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ARABIC THOUGHT AND 
ITS PLACE IN HISTORY 



BY 



DE LACY O'LEARY, D.D. 

Lecturer in Aramaic andSyFTac, Bristol University 



LONDON : 

KEGAN PAUL, TRENCHy^RUBNER & CO., LTD. 

NEW YORK : E. P. BUTTON fc OO. 

192* 



FOREWORD 

History traces the evolution of the social structure 
in which the community exists to-day. There are 
three chief factors at work in this evolution ; racial 
descent, culture drift, and transmission of language : 
the first of these physiological and not necessarily 
connected with the other two, whilst those two are 
not always associated with each other. In the evolu- 
tion of the social structure the factor of first impor- 
tance is the transmission of culture, which is not a 
matter of heredity but due to contact, for culture is 
learned and reproduced by imitation and not in- 
herited. Culture must be taken in the widest sense 
to include political, social, and legal institutions, the 
arts and crafts, religion, and the various forms of 
intellectual life which show their presence in literature, 
philosophy, and otherwise, all more or less connected, 
and all having the common characteristic that they 
cannot be passed on by physical descent but must 
be learned in after life. But race, culture, and 
language resemble one another in so far as it is true 
that all are multiplex and perpetually interwoven, so 
that in each the lines of transmission seem rather 
like a tangled skein than an ordered pattern ; results 
proceed from a conflicting group of causes amongst 
which it is often difficult to apportion the relative 
influences. 

The culture of modern Europe derives from that 
of the Roman Empire, itself the multiple resultant 
of many forces, amongst which the intellectual life 
of Hellenism was most effective, but worked into a 
coherent system by the wonderful power of organiza- 
tion, which was one of the most salient characteristics 
of that Empire. The whole cultural life of medieval 
Europe shows this Hellenistic-Roman culture passed 



vi FOREWORD 

on, developed, and modified by circumstances. As 
the Empire fell to pieces the body of culture became 
subject to varying conditions in different localities, 
of which the divergence between the Greek-speaking 
East and the Latin-speaking West is the most striking 
example. The introduction of Muslim influence 
through Spain is the one instance in which we seem 
to get an alien culture entering into this Eornan 
tradition and exercising a disturbing influence. In 
fact, this Muslim culture was at bottom essentially a 
part of the Hellenistic-Boman material, even the 
theology of Islam being formulated and developed 
from Hellenistic sources, but Islam had so long lived 
apart from Christendom and its development had 
taken place in surroundings so different that it seems 
a strange and alien thing. Its greatest power lay in 
the fact that it presented the old material in an 
entirely fresh form. 

It is the effort of the following pages to trace the 
transmission of Hellenistic thought through the 
medium of Muslim philosophers and Jewish thinkers 
who lived in Muslim surroundings, to show how this 
thought, modified as it passed through a period of 
development in the Muslim community and itself 
modifying Islamic ideas, was brought to bear upon 
the culture of mediaeval Latin Christendom. So 
greatly had it altered in external form during tfie 
centuries of its life japart, that it seemed a new type of 
intellectual life and became a^sturbing^ factor which 
~ new^ Imes and 



Church, directly fading up to the Benascence^which 
gave^the .dea^^low_to mediSBval culture! so little 
had it altered in real substance th&t If used the same 



FOREWORD vii 

text-books and treated very much the same problems 
already current in the earlier scholasticism which had 
developed independently in Latin Christendom, It 
will be our effort so to trace the history of mediaeval 
Muslim thought as to show the elements which it 
had in common with Christian teaching and to 
account for the points of divergence. 

D6 L. O'L. 



CONTENTS 

OHAP. PAGE 

I THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM . 1 

II THE ABAB PERIOD .... 56 

III THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIDS . 89 

IV THE TRANSLATORS . . . .105 
V THE MU'TAZILITES .... 123 

VI THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS . . 135 

VII SUFISM 181 

VTII ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM . . 208 

IX THE WESTERN PHILOSOPHY . . 226 

X THE JEWISH TRANSMITTORS . . 261 

XI INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSO- 
PHERS ON LATIN SCHOLASTICISM . 275 

CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH .... 295 
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE . . . .298 



CHAPTER I 
THE SYEIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 

The subject proposed in the following pages is the 
history of the cultural transmission by which Greek 
philosophy and science were passed from Hellenistic 
surroundings to the Syriac speaking community, 
thence to the Arabic speaking world of Islam, and so 
finally to the Latin Schoolmen of Western Europe. 
That such a transmission did take place is known even 
to the beginner in mediaeval history, but how it 
happened, and the influences which promoted it, 
and the modifications which took place en route, 
appear to be less generally known, and it does not 
seem that the details, scattered through works of 
very diverse types, are easily accessible to the English 
reader. Many historians seem content to give only 
a casual reference to its course, sometimes even 
with strange chronological confusions which show 
that the sources used are still the mediaeval writers 
vho had very imperfect information about the de- 
velopment of intellectual life amongst the Muslims. 
Following mediaeval usage we sometimes find the 
Arabic writers referred to as " Arabs " or " Moors," 
although in fact there was only one philosopher ol 
any importance who was an Arab by race, and com- 

B 



2 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

paratively little is known about his work. These 
writers belonged to an Arabic speaking community, 
but very few of them were actually Arabs. 

After the later Hellenistic development Greek 
culture spread outward into the oriental fringe of 
people who used Syriac, Coptic, Aramaic, or Persian 
as their vernacular speech, and in these alien surround- 
ings it took a somewhat narrower development and 
even what we may describe as a provincial tone. 
There is no question of race in this. Culture is not 
inherited as a part of the physiological heritage 
transmitted from parent to child ; it is learned by 
contact due to intercourse, imitation, education, and 
such like things, and such contact between social 
groups as well as between individuals is much helped 
by the use of a common language and hindered by 
difference of language. As soon as Hellenism over- 
flowed into the vernacular speaking communities 
outside the Greek speaking world it began to suffer 
some modification. It so happened also that these 
vernacular speaking communities wanted to be cut 
off from close contact with the Greek world because 
very bitter theological divisions had arisen and had 
produced feelings of great hostility on the part of 
those who were officially described as heretics against 
the state church in the Byzantine Empire. 

In this present chapter we have to consider three 
points ; in the first place the particular stage of 
development reached by Greek thought at the time 
when these divisions took place ; secondly the cause 



THE SYRIAC VERSION Of HELLENISM 

of these divisions and their tendencies ; and thirdly 
the particular line of development taken by Hellen- 
istic culture in its oriental atmosphere. 

First stands the question of the stage of develop- 
ment reached by Hellenism, and we may test this by 
its intellectual life as represented by science and 
philosophy, at the time when the oriental offshoot 
shows a definite line of separation. English educa- 
tion, largely dominated by the principles learned at 
the renascence, is inclined to treat philosophy as 
coming to an end with Aristotle and beginning 
again with Descartes after a long blank during which 
there lived and worked some degenerate descendants 
of the ancients who hardly need serious consideration. 
But this position violates the primary canon of 
history which postulates that all life is continuous, 
the life of the social community as well as the physical 
life of an organic body : and life must be a perpetual 
series of causes and results, so that each event can 
only be explained by the cause which went before, 
and can only be fully understood in the light of the 
result which follows after. What we call the " mid- 
dle ages " had an important place in the evolution 
of our own cultural condition, and owed much to 
the transmitted culture which came round from 
ancient Hellenism through Syriac, Arabic, and Hebrew 
media. But this culture came as a living thing 
with an unbroken and continuous development 
from what we call the " classic " age. As the 
philosophy of the great classic schools passes down 



4 ARABIC THOUGHT /A T HISTORY 

to these later periods it shows great modifications, 
but this Alteration is itself a proof of life. Philosophy, 
like religion, in so far as it has a real vitality, must 
change and adapt itself to altered conditions and 
new requirements : it can remain pure and true to 
its past only in so far as its life is artificial and un- 
real, lived in an academic atmosphere far removed 
from the life of the community at large. In such an 
unnatural atmosphere no doubt, it is possible for a 
religion or a philosophy to live perfectly pure and 
uncorrupt, but it is certainly not an ideal life : in 
real life there are bound to be introduced many 
unworthy elements and some which can only be 
described as actually corrupt. So it is inevitable 
that as a religion or a philosophy lives and really 
fulfils its proper functions it has to pass through 
many changes. Of course the same holds good 
for all other forms of culture : it may be true that a 
country is happy if it has no history, but it is the 
placid happiness of vegetable life, not the enjoyment* 
of the higher functions of rational being. 

In considering the transmission of Greek phil- 
osophy to the Arabs we see that philosophy still as a 
living force, adapting itself to changed conditions 
but without a break in the continuity of its life. It 
was not, as now, an academic study sought only by 
a group of specialists, but a living influence which 
guided men in their ideas about the universe in which 
they lived and dominated all theology, law, and 
gocial ideas. For many centuries it pervaded the 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 5 

f 

atmosphere in which Western Asia was educated 
and in which it lived. Men became Christians, for 
a time the new religious interest filled their minds, 
but later on it was inevitable that philosophy should 
re-assert its power, and then Christian doctrine had 
to be re-cast to conform to it : the descendants of 
these people became Muslims and then again, after an 
interval, religion had to conform itself to current 
philosophy. We have no such dominant philo- 
sophical system in force to-day, but we have a certain 
mass of scientific facts and theories which form an 
intellectual background to modern European life 
and the defenders of traditional religion find it 
necessary to adjust their teaching to the principles 
implied in those facts and theories. 

But the important point is that then Christian 
teachers began to put themselves into touch with 
current philosophy, and so when the Muslims later 
on did the same, they had to reckon with philosophy 
"as they found it actually living in their own days : 
they did not become Platonists or Aristotelians in 
the sense in which we should understand the terms. 
The current philosophy had changed from the older 
standards, not because the degenerate people of those 
days could not understand the pure doctrines of 
Plato and Aristotle, but because they took philosophy 
so seriously and earnestly as an explanation of the 
universe and of man's place in it that they were bound 
to re-adjust their views in the light of what tlj<ey re- 
garded as later information, and the views had altered 



6 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

to adjust themselves with the course of human ex- 
perience. 

From lato onwards philosophy had been very 
largely concerned with theories which more or less 
directly concerned the structure of society : it was 
perceived that a very large part of man's life, duties, 
and general welfare, was intimately concerned with 
his relations to the community in which he lived. 
But soon after the time of Aristotle the general 
conditions of the social order were seen to be under- 
going a profound modification : great empires with 
highly organised administrations replaced the self- 
governing city states of the older period, and social 
life had to adjust itself to the new conditions. A man 
who was a citizen of the Eoman Empire was a citizen 
in quite a different sense from that in which one was 
a citizen of the Athenian Eepublic. The Stoic 
philosophy, which is of this later age, already pre- 
supposes these new conditions and in course of time 
the other schools orientated themselves similarly. 
One of the first results is a tendency to eclecticism and 
to combination of the tenets of several schools. The 
new outlook, broader in its horizon, perhaps shallower 
in other respects, impelled men to take what was an 
imperialist attitude instead of a local or national one. 
Precisely similar changes were forced upon the Jewish 
religion. Hellenistic Judaism, at the beginning of 
the Christian era, is concerned with the human 
species and the race of Israel is considered chiefly 
as a means of bringing illumination to mankind at 



77/E SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 7 

large. It was this Hellenistic Judaism which cul- 
minated in St. Paul and the expansion of the Christian 
Church, whilst orthodox Judaism, that is to say the 
provincial Jewery of Palestine reverted to its racial 
attitude under the pressure of circumstances partly 
reactionary against the too rapid progress of Hellenism 
and partly political in character. 

The old pagan religions showed many local varieties, 
and from these a world- wide religion could only be 
evolved by some speculative doctrines which recon- 
ciled their divergences. Never has a religion of any 
extension been formed from local cults otherwise 
than by the ministry of some kind of speculative 
theology : sometimes the fusion of cults has spon- 
taneously produced such a theology, as was the case 
in the Nile valley and in Mesopotamia in early times, 
and when the theology was produced it brought its 
solvent power to bear rapidly and effectively on 
other surrounding cults. As many races and states 
were associated together in the Greek Empire which, 
though apparently separated into several kingdoms, 
yet had an intellectual coherence and a common 
civilization, and this was still more definitely the case 
when the closer federation of the Roman Empire 
followed, philosophy was forced more and more in 
the direction of speculative theology : it assumed 
those ethical and doctrinal functions which we 
generally associate with religion, the contemporary 
local cults concerning themselves only with ritual 
duties. Thus in the early centuries of the Christian 



8 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

era Hellenistic philosophy was evolving a kind of 
religion, of a high moral tone and definitely mono- 
theistic in doctrine. This theological philosophy 
was eclectic, but rested upon a basis of Platonism. 
Whilst the philosophers were developing a mono- 
theistic and moral system which they hoped to make a 
world religion, the Christians were attempting a 
similar task on somewhat different lines. The 
earlier converts to the Christian religion were not as 
a rule drawn from the educated classes and shewed 
a marked suspicion and dislike towards those superior 
persons, such as the Gnostics, or at least the pre- 
Marcionite Gnostics, who were disposed to patronise 
them. Gradually however this attitude changed and 
we begin to find men like Justin Martyr who had 
received a philosophical education and yet found it 
quite possible to co-ordinate contemporary science 
and Christian doctrine. In Borne, in Africa, and in 
Greece the Christians were a despised minority, 
chiefly drawn from the unlettered class, and osten- 
tatiously ignored by the writers of the day. Like 
the Jew of the Ghetto they were forced to live an 
isolated life and thrown back upon their internal 
resources. But in Alexandria and, to a lesser 
degree in Syria, they were more in the position of the 
modern Jew in Anglo Saxon lands, though bitterly 
hated and occasionally persecuted, and were brought 
under the intellectual influences of the surrounding 
community and thus experienced a solvent force 
in their own ideas. When at last Christianity 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM f 

appears in the ascendant it has been largely re-cast 
by Hellenistic influences, its theology is re- stated 
in philosophical terms, and thus in the guise of theology 
a large amount of philosophical material was trans- 
mitted to the vernacular speaking hinterland of 
Western Asia. 

The Arabic writer Masftdi informs us that Greek 
philosophy originally flourished at Athens, but the 
Emperor Augustus transferred it from Athens to 
Alexandria and Eome, and Theodosius afterwards 
closed the schools at Eome and made Alexandria 
the educational centre of the Greek world (Masftdi : 
Lime de Vavertissement, trad. B.Oarra de Vaux, 
Paris, 1896, p. 170). Although grotesquely expressed 
this statement contains an element of truth in so far 
as it represents Alexandria as gradually becoming 
the principal home of Greek philosophy. It had 
begun to take a leading place even in the days of 
the Ptolemies, and in scientific, as distinguished 
from purely literary work, it had assumed a position 
of primary importance early in the Christian era. 
The schools of Athens remained open until A.D. 529, 
but had long been out of touch with progressive 
scholarship. Eome also shows great philosophers, 
most often of oriental birth, down to a late age, but 
although these were given a kindly welcome and a 
hearing, Eoman education was more interested in 
jurisprudence, indeed the purely Eoman philoso- 
phical speculation is that embedded in Justinian's 
code. Antioch also had its philosophy, but this 



10 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

was never of more than secondary importance. 

In the course of what we may term the Alexandrian 
period the Platonic school had steadily taken the 
first place. It was indeed considerably changed 
from the ancient Academic standards, chiefly by the 
introduction of semi-mystical elements which were 
attributed to Pythagoras, and later by fusion with the 
neo-Aristotelian school. The Pythagorean elements 
probably can be traced ultimately to an Indian source, 
at least in such instances as the doctrine of the un- 
reality of matter and phenomena which appears in 
Indian philosophy as m&ya, and the re-incarnation 
of souls which is avatar. The tendency of native 
Greek thought, as seen in Democritus and other 
genuinely Greek thinkers, was distinctly material- 
istic, but Plato apparently incorporates some alien 
matter,, probably Indian, perhaps some Eygptian 
ideas as well. We know there was a transmission of 
oriental thought influencing Hellenism, but very 
little is known of the details. Certainly Plotinus and 
the neo-Platonists were eclectic thinkers and drew 
freely from oriental sources, some disguised as Pytha- 
gorean, by a long sojourn in Greek lands. 

In the 3rd century A.D. we find the beginnings of 
what is known as neo-Platonism. A very typical 
passage in Gibbon's Decline and Fall (ch. xiii) refers to 
the neo-Platonists as " men of profound thought and 
intense application ; but, by mistaking the true 
object of philosophy, their labours contributed much 
less to improve than to corrupt the human under* 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 11 

standing. The knowledge that is suited to our 
situation and powers, the whole compass of moral, 
natural, and mathematical science, was neglected by 
the new Plantonists ; whilst they exhausted their 
strength in the verbal disputes of metaphysics, 
attempted to explore the secrets of the invisible 
world, and studied to reconcile Aristotle with Plato, 
on subjects of which both these philosophers were 
as ignorant as the rest of mankind.'' Although this 
passage is coloured by some of the peculiar prejudices 
of Gibbon it fairly represents a common attitude 
towards neo-Platonism and might equally apply 
to every religious movement the world has ever seen. 
The neo-Platonists were the result, we may say 
the inevitable result, of tendencies which had been 
at work ever since the age of Alexander and the 
widening of the mental horizon and the decay of 
interest in the old civic life. The older philosophers 
had endeavoured to produce efficient citizens ; but 
under imperialist conditions efficient citizens were not 
so much wanted as obedient subjects. Through all 
this period there are very clear indications of the new 
trend of thought which assumes a more theological 
and philanthropic character, aiming at producing 
good men rather than useful citizens. The specu- 
lations of Philo the Jewish Platonist give very plain 
indications of these new tendencies as they appeared 
in Alexandria. He shows the monotheistic tendency 
which was indeed present in the older philosophers but 
now begins to be more strongly emphasized as 



12 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

philosophy becomes more theological in its specula- 
tions, though no doubt in his case this was largely due 
to the religion he professed. He expressed the doc- 
trine of a One God, eternal, unchanging, and passion- 
less, far removed above the world of phenomena, as 
the First Cause of all that exists, a philosophical 
monotheism which can be fitted in with the Old 
Testament but does not naturally proceed from it. 
The doctrine of an Absolute Reality as the necessary 
cause of all that is variable, something like the fulcrum 
which Archimedes needed to move the world, was one 
to which all philosophy, and especially the Plantonic 
school, was tending. \( But, as causation to some extent 
implies change, this First Cause could not be regarded 
as directly creating the world, but only as the eternal 
source of an eternally proceeding emanation by means 
of which the power of the First Cause is projected so as 
to produce the universe and all it contains. The 
essential features of this teaching are, the absolute 
unity of the First Cause, its absolute reality, its 
eternity, and its invariability, all of which necessarily 
removes it above the plane of things knowable to 
man ; and the operative emanation ceaselessly 
issuing forth, eternal like its source, yet acting in 
time and space, an emanation which Philo terms the 
Logos or " Word." Although these theories are to 
a large extent only an expression of logical conclusions 
towards which the Platonists were then advancing, 
Philo had curiously little influence. No doubt there 
was a tendency to regard his teaching as mainly an 



THE 3YRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 13 

attempt to read a Platonic meaning into Jewish 
doctrine, and certainly the large amount of attention 
he devoted to exegesis of the Old Testament and to 
Jewish apologetics would prevent his works from 
receiving serious attention from non- Jewish readers. 
Again, although his ideas about monotheism and the 
nature of God were those to which Platonism was 
tending, they represent also a Jewish attitude which, 
starting from a monotheistic standpoint was then, 
under Hellenistic influence, making towards a supra- 
sensual idea of God, explaining away the anthropo- 
morphisms of the Old Testament and postulating an 
emanation, the Hochma or " wisdom " of God as the 
intermediary in creation and revelation. Undoubt- 
edly Philo, or the Philonic school of Hellenistic 
Judaism, was responsible for the Lo^os doctrine which 
appears in the portions of the New Testament bearing 
the name of St. John. He had an influence also on 
Jewish thought as appears in the Targums where 
the operative emanation which proceeds from the 
First Cause is no longer the " wisdom " of God but 
the " Word." He seems to have had no influence at 
all on the course of Alexandrian philosophy 
generally. 

The tendencies which were at work in Philo were also 
leavening Greek thought outside Jewish circles and 
all schools of philosophy show a growing definiteness 
in their assertion of One God eternal and invariable, 
as the source and First Cause of the universe. It is a 
recognition of the principal of uniformity in natura 



14 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and of the necessity of accounting for the cause of this 
uniformity. The Gnostic sects, which were of 
philosophical origin, simply show the definite accept- 
ance of this First Cause and, having accepted it as on a 
plane far removed above imperfection and variation, 
suggest intermediary emanations as explaining the 
production of an imperfect and variable universe 
from a primary source which is itself perfect and un- 
changing. The descriptive accounts of the successive 
emanations, each less perfect than that from which it 
proceeds, which ultimately produced the world in 
which we perceive phenomena, are different in different 
Gnostic systems, often crude enough and grotesque in 
our eyes, and frequently drawing from Christianity or 
Judaism or some other of the oriental religions which 
were then attracting the attention of the Boman 
world. But these details are of minor importance. 
All Gnostic theories bear witness to the belief that 
there is a First Cause, absolutely real, perfect, eternal, 
and far removed above this world of time and space, 
and that some emanation or emanations must have 
intervened to connect the resultant world, such as we 
know it, with this sublime Cause : and such belief 
indicates in crude form a general conviction which 
was getting hold of all current thought in the early 
centuries of the Christian era. 

Complementary to this was the psychological 
teaching represented by the Aristotelian commentato* 
Alexander of Aphrodiaias who taught at Athens, 
A.D. 198-211 . His extant works include commentaries 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 16 

on the first book of the Analytica Priora, on the 
Topica, Meterology, de sensu, the first five books of the 
Metaphysics and an abridgment of the other books 
of the Metaphysics, as well as treatises on the soul, etc. 
Over and over again his treatise on the soul and his 
commentaries are translated into Arabic, paraphrased, 
and made the subject of further commentaries, until 
it seems that his psychology is the very nucleus of all 
Arabic philosophy, and it is this which forms the main 
point of the Arabic influence on Latin scholasticism. 

It becomes indeed absolutely essential that we under- 



stand the Alexandrian interpretation of the Aris- 
totelian psychology if we are to follow the oriental 
development of Greek science. 

The first point is to understand what is to be 
implied in the term u soul." Plato was really a 
dualist in that he regards the soul as a separate 
entity which animates the body and compares it to a 
rider directing and controlling the horse he rides. 
But Aristotle makes a more careful analysis of 
psychological phenomena. In the treatise de anima 
he says " there is no need to enquire whether soul and 
body are one, any more than whether the wax and 
the imprint are one ; or, in general, whether the 
matter of a thing is the same with that of which it is 
the matter." (Aristot : de anima. II. i. 412. b. 6.) 
Aristotle defines the soul as "the first actuality of ft 
natural bj^jLaving jn it the capacity of life " (id. 412. 
b. 5), in which " first " denotes that the soul ia the 
primary form by which the substance of the body is 



14 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

actualized, and " actuality " refers to the actualizing 
principle by which form is given to the body which 
otherwise would be only a collection of separate 
parts each having its own form but the aggregate 
being without corporate unity until the soul gives it 
form ; in this sense the squl is thejrealization of the 
body (cf. Aristot : Metaph. iii. 1043. a. 35). A dead 
body lacks this actualizing and centralizing force and 
is only a collection of limbs and organs, yet even so 
it is not an artificial collection such as a man might put 
together, but " a natural body having in it the 
capacity of life," that is to say, an organic structure 
designed for a soul which is the cause or reason of 
its existence and which alone enables the body to 
realize its object. 

The soul contains four different faculties or powers 
which are not strictly to be taken as " parts " though 
in the passage cited above Aristotle uses the term 
u parts." These are, (1) the nutritive, the power of 
life whereby the body performs such functions as 
absorbing nourishment, propagating its species, and 
other functions common to all living beings, whether 
animal or vegetable : (ii) the sensible, by which the 
body obtains knowledge through the medium of the 
special senses of sight, hearing, touch, etc., and also 
the " common sense " by means of which these per- 
ceptions are combined, compared, and contrasted so 
that general ideas are obtained which ultimately rest 
on the sense perceptions : (iii) the locomotive, which 
prompts to action, as desire, appetite, will, etc., also 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 17 

based, though indirectly, on sense perception, being 
suggested by memories of senses already in action : 
(iv) the intellect or pure reason, which is concerned 
with abstract thought and is not based on sense per- 
ception. All these, embracing life in its widest 
application, are classed together as soul, but the last, 
the intellect, nous, or rational soul, is peculiar to man 
alone. It does not depend on the senses, directly 
or indirectly, and so, whilst the other three faculties 
necessarily cease to function when the bodily organs 
of sense cease, it does not necessarily follow that this 
rational soul will cease as it is apparently independent 
of the organ sense. This nous or " spirit " is reduced by 
Aristotle to a much more restricted range than is 
usual in the older philosophers and is taken to mean 
that which has the capacity of abstract knowledge, 
independent of the information due, directly or 
indirectly, to sense perception. It would seem, how- 
ever, to be a distinct species of faculty for Aristotle 
says : " As regards intellect and the speculative 
faculty the case is not yet clear. It would seem, 
however, to be a distinct species of soul, and it alone is 
capable of separation from the body, as that which is 
eternal from that which is perishable. The remaining 
parts of the soul are, as the foregoing consideration 
shows, not separable in the way that some allege 
them to be : at the same time it is clear that they are 
logically distinct." (Arist. de anima. II. ii. 413. b. 9). 
It is suggested that (i) the rational soul is of a distinct 
species and so presumably derived from a different 



18 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

source than the other faculties of the soul, but nothing 
is said as to whence it is derived : (ii) it is capable of 
existence independently of the body, that is to say its 
activity does not depend on the operation of the bodily 
organs, but it is not stated that it does so exist ; (iii) 
it is eternal on the ground that it can exist apart 
from the perishable. 

The obscurity of this statement has led to a great 
divergence in its treatment by commentators. 
Theophrastus offers cautious suggestions and evidently 
regards the rational soul as differing only in degree of 
evolution from the lower forms of soul faculty. It 
was AJexander^QjLAphrodislas who opened up .new 
fields of speculation, distinguishing Between a mater- 
ial intellect and aii ^active intellect. The former is a 
faculty of the individual soul and this it is which is the 
form of the body, but it means no more than the 
capacity for thinking and is of the same source as the 
other faculties of the human soul. The active 
intellect is not a part of the soul but is a power which 
enters it from outside and arouses the material 
intellect to activity ; it is not only different in source 
from the material soul, but different in character in 
that it is eternal and so always has been and always 
will be, its rational power existing quite apart from 
the soul in which the thinking takes place ; there is 
but one such substance and this must be identified 
with the deity who is the First Cause of all motion 
and activity, so that thejicti^ 
an emanation from the deity entering the 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM If 

Boul, arousing it to the exercise of its higher functions, 
and then returning to its divine source. This theistic 
interpretation of Aristotle was strongly opposed by 
the commentator Themistius who considers that 
Alexander forces the statement of the text out of its 
natural meaning and draws an unwarrantable de- 
duction from the two sentences " these differences 
must be present in the soul," and " this alone is 
immortal and eternal." It seems, however, liaJL 
Alexand^'^ n^^ part 

in the formation of neo-Plantonic^theory, and it 
certainly is the key to the_history_jo| ^Muslim _ philo- 
sophy, and is not without its^ importance is_the 
development ofjChristian mysticism. 

The neo-Platonic school was founded by Ammonius 
Saccas, but really takes its definite form under 
Plotinus (d. 269 A.D.). In sketching in brief out- 
line the leading principles of this system we shall 
confine ourselves to the last three books of the 
Enneads (iv-vi) as these, in the abridged form known 
as the " Theology of Aristotle " formed the main 
statement of neo-Platonic doctrine known to the 
Muslim world. In the teaching of Plotinus God is 
the Absolute, the First Potency (Enn. 5. 4. 1.), 
beyond the sphere of existence (id. 5. 4. 2.), and beyond 
reality, that is to say, all that we know as existence 
and being is inapplicable to him, and he is therefore 
unknowable, because on a plane which is altogether 
beyond our thought. He is unlimited and infinite 
(id. 6. 5. 9.) and consequently One, as infinity excludes 



35 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

the possibility of any other than himself on the same 
plane of being. Yet Plotinus does not allow the 
numeral " one " to be applied to God as numerals 
are understandable and refer to the plane of existence 
in which we have our being, so that " one " as a 
mere number is not attributed to God, but rather 
singularity in the sense of an exclusion of all com- 
parison or of any other than himself. As Absolute 
God implies a compelling necessity so that all which 
proceeds from him is not enforced but is necessarily 
go in the sense that nothing else is possible ; thus, for 
example, it results from him that two sides of a 
triangle are greater than the third side, they are not 
forced into greater length, but in the nature of things 
must be so, and this necessary nature has its com- 
pelling source in the First Cause. Ygt_ I^ojfcnmsjyill 
not allow us to say that GodJ* wills " anything, ^or 
will inipl^sjbjiesire for what is not possessedjor is not 
jet present (id. 5. 3. 12) ; yill operate^ jii tjme_and 
space, but necessity has for eyerjrqcej^lcHl frqmjbhe 
Eternal One who does not act in time, Nor can we 
conceive God as knowing, conscious, or thinking, all 
terms which describe our mental activities in the 
world of variable phenomena ; he is all-knowing by 
immediate apprehension (*a#poa Wi/JoA^) which ifi no 
way resembles the operation of thought but is super- 
conscious, a condition which Plotinus describes as 
" wakefulness " ('eyp?/yopens) ? a perpetual being aware 
without the need of obtaining information. 
Prom the true God, the eternal Absolute, proceedi 



SYRIAC VERSION Of" HELLENISM 2\ 

the nous, a term which has been variously rendered as 
Eeason, Intellect, Intelligence, or Spirit, this last 
being the term which Dr. Inge regards as the best 
expression (Inge : riotinus. ii. p. 38), and this noui 
is fairly equivalent to the Philonic and Chri&tiar 
Logos. An external emanation in necessitated in 
order" that the First Cause may remain unchanged 
which would not be the case if it had once not been a 
source and then had become the source of emanation ; 
there can be no u becoming " in the First Cause. The 
emanation is of the same nature as its cause, but is 
projected into the world of phenomena. It is self- 
existent, eternal, and perfect, and comprehends 
within itself the u spirit world," the objects of ab- 
stract reason, the whole of the reality which 
lies behind the world of phenomena ; the things 
perceived are only the shadows of these real 
ones. It perceives, not as seeking and finding, 
but as already possessing (id. 5. 1. 4.), and the things 
perceived are not separate or external but as included 
and apprehended by immediate intuition (id. 5. 2. 2.) 
From the nous proceeds the psyche, the principle of 



life and motion, the woild soul whi^fr is in th<* 



knows, but only through the processes of reasoning, 
by means of separating, distributing, and combining 
the data obtained by sense perception, so that it 
corresponds in function to the " common sense " of 
Aristotle, whilst the nous shows the functions which are 
attributed to it by Aristotle and has the character 
which Alexander reads into Aristotle. 



22 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

The work of Plotinus was continued by his pupil 
Porphyry (d. 300 A.D.) who taught at Borne, and is 
chiefly noteworthy as the one who completed the 
fusion of Platonic and Aristotelian elements in the 
neo-Platonic system, and especially as introducing 
the scientific methods of Aristotle. Plotinus had 
criticized adversely the Aristotelian categories (Enn. 
vi.), but Porphyry and all the later neo-Platonists 
returned to Aristotle. Indeed, he is best known to 
posterity as the author of the Isagoge, long current as 
the regular introduction to the logical Organon of 
Aristotle. Then came JambMchus (d. 330), the pupil 
of Porphyry who used neo-Platonism as the basis of a 
pagan theology ; and finally Proklus (d. 485) its last 
great pagan adherent who was even more definitely 
a theologian. 

Neo-Platonism was the system just coming tq^Jkhe 
forejroni J^ie^th^kristians of Alexandria began to 
be in contact with philosophy^ The first prominent 
Alexandrian Christian who endeavoured to reconcile 
philosophy and Christian theology was Clement of 
Alexandria who, like Justin Martyr, was a Platonist of 
the older type. Clement's Stromateis is a very striking 
work which shows the general body of Christian 
doctrine adapted to the theories of Platonic philo- 
sophy. It does not tamper with the traditional 
Christian doctrine, but it is evidently the work of one 
who sincerely believed that Plato had partially fore- 
been what the Gospels taught, and that he had used a 
clear and efficient terminology which was in all 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 23 

respects suitable for the expression of profound truths, 
and so Clement uses this terminology, incidentally 
assuming the Platonic metaphysics, and so uncon- 
sciously modifies the contents of Christianity. If we 
ask whether this results in a fair presentation of 
Christian teaching we shall perhaps be inclined to 
admit that, in spite of modification and in view of the 
scientific attitude of the times it substantially does 
so : when truths already expressed by those who have 
not received a scientific training are repeated by those 
who have and who are careful to cast their expression 
into logical and consistent form, some modification is 
inevitable. Whether the scientific assumptions and 
philosophy generally of Clement were correct is, of 
course, another matter ; modern opinion would say it 
was incorrect. But, so far as contemporary science went, 
it was obviously an honest effort. It has not been 
appreciated by all Clement's successors and he is one 
of the few Christian leaders who has been formally 
deprived of the honorific title of " saint " which was at 
one time prefixed to his name. Within the 
centuries the re-formulatiQn.Qf ^j 



steadily until at last it appears as essentially Hellen- 
istic, but with the Platonic element now modifiecLJby 
the mOTe^^^iritualistic influences of jieo-Platonism. 
Undoubtedly this was a gain for Christianity, for when 
we read the Didache and other early non-Hellenistic 
Christian material we cannot help feeling that it 
shows a narrower and more cramped outlook and one 
far less suited to satisfy the needs and aspirations of 



24 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

humanity at large. It is curious to compare Clement 
of Alexandria with Tertullian, one of the greatest, if 
not the greatest, of the literary lights of Latin Christ- 
ianity, but severe, puritanically rigid, and suspicious 
and hostile in his attitude towards philosophy which 
he regards as essentially pagan. 

The next great leader of Alexandrian Christian 
thought was Origen, himself a pupil of Plotinus, and 
one who found little difficulty in adapting contem- 
porary philosophy to Christian doctrine, although this 
adaptation was by no means received with approval 
in all parts of the Christian community. Under 
Clement and Origen the catechetical instruction 
which was regularly given in all churches to candidates 
for baptism was expanded and developed on the lines 
of the lectures given by the philosophers in the 
Museum, and so a Christian school of philosophical 
theology was formed. This development was not 
regarded favourably by the older fashioned churches 
nor by the philosophers of the Museum, and even 
amongst the Alexandrian Christians there was a 
section which viewed it with disapproval, especially 
evident when the school became so prominent that 
it tended to overshadow the ordinary diocesan 
organization. 

This is not the place to consider the various intrigues 
which ultimately compelled Origen to leave Alex- 
andria and retire to Palestine. There, at Caesarea^J^ 
founded a school on jfchiji model j9JJ&at..a.t Alexandria. 
This second foundation did not attain the same 



THE SYRIAC VERSION Of HELLENISM 25 

eminence as its proto-type, perhaps because Origen's 
influence turned its activities into a direction too 
highly specialised in textual criticism, but it prompted 
a development which ultimately played an important 
part in the history of the Syrian church where, for 
some time to come, theological activity mainly 
centered in these schools which had their imitators 
amongst the Zoroastrians and the Muslims. The 
first such school injSyria was founded at J^tioch by 
Malchion about 270 A.I), and deliberately copied the 
pattern set at Alexandria and ultimately became ita 
rival. 

About fifty years later a school was established at 
Msibis, the modern Nasibin on the Mygdonius river, 
in the midst of a Syriac speaking community. The 
church had spread inland from the Mediterranean 
shores and had by this time many converts in the 
hinterland who were accustomed to use Syriac and 
not Greek. For the benefit of these the work at 
Msibis was done in Syriac, Syriac versions were 
prepared of the theological works studied at Antioch, 
and the Greek language was taught so that the Syriao 
speaking Christians were brought into closer touch 
with the life of the Church at large. 

The acquiescence of the Church in the AlftY^ndrifln 
philosophy had far-reaching consequences. The 
Church did not officially adopt the neo-Platonic 
philosophy in its entirety, but it had to adjust itself 
to an atmosphere in which the neo-Platonic system 
was accepted as the last word in scientific enquiry and 



2* ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

where the Aristotelian metaphysics and phychology 
were assumed as an established and unquestionable 
basis of knowledge. It was impossible for churchmen, 
educated in this atmosphere, to do otherwise than 
accept these principles, just as it is impossible for us 
to admit that the body of a saint can be in two places 
at once, our whole education training us to assume 
certain limitations of time and space, although a 
devout Muslim of Morocco can believe it and honours 
two shrines as each containing the body of the same 
saint who, he believes, in his life time had power of 
over-passing the limitations of space. The general 
postulates of the later Platonic and Aristotelian 
philosophy were firmly established in the fourth 
century in Alexandria and its circle, and were no more 
open to question than the law of gravity or the 
rotundity of the earth would be to us. It was known 
that there were people who questioned these things, 
but it could only be accounted for by blind ignorance 
in those who had not received the benefits of an 
enlightened education. The Christians were no more 
able to dispute these principles than anyone else. 
They were perfectly sincere in their religion, many 
articles of faith which present considerable difficulty 
to the modern mind presented no difficulty to them ; 
but it was perfectly obvious that the statements of 
Christian doctrine must be brought into line with the 
current theory of philosophy, or with self evident 
truth as they would have termed it. It shows a 
strange lack of historical imagination when we talk 



THE SY^RJAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 27 

slightingly about how Christians quarrelled over 
words, forgetting what these words represented and 
how they stood for the established conclusions of 
philosophy as then understood. y x 

This comes out very plainly in the Arian contro- 
versy. Both sides agreed that Christ was the Son of 
God, the relation of Father and Son being, of course, 
not that of human parentage but rather by way of 
emanation : both agreed that Christ was God, as the 
emanation necessarily had the same nature as the 
source from which it proceeded : both agreed that the 
Son proceeded from the Father in eternity and before 
the worlds were created, the Son or Logoajbeing the 
intermediary juLjsreation, But some, and these, it 
would seem, mainly associated with the school of 
Antioch, so spoke of the Son proceeding from the 
Father as an event which had taken place far before 
all time in the remoteness of eternity, it is true, but 
BO that there was when the Father had not yet be- 
gotten the Son, for, they argued, the Father must have 
preceded the Son as the cause precedes the effect, and 
BO the Son was, as it were, less eternal than the Father. 
At once the Alexandrians corrected them. To begin 
with there are no degrees in eternity : but, most 
serious error of all, this idea made God liable to 
variation, at one period of eternity he'had been alone, 
and then he had become a father : philosophy taught 
that the First Cause, the True God, is liable to no 
change, if he is Father now, he must have been so 
from all eternity : we must understand the Son a& 



2b ARABIC 1HOUGHT /.V HJSTOffY 

the Logos forj&verjBi^n^^ 

Father as source. The actual merits of the contro- 
versy do riot at present concern us : we simply notice 
the fact that the current Greek philosophy entirely 
dominated the theology of the Church and it was 
imperative for that theology to be expressed in terms 
which fitted in with the philosophy. The result of 
the Arian struggle was that the Eastern church came 
to recognise the Alexandrian philosophy as the 
exponent of orthodoxy, and in this it was followed 
by the greater part of the Western Church, though 
the West Goths still remained attached to the Arian 
views which they had learned from their first teachers. 
By the fifth century Arian doctrine had been 
completely eliminated from the state church and 
Alexandrian philosophy which had been the chief 
means of bringing about this result, was dominant, 
although there are indications that it was viewed with 
suspicion in some quarters. Amongst the contro- 
versies which took place in the post-Nicene age the 
most prominent are those which concerned the person 
of the incarnate Christ, and these are largely questions 
of psychology. It was generally admitted that man 
has a psyche or animal soul which he shares with th 
rest of the sentient creatures, and in addition to this a 
spirit or rational soul which, under the influence of 
the neo-Platonists or of Alexander of Aphrodisias, 
was regarded as an emanation from the creative 
spirit, the Logos or " Agent Intellect," a belief which 
Christian theologians supported by the statement in 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 29 

Genesis that God breathed into inan_the breath of 
life and so man became a living .soul. In fact St. 
Paul had already distinguished between the two 
elements, the animal soul and the immortal spirit, in 
accordance with the psychology which had been 
developed in his time. But_ Christian theology 
supjiosed tha^iTT^QHJ&t .wat* a.iao .present- th external 
Logos whicj^jiad been the creative Spirit and_.of 
which the spirit or rational spuLwasJts_elf an emana- 
tiipn. What, therefore, would be the relation between 
the Logos and its own emanation when they came 
together in the same person ! If the Alexandrian 
philosophy and the Christian religion were both true 
the problem was capable of reasonable solution : 
if its only answer was a manifest absurdity then either 
the psychology or Christianity was in error, and then, 
as always, it was assumed that contemporary science 
was sure and religion had to be tested by its standard. 
To this particular problem two solutions were pro- 
posed. The one, especially maintained at Alexandria, 
was that the Logos and the rational soul or spirit, 
being in the relation of source and emanation, 
necessarily fused together when simultaneously 
present in the same body, the point being of course 
that the Logos was the agent of creation, the True 
God not acting therein as it was an activity in time, 
but through the intermediary of the Logos, whilst the 
animal soul dispersed through creation was ultimately 
derived from the Logos, but the spirit was directly 
proceeding from it, all of which represents the 



30 ARABIC THOUGHT 7A T HISTORY 

philosophical theory formulated by Alexander of 
Aphrodisias and the neo-Platonists and then accepted 
as unassailable. The other solution, which found its 
chief advocates at Antioch, laid stress on the com- 
pleteness of the humanity of Christ so that the body, 
animal soul, and spirit were necessarily complete in 
the humanity and the Logos dwelt in the human 
frame without subtracting the spirit which was one of 
the essentials of humanity, and so there could have 
been no fusion because this would have implied the 
return of the spirit to its source and consequently 
its subtraction from the humanity of Christ. This 
solution, it will be observed, postulates the name 
psychology as the other, and whichever view pre- 
vailed the Church would be irrevocably committed 
to the current psychology by this definition of its 
doctrine. 

