Post–Ibn Sina Developments of Metaphysics and Epistemology

Ibn Sina's original insights culminated in a number of the following ideas in later Islamic philosophy.

The world depicted as a process analogous to a flowing river or a shining sun. To begin with, for Aristotle, the ultimate constituent of the world consists of what he called first substances, which are primarily individual, concrete particulars like the stars, living persons, animals, trees, and rocks. Consequently, other features of the world like quantity, quality, place, time, relations, and alike are accidental and are actual only because of the characterization of a subspace. Against Plato, he argued that the entity, "being green," does not exist in or by itself; it is realized if it endures as a color of a specific tree or the color of a person's eyes. The key issue is his accidental depiction of time, which postulates that the primary account of the world is in the language of substances, for example, rocks or trees, and events such as their locomotion, damnation, and growth, and the alteration of their character. By contrast, in the post–Ibn Sinan philosophy, temporal dimensions of phenomena such as experiences of persons were depicted as an essential aspect of their reality, for which Mulla Sadra coined the expression "substantial motion." In Sadra's ontology the universe was depicted as a continuum of realms of existents, from the pure absolute existent, identified as God, to series of layers of entities. Consequently, reality was depicted as a process; analysis was compared to waves in the ocean or wind in motion. Now there are two sides to such a process: an external one, like drops of water coming from a river that in turn came from an ocean; thus a drop of water going back to the ocean, or a person dying as an individual and then becoming part of the world, both of which depict the unity of being as entities returning to their archetypal mother, or to the source of their generation. The other side, an internal, an intentional one in light of which a person is transformed from one state of mind to another, is depicted either in celebrated cases like the conversion of St. Paul or in typical cases like becoming a parent, falling in love, and the like. Muslim philosophers needed this Neoplatonic framework of process language as they dealt with the key issue of the paradox of mystical union, which aimed to bring an ultimate intimacy between persons and their source of genesis, like a child seeking to return to the mother. In Aristotle's vocabulary no two substances could have become identical with one another, as the only substantial changes were generation and corruption; for example, a cat cannot become a dog. But in process language, two waves can merge and become a single wave, or a drop of water can return to the sea or a fire of love to its source, the heavenly sun. In authentic personal experiences, the birth of their child represents the visible fruit of the merged love of two lovers. Medieval Muslim philosophers use the method of allegorical theology by appeals to motifs such as "drowning" or "light"; in such a framework "mystical union" can be clarified by a symbolic or an allegorical theology. Moreover, unlike Aristotle's system, such processes in the world that were external to persons' bodies had also a personal and an intentional side. It should be noted that Aristotle's system is not a static metaphysics, as the ultimate model is an organic depiction of nature, where the highest state consists in imitating the prime movers' theoretical structure of the cosmos.

The rise of philosophical analysis. An aspect of recent postidealism in the West has been the rise of philosophical analysis, characterized by features such as clarification of key primitive terms and the reconstruction of a clear syntactical meta-linguistic framework. This feature was developed in the philosophy of logical positivism at the turn of the twentieth century and culminated in Rudolph Carnap's (d. 1970) doctrine of reconstructionalism. Similar themes are depicted in the following three theses of Islamic philosophy.

The first case lies in Ibn Sina's tripartite solution to the socalled theory of universals, which questioned the ontic status of universals (indicated by notions such as "being a number," or "goodness"). Ibn Sina held the position that the meanings of single philosophical terms are to be found in the context of their applications as follows: Syntactical universals (such as "evenness") as well as a syntactical analysis of universals are significantly independent of our mental state or the actual world; conceptual universals, such as intentions, are mid-dependent; and finally in the realm of empirical sciences, essences and universals follow our encounter with facts that are existents and particulars. An awareness of the linguistic import of philosophical issues can also be found in the clever solution of Nasir Khusraw (d. 1077) to the question of "Which comes first? The chicken or the egg?" He pointed out the similarity of this paradox with the inquiry about the "initiation of the beginning segment in a circle." He replied that a chicken means an actualized egg, while an egg means a potential chicken. Thus, a comprehensive language addresses the question's need to place both of them in the same object language level of terms (in the same way space and time are placed as primitive notions in contemporary physics). Finally let us consider Tusi's analysis of infinity. As a rational philosopher, he had to agree with Aristotle that there is no actual infinite, but as a mathematician, he sought to take "infinite number" as a significant notion. Thus, he made a metalinguistic distinction between several senses of infinity, syntactical and ontic, accepting the first sense and rejecting the second. These three examples well illustrate that Islamic philosophy contains an awareness of philosophical analysis, meta-mathematics, and logic.

