Philosophy in Islam originally grew as a rationalist movement. It attempted to explain the metaphysicaltruths behind Islamic principles. A shift occurred around the eighth century where the Asharite sect rose to dominance after the failed institution of the Mihna, a policy which demanded that the ulama, Islamic scholars, profess a particular set of beliefs about the nature of the Qu'ran. It was unsuccessful and resulted in a large-scale rejection of rationalist thought.
Although philosophy continued on, it was subverted under theology and was not followed in the same sense as in the West. In the West philosophy is largely influenced by thinkers such as Descartes and notions of the separation of the spiritual and physical, personal and private, mind and body. Islamic philosophy might be more closely aligned to Pascal's view of religion, which asserts a necessity for revelation and a more monistic view of metaphysics. While Pascal sees Jesus Christ as integral to salvation, the Islamic view would see revelation transmitted through Muhammad as the source of salvation from ignorance.
The influence that Islamic philosophy has exerted over Western philosophy is considerable. Ibn Sina is known in the West as Avicenna and Ibn Rushd is known as Averroes. Further, the texts of Aristotle were preserved in Arabic and was brought back into the West vis-a-vis Arabic translations into Greek.
Islamic philosophy has been characterized by the tensions between Islam, which is a revealed religion, and the desire of educated and intellectual scholars to provide rational explanations and justifications for their beliefs, and to explore the nature of the universe in a scientific manner. The same tension exists in Judaism, Christianity, and Hinduism, where many philosophers developed their ideas in the context of religious belief systems.
Early Islamic philosophy was influenced by concepts from Judaism and early Christianity, as well as Greek and Indian philosophy. Later, Judaic and Christian philosophers borrowed from Islamic philosophy in developing their own views of the relationship between God, man and the universe.
The writings of Scholastic Islamic philosophers played a crucial role in transmitting Greek thought to Christian and Jewish scholastics in Europe. During the Middle Ages, political chaos and widespread illiteracy had caused scholars to lose touch with Greek and Roman texts. The attitude of the Christian church towards “pagan” Greece and Rome also contributed to the suppression of Greek philosophy in Europe. Important texts were preserved in the commentaries and translations of Islamic scholars.
Unification Aspects is designed to relate the subject of this article to Unification Thought and to aid teachers and researchers who wish to further pursue these topics from a unification perspective.