Both solutions offered perfectly logical deductions 
from the postulates assumed and it only wanted the 
advocates of one or the other to over-state the case so 
as to transgress against the teachings of philosophy 
or of traditional religion. The first false move came 
from Antioch. Laying great stress on the complete- 
ness of the humanity of Christ so that body, soul, and 
spirit were necessarily connected in the human frame, 
the view was so expressed as to describe the Virgin 
Mary as the mother of the human Christ, body, soul, 
and spirit alone, which implied, or seemed to imply, 
that at birth Christ was man only and afterward* 
became God by the Logos entering into the human 



THE 3YR1AC VERSION OF HELLENISM 31 

body, a conclusion possibly not intended by those who 
expressed their views but pressed by their opponents. 
This had been the teaching of Diodorus and of 
Theodore of Mopseustia both associated with the 
school of Antioch, and defended in its extremer form 
by Nestorius, a monk of Antioch, whgL_was made 
bishop of Constantinople in A.P. 428. Violent 
controversies ensued which resulted in a general 
council at Ephesus in_ 431, where the Alexandrian 
party succeeded in getting JS" estorius and his followers 
condemned as heretics. Two years later the Nestor- 
ians, absolutely confident that their opponents were 
utterly illogical in supposing that the rational soul 
and the Logos in Christ were fused or united together, 
repudiated the official church and organised them- 
selves as the Church which had no part with the 
heretics of Ephesus. The state Church, however, 
had the weight of the temporal authority behind it, 
and the heavy hand of persecution fell severely upon 
the Nestorians. In Antioch and Greek speaking 
Syria persecution did its work effectually and the 
Nestorians were reduced to the position of a fugitive 
sect, in Egypt, as might be expected, they had no 
footing, and the westerns as usual agreed with the 
dominant state church : only amongst the Syriao 
speaking Christians the Nestorian teaching had 
a free course, and that section for the most part 
adhered to it. 

Some time before this the school at Nisibis had been 
elosed, or rather removed to Edassa. In A.D. 363 



32 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

the city of Nisibis had been handed over to the 
Persians as one of the conditions of the peace which 
closed the unfortunate war commenced by Julian, 
and the members of the school, retiring into Christian 
territory, had re-assernbled at Edessa, where a school 
was opened in 373, and thus Edessa in a Syriac 
speaking district but within the Byzantine Empire, 
became the centre of the vernacular speaking Syriac 
church. 

At the Nestorian schism the school at Edessa was 
the rallying place of those who did not accept the 
decisions of Ephesus, but in 439 it was closed by the 
Emperor Zeno on account of its strong Nestorian 
character, and the ejected members led by Barsuma, a 
pupil of Ibas (d. 457), who had been the great 
luminary of Edessa, migrated across the Persian 
border. Barsuma was able to persuade the Persian 
king Piruz that the orthodox, that is to say the state, 
Church was pro-Greek, but that the Kestorians were 
entirely alienated from the Byzantine Empire by the 
harsh treatment they had received. On this under- 
standing they were favourably received and remained 
loyal to the Persian monarchy in the subsequent 
wars with the Empire. The Nestorians re- opened 
the school at Nisibis and this became the focus of 
Nestorian activity by which an orientalised phase of 
Christianity was produced. Gradualb^the Nestor- 
ian mis^onaries^spread through jtll central Asia and 
down into Arabia so thatjbhe races outside the Greek 
Empire came to know Christianitv first in a^ffestorian 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 33 

lorm. It seems probable that Muhammad had con- 
tact with Nestorian teachers (Hirschfeld : New 
Researches, p. 23), and certainly Nestorian monks and 
missionaries had much intercourse ^vith the earlier 
Muslims. These Nestorians were not only anxious 
to teach Christianity but very naturally attached the 
utmost importance to their own explanations of the 
person of Christ. This could only be made clear by the 
help of theories drawn from Greek philosophy, and so 
every Nestorian missionary became to some extent 
a propagandist of that philosophy : they translated 
into Syriac not only_tihe great theplpgians_such as 
Theodore of Mopseustia who explained their views, 
H_* a jgg__ G^ ree k authorities such as_Aristotle andjiis 
commentators because some knowledge of these was 
necessary to jmderstand the theology. Much of this 
work of translation shows a real desire to explain 
their teaching, but it shows also a strong resentment 
against the Emperor and his state church ; as that 
church used the Greek language in its liturgy and 
teaching, the Nestorians were anxious to discard 
Greek, they celebrated the sacraments only in Syriao 
and set themselves to promote a distinctly native 
theology and philosophy by means of translated 
material and Syriac commentaries. These became the 
medium _ by ~* which Aristotle And the neo-Platonio 
commentators were transmitted ^to Asia outside the 
Empire, and so later on as we jhall see j.t .wasjt group 
of Nestorian translators who, by making Arabic ver- 
sions from the Syriac, first brought Hellenistic philos- 



34 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

ophy tojbhe Arabic wprlcL^ But there was also a weak 
side, for tlie Nestorian Church, cut off from the wider 
life of Hellenism, became distinctly provincial. Its 
philosophy plays round and round that prevalent at 
the schism, it spreads this philosophy to new countries, 
it produces an extensive educational system, and 
elaborates its material, but it shows no development. 
If we regard the main test of educational efficiency as 
being in its research product and not simply the 
promulgation of material already attained, then 
Nestorianism was not an educational success : and it 
seems that this should be the supreme test, for 
knowledge is progressive, and so the smallest contribu- 
tion towards further progress must be of more real 
value than the most efficient teaching of results 
already achieved. Yet it would be difficult to over- 
estimate the importance of Nestorianism in pre- 
paring an oriental version of Hellenistic culture in 
the pre-Muslim world. Its main importance lies in 
its__being preparatory to Islam which brQughl_.for- 
waM Arabic^ as a cosmopolitan medium for the 
interchange of thoughjt^and so enabled th$ Sjriao 
material to be used ir^ a wider and more fruitful 
field. 

Although Nestorius had been condemned, the 
Church was left with a problem. The objection was 
true that, if the Logos and the rational soul in Christ 
were fused together so that the rational soul or spirit 
lost itself in its source, the Logos dwelt in an animal 
body and the full humanity of Christ disappeared, 



THE 5YRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 35 

The Nestorian view of a temporary " connection " 
was now condemned as heretical, but was it necessary 
to go to the other extreme of u fusion " which was the 
logical result of the Alexandriar teaching ? The 
Church wished to be philosophically correct and yet 
to avoid the conclusions which might be drawn from 
either view in its extreme form. In fact philosophy 
ruthlessly pressed home was the danger of which the 
Church was most afraid, feeling in some dim realm of 
Bub-consciousness that the deposit of faith did not 
quite fall into line with science, or at least with the 
science then in fashion ; and the Church's real enemies 
were the enthusiasts who were confident that 
doctrine and philosophy were both absolutely 

VnwM**Vfct* ,...,- 

true. Nor have we, even in these days, altogether 
learned the lesson that both are still partial and 
progressive. Islam had to go through exactly the 
same experience in her day and came out of it with 
very similar results, that is to say both the Christian 
and Muslim churches finally chose the via media 
adopting^the j)Jbilojp^hical ^J^t&f^SQt^ oJL doctrine 
but condemning as heretical the Jogical conclusions 
which might be deduced. The Alexandrian school, 
elated perhaps at its victory over Nestorius, became 
rather intemperate in the statement of its views and 
pressed them home to an extreme conclusion. At 
once the warning prediction of the Nestorians was 
justified: the teaching of a " fusion, " fe^tw^en the 
Logos and the rational SQul.iii Qbgrist , w entiCB!j. under- 
mined his humanity. Another controversy ensued 



36 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and in this, as in the former one, neither side suggested 
any doubt as to the psychology or metaphysics 
borrowed from the Aristotelian and neo-Platonic 
philosophies, that was throughout assumed as certain, 
the problem was to make Christian doctrine fit in 
with it. Now those who opposed the Alexandrian 
conclusions maintained the theory of a " union " 
between the Logos and the rational soul in Christ, 
so that the complete humanity was preserved as well 
as the deity, arid the union was such as to be insepar- 
able and so safeguarded from the Nestorian theory. 
In fact this was simply admitting the philosophical 
statement and forbidding its being pressed home to 
its possible conclusions. This is described as 
" orthodox " doctrine and rightly so in the sense that 
it expresses, though in philosophical terms, a doctrine 
as it was held before the Church had learned any 
philosophy, and excluded possible deductions which 
came within range as soon as a philosophical state- 
ment was made. This is the normal result when 
doctrine originally expressed by those ignorant of 
philosophy has to be put into logical and scientific 
terms : the only orthodox representation of the 
traditional belief must be a compromise. 

This second controversy resulted in the Council of 
Chalcedon in A.D. 448, at which the advocates of the 
theory of " fusion " were expelled from the state 
church, and thus a third body was formed, each of 
the three claiming to represent the true faith. Practi- 
cally the whole of the Egyptian Church followed tht 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 37 

44 fusionists " or Monophysites or Jacobites, as they 
were called after Jacob of Serugh, who was mainly 
instrumental in organizing them as a church : in 
Syria also they had a strong following. Like the 
^estorians they were persecut 3d by the Emperor and 
the state church, but unlike them they did not migrate 
outside the Byzantine Empire, but remained an 
important though strongly disaffected body within 
its limits, though later on they sent out off-shoots 
into other lands. Like the Nestorians they tended 
to discard the language of their persecutors and to use 
the vernacular Coptic and Syriac : it is rightly claimed 
that the golden age of Syriac literature and philo- 
sophy begins with the Monophysite schism. A 
curious line of demarcation however, is observed in 
Syriac between the Jacobites in the West and the 
Nestorians in the East : they used different dialects, 
which is probably the result of their geographical 
distribution, and they used different scripts in writing 
which was partly due to deliberate intension, though 
partly also to the use of slightly different implements 
for writing. 

When we consider the results of the Monophysite 
and Nestorian schisms we begin to understand why 
so much Greek philosophical material was translated 
into Syriac, whilst the Nestorian movement was the 
effective reason why Syriac gradually became the 
medium for transmitting Hellenistic culture into the 
parts of Asia which lay beyond the confines of the 
Byzantine Empire during the centuries immediately 



3i ARABIC THOUGHT IN HTStORY 

preceding the outspread of Islam. It is obvious that 
the late Aristotelian and neo-Platonic philosophers 
were of vital importance to everyone engaged in the 
theological controversies of the day, and the Aris- 
totelian logic was of equal importance as on it de- 
pended the way in which terms were used. After 
their separation from the Greek Church the Nestorians 
and Monophysites turned to the vernacular speaking 
Christians, and so a large body of philosophical as well 
as theological matter was translated into Syriac ; 
very much less into Coptic, for the Egyptian Mono- 
physites were not called upon to face so much contro- 
versy as their brethren in Syria. 

The period between the schisms and the beginning 
of Muslim interest in philosophy was one of prolific 
translation, commenting, and exposition. Whilst 
there is much interest in tracing the literary history 
of a nation, there is comparatively little in following 
the history of a literature which is confined to activities 
of this sort, for it cannot be much more than a list of 
names. Commentary and essay might indeed open up 
a field of originality, but nothing of the sort appears 
in this type of Syriac work : it seems as though the 
provincialism which followed severance from the 
Greek world brought in narrowing restrictions so 
that, although we get able and diligent workers, they 
never seem able to advance beyond re- state- 
ment, more or less accurate, of results already 
achieved. 

Besides philosophy and theology we find a con- 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 39 

siderable interest in medicine and the two sciences of 
chemistry and astronomy which were treated as 
allied to it, for astronomy, regarded from the astro- 
logical point of view, was supposed to be closely 
associated with the conditions of life and death, of 
health and disease. Medical studies were especially 
attached to the school of Alexandria. Philosophy 
proper had been so largely taken over by theology 
that the secular investigators were rather impelled to 
turn to the natural sciences and as a centre of medical 
and allied studies the ancient school of Alexandria 
continued its development without loss of continuity, 
but under changed conditions. John Philoponus, or 
John the Grammarian, as he was called, was one of 
the later commentators on Aristotle and also one of 
the early lights of this medical school. The date of 
his death is not known, but he was teaching at 
Alexandria at the time when Justinian closed the 
schools at Athens in A.D. 529. The next great leader 
of this school was Paul of Aegina who flourished at the 
time of the Muslim conquest, and whose works long 
served as popular manuals of medicine. The founders 
of the medical school at Alexandria established a 
regular course of education for the training of medical 
practitioners, and for this purpose selected sixteen 
works of Galen, some of which were re-edited in an 
abridged form, and were made the subject of regular 
explanatory lectures. At the same time the school 
became a centre of original research, not only in 
medicine, but also in chemistry and other branches ol 



40 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

natural science. Thus, on the eve of the Muslim 
conquest Alexandria had become a great home of 
scientific enquiry. To some extent this was un- 
fortunate as the existing traditions in Egypt directed 
those investigations very much into obscurantist lines 
and tended to the use of magical forms, talismans, etc., 
and to introduce an astrological bias. This after- 
wards became the great defect of Arabic medicine as 
appears later even in mediaeval Padua, but it was not 
the fault of Islam, it was an inheritance from Alex- 
andria. Such material as remains of Syriac research 
shows us a saner and sounder method in vogue there, 
but Alexandria had eclipsed the Syrian scientists at 
the time of the Muslim invasion, at least in popular 
esteem, and this was a determining factor in directing 
Arabic research into these astrological by-paths. 

Amongst the famous products of this school was 
Paul of Aegina, whose medical works formed the 
basis of much of the mediaeval Arabic and Latin 
teaching, and the priest Ahrun (Aaron) who composed 
a manual of medicine which was afterwards trans- 
lated into Syriac and became a popular authority, 
Alexandria was the centre also of chemical science, 
and as such was the parent of later Arabic alchemy. 
It appears from M. Berthelot's exhaustive study of 
Arabic chemistry (La chimie an moyen age : Paris. 
1893) that the Arabic material may be divided into 
two classes, the one based upon, and mainly 
translated from, the Greek writers current in Alex- 
andria, the other representing a later school of 



THE SYR1AC VERSION OF HELLENISM 41 

independent investigation. f Of the former class 
Berthelot gives three specimens, the Books of Crates, 
of al-Habid, and of Ostanes, all representing the 
Greek tradition which flourished at Alexandria on 
the eve of the Muslim invasion. 

Whilst the Alexandrians kept alive an interest in 
medical and the allied sciences the separated branches 
of the vernacular speaking churches of Asia were more 
interested in logic and speculative philosophy. It 
was perhaps natural that the Monophysites with 
their strong Egyptian connection should adopt the 
commentaries of John Philoponus, himself a Mono- 
physit of a type, but both they and the Nestorians 
invariably used Porphyry's Isagoge as an introductory 
manual. In the general treatment of metaphysics 
and psychology as applied to theology, and in the 
treatment of theology itself, the Monophysites in- 
clined more towards neo-Platonism and mysticism 
than the Nestorians, and their life centered more in 
the monasteries, whilst the Nestorians adhered rather 
to the older system of local schools, although they too 
had monasteries, and in course of time the schools 
adopted the discipline and methods of the convent. 

The oldest and greatest of the Nestorian schools was 
that of Nisibis, but in A.D. 550 Mar Ahba, a convert 
from Zoroastrianism, who had become catJiolicos or 
patriarch of the Kestorians, established a school at 
Seleucia on the model of Msibis. A little later the 
Persian king, Kusraw Anushirwan (Nushirwan, flor. 
531-578 A.D.) who had been greatly impressed by the 



41 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

view of Hellenistic culture which he had obtained 
during his war with Syria, and had offered hospitality 
to the ejected Greek philosophers when Justinian 
closed the schools at Athens, founded a Zoroastrian 
School at Junde-Shapur, in Khuzistan, where not only 
Greek and Syriac works, but also philosophical and 
scientific writings brought from India, were trans- 
lated into Palilawi, or Old Persian, and there the 
study of medicine taught by Greek and Indian 
physicians was developed more fully than in the 
theological atmosphere of the Christian schools, 
although some of the most distinguished medical 
teachers in this school were themselves Nestorian 
Christians. Amongst the alumni of Junde-Shapur 
were the Arab Hares b. Kalada, who afterwards 
became famous as a practitioner, and his son Bnnadr, 
cited in the 5th canon of Ibn Sina (Avicenna), an 
enemy of the Prophet Muhammad who was amongst 
those defeated at the battle of Badr and was put to 
death by 'AIL Several Indian medical writers are 
cited by Eazes and others, notably Sharak and 
Qolhoman, whilst the treatise on poisons by the 
Indian Shanak was, at a later date, translated into 
Persian by Manka for Yahya b. Khalid the Barmecide 
and afterwards into Arabic for the 'Abbasid Khalif 
al-Ma'mun. Manka, who was medical attendant to 
Harunu r-Eashid, translated from Sanskrit various 
medical and other works. Besides the Christian and 
Zoroastrian schools there was also a pagan school at 
Harrau, of whose foundation we have no further 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 43 

information. ,1 Harran had been a centre of Hellenic 
influence from the time of Alexander the Great and 
remained a refuge for the old Greek religion when the 
Greek world at large had become Christian. Al- 
though it would appear that Harran had an inheritance 
from the ancient Babylonian religion, which had a 
late revival during the first centuries of the Christian 
era, this had been entirely overlaid with the develop- 
ments of paganism as revised by the neo-Platonists. 
Indeed Harran shows the last stand of Greek paganism 
and neo-Platonism as the two had been formulated by 
Porphyry and they continued there to live out a 
vigorous though secluded life. 

There were thus several agencies at work de- 
veloping and extending Hellenistic influence in 
Persia and Mesopotamia which later on became a 
Persian province, and besides these established 
schools there were many secondary forces. The 
Persian armies returning from the invasion of Syria 
brought back many items of Hellenic culture, amongst 
them the Greek system of baths which was copied in 
Persia and continued by the Muslims who spread this 
refinement throughout the Islamic world, so that 
what we call the Turkish bath is a lineal decendant of 
the old Greek bath passed through the' Persians 
of pre-Muslim times, and then spread more widely by 
the Muslims. These armies brought home also a 
great admiration for Greek architecture and engineer- 
ing, and Greek architects, engineers, and craftsmen 
being amongst the most valued plunder brought back 



44 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

from Syria, by their help Persia endeavoured to start 
building in the Greek style. Thus the centuries 
immediately before the outspread of Islam show a 
wide and steady extension of Hellenistic influences in 
all the different forms of culture, in science, philosophy, 
art, architecture, and in the luxuries of life : and 
even before this, ever since the days of Alexander the 
Great, there had been a percolation of Greek influence, 
so that Western Asia was steeped in Hellenistic art, 
in many cases very crudely represented and combined 
with native elements. When the oppressive control 
of the Umayyads was lifted and the native population 
came again to its own, we can hardly wonder that 
this meant a revival of Hellenism. 

We have already mentioned I has (d. 457) as the 
teacher of Barsuma who led the Nestorian migration 
into Persia and re-opened the school of Nisibis. This 
Ibas had been the great luminary of the school of 
Edessa in its last days and seems to have been the first 
to make a Syriac translation of Porphyry's Isagoge, 
the recognised manual of logic preparatory to Aris- 
totle's Organon. This shows that logic had been 
taken as the chief material of education amongst the 
Nestorians and very much the same seems to have 
been the case amongst the Monophysites. 

About the same time flourished Probus, who is 
said to have been a presbyter of Antioch, and pro- 
duced commentaries upon Porphyry's Isagoge, and 
on Aristotle's Hermeneutica, Soph. Elench., and 
Analytica Priora, these commentaries becoming 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 4* 

favourite manuals amongst the Syriac speaking 
students of logic. Hoffman's De Hermeneuticis apud 
Syros (Leipzic, 1873) gives the text of the commentary 
on the Hermeneutica followed by a Latin translation. 
The method employed here and in all Syriac comment- 
aries is to take a short passage, often no more than a 
few words, of the Text of Aristotle translated into 
Syriac and then give an explanation of the meaning 
sometimes extending to several pages, sometimes 
only a brief remark, according to the difficulty of the 
text, very much as if a teacher were reading aloud and 
explaining passages by passage as lie read. This 
became the usual method of commenting and was 
afterwards copied by the Muslims in their comment- 
aries on the Qur'an. The commentary on the 
Isagoge has been published by Baumstark (Aris- 
totles bei den Syrern, Leipzic, 1900), and that on the 
Analytica Priora by the great Louvain scholar Prof. 
Hoonacker in the Journal Asiatique for July -August, 
1900. 

The greatest of the Monophysite scholars was 
Sergius of Eas al- 4 Ayn (d. 536), who was both a 
translator and the author of original treatises on 
philosophy, medicine, and astronomy. His medical 
work was his chief interest and he left a permanent 
mark as a translator into Syriac of a considerable 
part of Galen. He spent some time in Alexandria 
where he perfected himself in a knowledge of Greek and 
learned chemistry and medicine in the Alexandrian 
medical school tfien just beginning its career. Some 



46 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

of his translation of Galen is preserved in the British 
Mus. MSS. Addit. 14661 and 17156 : in the latter 
are fragments of the " Medical art " and " Faculties 
of the aliments " which have been edited by Sachau 
(Inedita Syriaca, Vienna, 1870). Of his philosophical 
work Sachau has given us the versions which he made 
of the Isagoge and Table of Porphyry, and Aris- 
totle's Categories and the dubious de mundo, as well 
as a treatise on " the soul " which is not the de anima 
of Aristotle. He wrote original treatises on logic 
in seven books (incomplete Brit. Mus. Add. 14660 
contains that on the categories), on " negation and 
affirmation," on " genus, species, and individual," 
on " the causes of the universe according to Aris- 
totle " and minor essays. In astronomy he has left 
a tract " on the influence of the moon " which is 
based on the work of Galen (cf. Sachau, op. cit.) 
The writings of Sergius circulated amongst both 
Nestorians and Monophysites, all regarding him as a 
leading authority on medicine and logic, and in 
medicine it seems that he was the founder of a 
Syriac school which became the parent of Arabic 
medicine, certainly that school owed its impetus to 
him. Bar Hebraeus refers to him as " a man 
eloquent and greatly skilled in the books of the 
Greeks and Syrians and a most learned physician of 
men's bodies. He was indeed orthodox in his opinions, 
as the " Prologue " bears witness, but in morals 
corrupt, depraved, and stained with lust and avarice " 
(Bar Hebraeus. ed. Abbelooi et Lamy. i. 205-7)- 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 47 

In the same century lived Ahudemmeh who became 
bishop of Tagrit in A.D. 559, and introduced the 
commentary of John Philoponus as the regular 
manual of instruction amongst the Syriac speaking 
Monophysites. He is said to have composed treatises 
on the definitions of logic, on the freedom of the will, 
on the soul, on man considered as a microcosm, and 
on the composition of man as of soul and body, this 
last in part preserved in MS. Brit. Mus. Addit. 14620. 

Amongst the Nestorian scholars of the sixth 
century was Paul the Persian who produced a treatise 
on logic which he dedicated to King Khusraw and has 
been published in M. Land's Analecta Syriaca (iv). 

This has brought us to the period of the Muslim 
invasion. In 638 Syria was jjpnquered, and the con- 
quest of Mesopotamia followed in the course of the 
same year, that of Persia four years later. In 661 
the Umayyad dynasty of Arab rulers was established 
in Damascus ; but all this did not greatly affect the 
internal life of the Christian communities who lived 
on in perfect liberty, subject only to the payment of 
the poll tax. 

About 650 the Nestorian Henanieshu' wrote a 
treatise on logic (cf. Budge : Thomas of Marga. 
i. 79) and commented on John Philoponus. 

The Monophysites had no great schools like the 
Nestorians, but their convent at Qensherin, on the 
left bank of the Euphrates, was a great centre of 
Greek studies. Its most famous product was Sever ui 
BeboJct who flourished on the eve of the Muslim 



48 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

conquest. He was the author of a commentary on 
Aristotle's Hermeneutica of which only fragments 
survive, of a treatise on the syllogisms of the Analy- 
tica Priora, and of epistles dealing with terms used in 
the Hermeneutica and on the difficult points in 
Aristotle's Rhetoric (cf. Brit. Mus. Add. 14660, 17156). 
In astronomy he wrote on " the Figures of the 
Zodiac " and on " the Astrolabe," the former of these 
is preserved in Br. Mus. Add. 14538 and has been 
published by Sachau (op. cit.), the latter in Berlin 
MS. Sachau 186 and published by Nau in the Journal 
Asiatique of 1899. 

Athanasius of Balad who became Monophysite 
patriarch in 684 was a pupil of Severus Sekobt, and 
is chiefly known as the translator of a new Syriac 
version of Porphyry's Isagoge (Vatican Ms. Syr. 158. 
cf. Bar Hebraeus Chron. Eccles. ed. Abbeloos et 
Lamy. i. 287). 

James of Edessa (d. 708 A.D.) also was a pupil of 
Severus Sebokt at the same convent, was made 
bishop of Edessa about 684 and abandoned this see 
in 688 as the result of his failure to carry out the 
reformation of the monasteries in his diocese : he 
retired to the monastery of St. James at Kaishun, 
between Aleppo and Edessa, but ]eft this to become 
lecturer at the monastery of Eusebona, in the diocese 
of Antioch where u for eleven years he taught the 
psalms and the reading of the scriptures in Greek and 
revived the Greek language which had fallen into 
disuse " (Bar Hebr. Chron. Eccles. i. 291). Attacked 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 49 

by the brethren who disapproved of the study of 
Greek, he migrated to the monastery of Tel'ed^'where 
he prepared a revised version of the Peshitta or 
Syriac Vulgate of the Old Testament, finally returning 
to Edessa about four months before his death. His 
Enchiridion, a treatise on the terms used in philosophy, 
is preserved in the Brit. Mus. MS. Addit. 12154. 

George, who became " bishop of the Arabs " in 
686, was himself a pupil of Athanasius of Balad and 
translated the whole logical Organon of Aristotle, of 
which his versions of the Catagories, Hermeneutica, 
and Analytica Priora appear in Brit. Mus. Addit. 
14659, each furnished with an introduction and 
commentary. 

These names cover the whole period between the 
two schisms and the Muslim invasion and suffice 
to show that the Syriac speaking community con- 
tinued diligent in the study of the Aristotelian logic 
and metaphysics, and also gave attention to medical 
and scientific studies. It is not exactly a brilliant 
or original form of cultural activity, for the most part 
it was only the transmission of received texts with the 
preparation of new translations, commentaries, and 
explanatory treatises, but this itself fulfilled an im- 
portant function. The Muslim invasion made no 
change in the course of these studies : the Umayyads 
did not interfere with the schools and the Syriac 
students went their own way living a life quite apart 
from that of their Arab rulers. Now and then un- 
scrupulous or angry clergy appealed to the Khalif 



50 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

against their fellow clergy and this was the commonest 
cause of interference which the historians describe as 
persecution. Such was the experience of Henany- 
esliu*' who became Nestorian Catholicos in A.D. 686. 
The bishop of Msibis made complaints against him 
to the Khalif 'Abdul -Malik in consequence of which 
he was deposed, imprisoned, and then thrown over a 
cliff. He was not killed by his fall, though severely 
lamed ; by the kindness of some shepherds he was 
sheltered and nursed back to health, and then retired 
to the monastery of Yannan near Mosul, resuming 
his patriarchal office after the death of the bishop of 
Msibis, and holding it until his own death in 701 
(Bar Heb. Chron. Ecdes. Abbeloos et Lamy. ii. 135- 
140). Besides sermons, letters, and a biography of 
Dewada, he wrote an educational treatise on " the 
twofold duty of the school " as a place of religious and 
moral influence on the one hand, and of an academy of 
the humanities on the other (cf. Assemsan BO.) 
iii. part I. 154 and also an " Explanation of the 
Analytica " (id). 

Mar Abha III. became Nestorian Catholicos 
somewhere about 740 (133 A.H.) and produced a 
commentary on Aristotle's logic (cf. Bar Heb. ii. 153). 
This brings us down to the period when the Muslim 
world began to take an interest in these philosophical 
and scientific studies, and translations and comment- 
aries began to appear in Arabic. But Syriac studies 
did not at once disappear and it will be convenient 
to enumerate briefly some of those who appeared in 



THE SYRIAG VERSION OF HELLENISM 51 

later times down to the age of Bar Hebraeus (d. A J). 
1286), with whom the literary history of Syriac comes 
to an end. In the latter part of the eighth century we 
find Jeshudena bishop of Basra writing an u intro- 
duction to logic." Shortly afterwards JeshuboTct 
metropolitan of Persia wrote on the Categories (cf. 
Journ. Asiat. May-June. 1906). Hunayn b. Ishaq, 
his son Ishaq, and his nephew Hubaysh, with some 
other companions, formed the college of translators 
established at Baghdad by the Khalif al-Ma'mun to 
render the Greek and other philosophical and scientific 
texts into Arabic, a work to which we shall refer again ; 
but Hunayn, who was a Nestorian Christian, was 
also occupied in making translations from the Greek 
into Syriac : he prepared, or revised, Syriac versions of 
Porphyry's Isagoge, Aristotle's Hermeneutica, part of 
the Analytica^ the de generations et corruptione, the 
de anima, part of the Metaphysics, the Summa of 
Nicolas of Damascus, the Commentary of Alexander 
of Aphrodisias, and the greater part of the works of 
Galen, Dioscorus, Paul of Aegina, and Hippocrates, 
His son Ishaq also made a translation of Aristotle's 
de anima, and it is significant that this treatise and the 
commentary of Alexander Aphr. now begins to take 
the most prominent place in philosophical study ; 
the centre of interest is moving from logic to psych- 
ology. About the same time the physician John Bar 
Maswai (d. A.D. 857) composed various medical 
works in Syriac and Arabic. He, like Hunayn, was 
one of the intellectual group which the 'Abbasids 



52 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

gathered together in their new capital city of Baghdad. 
Contemporary also were the Syriac writers Denha (or 
Ibas) who compiled a commentary on the Aristotelian 
logical Organon : Abzud, the author of a poetical 
essay on the divisions of philosophy, and then, after 
a series of minor writers on logic, Dionysius Bar 
Salibi in the twelfth century A.D., who composed 
commentaries on the Isagoge, the Categories, Her* 
meneuticaj and Analytical and in the early part of 
the following century Taqub Bar ShaJcalco, author of a 
collection of " Dialogues " of which the second book 
deals with philosophical questions of logic, physics, 
mathematics, and metaphysics. 

The series of Syriac philosophical writers closes 
with Gregory Bar Hebraeus, or Abu l-Faraj in the 
thirteenth century A.D. whose " Book of the Pupils of 
the Eyes " is a compendium of logic summarising and 
explaining the Isagoge, and Aristotle's Categories, Her- 
meneutica, Analytica, Topica, and Sophistica Elenchi ; 
his " Book of the Upholding of Wisdom " being a 
summary introduction to logic, physics, metaphysics, 
and theology. A third work " The Cream of Science " 
is an encyclopedia of the Aristotelian philosophy, 
and this work appears also in an abridged form as the 
44 Business of Businesses." He was also the trans- 
lator into Syriac of Dioscorus on simples, and author 
of a treatise on the medical Questions of Hunayn b. 
[shaq, and of a work on geography called " the Ascent 
of the Spirit." Although esteemed as one of the 
greatest Syriac authorities and for centuries holding a 



THE SYRIAC VERSION OF HELLENISM 53 

place of primary importance, he was in reality no 
more than a compiler who produced encyclopaedic 
works dealing with the researches of his predecessors. 
The great importance of the Syriac speaking 
Christian communities was as the medium whereby 
Hellenistic philosophy and science was transmitted 
to the Arabic world. There was no independent 
development in its Syriac atmosphere, and even the 
choice of material had already been made by the 
Hellenists before it passed into Syriac hands. It was 
now definitely established that the basis of the 
" humanities " was the Aristotelian logic, and that 
this as well as all other studies in the work of Aris- 
totle was to be interpreted according to the neo- 
Platonic commentators. In medicine and chemistry 
the curriculum of the school of Alexandria was 
recognised as authoritative and this, in so far as it 
was based upon Galen and Hippocrates, and upon the 
teaching of Paul of Aegina in obstetrical medicine, 
was to the good : but there was a mystical side of 
Alexandrian science mixed up with astrology, so 
that particular drugs had to be taken where certain 
planets were in the ascendant, and such like ideas, 
which gave a magical tone to Alexandrian and 
Arabic medicine which was not for its advantage, 
although it must be remembered that the ready con- 
tempt formerly poured upon Arabic science as mere 
charlatanism is now expressed more cautiously : we 
are prepared to admit that very much real and 
valuable work was done in medicine and chemistry, 



54 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

although it is probable that the Egyptian obscurantism 
did rather tend to hinder the steady development of 
the sounder tradition derived from Galen and the 
Greek physicians. 

We are thus able to understand that ' ' Muslim 
theology, philosophy, and science put forth their first 
luxurant shoots on a soil which was saturated with 
Hellenistic culture." (Nicholson : Mystics of 
Islam. London. 1914 .p. 9.) The passage of Hellenism 
took place through five channels : 

(i) The Nestorians who hold the first place as the 
earliest teachers of the Muslims and the most impor- 
tant transmittors of medicine. 

(ii) The Jacobites or Monophysites who were the 
chief influences in introducing neo-Platonic specula- 
tions and mysticism. 

(iii) The Zoroastrians of Persia and especially the 
school of Junde-Shapur, although this had a strong 
Nestorian element. 

(iv) The Pagans of Harran who came forward at 
a later stage. 

(v) The Jews who, in this connection, occupy a 
somewhat peculiar position : they had no contact 
with the tradition of Aristotelian philosophy, their 
academies at Sora and Pumbaditha were concerned 
with their own traditional law and Bible exegesis 
only. Jewish philosophical studies began later and 
were themselves derived from the Arabic philosophers. 
But they shared with the Nestorians an inclination 
towards medical studies so that Jewish physician* 



THE SYRIAC VERSION Of HELLENISM 55 

appear in the early days of Baghdad. Yet they come 
distinctly second to the Nestorians. Thus amongst 
the medical writers mentioned by Dr. Leclerq in his 
Histoire de la medicine arabe (Paris, 1?76) we find 
amongst the names cited for the tenth cent. A.D. 
that there are 29 Christians, 3 Jews, and 4 pagans of 
Harran, though in the next century only 3 Christians 
appear, as against 7 Jews, the work then passing very 
largely into Muslim hands. 



CHAPTER II 
THE AEAB PEEIOD 

Islam in its earlier form was entirely an Arab 
religion. The temporal side of the Prophet Muham- 
mad's mission shows him engaged in an effort to 
unite the tribes of the Hijaz in a fraternal union, to 
limit the custom of the razzia (ghazza) or marauding 
foray, and to form an orderly community. These 
temporal aims were due to the influence of Madina 
on the Prophet aud to the conviction that it was 
only in such a community that his religious teaching 
could obtain a serious attention. In Mecca he had 
been faced with constant opposition chiefly due to 
the tribal jealousies and strife which formed the 
normal condition of a Bedwin community. Madina 
was a city in a sense quit^ different from that in which 
the term could be applied to Mecca. It had developed 
a civic life, rudimentary no doubt but very far in 
advance of the Meccan conditions, and had inherited 
a constitutional tradition from Aramaean and Jewish 
colonists. At Madina the Prophet began to perceive 
the difference produced by the association of men in 
an ordered communal life as contrasted with the 
incoherence of the older tribal conditions, and the 
accompanying difference of attitude towards religion. 



THE ARAB PERIOD 57 

This last was not really due to civic life but more 
directly to Jewish influence, although no doubt the 
conditions of city life were more favourable to the 
evolution of speculative theology than those of the 
wilder tribes. The older Arabs seem to have accepted 
the idea of one supreme God, but speculated little 
about him : they did not regard the supreme deity as 
at all entering into their personal interests, which 
were concerned only with the minor tribal deities 
who were expected to attend diligently to tribal 
affairs and were sharply censured when they appeared 
to be negligent about the interests of their clients. 
The desert man had no tendency to the sublime 
thoughts about God with which he is sometimes 
credited, nor had he any great reverence towards the 
minor members of his pantheon. The Prophet found 
it one of his most difficult tasks to introduce the 
observance of prayer amongst the Arabs, and they 
do not appear very much attached to it at the present 
day. In Madina the Prophet was in contact with 
men whose attitude towards religion was very different 
and who were more in sjTngathy with the principles 
which he had learned from very much the same sources 
as themselves. 

