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History of Islam
8- Islamic Theology and Philosophy
Undergraduate 2

Additional History Flashcards




school of thinking in early Islam, 800-950-ish, rationalist school that allowed the use of reason in interpreting the Quran, later morphed into the Shiite school

Major Islamic intellectual and theological movement famous for defending freedom of the will the absolute unity of God, and the createdness of the Qu’ran.

Mutazilites dominated ‘Abbasid court circles under the caliphs Ma’mun and Mu’tasm.

1. Unity (tawhid). God oneness is absolute. Nothing else, including God’s attributes or God’s speech, the Qu’ran, is enternal, and God does not resemble his creation in any way.

2. Justice (‘adl). God is obligated to act justly, giving out regards and punishments in strict accordance with each person’s performance.

3. “The promise and the threat.” When God makes a promise, or issues a threat, he is bound to carry through with it.

4. The intermediate position. A grave sinner (fasiq) can be considered neither a believer nor an unbeliever.

5. Commanding the right and forbidding the wrong. It is a duty to oppose injustice (e.g. rebel against an evil ruler) if one has the ability.
Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari and Ash’arism
another school of thought attempting to reconcile literalists and rationalists, it takes pieces from both extremes, uses rationalist tools to come to literalist conclusions

Founder of the main branch of Sunni Kalam. He felt under no restraint to apply to systematic reasoning to theology. According to the story of his conversion, Al Ash’ari began as a talented Mu’tazilite theologian. Then, he experienced a series of life transforming dreams. In his first dream the prophet appeared to him and instructed him to defend the doctrines related in the hadith. He dropped everything to study hadith and repudiated everything Mutazilite. At this the prophet was forced to return in another dream in which he angrily informed al –Ash’ari that his instructions had not been to give up theological method, but to defend the traditions by means of dialectical theology. Al-Ash’ari against speculation.

Distinctives of Asharite Theology:

1. Divine Determinism. Every action is created independently by God simultaneous with its occurrence.

2. The doctrine of acquisition (kasb). Humas are responsible for their actions by virtue of their acquisition of acts created by God.

3. The eternity of God’s attributes. God’s attributes are eternal and are “neither God nor other than God.”

4. The eternity of the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran is the eternal, uncreated Word of God. Discussion of wheter the sounds or letter of earthly copies are eternal is an innovation and Muslims should not indulge in such speculations.

5. Faith includes works. Faith consists of belief, knowledge, and works, hence faith can increase and decrease, and sin impairs it.

6. Sinners are not to be declared unbelievers, or consigned to hell.

7. The intercession of the Prophet. Muhammad will intercede for his community on the Day of Judgment, just as tradition says he will, wheter the Mut’azilites like it or not.

8. Descriptions of God in revealed sources are to be accepted bila kayfa, without knowing how, that is, without recourse either to rationalistic speculation or indulgence in anthropomorphism.
speculating about God’s nature and attributes
speculative theology

The kalam method marked by the question and answer format, provided a common medium for theological expression. The theological method did not go unchallenged, however, and the most serious challenge came from the philosophers.
Ahl al-Hadith
literally ‘partisans of hadith,’ those of the literalist school of thought who believed that hadith, the Quran, and the Sunna should be the basis for all law and doctrine, relying solely upon the literal interpretation of those texts (ie no reasoning)
Plotinus (d. 270)
idea of emanations, through proper understanding, one can achieve unity with the One
Plotinus the founder of Neo-platonism had worked out a system that made the Aristotelian construction of God much more palatable, allowing God to remain self-sufficient while still assigning him credit for bringing into existence a world full of other beings. God does not exactly create the world, according to Plotinus. Rather it emerges as the final stage in a series of emanations from God. Thus Islamic Philosophy came from an Aristotelian foundation and a Neo-platonic framework. The Neo-platonic system led to problems for Muslims. For one thing, one would not expect a God like this to be the sort of God who reveals himself through prophets.
Aristotle (d. 322 BC)
philosopher whose systems of logic and categorization of knowledge provided the framework for later Islamic scholars

His philosophy was that God is in pure form, perfect and eternally contemplating himself. Aristotle’s God creates problems for religious types, however. To begin with, he is not a creator in the ordinary sense. To the contrary, the world is eternal, and the souls are eternal. This renders God entirely self sufficient and independent of matter, solving a problem for the philosophers, but creating a whole host of problems for believers of most any stripe.
Ibn Sina / Avicenna
The Greatest of Islamic philosophers, known in the West as Avicenna.

Fully developed Neo-Platonism in Islam
Ibn Rushd / Averroes
Believes no conflict between religion and philosophy, they are merely different ways of arriving at the same truth.
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