Talk:Early Islamic philosophy

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Would the author(s) of this page take a look at the already existing article on Islamic philosophy? These articles should be merged together.

  • No they shouldn't! Explained below. There is a long period 15th to 20th century where totally different assumptions - fiqh and taqlid - ruled

Unless, of course, one wishes to create a detailed article only on early forms of Islamic philosophy, and a separate article on later forms of Islamic philosophy.

  • Already done, though this one isn't detailed enough yet.

In that case having two separate entries would be appropriate. However, this does not currently seem to be the case. Any thoughts? RK

  • The main reason to keep them split is because people consult them for very different reasons. People consult the early history for methods and origins of social customs, and the medieval history for legal decisions, and the modern philosophy to compare to other modern religiously rooted philosophy as in Catholicism.
I think we have some terminology confusion here. In this article Early means "not-contemopary" ie. Classical and pre-classical (As we can see from last paragraph "Rise of the Asharite school", that goes well into the late Classical period). I would suggest to merge this article with Islamic philosophy (as three of four sections totaly overlap) and later - when Islamic Philosophy article reaches some stage of maturity - develope an article dedicated to pre-Clasical muslim philosophy and thought. User:abdullah_mk User talk:abdullah_mk

a good start[edit]

I do not have any background in this area, other than some superficial readings. These comments may look like a teacher's marginal comments on a homework assignment, but they are actually a reader's request for more information or clarification.

First paragraph: is “influences” the right word? Looks more like phases to me.

  • They overlap too much to be "phases", these schools really debated for a long time and the tailoff period was usually a century.

Second paragraph: I cannot make sense out of the last sentence. In addition, is “literally millions” accurate for each of these scholars?

  • Apparently it is quite accurate for all of the well-respected books of fiqh. Up to seven million, reputedly, but "millions" can be interpreted as "at least two million but maybe three or four times that" which is fair. Someone who knows which sources to trust can find the actually citations.

As for them, while links allow the reader to learn more about them, it would be good if someone could say more about each of them, putting them in both chronological order and order of importance and tracing their inflluences on each other, in this article.

Third paragraph: this is a good place to explain ijtihad and fiqh; links are good but not enough. Some chronology would be good here, as well as at least identification of the key writers and thinkers, even if we do not develop new pages for each of them.

  • But these things do not mean the same thing today as they meant in this period and it gets confusing to present only the old meanings. I agree more Mulsim scholars need to be listed, see list of Muslims for others who deserve mention.

Fourth paragraph: where is Avicenna [sorry for the bastardized Western version]? Averroes [same apology]? What do we mean “the procedural traditions of Islam”?

  • procedural = ijtihad, isnad, training of ulema, sharia court procedures, means of compiling ilm in ethics or sociology, many things - a whole civilization. And the consensus democracy model that still prevails in many mosques.
More details please. A link to the longer article on Islamic philosophy is a start, but some sort of merger/reorganization/editing as proposed by the earlier poster may also be necessary if this page is to survive in anything like its current form.
  • This period is distinct from the Islamic philosophy period and had had more influence on modern Islamic philosophy than that interim Ottoman period, so I don't think the structure should be changed - see below regarding the Move:

Fifth paragraph: the word “had” in the second sentence confuses me. In addition, I cannot tell whether the peak occurred just as the Asharite school entered the stage or thereafter and whether we are giving any credit to the Asharite school for that peak. While the content suggests we are not, the organization of the sentence suggests that we are. More detail, particularly on the political influence of the new Ottoman Empire on the new orthodoxy, would also be welcome here.

  • It was ambiguous mostly because this is a value judgement. Make up your own mind. It's a good question but probably needs an article in itself. And the way the Ottoman Empire used religion as a control tool needs to be in that article, as it is not about a genuine philosophical movement among the scholars.

Sixth paragraph: much more can and should be said here about the influence of Averroes and Avicenna on Western philosophy and the transmission of earlier texts. But are we treating Islamic philosophy as a closed book after the 14th Century?

  • Yes, more or less, a very few closed books called fiqh and an imitative process called taqlid. It is more or less that from the 15th to the mid 20th.

