Ancient Greek Thought and Islamic Philosophy
6th Part from the Book
“Islam & Islamic Sciences”
Edited in Greek & English by Professor Dr. Amin Ahmed Ezeldin
عظماء الفكر الاسلامي
فلسفة الأسلام و الفكر اليوناني القديم
الفصل السادس من كتاب
الأسلام و العلوم الأسلامية
الصادر باللغة اليونانية و الأنجليزية للاستاذ الدكتور أمين أحمد عزالدين
As a result of the aforementioned translations, an interaction of the Greek thought with the Arabic one was inevitable in the
spiritual world of Islam. The interaction remains alive up today, and was a healthy phenomenon in the new religion of Islamism, that managed to deeply influence and conquer the international thought, by bringing it close to Islam. The analytic character of the ancient Greek thought did not manage to destroy or unsettle the vision of a totality as far as the Creator and the Universe are concerned. In this respect, the Islamic physiognomy remained intact. But the content and the means (methods, systems, natural sciences) of the Greek spirit were still welcome, because they had always been ideal for the perfection of one’s formation and were based on the Alexandrian and Athenian School. The Aristotelian influence on the Arabic Thought started in the second century of Hegira, when the Arabs started to translate Aristotle’s philosophy. Nevertheless, the Arabic thought did not remain inert towards the Aristotelian idealism, but many Arabic scholars revised Aristotle, after the eighth century. For instance, the word ‘’quouah’’ means ‘’power’’, ‘force’ in contemporary Arabic, whereas in the 14th century, the Aristotelian meaning ‘possibility of activation, so that production will be achieved’ was used in the language. In inanimate beings, this aforementioned ability remains inert, until external factors activate it, such as copper or stone, for instance that hide inside them possibility of becoming a sculpture. In animate beings, this power is internally incited by means of energy. For this reason, the Arab chemist Jaber b. Hayyan had defined chemistry as the conversion of the notion of potential into that of active.
Therefore the Islamic philosophy accepted the Greek philosophy in its entirety. DEN, ON (being), EN (one), ‘EINAI’ (to be) were adapted to the Islamic teaching. It also reconciled Plato and Aristotle. It instilled the simplicity and dynamity of Islamism in the international thought and stripped ancient Greek philosophy of possible phoney elements. What it added to philosophy was the following
‘Truth in Faith means truth in wisdom’’
The first spiritual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction
الفلاسفة الأوئل من علماء المسلمين العظماء و الفكر اليوناني
The first intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction was Jaber Ibn Hayyan (died in the beginning of the ninth century). His first philosophical writing comprises the entire Islamic thought (which we have summarized above) and completes it as well. His works were loyal to Islamism and exude dynamity. In them, the first Islamic teaching method, which was maintained up to ibn khaldun’s era (14th century), is presented. It is method that establishes ‘faith to God’ as the basis of the cosmic knowledge and the Greek thought.
This ‘first Greek-Arabic intellectual fruit’ has produced a lot of books and studies, which, as an Aristotelian encyclopedia would, constitute a traditional source for thousands of Muslim writers that followed at least up to the era of Ibn Khaldun (14th ce). As it happens with every scientist that goes down in history as an expert in a scientific sector, Jaber became famous with the name of the ‘Chemist’. The great work of Jaber is perhaps the first landmark in the internal structure of Islamism
اعلام الفكر في الفسلفة الأسلامية و اليونانية و مقارنة بينهم
The second intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
The second intellectual fruit is EL KINDI (801-864 AD), he is called The Philosopher of the Arabs and Islam, who left behind a concise encyclopedia of 250 books and studies, which exhibit an apparent affinity with the Neoplatonic school of Athens. He was the first one to compile a special dictionary with philosophical terminology, while in another writing of his; he studied the books of Aristotle.
The third intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
Among the disciples of one of el KINDI’ S disciples, we shall mention the name of FARABI (873-950), who is renowned for being the second master (according to the Arabs, the first one is Aristotle). He was particularly prolific and his writings have a purely philosophical character. He is the first one that reconciles Aristotle and Plato in a writing of his, titled: A Revision of the Views of the two Wise men, Plato and Aristotle. Another great writing of his is: the statistics of sciences.