Depiction of the self as a ground of experience. The concept of a person is a cardinal issue in the philosophical system due to the observation made by Ludwig Wittgenstein (d. 1951) that we can never see our eyes directly, or that the self is not in the world, but that it is implied in the ground of being-in-the-world. Also, he pointed out that the notion of language is like a game, a societal entity; consequently, a substantial notion of the self may prevent the possibility of language and thus of knowledge all together. It is for this reason that a number of western philosophers have rejected the Cartesian depiction of the self as a substance. For example, David Hume (d. 1776) depicts the self in terms of a bundle of impressions, while Kant attempts to clarify the phenomenal self in the search for what he calls a transcendental unity of perception. Finally, Martin Heidegger's depiction of self as Dasein, meaning "being-in-the-world" is one of the most celebrated philosophical formulations of the twentieth century. Long before these European thinkers, a number of Muslim philosophers focused on a depiction of the notion of a person in ways to avoid the standard paradoxes such as "private language fallacy." Ibn Sina, for instance, states that if a person abstracts his sensations one by one, he can never presuppose that the subject of this experience is empty. In a similar manner, al-Ghazali points out that both God and the self are without any quality or quantity—they belong to the ground of experience and not to objects of experience (like Hume's point that there is no impression of the self). In a Sufi depiction of the self, persons are construed in a process which is a continuum of the development of states (ahwal) and stations (maqamat); eventually the finite limited ephemeral self is annihilated (fana˒) and is merged into its ultimate source; in such a state, a person merging into its essence persists (baqa˒) eternity in this blessed state of union. Here a person is not depicted as a substantial soul but in the context of what William James (d. 1910) stipulated as "stream of consciousness"; thus the focus is not on persons as thingssubstances but on the temporal nature of experiencing the world. In this light, both Ibn Sina and Mulla Sadra construe a phenomenological metaphysics in which the mind directly encounters being rather than itself as a substance. In sum, a major contribution of Islamic philosophy lies in its depiction of "persons" in the context of the field of experience.

Key epistemological concepts depicted in light of both value and experience. Traditionally epistemic models followed theoretical frameworks of Platonic writings, where knowledge was identified with the abstraction of concepts. Later knowledge was limited either to concepts received by the intellect or sense data experienced by the senses. Analogous to many recent epistemologies such as American pragmatism, Muslim philosophies examined layers of consciousness/awareness in varieties of knowing, as well as the relation between knowledge and morality. Let us consider some examples from everyday life.

In teaching a trade, the apprentice learns "how to" perform a task, for example, learning how to ride a bicycle, or learning to dance. In these examples, one learns "how to do an activity," instead of learning and conceiving a clarification of an analytical fact like an axiom of geometry or empirical data, like the distance between the sun and earth; one can also become a better perceiver of danger or have a richer experience of music, or sport. With respect to morality and ethics, one may follow Plato's equation of knowledge with virtue and vice with ignorance. Accordingly, learning from the world makes one also a better human being. The primary sources of these practical and holistic epistemologies are the works of Plato and Plotinus. Specifically, Plato uses the allegory of a blindfolded prisoner who, through a continuum of epistemic ascents, finally confronts the source of all sight, which is the sun; he also depicts love as a ladder through which a lover encounters the true form of absolute beauty, which is another icon for the highest good. Plotinus also discusses the ascent of the soul as it seeks to be united with the One, analogous to a daughter, who, recognizing her true love for the father, seeks "no otherness" from the One. Muslim philosophers developed their epistemologies in ways that resemble Ibn Sina's theory of pragmatic imagination. Ibn Sina postulates the epistemology of internal senses, translated here as "prehensive imagination," as illustrated in the case of sheep running away at the sight of a wolf. In such a response, it is not necessary for an agent to be conscious in order to act prudently. Similar cases are found in Muslim theories of learning through the mystical apprenticeship with a Sufic master, as the Disciples of Christ learned from Jesus' acts or one learns from parables in the sacred texts. Recent development in the West in "fuzzy logic," Gestalt psychology, the epistemologies of Marxists, American pragmatists, the views of a number of philosophers such as Henry Bergson (d. 1941), Alfred North Whitehead(d. 1947), and Wittgenstein—all these question the legitimacy of the notion of a conscious state independent of life activity. Al-Ghazali ironically wrote against philosopher's mistakes, but in fact was instrumental in strengthening philosophy among subsequent Muslim scholars. For him the major feature of God and persons is intentional volition. In the case of the Divine, there is the will to create the cosmos. In the case of persons, we have intentional epistemic virtues of the soul's urge in seeking salvation. The most outstanding features of humanity are found in immediate existential feeling tones of exuberance (dhawq), urgency (shawq), and authentic states of intimacy (uns). Al-Ghazali's system integrates a number of insights from various traditions, such as the supremacy of the power of good will in the Zoroastrian tradition and in Friedrich Nietzsche, in Wittgenstein's earlier doctrine as well as in St. Augustine's account of the similarity between persons and the world, of the soul and God. Al-Ghazali's writings were instrumental in integrating the philosophical dimensions with extensive mystical (Sufi) writings in enriching Islamic epistemology and ethics.

