, faith
   In the formative period of Islam, an early theologico-political controversy emerged around the question of what qualifies a person as a Muslim. Answers ranged from the bare act of witnessing (‘I declare there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God’), to external performance of the divine law, to having proper knowledge and right intention in the heart. The outcome of this debate, and the subsequent mainstream position, comprised a fusion of all three to some extent. A closely related issue concerned the status of sinning Muslims, specifically, whether they ceased to be Muslims altogether. The Kharijites in particular defended this radical stance, which however soon gave way to a range of more moderate, ‘intermediate’ positions. It was not unusual for philosophers to be charged with freethinking or heresy (zandaqa) or, more dramatically, outright unbelief (kufr) by the more traditionalist elements within Islam. The Hanbalites in particular were quite free with such accusations, but perhaps the most important instance of it is associated with the great Ash‘arite theologian and Sufi, al-Ghazali, who in his Incoherence of the Philosophers, charged Peripatetics like al-Farabi and Ibn Sina with seventeen counts of heretical ‘innovation’ (bid‘a) and three counts of unbelief (kufr). The three major philosophical conclusions that al-Ghazali characterized as incompatible with Islam are (1) the eternity (rather than createdness) of the universe, (2) the claim that God knows things only insofar as they are universals (and not temporal particulars), and (3) the denial of the resurrection of the body (i.e. conceiving the ‘return’ [ma‘ad] in purely spiritual or intellectual terms). Although Ibn Rushd responded forcefully to these charges in his Decisive Treatise and Incoherence of the Incoherence, al-Ghazali’s portrayal emerged triumphant historically, and philosophy as a self-sufficient way of knowing over against theology and mysticism declined dramatically in the Sunni world. Although philosophers in the Shi‘ite milieu confronted their own share of such accusations (e.g. Mulla Sadra), they were never quite as devastating, perhaps because the later Persians’ approach was more synthetic and informed by the vital concerns and commitments of the Islamic tradition.
   See freethinking; al-Ghazali; Ibn al-Rawandi; Ibn Rushd; Ibn Taymiyya; Kharijites; Mulla Sadra; Mu‘tazilites; al-Razi, Abu Bakr
   Further reading: al-Ghazali 1997/2000; Hallaq 1993; Ibn Rushd 2001a

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.


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