In Madina, therefore, the Prophet added a tem- 
poral side to the spiritual work in which he had been 
previously engaged. It was not consciously a change 
of attitude, but simply the adoption of a subsidiary 
task which seemed to provide a most useful accessory 
to the work which be had already been doing. Its 



58 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

keynote is given in the Madinian Sura 49.10, " Only 
the faithful are brethren, wherefore make peace 
between your brethren." It was a call to his fellow 
Arabs of the Hijaz to cease their strife and to unite 
in the bonds of brotherhood. Such a union on the 
part of those whose habits and ideals were warlike 
and who were disinclined to the arts of peace, neces- 
sarily produced an attitude of hostility towards per- 
sons outside their community. Was this militant 
attitude any part of Muhammad's plans ? The 
answer must certainly be in the negative. The mili- 
tary enterprises of early Islam were no part of its 
original programme. In those enterprises the Pro- 
phet and his immediate successors show a hesitating 
and dubious attitude ; obviously their hands were 
forced and they take the lead reluctantly. As Fr. 
Lammens says : 

Le Qoran travailla & r6unir les tribus du Higaz. 
La predication de Mahomet r^ussit & mettre sur 
pied une arm6e, la plus nombreuse, la plus dis- 
ciplin^e qu'on gut vue jusque-l& dans la Pninsule. 
Cette force ne pouvait longtemps demeurer sans 
emploi. Par ailleurs 1-islam, en imposant la paix 
entre les tribus, rallies & la nouvelle religion ou 
simplement & l'6tat mMinois en formation, le ta'llf 
al-qoloub poursuivait ce dernier objectif Pislam 
allait fermer tout issue & I'inqui&te activity des 
nomades. II pr^tendait supprimer & tout le moins 
limiter, le droit de razzia, plac6 & la base de cette 
soci6t6 patriarcalement anarchique. II fallait &'at~ 



THE ARAB PERIOD 5* 

tendre & voir le torrent ; momentan6ment endigu6, 

d&border sur les regions fronti^res. 

" Que Mahomet ait assign^ ce but & leurs efforts f 

II devient difficile de d6fendre cette th&se, trop 

facilement accept^e jusqu'ici." 

(Lammens : Le berceau de Vislam. Borne, 1914, 

i. p. 175.) 

In the expedition against Mecca a militant attitude 
was the inevitable result of compelling circumstances. 
The Meccans were actively hostile and had adopted 
a persecuting attitude towards those who accepted 
the new religion. At the time the Quraysh tribe, to 
which Muhammad belonged, was so far in the a seen* 
dant that its adhesion was necessary for the progress 
of Islam in the Hijaz : the championship of some 
prominent tribe was essential, and Muhammad him- 
self was deeply attached to the traditional " House 
of God " at Mecca, to which his own family was 
bound by many associations ; besides he desired the 
adherence of his own tribe as his mission was to it 
in the first place. Had the Meccan opposition not 
been broken down the Muslim religion could have 
been no more than the local cult of Madina, and even 
as such would have had to be perpetually on the 
defensive. No doubt the " holy war " as an institu- 
tion was based on the traditions of this expedition, 
but such a war is related to the later enterprises for 
the conquest of non-Arab nations by a line of develop- 
ment which the Prophet himself could hardly have 
anticipated. The challenge to Heraclius is on a 



60 ARABIC THOUGHT /AT HISTORY 

similar footing. Although we may not be disposed to 
accept the traditional account given by Bukhari, 
there no doubt was some such challenge. But 
Heraclius had only recently re-conquered Syria for 
the Byzantine Empire, the land he had acquired 
included a considerable portion of the Syrian desert 
which formed a geographical unity with Arabia, and 
amongst his subjects were Arab tribes closely akin 
to those of the Hijaz. 

Islam became a militant religion because it spread 
amongst the Arabs at a time when they were begin- 
ing to enter upon a career of expansion and conquest, 
and this career had already commenced before Mu- 
hammad had got beyond the first the purely 
spiritual stage of his work. The only reason why the 
earlier Arab efforts were not followed up immediately 
seems to have been that the Arabs were so surprised 
at their success that they were unprepared to take 
advantage of it. For some time previously Arab 
settlements had been formed in the debateable land 
where the Persian and Byzantine Empires met, but 
this encroachment had been more or less veiled by 
the nominal suzerainty of one or other of the great 
states. The Quda, a tribe of Himyaritic Arabs, had 
settled in Syria and become Christian, and was 
charged by the Byzantine Emperor with the general 
control of the Arabs of Syria (Masudi : in., 214-5) ; 
that tribe was superseded by the tribe of Salih 
(id. 216), and that by the Arab kingdom of Ghaaan 
which acknowledged the Emperor of Byzantium as 



THE ARAB PERIOD 61 

its overlord, whilst the Arab kingdom of Hira acknow- 
ledged the Persian king. Somewhere between A.D. 
604 and 610, when the first beginnings of persecution 
were falling on the Prophet in Mecca, the Arabs led 
by al-Mondir inflicted a crushing defeat upon the 
Persian army under King Khusraw Parwiz, who, a 
few years before, had led a victorious force to the 
invasion of the Byzantine province of Syria. This 
victory showed the Arabs that, in spite of its imposing 
appearance, the Persian Empire, and presumably the 
Byzantine also, were vulnerable, and a determined 
effort might easily place the wealth of both at the 
disposal of the Arabs. 

The Muslim conquests of the 7th century A.D. 
form the last of a series of great Semitic outspreads 
of which the earliest recorded in history resulted in 
the formation of the empire of Babylon some 2225 
years before the Christian era. In all these the 
motive power lay in the Arabs who represent the 
parent Semitic stock, the more or less nomadic in- 
habitants of the barren highlands of Western Asia, 
who have always tended to prey upon the more 
cultured and settled dwellers in the river valleys and 
on the lower slopes of the hills. 

44 The belts between mountain and desert, the banks 
of the great rivers, the lower hills near the sea, these 
are the lines of civilization (actual or potential) in 
Western Asia. The consequence of these conditions 
is that through all the history of Western Asia there 
runs the eternal distinction between the civilised 



62 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

i cultivators of the plains and lower hills and the wild 
peoples of mountain and desert. The great monarch- 
ies which have arisen here have rarely been effective 
beyond the limits of cultivation ; mountain and desert 
are another world in which they can get, at best, 
only precarious footing. And to the monarchical 
settled peoples the near neighbourhood of this unsub- 
jugated world has been a continual menace. It is a 
chaotic region out of which may pour upon them at 
any weakening of the dam hordes of devastators. 
At the best of times it hampers the government by 
offering a refuge and recruiting ground to all the 
enemies of order." (Bevan : House of Seleucus, i., 
P- 22.) 

Scornful of agriculture and with a strong distaste 
for settled and especially for urban life, the Bedwin 
are those who have remained nomads by preference, 
and like all races at that stage of evolution, find the 
most congenial outlet for their vigour in tribal 
warfare and plundering expeditions. From the 
earliest dawn of history they have always been strong- 
ly tempted by the wealth of the settled communities 
within reach, and appear in the oldest records as 
robber bands. Sometimes predatory excursions were 
followed by settlement, and the invading tribes 
learned the culture of those amongst whom they 
settled : all the Semitic groups other than the Arabs 
had formed such settlements before the 7th century 
A.D., and these groups are distinguished one from 
another, and all from the parent stock, simply by 



THE ARAB PERIOD 63 

the cultural influences due to the earlier inhabitants 
of the lands they entered ; the Arab stock itself 
remained high and dry, the stranded relic of more 
primitive conditions, though itself not absolutely free 
from a reacting influence. The only thing that ever 
has restrained the incursions of these nomadic tribes 
into such neighbouring lands as offer hope of plunder 
is the military power of those who endeavour to place 
a barrier for the protection of the settled community 
of the cultivated area, and every Arab outspread 
has been due, not to the pressure of hunger resulting 
from the desiccation of Arabia, nor to religious 
enthusiasm, but simply to the weakness of the power 
which tried to maintain a dam against them, 

In the 7th century A.D. the two powers bordering 
on the Arab area were the Byzantine and Persian 
empires. Both of these were, to all appearance, 
flourishing and stable, but both alike were in reality 
greatly weakened by external and internal causes 
which were closely parallel in the two. Externally, 
both had been severely shaken by some centuries 
of warfare in which they had disputed the supremacy 
of Western Asia, and both had suffered from rear 
attacks by more barbarous foes. Internally, both 
alike had a thoroughly unsatisfactory social structure, 
though the details differ : in the Byzantine Empire 
almost the whole burden of a very heavy taxation 
fell upon the middle classes, the curiales, and the 
armies were mainly composed of foreign mercenaries, 
whilst in the Persian Empire a rigid caste system 



64 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

stifled natural development. In both we see a state 
church engaged in active persecution and thereby 
alienating a large section of the subject population. 

The career of Muslim conquest came with great 
suddenness. Between the years 14 and 21 A.H. 
(A.D. 635-641) the Arabs obtained possession of 
Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Persia. They owed to Islam 
the united action which made these conquests pos- 
sible, but the older Muslims who had shared the ideals 
and labours of the Prophet, though put at the head, 
were carried forward reluctantly and yet irresistibly 
by the expanding force behind them. Many of them 
viewed these large accessions with very real anxiety. 
When the second Khalif Umar saw the large number of 
prisoners and captives from Jalftla (Persia) flocking 
into Arabia, he exclaimed, " O, God, I take refuge 
with thee from the children of these captives of 



Already the community of Islam contained three 
distinct strata, (i) The " old believers," i.e., the 
sahibs or companions of the Prophet and the early 
converts who placed the religion of Islam first and 
desired that religion to produce a real brotherhood 
of all believers, whether Arab or not. Important by 
their prestige they were numerically in the minority. 
(ii) The Arab party, consisting of those who had em- 
braced Islam only when Muhammad had shown his 
power by the capture of Mecca. They accepted 
Muslim leadership because Muhammad and the first 
two Khalifs were at the moment in the ascendancy, 



THE ARAB PERIOD 65 

but they had no attachment to the religion of Islam. 
They were those who would have gone forward to 
conquest under any efficient leader as soon as it was 
clear that Persia and the Greek Empire were vul- 
nerable, and to them it was a detriment that union 
under a leader incidentally involved adherence to a 
new religion. At the head of these purely secular 
Arabs was the Umayyad clan of the tribe of Quraysh, 
and the main thing which gained their continued 
adherence to Islam was that the Prophet himself 
had belonged to that tribe and so the prestige of 
Islam involved that of the Quraysh who thereby 
became a kind of aristocracy. Although the Umay- 
yads were thus able to gratify their personal pride, 
always a strong factor in semi- civilised psychology, 
and even to obtain a considerable measure of control 
over the other tribes, this only served to perpetuate 
the pre-Islainic conditions of tribal jealousy, for the 
primacy of the Quraysh was bitterly resented by many 
rivals. For the most part the true Arab party was, 
and stUMs, indifferent towards religion. 

" The genuine Arab of the desert is, and remains 
at heart, a sceptic and a materialist ; his hard, clear, 
keen, but somewhat narrow intelligence, ever alert 
in its own domain, was neither curious nor credulous 
in respect to immaterial and supra-sensual things ; 
his egotistical and self-reliant nature found no place 
and felt no need for a God who, if powerful to protect, 
was exacting of service and self-denial." (Browne : 
Literary Hist, of Persia, L, pp. 189-190.) 



66 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

The Arab certainly was not disposed to regard the 
conquered alien, even if he embraced Islam, as a 
brother. To him the conquest of foreign lands meant 
only the acquisition of vast estates, of great wealth 
and unlimited power : to him the conquered were 
simply serfs to be used as a means of rendering the 
conquered lands more productive. The conquered 
were allowed the choice either to embrace Islam or to 
pay the poll tax, but the 'TJmayyads discouraged 
conversion as damaging to the revenue, although the 
cruel and hated Hajjaj b. Yusuf (d. 95) forced even 
converts to pay the tax from which they were legally 
exempt, (iii) The third stratum consisted of the 
" clients " (mawla, plur. mawali), the non-Arab con- 
verts, theoretically received as brethren and actually 
so treated by the " old believers," but regarded as 
serfs by Arabs of the Umayyad type. Owing to the 
wide expansion of Islam these rapidly increased in 
number until, in the 2nd century of the Hijra, they 
formed the vast majority of the Muslim world. 

The two first Khalifs were " old believers " who 
had been companions of the Prophet in his flight from 
Mecca. The third, 'Uthman, had also been one of the 
Prophet's companions, but he was a weak man and 
moreover, belonged to the 'Umayyad clan, which, as 
the aristocratic element in Mecca, was then in the 
ascendant and, unable to free himself from the 
nepotism which is an Arab failing, allowed the rich 
conquests of Syria, Egypt, 'Iraq, and Persia to become 
the prey of ambitious members of the clan and thus 



THE ARAB PERIOD 47 

suffered the complete secularising of the Islamic state. 
When, in 35 A.H., he fell a victim to the assassin, he 
was succeeded by 4 Ali, one of the older Muslims and 
the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law. But at 'Ali's 
accession the internal division appears as an accom- 
plished fact. The purely secular Arabs, led by the 
'Umayyad Mu'awiya, who was governor of Syria, 
entirely refused to recognise 4 Ali, affecting to regard 
him as implicated in the murder of 'Uthman, or at 
least as protecting his murderers. On the other hand, 
the Kharijite sect, claiming to represent the older 
Muslim type, but in reality mainly composed of the 
Arabs of Arabia and of the military colonies, who 
were envious of the power and wealth of the Umayyad 
faction, at first supported him, then turned against 
him, and in 41 were responsible for his assassination. 
At 4 Ali's death Mu'awiya became Khalif and 
founded the Umayyad dynasty which ruled from 41 
to 132 A.H. During the whole of this period the 
official Khalifate was Arab first and Muslim only in 
the second place. This forms the second period of 
the history of Islam when the religion of the Prophet 
was allowed to sink into the background and the Arab 
regarded himself as the conqueror ruling over a 
subject population. There was no forcible conversion 
of a subject population, indeed, save in the reign of 
*Umar II (A.H. 99-101) conversions were rather 
.discouraged as detrimental to the poll tax levied on 
non-Muslims. There was no attempt to force the 
Arabic language : until the reign of * Abdu 1-MSIik 



68 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

(65-86), who started an Arabic coinage, the public 
records were kept and official business transacted in 
Greek, Persian, or Coptic, as local requirements 
demanded, and the change to Arabic seems to have 
been suggested by the non-Muslim clerks. When 
Arabic became the official medium of public business 
then, of course, motives of convenience and self- 
interest* caused its general adoption. Hitherto it 
had been used in prayer by those who had become 
Muslim, but now it had to be learned more accurately 
by all who had to do with the collection of the revenue 
or the administration of justice. Incidentally this 
became a matter of great importance, as it provided 
a common medium for the exchange of thought 
throughout the whole Muslim world. 

As rulers in Syria, the Arabs were in contact with 
a fully developed culture which was brought to bear 
iupon them in various ways, in the structure of society 
and in social order generally, in the arts and crafts, 
and in intellectual life. The Greek influence was 
nearest at hand, but there was also a very strong 
Persian element in close contact with them. The 
provincial officials of Syria, all trained in the methods 
of the Byzantine Empire, continued in their employ, 
and, as Syria was the seat of the 'Umayyad govern- 
ment, the state came under Greek influence. Yet, 
for all this, even in 'Umayyad times, the Persian 
influence seems to have been very strong in political 
organization. The governments already existing in 
Egypt and Syria were provincial, dependent upon 



THE ARAB PERIOD 69 

and subordinate to, the central government at Byzan- 
tium, and constantly recruited by Byzantine officials, 
at least in their upper grades. The Persian govern- 
ment, on the other hand, was a self-contained one, 
fully organised throughout and including the supreme 
and central authority. Until the fall of the 'Urnay- 
yads, after which Persian influence became supreme,) 
the political structure of the Muslim state was some- 
what experimental ; apparently the rulers left the details 
altogether to the subordinate officials who adapted 
to the needs of the state such elements as they 
could use from the old provincial administration. 

In the matter of taxation the early Khalifate con- 
tinued the system already in vogue and employed 
existing methods for the collection of the newly 
imposed poll tax. It was on this side that the 
'Umayyad rule was most unsatisfactory. Like many 
who have been bred in poverty and have afterwards 
suddenly come into great wealth, the Arabs behaved 
as though their wealth was inexhaustible : each 
governor bought his appointment from the state and 
it became a recognised custom for him to exact a 
cash payment from the outgoing governor, and then 
he was free to raise what he could from his defenceless 
subjects to prepare for the day when his opportunities 
of exaction came to an end. The thoroughly unsatis- 
factory condition of the 'Umayyad financial system 
was one of the leading causes of their fall. One of the 
'Umayyad sheikhs, named Minkari, when asked the 
reason of their fall, replied : 



70 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

" We gave to pleasure the time which should have 
been devoted to business. Our subjects, harshly 
treated by us and despairing of obtaining justice, 
longed to be delivered from us : the tax payers, over- 
burdened with exactions, were estranged from us : 
our lands were neglected, our resources wasted. We 
left business to our ministers who sacrificed our 
interests to their own advantage, and transacted our 
affairs as they pleased and without our knowledge. 
The army, with its pay always in arrear, ceased to 
obey us. And so the small number of our supporters 
left us without defence against our enemies, and the 
ignorance of how we stood was one of the chief 
causes of our fall." (Masudi : vi., 35-36.) 

It will not be unfair to say, therefore, that during 
the 'Umayyad period the Arabs learned practically 
nothing of the art of government and of the work of 
administration. They were in the position of prodigal 
young heirs who leave all details to their men of 
business and content themselves with squandering 
the proceeds. 

In the case of civil law matters were rather different. 
The civil law is necessarily based on the social and 
economic structure of the community, and in the 
acquired provinces this was so different from that 
prevailing in Arabia that it was necessarily forced on 
the attention of the Arabs. Moreover, in primitive 
Islam, the line was not clearly drawn between the 
canon law and the civil law. Inheritance, the taking 
of pledges, and such like matters, were to the Arabs 



THE ARAB PERIOD 71 

subject to the direction and sanction of the law of 
God as revealed by his Prophet. Thus, for example, 
Sura 4, one of the later Madinian revelations, con- 
tains a statement of the law relating to guardianship, 
inheritance, marriage, and kindred topics, according 
to the social conditions prevailing at Madina. But 
in the Greek and Persian dominions the conquering 
Arab had to deal with more complex conditions for 
which the revealed law made no provision, although 
what it did contain so far touched the subject that 
it could not be treated regardless of revelation. It 
seemed impossible to disregard the revealed precepts 
and substitute an alien legislation, although this has 
been done in the modern Ottoman Empire, but not 
without many and grave protests ; in the first cen- 
tury it would have been intolerable, for every dis- 
affected faction would have used it to break up the 
Muslim state which was only held together by the 
prestige of the Prophetical tradition. We may well 
suppose that the 'Umayyads would have had no reluc- 
tance to try the experiment, but it was too dangerous. 
The only alternative was to expand the sacred law 
so as to include new requirements, and in the 'Umay- 
yad period this was done by the addition of a vast 
number of fictitious traditions professing to relate 
what the Prophet had said and done in conditions in 
which he had never been placed. In describing these 
traditions as " fictitious," it is not necessarily implied 
that they were fraudulent, although many were so, 
showing an obvious motive in increasing the privi* 



72 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

leges and rights of the dominant faction or asserting 
the tribal pre-eminence of the Quraysh, etc. But 
more often they are " fictitious " in the sense of legal 
fictions rightly correcting the actual law in the inter- 
ests of equity. When entirely new conditions arose, the 
question would be asked, " How would the Prophet 
have acted in this case ? " The early companions 
of the Prophet, educated in the same environment 
as he had been educated, and confident that their 
outlook was essentially the same as his, had no 
hesitation in stating what he would have done or 
said, and their statement was almost certainly cor- 
rect : but they worded their evidence, or it was after- 
wards worded for them, as a statement of what the 
Prophet actually had done or said. And, later again, 
in a subsequent generation, when new problems arose, 
no difficulty was felt in accepting the supposition that 
the Prophet would have admitted the reasonable and 
just solution which the Eoman jurists proposed. Thus 
it finally came to pass that a considerable portion of 
the Roman civil law was embodied in the traditions 
of Islam (cf. Santillana : Code cioil et commerciel 
tunisien. Tunis, 1899, etc.) It is not to be supposed 
that Arab governors and judges studied the Eoman 
code, they simply accepted its provisions as they 
found them in force in Syria and Egypt, and thus 
learned its general principles from the usage of the 
civil courts already existing. In many places mater- 
ial is found in the traditions which can be traced to 
Zoroastrian, Jewish, and even Buddhist sources, 



THE ARAB PERIOD 73 

though these deal rather with ritual and the descrip- 
tion of the unseen world and serve to show how read- 
Qy Islam absorbed elements with which it was in 
contact. So far as the actual needs of the civil law 
are concerned, the chief source was the Roman law, 
and these needs fill a very large part of the traditions. 
It was not until the close of the 'Umayyad period 
that the Muslims began to develop a scientific juris- 
prudence and to make a critical examination and 
codification of the traditions. In the case of juris- 
prudence there were at first two schools, a Syrian 
and a Persian. The Syrian school formulated its 
system under the leadership of al-Awzcfi (d. 157), 
and for some time it prevailed over all parts of the 
Muslim world which had been parts of the Byzantine 
Empire. The Persian school owed its origin to Abu 
Hanifa (d. 150) and, as the seat of government was 
removed to 'Iraq by the 'Abbasids and Abu Hanifa's 
system was enforced by his pupil Abu Yusuf (d. 182) 
who was chief Qadi under the Khalif Harunu r- 
Eashid, it had a tremendous advantage over the 
Syrian school. It became the official system of the 
'Abbasid courts and still holds its own through 
Central Asia, North India, and wherever the Turkish 
element prevails, whilst the Syrian system has be- 
come extinct. Abu Hanifa's system represents a 
serious and moderate revision of the methods which 
had already come into use as extending the discipline 
of Islam to the needs of a complex and advanced 
civilization. Under the 'Umayyads the jurists had 



74 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

supplemented any deficiencies in the law by their 
own opinion (ra'y) which meant the application of 
the judgment of a man trained under the Eoman law 
as to what was just and fair. In that early period 
no derogatory sense was attached to " opinion " 
which rested on the theory that the intellect could 
intuitively perceive what is right and just, thus 
assuming that there is an objective standard of right 
and wrong capable of apprehension by philosophical 
enquiry, a theory which shows the influence of Greek 
ideas embodied in the Civil Code. But the 'Abbasid 
period experienced an orthodox reaction which tended 
to limit freedom in using speculative opinion, and 
Abu Hanifa shows this limitation. In his system 
weight was attached to every positive statement of 
the Qur'an which could be taken as bearing upon the 
civil law, only to a slight extent did he avail himself 
of the evidence of tradition, to a much larger extent 
he employs qiyas or " analogy," which means that a 
new condition is judged by comparison with some 
older one already treated in the Qur'an, and he also 
employed what he called istihsan, " the preferable," 
that is to say, what seemed to be equitable and right 
even when it diverged from the logical conclusion 
which could be deduced from the revealed law. Only 
in this latter case di<Ji he admit what can be described 
as " opinion," and this is strictly limited to the 
adoption of a course necessary to avoid an obvious 
injustice. As thus stated, Abu Hanifa's system was 
broader, milder, and more reasonable than any other 



THE ARAB PERIOD 7S 

treatment of the Islamic law : but it is a mistake to 
suppose that it still is mild and reasonable, for in the 
course of time the decisions pronounced as to " the 
preferable " have become hardened into precedents 
and the Hanifite code expresses only those fixed 
decisions of early mediaeval Islam without flexibility. 
The case is parallel with the English treatment of 
equity. In older times equity shows us the philo- 
sophical principles of justice correcting the defects of 
common law ; but modern practice displays these 
principles fossilized as precedents and as rigid and 
formal in their application as the common law itself. 
As first conceived, " the preferable " shows the in- 
fluence of Eoman law and Greek philosophy, both of 
which contemplated an objective standard of right 
and wrong which could be discovered by investiga- 
tion, the Stoic teaching, predominant in Eoman law, 
tending to treat this discovery as intuitive. Un- 
supported by other evidence, we might hesitate to 
suggest that istihsan necessarily had a Hellenistic 
basis, but when we compare the ideas of Abu Hanifa 
with the contemporary teaching of Wasil b. 4 Ata 
(d. 131) in theology, we are forced to the conclusion 
that the same influences are at work in both, and in 
Wasil these are certainly derived from Greek philoso- 
phy. We are not justified in supposing that Abu 
Hanifa ever read the Greek philosophers or the Eoman 
law, but he lived at a period when the general prin- 
ciples deduced from these sources were beginning to 
permeate Muslim thought, though in fact his teaching 



76 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

tends to limit and define the application of the general 
principles according to a system. The older Muslims 
supposed that good and evil depend simply on the 
arbitrary will of God, who commands and forbids as 
he sees fit : it was the influence of the Greek philoso- 
phy which brought in the idea that these distinctions 
are not arbitrary but due to some natural difference 
existing in nature between good and evil and that 
God is just in that his decrees conform to this stan- 
dard. 

In orthodox Islam there are now four schools of 
jurisprudence showing allowable differences in the 
treatment of the canon law. Most Absurdly they are 
sometimes described as " sects " : this they are not 
as the differences of opinion are fully recognised as 
all equally orthodox. The followers of Abu Hanifa 
form the most numerous of these schools, the other 
three being all more or less reactionary as compared 
with it. The contemporary Malik b. Anas (d. 179) 
was openly actuated^ by _ Dislike of the admission of 
istihsan and the recognition therebj^gix^enjbo " opin- 

istislah 



or " public expedieacy," allowing analogy to be set 
aside only when its logical conclusion would be 
detrimental to the community. The difference seems 
to be more a verbal correction than a material change, 
but the underlying motive is clear and indicates an 
orthodox reaction. At the same time he attached 
much greater weight to the evidence of tradition, 
adding to it also the principle of iima or " consensus," 



THE ARAB PERIOD 77 

which in his system meant the common usage of 
Madina. Undoubtedly Ibn Malik's position was 
theoretically sound : the Islamic state had taken 
form at Madina and nothing could give so clear light 
on the policy of the Prophet and his companions as 
the local customary law of the mother city. At the 
same time Ibn Malik took tradition quite seriously, 
indeed, the critical and scientific treatment of tradi- 
tion begins with his manual known as the Muwatta. 
To-day Ibn Malik's school prevails in Upper Egypt 
and North Africa west of Egypt. The third authority 
ash-Shafi'i (d. 204) takes an intermediate position 
between Abu Hanifa and Ibn Malik, interpreting ijma 
as the general usage of Islam, and not of the city of 
Madina alone. The fourth authority, Ahmad b. Han- 
bal (d. 241), shows an entirely reactionary position 
which reverted to a close adherence to Qur'an and 
tradition ; it carried great weight amongst the ortho- 
dox, especially in Baghdad, but now survives only 
in remote parts of Arabia. 

In the sphere of the arts and crafts, our best evi- 
dence lies in architecture and engineering. In these 
the Arabs had no skill and were conscious of their 
incapacity. The earliest mosques were simply enclo- 
sures surrounded by a plain wall, but a new type was 

developed under the first 'Umayyad Khalif Mu'awiya, 

j^ ,,^. . I** 

who employed Persian non-Muslim builders in the 
construction of the mosque at Kufa, and they worked 
on the lines of the architecture already used by the 
Sasanid kings. In this mosque the traditional square 



78 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

enclosure was retained, but the quadrangle was sur- 
rounded by a cloister in the form of a collonade with 
pillars 30 cubits high of stone drums held together by 
iron clamps and lead beddings. From this the 
cloistered quadrangle became the general type of the 
congregational mosque and remained so until late 
Turkish times, when it was partly superseded by the 
Byzantine domed church. The dome had been used 
in earlier times only as the covering of a tomb, stand- 
ing alone or attached to a mosque. 

The same Khalif Mu'awiya employed bricks and 
mortar in restorations which he made at Mecca, and 
introduced Persian workmen to execute the repairs. 
In 124 A.H. (A.D. 700) the fifth 'Umayyad Khalif 
found it necessary to repair the damage caused at 
Mecca by flood, and for this purpose employed a 
Christian architect from Syria. 

In the time of the next Khalif al-Walid, the " Old 
Mosque " of Fustat (Cairo), that now known as the 
44 Mosque of 'Amr," was rebuilt by the architect 
Tahya b. Hanzala, who probably was a Persian. 
The earlier mosque had been a simple enclosure. The 
next oldest mosque of Cairo, that of Ibn Tulun 
(A.H. 283) also had a non-Muslim architect, the 
Christian Ibn Katib al-Fargani, 

Not only in the earlier period, but also in the days 
of the Abbasids, the Muslims relied exclusively upon 
Greek and Persian, to a less degree on Coptic, archi- 
tects, engineers, and craftsmen for building and 
decoration. In Spain of the 2nd century (8th eon- 



THE ARAB PERIOD 79 

tury A.D.) we find the Byzantine Emperor sending a 
mosaic worker and 320 quintals of tessarae for the 
adorning of the great mosque at Cordova. 

In origin all Muslim art had a Byzantine beginning, 
but the traditions of Byzantine art received a peculiar 
direction by passing through a Persian medium, and 
this medium colours all work done after the close of 
the 'Umayyad period. Only in the west, in Spain, 
and to a less degree in North Africa, do we find traces 
of direct Byzantine influence in later times. But 
Persian art, as developed under the later Sasanids, 
was itself derived from Byzantine models, and mainly 
from models and by craftsmen introduced by Khus- 
raw I. (circ. A.D. 528) ; but even at that early stage 
there were also some Indian influences apparent in 
Persian and East-Byzantine work, as, for example, 
in the use of the horse shoe arch which first appears 
in Western Asia in the church of Dana on the Euphra- 
tes, circ. A.D. 540. But the horse shoe arch in pre- 
Muslim times, as in India, is purely decorative and 
is not employed in construction. 

Thus it appears that the real work of Islam in art 
and architecture lay in connecting the various por- 
tions of the Muslim w^orld in one common life, so that 
Syria, Persia, 'Iraq, North Africa, and Spain shared 
the same influences, which were ultimately Greek or 
Graeco-Persian, the Indian element, of quite second- 
ary importance, entering directly through Persia. 
Already before the outspread of Islam, Byzantine 
art had entirely replaced native models in Egypt, and 



80 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

this was largely the case in Persia as well. At most 
we can say that Islam evolved a quasi-Byzantine 
style which owed its distinctive features to the limita- 
tions of the Persian artists, but which occasionally 
attained a better level by the importation of Byzan- 
tine craftsmen. Exactly the same general conclu- 
sions hold good in the history of the ceramic arts and 
in the illumination of manuscripts, though here the 
observance of the Qur'anic prohibition of the por- 
trayal of animal figures, strictly observed only in 
some quarters and least regarded in Persia and Spain, 
caused a greater emphasis to be laid on vegetable 
forms in decoration, and on geometrical patterns. 

In the field of science and philosophy, where we get 
such abundant evidence in the 'Abbasid period, we 
are left with very little material under the 'Umayyads. 
We know that the medical school at Alexandria con- 
tinued to flourish, and we read of one Adfar, a Chris- 
tian, who was distinguished as a student of the books 
of Hermes, the occult authority which did most to 
divert Egyptian science into a magical direction, and 
we are informed that he was sought out by a young 
Eoman named Morienus (Marianos) who became his 
pupil and at his master's death retired to a hermitage 
near Jerusalem. Later on the prince Khalid b. 
Yazidj^^ (d. 85 A.H. 704 A.D.) 

is said to have become the pupil of Marianos and to 
have studied with him chemistry, medicine, and 
astronomy. He was the author of three epistles, 
in one of which he narrated his conversations with 



THE ARAB PERIOD 81 

Marianos, another relates the manner in which he 
studied chemistry, and a third explains the enigmati- 
cal allusions employed by his teachers. Long before 
this medical and scientific studies had passed over 
to Persia, but Alexandria retained its reputation as 
the chief centre of such work throughout the 'Umayyad 
period. 

Towards the end of the 'Umayyad age the influence 
of Hellenistic thought begins to appear in the nature 
of criticism upon accepted views of Muslim theology. 
As in jurisprudence, we have no ground for supposing 
that Muslims at this stage were directly acquainted 
with Greek material, but general ideas were obtained 
by intercourse with those who had been long under 
Hellenistic influences, and especially by intercourse 
with Christians amongst whom the premises of 
psychology, metaphysics, and logic had encroached 
very largely upon the field of theology by the nature 
of the subjects debated in the Arian, Nestorian, and 
Monophysite controversies which turned mainly upon 
psychological and metaphysical problems. The 
ideas with which the Muslims were brought into 
contact suggested difficulties in their own theology, 
as yet only partially formulated, and in religious 
theories which had taken form in a community 
entirely ignorant of philosophy. Some of the older 
fashioned believers met these questions with a plain 
negative, simply refusing to admit that there was a 
difficulty or any question for consideration : reason 
('aql), they said, could not be applied to the revela- 



82 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

tion of God, and it was alike an innovation to dispute 
that revelation or to defend it. But others felt the 
pressure of the questions proposed and, whilst 
strictly faithful to the statements of the Qur'an, 
endeavoured to bring their expression into conformity 
with the principles of philosophy. 

The questions first proposed were concerned with 
(a) the revelation of the Word of God, and (b) the 
problem of free will. 

(a) The Prophet speaks of revelation as " coming 
down " (nazala) from God and refers to the " mother 
of the book " which seems to designate the unre- 
vealed source from which the revealed words are 
derived. It may be that this refers to the idea of 
which the word is the expression, and that in this the 
Prophet was influenced by Christian or Jewish 
theories which had originally a Platonic colouring, 
but it seems probable that he had no very clear 
theory as to the " mother of the book." At an early 
date the view arose that the Qur'an had existed, 
though not expressed in words, that the substance and 
meaning were eternal as part of the wisdom of God, 
though it had been put into words in time and then 
communicated to the Prophet, which is now the 
orthodox teaching on the basis of Qur. 80. 15. that it 
was written u by the hands of scribes honoured and 
righteous," this being taken to mean that it was 
written at God's dictation by supernatural beings in 
paradise and afterwards sent down to the Prophet. 
That is not the necessary meaning of the verse, 



THE ARAB PERIOD 83 

which may refer to the previous revelations made to 
the Jews and Christians which the Prophet regarded as 
true but afterwards corrupted, so that the Qur'an 
is simply the pure transcription of Divine Truth imper- 
fectly represented by those earlier revelations. Under 
the 'Umayyads, when a rigid orthodoxy was taking 
form in quarters not sympathetic towards the official 
Khalif, a view arose that the actual words expressed 
in the Qur'an were co-eternal with God, and it was 
only the writing down of these words which had 
taken place in time. It seems probable that this 
theory of an eternal " word " was suggested by the 
Christian doctrine of the " Logos." It can be 
traced primarily to the teaching of St. John Damascene 
(d. circ. 160 A.H. - A.D. 776) who served as secretary 
of statejander one of the ^mayyadSj ^ either^Yazid 
II. or Hijam, and his pupil Theodore Abucara (d. 217 
*832), who express the relation of the Christian 
Logos to the Eternal Father in terms very closely 
resembling those employed in Muslim theology to 
denote the relation between the Qur'an or revealed 
word and God. (cf. Von Kremer : Streifzuege. pp. 
7-9). We know from the extant works of these two 
Christian writers that theological discussions between 
Muslims and Christians were by no means uncommon 
at the time. 

The Mu'tazilites of whom W^miU' Mto (d. 131) is 
generally regarded as the founder, were a sect of 
rationalistic tendencies, and they were opposed to 
the doctrine of the eternity of the Qur'an and the 



S4 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

claim that it was uncreated because the conclusions to 
be drawn seemed to them to introduce distinct 
personalities corresponding to the persons of the 
Christian Trinity, and in these views they were un- 
doubtedly influenced by the form in which St. John 
Damascene presented the doctrine of the Trinity. 
As it was implied that there was an attribute of wisdom 
possessed by God which was not a thing created by 
God but eternally with him, and this wisdom may be 
conceived as not absolutely identical with God but 
possessed by him, the Mu'tazilites argued that it was 
something co-eternal with God but other than God, 
and so an eternal Qur'an was a second person of the 
Godhead and God was not absolutely one. Al- 
Muzdar a Mu'tazilite greatly revered as an 
ascetic, expressly denounces those who believe in an 
eternal Qur'an as ditheists. The Mu'tazilitea 
called themselves Ahlu t-TawMd wa-l-'Adl " the 
people of unity and justice," the first part of this 
title implying that they alone were consistent defend- 
ers of the doctrine of the Divine Unity. 
y(b) As to the freedom or otherwise of the human 
will, the Qur'an is perfectly definite in its assertion 
of God's omnipotence and omniscience : all things 
are known to him and ruled by him, and so human 
acts and the rewards and punishments due to men 
must be included : " no misfortune happens either 
on earth or in yourselves but we made it, it was in 
the book " (Qur. 57. 22) ; " everything have We set 
down in the clear book of our decrees " (Qur. 36) ; 



THE ARAB PERIOD ** 

" had We pleased We had certainly given to every soul 
its guidance, but true is the word which hath gone 
forth from me, I shall surely fill hell with jinn and 
men together." (Qur. 32. 13). Yet the appeal for 
moral conduct implies a certain responsibility, and 
consequently freedom, on man's part. In the mind 
of the Prophet, no doubt, the inconsistency between 
moral obligations and reponsibility on the one hand, 
and the unlimited power of God on the other, had not 
been perceived, but towards the end of the 'Umayyad 
period these were pressed to their logical conclusions. 
On the one sidejEfijre the Qadarites (qadr " power "), 
the advocates of free will. This doctrine first appears 
in the teaching of Ma'bad al-Yuhani (d. 80 A.H.) who 
is said to have been the pupil of the Persian Sinbuya 
and taught in Damascus. Very little is known of the 
early Qadarites, but it is stated that Sinbuya was put 
to death by the Khalif 'Abdu 1-Malik, and that the 
Khalif Yazid II. (102-106 A.H.) favoured their views. 
On the other side were the Jabarites (jabr, " com- 
pulsion ") who preached strict determinism and were 
founded by the Persian Jahm b. Safwan (d. circ. 130). 
It is baseless to argue that either free will or determin- 
ism were necessarily due to Persian pre-Islamic 
beliefs, it is evident that the logical deduction of 
doctrinal theology in either direction was done by 
Persians ; they were, indeed, the theologians of 
early Islam. It must be noted that the full develop- 
ment of fatalism was not reached until a full 
century after the foundation of Islam and that 



86 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTOMY 

its first exponent was put to death as . a heretic. 

The earlier Qadarites had a Persian origin, but the 
reaction against the Jabarites was led by Wasil b. 
*Ata whose teaching clearly shows the solvent force 
of Hellenistic philosophy acting on Muslim theology. 
Wasil was the pupil of the Qadarite Hasan ibn Abi 
1-Hasan (d. 110) but he " seceded " from his teacher 
and this is given as the traditional reason for calling 
him and his followers the Mu'tazila or_"jgecession," 
and did so on the ground of the apparant injustice 
imputed to God in his apportionment of rewards and 
penalties. The details of the controversy are quite 
secondary, the important point is that the Mu'tazilites 
claimed to be " the people of Unity and Justice," 
this latter meaning that God conformed to an objective 
standard of just and right action so that he could not 
be conceived as acting arbitrarily and in disregard of 
justice, an idea borrowed from Hellenistic philosophy 
for the older Muslim conception regarded God as 
acting as he willed and the standard of right and 
wrong merely a dependent on his will. 