Facets of the ethics of self-realization. A major issue in Islamic moral philosophy is various epistemic and normative facets of the ethics of self-realization. The essence of the self is presupposed to be the divine-God-nature; accordingly, the ultimate self-knowledge lies in the archetypal theme of the return to the origin of cosmogony, expressed as dealienation.

As is to be expected, there are varieties of Islamic ethics, such as treatises on pragmatics of politics for princes, and ethical issues in legalistic theology, as well as standard philosophical ethics such as utilitarianism and the Kantian type of morality emphasizing a sense of duty. The most original and complex Muslim contribution to ethics is the Sufi prescription of the good life. Amazingly, this type of ethics may be described in the context of the problem of alienation—estrangement—taken by Marxists, existentialists, phenomenologists, and psychoanalysts to be the most important problem in modern times. The Islamic mystics, known as the Sufis, take a theme common to both Neoplatonism and the Qur˒an that all entities seek to return to their source. Because persons are finite and the ultimate being, such as the God of monotheists or the One of the mystics is without a limit, there is a need for a Christ-like sage, a mediator figure who is half-human and half-divine, who can link the two realms. Usually this union assumes the absorption of persons into the ultimate being, as a river returns to the sea. Here is an example. Suppose a male realizes that his beloved resembles his mother, the first instance of the feminine archetype for the male child. If so, then naturally his "new love" integrates his urge to return to the blessed state of an infant cared by his mother. The love of the specific mother induces the unconscious love of the feminine archetype that results in his discovery of the actualization of an instance of the feminine archetype in his future spouse. Thus, love in a sense signifies a return to the original desire. The Muslim mystic's vision of the ethics of unity is much stronger than the simple case stated above. The mystical return is, in fact, an integration of the last phase of the ethics of self-realization, which constitutes the perfection (kamal) of persons. The Isma˓ili philosopher Nasir Khusraw presents the following Neoplatonic version of this theme of unity through emanation and return. To begin with, neither temporality nor existence may be applied to the term God. What can be talked about is the cosmogony of the emanation of the world from the first intelligence, having been begotten from the One who emanates the universal soul; the latter emanates the individual souls. Now the problem is what to do with these individual souls, as they need to be differentiated from one another in the spiritual realm. In this context, Khusrau proffers the view that the souls are temporarily embodied in order to partake of morally significant experiences, and in life's struggle, they have an opportunity to become purified. The theme is a repetition of Plotinus's view that a body is like the useful instrument of a musician who sets it aside after the dance of earthly life. This example clearly signifies that the Islamic ethos is not an ascetic one, as Muslim philosophers, such as Ibn Sina, clearly distinguish between ascetics, religious devotee, and mystics. In this tenor, it should be mentioned that the prophet Muhammad's personal life is embodied as a prophet statement, as well as in an Islamic religious law (shari˓a), which is concerned with the practical dimension of life on this earth as well as in the afterlife. The Qur˒an itself has a number of references to practical issues such as the economics of gender relations, and to God as a provider of blessings available in this life to His creatures.

