political philosophy


political philosophy
   Political philosophy in Islam is very much built around Islam itself, and in particular the Qur’an and what it has to say about how people ought to live together. The translation of Greek texts, but not Aristotle’s Politics, led to a model based on Plato’s Republic in which the ruler is both the supreme intellectual and also religious authority in the state. The prophet receives from on high inspiration and uses it to advertise a perfect way of life for the individual and the community. Al-Farabi produced a well-developed theory according to which the prophet becomes supreme ruler and directs the state in such a way as to bring about the very best type of organization. Religion has the role of explaining to the people as a whole why they should obey the authorities and submit to the law. Later on, Ibn Bajja and Ibn Tufayl produce accounts of what solitary life would be like, if personal or political circumstances make it necessary, and this allows them to contrast the individual with the group. Whereas living in a community is the best form of life for everyone, they make clear that sometimes the individual has to establish an appropriate lifestyle outside of society. Ibn Rushd returns to discussing society, and the role of philosophy in it as its guide, but a guide that does not impose itself on the community as a whole in the sense of making everyone participate in it. Only a limited group of people can do philosophy, and for the rest religion will have to suffice as their guide to how to act. Religion plays a vital role in the state by linking everyone together within the community, while philosophy is restricted to those who can benefit from it. In a rather aggressive way Ibn Rushd demotes the theologians in the state by arguing that it is only the philosophers who can, with their skills in demonstration, interpret scripture in such a way as to fix its meaning precisely and once and for all.
   See al-Farabi; Ibn Bajja; Ibn Khaldun; Ibn Rushd; Islamism; law; prophecy
   Further reading: Butterworth 1992; Lerner and Mahdi 1963; Mahdi 2001; Rosenthal 1958/85

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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