Throughout the whole 'Umayyad period we see the 
conquering Arabs, so far the rulers of the Muslim 
world, in contact with those who, though treated with 
arrogant contempt as serfs, were really in possession 
of a much fuller culture than their rulers. In spite of 
the haughty attitude of the Arab there was a con- 
siderable exchange of thought, and the community 
of Islam began to absorb Hellenistic influences in 
several directions, and so the canon law and theology 



THE ARAB PERIOD 87 

of the Muslims was beginning, at the end of the 
'Umayyad period, to be leavened by Greek thought. 
It was, however, a period of indirect influence ; 
there is no indication, save in a few instances in the 
study of natural science and medicine, of Muslim 
teachers or students availing themselves directly of 
Greek material, but only that they were in contact 
with those who were familiar with the work of Greek 
philosophers and jurists. It was a period of su- 
pended animation, to some extent, during which a new 
language and a new religion were being assimilated by 
the very diverse elements now comprised in the 
Khalifate, and those elements were being welded 
together in a common life. However great were the 
sectarian and political differences of later times, the 
church of Islam long remained, and to a great extent 
still remains, possessed with a common life in the 
sense that there is a mutual understanding between 
the several parts and that thus an intellectual or 
religious influence has been able to pass rapidly from 
one extreme to the other, and the religious duty of 
pilgrimage to Mecca has done much to foster this 
community of life and to promote intercourse between 
the several parts. Such an understanding has by no 
means always produced sympathy or friendliness, and 
the various movements as they have passed from one 
part to the other have often been considerably 
modified in the passage ; but the motive power 
behind a movement in Persia has been intelligible in 
Muslim Spain though perhaps intensely disliked 



88 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

there and most often a movement beginning in any 
one district has sooner or later had some contact with 
every other district. There is no such division in 
Islam as that which prevents the average English 
churchman from knowing about and appreciating a 
religious movement at work in the Coptic or Serbian 
church. The common life of Islam is largely based on 
the use of the Arabic language as the medium of daily 
life, or at least of prayer and the medium of scholar- 
ship, and this was extremely effective before the 
inclusion of large Turkish and Indian elements 
which have never really become Arabic speaking. It 
was this which made the Arabic speaking community 
of Islam so favourable a medium of cultural trans- 
mission. The 'Umayyad period was a marking time 
during which this common life was being evolved, and 
with it was evolved necessarily the bitterness of 
sectarian and faction divisions which always result 
when divergent types are in too close contact with 
one another. 



CHAPTER III 

THE COMING OF THE <ABBASIDS 

The rule of the 'Umayyads had been a period of 
tyrannical oppression on the part of the Arab rulers 
upon their non-Arab subjects and especially upon the 
mawali or converts drawn from the native population 
of the conquered provinces who not only were not 
admitted to equality, as was the professed principle of 
the religion of Islam, but were treated simply as 
serfs. This was in no sense due to religious persecution, 
for it was the converts who were the most aggrieved, 
nor was it due to a racial antipathy as between a 
Semitic and an Aryan people, nor yet to anything 
that could be described as a u national " feeling on the 
part of the Persians and other conquered races, but 
simply a species of " class " feeling due to the con- 
tempt felt by the Arabs for those whom they had 
conquered and hatred on the part of the conquered 
towards their arrogant masters, a hatred intensified by 
disgust at their misgovernment and ignorance of the 
traditions of civilization. There were other causes 
also which helped to intensify this feeling of hatred 
especially in the case of the Persians. Amongst 
these was a semi-religious feeling, even amongst those 
who had become converts to Islam. It had been the 



90 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

old usage of the Persians to regard the Sasanid 
kings, the descendants of the legendary Jcayani 
dynasty of heroes who had first established a settled 
community in Persia, as bagh not quite perhaps what 
we should understand as " gods," but rather as 
incarnations of deity, the divine spirit passing on by 
transmigration from one ruler to another, and so they 
ascribed to the king miraculous powers and worshipped 
him as the shrine of a divine presence. At the Muslim 
conquest the Sasanid kings had not only ceased to 
rule, but the dynasty had become extinct. Many of 
the Persians who, in spite of adopting Islam, still 
clung to their old ideas, were quite ready to treat the 
Khalif with the same adoration as their kings, but felt 
a distinct distaste for the theory of the Khalifate 
according to which the Khalif was no more than a 
chieftain elected in the democratic fashion of the 
desert tribes, a thing which seemed to them like 
reversion to primitive barbarism. Our own experience 
in dealing with oriental races has shown us that there 
is a great deal which must be taken seriously in ideas of 
this kind. Of course those who had been subjects of 
the Eoman Empire had no inclination towards 
deifying their rulers, unless perhaps some who had 
been only recently incorporated from more oriental 
elements : but those who had been under Persian rule 
craved a deified prince. In A.H. 141-142 this took 
the form of an attempt to deify the Khalif by a 
fanatical sect of Persian origin known as the Bawan- 
diyya which broke out into open revolt when the 



THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIDS 91 

Khalif refused to be treated as a god and cast their 
leaders into prison : the members of the sect, and 
many other of their fellow-countrymen, considered 
that a Khalif was no valid sovereign who refused to 
be recognised as a deity. From the second century of 
the Hijra down to modern times there has been a 
continuous stream of pseudo-prophets who have 
claimed to be gods, or successful leaders who have 
been deified by their followers. The latest of these 
appears in the earlier phases of the Babi movement, 
A.D. 1844-1852, though the doctrines of re-incarnation 
and of the presence of the divine spirit in the leader 
seem to be less emphasized in present day Babism, 
at least in this country and America. 

The most prevalent form of these ideas occurs in the 
essentially Persian movement known as the Shi'a or 
" schismatics." These are divided into two types, 
both alike holding that the succession of the Prophet 
is confined to the hereditary descendants of 'Ali the 
cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet to whom alone 
was given the divine right of the Imamate or leader- 
ship. The two types differ in the meaning of this 
Imamate, the one group contenting itself with 
maintaining that 4 Ali and his descendants have a 
divine authority whereby the Imams are the only 
legitimate rulers of Islam and its infallible guides ; 
of this moderate type of Shi* a is the religion of 
Morocco and the form prevalent about San'a in 
South Arabia, The other group presses the claim 
that the Imam is the incarnation of a divine spirit, 



92 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

sometimes asserting that it was only by fraud that the 
prophet Muhammad interposed and acted as spokes- 
man for the divine Imam 'AIL Of this type is the 
Shi'a which forms the state religion of modern 
Persia, spreading westwards into Mesopotamia and 
eastwards into India. The commonest belief, 
prevalent in the modern Shi'a, is that there were 
twelve Imams of whom 'Ali was the first, and Muham- 
mad al-Muntazar, who succeeded at the death of his 
father the eleventh Imam al-Hasan al-Askari in 
260 A.H. ( =A.D. 873) was the last. Soon after his 
accession Muhammad Al-Muntazar u vanished " at 
Samarra, the town which served as the 'Abbasid 
capital from A.H. 222 to 279. The mosque at 
Samarra is said to cover an underground vault into 
which he disappeared and from which he will emerge 
again to resume his office when the propitious time 
has arrived, and the place whence he is to issue forth 
is one of the sacred spots visited by Shi'ite pilgrims. 
Meanwhile the Shahs and princes are ruling the faith- 
ful only as deputies of the concealed Imam. The 
disappearance of Muhammad al-Muntazar took place 
more than a century after the fall of the 'Umayyads but 
we have anticipated in order to show the general 
tendency of the Shi'ite ideas which were prevalent 
even in 'Umayyad times, especially in Northern 
Persia, and did much to promote the revolt against 
the secularised 'Umayyad rule. 

A curious importance also is attached to the date. 
The digaff ection of the mawali came to a head towards 



THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIBS 93 

the end of the first century of the Muslim era. There 
was a general belief that the completion of the century 
would see the end of existing conditions, just as in 
Western Europe the year 1000 A.D. was expected to 
mark the dawn of a new world. Dissatisfaction was 
at its height, especially in Khurasan, and the dis- 
affected for the most part rallied round the 'Alids. 

The 'Alid claims which did so much to overthrow 
the 'Umayyad dynasty and indirectly led to the 
bringing forward of the Persian element by which 
the transmission of Hellenistic culture was most 
furthered, are best understood by the help of a 
genealogical table. 
al-Hanafiya + (1) 4 Ali + Fatima 



Muhammad (2) Hasan (3) Husayn 

I I 

Abu Hashim (4) 'Ali Zayn 



Zayd 



(5) Muhammad al-Bakir 

I 

(6) Ja'far as-Sadiq 



Isma'il (7) Musa al-Qazam 

I I 

Muhammad (8) 4 Ali ar-Eida 

(9) Muham. al-Jawad, 

I 
(10) 4 Ali al-Hadi 

I 
(11} Hasan al-Askari 

I 
(12) Muham. al-Muntazar 



94 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

'Ali had two wives, (i) al-Hanafiya, by whom he had a 
son Muhammad, and (ii) Fatima, the daughter of the 
Prophet Muhammad, by whom he had two sons, 
Hasan and Husayn. All the 'Alid party believed that 
4 Ali should have succeeded the Prophet by divine 
right and regarded the first three Khalif s as usurpers. 
Already under the third Khalif Uthman the dis- 
satisfied mawla element had begun to look to 'Ali as 
their champion, and he in the true spirit of early 
Islam supported their claim to the rights of brother- 
hood as fellow Muslims. This partisanship received 
its extreme expression in the preaching of the Jewish 
convert 'Abdu b. Saba, who declared the divine right 
of 'Ali to the Khalifate as early as A.H. 32. 'Ali 
himself apparently did not take so pronounced a 
view, but certainly regarded himself as in some degree 
injured by his exclusion. In 35 'Ali was appointed 
Khalif and Ibn Saba then declared that he was not 
only Khalif by divine right, but that a divine spirit 
had passed from the Prophet to him, so that he was 
raised to a supernatural level. This theory 'Ali him- 
self repudiated. When he was assassinated in 40 
'Abdu declared that his martyred soul had passed to 
heaven and would in due course descend to earth 
again : his spirit was in the clouds, his voice was 
heard in the thunder, the lightning was his rod. 

The Umayyad party led by Mu'awiya never sub- 
mitted to 'Ali, although they did not question the 
legitimacy of his appointment. At his death Mu- 
'awiya became the fifth Khalif, but had to face the 



THE COMING OF THE :ABBASIDS 95 

claims of al-Hasan, 'All's son. Al-Hasan made terms 
with Mu'awiya and died in 49, poisoned, it was 
commonly stated. The other son, al-Husayn, tried 
to enforce his claim, but met a tragic death at Kerbela. 
After al-Husayn's death some of the 'Alid partisans 
recognised Muhammad the son of 'Ali and al-Hanafiya 
as the fourth Imam ; he, it is true, disowned these 
supporters, but that was a detail to which they paid 
no attention. His supporters were known as Kay- 
sanites, and owed their origin to Kaysan, a freedman 
of 'Ali, who formed a society for the purpose of 
avenging the deaths of al-Hasan and al-Husayn. 
When this Muhammad died in 81 his followers 
divided into two sections, some accepting the fact of 
his death, others supposing that he had simply 
passed into concealment to appear again in due course. 
This idea of a " concealed " Imam was a heritage 
from the older religious theories of Persia and recurs 
again and again in Shi'a history. The important 
point is that both sections of this party continued to 
exist all through the 'Umayyad period, steadily refus- 
ing to recognise the official Khalifa as more than 
usurpers, and looking forward to the day when they 
could avenge the martyrdom of 'Ali and his sons. 

We need not linger over the family of al-Hasan and 
his descendants. They were involved in 'Alid 
risings at Madinna, and after the suppression of one of 
these in 169, long after the fall of the 'Umayyads, 
Idris the great-grandson of al-Hasan escaped to the 
far West and established a " moderate " Shi'ite 



*6 ARABIC THOUGHT TN HISTORY 

Dynasty in what is now Morocco, so that the subse- 
quent history of that house concerns the history of 
the West. 

Most of the Shi'ites regard the third Imam al- 
Husayn as being succeeded by his son 'Ali Zayn. 
Al-Husayn, like al-Hasan ? was not only the son of 
4 Ali, but also of the Prophet's daughter, Fatima. In 
al-Husayn's case moreover there was another heritage 
which ultimately proved more important , than 
descent from either 'Ali or Fatima : he was generally 
supposed to have married the daughter of the last 
of the Persian kings, the " mother of the Imams," 
and this traditional marriage with the Persian princess, 
its historical evidence is very dubious has been 
regarded by the Persian Shi'ites as the most important 
factor in the Imamate, although this, of course, has 
nothing whatever to do with the religion of Islam. 
That so great weight could be attached to such a 
consideration serves to show how really foreign and 
non-Muslim a thing the Shi 'a is. 'Ali Zayn had two 
sons, Zayd and Muhammad al-Bakir. Of these Zayd 
was a pupil of Wasil b. 'Ata and associated with the 
Mu'tazilite movement : he is generally regarded as a 
rationalist. Indeed, as we shall now see frequently, 
the heretical Shi'ite party was very generally mixed up 
with free thought and frequently shows adherence to 
Greek philosophy : it seems as though its inspiring 
spirit was hostility towards orthodox Islam, and a 
readiness to ally itself with anything which tended 
to criticize unfavourably the orthodox doctrines. 



THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIDS 97 

Zayd had a body of followers who established them- 
selves in North Persia where they held their own for 
some time, and a branch of their party still exists in 
South Arabia, still suspected of rationalist pro- 
clivities. Most of the Shi'ites, however, recognised 
Muhammad al-Bakir as the fifth Imam, and Ja'far 
as-Sadiq as the sixth. This latter also was a devoted 
follower of the " new learning," that is to say, of 
Hellexyistic philosophy, and is generally regarded as the 
founder, or at least the chief exponent, of what are 
known as batinite views, that is to say the allegorical 
interpretation of the Qur'an, so that revelation is made 
to mean, not the literal statement, but an inner 
meaning, and this inner meaning generally shows a 
strong influence of Hellenistic philosophy. It is only 
the divinely directed Imam who can expound the true 
meaning of the Qur'an which remains a sealed book to 
the uninitiated. Ja'far was, it would appear, the 
first of the 'Alids who openly asserted that he was a 
divine incarnation as well as an inspired teacher : 
his predecessors had done no more than acquiesce in 
such claims when made by their followers, and very 
often had repudiated them. 

Abu Hashim, the son of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya, 
died in 98 A.H. poisoned, it was generally believed, by 
the Khalif Sulayman, and bequeathed his rights to 
Muhammad b. 'Ali b. 'Abdullah, a descendant of the 
house of Hashim, to which the Prophet and 'Ali had 
belonged, the rival clan of the Quraysh tribe opposed 
to the clan of the 'Umayyads. Abu Hashim assumed 

H 



98 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

that the Imamate was his to be passed on to whom he 
saw fit, a view of the Imamate which was not accepted 
by the stricter Shi'ites who were legitimists, but the 
partisans of Abu Hashim do not seem to have been 
extremists in spite of their Kaysanite origin. In 99 
the Khalifate passed to Umar II. the one 'Umayyad 
who showed 'Alid sympathies, putting an end to the 
public cursing of *Ali which had formed part of the 
public ritual in the mosques of Damascus since the 
days of Mu'awiya and who represented a type of 
personal piety to which the 'Umayyad Khalifs had 
hitherto been strangers. His brief reign of less than 
three years did not, however, remove the evils of 
tyranny and misgovernment, and he was followed by 
other rulers more in conformity with the old bad 
type. 

About the time of Umar's death a deputation of 
Shi'ites waited upon Muhammad b. *Ali the Hashimite, 
a man of noted piety and the one who had now become, 
as legatee of Abu Hashim the son of Muhammad b. 
al-Hanafiya, the recognised head of an important 
wing of the Shi'ites, and swore to support him in an 
endeavour to obtain the Khalifate " that God may 
quicken justice and destroy oppression " (Dinwari : 
ATMaru t-Tiwal. ed. Guirgass, Leiden, p. 334): and 
Muhammad had answered that " this is the season of 
what we hope and desire, because one hundred years of 
the calendar are completed " (id.) 

The supporters of the family of Muhammad b. al- 
Hanafiya, who had now transferred their allegiance to 



THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIDS 99 

Muhammad b. 4 Ali, were extremely important, not so 
much by reason of their numbers as by their excellent 
organisation. They had developed a regular system 
of missionaries (da% plur. du'at) who travelled under 
the guise of merchants and confined their teaching to 
private instructions and informal intercourse, a 
method which has become the standard type of 
Muslim missionary propaganda. By Abu Hashim's 
death and legacy Muhammad b. 4 Ali found this very 
fully organised missionary work at his service, and its 
emissaries were fully confident that his acceptance of 
the overtures of the Shi'ite deputation meant that he 
stood as the champion of Shi'ite claims. The stricter 
Shi'ites who followed the house of al-Husayn did not 
admit the claims of Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya or his 
descendants, but they supported Muhammad b. 
'Ali's efforts under the impression that he was a 
Shi'ite champion. 

The propaganda in favour of Muhammad b. 'Ali is 
sometimes referred to as 'Abbasid because he was 
descended from al-'Abbas, one of the three sons of 
'Abdu 1-Muttalib, and so brother of Abu Talib the 
father of the Imam 'Ali and of 'Abdullah who was 
grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad. At the 
time, however, the missionaries claimed rather to be 
the supporters of the Hashimites, a term which was 
ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so. It was after- 
wards explained as referring to the house of Hashim 
which was the rival clan of the Quraysh opposed to the 
'Umayyads and that to which the Prophet, and 'Ali, 



100 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and al-'Abbas belonged : but in the minds of many of 
the Shi'ites it was taken to mean the followers of Abu 
Hashim, the grandson of Al-Hanafiya. 

Muhammad b. 4 Ali died in 126 A.H. leaving three 
sons, Ibrahim, Abu 1- Abbas, and Abu Ja'far, the first 
of these being recognised as his successor. About the 
same time Abu Muslim, who became governor of 
Khurasan in 129 comes into prominence. It is 
dubious whether he was an Arab or a native of 'Iraq 
(cf . Masudi. vi. 59), indeed, the claim was made that he 
was a descendant of Gandarz, one of the ancient kings 
of Persia (id.) Now Khurasan was the area most 
disaffected towards the 'Umayyads, and there the 
Hashimite missionaries had been most active and 
successful. Abu Muslim threw himself into this work 
heartily and began gathering together an armed body 
of men who before long numbered 200,000. In- 
formation and warning was sent to the Khalif Marwan 
II. but was ignored : indeed the court at Damascus 
took no notice until 130. Abu Muslim at length 
openly raised the black standard as the signal of revolt 
against the 'Umayyads whose official colour was white. 
Then all the Khalif did was to seize Muhammad b. 
'Ali's son Ibrahim and put him to death. The other 
two sons escaped and fled to Kufa where they were 
sheltered and concealed by some Shi'ites, the second 
son Abu l-'abbas, known to history as as-Saffah u the 
butcher " being recognised as the Hashimite leader. 

Abu Muslim's success was rapid and complete, and 
in 132 the 'Umayyad dynasty was overthrown and 



THE COMING OF THE 'AQBASIDS 101 

partly exterminated, and so "the butcher" became 
the first of the 'Abbasid Khalifs, so called as being of 
the family of al-'Abbas the son of 'Abdu 1-Muttalib. 

As soon as the Khalif Abu l-'Abbas was seated on 
the throne his chief aim was to secure tue establish- 
ment of his dynasty by getting rid of all possible 
rivals, and it was the vigour he showed in doing this 
which earned for him the title of " the Butcher." 
First of all he hunted down and slew all the repre- 
sentatives he could find of the 'Umayyad family. One 
of these escaped, 'Abdu r-Eahman, and went to Africa 
where he endeavoured to form a body of supporters 
without success, and then crossed over to Spain 
where in 138 he established himself at Cordova, and 
there he and his descendants ruled until 422 A.H. 
These Spanish 'Umayyads claimed to be legitimist 
rulers, but never assumed the divine claims of the 
'Alid section. 

Abu Muslim, who had done most to establish the 
'Umayyad dynasty, next provoked the Khalifs 
jealousy, probably with good cause for he was in- 
dignant to find that " the Butcher " was no sooner on 
the throne than he entirely discarded the Shi'ites who 
had helped to place him there, and so within the firat 
year of the 'Abbasid rule Abu Muslim was put to 
death. 

The fall of the 'Umayyads brought an end to the 
tyranny of the Arab minority, as it now was, and 
placed the preponderance for a clear century (A.H. 
132-232) in Persian hands. The government was 



102 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

remodelled on Persian lines, and to Persian influence 
was due the institution of the wazir or responsible 
minister at the head of the executive. The title is 
probably identical with the Old Persian vi-chir or 
" overseer " (thus Darmesteter : Etudes Iraniennes i. 
p. 58. note 3.) ; before this the chief minister was 
simply clerk (k&tib) or adviser (mushir) and was 
simply one of the Khalif's attendants who was em- 
ployed to conduct correspondence, or to give advice 
when occasion required. In 135 the noble Persian 
family of Barmecides began to supply wazirs, and 
these controlled the policy of the Khalifate until 189. 
From the time of al-Mansur (A.H. 136-158) onwards 
the Persians began to assert their pre-eminence and a 
party was formed known as the Shu'ubiyya or " anti- 
Arab party " of those who held, not only that the 
alien converts were equal to. the Arabs, but that the 
Arabs were a half savage and inferior race in all 
respects, contrasting unfavourably with the Persians, 
Syrians, and Copts. This party produced consider- 
able mass of controversial literature in which free 
course was given to the general dislike felt towards the 
Arabs and which reveals the intensity of the contempt 
and hatred felt towards these parvenus. The Arabs 
had boasted of their racial descent and had devoted 
much attention to the keeping of their genealogies, at 
least in the century immediately preceding the rise of 
Islam ; as they had then only just commenced to 
count descent in the father's line these genealogies 
were purely fictitious in so far as they dealt with pre- 



THE COMING OF THE 'ABBASIDS 103 

Islamic ancestors. The Arabs were in fact a parvenu 
people only just emerging out of barbarism (of. 
Lammens : Le berceau de Vislam. p. 117). But the 
Persians, no less careful about genealogical records, to 
which their caste system had caused Aem to pay 
considerable attention, boasted authentic genealogies 
of much greater antiquity. In literature, in science, 
in Muslim canon law, in theology, and even in the 
scientific treatment of Arabic grammar, the Persians 
very rapidly surpassed the Arabs, so that we must be 
careful always to refer to Arabic philosophy, Arabic 
science, etc., in the history of Muslim culture, rather 
than to Arab philosophy, etc., remembering that, 
though expressed in the Arabic language, the common 
medium of all the Muslim world, only in a very few 
cases was it the work of Arabs : for the most part 
the Arabic philosophers and scientists, historians, 
grammarians, theologians, and jurists were Persians, 
Turks, or Berbers by birth, though using the Arabic 
language. The fall of the 'Umayyads and the re- 
placing of the Arabs by the Persians commences the 
golden age of Arabic literature and scholarship. The 
older Arabic literature, that namely which was written 
by Arabs as yet untouched by external influences, 
consists entirely of poetry, the work of professional 
bards who sing of desert life and warfare, lament over 
the deserted camping grounds, boast of their tribe, and 
abuse their enemies. It forms a distinct class of 
poetic composition, which has developed its own 
literary standards, and attained a high standard of 



104 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

excellence in its way. In many respects this older 
Arab poetry makes a special appeal to us, it shows an 
observation of nature which is very striking, it has an 
undercurrent of melancholy which seems an echo of 
the desert, and an emotional side which seems con- 
vincing in its reality. At the same time it has very 
distinct limitations in its range of interest and subject 
matter. Undoubtedly a careful study of this early 
Arab poetry is a necessary preparation for a proper 
appreciation of the literary forms of Arabic and of its 
oldest vocabulary and syntax, and of recent years 
much attention has been given to it. But this older 
Arabic poetry, apparently a native production, but 
possibly influenced in pre-Islamic times by some 
external contacts as yet undefined, comes to an end 
soon after the fall of the 'Umayyads, save in Spain, 
where, under the exiled and fugitive remnant of the 
'Umayyad dynasty, the production of such poetry 
survived. But this type of poetry is really outside 
our present enquiry, save to note that it was a Persian 
scholar, Hammadb. Sabur ar-Eawiya (d. circ. 156-159) 
who collected and edited the seven ancient Arabic 
poems known as the Mu'allaqat or " suspended," 
i.e., the catena or series, and thus set what may be 
called the classical standard of the ancient poetry and 
vocabulary. At the accession of the* Abbasids the old 
Arab type passes away and the intellectual guidance 
of the Muslim community passes into the hands of 
the Persians. 



CHAPTEE IV 

THE TRANSLATORS 

One of the first and most significant indications of 
the new orientation of Muslim thought was the exten- 
sive production of Arabic tranlations of works 
dealing with philosophical and scientific subjects, 
with the result that eighty years after the fall of the 
'Umayyads the Arabic speaking world possessed 
Arabic translations of the greater part of the works of 
Aristotle, of the leading neo-Platonic commentators, of 
some of the works of Plato, of the greater part of the 
works of Galen, and portions of other medical 
writers and their commentators, as well as of other 
Greek scientific works and of various Indian and 
Persian writings. This period of activity in trans- 
lating falls into two stages, the first from the accession 
of the Abbasids to the accession of al-Ma'mum 
(A.H. 132-198), when a large amount of work was done 
by various independent translators, largely Christians, 
Jews, and recent converts from non-Islamic religions ; 
the second under al-Ma'mun and his immediate 
successors, when the work of translation mainly 
centered in the academy newly founded at Baghdad, 
and a consistent effort was made to render the material 
necessary for philosophical and scientific research 
available for the Arabic speaking student. 

105 



106 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

The earlier translation work is especially associated 
with * Abdullah b. al-Muqaffa', a native of Fars and 
originally a Zoroastrian, who made his profession of 
faith before a brother of Muhammad b. 'Ali, the father 
of as-Saff ah, and became his secretary. Presuming on 
his employer's protection he ventured to make 
derisive and impertinent remarks to Arab dignitaries 
and especially to Sufyan, the governor of Basra, 
whom he used to salute with a lewd jest against his 
mother's chastity. It seems that men of Arab birth 
who held political office under the early 'Abbasids 
often had to put up with such insults from the ex- 
serfs. After an unsuccessful attempt at revolt by 
another of the Khalif s uncles Ibn al-Muqaffa* was 
directed to prepare a draft letter of pardon to be 
presented to the Khalif al-Mansur, who succeeded his 
brother as-Saffah, for his official seal, but he drew up 
the letter in such terms as to arouse the Khalif's 
indignation ; amongst other things the letter said, 
"if at any time the Commander of the Faithful act 
perfidiously towards his uncle 'Abdullah b. <Ali, his 
wives shall be divorced from him, his horses shall be 
confiscated for the service of God (in war), his slaves 
shall become free, and the Muslims loosed from their 
allegiance to him." The Khalif enquired who had 
prepared this letter and on being informed directed 
Sufyan to put him to death. Pleased thus to gratify 
his personal rancour the governor of Basra executed 
Ibn al-Muqaffa c with great cruelty, though the details 
differ in different accounts, in A,H, 142 or 143. 



THE TRANSLATORS 107 

Although conforming to Islam, Ibn al-Muqaffa* was 
generally regarded as a Zindiq, a term properly 
signifying a Manichaean but used loosely by the 
Arabic writers to denote a member of one of the 
Persian religions who professed outward conformity to 
Islam, but secretly adhered to his own creed, or as a 
term of abuse to denote a heretic of any sort. The 
word itself is a Persian rendering of siddiq or 
44 initiate," a title assumed by full members of the 
Manichsean sect. It implies the possession of esoteric 
knowledge and from this idea rose the practice 
common amongst the Shi'ite sects of concealing their 
real beliefs from general profession and assuming the 
external appearance of orthodoxy. Masudi (viii. 293) 
states that " many heresies arose after the publication 
of the works of Mani, Ibn Daysan, and Marcion 
translated from Persian and Pahlawi into Arabic by 
'Abdullah b. al-Muqaffa 4 and others." Under al- 
Mansur and by his orders, translations were made 
from Greek, Syriac, and Persian, the Syriac and Persian 
books being themselves translations from Greek or 
Sanskrit. The best known work of Ibn Muqaffa, 
was the translation of the Kalila wa-Dimna or 
u Fables of Bidpai " from the Old Persian which was 
itself a translation from the Sanskrit. Ibn al- 
Muqaff a's translation into Arabic is generally regarded 
as a standard model of Arabic prose. The Persian 
original is lost, but a version in Syriac made from it by 
the Nestorian missionary Budh, about A.D. 570, is 
extant and has been published (ed. Bickell and Benfey, 



108 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

1876) ; the Sanskrit original also is lost in what was 
presumably its earlier form, but we find its material 
in a much expanded form in two Sanskrit books, (i) 
in the PancJiatantra, which contains the stories which 
appear as 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17, of de Sacy's Arabic text, 
and (ii) the Mahdbliarata, which contains chapters 
11, 12, 13. Evidently the old Syriac of Budh, a 
translation of the Persian translation of the original, is 
the best representative of the older form of the text. 
The Arabic version of Ibn al-Muqaffa 6 shows a number 
of interpolations and additions which all, of course, 
appear in the derived versions, in the later Syriac, the 
several mediaeval Persian translations which are made 
from the Arabic and not from the old Persian, and in 
the numerous Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, Persian, and 
Greek versions. It was this Arabic translation which 
gave to the book a wider circulation than possessed 
before or than it could ever have had, and introduced 
it to the western world. The case was exactly 
parallel T\ith Aristotle and similar material : Arabic 
became a medium of extremely wide transmission 
and the additions made as material passed through 
Arabic received a wide circulation also. 

Ibn Muqaffa' lived in the reign of al-Mansur and 
during that same period we are told (Masudi. viii. 
291-2) that Arabic versions were made of several 
treatises of Aristotle, of the almajasta of Ptolemy, of 
the book of Euclid, and other material from the Greek. 
About 156 A.H. an Indian traveller brought to 
Baghdad a treatise on arithmetic and another on 



THE TRANSLATORS 109 

astronomy : the astronomical treatise was the 
Siddhanta which came to be known to the Arabic 
writers as the Sindhind, it was translated by Ibrahim 
al-Fazari and opened up a new interest in astronomical 
studies : some little time afterwards Muhammad b. 
Musa al-Kharizmi combined the Greek and Indian 
systems of astronomy, and from this time forth the 
subject takes a prominent place in Arabic studies. 
The great Arabic astronomers belong to a later 
generation, such as Abu Ma'shar of Baghdad, the 
pupil of al-Kindi, who died in A.H. 272 ( - A.D. 885), 
known to the Latin mediaeval writers as " Abumazar," 
and Muhammad b. Jabir b. Sinan al-Battani (d. 317 
A.H. ^A.D. 929) who was known as " Albategnius." 
The Indian work on arithmetic was even more 
important as by its means the Indian numerals were 
introduced, to be passed on in due course as " Arabic " 
numerals, and this decimal system of numbering has 
made possible an extension of arithmetical processes 
and indeed of mathematics generally which would 
have been difficult with any of the older and more 
cumbersome systems. 

4J.-JfePiSur, after founding Baghdad in A.H. 148 
( =A.D. 765) summoned a Nestorian physician, 
George Boktishu', from the school at Junde-Shapur 
and established him a court physician, and from this 
time there was a series of Nestorian physicians 
connected with the court and forming a medical 
school at Baghdad. George fell ill in Baghdad and wag 
allowed to retire to Junde-Shapur, his place being 



110 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

taken by his pupil Issa b. Thakerbokht, who was the 
author of a book on therapeutics. Later came 
Bokhtishu 4 son of George who was physician to Harunu 
r-Eashid in 171 ( =A.D. 787), and then Gabriel, 
another son of George, who was sent to attend Ja'far 
the Barmecide in 175 and stood high in Harun's 
favour : he wrote an introduction to logic, a letter to 
al-Ma'mun on foods and drinks, a manual of medicine 
based on Dioscorus, Galen, and Paul of Aegina, 
medical pandects, a treatise on perfumes, and other 
works. In medicine, as will be remembered, the 
Indian system had been introduced at Junde-Shapur 
and combined with the Greek, but the latter clearly 
predominated. Another important settler in Baghdad 
was the Jewish Syrian physician John bar Maserjoye, 
who translated the Syntagma of Aaron into Syriac 
and presided over the medical school gathered in 
the Muslim capital. For a long time the Arabic work 
in medicine was limited to translation of the great 
Greek authorities and practice on the lines learned 
in Alexandria. We have already referred to the 
unfortunate influence derived from the Egyptian 
school which diverted both medicine and chemistry 
into semi-magical lines, an evil tendency from which 
the Arabic school never quite freed itself. A con- 
siderable time elapsed before the Arabic speaking 
community produced any original writers on medicine. 
About the end of the third century we find Abu 1- 
Abbas Ahmad b. Thayib as-Sarakhsi, a pupil of al- 
Kindi, who is stated to have written a treatise on the 



THE TRANSLATORS 111 

soul, an abridgment of Porphyry's Isagoge, and an 
introductory manual of medicine (Masudi. ii. 72). 
At that time medical studies were still very largely in 
Christian and Jewish hands, and we find the Syriac 
physician John ben Serapion (end of 9th cent. A.D.) 
writing in Syriac medical pandects which were 
circulated in two editions, the latter of which was 
translated into Arabic by several writers independently 
and long afterwards into Latin by Gerard of 
Cremona. 

The father of Arabic medicine proper was Abu 
Bakr Muhammad b. Zakariyya ar-E/azi (d. A.H. 
311-320 =A.D. 923-932) who was known to Latin 
mediaeval writers as " Razes," a student of music, 
philosophy, literature, and finally medicine. In his 
medical pandects he uses both Greek and Indian 
authorities, and the introduction of these latter in 
subordination to the classic authorities used at 
Alexandria was the really important contribution 
made by the Arabic students to the progress of 
science. Unfortunately ar-Eazi's work suffered 
from the defect that it greatly lacks order and arrange- 
ment, it is a collection of more or less separate 
treatises, and so not at all convenient to use. For 
this reason more perhaps than any other he was re- 
placed by Ibn Sina (Avicenna) whose work, if any- 
thing, errs in the opposite direction and suffers from 
an extremely elaborate arrangement and systematiza- 
tion. It will be noticed that with the Arabic writers* 
as with their Syriac predecessors, the leading medical 



112 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

writers were usually also exponents of logic and 
commentators on Aristotle as well as Galen. 

The Khalif al-Mansur was the patron who did most 
to attract the Nestorian physicians to the city of 
Baghdad which he had founded, and he was also a 
prince who did much to encourage those who set 
themselves to prepare Arabic translations of Greek, 
Syriac, and Persian works. Still more important was 
the patronage given by the Khalif al-Ma'mun who in 
A.H. 217 ( =A.D. 832) founded a school at Baghdad, 
suggested no doubt by the Nestorians and Zoroas- 
trian schools already existing, and this he called the 
Bayt al-HiJcma or " House of Wisdom," and this he 
placed under the guidance of Yahya b. Masawaih 
(d. A.H. 243 =A.D. 857), who was an author both in 
Syriac and Arabic, and learned also in the use of 
Greek. His medical treatise on " Fevers " was long 
in repute and was afterwards translated into Latin 
and into Hebrew. 

The most important work of the academy however 
was done by Yahya's pupils and successors, especially 
Abu Zayd Hunayn b, Ish$ t j$;hadi (d. 263 A.H. ~ 
A.D. 876), tKelNestorian physician to whom we have 
already referred as translating into Syriac the chief 
medical authorities as well as parts of Aristotle's 
Organon. After studying at Baghdad under Yahya 
he visited Alexandria and returned, not only with the 
training given at what was then the first medical 
jBchool, but with a good knowledge of Greek which he 
employed in making translations in Syriac and Arabic. 



THE TRANSLATORS 113 

With him were associated his son Ishaq and his 
nephew Hubaysh. Hunayn prepared Arabic trans- 
lations of Euclid ; of various portions of Galen, 
Hippocrates, Archimedes, Apollonius, and others, as 
well as of the BepubliCjLaws, and Timneus of Plato, 
the Categories, Physics, and Magna Moralia of 
Aristotle, and the commentary of Themistius on book 
30 of the Metaphysics, as well as an Arabic trans- 
lation of the Bible. He also translated the spurious 
Mineralogy of Aristotle, which long served as one of 
the leading authorities on chemistry, and the medical 
pandects of Paul of Aegina. His son, besides original 
works on medicine, produced Arabic versions of the 
Sophist of Plato, the Metaphysics, de anima, de 
generatione et de corruptione, and the Hermeneutica 
of Aristotle which Hunayn had translated into 
Syriac, as well as some of the commentaries of 
Porphyry, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Ammonius. 
A little later we find the Syrian Christian Questa b. 
Luqa, a native of Ba'albek, who had studied in Greece, 
prominent as a translator. 

The fourth century A.H. was the golden period of 
the Arabic translators, and it is worth noting that, 
although the work was done chiefly by Syriac speaking 
Christians, and inspired by Syriac tradition a very 
large number of the translations were made directly 
from the Greek, by men who had studied the language 
in Alexandria or Greece ; very often the same scholar 
made Syriac and Arabic translations from the Greek 
text. There were also translators from the Syriac, but 



114 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

X 

these usually come after the translators from the Greek. 
Amongst the Nestorian translators from Syriac was 
Abu Bishr Matta b. Yunus (d. 328 A.H. =AJ). 939), 
who rendered into Arabic the Analytica Posteriora 
and the poetics of Aristotle, Alexander of Aphro- 
disias' commentary on the de generatione et de corrup- 
tione, and Themistius' commentary on book 30 of the 
Metaphysics, all from the existing Syriac versions. 
He was also the author of original commentaries on 
Aristotle's Categories and the Isagoge of Porphyry. 

The Jacobite translators come on the scene after the 
Nestorians. Amongst the Jacobites translating from 
Syriac to Arabic we find "Yahya b. Adi of Takrit 
(d. 364), a pupil of Hunayn, who revised many of the 
existing versions and prepared translations of Aris- 
totle's Categories, Sophist. Elench., Poetics, and 
Metaphysics, Plato's Laws and Timaeus, as well as 
Alexander of Aphrodisias' commentary on the 
Categories and Theophrastus on the Moralia. The 
Jacobite Abu 'Ali Isa b. Zaraah (d. 398) translated 
the Categories, the Natural History, and the de 
partibus animalium, with the commentary of John 
Philoponus. 

This is a convenient place to summarize briefly the 
range of Aristotelian, material . available to ^Arabic 
students of philosophy. The whole of the logical 
Organon was accessible in Arabic, and in this were 
included the Ehetoric and Poetics, as well as 
Porphyry's Isagoge. Of the works on natural 
science they had the Physica, de coelo, de generatione 



THE TRANSLATORS 115 

el corruptione, de sensu, the Historia animalium, the 
spurious Meteorologia, and the de anima. On mental 
and moral science they had the Metaphysics, the 
Nicomachcean Eihics and the Magna Moralia. 
Strangely enough the Politics was not included in the 
Aristotelian canon, its place being taken by Plato's 
Laws or Republic. Besides these the Arabic students 
accepted as Aristotelian a Mineralogy, of which we 
have no knowledge, and a Mechanics. 

Of these the logical Organon always remained the 
basis of a humane education, side by side with the 
indigenous study of grammar, and this essentially 
logical basis of education seems to have been in- 
fluenced by the example of the existing system 
developed amongst the Syrians, although it must be 
remembered a similar system was developed quite 
independently in Latin scholasticism prior to the 
earliest contact with the Arabic writers. The Aris- 
totelian logic has always remained an orthodox and 
generally accepted science. The philosophical and 
theological controversies and the developments 
produced by the Arabic philosophers centred mainly 
in questions of metaphysics and psychology, and so 
were particularly concerned with the 12th book of 
Metaphysics and the treatise de anima, more especially 
the 3rd book. ^LS we have already noted the psycho- 
logy of Aristotle was interpreted in the light of 
Alexander of Aphrodisias' commentary, and thus 
received a theistic and supernatural colouring which re- 
ceives its fuller development in neo-Platonic teaching. 



116 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Most important in the fuller development of this 
neo-Platonic doctrine was the so-called Theology of 
Aristotle which appeared in Arabic about 226 A,H. 
It was in fact an abridged paraphrase of the last 
three books (iv-vi) of the Enneads of Plotinus made by 
Naymah of Emessa, boldly circulated and generally 
received as a genuine work of Aristotle. It might be 
regarded as a literary fraud, but it is quite possible 
that Plotinus was confused with Plato whose name 
appears in Arabic as 'Aflatun, it seems indeed that 
this particular confusion was made by some other 
writers, and the translators accepted the current 
belief, maintained by all the neo-Platonic commen- 
tators, that the teaching of Aristotle and that of 
Plato were substantially the same, the superficial 
appearances of difference being such as could be 
easily explained away. By means of this Theology 
the fully developed doctrine of the neo-Platonists 
was put into general circulation and combined with 
the teaching of Alexander of Aphrodisias and thus 
exercised an enormous influence on the philosophy of 
Islam in several directions. In the hands of the 
philosophers properly so called it developed an 
Islamic neo-PlatQjysm which received its final form 
at the hands of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Bushd 
(Averroes), and in this form exercised a powerful 
influence over Latin scholasticism. Transmitted iij 
another atmosphere it affected Sufism or Muslim 
mysticism, and was mainly responsible for the 
speculative theology which that mysticism developed. 