More detail on this is needed; a link to the article on modern Islamic philosophy is a first step, but not sufficient. Also, someone needs to elaborate on the subject of "Muslim works taken in Spain" and contrast this phenomenon with earlier transmissions.

  • This is a vast historical subject best covered in History of Spain re the period around 1492.

And that leads to another question: is “early” a misnomer for the title of this work, considering that it covers nearly 800 years of development?

  • Not at all, it is certainly the earliest Muslim philosophy, and it isn't easy to differentiate any clear periods within it until you get to the final fiqh of the Ottomans.

Perhaps this page should be used as the first draft of an opening overview to the longer article on Islamic philosophy and this page and name saved for a more detailed discussion of the development of kalam, ijtihad and fiqh. In that case the larger article will also have to incorporate modern Islamic philosophy, but that is a subject for a different talk page.

  • That is possible, but, not desirable because people who wish to study history do not want to read 1500 years of philosophy at once, and those who wish to study philosophy do not care about the historical context as much. This early period is interesting to us mostly for its history and the methods that originated, not so much its philosophical or legal conclusions, so the two subjects (early and modern) are just not the same subject.


  • recognition that science and philosophy are both subordinate to morality, and that moral choices are prior to any investigation or concern with either.

I'm not sure if this would be an achievement or if rather this concept is the one which "closed the door on ijtihad".

  • Power "closed the door" in part through fear of new interpretations of laws that could disadvantage rulers. It is certainly an "achievement" in that no prior society had done this so explicitly, and today we see that dangerous scientific advances have profound effects, e.g. weapon of mass destruction, and must necessarily be subordinate to morality, else we are all quite dead.

That and current day islamic type people have a differnt impression of ijtihad than the one I seem to be getting. Hmph.

  • quite right, liberal movements within Islam prefer something like the old definition, whereas conservatives like the Ottoman concept of taqlid and keep calling it ijtihad or narrowing it. Islam as a political movement is mostly a struggle around this question of how much ijtihad is allowed and who can do it and how far it can go. For instance, can you use ijtihad to argue that homosexuality is OK based on various precedents found in the hadith ? This is totally political obviously. Like any movement there's conservative and reforming forces.

I'll ask around. 15:56, 30 Apr 2004 (UTC)


I moved this from Early Muslim philosophy to match Modern Islamic philosophy -- they should both have the same naming scheme. gren グレン 01:55, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

There's an argument to retain "Muslim" because the early movement included many influences that were clearly not "Islamic" and included for instance many Greeks like Aristotle. Also there was no consensus on what constituted "Islamic", this did take 800 years to evolve. It is quite reasonable though to use a redirect and simply make sure that you link "early Muslim philosophy" if you are referring to an influence or situation where non-Islamic work was being scrutinized or integrated. That is very obvious then in what links here so that those who wish to study interaction between cultures can see what is linked to "Muslim" and those who wish to trace Islam's development can see what is linked to "Islamic". The article itself does a fairly good job now of sorting this out, but it really helps if linking to the right name differentiates the usage (a sort of typed link scheme that Wikipedia:itself could use more of!).
However there are now more parallels between this early period and the modern work, than there are in the interim period which focused on theology and during which fiqh was frozen under the Ottomans. So parallel names aren't bad, but, it might actually be better to say modern Muslim philosphy since there are starting to be very strong non-Islamic influences on Muslims again. Only the interim 15th-to-19th century period was strictly speaking "Islamic" in terms of ignoring all other inputs from other civilizations. The early and the modern Muslims are very much more similar to each other in thinking that either are to the late medieval Ottomans, who were obsessed with taqlid and gave the modern period the frozen fiqh that now most modern scholars want to see abandoned or reformed very deeply. But that too could be in a single unified article. The main reason NOT to do that is because the history of these three periods is radically different and you want people to be able to refer only to the history of the period in question. This is what was done with Christian philosophy as well.

Condescending bias?[edit]

The outstanding achievements of early Muslims are:

Doesn't that strike you as a bit condescending? A bit like how Alan Hansen talks about the African teams in the World Cup?