The fourth intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
The fourth spiritual fruit of the Greek – Islamic interaction, belonging to the earlier school of Arabic philosopher, is Ibn Sina (Avicenna, 1037 AD). He was the greatest Muslim philosopher. He had studied the writings of Jaber Ibn Hayyan, Kindi and mainly those of Farabi. He left a lot of writings behind him and in Western Europe he was renowned for his contribution to Theology and Medicine
The fifth intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
The fifth spiritual fruit of the Greek – Islamic interaction was Ibn Al Haytham (1038 AD), who studied Greek in depth and stood for the Aristotelian method. He also expressed his views on philosophy, as it should be expected, and he particularly studied Ophthalmology. He corrected works of ancient Greek writers and Ptolemy Claudius.
The sixth intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
The sixth spiritual fruit of the Greek – Islamic interaction was Al Beyruni (1048 AD), who studied earlier Arab philosophers and Indian ones as well, because he mastered the Indian language. He also expressed his views on philosophy. He was very well-known as a mathematician – astronomer.
The seventh intellectual fruit resulting from the Greek – Islamic interaction:
The seventh spiritual fruit was the Arab philosopher Ibn Massarrah of Cordoba (931 AD) who taught the ancient Greek philosophy of Empedocles, in particular, and also created the first neoplatonic school, in which the name of Empedocles was heard for the first time. But when the Arab nobleman of Spain Abdul Rahman II (916-961) returned from the East, bringing the Islamic philosophy along with him, he totally rejected his philosophy and ordered that all ibn massarrah’s books should be burnt in front of their creator. Later on, however, when Al Hakam, Abdul Rahman’s heir, was in power (961-976 AD), his scientific books (and only them) were permitted again, which were then placed in the library of Cordoba, where it is said that there were 400000 volumes on various sciences.
الجامع الأسلامي الوحيد في منطقة كوموتيني بدولة اليونان
The Mosque of Komotini (Rhodope) in Greece
The twelfth century is regarded as the golden century in Andalusia of Spain, during which another philosopher, Ibn Bajjah (1138 AD), lived and wrote in Seville. He wrote about the theories of the west in many of his writings. He followed Farabi’s philosophy and became very well-known as a mathematician, astronomer, musician and physician.
A third philosopher (and Ibn Tufayl’s disciple) was Ibn Rushd – Averroes (1126 AD – 1198 AD). He was a Mufti, a judge, a physician, and above all an Aristotelian philosopher. He fanatically stood for Aristotle and wrote several writings. After Ibn Rushd’s death, the Greek – Arabic philosophy became poorer.
The above nine philosophers of Islam consist the spine of the Islamic philosophy (Arabic countries – Spain), which was inevitable to influence all spiritual and functional fields of Islamism. These influences took place on various fields. In the linguistic field (grammar – linguistics – poetic and rhetorical speech – dialectics…), the presence of the Greek philosophy was particularly pronounced.
Also in the scientific field, new natural, theological and mathematical sciences were created, while the Arabs of each generation successfully contributed to the advance of thought. Some particular sciences were crystallized in the Arabic language for the first time. Up to Ibn Khaldun’s era, one can count hundreds of chemists, physicists, physicians, astronomers, mechanics, mathematicians, psychologists, geographers, historians and others that have left thousands of writings behind. Despite the serious damages that the Mongols caused in Asia and fanatical Christians in Spain, the Arabic libraries were full of important books in the 14th century. A. Hufi mentions that there were about 100 volumes in a school of that time, while one of Ibn Khaldun’s professors had 3000 volumes in his private bookcase. In the field of rationalism, the Aristotelian organ prevailed as a philosophical mean, along with the three Euclidean works.
The three books on Logic of Euclid are about ‘Kind’ and not ‘Matter’, and this is why the Arabs call this method ‘Siouri’ , i.e. ‘the method of the kind’. His fourth book called Maddi, i.e. ‘of the matter, the aesthetics, the cosmic life’. The scientific ‘eidenai’ is achieved only by means of the probative method Burhan. The Arab philosophers maintained Euclid’s system, analyzed it, justified it and provided us with examples of methodological Induction.