THE TRANSLATORS 117 

In a modified form some of the resultant principles 
gathered from these two sources finally entered into 
orthodox Muslim scholastic theology. 

The main points of this neo^atc^^ it 

figures in Muslim theology pre^tlt th&*t^MMng 6t the 
active intellect or 'agl fa"al, the Agent Intellect of 
Alexander Aph. as an emanation from God, and the 
'agl hayyulani or passive intellect in man only aroused 
to activity by the operation of this Agent Intellect, 
which is substantially the doctrine of Alexander Aph. : 
the aim of man is to attain a union or ittisal in which 
his intellect becomes one with the Agent Intellect, 
although the means of attaining this union and the 
nature of the union differ in the doctrines of the 
philosophers and the mystics, as we shall see in due 
course. 

Next to philosophy proper medical science is the 
most important heritage received by the Arabic 
world from Hellenism. But this science derived 
through an Alexandrian medium had a serious defect 
in the accretions which the later Egyptian school had 
added to the pure teaching of Galen and Hippocrates. 
As we have already noted this accretion is of a quasi 
magical character and shows itself in talismans, etc., 
and theories which are based on ideas which are now 
classed as " sympathetic magic." 

The real impetus came ultimately from transmitted 
Hellenism, but this influence was derived immediately 
from the Nestorians in philosophy proper, and from 
the Nestorians and the Zoroastrian school at Junde- 



118 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Shapur in medicine. A good deal later comes the 
influence of the pagan school at Harran, which also 
had a neo-Platonic tendency. When the second 
Abbasid Khalif al-Mansur passed by Harran on his 
way to fight against the Byzantine Emperor he was 
astonished to observe the strange appearance of some 
of the citizens who came out to meet him, wearing 
their hair long and having close fitting tunics. When 
the Khalif asked whether they were Christians, Jews, 
or Zoroastrians, they replied that they were neither. 
He then enquired if they were " people of a book," 
for it was only those who possessed written scriptures 
who could be tolerated in Muslim dominions ; but to 
this they returned such hesitating and ambiguous 
replies that the Khalif at length felt convinced that he 
had discovered a colony of pagans, as was the case, and 
he ordered them to adopt some one or other of the 
" religions of the book " before his return from the 
war, or to suffer the penalty of death. At this they 
were greatly alarmed : some of them became Muslims, 
others Christians or Zoroastrians, but some declined 
to desert their traditional beliefs. These latter 
naturally had the most anxious time, wondering how 
they could contrive to evade the Khalif's demands. 
At length a Muslim lawyer offered to show them a way 
out of the difficulty if they paid him a substantial fee 
for doing so. The fee was paid and he advised them 
to claim to be Sabians, because Sabians are mentioned 
in the Qur'an as belonging to a religion " of the book," 
but no one knew who the Sabiani were. There is a 



THE TRANSLATORS 119 

sect known as Sabiyun or Sabaean, whose religion is a 
strange mixture of ancient Babylonian state worship 
Christian Gnosticism, and Zoroastrianism, living in 
the mashe lands near Basra, but they had always 
been careful to keep their religious beliefs secret 
from all outsiders, and although they were no doubt 
the sect mentioned in the Qur'an under the name of 
Sabiyun or Sabians, none could prove that the pagans 
of Harran were not also comprised under this term. 
The Khalif never did pass back by Harran, the pagans 
who had assumed the name of Sabian continued to use 
it, those who had become Christians or Zoroastrians 
reverted to their old faith and submitted to its new 
name ; those who had become Muslims were obliged 
to remain so as the penalty of death lay upon any who 
became renegades from that religion. 

The most distinguished of the alumni of Harran 
was Thabit b. Qurra (d. 289 A.H.), a scholar familiar 
with Greek, Syriac, and Arabic, who produced many 
works on logic, mathematics, astrology, and medicine, 
as well as on the ritual and beliefs of the paganism to 
which he remained faithful. Following in his foot- 
steps were his son Abu Sa'id Sinan, his grandsons 
Ibrahim and Abu 1-Hasan Thabit, and his great 
grandsons Ishaq and Abu 1-Faraj. All these special- 
ized in mathematics and astronomy. 

It seems that we ought to associate with Harran 
Jabir b. Hayyan a perfectly historical character but 
of somewhat uncertain date, but believed to have been 
a pupil of the 'Umayyad prince Khalid, who dis- 



120 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

tinguished himself by his researches in chemistry. 
Many chemical treatises bear the name of Jabir and a 
great proportion of these are probably quite authentic. 
M. Berthelot in the 3rd volume of his La cMmie au 
moyen age (Paris, 1893) has made a careful analysis of 
the Arabic chemists and regards the whole material 
capable of division into two classes, the one a re- 
production of the investigations of the Greek chemists 
of Alexandria, the other as representing original 
investigations, though based upon the Alexandrian 
studies in the first place, and all this original material 
he regards as due to the initiative of Jabir who thus 
becomes in chemistry very much what Aristotle was in 
logic. Berthelot publishes in this book six treatises 
claiming to be by Jabir, and these he regards as 
representative of all Arabic chemical material, the 
later investigators continuing in the lines laid down by 
this first investigator. For a long time the main 
object in view was the transmutation of metals, but at 
a later period chemistry enters into closer connection 
with medical work though never losing the metallurgi- 
cal character which we imply when we speak of 
" alchemy." The object in view of the Arabic 
students of alchemy does not appeal to the modern 
scientist, although the possibility of transmuting 
elements is no longer regarded as the impossible 
dream which it appeared to the chemists of the 
nineteenth century : and, at the same time, it is 
perfectly clear that with admitted limitations, the 
Arabic chemists were bona fide investigators, though 



THE TRANSLATORS. 121 

not understanding correctly the results of the experi- 
ments they made. 

All the texts published by M. Berthelot begin with 
the warning that the contents are to be kept strictly 
secret, and often contain a statement that some 
essential process is omitted in order that the unen- 
lightened student may not be able to perform the 
experiments successfully, lest the wholesale production 
of gold should be a means of corrupting the whole 
human race. Undoubtedly the Arabic chemists did 
claim to have attained a knowledge of the means of 
transmuting the baser metals into gold but the histor- 
ies contain various references which show that these 
claims were adversely criticised by many contemporary 
thinkers, and that a great many of the Arabic writers 
regarded chemistry, as it was then understood, as a 
mere imposture. More than once it was noted that 
the philosopher al-Farabi, who fully believed that it 
was possible to change other metals into gold and 
wrote a treatise on how it might be done, himself 
lived and died in great poverty, whilst Ibn Sina, who 
did not believe in alchemy, enjoyed modest comfort 
and could have commanded wealth had he been 
willing to accept it. 

In the course of the middle ages various treatises 
by Jabir were translated into Latin, where his name 
appears as Geber, and exercised a considerable 
influence in producing a western school of alchemy. 
Before long many original alchemical works were 
produced in Western Europe and a considerable 



122 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

proportion of these were published under the name of 
Geber but are pure forgeries. As a result the person- 
ality of Geber took a semi mythical character and 
attempts have been made to account for the diverse 
and contradictory statements about his life and death, 
and about the country and century in which he lived 
by supposing that there were several persons who bore 
the name ; but the fact seems to be that he early 
attained a position of great prominence as a chemical 
writer, and that later ages fathered on him a number 
of apocryphal productions. Berthelot considers that 
the best evidence associates him with Harran in the 
early part of the second century of the Hijra. 



THE MU'TAZILITES 129 

was due to oriental influences which were now 
beginning to appear in Islam. N> 

Ma'mar's pantheism was more fully developed by 
Tumameh b. al-Ashras (d. 213) who treats the world as 
indeed created by God, but created according to a 
law of nature so that it is the expression of a force 
latent in God and not due to an act of volition. 
Tumameh entirely deserts al-Allaf's attempt to re- 
concile the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of 
matter with the teaching of the Qur'an, and quite 
frankly states that the universe is eternal like God. 
This is by no means the last word in Islamic pantheism, 
but its subsequent development rather belongs to the 
doctrines of the extremer Shi'ite sects and to Sufism. 

Reverting to an-Nazzam, the great leader of the 
middle age of the Mu'tazilites, we find his teaching 
continued by his pupils Ahmad b. Habit, Fadl al- 
Huddbi. and 'Amr b. Bakr al-Jaliiz. On the theo- 
logical side all the Mu'tazilites admitted the eternal 
salvation of food Muslims, and most agreed that un- 
believers would receive eternal punishment : but 
there were differences of view as to those who were 
believers but died unrepentant in sin. For the most 
part the Mu'tazilites took the lax view that these 
would be favourably treated as against the rigorist 
opinion which reserved eternal salvation to good 
Muslims, an opinion which appeared amongst the 
stricter believers during the 'Umayyad period. The 
two first named of an-Nazzam's pupils, however, 
introduced a new theory entirely repugnant to ortho- 



130 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

dox Islam, though familiar to the extremer Shi'ite 
sects, that those neither decisively good nor absolutely 
bad, pass by transmigration into other bodies until 
they finally deserve either salvation or damnation. 
With these two thinkers also we are brought into 
contact with another problem which now began to 
present itself to Islam, the doctrine of the " beatific 
vision." Islam generally had expected the vision of 
God to be the chief of the rewards enjoyed in paradise, 
but the treatment of the attributes of God had been 
so definitely against the anthropomorphic ideas 
expressed in the Qur'an that it became difficult to 
explain what could be meant by " seeing God." 
Ahmad and Fadl dealing with this subject deny that 
men ever will or can see God ; the beatific vision can 
at most mean that they are brought face to face, with 
the " Agent Intellect " which is an emanation from 
the First Cause, and " seeing " in such a connection 
must of course mean something quite different from 
what we understand as vision. 

'Amr b. Baler al-Jahir (d. 255), the third of an- 
Nazzam's pupils mentioned above, may be regarded 
as the last of the middle period of the Mu'tazilites. 
He was an encyclopaedic writer according to the 
fashion of the time and wrote on literature, theology, 
logic, philosophy, geography, natural history, and 
other subjects (cf. Masudi viii. 33, etc.) To free will 
he gives ratht>i a new bearing. The will he regards aa 
simply a manner of knowing and so as an accident 
of knowledge ; a voluntary act he defines as one known 



THE MU'TAZILITES 131 

to its agent. Those who are condemned to the fire of 
hell do not suffer eternally by it, but are changed by 
its purification. The term " Muslim " must be taken 
to include all who believe that God has neither form 
or body, since the attribution of a human form to 
God is the essential mark of the idolater, that he is 
just and wills no evil, and that Muhammad is his 
prophet. Substance he treats as eternal, accidents 
are created and variable. 

We have now reached the third stage of the history 
of the Mu'tazilites, that which marks their decline. 
During this latter period they divide into two schools, 
that of Basra giving its attention mainly to the 
attributes of God, that of Baghdad being chiefly 
occupied with the more purely philosophical dis- 
cussion of what is meant by an existing thing. 

The Basrite discussions received their final form 
in the dispute between al-Jubbay (d. 303) and his son 
Abu Hashim (d. 321). The latter held that the attri- 
butes of God are distinct modes of being, we know the 
essence under such varying modes or conditions, but 
they are not states, nor are they thinkable apart from 
the essence, though they are distinct from it but do 
not exist apart from it. Against this his father 
objected that these subjective attributes are only 
names and convey no concept. The attributes are 
thus asserted to be neither qualities nor states so as 
to imply subject or agent, but they are inseparably 

united with the essence. 

fc 

Against all views of this sort the orthodox adhered, 



132 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and still adhere to the opinion that God has real 
qualities. Those who laid emphasis on this in 
opposition to the Mu'tazilite -speculations are com- 
monly known as Sifatites (sifat, qualities), but they 
admit that, as God is not like a man, the qualities 
attributed to him in the Qur'an are not the same as 
those qualities bearing the same names which are 
referred to men, and it is not possible for us to know 
the real import of the qualities attributed to God. 

A more pronounced recoil against the Mu'tazilite 
speculations appears in Abu * Abdullah b. Karram 
(d. 256) and his followers who were known as Karram- 
ites. These returned to a crude anthropomorphism 
and held that God not only has qualities of precisely 
the same kind as a man may have, but that he actually 
sits on a throne, etc., taking in plain literal sense all 
the statements made in the Qur'an. y 

The Mu'tazilite school of Baghdad concerned itself 
mainly with the metaphysical question " what is a 
thing ? " It was admitted that " thing " denotes a 
concept which could be known and could serve as 
subject to a predicate. It does not necessarily exist, 
for existence is a quality added to the essence : with 
this addition the essence becomes an entity (mawjud), 
without this addition it is a non-entity (ma'dum) 
but still has substance and accident, so that God 
creates by adding the single attribute of existence. 

The whole course of Mu'tazilite speculation shows 
the influence of Greek philosophy as applied to 
Muslim theology, but the influence is for the most 



THE MU'TAZILITES 133 

part indirect. The ideas of Aristotle, as the course of 
speculation projected to the fore-front the problems 
with which he had dealt in times past, were received 
through a Syriac Christian medium, for the most 
part imperfectly understood and somewhat modified 
by the emphasis which Christian controversy had 
given to certain particular aspects. More or less 
directly prompted by the Mu'tazilite controversy 
we have three other lines of development : in the 
first place we have the u philosophers " as the name is 
used by the Arabic writers, meaning those students 
and commentators who based their work directly 
on the Greek text or at least on the later and better 
versions. In their hands philosophical enquiry took a 
somewhat changed direction as they began to under- 
stand better the real meaning of what Aristotle had 
taught. In the second place we have the orthodox 
theology of al-Ash'ari, al-Ghazali, and others, which 
represents Muslim theological science as modified and 
partly directed by Aristotelian philosophy, con- 
sciously endeavouring to make a working compromise 
between that philosophy and Muslim theology. The 
older Mu'tazilite tradition came to an end in the time 
of al-Ash'ari : men who felt the force of philosophical 
questions either adopted the orthodox scholasticism 
of al-Ash'ari and those who came after him, or 
followed the course of the philosophers and drift 



134 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

away from the traditional beliefs of Islam altogether. 
In the third place we have the Sufi movement, in 
which we find neo-Platonic elements mingled with 
others from the east, from India and Persia. 
The M'utazilites proper come to an end with the 
fourth century A.H. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 

The Aristotelian philosophy was first made known 
to the Muslim world through the medium of Syriac 
translations and commentaries, and the particular 
commentaries used amongst the Syrians never ceased 
to control the direction of Arabic thought. From the 
time of al-Ma'mun the text of Aristotle began to be 
better known, as translations were made directly from 
the Greek, and this resulted in a more accurate 
appreciation of his teaching, although still largely 
controlled by the suggestions of the commentaries 
circulated amongst the Syrians. The Arabic writers 
give the name of failasuf (plur. falasifa), a trans- 
literation of the Greek <iAoo-o<o<?, to those who based 
their study directly on the Greek text, either as trans- 
lators or as students of philosophy, or as the pupils 
of those who used the Greek text. The word is used 
to denote a particular series of Arabic scholars who 
arose in the third century A.H. and came to an end 
in the seventh century, and who had their origin in 
the more accurate study of Aristotle based on an 
examination of the Greek text and the Greek com- 
mentators whose work was circulated in Syria, and 
is employed as though these falasifa formed a par- 

135 



136 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

ticular sect or school of thought. Other philosophical 
students were termed "hakim or nazir. 

The line of these falasifa forms the most important 
group in the history of Islamic culture. It was they 
who were largely responsible for awakening Aris- 
totelian studies in Latin Christendom, and it was they 
who developed the Aristotelian tradition which Islam 
had received from the Syriac community, correcting 
and revising its contents by a direct study of the 
Greek text and working out their conclusions on lines 
indicated by the neo-Platonic commentators. 

The first of the series is Yaqub b. Ishaq al-Kindi 
(d. circ. 260 A.H. = 873 A.D.), who began very much 
as a Mu'tazilite interested in the theological problems 
discussed by the members of that school of thought, 
but desirous of testing and examining these more 
accurately, made use of the translations taken 
directly from the Greek and then only recently 
published. By this means he brought a much stricter 
method to bear, and thus opened the way to an 
Aristotelian scholarship much in advance of anything 
which had been contemplated so far. As a result 
Ms pupils and those who came after them raised new 
questions and ceased to confine themselves to 
Mu'tazilite problems, and al-Kindi was their in- 
tellectual ancestor in those new enquirres which his 
ffiellio3s and his use of the Greek text alone made 



a strange fa^ 

p.f the 



iFefy*"iew leaders of Arabic thought who was a true 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 137 

Arab by race. For the most part the scientists and 
philosophers dOEe"* Muslim world were "of~ Persian, 
Turkish, (6fTRrBeF13o was descended 

from the Yemenite kings of Kinda (cf. genealogy 



quoted f m_ th a J^arjM^o^ff a kamy 
(22) of De Slane's trans, of Ibn Kkallikan, vol. i. p. 
355). Very little is known about his life, save that 
his father was governor of Kufa, that he himself 
studied at Baghdad, under what teachers is not 
known, and stood high in favour with the Khalif 
Mu'tasim (A.H. 218-227). His real training and 
equipment lay in a knowledge^oHjrreeT&, which he 
used^in "preparing translafions^bi 1 Aristotle's Meta- 
physics, Ptolemy's Geography, and a revised edition 
of the Arabic version of Euclid. Besides this he 
made Arabic abridgments of Aristotle's Poetica 
and Hermeneutica, and Porphyry's Isagoge, and wrote 
commentaries on Aristotle's Analytiea Posteriora, 
Sophistica Elenchi, the Categories, the apocryphal 
Apology ; on Ptolemy's Almagesta and Euclid's 
Elements, and original treatises, of which the essay 
" On the Intellect " and another " On the -five 
essences " are the most noteworthy (Latin tr. by 
A. Nagy in Baeumker and Hertling's Beitrage zur 
Geschichte der philosophie des MA. II. 5. Munster, 
1897). 

He accented as genuine the ^Theology of Aristotle 
which had been put into circulation by Naymah of 
Emessa, and, we are told, revised the Arabic trans- 
lation. The Theology was an abridgment of the 



138 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

last three books of Plotinus' Enneads, and presumably 
al-Kindi compared this with the text of the Enneads, 
corrected the terminology and general sense in ac- 
cordance with the original, and evidently did so 
without any suspicion that it was not a genuine work 
of Aristotle. The Theology had not been long intro- 
duced to the Muslim world, and it is certain that the 
use of it made by al-Kindi was a main cause of its 
subsequent importance. Endorsed by him it not 
only took an assured place in the Aristotelian canon, 
but became the very kernel of the teaching developed 
by the whole series of falasifa, emphasizing the 
tendencies already marked in the commentary of 
Alexander of Aphrodisias. The influence of the 
Theology and of Alexander appear ( most clearly in 
the treatise " On the Intellect " which is based on 
the doctrine of the faculties of the soul as described 
in Aristotle's de anima II. ii. Al-Kindi, developing 
the doctrine as presented by the neo-Platonic com- 
mentators, describes the faculties or degrees of 
intelligence in the soul as four, of which three are 
actually and necessarily in the human soul, but one 
enters from outside and is independent of the soul. 
Of the three former one is latent or potential, as the 
knowledge of the art of writing is latent in the mind 
of one who has learned to write ; the second is active, 
as when the scribe evokes from the latent state this 
knowledge of writing which he desires to put into 
practice ; the third is the degree of intelligence 
actually involved in the operation of writing, where 



THE EASTERN PHILOSQPHERS 139 

the knowledge now quickened into activity guides 
and directs the act. The external faculty is the 
" Agent Intellect " ('aql fa u al) which proceeds from 
God by way of emanation and which, though acting 
on the faculties in the body, is independent of the 
body, as its knowledge is not based upon per- 
ceptions obtained through the senses. 

It is futile to maintain that the history of Arabic 
philosophy shows a lack of originality in the Semitic 
mind ; for one thing not one of thephilosophers of 
first rank after al-Kindi was of Arab birth, very few 
could be described as Semitic. It woulcl j be more 
correct to say that tlie GfieeFpTiilosophers stood alone, 
until quite modern times, in attempting anything 
which could be described as a scientific psychology. 
Until the methods and material of modern natural 
science came to be applied to psychological research 
there was little, if any, advance on the psychological 
theories of the ancient Greek investigators, and the 
only point of difference in later schools was as to 
which particular aspect af ancient research would 
be selected as the starting-place. Here lies the great 
importance of al-Kindi, for it was he who selected 
and indicated the starting-point which all the later 
Arabic philosophers began from, and selected the 
material which they developed. The particular basis 
thus selected by al-Kindi was the psychology of 
Aristotle's de Anima as expoun"dean5y~ 31exaE3eF of 
Jtphrodisias. This was suggested but not icT all 
respects clearly indicated by the Syriac philosophers, 



140 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and it seems certain that al-Kindi's development 
was very largely influenced by the Theology of 
Aristotle, a work which he evidently esteemed very 
greatly. The relation between Alexander Aphr. and 
Plotinus, whose teaching appeared in the Theology, 
may be described as being that Alexander's teaching 
contained all the germs of neo-Platonism, whilst 
Plotinus shows the neo-Platonic system fully worked 
out. As first presented this system must have 
seemed fully consistent with the teaching of the 
Qur'an, indeed it would appear as complementary 
to it. In man was an animal soul which he shared 
with the lower creation, but added to it was a rational 
soul or spirit which proceeded directly from God and 
was immortal because it was not dependent on the 
body. The possible conclusions which proved to 
be inconsistent with the teachings of revelation were 
not as yet fully worked out. 

We need not linger over al-Kindi's logical teaching 
which carried on and corrected Arabic study of the 
Aristotelian logic. This was not a mere side issue, 
it is true, although logic did not play so important 
a part in Arabic education as it did in Syriac. In 
Syriac it was the basis of all that we should regard 
as the humanities, but in Arabic this position was 
taken by the study of grammar, which was developed 
on rather fresh and independent lines, though slightly 
modified by the study of logic in later times. Still, 
so long as the Muslim world had any claim to be 
regarded as fostering philosophical studies, and to 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 141 

a less degree even in later times, the Aristotelian 
logic has been only second to grammar as the basis of 
a humane education. Al-Kindi's real influence is 
shown in the introduction of the problems of psycho- 
logy and of metaphysics, and the work or the falasifa 
centres in these two studies on the lines indicated 
by al-Kindi. 

In psychology, as we have seen, al-Kindi introduced 
a system already fully developed by Alexander and 
the neo-Platonic commentators on Aristotle, kept 
alive amongst the Syriac students of philosophy, 
and then further developed from this point by his 
successors. In metaphysics the circumstances were 
different. Al-Kindi apparently was the one who 
introduced the problems of metaphysics to the^Muslim 
world, but it is obvious that he did not clearly under- 
stand Aristotle^s treatment of these problems. The 
problems involved in the ideas of movement, time, 
and place are treated by Aristotle in books iv., v. 
and vii. of the Physics, which had been translated by 
ai-Kindfs contemporary, Ilunayn b. Isliaq, and in 
the Metaphysics, of which at the time no Arabic trans- 
lation existed, so that, so far as it was used, al-Kindi 
must have consulted the Greek text. 

The essay " On the Five Essences " treats the ideas 
of the five conditions of matter, form, movement, 
time, and place. Of these he defines (a) matter as 
that which receives the other essences but cannot 
itself be received as an attribute, and so if the matter 
is taken away the other four egsences are necessarily 



142 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

removed also, (b) Form is of two kinds, that which 
is the essential of the genius, being inseparable from 
the matter, and that which serves to describe the thing 
itself, i.e., the ten Aristotelian, categories substance, 
quantity, quality, relation, place, time, situation, 
condition, action, and passion ; and this form is 
the faculty whereby a thing (shay') is produced from 
formless matter, as fire is produced from the coinci- 
dence of dryness and heat, the matter being the 
dryness and heat, the form being the fire ; without 
form the matter is abstract but real, becoming a 
thing when it takes form. AaDft YailJT Pf>il)fo n11 ^ 
(Avicenne, R.JJ5] thi illustration shows that al-Kindi 
does not grasp Aristotle's meaning correctly, (c) 

'* .."'** *"** '"w*"""****"*" "*"*"" OT * ! "*** I *^. ITT-IIIUIJLMIIIIHI mmm<* nim IIIIIHHK*^ < * II *"*'^" IPM '''** > *^^ 

Movement is of six Kinds : two are variations in 
substance, as either generation or corruption, i.e., 
production or destruction ; two are variations in 
quantity by increase or decrease ; one is variation in 
quality, and one is change of position, (d) Time is 
itself akin to movement, but proceeds always and 
only in one direction ; it is not movement, though 
akin, for movement shows diversities of direction. 
Time is known only in relation to a u before " or 
u after," like movement in a straight line and at 
a uniform rate, and so can only be expressed as a 
series of continuous numbers, (e) Place is by some 
supposed to be a body, but this is refuted by Aristotle : 
it is rather the surface which surrounds the body. 
When the body is taken away the place does not 
cease to exist, for the vacant space is instantly filled 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 143 

by some other body, air, water, etc., which has the 
same surrounding surface. Admittedly al-Kindi 
shows a crude treatment of these ideas, but he was 
the first to direct Arabic thought in this direction, 
and from these arose a new attitude towards the 
revealed doctrine of creation on the part of those 
who came after him. 

Al-Kindi, the " Philosopher of the Arabs,' 1 as he 
was called (cite. 365), contains our best account of 
the various sects existing in Islam towards the end 
of the 3rd century A.H. as he met them in the course 
of his travels. It has been published as the second 
volume of De Goeje's Bibliotheca Geographorum 
Arab. (Leiden., 1873). 

The next great philosopher was Muhammad ft. 
Muhammmadb. TarJchan Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 339), 
of Turkish descent. He was " a celebrated philosopher, 
the greatest indeed that the Muslims ever had; he com- 
posed a number of works on logic, music, and other 
sciences. No Musulman ever reached in the philo- 
sophical sciences the same rank as he, and it was by 
the study of his writings and the imiiatioZTl)! Tug 
style that Avicenna attained proficiency and rendered 
his own works so usefuL" (Ibn Khallikan, iii. 307). 
He was born at Farab or Otrar near Balasaghum, 
but travelled widely. In the course of his wander- 
ings he came to Baghdad but, as at the time he knew 
no Arabic, he was unable to enter into the intellectual 
life of the city. He set himself first to acquire a 
knowledge of the Arabic language, and then became 



144 ARABIA THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

f 

a pupil of the Christian physician Matta b. 
who was at that time a very old man, and under him 
he studied logic. To increase his studies he removed 
to Harran, where he met the Christian philosopher 
Yuhanna b. Khailan, and continued to work at logic 
under his direction. He then returned to Baghdad, 
where he set to work at the Aristotelian philosophy, 
in the course of his studies reading the de anima 
200 times, the Physics 40 times. His chief interest, 
however, was in logic, and it is on his logical work 
*^ a * his fame chiefly rests. From Baghdad he^BEt 
loTDamascus, and thence to Egypt, but returned to 
Damascus, where he settled for the rest of his life. 
At that time the empire of the Khalifa of Baghdad 
was beginning to split up into many states, just like 
the Eoman Empire under the later Karlings, and the 
officials of the Khalifate were forming semi- 
independent principalities under the nominal 
suzerainty of the Khalif and establishing hereditary 
dynasties. The Hamdanids Shi'ites, who began to 
rule in Mosul in 293, established themselves at Aleppo 
in 333 and achieved great fftme and power as success- 
ful leaders against the Byzantine emperors. In 334j 
( =946 A.D.) the Hamdanid Prince Sayf ad-Dawla 
took Damascus, and al-Farabi lived under his pro- 
tection. At that period the orthodox were distinctly 
j^a^gnary, and it was the various UEfite rulers 
who showed themselves the patrons of science and 
philosophy. 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 145 

At Damascus al-Farabi led a secluded life. Most 
of his time lie spent by the borders of one of the many 
streams which are so characteristic a feature of 
Damascus, or in a shady garden, and here he met 
and talked with his friends and pupils. He was 
accustomed to write his compositions on loose leaves, 
" for which reason nearly all his productions assume 
the Torm of detacTiM^eliaplery aiid holes ; some of 
them exist only in fragments and u^imisEeHT He 
was the most indifferent of men for lihe things of 
this world ; he never gave himself the least trouble 
to"aFquire a livelihood or possess a habitation. Sayf 
ad-Dawla settled on him a daily pension of four 
dirhams out of the public treasur^Jthis moderate 
sum being the amount to which al-Farabi had limited 
his- demand." (Ibn Khallikan, iii. 309-310.) 

Al-Farabi was the author of a series of com- 
mentaries on the logical Organon, which contained 
nine books according to the Arabic reckoning, 
namely : 

(i.) The Isagoge of Porphyry. 

(ii.) The Categories or al-Maqulat. 

(iii.) The Hermeneutica or al-'Ibara or al-Tafsir. 

(iv.) The Analytica Priora or al-Qiyas I. 

(v.) The Analytica Posteriora or al-Burhan. 

(vi.) The Topica or al-Jadl. 

(vii.) The Sophistica Elenchi or al-Maghalit. 

(viii.) The Ehetoric or al-Khataba. 

(ix.) The Poetics or ash-Shi'r. 



146 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

He also wrote an " Introduction to Logic " and 
an "Abridgment of Logic " ; indeed, as we have already 
noted, Ms main work lay in the exposition of logic. 
He took some interest in political science and edited 
a summary of the laws of Plato, which very often 
replaces the Politics in the Arabic Aristotelian 
canon. In Ethics he wrote a commentary on the 
Nicomachaean Ethics of Aristotle, but ethical theory 
did not, as a rule, appeal greatly to Arabic students. 
In natural science he was the author of commentaries 
on the Physics, Meteorology, de coelo et de mundo 
of Aristotle, as well as of an essay " On the movement 
of the heavenly spheres." His work in psychology 
is represented by a commentary on Alexander of 
Aphrodisias' commentary on the De Anima, and by 
treatises " On the soul," " On the power of the soul," 
14 On the unity and the one," and " On the intelligence 
and the intelligible," some of which afterwards 
circulated in mediaeval Latin translations, which 
continued to be reprinted well into the 17th century 
(e.g., De intelligentia et de intelligibili. Paris, 1638); 
In metaphysics he wrote essays on " Substance," 
" Time," " Space and Measure," and " Vacuum." 
In mathematics he wrote a commentary on the 
Almajesta of Ptolemy, and a treatise on various 
problems in Euclid. He was a staunch upholder of 
the neo -Platonic theory that the teaching of Aristotle 
and that of Plato are essentially in accord and differ 
only in superficial details and modes of expression ; 
be wrote treatises " On the agreement between Plato 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 147 

and Aristotle " and on " The object before Plato and 
Aristotle." In essays u Against Galen " and 
" Against John Philoponus " he criticised the views 
of those commentators, and endeavoured to defend 
the orthodoxy of Aristotle by making them responsible 
for apparent discrepancies with the teaching of 
revelation. He was interested also in the occult 
sciences, as appears from his treatises " Ongeomancy," 
" On the Jinn," and u On dreams." His chemical 
treatise called Jcimiya t-Tabish, " the chemistry of 
things heated," has been classed as a work on natural 
science and also as a treatise on magic ; this was the 
unfortunate direction which Arabic chemistry was 
taking. He also wrote several works on music. 
(Cf. Schmolders : Documenta Philos. Arab. Bonn., 
1836, for Latin versions of select treatises). 

As we have already noted, his primary importance 
was as a teacher of logic. A great deal of what he 
has written is simply a reproduction of the outlines 
of the Aristotelian logic and an exposition of its 
principles, but De Vaux (Avicenne, pp. 94-97) has 
drawn attention to evidences of original thought in 
his " Letter in reply to certain questions." 

Like al-KindiJb^accepted the Theology as a genuinq 
work of J^Mott^a^^ 

mHuencea* In his treatise " On the intelligence " he 
makes a careful analysis of the way in which the term 
'agl (reason, intelligence, spirit) is employed in general 
speech and in philosophical enquiry. In common 
language " a man of intelligence " denotes a man of 



148 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

reliable judgment, who uses Ms judgment in an upright 
way to discern between good and evil, and thus is dis- 
tinguished from a crafty man who employs his mind 
in devising evil expedients. Theologians use the 
term ( aql to denote the faculty which tests the validity 

of statements, either approving them as true or 



rejecting them as false. In the Analytica Aristotle 
uses " intelligence " for the faculty by which man 
attains directly to the certain knowledge of axioms 
and general abstract truths without the need of proof ; 
this faculty al-Farabi explains as being the part of 
the soul in which intuition exists, and which is thereby 
able to lay hold of the premises of speculative science, 
i.e., the reason of intelligence proper as the term is 
employed in the de anima, the rational soul which 
Alexander of Aphrodisias takes as an emanation 
from God. ^Following al-Kindi, al-Farabi speaks of 
fctmr faculties or parts of the soul : the potentiaJjor^ 
latent^ infeffigencS," 'ffiteffigence in action, acquired 
intelligence, and the agent intelligence. The first 
is the*****;! hayyulani, the passive intelligence, the 
capacity which man has for understanding the 
essence of material things by abstracting mentally 
that essence from the various accidents with which i$ 
is associated in perception, more or less equivalent 
to the " common sense " of Aristotle. The intelli- 
gence in action or 'aql bi-l-fi'l is the potential faculty 
aroused to activity and making this abstraction. The 
agent intelligence or 'agf f a " al is ^ e external power, 
the emanation from God which is able to awaken 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 149 

the latent power in man and arouse it to activity, 
and the acquired intelligence or 'agl mustafad is the 
intelligence aroused to activity and developed under 
the inspiration of the agent intelligence. Thus the 
intelligence in action is related to the potential 
intellect as form is to matter, but the agent intelligence 
enters from outside, and by its operation the 
intelligence receives new powers, so that its highest 
activity is " acquired."! 

Al-Parabi appears throughout as a devout Muslim, 
and evidently 7 does not aj^re^^ 
the Aristotelian psychology on the doctrine oF"Ehe 
Qur'an. The earlier belief of Islam, as of most 
religions, was a heritage from primitive animism, 
which regarded life as due to the presence of a per- 
fectly substantial, though invisible, thing called the 
soul : a thing is alive so long as the soul is present, 
it dies when the soul goes away. In the earlier forms 
of animism this is the explanation of all movement : 
the flying arrow has a " soul " in it so long as it 
moves, it ceases to move when this soul goes away 
or desires to rest. This involves no belief in the 
immortality of the soul, nor is the soul invested 
with any distinct personality, all that comes later ; 
it is simply that life is regarded as a kind of 
substance, vary light and impalpable but perfectly 
self -existent. What may be described as the " ghost" 
theory marks a later stage of evolution, when the 
departed soul is believed to retain a distinct 



150 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

personality and still to possess the form and some at 
least of the sensations associated with the being 
in which it formerly dwelt. Such was the stage 
reached by Arab psychology at the time of the 
preaching of Islam. The Aristotelian doctrine re- 
presented the soul as containing different energies 
or parts, supfr as it had in common with the vegetable 
world and such others as it possessed in common 
with the lower kinds of animals : that is to say the 
faculties of nutrition, reproduction, and all the per- 
ceptions obtained from the use of the organs of sense, 
as well as the intellectual generalisations derived 
from the use of those senses, are simply laid on one 
side as forms of energy derived from the potentiali- 
ties latent in the material body, very nearly the 
position indeed of modern materialism, as the term 
is used in psychology. This does not oppose a 
belief in God, who is the prime source of the powers 
which exist, although that is brought out more by 
the commentators than by Aristotle himself ; nor 
does it infringe the doctrine of an immortal and 
separable soul or spirit which exists in man in addition 
to what we may describe as the vegetative and 
animal soul. It is this spirit, the rational soul which 
has entered from outside and exists in man alone, 
which is immortal. Such a doctrine sets an impas- 
sible gulf between man and the rest of creation, and 
explains why it is impossible for those whose thought 
is formed on Aristotelian lines, whether in orthodox 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 151 

Islam or in the Catholic Church, to admit the 
" rights " of animals, although ready to regard 
benevolent action towards them as a duty. But 
more, the highly abstract rational soul or spirit of 
the Aristotelian doctrine, void of all that could be 
shared with the lower creatures, and even of all that 
could be developed from anything that an animal is 
capable of possessing, is the only part of man which 
is capable of immortality, and such a spirit separated 
from its body and the lower functions of the animal 
soul can hardly fit in with the picture of the future 
life as portrayed in the Qur'an. Further, the Qur'an 
regards that future life as incomplete until the 
spirit is re-united with the body, a possibility which 
the Aristotelians could hardly contemplate. The 
Aristotelian doctrine showed the animal soul not as 
an invisible being but merely as a form of energy in 
the body : so far as it was concerned, death did not 
mean the going away of this soul, but the cessation 
of the functions of the bodily faculties, just as com- 
bustion ceases when a candle is blown out, the flame 
not going away and continuing to exist apart ; or 
as the impression of a seal on wax which disappears 
when the wax is melted and does not continue a 
ghostly existence on its own account. The only 
immortal part of man, therefore, was the part which 
came to him as an emanation from the Agent Intellect, 
and when this emanation was set free from its associa- 
tion with the human body and lower soul it became 
inevitable to suggest its re-absorption in the omni- 



152 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

present source from which it had been derived. The 
logical conclusion was thus a denial, not of a future 
life, nor of its eternity, but of the separate existence 
of an individual soul, and this, as we shall see, was 
, actually worked out as a result of Arabic Aristotelian- 
ism. Thus tne scholastic theologians, both of Islam 
and of Latin Christianity, attack the philosophers as 
undermining belief in individual personality and in 
opposing the doctrine of the resurrection, and in this 
latter, it must be remembered, Muslim doctrine is 
committed to cruder details than prevail in 
Christianity. But al-Farabi did not see where the 
Aristotelian teaching would lead him : to him Aristotle 
seemed orthodox because his doctrines seemed to 
prove the immortality of the soul. 

Al-Farabi expresses his theory of causality in the 
treatise called " the gems of wisdom."^ Everything 
which exists after having not existed, he says, must 
be brought into being by a cause which itself may be 
the result of some preceding cause, and so on, until 
we reach a First Cause, which is and always has been, 
its eternity being necessary because there is no other 
cause to precede it, and Aristotle has shown that the 
chain of causes cannot be infinite. The First Cause 
is one and eternal, and is God (cf. Aristot. Metaph. 
12, 7, and similarly Plato, Timaeus 28). Being un- 
changed this First Cause is perfect, and to know it 
is the aim of all philosophy, for obviously everything 
would be intelligible if the cause of all were known. 
This First Cause is the " necessary being " whose 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 153 

existence is necessary to account for all other existence ; 
it has neither genus, species, nor differentia ; it is 
both external and internal, at once apparent and 
concealed ; it cannot be perceived by any faculty 
but is knowable by its attributes, and the best 
approach to knowledge is to know that it is inacces- 
sible. In this treatment al-Farabi is mingling the 
teaching of philosophy proper with mysticism, in 
his days rapidly developing in Asiatic Islam, and 
especially in the Shi'ite community with which he 
was in contact. Prom the philosophical point of 
view God is unknowable but necessary, just as eternity 
and infinity are unknowable but necessary, because 
God is above all knowledge : but in another sense God 
is beneath all knowledge, as the ultimate reality must 
underlie all existing things, and every result is a 
manifesting of the cause. 