Agreed. Anyone mind if I remove this?Sludgehaichoi 18:34, 15 June 2006 (UTC) it could easily be seen in this way, as opposed to simply highlighting the greteast of the achievements.... Sludgehaichoi 13:25, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

some dubious links suggested in this article[edit]

1. "the development of a method of open inquiry to disprove claims, the ijtihad, which could be generally applied to many types of questions (although which to apply it to is an ethical question)"; first, this guy is really stressing that ethics is first philosophy and I don't know how original that is to Islamic philosphy of the period (I am referring to the part of the quote that is in paranthesees, and to what I quote below). Second, this description of ijtihad seems just plain false; this struck me as I read it and when I double checked (admittedly, quickly) the meaning of ijtihad (in wikipedia's own entry, and elsewhere), it bore out my suspicions -- ijtihad refers to a political philosophy countenancing the use of independent reason to make judicial decisions -- I am not sure the concept really has the place outside of political philosophy that the author suggests it does. Maybe I'm just in error, but hopefully someone more expert will know.

2. "willingness to both accept and challenge authority within the same process" -- this statement is so sparse and unelaborated that it really means nothing and tells me nothing. I need not only some examples but a more clear idea of what exactly is meant here or else that statement is essentially vacous. I mean, in reading that quote, what did you learn ? Anything ? The same goes for this nealry vacuous, unelaborated statement "Early Muslim medicine and Early Muslim sociology in particular benefited from the Mutazilite approach, but it led to very strong reaction." What was this 'very strong reaction', and what does that phrase even mean ?

3. Someone on wikipedia seems to be going to a lot of trouble to link Islam and science, as I've noticed some similar statements in many different entries. Here, my concern is with the following, "Ijtihad had strong influences on the development of the modern scientific method, while isnad is indistinguishable in form from modern scientific citation." FIRST OF ALL, these claims are very important and so really need citation.

SECOND, 'indistinguishable' is WAY too strong -- in fact, I would say that the two are vastly different (isnad involves reliance on word of mouth, anectodal evidence gathered by dubious means that often leave an unverifiable product. PLUS, isnad is not about coming to a new conclusion but rather about verifying authenticity of supposedly previously existing statements).

THIRD, "Ijtihad had strong influences on the development of the modern scientific method" -- if this is gonna stay it will have to be spelled out far more clearly. From what I know, there is a paucity of evidence suggesting that the islamic notion of ijtihad was well known at all in the circles in which and at the time during which the idea of a scientific method fomented. Sources of influence should be provided explaining how ijtihad came to be known at the right times and places and the actual impact ijtihad had would need to be explained; I suspect (though I would love to be proven wrong -- if Islam did have an impact on the idea of the scientific method I'd love to know about it) that what I'm gonna get amounts to this --> ijtihad = dedication to reliance upon independent reasoning, scientif method = independent reasoning to form hypotheses, etc., thus, ijtihad is clearly a precursor of scientific method. Of course, this argument is fallacious -- you can say that conceptually the two are, perhaps, related, that they express a similiar ethos, but you CANNOT conclude from this that there is any historical link between them, or that one flowed out of the other.

4. "During this period many remarkable achievements of engineering and social organization were made, and the ulama began to generate a fiqh based on taqlid ("emulation") rather than on the old ijtihad." AGAIN, don't just say that there were achievements, spell it out a little more. ALSO, I'm a little confused by "and the ulama began to generate a fiqh based on taqlid ("emulation") rather than on the old ijtihad" -- the whole article has been about how great ijtihad is and this last paragraph links its use to the greatness and peak of islamic civilization. But, then, with "and the ulama began to generate a fiqh based on taqlid ("emulation") rather than on the old ijtihad.", it is suggested that the use of taqlid instead of ijitihad was the mark of the rise of Islamic civlization to its peak; taqlid and ijtihad are OPPPOSITES !