A global vision of politics. As exemplified in the works of the greatest Muslim social philosopher, ˓Abd ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun (d. 1379), Muslim political philosophy, in contrast to the individualism of John Locke (d. 1704) and John Stuart Mill (d. 1836), focuses on the Unitarian view of persons, viewing these not as independent individuals, but rather as members of a society or even a global village. The essence of an individual is being a member of a polity. Official Muslim theology is tolerant of Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews, for these "people of the [sacred, monotheistic] book." Accordingly, Muslim rulers have a moral obligation to protect temples and churches, assuring a societal condition wherein monotheistic believers can practice their own kind of worship. In a so-called imaginary jihad, it is conceivable that Jewish and Christian armies can assist Muslims in converting heathens to monotheism. Names of Jewish prophets taken by Muslims and numerous references to parables from the Torah, in the literature of Muslims, show that Muslims regard Jews as the chosen people of the Lord. In the same tenor Jesus, who is taken to be human but a prophet of God, born of a virgin, is often depicted as the mediator figure in Islamic mysticism. In light of these affinities, one may ask in what sense Islamic political philosophy may be unique.

Muslims envision themselves not as being opposed to the earliest monotheistic approaches to society and the poleitia, but as a recipient of the later revelation of God to humanity. The Hebrews received the gift of monotheism, calling Elohim/Yahweh the only God of the universe, a source of divine justice prescribing both rewards and punishment. Christians preached the message of a loving God, who sacrificed His Son, God incarnate, for humanity. The salient feature of Islamic political philosophy is its vision of a unity applied to the global politics of achieving a political unity under a theocratic order. A further delineation of this political philosophy has two implications. First is the rejection of the legitimacy of separating the state and religion, similar to Plato's vision expressed in the Republic that morally useful "myths" should be embedded in the praxis of the state. Among the Shi˓a, a minority of Islamic creed, this theocracy takes a stronger turn.

The salient philosophical framework of Islam, unlike Judaism and Christianity, points to a theocratic political philosophy of globalism—that moved individual alliances away from nationalistic conflicts to a single world community of faithful global citizens. Consequently, several modern Muslim thinkers have offered a number of theories about the encounter between Islam and Western cultures. A partial list of these social philosophers includes Jamal al-Din Asadabadi (also known as al-Afghani, d. 1897), Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938), Muhammad Husayn Tabataba˒i (d. 1989), and Ruhollah Khomeini. Afghani appealed to special Islamic virtues, such as a combination of rationalism and pragmatics of the religious life, such as modesty, honesty, and truthfulness. He suggested that by adopting these archetypal virtues and joining pan-Islamic movements, Islamic culture would be able to encounter positively the power of Western culture. Iqbal was of the opinion that the essence of Islamic culture lies in its transformation of Greek abstract philosophy into an empirical mode of knowledge that takes account of concrete scientific facts; he also saw the active expression of mystical virtues compatible with an Islamic political agenda. Both he and Afghani objected to passive mysticism and attempted to integrate personal intuition and reflections with societal praxis. Tabataba˒i integrated the Shi˓a notion of the imam as an essential mediator figure in a person's search for his essence, which leads to knowledge of God. A number of followers of Tabataba˒i became part of the group of ayatollahs who initiated and carried out the later Islamic revolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. The praxis of his political vision culminated in a division of government into branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) under the supreme leadership of a jurist who has the ultimate power in the state. The new doctrine known as valayat-e faqih has important political implications. In fact it establishes the supreme ayatollah jurist as the guardian of the state, since he holds the ultimate political power in the government. This interpretation of Islamic theology views the supreme jurist not as a mere interpreter of archetypal meta-theories for making particular laws but as a direct power that intervenes in national and international politics of the nation and is backed by the military branch of the government.

Islamic themes have been integrated in the social thoughts of a number of recent African political thinkers. For example ˓Ali A. Mazrui (b. 1933) proffers Islam as the first Protestant type of reformation of Christianity; also Islam is viewed as the last revealed universal religion. Moreover, he questions the Eurocentric approach of alienating Africa from the Middle East and advocates a rewriting of the social map of the area under the concept of "Afrabia." Mazrui's Islamic themes envision the Afrocentric agenda as a phase of a dialectical encounter to the Eurocentric perspective of the earlier centuries. Following the Islamic principle of unity (tawhid), he proposes a synthesis found in Islamic political philosophy, namely a vision of global harmony based on justice such as praxes of Black reparation—a vision suited for the global village of the present millennium.