The proof of the existence of God is founded upon 
the argument in Plato, Timaeus 28, and Aristotle, 
Metaphysics 12. 7, and was later on used by Albertus 
Magnus and others. In the first place a distinction 
is made between the possible, which may be only 
potential, and the real. For the possible to become 
real it is necessary that there should be an effective 
cause. The world is evidently composite, and so cannot 
itself be the first cause, for the first cause must be single 
and not multiple : therefore the world evidently pro- 
ceeds from a cause other than itself. The immediate 
cause may itself be the result of another preceding 
cause, but the series of causes cannot be infinite) nor 



164 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

can they return as a circle upon themselves, there- 
fore if we trace back we must ultimately reach an 
ens primum, itself uncaused, which is the cause of 
all, and this first cause exists of necessity, but not by 
a necessity caused by anything other than itself. 
It must be single and unchangeable, free from all 
accidents, absolute, perfect, and good, and the 
absolute intelligentia, intelligibile, and intelligens. 
In itself it possesses wisdom, life, insight, will, power, 
beauty and goodness, not as acquired or external 
qualities, but as aspects of its own essence. It is 
the first will and the first willing, and also the first 
object of will. It is the end of all philosophy to know 
this first Cause, which is God, because as He is the 
cause of all, all can be understood and explained by 
understanding and .knowing Him. That the first 
Cause is single and one and the cause of all agrees 
with the teaching of the Qur'an, and al-Farabi freely 
uses Qur'anic phraseology in perfect good faith, 
supposing that the Aristotelian doctrine corroborates 
the doctrine of the Qur'an. The most curious part 
of al-Farabi's work is the way in which he employs 
the terminology of the Qur'an as corresponding to that 
of the neo-Platonists, so that the Qur'anicpen, tablet, 
etc., represent the neo-Platonic, etc. It may be ques- 
tioned whether, even in al-Farabi, philosophy really 
does fit in with Qur'anic doctrine, but the divergence 
was not yet sufficiently marked to compel attention. 
Assured of the conformity of the teaching of 
Aristotle with the teaching, of revelation al-Farabi 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 155 

denies that Aristotle teaches the eternity of matter, 
and so is inconsistent with the dogma of creation. 
The whole question depends on what is meant by 
" creation." God,, he supposes, created all things in 
an instant in unmeasured eternity, not directly, but 
by the intermediary operation of the 'aql or Agent 
Intelligence. In this sense Aristotle held that the 
universe existed in eternity, but it so existed as a 
created thing. Creation was therefore complete 
before God, acting through the 'aql, introduced 
movement, at which time commenced ; as movement 
and time came into existence simultaneously, forth- 
with creation already existing in the timeless came 
out of its concealment and entered into reality. 
The term " creation " is sometimes used as applying 
to this emergence from timeless quiesence, but more 
properly may be taken as denoting the causation, 
which, as it preceded time, came into unmeasured 
eternity, which is what Aristotle means when he 
speaks of the world as eternal. Thus both Qur'aa 
and Aristotle are right, but each uses " creation " 
to denote a different thing. 

It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of 
al-Farabi. Practically all we afterwards meet in 
Ibn Sina and Ibn Eushd is already to be found in sub- 
staiice in his teaching, only that these later philoso- 
phers have realized that the Aristotelian system cannpt 
be reconciled with, the traditional theology, and BO, 
having given up all attempt at formal reconciliation, 
are able to express themselves more clearly and to 



156 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

press home their tenets to their logical conclusions. 
When considering the reconciliation between philo- 
sophy and Qur'an attempted by al-Farabi it is im- 
portant to compare and contrast the reconciliation 
attempted on quite other lines by al-Aslrari and 
other founders of orthodox scholasticism. It must 
be noted that the^ beginning of schplasiticism was 
contemporary with al-Farabi. 

~'&B~KasH6een noted, al-Farabi was mixed up with 
the Shi^ite group ; the supporters of 'Alid claims who 
held aloof from the official Khalifate at* Baghdad. 
About the time of al-Kindi's death (circ. 260), the 
twelfth Imam of the Ithna 'ashariya or orthodox 
Shi'ite sect, Muhammad al-Muntazar, " disappeared." 
In the year 320, within the period of al-Farabi's 
activity, the Buwa^hid princes became the leading 
power in 'Iraq, and in 334, five years before his 
death, they obtained possession of Baghdad, so that 
for the next 133 years the Khalifs were in very much 
the same position as the Frankish kings when they, 
surrounded with great ceremony and treated with 
the utmost reverence, were no more than puppets 
in the hands of the Mayors of the Palace. In ex- 
actly the same way the Khalifs, half popes and hall 
empei$$rs, whose sign manual was sought as giving 
a show of legitimacy to sovereigns even in far-ofl 
India, possessed in Baghdad only ceremonial functions^ 
and were treated as honoured prisoners by the 
Buwajhid _Enuis, who %msei^^^ 
the Ithna 'ashariya sect, and who t consequently, re- 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 157 

garded the Khalifs as mere usurpers. At this period 
the Shi'ites were the patrons of philosophy, and the 
orthodox Sunnis generally took a reactionary attitude. 
Besides the Ithna 'ashariya, the comparatively 
orthodox Shi'ites, there was another branch of ex- 
tremer type known as the Sab'iya or " seveners." 
The sixth Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq had nominated his 
son Isma'il as his successor, but as Isma'il was one 
day found drunk, Ja'far disinherited him and ap- 
pointed his second son Musa al-Qazm (d. 183). 
But some did not admit that the Imamate, whose 
divine right passed by hereditary descent, could 
be transferred at will, but remained loyal to Isma'il, 
and these preferred, when Isma'il died in Ja'far's 
lifetime, to transfer their allegiance to his son 
Muhammed, reckoning him as the seventh Imam. 
These " seveners " continued to exist as an obscure 
sect until, it would appear, somewhere about the 
year 220, when 'Abdullah, the son of a Persian oculist 
named Maymun, either was made their head or led 
a secession from them, and organised his followers 
with a kind of freemasonry in seven (afterwards 
nine) grades of initiation and a very admirably 
organised system of propaganda on the lines already 
laid down by the Hashimites (cf. supra). In the 
earlier grades the doctrine of batn or allegorical 
interpretation of the Qur'an was laid down as essential 
to a right* understanding of its meaning, for the 
literal sense is often obscure, and sometimes refers to 
things incomprehensible, a doctrine commonly attri- 



158 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 



buted to J>'f$r as-Sadiq. The initiate was then 
taught that the true meaning could not be discovered 
by private interpretation but needed an authori- 
tative teacher, the Imam, or, as he had disappeared, 
his accredited representative, the Mahdi 'Abdullah, 
son of Maymun. In the higher grades the disciple 
had this inner meaning of the Qur'an disclosed to 
him, and this proved to be substantially the Aristot- 
elian and neo-Platonic doctrine in general outline, 
together with certain oriental elements derived from 
Zoroastrianism and Masdekism. These oriental 
elements figured chiefly in the doctrines taught to 
the intermediate grades, the higher ones attaining a 
pure agnosticism with an Aristotelian background. 
The sect thus formed spread, developed, and finally 
divided. It had a successful career in the Bahrayn 
or district near the junction of the two rivers, the 
Tigris and Euphrates, and there its followers were 
known as Qarmatians, after the name of a leading 
missionary. It met with success also in and around 
Aden, but we have no account of its subsequent history 
there. Prom Aden missionaries passed over to North 
Africa, where it had its chief success, and when Ubayd 
Allah, a descendant of 'Abdullah, passed over there 
an independent state was founded, with its capital 
at Kairawan (297 A.H.). From Kairawan a mis- 
sionary propaganda was conducted in Egypt, then 
suffering from almost perennial misgovernment, and 
in the days of the deputy Kafur a definite invitation 
was sent by the Egyptian officials asking for the Khalif 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 159 

of Kairawan to enter Egypt. At length Ubayd 
Allah's great-grandson al-Mo'izz <lid invade Egypt 
in 356, and established there the Fatimite Khalifate, 
which lasted until the country was conquered by 
Saladin in 567. 

The Sab'iya sect was thus geographically divided 
into two branches, one in Asia represented^lby ;%be 
Qarmatians, the other in Africa under the Fatimite 
Khalifs. In the Asiatic branch the members were 
chiefly drawn from the Nabatsean peasantry, and 
the sect took the form of a revolutionary group witfc 
communist teaching, and violently opposed to the 
Muslim religion. In their contemptuous hostility 
they finally attacked Mecca, slew many of the digni- 
taries of the city and a number of pilgrims who were 
there, and carried off the sacred black stone, which 
they retained for several years. In the hands of the 
Qarmatians the sect ceased to be a propaganda of 
philosophical doctrine, it became simply anti-religious 
and revolutionary. The history of the African 
branch took a different turn. Possession of an 
important state brought with it a position of ra- 
spectability, and political ambition replaced religions 
enthusiasm. As the majority of the subject popu- 
lation was strictly orthodox, the peculiar tenets of 
the sect were, to a large extent, allowed to drop into 
the background; candidates were still admitted to 
initiation and instructed, but, although the Fatimite 
rulers in Egypt were liberal patrons of scholarship, 
and generally showed a more tolerant attitude than 



160 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

other contemporary Muslim rulers, they certainly 
did not carry out a wholesale Aristotelian propaganda ; 
indeed, the line of " philosophers " proper simply 
misses over Fatimite Egypt, although there were 
several distinguished medical workers there. From 
the Isma'ilians or Sab'iya of Egypt there came two 
interesting off-shoots. Towards the end of the reign 
of the sixth Fatimite Khalif, al-Hakim, who may 
have been a religious fanatic, perhaps insane, or 
possibly an enlightened religious reformer of views 
far ahead of his age his real character is one of the 
problems of history there arrived in Egypt certain 
Persian teachers holding doctrines of transmigration 
and of theophanies, which seem to be endemic in 
Persia, and these persuaded al-Hakim that he was 
an incarnation of the Deity. A riot followed the 
open preaching of this claim, and the preachers fled 
to Syria, then a part of the Fatimite dominions, 
and there founded a sect which still exists in the 
Lebanon under the name of the Druzes. Soon after 
this al-Hakim himself disappeared ; some said he 
was murdered, others said he had retired to a Christian 
monastry, and was recognised there afterwards as a 
monk; others believed he had gone up to heaven, 
and more than one claimant appeared asserting that 
he was al-Hakim returned from concealment. The 
other off -shoot shows a more definitely philosophical 
bearing. In the days of al-Mustansir, al-Hakim's 
grandson, one of the Isma'ilian missionaries, a 
Persian named Nasir-i-Khusraw, came from Khurasan 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 161 

to Egypt, and after a stay of seven years returned 
home. This seems to have coincided with a kind 
of revival in the Isma'ilian sect, which now regarded 
Cairo as its headquarters. The Qarmatians had 
quite passed away ; al-Hakim, whatever his later 
eccentricities, had been a patron of scholarship, the 
founder of an academy, the Daru 1-HiJcma, or " House 
of Wisdom," at Cairo, and had enriched it with a large 
library, and was himself distinguished as a student 
of astronomy. The reign of his grandson was the 
golden age of Fatimid science, and apparently Shi'ites 
from all parts of Asia found their way to Egypt. 
In 471 another da'i or missionary, Hasan-i-Sabbah, 
a pupil of Nasir-i-Khusraw, visited Cairo and was 
received by the Chief Da'i, but not allowed to see the 
Khalif, and eighteen months later was compelled to 
leave the country and return to Asia. There were 
two factions in Cairo, the adherents respectively of 
the Khalif } s two sons, Nizar and Musta'li ; xJKTasir- 
i-Khusraw and Hasan-i-Sabbah had already made 
themselves known as supporters of the elder son 
JTizar, but the court officials in Egypt adhered to 
the younger son Musta'li. When the Khalif al- 
Mustansir died in 487 the Isma'ilian sect divided 
into two new branches, the Egyptians and Africans 
generally recognising Musta'li, the Asiatics adhering to 
Nizar, This latter group had already been well organ- 
ised by Nasir-i-Khusraw and Hasan-i-Sabbah, who for 
several years previously had been preaching the rights 
of Nizar. On his return home, about 473, Hasan** 



162 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

i-Sabbah had secured possession of a stronghold 
known as Alamut, " the eagle's teaching " (cf . Browne : 
Lit. History of Persia, ii. 203, espec. note 13), and 
this became the headquarters of the sect of Mzaris 
or Assassins, who figure so prominently in the history 
of the Crusades. They had many mountain strong- 
holds, but all were under the control of the Sheikh 
or " Old Man of the Mountain," as the Crusaders 
and Marco Polo called him, at Alamut. These 
Sheikhs or Grand Masters of the order continued for 
eight generations, until Alamut was captured by the 
Mongols in 618 A.H. (-1221 A.D.), and the last was 
put to death. As the order grew it spread into Syria, 
and it was the Syrian branch with which the Crusaderi 
from Europe came most into contact. JEn this order 
we find the old system of successive grades of initia- 
tion. The Lasiqs, *or " adherents," had but little 
knowledge of the real doctrines of the sect, and 
attached to them were the Fida'is or " self -de voted," 
bound to blind obedience and ready to execute 
vengeance at the bidding of their superiors ; these 
were the men to whom the Crusaders especially 
applied the term Assassins, that is Hashishin or 
u users of hashish," referring to the hashish or Indian 
hemp which they commonly used as a means of 
exaltation. Above these were the -Ka/ig* or 
" companions," and above these was an ordered 
hierarchy of da' is or missionaries, Chief Missionaries 
(da'i i~Kabir), and Supreme Missionary (da'i d-Du'at). 
In the eyes of outsiders the whole sect had a sinister 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 163 

appearance ; the crimes of the Fida'is, usually com- 
mitted under striking and dramatic circumstances, 
and the reputed heresies of the superior grades were 
sufficient to secure this, and the general dread with 
which they were regarded was increased by incidents 
which showed that they had spies and sympathizers 
in all directions. The superior grades, however, 
were true heirs of the old Isma'ilian principles and 
ardent students of philosophy and science. When 
the Mongols under Hulagu seized Alamut in 654 
= A.D. 1256) they found an extensive library and 
an observatory with a collection of valuable astronom- 
ical instruments. The Mongol capture meant the 
downfall of the Assassins, although the Syrian branch 
still continued in humbler fashion, and the sect has 
adherents even at the present day. Scattered relics 
survive also in central Asia, in Persia, and in India ; 
the Agha Khan is a lineal descendant af Ruknu 
d-Din Khurshah, the last Sheikh at Alamut. 

Thus the movememt started by AbduHiM 1 , the son 
of Maymun, whose original purpose seems to have 
been to maintain a highly philosophical religion 
as revealed by Aristotle and the neo-Platonists, but 
to safeguard this as an esoteric faith disclosed only 
to initiates, the rank and file being apparently Shi'ite 
sectaries, produced a group of very curious sects. In 
the Qarmatians the esoteric tenets were compelled 
to take a debased form because those who professed 
them, and into whose hands this branch fell alto- 
gether, were illiterate peasants. In the Fatimid 



164 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

state of Egypt they were minimised because political 
considerations rendered it expedient to conciliate 
orthodox Muslim opinion. And in the Assassins, 
confined, it seems, to the higher grades of the initiates, 
they produced a rich intellectual development, though 
allied to a system which shows fanaticism un- 
scrupulously used by the leaders that they might 
live out their lives in a philosophical seclusion, pro- 
tected from the dangers which surrounded them: 

Before leaving this particular subject, which 
shows the promulgation of philosophy as an esoteric 
creed, we must refer to a society known as the .IJchwanu 
a-8afa or " the brotherhood of purity." We do not 
know what its connection with ' Abdullah b. Maymun's 
sect may have been beyond the fact that they were 
contemporary and of kindred aims, but it certainly 
seems that there was some connection : it has been 
suggested that this brotherhood represents the 
original teaching of Abdullah's sect. It was divided 
into four grades, but its doctrines were promulgated 
freely at an early date, though we do not know 
whether this general divulging of its teaching was 
part of the original plan or forced upon it by cir- 
cumstances. It appears openly about 360, some 
hundred years after Abdullah founded his sect, 
shortly after the Fatimites had conquered Egypt and 
some time after the Qarmatians had returned the 
sacred black stone which they had stolen from the 
" House of God " at Mecca. It seems tempting to 
suggest that it may have been a reformation of 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 165 

the Ishma'ilians on the part of those who wished 
to return to the original aims of the movement. 

The published work of the brotherhood appears in 
a series of 51 epistles, the Rasa'il ikhwani s-Safa, 
which form an encyclopaedia of philosophy and 
science as known to the Arabic-speaking world in the 
4th cent. A.H. They do not propose any new 
theories but simply furnish a manual of current 
material. The whole text of these epistles has been 
printed at Calcutta, whilst portions of the voluminous 
whole have been edited by Prof. Dieterici between 
1858 and 1872, and these were followed in 1876 and 
1879 by two volumes called MaJcrokosmos and 
MikrokosmoSj in which an epitome is presented of 
the whole work. It appears that the leading spirit 
in the preparation of this encyclopaedia was Zayd 
b. Eifa'a, and with him were associated Abu Sulayman 
Muhammad al-Busti, Abu 1-Hasan <Ali az-Zanjani, 
Abu Ahmad al-Mahrajani, and al-Awfi, but it does 
not follow that these were the founders of the brother* 
hood, as some have suppposed. 

A great part of the Epistles of the Brotherhood deals 
with logic and the natural sciences, but when the 
writers turn to metaphysics, psychology, or theology, 
we find very clear traces of the neo -Platonic doctrines 
as containedjm Alexander of Aphrodisias and matured 

by Plotinus. God, we read, is above all knowledge 

y ,,wvi*i **"*' * ,*t, > *.,**-' <* '* n-' < " '" o w 

and abo ve all ^ tjiejcategori^ pf human thought. From 
God proceeds the 'aql or intelligence^ a complete 
spiritual emanation which contains in itself the forms 



166 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

of all things, and from the 'aql proceeds the Universal 
Soul, and from that Soul comes primal matter : when 
this primal matter becomes capable of receiving 
dimensions it becomes secondary matter, and from 
that the universe proceeds. The Universal Soul 
permeates all matter and is itself sustained by the 
perpetual emanation of itself from the 'aql. This 
Universal Soul permeating all things yet remains one ; 
but each individual thing has a part-soul, which is 
the source of its force and energy, this part-soul 
having a varying degree of intellectual capacity. 
The union of soul and matter is temporary ; by wisdom 
and faith the soul tends to be set free from its material 
fetters, and so to approach nearer to the present 
spirit or 'aql. The right aim of life is the emanci- 
pation of the soul from matter, so that it may be 
absorbed in the parent spirit and thus approach 
nearer to the Deity. All this is but a repetition of 
the teaching of al-Farabi and the neo-Platonists, 
slightly coloured, perhaps, by Sufism, and expressed 
less logically and lucidly than in the teaching of the 
philosophers. In general character it shows a 
tendency towards jjajRtheism, akin to the tendency 
we have already observed in certain of the Mu'tazilites. 
God, properly so called, is outside, or rather on such 
ft plane that man does not know, and never can know, 
anything about Him. Even the 'aql is on a plane 
other than that on which the human soul lives. But 
the Universal Soul which permeates all things is an 
emanation from this Spirit, and the Spirit emanatti 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 167 

from the unknowable God. Comparing this with the 
teaching of al-Kindi and al-Farabi it is clear that it 
is based upon the same material, but jit is in the 
hands of those who have made it a religion, and this 
religion has entirely broken away from the orthodox 
doctrine of the Qur'an. In al-Parabi this breach is 
not conscious, although really quite complete ; in his 
successors we see a full realization of the cleavage. 
Comparing it with Sufism the superficial resemblances 
are very close, the more so as Sufism borrows a great 
deal of philosophical, i.e., neo-Platonic terminology, 
but in fact there is an essential divergence : the 
Epistles of the brethren represent the emancipation 
of the soul from matter as the aim of life, and the 
final result is re-absorption in the Universal Soul, 
but they represent this emancipation as due to an 
intellectual force, so that the soul's salvation lies in 
wisdom and knowledge ; it is a cult of intellect. 
But Sufism is spiritual in another sense : it has the 
game aim in view, but it regards the means as wisdom 
in the sense of religious truth as found by the devout 
soul in piety, not as the wisdom obtained by intel- 
lectual learning. 

We seem, however, justified in saying that Sufism 
is the heir of the philosophical teaching of al-Farabi 
ana the Brethren of Purity, at least in A$ii* After 
the first quarter of the fifth century philosophic^ 
teaching seems to have disappeared altogether in 
Asia, but this is only apparent. In substance it 
remains in Sufism, and we may say that the essential 



168 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

change lies in the new meaning given to " wisdom," 
which ceases to signify scientific facts and specu- 
lations acquired intellectually, and is taken to mean 
a supra-intellectual knowledge of God. This, 
perhaps, represents the Indian contribution working 
upon elements of Hellenistic origin. 

The doctrines of the Brethren of Purity were in- 
troduced to the West by a Spanish .doctor, Muslim b. 
Muhammad Abu 1-Qasim al-Majriti al-Andalusi 
(d. 395-6), and were largely influential in producing 
the falasifa of Spain, who ultimately exercised so great 
an influence on mediaeval Latin scholasticism. 

Before leaving this particular section of our subject 
it will be well to note that all these sects and groups 
we have mentioned after al-Farabi, from the sect 
founded by Abdullah b. Maymun to the Brethren of 
Purity, agreed in treating philosophy, at least in 
so far as it had any bearing on theological topics, 
as esoteric, and not to be disclosed to any save the 
elect. This general attitude will appear again, 
in a slightly different form, in the works of the 
Spanish philosophers, and to some extent recurs in all 
Islamic thought. 

The greatest product in Asia of the ferment of 
thought produced by the general study of the Aristot- 
elian and neo-Platonic philosophies appears in Abu 
*Ali al-Husayn b. 'Abdullah b. Sina (d. jlggj- AJD. 
1027), commonly known as Ibn Sina, which is Latin- 
ized as Avicenna. His life is known to us from an 
autobiography completed by his pupil, Abu Ubayd 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 169 

al- Juzjanl, from his master's recollections. We learn 
that his father was governor of Kharmayta, but, after 
his son's birth, he returned to Bukhara, which had 
been the original home of his family, and it was there 
that Ibn Sina received his education. During his 
youth some Isma'ilian missionaries arrived from 
Egypt, and his father became one of their converts. 
From them the son learned Greek, philosophy, 
geometry, and arithmetic. This helps to remind us 
how the whole Isma'ilian propaganda was associated 
with Hellenistic learning. It is sometimes stated 
that the Egypt of the Fatimite age was isolated from 
the intellectual life of Islam at large: but this is 
hardly accurate ; from first to last the whole of the 
Isma'ilian movement was connected with the intel- 
lectual revival due to the reproduction of Greek philo- 
sophy in Arabic form, less so, of course, when the 
Isma'ilian converts were drawn from the illiterate 
classes, as was the case with the Qarmations, and when 
the attention of the members was engrossed with politi- 
cal ambitions, as was the case with the Fatimids whilst 
they were building up their power in Africa before the 
invasion of Egypt. But even under the most un- 
favourable conditions it seems % that the da 'is or 
missionaries regarded the spread of science and 
philosophy as a leading part of their duties, quite as 
much so as the preaching of the 'Alid claims of the 
Fatimite Khalif. Learning Greek and Greek philo- 
sophy from these missionaries Ibn Sina made rapid 
progress, and then turned to the study of juris* 



170 ARABIQ THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

prudence and mystic theology. Jurisprudence, that 
is to say, the canon law based on one of the orthodox 
systems laid down by Ab-u Hanifa and the other 
recognised jurists, or by their Shi'ite rivals, has 
always been the backbone of Islamic scholarship, and 
was thus parallel with the study of canon law in 
mediaeval Europe : in each case it turned men's 
attention to the development of the social structure 
towards an ideal, and this had an educative influence 
of the highest value. We, holding very different 
principles, may be tempted to under-estimate this 
influence, but it is worth noting that, whilst our aims 
are opportunist in character, the canonist of Islam 
or of Christendom had a more definitely constructed 
ideal, with a more complete and scientific finality, 
which, in so far as it was an ideal, was an uplifting 
power. In Muslim lands the canonists were the one 
power which had the courage and ability to resist 
the caprices of an autocratic government, and to 
compel even the most arbitrary princes to submit to 
principles which, however narrow and defective they 
may seem to us, y#t made the ruler admit that he 
was subordinate to a system, and defined the limits 
Billowed by that system in conformity with ideals of 
equity and justice. It is interesting to note that in 
[bn Sina's time mystic theology had already token 

^ *!**><<< " ^ , , ,! I f -0W l4<> 1 , 1 I, I 11 *, , I , 

ts glace as a sub|fit flfjseriaus, atudy. 

A short time afterwards a philosopher named 
in-Natali arrived at Bukhara and became a guest 
>f Ibn Sina's father. Bearing in mind the technical 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 171 

meaning of failasuf, we recognise this guest as, a pro- 
fessed Aristotelian, and presumably one able to obtain 
his living as a teacher of the Aristotelian doctrine. 
From him Ibn Sina learned logic and had his mind 
directed towards the Aristotelian teaching, which was 
then preached like a religion. After this he studied 
Euclid, the Almajesta, and the "Aphorisms of the 
Philosophers/' His next study was medicine, in 
which he made so great progress that he adopted the 
practice of medicine as his profession. He attempted 
to study Aristotle's Metaphysics, but found himself 
entirely incapable of understanding its meaning, 
until one day he casually purchased one of al- 
Farabi's books, and by its help he was able to grasp 
the meaning and purport of what had so far eluded 
him. It is on this ground that we are entitled to 
describe Ibn Sina as a pupil of al-Farabi : it was al- 
Farabi's work which really formed his mind and 
guided him to the interpretation of Aristotle ; al- 
Farabi was, in the truest sense, the parent of all 
subsequent Arabic philosophers ; great as was Ibn 
Sina he does not enter into the tradition in the same 
way as al-Farabi, and does not exercise the same 
influence on his successors, although al-Ghazali 
classes him with al-Farabi, and calls them the leading 
interpreters of Aristotle. Emphasis is sometimes 
laid upon the fact that Ibn Sina treats philosophy as 
quite apart from revelation as given in the Qur'an ; 
but in this he was not original : it was the general 
tendency of all who came alter al-Farabi ; we cam 



172 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

only say that Ibn Sina was the first important writer 
who illustrates this tendency, i, 

Called to exercise his medical skill at the court of 
Nuh b. Mansur, the Samanid governor of Khurasan, 
he enjoyed that prince's favour, and in his library 
studied many works of Aristotle hitherto unknown 
to his contemporaries, and when that library was 
burned he was regarded as the sole transmitter of the 
doctrines contained in those books. This represents 
contemporary Arabic opinion about him : there is 
no evidence in his existing writings that he had access 
to Aristotelian material other than that generally 
known to the Syriac and Arabic writers. When the 
affairs of the Samanid dynasty fell into disorder Ibn 
Sina removed to'Khwarazan, where he, with several 
other scholars, enjoyed the enlightened patronage 
of the Ma'muni Emir. But this Emir was living a 
somewhat precarious existence in the neighbourhood 
of the Turkish Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, the stern 
champion of orthodoxy and the conqueror of India. 
It was obvious that the Sultan coveted the Emir's 
dominions, and that when he chose to seize them it 
would be impossible to resist ; he actually did take 
them in 408. Meanwhile the Sultan was treated with 
the utmost deference by the Emir and such of his 
neighbours as were allowed to live on sufferance. 
Mahmud wished to be distinguished as a patron of 
learning, and " invited " scholars to his court in 

plain words, he kidnapped scholars and took care that 

they neVer afterwards transgressed the strictest 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 173 

limits of orthodoxy. Amongst others the Emir 
received a letter inviting such men of learning as were 
to be found in Khwarazan to his court. The Emir 
read out the letter to the five most distinguished 
scholars who were his guests, leaving them to act 
as they thought fit. Three of the guests were 
attracted by the Sultan's reputation for generosity 
and accepted the invitation, but two, Ibn Sina and 
Masihi, were afraid to venture, so they escaped 
privately and fled ; overtaken by a sandstorm in 
the desert Masihi perished, but Ibn Sina, after long 
wanderings, finally found a refuge in Isfahan, where 
the Buwayhid 'Ala'u d-Dawla Muhammad held his 
court. His experiences show plainly that it was the 
Shi'ites who were the supporters of philosophy, and 
that the growing Turkish power of Mahmud of 
Ghazna and of the Seljuks who succeeded him was 
reactionary and unfavourably disposed towards philo- 
sophical research. It was the Turkish power which 
finally checked the progress of Arabic philosophy in 
the East. 

Ibn Sina wrote many works in Arabic and Persian, 
and a number of these are still extant. Amongst 
his productions were as-Shafa, an encyclopaedia of 
physics, metaphysics, and mathematics in eighteen 
volumes (ed. Forget, Leiden, 1892), a treatise on 
logic and philosophy, and the medical works on which 
his fame so largely rests. The best known of these 
are the Najat abridged from the as-Shafa, and the 
medical Canon, in which he reproduced the teaching 



174 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

of Galen and Hippocrates with illustrative material 
from the later medical writers. The Canon is 
more methodical in its arrangement than the al-Hawi 
of Bazes, hitherto the popular manual of medicine 
in Arabic ; indeed, its chief defect is an excessively 
elaborate classification. It became the leading 
medical authority, and, after translation into Latin by 
Gerard of Cremona, served for many centuries as 
the chief representative of the Arabic school of 
medicine in western Europe, holding its place in the 
universities of Montpelier and Louvain down to 
A.D. 1650. 

Ibn Sina treats logic as of use rather in a negative 
than in a positive way : " the end of logic is to give a 
man a standard rule, by observing which he is 
preserved from error in reasoning " (Isharat ed. 
Forget, p. 2). His treatise on this subject in Tis* 
Rasa'ilfi-l-Hikma wa-l-Tabi'yat (p. 79, pub. Stamboul, 
1298), is divided into nine parts corresponding to the 
Arabic canon of, Aristotle, which includes the Isagoge 
as well as the Ehetoric and Poetics. He makes 
special note to the logical bearing of particular 
grammatical constructions which in Arabic differ 
from the forms used in Greek, as, for example, where 
the Greek expresses the universal negative by " all 
A is not B," but Arabic renders this " nothing of 
A (is) B." He lays great emphasis upon accurate 
detrition, which he describes as the essential basis 
of all sound reasoning, and to this he devotes much 
attention. Definition proper must state the quiddity 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 175 

of a thing, its genus, differentia, and all its essential 
characteristics, and is thus distinct from mere de- 
scription, which need only give the propria and 
accidents in such a way that the thing may be re- 
cognised correctly. 

In dealing with the universal and the particular 
he considers that the universal exists only in the 
human mind : the abstract idea of the genus is formed 
in the mind of the observer when he compares individ- 
uals and makes note of their points of similarity, but 
this abstract idea exists only as a mental concept and 
has no objective reality. The universal precedes the 
individual (genus ante res) only in the way that the 
general idea existed in the mind of the Creator before 
the individual was formed, just as the idea of an object 
to be made exists in the mind of the artificer before 
the work is executed. The general idea is realised 
in matter (genus in rebus), but only when accompanied 
by accidents: apart from these accidents it exists 
only as a mental abstraction. After the general idea 
is realised in matter (genus post res) it is possible for 
the intellect to make a mental abstraction and to 
use this as a standard of comparison with other 
individuals. The generic belongs only to the realm 
of thought, and such abstract ideas have no objectite 
existence, although they may be used as real in logic* 

The soul is treated as a collection of * faculties 
(fcowa) or forces acting on the body : all activity of 
any sort, in bodies animal or vegetable, as well as 
human, proceeds either from such forces added to 



!76 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

the body or from the mixture of elements from which 
the body is formed. The simplest soul condition is 
that of the vegetable whose activity is limited to 
nutrition and generation and accretion by growth 
(Najat, p. 43). The animal soul possesses the veget- 
able faculties but adds to them others, and the 
human soul adds yet others to these, and the addition 
made to the human soul enables it to be described 
as a rational soul. The faculties present in the soul 
may be divided into two classes, the faculties of per- 
ception sfnd the faculties of action. The faculties 
of perception are partly external and partly internal : 
of these the external faculties exist in the body 
wherein the soul dwells and are the eight senses, 
sight, hearing, taste, smell, perception of heat and 
cold, perception of dry and moist, perception of 
resistance as by hard and soft, and perception of 
rough and smooth. By means of these senses the 
form of the external object is reproduced in the soul 
of the percipient. There are four internal faculties 
of perception : (i.) al-musawira, " the formative," 
whereby the soul perceives the object without the 
aid of the senses as by an act of imagination ; (ii.) 
al-mufaKkira, " the cogitative," by which the soul 
perceiving a number of qualities associated together 
abstracts one or more of them from the others with 
which they are associated, or groups together those 
which are not seen as connected ; this is the faculty 
of abstraction which is employed in forming general 
ideas } (iii) al wahm, or " opinion/ 9 by means o! which 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 177 

a general conclusion is drawn from a number of ideas 
grouped together ; and (iv.) al-hafiza or az-zakira, 
" memory," which preserves and records the judg- 
ments formed. Men and animals perceive pariculars 
by means of sense ; man attains the knowledge of 
universals by means of reason. The 'aql or rational 
soul of man is conscious of its own faculties, not by 
means of an external, i.e., bodily sense, but im- 
mediately by the exercise of its own reasoning power. 
This proves to be an independent entity, even 
though accidentally connected with a body and 
dependent on that body for sense perception : 
the possibility of direct knowledge without sense 
perception shows that it is not essentially dependent 
on the body, and the possibility of its existence 
without the body, which follows logically from 
its independence, is the proof of its immortality. 
Every living creature perceives that it has only 
one ego or soul in itself, and this soul, says Ibn Sina, 
did not exist prior to the body but was created, that 
is to say, proceeded by emanation from the Agent 
Intellect at the time when the body was generated. 
(Najat, p. 51). 

Under the head of Physics Ibn Sina considers the 
forces observed in nature, including all that are in 
the soul, save only that which is peculiar to the 
rational soul of man. These forces are of three kinds : 
some, such as weight, are an essential part of the body 
in which they occur ; others are external to the body 
on which they act, and are such as cause movement 



178 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

or rest ; and others, again, are such as the faculties 
possessed by the non-rational souls of the spheres, 
which produce movement directly without external 
impulse, No force is infinite ; it may be increased or 
diminished, and always produces a finite 

Time is regarded as essentially dependent on 
ment ; although it is not itself a form of movement, 
so far as the idea of time is concerned, it is measured 
and made known by the movements of the heavenly 
bodies. Following al-Kindi place is defined as " t|ie 
limit of the container which touches the contained/' 
Vacuum is " only a name", in fact it is impossible, 
for all space can be increased, diminished, or divided 
into parts, and so must contain something capable 
of increase, etc. 

God alone is " necessary being," and so the supreme 
reality. Space, time, etc., belong to " actual being," 
and whatever necessity they possess is derived from 
God. The objects studied in physical science are 
only "possible being," which may or may not become 
" actual being." God alone is necessarily existent 
through all eternity: He is the truth in the sense 
that He alone is true absolutely, all other reality is 
BO only in so far as it is derived from God. From God 

* 5 **i'-1. ' ' 

jbj; $ Equation comes thJogl or " Agent Intellect," 
and from this proceeds the intellect or reason winch 
differentiates the rational soul in man from the soul 
in otHer creatures. To every man this intellect is 
given, and in due course it returns to the " Agent 
Intellect "which was its source. The soul's possible 



THE EASTERN PHILOSOPHERS 179 

activity, independent of the body with which it is 
associated, proves its immortality, but this immortality 
does not imply separate existence, but rather re- 
absorption in the source. From the 'aql also proceeds 
the universe, but not like the reason of man by direct 
emanation, but by the medium of successive 
emanations. 

Jbn Sina was the last of the great philosophers of 
the East. Two causes combined to terminate philo- 
sophy proper in Asiatic Islam. In the first place 
it had become closely identified with the ShHte 
heresies, and was thus in bad repute in the eyes of 
the orthodox; whilst the Shi'ite sects themselves, 
all of the extremer kind (ghulat), which had devoted 
themselves most to philosophical studies, had also 
taken up a number of pre-Islamic religious theories, 
such 2^8 transmigration of souls, etc., which were 
detrimental to scientific research. Neo-Platonism 
had shown itself at an earlier period prone to similar 
tendencies. As a result the Shi'ites tended towards 
mystic and often fantastic theories, which were dis- 
couraging to the study of Aristotelian doctrines. The 
second cause lay in the rise of dominant Turkish 
elements, Mahmud of Ghazna, then the Saljuk Turks, 
which were of uncompromising orthodoxy, and 
abhorred everything which was associated with the 
Shi'ites or tended to rationalism. For all that it 
left permanent marks in Asiatic Islam in two 
directions : in orthodox scholasticism and in 
mysticism. 



180 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

We have already noted that Muslim b. Muhammad 
Abu 1-Qasim al-Majriti al-Andalusi (d. 395-6), as his 
name denotes, a native of Madrid, brought the teach- 
ings of the Brethren of Purity to Spain, and so in- 
cidentally aroused an interest there in the philosophy 
which had been studied in the East. For some time 
no important results appeared, then followed a series 
of brilliant philosophical writers and teachers, de- 
riving their inspiration partly from the Brethren, 
and partly from the Jewish students. 



CHAPTER VII 
SUFISM 

Sufism or Islamic mysticism, which becomes pro- 
minent in the course of the^jicdL^nt. A.H., was 
partly a product of Hellenistic influences, and exer- 
cised a considerable influence on the philosophers of 
the time of Ibn Sina and afterwards. The name 
Sufi is derived from suf " wool," and so means 
" wool-clad," thus denoting a person who from choice 
used clothing of the simplest kind and avoided every 
form of luxury or ostentation. That this is the true 
meaning is proved by the fact that Persian employs 
as its equivalent the term pashmina-push, which also 
means " wool-clad." By a popular error the Arabic 
writers on Sufism often treat the word as derived 
from a/a, " purity," and so make it something akin 
to " puritan " ; and still more incorrectly certain 
Western writers have supposed that it is a trans- 
literation of the Greek <ro<f>6<;. The emphasis is 
laid upon the ascetic avoidance of luxury and the 
voluntary adoption of simplicity in clothing on the 
part of those to whom the term is applied. If we 
regard this as a form of asceticism ,it will be at 01190 
objected^ that asceticism has no place in the teaching 
of the Qur'an and is alien to the character of early 

181 



182 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Islam. In a sense this is true, and in a sense untrue 
according to the meaning we attach to the term 
" asceticism." As it is used in the history of 
Christian monasticism, or of the devotees of several 
Indian religions, or even of the latter Sufis, it implies 
a deliberate avoidance of the normal pleasures and 
indulgences of human life, and especially of marriage, 
as things which entangle the soul and prevent its 
spiritual progress. In this sense asceticism is alien 
to the spirit of Islam, and appears amongst Muslims 
only as an exotic. But the term may be used, not 
very accurately perhaps, of the puritanical restraint 
and simplicity which avoids all luxury and display, 
and deliberately tries to retain a primitively simple 
and self-denying manner of life. In this latter sense 
asceticism or puritanism was a distinguishing mark 
of the " old believer " as contrasted with the secular- 
ised Arab of the Umayyad type, and this attitude 
always had its admirers. The historians constantly 
refer with commendation to the abstemious lives of 
the early Khalifs and the " Companions '/of the 
Prophet, and describe how they were abstinent not 
from poverty but in order to put themselves on an 
equality with their subjects, and to preserve the 
traditional mode of life of the Prophet ^nd his first 
followers, and very often in the recognised Traditions 
we find mention of the bare and simple mode of life 
of the first Muslims. Quite early this simplicity 
appears as the distinctive mark of the strict Muslim, 
and emphasizes the difference between him and the 



SUFISM 183 

worldly followers of the Umayyads, and similar 
instances appear amongst the devout Muslims of the 
present day. Such were not Sufis, but t they may be 
regarded as the precursors of the Sufis. The his- 
torian al-Fakhri, describing the abstemious life of 
the first Khalifs, says that they endeavoured by this 
self-restraint to wean themselves from the lusts of 
the flesh. This is reading a later idea into a much 
earlier practice, which was originally designed simply 
as a more accurate following of the Proghet, who was 
unable to enjoy any luxury or splendour ; but it 
shows that later generations were inclined to ascribe 
a more definitely ascetic motive to the affectedly 
simple life of the earlier Muslims, and no doubt that 
early puritanism, misunderstood by later ages, con- 
tributed to spread asceticism. 

