MUSLIMS PHILOSOPHERS AND MEDIEVAL SCHOLASTICISM

Shahzada Rahim

The discourse of philosophy is old and has been controversial across various civilizations of the world. The word philosophy was the brainchild of ancients Greeks, who considered it the only valid form of knowledge and transferred it to the rest of the world as their legacy. This legacy can be understood in the famous words of Isaac Newton ‘Modern dwarfs standing on the shoulders of the ancients’. Hence, the birth of the Islamic philosophy, medieval scholasticism, German idealism and the continental European philosophy were based on the philosophical theories and writings of the ancient Greeks such as Aristotle, Plato and the Socrates. With the ascension of Christianity in Europe, people have neglected the Greek philosophy for centuries. Nonetheless, in the 10th and 11th centuries under the Islamic rule of Abbasids, the writings of Greek philosophers were translated into the Arabic by Muslim philosophers at the Academy of wisdom.  It was the Muslim philosophers Ibn-e-Rushd, Ibn-e-Sina and Al Farabi, who have translated the writings of Greek philosopher into Arabic by anticipating the essence of those writings with the Islamic theology. Moreover, it was for the time after several centuries, the Greek rationalism was re-invented by the Muslim philosophers. Afterwards the writings and interpretation of Greek philosophers was absorbed by the Latin world known as Scholasticism, whose essence can be traced the in the writings of Thomas Aquina, George Barkley, Immanuel Kant and even Hegel. Similarly, the fact cannot be denied that the writings of Muslim philosophers such as Ibn-e-Rushd and Ibn Sina had played a great role in the re-invention of Greek philosophy throughout the Middle Ages.  On the contrary, the re-interpretation of the ancient Greek texts at the academy of wisdom was aimed at developing a new pattern of synchronicity between the philosophical writings of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates and Islamic theology. Moreover, the fact cannot be denied that it was scholastic interpretation of the ancient Greek philosophy by Ibn-e-Sina and Ibn-e-Rushd, which has paved the way for the rise of Medieval European philosophy. Likewise, their works were highly admired and appreciated by the famous Christian thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great and George Berkley. It is because, the influence of Islamic scholastic philosophy upon the writings of Medieval European philosopher often known as ‘Medieval Averroists’ was unprecedented. As a matter of fact, the Scholastic philosopher have defended ideological struggle of the philosophy against the hardline theocratic theories and the intellectual supremacy of the absolute theocracy.  The Medieval Islamic and Latin thinkers have actually defended the existence of God and defined religion on the rational grounds. Moreover, their philosophical basis of describing religion and their methodology of rationalizing God’s existence was even admired by the famous German idealists such as Kant and Hegel. Similarly, since the reinvention of ancient Greek philosophy in the form of Islamic scholastic philosophy and Medieval scholastic philosophy, there have been three major methods for the philosophical investigation often known as ‘Inference’ which involves the techniques of induction, deduction and reduction. When it comes the philosophy of Ibn-e- Rushd, Ibn-e-Sina and Thomas Aquinas, they have used the deductive method to explain the foundation of religion and the existence of God on rational grounds.  