It should be emphasized that this great influence did not prevent freedom of thought from existing. The Arabs did not imitate the Greek thought blindly and uncritically. There were hundreds of intellectuals that have contested and rejected the ancient Greek thought and have supported the authentic Arabic culture with fanaticism. But they were unconsciously influenced by the Greek philosophical and scientific style in writing, which was new to them and thus became introduced to the Arabic civilization. Greek influence is found even in the Orthodox Sunnites.
Pre-Socratic and Post-Socratic philosophy is manifest in the Islamic mysticism, which looks down upon philosophy, and also in the moderate supporters of the Quranic tradition, such as El Gazali, who was against Greek Philosophy.
Nevertheless, it is certain that in the first seven centuries of Islam, thousands of scientists such as philosophers, mechanics, chemists, astronomers, poets, writers, historians, geographers, technicians, literary men, artists etc were born. Alas, if they had rejected Greek philosophy from the beginning. The Arabs, creative people as they were, had known from the beginning their spiritual mission in the cultural course of time. They accepted to complete the international treasures and willingly gave their spiritual fruits to the west and the east, without causing any spiritual offences.
In principle, all spiritual treasures belong to the whole world, without exception. In the course of time, there were people that sealed human spirit with their physiognomy and showed interest in spiritual progress, by building schools and academies and by practicing the art of writing. Despite the fact that natural disasters or social causes destroyed a great part of the Thought, new life sprang from this infertile land. The torch of Spirit has always been burning. It was kept alive by the Egyptian Pharaohs, who had built scientific academies since the third millennium BC, the Greeks of Athens, who had founded an academy- lyceum since the 5th century BC, while their descendants found a Museum and an International Library in Alexandria representing a light that was burning for about a thousand years. Later on the Arabs, in their turn, founded the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, Cordoba, Seville and El Azhar in Cairo, which still exists.
There are two international movements in the History of Thought, 1) the Hellenic (Greek) one and 2) the Arab one. The first movement resulted from the expansion of Greece and the second one from that of Arabia. Both of them have a single source and the springs of wisdom of this source have roots in antiquity. They both contributed to the awakening of western civilization, which lacked a past. The Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun plays the role of a landmark, sealing the end of Greek-Arabism, since he is thought to be the last representative of the Arabic humanism and also the starting point of contemporary ‘westernism’.
الأسلام و العلوم الأسلامية و الفكر اليوناني القديم
صادر أثينا – اليونان
بقلم أ.د. أمين أحمد عزالدين
1) تمت المراجعة و التصديق علي هذا الكتاب من سماحة فضيلة الشيخ \ سامي محمد متولي الشعراوي الأمين العام للمجلس الأعلي للبحوث الأسلامية بالأزهر –
و كذلك الأدارة العامة للبحوث و التأليف و الترجمة بمجمع البحوث الأسلامية بالأزهر الشريف – القاهرة – جمهورية مصر العربية
2) تمت المرجعة و التصديق علي الكتاب من السيد عادل شعبان – وكيل أول وزارة التعليم العالي بجمهورية مصر العربية
3) التصديق علي نص الكتاب بوزارة الخارجية المصرية
اقدم خالص الشكر و العرفان الي سماحة فضيلة الأمام الأكبر شيخ الجامع الأزهر الأستاذ الدكتور محمد سيد طنطاوي للدعم الأخلاقي و المعنوي لهذا العمل
I feel obliged to thank
1) His Grace Saheb El Fadila Sheikh of ElAzhar Mosque, Dr. Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, Imam (head) of the Supreme Religious Islamic Institution of Al Azhar - Egypt
2) His Grace Saheb Al Fadila El Sheikh Sammy Metwally El Shaarawi, Secretary General of the Islamic Academy for Research, Writing and Translation of Al Azhar - Egypt
3) The First Deputy Minister, the Head of the Sector for Cultural Affairs and Missions, Sector, Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education, Mr. Adel Shaaban
اول كتاب عن الأسلام باللغة اليونانية
تم ايداعة في مكتبة الأزهر الشريف بالقاهرة