Al-Qushayri (cited Browne : Lit. Hist, of Persia, 
i. pp. 297-8), after referring to the " Companions " 
and " Followers " of the first age of Islam, then 
mentions the " ascetes " or " devotees " as the elect 
of a later age, those who were most deeply concerned 
with matters of religion, and finally the Sufis as those 
elect of still later times, " whose souls were set on God, 
and who guarded their hearts from the disasters of 
heedlessness." Historically this is an error, for the 
saints of early Islam were inspired by a spirit of strict 
adherence to the traditional life of their desert 
ancestors and rejected luxury as an " innovation," 
very much the same spirit as that observed in the 
ancient Hebrew prophets ; whilst the Sufis were no 



184 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

enthusiasts for tradition, but eschewed bodily in- 
dulgence as an entanglement of the flesh which 
hindered the progress of the spirit, so that they were 
in no sense the successors of the " Companions," 
but were influenced by new ideas unknown to early 
Islam. Yet superficially the results were very much 
alike, and this caused the two to be connected, and 
helped the later custom of connecting the early 
puritans with the ascetics of a subsequent age. In 
its earliest form, also, Islam made a strong appeal to 
the motive of fear, an appeal not based on divine 
severity so much as on divine justice and on man's 
consciousness of his own sinfulness and unworthi- 
ness, and on the fleeting passage of the life lived in 
this present world. There was an intense concentra- 
tion on the Day of Judgment and on the perils of the 
sinner, a teaching which is perceived in the Qur'an 
even by the most casual reader : but all this was not 
altogether congenial to the Arab, although he in 
poetry certainly inclined towards a tone of sadness. 
The inevitable result of this teaching was asceticism 
in the puritanical sense, or, perhaps we should say, 
a tone of severity in religion. 

Jami, one of the greatest Persian authorities on 
Sufism, tells us that the name " Sufi " was first 
applied to Abu Hashim (d. 162), an Arab of Kufawho 
spent the greater part of his life in Syria, and is typical 
of the early Islamic devotee who followed the 
simplicity of the Prophet's life and was deeply 
influenced by the Qur'anic teaching about sin, 



SUFISM 185 

judgment, and the brief passage of earthly life. 
Similar devotees, claimed as Sufis by later Sufi 
writers, but more properly devotees who were their 
precursors, appear in the course of the 2nd century, 
such as Ibrahim b. Adham (d. 162), Da'ud of Tayy 
(d. 165), Fadayl of 'lyad (d. 188), Ma'ruf of Karkh 
(d. 200), and others, both men and women. Amongst 
these there was gradually evolved the beginnings of an 
ascetic theology in traditional sayings and narratives 
of their lives and conduct, a hagiology which lays 
great emphasis upon their penances and self mortifi- 
cation. Of this material the most important is the 
recorded teaching of Ma'ruf of Karkh, from which 
we may quote the definition of Sufism as " the 
apprehension of divine realities," which, in a slightly 
altered sense perhaps, becomes the keynote of later 
Sufism. 

Can we trace the origin of these early recluses f 
Von TTremej (jtierrseh, p. 67) considers this type as 
a native Arab growth developed from pre-Islamic 
Christian influences. Christian monasticism we know 
was familiar to the Arabs in the country fringing the 
Syrian desert and in the desert of Sinai : of this we 
have evidence both in Christian writers like Nilus and 
in the pre-Islamic poets, as in the words of Imru 
1-Qays : 
44 Friend, see the lightning it flashed and is gone, 

like the flashing of two hands on a crowned pillar : 
Did its blaze flash forth ? or was it the lamp of a 

monk who poured oil on the twisted wick t " 



186 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

The hermit's life was known even in Arabia itself, 
and tradition relates that Muhammad received his 
first call when he had retired to the cave of Hira and 
was living as a recluse there, returning periodically 
to his home and taking back food with him to the 
cave (cf. Bukhari : Sahih, L). It seems likely, indeed, 
that the early recluses of Islam were inspired by the 
example of Christian monasticism, either directly 
or through the medium of Muhammad's traditional 
retirement. But these recluses were not numerous, 
and admittedly neglect the Qur'anic command to 
marry (Qur. 24, 32). 

Thus the earlier asceticism shows the character 
of devout quietism, of a puritanical abstinence from 
display of wealth and from self-indulgence, of a 
strict simplicity of life rather than of a voluntary 
poverty and mortification, of occasional retirement 
from the world, and only in rare instances of the 
permanent adoption of the hermit life. An instance 
of this type occurs in Abu l-'Abbas as-Sabti (d. 184), 
son of the Khalif Harunu r ^t^sMd, who renounced 
rank and fortune for a life of meditation and retire- 
ment. 

In the latter part of the 3rd cent, we begin to find 
evidences of a " new Sufigjw," which was inspired by 
religious ideals other than those which had been 
dominant in early Islam, and which developed from 
those ideals a theology of its own, which for a long 
time was not admitted as orthodox. Asceticism 
still occurs, but whilst, cm the one hand, it begins to 



SUFISM 187 

take a more definite character in the deliberate seeking 
of poverty and mortification, it is, on the other hand, 
relegated to a subordinate place as a merely pre- 
paratory stage in the Sufi life, which is technically 
described as a " journey." Poverty, which amongst 
the early Muslims was esteemed simply in so far as it 
reproduced the modest life of the Prophet and his 
companions, and was a standing protest against the 
secularisation of the Umayyads, now assumed greater 
prominence as a devotional exercise, a change which 
appears definitely in Da'ud at-Ta'i (d. 165), who 
limited his possessions to a rush mat, a brick which 
he used as a pillow, and a leather water bottle. In 
later Sufism poverty takes a position of great promi- 
nence : the terms v /ap>, " poor man," and darwish, 
" mendicant," become synonyms for " Sufi." But 
in Sufi teaching religious poverty does not mean 
absence of possessions only : it implies the absence of 
all interest in earthly things, the giving up of all 
participation in earthly possessions, and desiring God 
as the only aim of desire. So mortification is the 
subjugation of the evil part of the animal soul, the 
nafs which is the seat of the lust and passions, and 
so the weaning of the soul from material interests, 
a " dying to self &o4 to the world " as a beginning 
of a living to God. 

What was the source of the theology developed in 
the newer Sufism f Undoubtedly this was ,nejq- 
JPJ&tonic. as has been proved by Dr. Nicholson 

""! /. WuS^ 

from the Diwan of Shams-i- Tabriz, 



188 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Camb., 1898, and The Mystics of Islam, Lond. 1914), 
and by Prof. Browne (Literary Hist, of Persia, Lond., 
1902, chap, xiii.), and forms part of the influence 
which came into Islam at the introduction of Greek 
philosophy under the 'Abbasids. But as in philo- 
sophy and other cultural transmissions direct Greek 
influence was preceded by an indirect influence 
brought to bear through Syriac and Persian, so it 
was also in neo-platonic theology, for neo-Platonic 
influences had already been brought to bear upon 
the Syrians and Persians in the pre-Islamic period, 
lut the forefront of the later direct influence must 
be placed the so-called Theology of Aristotle, which it 
is no exaggeration to describe as the most prominent 
and the widest circulated manual of neo-Platonisni 
which has ever appeared. It is, as we have already 
stated, an abridged translation of the last three books 
of Plotinus' Enneads. Now the mysticism &t 
Plotinus is philosophical and not religions, but it 
lends itself to a theological interpretation very 
easily, just as neo-Platonism as a whole very readily 
became a theological system in the hands of 
Jambliehus, of the pagans of Harran, and such like ; 
and the Sufis were inclined to make this application, 
whilst the falasifa CQflfiiied themselves to its philo- 
sophical side. It seems probable that the influence 
of the Pseudo-Diqnysius was brought to bear upon 
[slam about the same time. The Pseudo-Dionysian 
writings consist of four treatises, of which two, a 
treatise " On Mystical Theology " in five chapters, 



SUFISM 189 

and a treatise " On the Names of God " in thirteen 
chapters, have been the chief source of Christian 
mystical theology. The first reference to these 
writings occurs in A.D. 532, when the claim was made 
that they were the work of Dionysius, the 
Areopagitc, a pupil o f St. Paul, or at least represent 
his teaching, in several places the wiiter cites 
Hierotheus as his teacher, and this enables us to 
identify tho source JJK M Syrian monk mim^u Stephen 
Bar Surbili, who wiute under tbe name of H<orotheus 
(of. Asseman, Bill. Orient, ii. 290-291). This Bar 
Sudaili was abbot of a convent at Edessa, and was 
involved in controversy with James of Sarugh, so 
that we may refer the writings to the latter part of 
the 5th century A.D. They were translated into 
Syraic very soon after their first appearance in Greek, 
and, as familiar to Syriac Christians, must have 
become indirectly known to the Muslims. We have 
no direct evidence as to their translation into Arabic, 
but Mai gives fragments of other works of Bar Sudaili 
which appear in Arabic MSS. in his Spicilegium 
Romanum (iii. 707). The traditional view of the 
relations between Sufism and philosophy is described 
in the anecdote cited by Prof. Browne (Lit. Hist, of 
Persia, ii. 261, from AJchlag-i-Jalali) of the Sufi Abu 
Sa'id b. Abi 1-Khayr (d. 441 A.H.-1049 AJX), who 
is said to have met and conversed with Ibn Sina ; 
when they parted Abu Said said of Ibn Sina, " What 
I see, he knows," whilst Ibn Sina said, " What I 
know, he sees." 



190 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

But there were other influences of a secondary 
character at work in 'Iraq and Persia which become 
important when we remember that it was the 
subject population of those parts which had, to a 
large extent, replaced the Arabs as the leaders of 
*Islam during the 'Abbasid period. In connection 
with the Sufis probably we cannot refer any influence 
to the Zoroastrian religion proper, which had a non- 
ascetic and national character; but the Manichaean 
and Masdekite religions, the two " free churches " 
of Persia, show a definitely ascetic tone, and when 
we find, as is the case, that many of the early Sufis 
were converts from Zoroastrianism, or the sons of such 
converts, we are inclined to suspect that, though pro- 
fessing that recognised religion, they were in all 
probability actually Zindiqs, that is to say secretly 
heretics and initiates of the Manichsean or Masdekite 
sect making external profession of the more re- 
cognised cult, as was the common practice of these 
Zindiqs. Note must also be made of the (gnostic influ- 
ences transmitted through the Saniy a of the fen country 
between Wasit and Basra, the Mandaeans, as they are 
called to distinguish them from the so-called Sabians 
of Harran. ThejSufi Ma'ruf of Karkh was himself the 
son of Sabian parents. And again we must not ignore 
the probability of Buddhist influences, for Buddhist 
propaganda had been active in pre-Islamic times in 
Eastern Persia and Transoxiana. Buddhist mon- 
asteries existed in Balkh, and it is noteworthy that 
the ascete Ibrahim \ Adham (d. 162 cf. supra) ii 



SUFISM . 19/ 

traditionally described as a prince of Balkh who left 
his throne to become a darwish. On clpsgy examina- 
tion, however, it does not appear that Buddhist 
influence can have been very strong, as there are 
essential differences between Sufi and Buddhist 
theories. A superficial resemblance exists between 
the Buddhist nirvana and the fana or re- absorption 
of the soul in the Divine Spirit of Sufism. x But the 
Buddhist doctrine represents the soul as losing its 
individuality in the passionless placidity of absolute 
quiescence, whilst the Sufi doctrine, though also 
teaching a loss of individuality, regards everlasting 
life as consisting in the ecstatic contemplation of the 
Divine Beauty. There is an Indian parallel to fanaj 
but it is not in Buddhism, but in the Vedantic 
pantheism. 

It is generally accepted that the first exponent of 
Sufi doctrine was the Egyptian, or Nubian, Dhu 
n-Nun (d. 245-246), a pupil of the jurist Malik b. 
'Anas, who lived at the time when there was much 
percolation of Hellenistic influence into the Islamic 
world. He was indeed nearly contemporary with 
'Abdullah, the son of Maymum, whose work we have 
already noticed. Dhu n-Nun's teaching was recorded 

^ W *fh.W *1M .*,, Wtflr ,f,. . 

and systematized by al-Junayd of Baghdad (d. 297), 

a, , ,, , M mi 11 * .'** *i " MO ltl ^j l i St ^*Mt&^**** t wmiii<ptf,*n;i wfnvi^^ilih^if,^ t 

and in it appears essential doctrine of Sufism, as of 
all mysticism, in the teaching of tawkid, the final 
union of the soul with God, a doctrine which is 
expressed in a way closely; jtesembtiog,,. the JJflfJl- 
Platonic teaching, save that in Sufism the means 



192 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

whereby this union is to be attained is not by the 
exercise of the intuitive faculty of reason but by 
piety and d$rotion. Still the two come very close 
wKen we find in the teachings of the later philosophers 
that the highest exercise of reason consists in the 
intuitive apprehension of the eternal verities rather 
than in any other activity of the intellect. AI- 
Junayd is stated by Jam! to have been a Persian, and 
it is Chiefly in Persian hands that the doctrines of 
Sufism develop and turn towards pantheism. Both 
agnosticism and pantheism are present practically 
in the later neo-Platonism ; agnosticism as regards 
the unknowable First Cause, the God from the Agent 
Intellect is an emanation, a doctrine which develops 
in the teaching of the philosophers and of the 
Isma'ilians and kindred sects ; but Sufi teaching! 
centres its attention upon the knowable God, which 
the philosopher would describe as the Agent Intellect 
or Logos, and this develops more usually in a 
pantheistic direction. The doctrines thus developed 
and expressed by al-Junayd were boldly preached 

by his pupil, ash-Shibli of Kurasan (d. 335). 

* f * 7 ** '**< *** * ' 

Al-Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 309) was a 
fellow- student of ash-Shibli, and shows Sufism as 
allied with extremely unorthodox elements. He 
was of Zoroastrian descent and closely in touch with 
the Qarmatians, and seems to have held those 
doctrines which are usually associated with the ghulat 
or extreme ShHtes, such as transmigration, in- 
carnation, etc. He was put to death as a heretic for 



SUFISM 193 

declaring " I am the truth", thus identifying himself 
with God. The accounts given of him show great 
differences of opinion : for the most $a.rt the earlier 
historians, approaching the subject from an orthodox 
stand-point, represent him as a wily conjurer who by 
pretended miracles gained a number of adherents, 
but later Sufi writers regard him as a saint and martyr 
who suffered because he disclosed the great secret of 
the union between the soul and God. The doctrine 
of hulul, OT\ the incarnation of God in the human_ 

Mwlt 44., *" ^. _ j^f^*****-*- * aw an ii- i '" '" 

bodyAwas one of the cardinal tenets of the ghulat. 
According to al-Hallaj, man is essentially divine 
because he was created by God in his own image, and 
that is why, in Qur. 2, 32, God bids the angels worship 
Adam. In hulul, which is treated as tawhid taking place 
in this present life, the deity of God enters the human 
soul in the same way that the soul at birth enters the 
body. This teaching is a fusion of the old pre-Islamic 
Persian beliefs as to incarnation and the philosophical 
theories of neo-Platonism, of the Intellect or rational 
soul or spirit, as it is more commonly called by 
English writers, the part added to the animal soul 
as an emanation from the Agent Intellect, to which 
it will ultimately return and with which it will be 
united (cf. Massignon : Kitab al-Tawasin, Paris, 1913). 
This is an extremely interesting illustration of the 
fusion of oriental and Hellenistic elements in Sufism, 

* *r >.**H'1* l * < ''* l< ' '*" *n * ". ' v m< x * 

and shows that the theoretical doctrines of Sufism, 
whatever they may have borrowed from Persia and 
India, receive their interpretative hypotheses from 



194 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

"V 

neq-Platonism. It is interesting also as shewing in 
the person of al-Hallaj a meeting-point between the 
Siifi and the philosopher of the Isma'ilian school. 

Very similar was the teaching of Abu Yazid or 
Bayazid of Bistam (d. 260), who was also of Zoroastrian 
descent. The pantheistic element is very clearly 
defined : " God," he said, " is an unfathomable ocean" ; 
he himself was the throne of God, the preserved 
Tablet, the Pen, the Word all images taken from 
the Qur'an Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Gabriel, 
for all who obtain true being are absorbed into God 
and become one with God. 

Pantheistic views and the doctrine of hulul occur 
frequently in Sufi teaching, but they are by no means 
universal. Indeed, we cannot make any accurate 
statement of Sufi doctrine in detail, but only of 
general principles and tendencies. The Sufis do not 
form a sect, but are simply devotees of mystical 
tendencies spread through all the branches of the 
Muslim community. In the 3rd cent, they arc most 
prominent amongst the Shi'ites, and so Shi'ite views 
seem to be incorporated in Sufism, but they form 
no integral part of it. Precisely similar conditions 
occur in Christianity where mysticism has flourished 
in the extremer Protestant sects as well as in the 
contemplative orders of the Catholic Church, and, 
in spite of theological differences, has a very consider- 
able amount of common material. Only it must be 
noted that no basis of mjticism exists unless some 
such relations between the human soul and God are 



SUFISM 195 

pre-supposed, as are suggested by neo-Platonism. 
Christian mysticism, in the true sense, does not begin 
in the West until the works of the Pseudo-Dionysius 
were translated into Latin in the QJJi jjqnt. A.D., and 
Muslim mysticism dates from the translation of the 
Theology of Aristotle. On the other hand, it must also 
be noted that mysticism exercises a strong modi- 
fying influence on theology generally. The tendency 
of mysticism is towards a latitudinarian type : it is 
consequently opposed, consciously or unconsciously, 
to definite dogmatic teaching and so to speculative 
theology and philosophy. 

Superficially Muslim mysticism seems to be organ- 
ised like a sect. Eeference is often made to the 
various u grades " of Sufis. But these are not 
official grades like those of the Isma'ilians and similar 
bodies, but denote successive stages on the path of 
personal holiness : it is no more than a fanciful 
terminology, perhaps borrowed from some of the 
sects because it seems that Sufism flourished earliest 
and most freely in some of the extremer Shi'ite 
groups. It was, and is, most usual for the beginner 
in the path of holiness to put himself under the 
direction of some experienced spiritual guide, who acts 
as his teacher, and is known as sheikh, murshid, or 
pir. In many cases this pupilage involves absolute 
and blind obedience to the teacher, because the re- 
nunciation of personal wishes and inclinations and 
all that can be described as self-will is one of the 
forms of abnegation required of those who seek to 



196 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

be weaned from earthly interests. From the grouping 
of devotees around some prominent teacher has arisen 
the foundation of darwish confraternities, sometimes 
ag sodalities of laymen, who pursue their secular 
occupations and meet from time to time for religious 
exercises and instruction, and sometimes as permanent 
communities living in strict obedience under a sheikh. 
Traces of such monastic institutions appear in 
Damascus about 150 A.H., and in Khurasan some 
fifty years later. None of the existing orders of Islam, 
however, seem to be of so early a date. We hear of 
a sheikh Alwan (circ. 149), whose shrine is at Jedda, 
and who is the reputed founder of the Alwaniya 
community, a body now existing only as a sub- 
division of the Eifa'ite order. There are also orders 
known as the Adhamiya, Bastamiya, and Saqatiya, 
which trace their origin to Ibrahim b. Adham (cf. 
above), to Bayazid Bastami, and to Sari as-Saqati 
respectively, but whose real origin is uncertain. 

In the 6th century we are on surer ground. There is 
no reason to question the claim of the Eif a'ite order to 
trace its foundation to Abu I-' Abbas Ahmad b. 'Ali l- 
Hasan 'Ali ibn Abi I-' Abbas Ahmad Rifa'i (d. 578), a 
native of the village of Umm Abida, near the junction 
of the Tigris and Euphrates. In his lifetime he gathered 
a large body of disciples, whom he incorporated in an 
order in 576, the members living in community under 
a sheikh, to whom they owed unquestioning obedience, 
but having also, like other orders, a number of lay 
adherents. Dying without issue the headship of 



SUFISM ' 197 

his order passed to his brother's family. It exists 
to-day in two main branches (i.) the Alwaniya, 
already mentioned, and (ii.) the jjibawi, who are best 
known from their association with the ceremony of the 
dawsa, at which the sheikh used to ride over the 
prostrate bodies of his followers. Of all the orders 
now flourishing in Egypt it is the one most inclined 
to fanatical observances at its ziJcr or prayer-meeting, 
the members cutting themselves, driving sharp 
skewers and knives into their bodies, swallowing 
snakes, etc., and in prayer allowing the name of God 
oft-repeated to become at last no more than a half 
articulate groan. They are usually distinguished by 
black turbans. The Qadariya claim 'Abdu 1-Qadir 
Jilani (d. 561) as their founder. At their ziJcr there 
is none of the fire-eating, serpent-swallowing, or 
self-mutilation of the Bifa'ites, but only the name of 
God is repeated, always clearly enunciated and 
followed by a pause. The Badawiya were founded 
by Abu 1-Fita Ahmad (d. 675), whose shrine is at Tanta, 
in Lower Egypt. The zikr is of a sober kind, the 
Divine name being repeated in a loud voice without 
cutting, fire-eating, etc. The Mawlawiya or dancing 
darwishes were founded by the Persian mystical poet 
Jalalu d-Din Kumi, the author of the poem known as 
the Masnawi. The Suhrwardiya trace their origin 
to Shihabu d-Din, a pantheistic Sufi of Baghdad, who 
was put to de^th by Saladin in 587. 

In each of these orders a special course of instruc- 
tion has taken a more or less conventional form, and 



196 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

there have been certain great teachers whose writings 
have come into use as manuals, and so have impressed 
their views upon Sufism generally. Yet the fact 
remains that Sufi teaching is essentially eclectic, and 

^ ^ ** flUiP * I'V ,f< * **>, uu ' 

can be formulated only in broad principles and 
tendencies. Of these the following seem to be of 
most general application : 

(i.) God alone exists ; God is the only reality, all 
else is illusive. This is the Sufi rendering of the 
doctrine of the unity of God. Strictly speaking 
44 God " here signifies the Agent Intellect, that is to 
say, the revelation of God who in Himself is unknow- 
able, but the Sufi does not make this philosophical 
distinction clear, or else deliberately regards the 
revelation of God as God. But in man there is a 
rational soul, which is to God as a mirrored image is 
to the object which it reflects, and is capable of 
approaching the Divine reality. As other than God 
is merely illusive it is obvious that a knowledge of 
God the Eeality cannot be attained by the medium 
of created things, and thus the Sufis were led, like the 
neo-Platonists, to attach greater value to immediate 
intuition by the rational soul than to the use of 
arguments, and so to place direct revelation above 
what is ordinarily described as reason. This is a 
line of development common to aU forms of mysticism, 
and results in a preference for ecstasy or similar 

T ^I*W*^>***..-.-I'< <tir*w*<r-*"' v > , 1,^.^1 , 

spiritual experience above the record of pa$t re- 
velation as giyejDMtojft^ The doctrine of 

ecstasy (hal or maqama) was first formulated by Dhu 



SUFISM 199 

n-Nun, and implies fana or u passing away," i.e., 
insensibility to the things of this world, and finally 
baqa or " continuance " in God. Usually this ex- 
perience is accompanied by loss of sensation, though 
this is not always the case, and there are many 
legends of Sufi saints which represent them as totally 
unconscious of violence of wounds ; and this is not 
confined to legend, for most extraordinary sufferings 
are endured, apparently with perfect placidity, by 
darwishes at the present day, perhaps in accordance 
with psychological laws which are imperfectly under- 
stood, and this is the underlying idea in the exercises 
undergone by the Eifa'i darwishes and others. The 
exercise known as ziJcr (dhikr) or " remembering," 
in accordance with the command in Qur. 33, 41 f 
" remember God often," is an attempt to make an 
advance towards the ecstatic state. It was perhaps 
under Sufi influence that we find philosophy inclining 
to prefer knowledge obtained by immediate intuition ; 
it was certainly under such influence that ecstasy is 
treated as a means of obtaining such direct appre- 
hension of truth in the later philosophers. 

(ii.) The Sufi doctrine of God as the only reality 
has a direct bearing not only on creation but also on 
the problem of good and evil. As a thing can only 
be known by its opposite, light by darkness, health 
by sickness, being by non-being, so God could only 
be made known to man as reality contrasted with 
non-reality, and the mingling of these two opposites 
produces the world of phenoma in which light is made 



200 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

known by a background of darkness, which darkness 
is itself only the absence of light : or, as being pro- 
ceeds by successive emanations from the First Cause, 
and becomes weaker or less real in each emanation as 
it recedes further from the great Eeality, it 
incidentally becomes more perceptible as it becomes 
less real* Thus evil, which is merely the negation 
of the moral beauty of the Eeality, appears in the 
latest emanation as the unreal background which 
is the inevitable result of a projection of the emanation 
from the First Cause, who is entirely good, into a 
world of phenomena. Evil is therefore not real, it 
is merely the result, the inevitable result, of the 
mingling of reality with unreality. In fact, this is 
implied in the doctrine that all other than God is 
unreal. 

(iii.) The aim of the soul is union with God. This 
doctrine of tawhid, as we have seen, received early ex- 
pression in Muslim mystic theology. Dr. Nicholson is of 
opinion that " the Sufi conception of the passing away 
(fana) of individual self in universal being is certainly 
. . . of Indian origin. Its first great exponent 
was the Persian mystic Bayazid of Bistam, who may 
have received it of his teacher, Abu 'All of Sind 
(Scinde.") (Nicholson : Mystics of Islam, p. 17.) 
But this is only one particular way of presenting a 
doctrine which has a much wider range and is present 
in all mystical teaching, including that of the neo- 
Platonists. In the highest sense it is the basie of 
Sufi etbica, for the summwn bonufa is define^ as the 



SUFISM 201 

union of the individual soul with God, and all is good 
which helps towards this, all is evil which retards it, 
and this is true of Christian and all other forms of 
mysticism equally. We cannot say definitely that 
the doctrine of the unitive state is borrowed from 
neo-Platonism, from Buddhism, or from Gnosticism ; 
it is the common property of all, and is the natural 
conclusion from the mystics premises as to the nature 
of God and of the human soul. It may well be that 
certain presentations of this doctrine show Indian 
details, but in this as in all other parts of Sufi specu- 
lation it seems that the constructive theory employed 
in forming a theological system was neo-Platonic : 
even in mysticisn* the Greek mind exercised its 
influence in analysing an<J constructing hypotheses. 

At quite an early age the soul's desire for union 
with its Divine source began to be clothed in terms 
borrowed from the expression of human love. With 
some hesitation we may say, perhaps, that this is 
distinctly oriental, although it was so only as a means 
of expressing a desire which is characteristic of all 
mysticism. We find the same, at a later period, 
though in a much more restrained fashion, in 
Christian mysticism, and it is not easy to see the 
actual line of contact, if any. Perhaps we must be 
content to regard it as independently developed as 
a means of expressing the soul's longing. 

The rise of Sufi teaching was not without opposition, 
and this was mainly on three grounds (i.) the Sufis 
advocated con$4nt prayer 14 the form of unceasing 



202 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

silent intercourse with God, and by this tended to 
discard the fixed salawat or five obligatory prayers 
at appointed hours, one of the compulsory duties of 
Islam and one of its distinctive marks. Ultimately 
the Sufi position was that these fixed ritual obser- 
vances were for the people at large who had not made 
any advance in the deeper spiritual knowledge, but 
might be disregarded by those who were more mature 
in grace, a position which is closely parallel to 
that attained by the philosophers. (ii.) They 
introduced zikirs or religious exercises, consisting 
in a continuous repetition of the name of God, 
a form of devotion unknown to older Islam, and 
consequently an innovation. And (iii.) many of them 
adopted the practice of tawakkul, or complete de- 
pendence on God, neglecting all kinds of labour or 
trade, refusing medical aid in sickness, and living on 
alms begged from the faithful. All these were 
" innovations," and as such met with very definite 
opposition, mostly, no doubt, because they were 
repugnant to the sober tone of traditional Islam, 
which has always been suspicious of oriental 
fanaticism. The more serious objection, that it really 
dispensed with the religion of the Qur'an is implied 
if not expressed ; it introduced an entirely new 
concept of God and a new standard of religious 
values ; if Sufi ideas prevailed the practices of the 
Muslim religion would be at best the tolerable and 
harmless usages of those who were not initiated 
into vital religion. In fact, however, the philo- 



SUFISM 203 

sophical principles brought forward by the neo- 
Platonic Aristotelian works in general circulation 
were so far influential and regarded as reconcileable 
with the Qur'an that Sufism, in so far as it was 
neo-Platonic, did not appear to be destructive of Islam, 
but only at variance with customary usage. 

Nevertheless, Sufism was generally looked upon 
as heretical, not only from the " innovations " wd 
have mentioned, but because of the close alliance 
between the doctrines of its extremer advocates and 
those of the more advanced Shi'ites. It is indeed 
most significant that it developed chiefly amongst 
the same elements which gave the readiest hearing 
to philosophy and still adhered to Zoroastrian and 
Masdekite ideas. No doubt the ill repute of Sufism 
was largely duB to the bad company it kept. It was 
not until the time of al-Ghazali (d. 505) that 
Sufism began to take its place in orthodox Islam. 
Al-Ghazali, left an orphan at an early age, had been 
educated by a Sufi friend, and, after becoming an 
Ash'arite and as such acting as president of the 
Nazimite academy at Baghdad, found himself in 
spiritual difficulties, and spent eleven years in retire- 
ment and in the practices of devotion, with the result 
that when he returned to work as a teacher in 449 
his instruction was strongly leavened by mysticism, 
practically a return to the principles he had been 
taught in his early years. As al-Ghazali became in 
course of time the dominant influence in Muslim 
scholasticism, a modified and orthodox Sufism was 



204 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

introduced into Sunni theology and has since held 
its own. At the same time he reduced Sufism to a 
scientific form, and gave, or rather supported, a 
terminology derived from Plotinus. Such a Sufism 
may be described as Muslim mystic theology purged of 
its Shi'ite accretions. This admission of a modified 
Sufism into the orthodox church of Islam took place 
in the sixth century A.H. 

In the following century Sufism appeared in Spain, 
but there it arrived as transmitted through an orthodox 
medium, and hence differs from Asiatic mysticism. 
The first Spanish Sufi seems to have been Muhyi 
d-Din ibn 'Arabi (d. 638), who travelled in Asia and 
died at Damascus. He was a follower of Ibn Hazm, 
who, as we shall see later, represents a system of 
jurisprudence of a type more reactionary even than 
that of Ibn Hanbal. In Spain itself the leading 
Sufi was 'Abdu l-Haqq ibn SaVin (d. 667), who shows 
the more characteristic Spanish attitude of a Sufi 
who was also a philosopher, for Spanish Sufism was 
essentially speculative. Like many other philo- 
sophers of the Muwahhid period he adhered out- 
wardly to the Zahirites, the most reactionary party 
of the narrowest orthodoxy. 

In the 7th century, also, we have Jalalu d-Din 
Eumi (d. 672), who practically completes the golden 
age of Sufism. Although a Persian he was an 
orthodox Sunni. He was a native of Balkh, but his 
father was compelled to leave that city and migrate 
westward, and finally settled at Qonya (Iconium), 



SUFISM 205 

where he died. Jalalu d-Din had been educated by 
his father, and after his death he sought further 
instruction at Aleppo and Damascus, where he came 
under the influence of Burhanu d-Din of Tirmidh, 
who had been one of his father's pupils, and continued 
his training in Sufi doctrines. After this teacher's 
death he came in touch with the eccentric but saintly 
Shams-i-Tabriz, a man of great spiritual power but 
illiterate, who left a great impress on his age by his 
tremendous spiritual enthusiasm and the strange 
crudity of his conduct and character. It was after 
the death of Shams-i-Tabriz that Jalalu d-Din 
commenced his great mystical poem, the Masnawi, 
at work which has attained an extraordinary eminence 
sind reverence throughout the whole of Turkish Islam. 
As already mentioned, Jalalu d-Din founded an 
order of Darwishes known as the Mawlawi order, or 
u dancing darwishes," as they are called by Europeans. 
The whole course of doctrinal Sufism begins with 
Dhu n-Nun and ends with Jalalu d-Din ; later writers 
do little more than repeat their teaching in new 
literary form, and it will be sufficient to select a few 
typical examples. In the 8th cent, we have ^Abdu 
r-Razzaq (d. 730), a pantheistic Sufi who wrote a 
commentary on and defended the teaching of Muhiyyu 
I-Din ibnu l-'Arabi. He advocated the doctrine 
jt free will on the ground that the human soul is 
an emanation from God, and so shares the Divine 
character. This world, he holds, is the best possible 
world : differences in condition exist and justice 



206 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

consists in accepting these and adapting things to their 
situation ; ultimately all things will cease to exist 
as they are re-absorbed in God, the only reality,. 
Men are divided into three classes : the first contains 
the men of the world, whose life centres in self and who 
are indifferent towards religion ; a second class 
contains the men of the reason, who discern God 
inteDectually by his external attributes and mani- 
festations ; and as a third class are the men of the 
spirit, who perceive God intuitively. 

Although Sufism has now taken a recognised 
place in the life of Islam, it was not allowed to 
pass without occasional challenge. The leading 
opponent was the Hanbalite reformer^ Ibn Taymiya 
(d. 728), who represented the reactionary but popular 
theology. He rejected formal adherence to any 
school, dismissed all importance attached to Ijma 
or " consensus " save that based on the agreement 
of the Prophet's Companions ; he denounced the 
scholastic theology of al-Ash'ari and al-Ghazali, and 
defined the Divine attributes on the lines laid down 
by Ibn Hazm. At that time the Sufi an-Nasr al- 
Manbiji was prominent in Cairo, and to him Ibn 
Taymiya wrote a letter denouncing the Sufi doctrine 
of ittihad as heresy. From this arose a quarrel 
between the two rival forces of Islam, traditional 
orthodoxy and mysticism, in the course of which 
Ibn Taymiya suffered persecution and imprisonment. 
Towards the end of his life, in 726, he issued a fatwa 

4rt*#w*< J * 

or declaration ,jof opinion against the lawfulness of 



SUFISM 207 

the reverence paid to the tombs of saints and of the 
invocation of saints, the Prophet himself included. 
In this he was the precursor of the Wahibi reformation 
of the 18th cent. A.D. MSS. exist in which the works 
of Ibn Taymiya are copied out by the hand of 
'Abdu 1-Wahhab, who was evidently a close student 
of that reformer, all of whose theories he reproduces. 
Ash-Sha'rani of Cairo (jkJ93) is typical of the 
later orthodox Sufi. He was a follower of Ibn 
'Arabi on general lines but without his pantheism. 
His writings are a strange mixture of lofty speculation 
and lowly superstition, his life was full of intercourse 
with jinns and other supernatural beings. The 
truth, he states, is not to be reached by the aid of 
reason, but only by ecstatic vision. The wali is the 
man who possesses the gift of illumination (ilham), 
or direct apprehension of the spiritual, but that 
grace differs from the inspiration (wahy) bestowed 
upon the prophets, and the wali must submit to the 
guidance of prophetic revelations. All walis are essen- 
tially under the qutb, but the qutb is inferior to the 
companions of Muhammad. Whatever rule (tariqa) a 
darwish follows he is guided by God, but ash-Sha'rani 
himself preferred the rule of al- Junayd. The varying 
opinions of the canonists are adapted to the different 
needs of men. Ash-Sha'rani was the founder of a 
darwish order which forms a sub- division of the 
Badawiya (cf. above). His writings have consider- 
able influence in modern Islam, and form the pro- 
gramme of those who advocate a neo-Sufi reformation. 



CHAPTER VIII 
ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 

The formation of an orthodox scholasticism within 
the Muslim church appears as a development spread 
over the 4th-5th centuries of the Hijra (10-11 cent. 
A.D.), and is in three strata associated with the three 
leaders, al-Ash'ari, al-Baqil^ni, and al-Ghazali. Such 
a development, of course, is principally of interest 
for the internal history of Islam and the evolution 
of Muslim theology, but it had its influence also on 
the transmission of Arabic thought to Latin 
Christendom in two ways: (i.) directly, in that al- 
Ghazali was established as one of the great Arabic 
authorities when the Latins began to study the 
interpreters of Aristotle, and his teaching is quoted 
by St. Thomas Aquinas and other scholastic writers ; 
and (ii.) indirectly, because a considerable part of the 
work of Ibn Eushd (Averroes) takes the form of 
controversy against the followers of al-Ghazali; his 
Destruction of the Destruction, for example, is a &: 
futation of al-Ghazali's Destruction of the Philoso- 
phers. It thus becomes imperative to know some- 
thing about the position and teaching of al-Ghazali 
and the influences which prepared the way for his 
work. 

208 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 209 

Such a movement as orthodox scholasticism was 
inevitable. The position at the end of the third 
century was quite impossible. The orthodox Muslim 
adhered strictly to tradition, and entirely refused 
to admit " innovation " (bid'a) : he ha$ been forced 
into this position as a reaction against his earlier 
ready acceptance of Plato and Aristotle as inspired 
teachers, for the later errors of the Mu*tazilites showed 
what extremely dangerous conclusions could be drawn 
by those who came under Hellenistic influence, and 
the more accurately the Greek philosophers were 
studied the worse the faprfmiAg gathered from them. 
Orthodox thought held itself carefully aloof from the 
Mu'tazilites and philosophers on the one side, and from 
the Shi'ites and Sufis on the other, confining itself to the 
safe studies of Qur'an exegesis, tradition, and the canon 
law in which at Baghdad the reactionary influence 
of Ibn Hanbal was predominant. The whole of thu> 
third century had been a time of reaction on the part 
of the orthodox, very largely due to tKe unfortunate 
attempt of al-Ma'nijin to force rationalism on his 
subjects. Al-Ghazali tells us in his " Confessions " 
that some sincere Muslims felt themselves bound to 
reject all the exact sciences as of dangerous tendency, 
and so repudiated scientific theories as to eclipses of 
the sun and moon. All speculation lay under a ban, 
because it led to " innovation " in belief or in practice ; 
it was contrary to orthodoxy to use the methods of 
Greek philosophy to prove revealed doctrine as much 
as it was to impugn it, for both alike were innovations 

p 



210 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

on the traditional usage ; nothing "was known of 
spiritual matters save what is actually stated in the 
Qur'an and tradition, and from this nothing could be 
deduced by the use of argument, for logic itself was 
a Greek innovation, at least as applied to theology : 
only that was known which was actually stated, and 
no explanation of the statement was lawful. Thus, 
when Ahmad ibn Hanbal was examined by the 
inquisitors of al-Ma'mun he replied only by quoting 
the words of the Qur'an or tradition, refusing to draw 
any conclusions from these statements and admitting 
no conclusions drawn, keeping silence when arguments 
were proposed to him, and protesting that such ex- 
amination as to religious belief was itself an innovation. 
This position was hardly satisfactory to those who 
had inherited #ny part of the Hellenic tradition, 
and it ultimately became impossible. An organic 
body which cannot adapt itself to its surroundings 
is doomed to decay. The Islamic state had sufficient 
vitality to meet the new .conditions introduced by 
its expansion to Syria and Persia, and now the time 
had come for Islamic theology to adapt itself to the 
new thought that was invading it. As we have #een, 
the philosophers al-Kindi and al-Farabi were loyal 
Muslims, and had no suspicion that their investigations 
were leading to heretical conclusions, and such wns un- 
doubtedly the case with the earlier Mu'tazilites also, 
but results had justified the orthodox in a suspicious 
attitude towards " argument " (kalam). Now, towards 
the close of the third century the attempt to find an 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 211 

orthodox kalam appears as a movement which 
originates with the Mu'tazilites, of whom a section of 
the more conservative sought to return to an orthodox 
stand-point, and to use /kalam in theology in defence 
of the traditional beliefs as against the heretical 
conclusions which were in circulation. Following a 
somewhat later usage we may employ this term fatlam 
to denote an orthodox philosophical theology, that 
is to say, one in which the methods of philosophy were 
used, but the primary material was obtained from 
revelation, and thus one which was closely parallel 
with the scholastic theology of Latin Christendom. 