Ibn-e-Rushd , Ibn-e-Sina and deductive Reasoning 

 Famous Muslim philosopher Ibn-e-Rushd was born in 1126 in Andalusia (modern the Spain), who became a famous philosopher across the Islamic world at younger age. The reason for his fame was his defense of the rationalist ethics and enlighten traditions of the Islamic philosophy against the conservative, and deeply theocratic philosophy of Al- Ghazali. Perhaps, the criticism against the Al-Ghazali can be understood from his famous reply titled ‘The Incoherence of the Incoherence’ against the famous book of al Gazali titled ‘The Incoherence of the Philosophers’. His philosophy was influenced from the work of famous Greek philosopher Aristotle and Plato. Especially, the famous work of Aristotle ‘Nicomachean ethics’ has highly influenced the philosophical thinking of Ibn-e-Rushd.  Basically, Ibn-e-Rushd’s talks about the highest stage of philosophical vision in order to abolish the radical theocratic outlook towards philosophy. Rushd’s doctrine of unlimited coherence and internal relations that refers to everything and everything else have given birth to the philosophy of ‘Metaphysics’ and ‘subjectivism’. In contrast, if we overhaul the subjectivism of Ibn Rushd, it was the influence of writings of Aristotle that led Islamic philosophy towards subjectivism but at the same time by reincarnating new patterns of the Greek philosophy. It is mainly because the concept of revelation cannot be understood without taking into account the concept of reason and rationality. Therefore, for Rushd, the concept of God and the revelation in the Holy Scripture must be studied through reason and rationality.  As an illustration, Ibn-e-Rushd firmly believe that the existence of God is justified and perhaps, it can be logically grasped by rationally reading the revealed scriptures. It was this pattern of philosophical understanding of religion and the existence of God, which has attracted Latin audience towards the writings of Muslim philosophers. He criticized the radical interpretation of Islam, against which he developed a rational philosophical stance. By examining the latter contribution of Ibn-e-Rushd, it can be said that the philosophy of Ibn-e-Rushd has brought renaissance in Islamic philosophical thinking. Likewise, the enlighten philosophy of Ibn-e-Rushd has also transformed both Christian and Jewish faith by involving the method of deductive reason in study of religion. Perhaps, it was based on this deductive reasoning, Ibn-e-Rushd Criticized the Al-Ghazali’s theocratic interpretation (Shariah) in the study of Islamic Philosophy. His major works include Kulliyyat fil-tibb, and Tahafat ul Tahafat translated as incoherence of incoherence. Ibn-e-Sina was another famous Muslim philosopher, who was born in 980 (AH 380/AD) in Bukhara Central Asia. He was both a philosopher and physician, who began studying both medicine and philosophy at the age of thirteen. From the standpoint of the philosophy, he was a rationalist, who studied rationally ‘the nature of God’ and ‘the nature of being’. Moreover, today he is one of the renowned faces of Medieval Scholastic philosophy because of his theory of knowledge. He briefly discussed the concepts such as the concept of Spirit, Being, and even he discussed dialectics. Basically, it was the concept of reality and reasoning, which were central to the concept of Ibn-e-Sina’s Philosophy. For him, the ultimate purpose of reasoning and rational analysis to find the philosophical faculties to reach God and thus, truth or the ultimate reality.  Similarly, he stressed on the importance of gathering knowledge and developed his theory of knowledge by taking into the account the patterns of four faculties, which includes sense perception, intentions, imagination and estimation. For Ibn-e-Sina, it is by employing these faculties one can gather knowledge about spirit and being. Moreover, it is only by using these faculties, one can reach the theory of knowledge and hence, can grasp the concept of God. He had also developed the concept of metaphysics by making a clear distinction between essence and existence, which became cornerstone to the philosophy of German idealists. Moreover, it was based on the concept of essence and existence, Ibn-e-Sina has developed his ontological and epistemological basis of knowledge.  For Ibn-e-Sina, the distinction between essence and existence can be applied to everything except God because God is first cause of everything and thus, God is both essence and existence. He used the method of deductive reasoning to understand philosophical essence of soul and for Sina, the concept of soul is permanent, which cannot be destroyed. As a matter of fact, the whole philosophy of Ibn-e-Sina was based on the philosophy of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. According to the categories of Aristotle, the metaphysical existence of God is proved and possible. Perhaps, this was the central theme of Ibn Sina’s philosophy. His major works includes, Al Isharat wa-l-Tanbihat translated as Remarks and admonition, Al Qanun Fi’l’-tibb translated canon on medicine, Risalah fi sirr al-qadar translated as Essays on the secrets of destiny and al-shifa translated as healing.  

 Thomas Aquinas and Medieval Scholasticism 

 Thomas Aquinas was the Medieval Italian philosopher and theologian born in the year 1225. He Founded the Thomastic School of theology and philosophy. The whole philosophy of Thomas Aquinas is based on the writings of Ibn-e-Rushd and was little influenced from the philosophy of Ibn-e-Sina. Although, it is still a paradox in history, whether Thomas Aquinas was the actual receptor of Averroes philosophy   or not. Perhaps, one of the major reason for this connection was Aristotle, who was the main source for the philosophical contemplation of Thomas Aquinas and Ibn-e-Rushd. Just like Ibn-e-Rushd, the philosophical writings of Thomas Aquinas had played a major role in the renaissance of the Medieval European philosophy.  Similarly, the central theme of his major work ‘Summa Theologica’ was surrounding the concept of the existence of God. He rationalized the justified the existence of God from the holy scriptures by rationalizing the revelation and by subjecting the concept of God with the highest standards of reason. For him, the concept of God can be deduced by subjecting the attributes of God with the rational philosophical inquiry. To disclose the concept of God, he applied the method of deductive reasoning to the concept of trinity and incarnation. He explained this rational understanding of the concept of God in his famous work ‘On the Truth of Catholic Faith’, which was published around 1270.  In contrast for Thomas Aquinas, the concept of faith and Reason are central for the achievement of ultimate truth and hence, to grasp the concept of God. Moreover, if we thoroughly examine the domain of the Thomas Aquinas philosophy, it covers a broad range discourses such as metaphysics, psychology, theology and cosmology. For instance, through his Metaphysics he explained the concept of knowledge and the proved the existence of God. Likewise, in Psychology, the explained the relationship between senses and intellect. Similarly, in theology and cosmology, he attempted to explain relationship between faith and reason and the phenomenon of time. 

Conclusion

 In contrast, it can be said that the whole discourse of the medieval scholastic philosophy was shaped by the writings of Famous Muslim philosopher, whose writings influenced the perennial European philosophy. Basically, from the standpoint of Medieval Scholasticism, the medieval philosopher such as Ibn-e-Rushd, Ibn-e-Sina, and Thomas Acquinas had explained the existence of God and holy revelation by employing the method of deductive reasoning. More precisely, the philosophical tradition of deductive reasoning also remained central to idealist and neo-idealist philosophy of early nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Via https://www.geopolitica.ru/en/article/muslims-philosophers-and-medieval-scholasticism