Mercmisfire 02:23, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

Islamic natural selection??????[edit]

This is the reason why i have removed any refernces to islamic ideas on natural selection, yet another massive, gross misrepresentation of the so called "islamic science", clearly demonstrating that once again the proffessionals of islamic science have absolutely no clue about science themselves, or history and are only intersted in distortions of massive proportions.

here's little biology lesson for whoever writes this nonense about nautral selection and evoltuion on islamic thought. what is natural selection, well what darwin told is this species exist within a particular environment, then ones that posses certain charateristics, that is ones they are born with will be able to feed themselves better and survive and reproduce more then the species that do not have those traits, hence the fundemental principle of evolution though natural selection, nautral selection acts on individuals, but only populations can evolve, as Darwin said those species are naturally selected. So where does this apply here. Evolutionary thought has existed for millienia, what Darwin did is he provided us with the framework of how evolution happened, natural selection, as mentioned above. Nowhere has any muslim philosopher provided an ounce of a description of evolution through natural selection. all they have done is implied that certain species evoloved from others., but thats not natural selection. Natural selection is the framework within which evolution happens. Last and most importantly, Darwin went about scientifically proving natural selection, through his studies of species on the Galápagos Islands. He did not invoke God or any angles in his thesis, since thats not science, but mere religious philosophy, and he thesis consisted of several books, not a couple of paragraphs. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Special:Contributions/Tomasz Prochownik (talk) 08:51, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

when anyone here can provide something remotely resembling nautral selection, as proposed by Darwin, then you can post such claims. In short all muslim scholars described was evoltuion, but certainly not nautral selection, and it most definately was not scientific in the slightest bit

Natural selection is not the struggle for existence, they are totally seperate ideas, struggle for existence is just stating that animals compete in order to survive, nautral selection is the scientific framework in which adaptation occurs in species. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tomasz Prochownik (talkcontribs) 09:04, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

In general, I agree with these sentiments. Standards of scholarship on different topics must bear some resemblance to good scientific and historical practice if they speak on a point of science. It is quite obvious that the word 'evolution' in this article does not mean the same as understood by evolutionary biologists. Many/most of the referenced articles are of low standing or even quite useless. Many of the translations from Arabic are questionable, inserting modern terms into ancient thinking without adequate justification.
Example: "These works likely had an influence on 19th century evolutionists, and possibly Charles Darwin, who may have been a student of Arabic". Since we know almost everything about Darwin's life, and a great deal is available on-line, we can say that there is not a single shred of evidence that Darwin studied Arabic. So why does this appear on a WP article? It is there, perhaps, to give support to a most unlikely thesis, a thesis which you will not find in any standard history of the theory of evolution. In my view, almost all occurrences of the word 'evolution' in this article are question-begging. The question begged is 'was this Arabic scholar really talking about evolution as we know it?' Macdonald-ross (talk) 19:14, 5 March 2008 (UTC)

al jahiz citation has un ureliable source[edit]

it was taken only by a radio debate, and it was quoted by gary dargan, without reporting from wich part of the book it was taken —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:22, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

I've removed two references that were added to this article (and to al-Jahiz) in support of the claim about al-Jahiz's ideas on evolution: "Time to acknowledge debt science in West owes to Islamic world, Irish Times and Science: Islam's forgotten geniuses, The Daily Telegraph". Both of these articles have clearly copy-pasted this quotation from here or from the original site (Gary Dargan, Intelligent Design, Encounter, ABC), but they repeat the misquotation that was originally just on this page (i.e., that the words are a quotation from Al-Jahiz rather than an alleged summary of its contents), so it is safe to assume that they use this page as a source.
I am impressed by what this demonstrates about the power of Wikipedia: information can be placed here from a poor source, which is then picked up by some rather credulous mainstream media, and that in turn can then be used to support the original low quality claim. The circle is complete.
To Jim Al-Khalili's credit, he ran a similar article to his one above [1] the very next day in The Guardian [2], in which the claim about al-Jahiz's ideas is much reduced. –Syncategoremata (talk) 09:40, 13 March 2010 (UTC)


There is also a high degree of anachronism. Al Farabi is accounted a sociologist, psychologist and cosmologist even though he lived centuries before these disciplines even existed. As for the detailed claims within the articles, it’s impossible to subject them to serious scrutiny in their entirety. All one can say is if Islamic thinkers really had invented the experimental method, clinical testing in medicine, peer review and evolution, it is very surprising that the scientific revolution actually happened in 17th-century Western Europe.J8079s (talk) 23:00, 12 August 2010 (UTC) for user JOJI JOSE (talk | contribs)

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