5 Famous Muslim Philosophers in History

The golden age of Islam around the 8th to 13th centuries gave birth to many of the most important Muslim philosophers in human history. They have complemented the thinking of famous Western philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato.

Their roles are equally important, but Muslim philosophers are often rarely known to the public. Here are 5 famous Muslim philosophers from the golden age of Islam, sourced from Huffpost written by Muqtedar Khan, professor of Islam and Global Affairs at the University of Delaware, based on their periods of life:

1. Al-Farabi, One of Muslim Philosophers in History

Al-Farabi (872-951 AD)
Al-Farabi (872-951 AD)

Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi, also known in Arabic as Al-Muallim Al-Thani. He is one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in the world.

Al-Farabi contributed so greatly that it could not be measured, in the thought of Aristotelianism and Platonicism, so it is said that modern times owe much to this polymath from Central Asia.

He not only preserved, but also developed Greek philosophy. He contributed to philosophy, mathematics, music, metaphysics, as well as politics. One of his most important books on political philosophy is “The Views of the People in His Holiness”.

In his Virtuous City, Al-Farabi seeks to build a city based on justice, such as the Republic of Plato, which seeks the highest happiness for its citizens and is guided by the enlightened views of its philosophers.

Al-Farabi called Muqtedar Khan the first Muslim to explicitly consider the benefits of democracy. For someone who thinks that Islam and Democracy are suitable, it is nice to read his views on democracy, which is very positive.

Al-Farabi’s view suggests that a democratic society has the potential to be a virtuous society, because good people have the freedom to pursue virtue.

Al-Farabi’s thinking enlightens about fair governance in democracies and encourages people to think independently.

2. Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111 CE)

Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111 CE)
Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111 CE)

Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali was one of the most important scholars in Islamic thought. He was a philosopher, a legal scholar, and a theologian, and towards the end of his life, he became a mystic thinker.

For many Muslims, al-Ghazzali is an example, a reformer of Islam. He had tried to mediate divisions when there were many disputes of his time, namely between philosophers and theologians, between rationalists and traditionalists, and Mystics and orthodoxies.

Al-Ghazzali bridges with the idea set forth in Ihya Ulum al-Din or The Resurrection of Religious Sciences, which contains a record of massive efforts to find a golden way among all these different trends.

The maturity of Al-Ghazzali’s thinking is very interesting. After his intellectual crisis and spiritual awakening, he became more like Sheikh Rabbani of India, who balanced Shariah and Order (law and mysticism).

3. Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 CE)

Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 CE)
Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 CE)

Averroes, known in the West as Averroes, may have had a greater influence on Western religion and philosophy than on Islamic thought.

Some Muslim historians describe the enlightened modern West as the imagination of Averroes. Averroes was a remarkable thinker. He was a judge, an Expert in Islamic Law (Maliki), a doctor, and a philosopher.

In his book “Fasl al-Maqal” or “The Decisive Treatise”, he lays out reasons for philosophy as well as for the compatibility of science and religion, faith and reason.

His work, “Tahafut al-Tahafut” or “Incoherence of Incoherence”, is a systematic rebuttal to Al-Ghazali’s thinking from his book “Tahat al-Falasifah” (Incoherence of Philosophy) and a strong defense of Aristotle’s philosophy.

Together, the two classics of Ibn Rusyd and Al-Ghazzali are in the spotlight in the philosophical heritage of Islam.

4. Ibn Arabi, one of Muslim Philosophers in History

bn Arabi (1165-1240 CE)
bn Arabi (1165-1240 CE)

Ibn Arabi is perhaps the most unique, most confusing, and at the same time the most profound muslim philosophical thinker. He was not a rational Muslim philosopher, like al-Farabi or Ibn Rusyd.

Ibn Arabi was probably the first postmodern and feminist thinker in human intellectual heritage. His works “Fusus al-Hikam” (Bezels of Wisdom) and “Futuhat al-Makiyyah” (The Meccan Openings) may be the pinnacle of Islamic mystic and philosophical thinking.

Ibn Arabi gave the most convincing explanation of the purpose and meaning of creation as the continuous revelation of God.

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5. Ibn Khaldun, one of Muslim Philosophers in History

Ibn Khaldun was the Sheikh of all social scientists. He was a Muslim philosopher in history and the first social scientist.

Ibn Khaldun is credited with pioneering historical philosophy, according to Muslim.co, which provides empirical historical approach and treats sources critically.

He was the first major Islamic thinker to emphasize empirical thinking rather than normative theory. He developed a method of historiography that debunks myths and falsehoods.

Ibn Khaldun made 3 very important contributions to social sciences, emphasizing the importance of empirical facts, developing the theory of change, and identifying tribal solidarity as the driver of change.

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