Symbolic/allegorical theology. An outstanding feature of the Islamic intellectual tradition lies in its symbolic expression, which is embedded in allegory and extensive metaphysical poetry. These texts should not be treated as "soft minded" philosophy. A number of philosophers, such as Ibn Sina, Tusi, and Mulla Sadra, who could and did write technical philosophy, such as logic treatises, also chose to write mystical works. Unlike the descriptive dimensions of physical science, and the analytical and deductive dimensions of syntactical studies like logic and mathematics, mysticism neither explains the world, nor analyzes concepts. It is the primary aim of mysticism to transform the intentional phenomenon of the authentic experiences of persons from an alienating one to one marked by harmony—a harmony in which even the death of one's body is integrated in one's life experience. Another reason for the use of the symbolic method is that the subject matter of discourse is neither empirically observable, sensible, nor an analytically conceivable specific concept. In contrast, it is concerned with topics such as a Gestalt vision of the unity of being, which places the individual and his experience into a harmonious, unified, connected cosmos, where death and birth, knowledge, and ignorance, good and evil are connected. Let us illustrate this point in the pragmatics of the light motif. As Plato uses light symbolism for the sun in the allegory of the cave, Aristotle's depicts the active intelligence as light, and with Plotinus's use of the Sun as an image of the One, it becomes evident that the Sun depicts the Divine in its emanating light. The culmination of the "light motif" is found in the system of the post–Ibn Sina school of philosophy of illumination, founded by Suhrawardi (d. 1119). According to this system, reality may be depicted as a continuum of light; the primordial emanatory called the Light of Lights (depicting the Divine), is part of an eschatological order; last entities are particular bodies, which are also lights. The illumination type of metaphysics overcomes some problems of dualistic ontologies. For example, a mind-body dualism is avoided by depicting mental experiences as enlightenment, and physical entities as particles; thus a single notion, namely that of light, can be used in an ontology without breaking reality into two incompatible primary terms. Also knowledge as illumination can be used in the context of the incarnation (hull) theory of mystical union. For instance, the mystic poet Rumi calls his own master Shams-e Tabrizi, literarily "the Sun of [the City] of/from Tabriz". The Sufi circular dance with one hand to the center of the circle, the other extended to the sky, depicts an act of imitating the sun and the process of its radiation. In the same tenor, faith is symbolized by warmth in the heart of the believer, fire as love of the Divine, and finally the mirror as the prescribed state in which the creature is open to be a witness of the world, which is a creation. The theme of the cycle of descent and ascent is also found in other common sets of icons, such as drowning in the sea, a flight of the bird to the heavens, and the like. In sum, Islamic epistemologies include but are not limited to the standard views of sense perception, conception by analysis and deduction. The dominance of symbolism in the pragmatic theories of knowledge is due to the emphasis of the Islamic intellectual tradition on mysticism, its ethics of self-realization, and its refined delineation of topics like prophecy and various intentional senses of memory, imagination, and communication.


Philosophical speculations comprise an essential dimension of the Islamic intellectual tradition not only in its technical philosophical corpus, but also in its religious, mystical, and literary traditions. It is true that its major framework lies in Greek philosophical sources, especially in Aristotle and Plotinus, and that its content derives from Islamic sources (the Qur˒an, the tradition or hadith, as well as early theologians). However, a number of Muslim philosophers reformulated the earlier Greek views with novel elements that resemble a number of new trends in Western philosophy. Among noteworthy views are a metaphysics of intentional processes, the depiction of persons in the language of fields of experience, a unified global vision of political philosophy, the integration of ethics and metaphysics to form a mystical process of dealienation, and the application of philosophical analyses to both ethics and metaphysics. The salient features of Islamic philosophy are not only special features that differentiate it from other traditions, but they are themes that constitute paradigmatic refinement of philosophical thinking.

See alsoIbn Rushd ; Ibn Sina ; Kalam ; Law ; Tasawwuf ; Wajib al-Wujud .


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Parviz Morewedge