Is It Permissible To Philosophize In Islam? (Part 1)


Is it permissible to philosophize in Islam? Philosophy is the name of the results discovered by men after they have examined and researched certain subjects using their own wisdom, logic and experimentation. In short, it means: "Looking for the origin of everything and finding out the reason for its coming into existence." Philosophy means "Philosophia" (love of knowledge) in the Greek language, and it is based on the fundamentals of thinking deeply, searching, comparing, and examining. It is necessary for those who deal with philosophy to have deep knowledge in science as well as in psychology. However, no matter how much knowledge a person may have, he can be in error with his own thoughts, or, at the end of his experiments, his conclusion may be wrong, too. That is why the conclusions drawn by means of philosophy cannot be guaranteed.

There are two kinds of ayats (verses) in the Qur'an al-karim. The meaning of some ayats (verses) are very clear. These are called "muhkam ayats" (solid ayats). The meaning of some ayats cannot be understood easily. They need to be explained. These ayats are called "muteshabih ayats" (parabolic ayats). The hadiths [1], the words of the Prophet (sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam), are divided into two parts, namely, the solid ones and the parabolic ones. The necessity for interpreting them gave rise to the establishment of the science called "Ijtihad" in the religion of Islam. Our Prophet (sall-Allahu ta'ala 'alaihi wa sallam) too, performed ijtihad himself. Those ijtihads performed by our Prophet and his Sahabi [2] (companions [radiy-Allahu ta'ala alaihim ajmain]) are the main sources of Islamic knowledge. When new Muslims asked about what would happen to the things they had deemed to be sacred before and what Islam thought about them, Islamic scholars had to answer their questions. The answers to the questions concerning credal tenets formed a branch of Islamic knowledge called Kalam. The scholars of "Kalam" had to prove logically why their previous religions were wrong. These scholars (rahimahumullahu ta'ala) strove very hard to solve these matters. A lot of facts plus the very valuable knowledge of "logic" came into existence. On the other hand, it was necessary to tell the new Muslims these facts about Allah: He is one, ever-living; He has not fathered anyone, nor was He fathered. This had to be done in such a way as could be easily understood. The scholars of Kalam were very successful in their efforts. However, Islamic scientists helped them in this holy task. For example, Yaqub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi, a scholar of logic and astronomy, studied for years to keep the idolaters Sabi'i and Vasan'a, who deem the stars sacred, away from their wrong belief. At last, he proved that their belief was wrong by showing them many proofs. Sad to say, however, he himself was influenced by the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers and joined the group called "Mu'tazila." He died in Baghdad in 260 (873).

[1] hadith (sharif): i) a saying of the Prophet ('alaihi 's-salam).; al-Hadith ash-sharif: all the hadiths as a whole; ii) 'ilm al-hadith; iii) Books of the hadith ash-sharif. iv) Al-hadith al-qudsi, as-sahih, al-hasan: kinds of hadiths (for which, see Endless Bliss, II).
[2] Sahabi: ( al-kiram;) a Muslim who saw the Prophet ('alaihi 's-salam) at least once; one of the companions.