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Islamic scholasticism

Reader comment on item: [American Muslim Group for Policy Planning;] Another "Moderate" Muslim Group

Submitted by LK (Lithuania), Jan 12, 2005 at 02:37

[Do you think that rationalism and scholasticism can ever become mainstream in the Muslim world?]

Scholasticism thrived in the Muslim lands until about the middle of XIX century but it was quite a different kind of Scholasticism than that which existed in the European Middle Ages. It was not Aristotle oriented, but rather a synthesis of Asharism and Avicennism/Neoplatonism. Further, a rationalist strain (Late Kalam) and spiritualist philosophy (Ibn Arabi, Ala ad-Dawla Simnani) can be distinguished within the Islamic scholasticism.

In generally, Sufis regarded the Kalam philosophy as a precondition for more esoteric spiritual philosophy. Compared to European scholasticism, Islamic scholasticism had more affinity with Avicennizing Augustinism than with Thomism. However, different from Western mysticism, Islamic mysticism had more rationalistic, sometimes even thoroughly rationalistic character (not unlike Buddhism and Brahmanism).

Among Shiites, a somewhat different kind of scholastic philosophy emerged which included within it some more philosophic strains (as e.g., Ishraqism) and made a not-so-clear distinction between the esoteric and exoteric. This type of scholasticism continues to be taught in Iran and even today is the mainstream there.

As for scholasticism in the Sunni world, it has generally given up its positions since the middle of the XIX century, but it would be a mistake to consider it dead.

Speaking about the rationalism of the Averroan kind, some interest in it exists in the Arab world now. There are proponents of Averroism and many books of Ibn Rushd were recently republished, but I don't think that it could ever become the mainstream. Different sectors in the Arab and Muslim world adhere to very different philosophies of Ibn Taimiyya, al-Ghazali, Ibn Arabi or Mulla Sadra, but they all, despite all their deep-going differences, would find the philosophy of Ibn Rushd hardly attractive.

Submitting....

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