We have cited the name of al-Ash'ari as repre- 
sentative of the first stage of this movement, but it 
is equally represented by the contemporary al- 
Mataradi in Samarqand and by at-Tahawi in Egypt. 
Of these, however, at-Tahawi has quite passed into 
oblivion. For long the Ash'arites and the Matar- 
idites formed rival orthodox schools of kalam , and 
al-Mataridi's system still has a certain vogue amongst 
Turkish Muslims, but the Ash'arite system is that 
which commands the widest assent. Theologians 
reckon thirteen points of difference between the two 
schools, all of purely theoretical importance. 

Al-Ash'ari was born at Basra iiv ?60 or 270, and 

-W I,V , .*!># ' < ' ,,,,* " 

died at Baghdad about 330 or 340. At first he was 
an adherent of the Mu'tazilites, but one Friday in 
A.H. 300 he made a public renunciation of the views 
of that party, and took up a definitely orthodox 
position ; in the pulpit of the great mosque at Basra 



212 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

he said, " They who know me know who I am ; as 
for those who do not know me, I am 'AH b. Isma'il 
al-Ash'ari, and I used to hold that the Qur'an was 
created, that the eyes of men shall not see God, and 
that we ourselves are the authors of our evil deeds ; 
now I have returned to the truth ; I renounce these 
opinions, and I take the engagement to refute the 
Mu'tazilites and expose their infamy and turpitude " 
(Ibn Khallikan, ii. 228). From this it will be per- 
ceived that the doctrines then regarded as char- 
acteristic of the Mu'tazilites were (i.) that the Qur'an 
was created, (ii.) the denial of the possibility of the 
beatific vision, and (iii.) the freedom of the will. 

In the period after this change al- Ash'ari wrote a con- 
troversial work against the Mu'tazilites, which bears 
the name Kitab ash-8harh wa-t-Tafsil, " the book 
of explanation and exposition " ; he was the author 
also of religious treatises called Luma u flashes,'' 
Mujaz " abridgment, " Idah al-B urban " elucidation 
of the Burhan," and Tabiyin " illustrations." His 
real importance, however, lay in founding a school 
of orthodox scholasticism, afterwards more fully 
developed by al-Baqilani, and gradually spreading 
through the Muslim world, although strongly opposed 
on the one side by ihefalasifah, who saw in its teaching 
the introduction of traditional beliefs limiting and 
restricting the Aristotelian doctrine, and on the 
other side by the more reactionary orthodox, who 
disapproved the use of philosophical methods as 
applied to theological subjects. This use of philoso- 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 213 

\ 

phy in the explanation and defence of religion came 
to be known as /raZaw, and those who employed it 
were called rnutakaUamin. 

In dealing with the old problems of Muslim 
theology, such as the eternity of the Qur'an, the 
freedom of the will, etc., the Ash'arites do seem to 
have produced a reasonable statement of doctrine, 
which yet safeguarded the main demands of orthodoxy. 

(a) As to the Qur'an they held that it was eternal in 
God, but its expression in words and syllables was 
created in time. This does not of course mean that 
the expression was due to the Prophet to whom ill 
was revealed, but to God, so that the doctrine o^ 
literal inspiration was asserted in the strictest form 
Nor was it thus created when it was revealed, but 
long before in remote ages when it was first uttered 
to the angels and " august beings," and wan after- 
wards disclosed by the angel Gabriel to the Prophet 
Muhammad. This, which is now the orthodox 
belief, has furnished an opportunity for controversy 
to Christians and modern rationalists, who have fixed 
upon the use of particular words, introduced into 
Arabic as loan words from Syriao, Persian, and 
Greek, and appear in the Qur'an : how, they ask, 
can it be explained that words revealed at a remote 
period of past eternity, long before the creation of 
the world, as it is commonly asserted, show the 
influence of foreign languages which were brought to 
bear upon Arabic in the 7th cent. A.D. ? and Muslim 
apologists, who have always maintained the absolute 



214 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

purity of Qur'anic Arabic as one of the evidences 
of Divine origin, seem to regard this as a serious 
difficulty. The view that the Qur'an is eternal in 
substance, and thus in substance revealed to the 
Prophet, who was left to express it in his own words, 
which would thereby show the limitations of his time, 
is not admitted by the orthodox. It will be noted 
also that the Ash'arite teaching evades and does not 
answer an old difficulty : if the substance of the 
Qur'an is the wisdom of God and is co-eternal with 
Him, even though emanating from Him, we have 
something other than God, namely, His wisdom, 
eternally existing with Him, and this can be repre- 
sented as parallel with the persons of the Christian 
Trinity, so as to be inconsistent with the absolute 
unity of God. 

(6) This brings us to the attributes of God generally. 
The Ash'arites in this controversy side with the 
traditional school against the philosophers. Of the 
ten Aristotelian categories they regard only two 
existence, i.e., ens, and quality as objectively real ; 
the other eight are merely relative characteristics 
(Ctibar) subjective in the mind of the knower, and 
having no objective reality. God has qualities 
indeed, no less than twenty are enumerated, but 
amongst these is mukhalafa, which is the quality 
of uniqueness in qualification, so that the qualities 
and jattrifefljbes ascribed to Gpd must either fee such 
as cannot be applied to men, or else, if the terms can 
be used of created beings, they must have quite 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 215 

different meanings when applied to God, and these 
qualities thus signified must be such as could not be 
predicated of men or of any other created being. 
Thus, that God has power and wisdom means that 
He is almighty and omniscient in a way which could 
not possibly be stated of any men. In practice this 
works so that no attribute can be applied to God 
unless it is expressly so applied in the text of the 
Qur'an ; if it occurs there it may be used, but must 
be understood as having a meaning other than such 
a term would have when used in the normal way of 
men. It cannot be that God's attributes differ from 
those of men only in degree, as that He is wiser and 
more powerful than man, but they differ in their 
whole nature. It is noted also that God is qiyam 
bi-n-nafs, or " subsisting in Himself, " that is to say, 
independent of any other than Himself, and so God's 
knowledge does not depend on the existence or nature 
of the thing known. 

(c) As to freedom of the will. God creates power 
in the man and creates also the choice, and He then 
creates the act corresponding to this power and 
choice. Thus the action is " acquired " by the 
creature. 

Of the categories existence is the first substratum, 
and to this the other predicables are added : none of 
these others are separable or per se, they can only 
exist in the essence. It is admitted that such qualities 
exist in the ens, but they are only adjuncts which 
come into being with the ens and go out of existence 



216 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

with it. Therefore the world consists of entia or 
substances on which the mind reflects the qualities 
which are not in the thing itself but only in the mind. 
Against the Aristotelian theory that matter suffers 
the impress of form, he argues that all impress i& 
subjective in the mind : if all qualities fall out sub- 
stance itself ceases to exist, and so substance is not 
permanent but transitory, which opposes the 
Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of matter. 

the substances perceived by us are atoms which 
come into existence from vacuity and drop out of 
existence again. Thus, when a body moves from one 
position to another the atoms in the first position 
cease to be, and a group of new similar atoms come 
into existence in the second position, so that move- 
ment involves a series of annihilations and creations. 

The cause of these changes is God, the only per- 
manent and absolute reality. There is no secondary 
cause, as there are no laws of nature ; in every case 
God acts directly upon each atom. Thus, fire does 
not cause burning, but God creates a being burned 
when fire touches a body, and the burning is cjirectly 
His work. So in the freedom of the will, as, for 
example, when a man writes, God gives the will 
to write and causes the apparent motion of the pen 
and of the hand, and also directly creates the writing 
which seems to proceed from the pen. 

Existence is the very self of the thing. This is 
peculiar to al-Ash'ari and his followers : all others 
hold existence to be the state (Ml) necessary to the 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 217 

essence, but in al- Ash'ari it is the essence. So God exists, 
and His existence is the self (*ayn) of His essence. 

Su^h a system involves ethical difficulties ; it 
appears that there can be no responsibility if there is 
no connection between action and the act done. Al- 
Ash'ari replied that there is a unity in the will of God, 
so that cause and effect are not isolated as though 
independent atoms, but all is disposed according to 
a Divine plan. This answer, however, can hardly be 
regarded as adequate. 

This system is an attempt to deal with the diffi- 
culties raised by philosophy, but al-Ash'ari considers 
it preferable that the difficulties should never be 
raised, and so strongly urges that the mysteries of 
philosophy should never be discussed with the 
multitude. We shall see the same conclusion set 
forth by the later philosopher of the West, but on 
a somewhat different ground ; they regarded the 
mysteries of philosophy as containing the supreme 
truth, for which the multitude was not ripe, and so 
they should not be discussed publicly, as the people 
were not able to understand ; but al-Ash'ari seems 
rather to regard these mysteries as likely to be not 
edifying, as introducing questions which are of small 
importance compared with the great truths of re- 
velation. 

The Ash'arite system thus described was completed 
by aljBaqjyiim (d. 403), but it did not become general 
until it was popularised by al : Ghpali in the East 
and by Ibn Tumart in the Wes't. 



218 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Al-Mataridi, of Samarqand was a contemporary of 
al-Ash'ari, and reached very similar results. Amongst 
the points peculiar to al-Mataridi we may note (a) the 
attribute of creating has been an attribute of God 
from all eternity, but this attribute is distinct from 
the thing created ; (6) Creatures have certain choice 
of action, and for the things done by this choice they 
are rewarded or punished ; good actions are only 
done by the pleasure (rida) of God, but bad actions 
are not always by His pleasure ; (c) Ability to do the 
action goes with the will and the act, so that the 
creature cannot have an action imposed on him as a 
task which is not in his power. 

He agrees with al-Ash'ari in holding that the world 
and all it contains have been created by God from 
nothing : it consists of substances and attributes. 
The substances exist in themselves, either as com- 
pounds, such as bodies, or as non-compounds, as 
essences which are indivisible. Attributes have no 
separate existence, but depend for their existence on 
bodies or essences. God is not essence, nor attribute, 
nor body, nor anything formed, bounded, numbered, 
limited, nor compounded. He cannot be described 
by mahiya (quiddity), nor Jcayfiya (modality) ; He 
does not exist in time or place, and nothing resembles 
Him or is outside His knowledge or power. He has 
qualities from aJJ^ eternity existing in His essence; 
they are nqt He nor is He other than they. 

For some time the Ash'arites had to meet keen 
opposition and even persecution, and it was not until 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTfCISM 219 

the middle of the 5th cent, that they came to be 
admitted generally as orthodox Muslims. Their 
triumph was assured in 459 A.H., when Nizam al- 
Mulk, the wazir of Alp Arslan, founded at Baghdad 
the Mzamite academy as a theological college of 
Ash'arite teaching. Still the Hanbalites raised 
occasional riots, and demonstrated against those whom 
they regarded as free thinkers ; but these were put 
down by authority, and in 516 the Khalif himself 
attended the Ash'arite lectures. The Mu'tazilites 
were now merely a survival ; as broad church theo- 
logians they had fallen into general disrepute in the 
eyes of the orthodox, and they were equally disliked 
by the philosophers as defective in their adherence 
to the Aristotelian system. The educated fell now 
into three broad groups : on the one hand were the 
orthodox, who came under the influence of al-Ash'ari 
or al-Mataridi ; on the other were those who accepted 
the doctrines of the philosophers, and in the third 
place were those who rejected all philosophy, and 
confined their attention solely to Qur'an tradition 
and the canon law, and who should not be excluded 
from the ranks of the educated, although their 
studies ran in somewhat narrow lines. 

The final triumph of the Ash'arite theology was 

'* *' * N ' *" H'vUlf r ' W* 

the work of al-Ghazali (d. 505). He was born at^Tus 
in 450 ( == 1058 AJD.) ; early left an orphan he was 
educated by a Sufi friend, and then attended the 
school at Naisabur. As his education progressed he 
cut loose from Sufi influence and became an Ash'arite, 



220 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

and in 484 he was appointed president of the Nazmiite 
Academy at Baghdad. Gradually, however, he be- 
came a prey to spiritual unrest, and in 488 resigned 
his post and retired to Syria, where he spent some 
year^ in study and the practices of devotion. In 
499 he returned to active work as a teacher in the 
Nazimite Academy at Naisabur, where he became 
the leader of a modified Ash'arite system strongly 
leavened by mysticism, which we may regard as the 
final evolution of orthodox Muslim theology. 

Al-Ghazali, following al-Ash'ari, taught that 
philosophical theory cannot form the basis of religioug 
thought, thus opposing the position of the 
philosophers. By revelation only can the primary 
essentials of truth be attained. Philosophy itself 
is no equal or rival of revelation : it is no more than 
common sense and regulated thinking, which may be 
employed by men about religion or any other subject ; 
at best it acts as a preservative against error in 
deduction and argument, the primary material for 
which, so far as religion is concerned, can be furnished 
only by revelation. But against this he appears 
also as the transmitter of the teaching already given, 
by al-Qushayri, which introduced the mysticism of 
the Sufis into orthodox Islam. Eevelation indeed 
is given by means df the Qur'an and tradition, and 
it is sufficient to accept what is thus revealed, but 
the ultimate truth of revelation can be tested and 
proved only bj^the experience^of ^ the individual^ So 
far as men are concerned this is possible by means 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 221 

of ecstasy whereby one becomes a knower ('art/), 
and receives assurance and enlightenment by direct 
communication from God. The soul of man differs 
from all other created things ; it is essentially 
spiritual^ and so outside the categories which are 
applicable only to material things. The soul has been 
breathed into man by God (Qur. 15, 29 ; 38, 72), 
and this is comparable to the way in which the sun 
sends out its rays and gives warmth to those things 
on which its rays rest. The soul, which has no 
dimension, shape, or locus, rules the body in the 
same way as God rules the world, so that the 
body is a microcosm reproducing the conditions 
of the world. The essential element of this 
soul is not the intelligence which is concefhed with 
the bodily frame, but the 4 wUl : just as God is 
primarily known not as thought or intelligence, but 
as the volition which is the cause of creation. Thus 
God cannot be considered as the spirit animating the 
world, which is the pantheistic position, but as 
volition outside the world which has willed it to be. 
The aim of scholastic theology is to preserve the 
purity of orthodox belief from heretical innovation : 
" God raised up a school of theologians and inspired 
them with the desire to defend orthodoxy by means 
of a system of proofs adapted tojmveil the devices 
of the heretics and to foil the attacks which they made 
on the doctrines established by tradition " (Al- 
Ghazali : Confessions). Aristotle himself was an 
unbeliever using arguments he should not, but, in 



222 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

spite of his errors, his teaching as expounded by al- 
Farabi and Ibn Sina is the system of thought which 
comes nearest to Islam (id.). Because of its 
unavoidable difficulties and the grave errors con- 
tained in Aristotle and his Arabic commentators 
men are not to be encouraged to read philosophy (id.). 
There are three different worlds or planes of 
existence (i.) the 'alam al-mulk is that in which 
existence is apparent to the senses, the world made 
known by perception, and this is in a state of constant 
change ; (ii.) the 'alam al-malakut, the changeless 
and eternal world of reality established by God's 
decree, of which the world of perception is but the 
reflexion ; (iii.) and the 'alam al-jarabut or inter- 
mediate state, which properly belongs to the world 
of reality, but seems to be in the plane of perception. 
In this intermediate state is the human soul, which 
belongs to the plane of reality, though apparently 
projected into the perceptible plane to which it does 
not belong, and then returns to reality. The pen, 
tablet, etc.,, mentioned in the Qur'an are not mere 
allegories ; they belong to the world of reality, and 
go are something other than what we see in this world 
of perception. These three worlds or planes are not 
separate in time or space, they are rather to be con- 
sidered as modes of existence. 

The theories of the astronomers as to movements 
of the heavenly bodies are to be accepted al-Ghazali 
adhered, of course, to the Ptolemaic system but these 
deal only with the lowest plane, the world of sense. 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 223 

Behind all nature is God, who is on the plane of 
reality. This higher plane cannot be reached by 
reason or intellect, whose operations must rely on 
the evidence of sense perception. To reach the plane 
of reality man must be raised by a spiritual faculty, 
" by which he perceives invisible things, the secrets 
of the future and other concepts as inaccessible to 
reason as the concepts of reason are inaccessible to 
mere discrimination and what is perceived by dis- 
crimination of the senses " (op. cit.). Inspiration 
means the disclosing of realities to the prophets or 
saints, and these realities can only be known by such 
revelation or by the personal experience of ecstasy 
by which the soul is raised to the plane of reality. 
TSTot only are the religious truths in the Qur'an 
revealed, but all ideas of good and evil are similarly 
revealed, and could not be attained by the unaided 
use of reason, a view which is obviously intended to 
refute the Mu'tazilite claim that moral differences 
can be perceived by reason. The philosophers also 
have attained truths by revelation, and the main 
substance of medicine and astronomy is based on such 
revelation (op. cit.). 

Unlike Ibn Eushd, al-Ghazali thus emphasizes 
supra-rational intuition attained in a state of ecstasy, 
whereby the soul is raised above the world of shadow 
and reflection to the plane of reality. This was pure 
mysticism, and thus al-Ghazali introduces a Sufi 
element into orthodox Islam. At the same time he 
reduced Sufism to a scientific form, and endorsed 



224 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

the Plotinian terminloogy. Macdonald summarisei 
his work under four heads : (i.) he established an 
orthodox mysticism : (ii.) he popularised the use of 
pljilosophy ; (iii.) he rendered philosophy subordinate 
to theology, and (iv.) he restored the fear of God when 
the element of fear was tending to be thrust into the 
background, at least by the educated. Prom this 
time on the term kalam was usually applied to 
philosophy adapted to the use of theologians. 

The chief works left by al-Ghazali are the Ihya 
i Vlum ad-Din, of which it is understood that a trans- 
lation by H. Bauer is in preparation, and the MVyar 
al-'llmj a treatise on logic. To posterity, however, he 
is best known by his Confessions, an autobiographical 
account of his spiritual life and development, which 
may not unfitly be placed beside the Confessions of 
St. Augustine. 

Al-Ghazali completes the development of orthodox 
Muslim theology. Prom this time forth it ceased to 
have any originality, and for the most part showed 
signs of decadence. Here and there we find Sufi 
revivals ; indeed, Sufism is the only phase of Islam 
which kept free from the rigid conservatism which 
has laid its iron hand of repression upon Muslim life 
and thought generally. In Yemen the system of 
al-Ghazali was kept alive by generations of Sufis, 
but for the most part Sufism preferred less orthodox 
paths. Against these Sufi movements we see from 
time to time others of a distinctly reactionary 
character, such as that of the Wahabis, who opposed 



ORTHODOX SCHOLASTICISM 225 

the theology of al-Ghazali when it was generally 
recognised as the orthodox teaching at Mecca, and 
in this they were followed by the Sanusi. 

Sayyid Murtada (d. 1205 A.H. - 1788 AJX), a 
native of Zabid in Tihama, wrote a commentary on 
al-Ghazali's IJiya ' Ulum ad-Din y and thus revived the 
study of the great scholastic theologian. From that 
time the Islamic community has not lacked neo- 
Ghaz#lian students, and many consider that that 
school contains the best promise for modern Islam. 



CHAPTEE IX 
WESTEEN PHILOSOPHY 

Muslim rule in North Africa west of the Nile valley 
was commenced under conditions very different from 
those prevailing in Egypt and Syria. The Arabs 
found this land occupied by the Berbers or Libyans, 
the same race which from the time of the earliest 
Pharaohs had been a perpetual menace to Egypt, and 
which, on the Mediterranean seaboard, had offered 
a serious problem to Phoenician, Greek, Eoman and 
Gothic colonists. For some thousands of years these 
Berbers had remained very much the same as when 
they had emerged from the neolithic stage, and were 
hardy desert men like the Arabs in pre-Islamic times. 
Their language was not Semitic, but shows very 
marked Semitic affinities, and, although language 
transmission is often quite distinct from racial 
descent, it seems probable that in this case there 
was a parallel, and this is best explained by supposing 
that both were derived from the neolithic race which 
it one time spread along the whole of the south 
soast of the Mediterranean and across into Arabia, 
but that some cause, perhaps the early development 
3f civilization in the Nile valley, had cut off the 
eastern wing from the rest, and this segrated portion 

226 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 227 

developed the peculiar characteristics which we 
describe as Semitic. The series of Greek, Punic, 
Roman, and Gothic settlements had left no permanent 
mark on the Berber population, on their language, 
or on their culture. At the time of the Arab invasion 
the country was theoretically under the Byzantine 
Empire, and the invading Arabs had to meat the 
resistance of a Greek army ; but this was not a very 
serious obstacle, and the invaders were soon left face 
to face with the Berber tribes. 

The Muslim invasion of North Africa followed 
immediately after the invasion of Egypt, but the 
internal disputes of the Muslim community prevented 
a regular conquest. It was not until a second 
invasion took place in A. II. 45 ( -= A.D. 663) that 
we can regard the Arabs as commencing the regular 
conquest and settlement of the country. For 
centuries afterwards the Arab control was precarious 
in the extreme, revolts were constantly taking 
place, and many Berber states were founded, some 
of which had an existence of considerable duration. 
As a rule there was a pronounced racial feeling 
between Berbers and Arabs, but there were also 
tribal feuds, and Arab policy generally aimed at play- 
ing off one powerful tribe against another. Gradually 
the Arabs spread all along North Africa and down to 
the desert edge, their tribes as a rule occupying the 
lower ground, whilst the older population had its 
chief centres in the mountainous districts. During 
the invasion of 45 the city of Kairawan was founded 



228 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

some distance south of Tunis. The site was badly 
chosen, and is now marked only by ruins and a scanty 
village, but for some centuries it served as the 
capital city of Ifrikiya, which was the name given to 
the province lying next to Egypt, embracing the 
modern states of Tripoli, Tunis, and the eastern part 
of Algeria up to the meridian of Bougie. West of 
this lay Maghrab, or the "western land," which was 
divided into two districts, Central Maghrab extending 
from the borders of Ifrikiya across the greater part 
of Algeria and the eastern third of Morocco, and 
Further Maghrab, which spread beyond to the Atlantic 
coast. In these provinces Arabs and Berbers lived 
side by side, but in distinct tribes, the intercourse 
between the two varying in different localities and 
at different times. For the most part each race 
preserved its own language, the several Arabic 
dialects being distinguished by archaic forms and 
phonology somewhat modified by Berber influences ; 
but there are instances of Berber tribes which have 
adopted Arabic, and some of the Arab and mixed 
groups have preferred the Berber language. 

The religion of Islam spread rapidly amongst the 
Berbers, but it took a particular development, which 
shows a survival of many pre-Islamic religious ideas. 
The worship of saints and the devotion paid at their 
tombs is a corruption which appears elsewhere, 
on lines quite distinct from the Asiatic beliefs as 
to incarnation or transmigration, and in the west 
this saint worship takes an extreme form, although 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 229 

bare and there are tribes which reject it altogether, 
as is the case with the B. Messara, the Ida of South 
Morocco, etc. Pilgrimages (ziara) are made to saints' 
tombs, commemorative banquets are held there 
(wa'da or Ja'an), and acts of worship, often taking a 
revolting form, are paid to living saints, who are 
known an murabits or marabouts, a word which 
literally means " those who serve in frontier forts 
(ribat)," where the soldiers were accustomed to devote 
themselves to practices of piety. These saints are 
also known as sidi (lords), or mulaye (teachers), 
and in the Berber language of the Twaregs as aneslem, 
or " Islamic." Very often they are insane persons, 
and are allowed to indulge every passion and to dis- 
regard the ordinary laws of morality. Even those 
living at the present day are credited with miraculous 
powers, not only with gifts of healing, but with 
exemption from the limitations of space and from 
the laws of gravity (cf. Trumelet : Les saints de 
Vislam, Paris, 1881) ; in many cases the same saint 
has two or more tombs, and is believed to be buried 
in each, for it is argued that, as he was able to be in 
two or more places at once during life, so his body 
can be in several tombs after death. All this, of 
course, is no normal development of Islam, to which 
it is plainly repugnant. How thin a veneer of Muslim 
usages covers over a mass of primitive animism may 
be seen from Dr. Westermarck's essay on " Belief in 
spirits in Morocco," the firstfruits of the newly 
established Academy at Abo in Finland (Humaniora. 



230 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

I. i. Abo, Finland, 1920), and from Dr. Montet's Le 
culte des saints musulmans dans VAfrique du nord 
(Geneva, 1905). 

Amongst the Berber tribes in perpetual conflict 
with the Arab garrisons there was always a refuge 
and a welcome for the lost causes of Islam, and so 
almost every heretical sect and every defeated 
dynasty made its last stand there, so that even now 
those parts show the strangest survivals of otherwise 
forgotten movements. No doubt this was mainly 
due to a perennial tone of disaffection towards the 
Arab rulers, and anyone in revolt against the Khalif 
was welcomed for that very fact. 

The conquest of Spain towards the end of the 
1st cent. A.H. (early 8th cent. A.D.) was jointly an 
Arab and Berber undertaking, the Berbers being in 
the great majority in the invading army, and most of 
the leaders being Berber. Thus in Andalusia the 
old rivalries between Arab and Berber figure largely 
in the next few centuries. At first Andalusia was 
regarded merely as a district attached to the province 
of North Africa, and was ruled from Ifrikiya. 

In A.H. ,138, after the fall of the Umayyads in 
Asia, a fugitive member of the fallen dynasty, 'Abdu 
r-Eahman, failing in an attempt to restore his 
family in Africa, crossed over to Spain, and there 
established a new and independent power, with its 
seat of government at Cordova, arid in A.H. 317 one 
of his descendants formally assumed the title of 
u Commander of the Faithful." The Umayyads of 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 231 

Spain very closely reproduced the general character- 
istics of their rule in Syria. They were tolerant, and 
made free use of Christian and Jewish officials ; they 
encouraged the older literary arts, and especially 
poetry, and employed Greek artists and architects ; 
but though doing much for the more material elements 
of culture, there is no evidence under their rule of 
any interest in Greek learning or philosophy. Yet, 
though in a sense old-fashioned, the country was by 
no means isolated, and we find frequent intercourse 
between Spain and the east. The religious duty of 
the pilgrimage has always been an important factor 
in promoting the common life of Islam, and there is 
abundant evidence that the Spanish Muslims looked 
steadily eastwards for religious guidance, accepting 
the hadith, the canon law, and the development of 
a scientific jurisprudence as it took shape in the east. 
Both Muslims and Jews travelled to Mesopotamia 
in order to complete their education, and thus kept 
in contact with the more cultured life of Asia. But 
Spanish Islam had no feeling of sympathy with the 
philosophical speculation popular in the east, and 
certainly disapproved the latitudinarian developments 
which were taking place under the 'Abbasids of the 
third century : its tendency was to a rigid orthodoxy 
and strict conservatism, its interests were confined 
to the canon law, Qur'anic exegesis, and the study 
of tradition. 

The reactionary character of Spanish Islam is well 
illustrated by Ibn Hazm (d. 456 A.H.), the first 



232 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

important theologian which it produced. Rejecting 
the four recognised and orthodox schools of canon 
law, and discarding even the rigid system of Ibn 
Hanbal as not strict enough, he became an adherent 
of the school founded by Da'ud az-Zahiri (d. 270), 
which has never been admitted as on the same footing 
as the other four, and now is totally extinct. In the 
teaching of that school Qur'au and tradition were 
taken in their strictest and most literal sense; any 
sort of deduction by analogy was forbidden ; "it is 
evident that here we have to do with an impossible 
man and school, and so the Muslim world found. 
Most said roundly that it was illegal to appoint a 
Zahirite to act as judge, on much the same grounds 
that objection to circumstantial evidence will throw 
out a man now as juror. If they had been using 
modern language, they would have said that it was 
because he was a hopeless crank." (Macdonald : 
Muslim Theology, p. 110). This was the system 
which Ibn Hazm now introduced into Spain, and it 
was one calculated to appeal to the stern puritan 
strain which undoubtedly exists in the Iberian 
character. The novel point was that Ibn Hazm 
applied the principles and methods of jurisprudence 
to theology proper. Like Da'ud he entirely rejected 
the principles of analogy and taqlid, that is, the follow- 
ing of authority in the sense of accepting the dictum 
of a known teacher. As this undermined all existing 
systems, and required every man to study Qur'an and 
tradition for himself, it did not receive the approval 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 233 

of the canonists, who, in Spain as elsewhere, were the 
followers of recognised schools, such as that of Abu 
Hanifa and the other orthodox systems, and it was 
not until a full century afterwards that he gained 
any number of adherents. In theology he admitted 
the Ash*arite doctrine of mukhalafa, the difference 
of God from all created beings, so that human attri- 
butes could not be applied to him in the same sense 
as they were used of men ; but he carried this a stage 
further, and opposed the Ash Writes, who, though 
admitting the difference, had then argued about the 
attributes of God as though they described God's 
nature, when the very fact of difference deprives 
them of any meaning intelligible to us. As in the 
Qur'an ninety-nine descriptive titles are applied to 
God we may lawfully employ them, but we neither 
know what they imply nor can we argue anything 
from them. The same method is applied to the treat- 
ment of the anthropomorphical expressions which 
are applied to God in the Qur'an ; we may use those 
expressions, but we have not the slightest idea of what 
they may indicate, save that we know they do not 
mean what they would mean as used of men. In 
ethics the only distinction between good and evil 
is based on God's will, and our only knowledge of 
that distinction is obtained from revelation. If God 
forbids theft it is wrong only because God forbids it ; 
there is no standard other than the arbitrary approval 
or disapproval of God. 

Although it took a century for these views to 



234 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

obtain any number of adherents, Ibn Hazm was no 
obscure figure during his lifetime. He became 
prominent as a violent and abusive controversialist, 
an opponent of the Ash'arite party and of the Mu'taz- 
ilites, curiously enough treating the latter more 
gently as having limited God's qualities. 

Ibn Hazm lived at a time when the Umayyads of 
Cordova were already in their decay, and in 422 the 
dynasty fell. Very soon the whole of Andalusia 
was split into a number of independent princi- 
palities, and this was followed by a period of anarchy, 
during which the country was exposed more and 
more to Christian attacks, until at length Mu'tamid, 
King of Seville, fearing that the Muslim states would 
disappear altogether under the tide of Christian 
conquest, advised his co-religionists to appeal for 
help to the Murabit power in Morocco, which, with 
much misgiving, they did. 

The Murabits, the name is that commonly applied 
to saints in Morocco, were the product of a religious 
revival led by Yahya b. Ibrahim of the clan of the 
Jidala, a branch of the great Berber tribe of Latuna, 
one of those light-eomplexioned Berber races such as 
can still be seen in Algeria, and are apparently nearest 
akin to the Lebu as they are represented in ancient 
Egyptian paintings. In 428 ( -1036 A.D.) Yahya 
performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, and was astonished 
and delighted at the evidences of culture and pros- 
perity which he saw in the lands through which he 
travelled, so far exceeding anything which had 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 235 

previously entered his experience. On his return 
journey he stopped at Kairawan and became a hearer 
at the lectures given there by Abu Amran. The 
lecturer was greatly struck by the diligence and 
attention of his pupil, and greatly surprised when he 
discovered that he was a product of one of the wild 
and barbarous tribes of the far west. But when 
Yahya asked that one of the alumni of Kairawan 
might be sent home with him to teach his fellow- 
tribesmen no one was found willing to venture 
amongst a people who were generally regarded as 
fierce and savage, until at last the task was under- 
taken by Abdullah ibn Jahsim. Helped by his 
companion Yahya commenced a religious revival 
amongst the Berbers of the West, and seems to have 
modelled his work on the example of the Prophet, by 
force of arms urging his reforms upon the neighbouring 
tribes and laying the foundation of a united kingdom, 
a work which was continued by his successor, Yusuf 
b. Tashfin, and so at length a powerful kingdom was 
established, which extended from the Mediterranean 
to the Senegal. Many such Berber states were 
established at various times, but, as a rule, they fell 
into decay after a couple of generations. 

Yusuf b. Tashfin was the champion now invited by 
the Muslims of Spain, not without- misgivings in 
many quarters, but the choice seemed to lie only 
between Christian or Berber, and the Berbers were 
at least of their own religion and of the same race as 
the majority of the Spanish Muslims. Yusuf came 



236 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

as a helper, but a second time invited he stayed on 
and established his authority over the country, and 
thus Spain became a province under the rule of the 
Murabit princes of Morocco. Yusuf was succeeded 
by *Ali, who was successful in restraining the Christians, 
and at one time even formed plans to drive them out 
of Spain altogether. 

Murabit rule, which lasted 35 years, brought many 
changes and itself experienced many changes. The 
rulers were rough men of uncouth manners 
and fanatical outlook. Not many years before, it 
will be remembered, the Arabs of Kairawan were 
reluctant to venture into their land, such was their 
ill repute. They were partially humanised by a 
religious movement, and thus naturally show a religious 
character which bordered on fanaticism. *Ali himself 
was entirely in the hands of the faqirs or mendicant 
devotees and qadis, and the government was liable to 
interference from these irresponsible fanatics at every 
turn. It was a state of affairs which awakened the im- 
patience of the cultured Muslims of Spain, who expressed 
their feelings in many caustic epigrams and satirical 
poems. But very soon a change began to work. The 
Murabits and their followers did not become less 
attached to the devotees, who swarmed unchecked on 
every side and received idolatrous attentions from the 
multitude, but they learned the luxuries and refine- 
ments of the cultured life then prevailing in Spain and 
showed themselves apt pupils. Indeed, their downfall 
may be explained either as due to effete luxury or to 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 237 

faqir-ridden superstition, as we shall see later on. 

The intellectual life of Muslim Spain up to the 
Murabit period was conservative rather than back- 
ward. Its literary men were nearer the old tra- 
ditional Arab type than was the case in the eastern 
Khalifate, where Persian influences had pushed the 
Arab so much into the background ; its scholars 
were still occupied exclusively with the traditional 
sciences, exegesis, canon law, and traditions. The 
Murabit invasion offered a stimulus to satirical verse, 
but otherwise did nothing to promote either 
literature or science. Yet it is under Murabit rule 
that we find the first beginnings of western philosophy, 
and the line of transmission is from the Mu'tazilites 
of Baghdad through the Jews and thence to the 
Muslims of Spain. The Jews act as intermediaries 
who bring the Muslim philosophy of Asia into contact 
with the Muslims of Spain. 

For a long time the Jews had taken no part in the 
development of Hellenistic philosophy, although in 
the later Syriac period they had participated in 
medical studies and in natural science, of which we 
have seen evidence in the important work of Jewish 
physicians and scientists at Baghdad under al-Ma'mun 
and the early 'Abbasids. Outside medicine and 
natural science Jewish interest seems to have been 
mainly confined to Biblical exegesis, tradition, and 
canon law. 

One of the few exceptions to this restriction of 
interests was Sa'id al-Fayyumi or Saadya ben Joseph 



238 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

(d. 331 A.H. =942 A.D.), a native of Upper Egypt, 
who became one of the Geonim of the academy at 
Sora on the Euphrates, and is best known as the 
translator of the Old Testament into Arabic, which 
had now replaced Aramaic as the speech of the Jews 
both in Asia and in Spain. As an author his most 
important work was the Kitab al-Amanat wa-l- 
Ftiqadat, or " Book of the articles of faith and dog- 
matics," which was finished in 321-2 ( -A.D. 933), 
and was afterwards translated into Hebrew as Sefer 
Emunot we-De^ot by Judah b. Tibbon. He was the 
author also of a commentary on the Pentateuch, of 
which only a portion (on Exod. 30, 11-16) survives, 
as well as other works ; but it is in the first-named 
and in the commentary that his views appear most 
clearly. For the first time a Jewish writer shows 
familiarity with the problems raised by the Mu'tazi- 
lites, and gives these a serious attention from the 
Jewish stand-point. It does not seem, however, that 
we should class Sa id as a Mu'tazilite ; he more properly 
represents the movement which produced his Muslim 
contemporaries, al-Ash'ari arid al-Mataridi, that is 
to say, he is one of those who use orthodox kalam and 
adapt philosophy to apologetic purposes. His 
position is shown most clearly in the " Book of the 
articles of faith and dogmatics " in dealing with the 
three problems of (a) creation, (b) the Divine Unity, 
and (c) free will. In the first of these he defends the 
doctrine of a creation ex nihilo, but in giving proofs 
of the necessity of a creator he shows in three out of 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 239 

the four arguments employed distinct traces of 
Aristotelian influences. In treating the doctrine of 
the Divine Unity he is chiefly concerned with opposing 
the Christian teaching of the Trinity, but incidentally 
is compelled to deal with the idea of God and the 
Divine attributes, and in doing so maintains that none 
of the Aristotelian categories can be applied to God. 
As to the human will he defends its freedom, and his 
task is mainly an effort to reconcile this with the 
omnipotence and omniscience of God. In the 
fragment on Exodus he refers to the commands of 
revelation arid the commands of reason, these latter, 
he asserts, being based on philosophical speculation. 
Evidently the Mutakallamin movement, pro- 
fessedly an orthodox reaction from the Mu'tazilites, 
represents a great widening of philosophical 
influences. Philosophy was no longer a subject 
confined to one group of scholars who were interested 
in Greek writings, but had spread out until it reached 
the mosques, and could no longer be thrust aside as 
an heretical aberration, and in its outspread it had 
penetrated the Jewish schools as well. But Sa'id 
produced no immediate disciples, and those who 
followed him in the Jewish academies of Mesopotamia 
showed no interest in his methods. Yet his work* 
apparently barren, was destined to have results of 
the widest importance after a century's interval. In 
spite of distance and the difficulties of travel there 
was a very close and frequent intercourse maintained 
between all the Jews of the Sefardi group, those, 



240 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

namely, who had adopted Arabic as their ordinary 
speech and who were living under Muslim rule. The 
Ashkenazi Jews in the north and centre of Europe 
who lived in Christian lands and did not use Arabic 
were definitely separated from these others by the 
barrier of language, and thus in different surroundings 
the two groups developed marked differences in their 
use of Hebrew, in their liturgical formularies, and 
in their popular beliefs and folk-lore. Thus we must 
bear in mind that a synagogue in Spain would 
naturally be in close touch with synagogues in 
Mesopotamia, but it was not likely to have any 
contact with one in the Rhine valley. 

Although the earlier Jewish settlers in Spain and 
Provence had enjoyed considerable freedom, re- 
strictions had been imposed by the council of Elvira 
(A.D. 303-4), and they had to suffer considerable 
severity under the later West Goths. The coming 
of the Muslims had greatly eased their position, 
chiefly because the Jews had taken a leading part in 
assisting and probably in inviting the invaders ; they 
often furnished garrisons to occupy towns vrhich 
the Muslims had conquered, and were the means of 
supplying them with information as to the enemy's 
movements. It seems probable that they had been 
in correspondence with the Muslims beforehand, so 
that they shared with Witiza's partisans the re- 
sponsibility of inviting the invasion. Under 
Umayyad rule their prosperity continued and in- 
creased. Very often we find Jews occupying high 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 241 

positions at court and in the civil service, and these 
favourable conditions seem to have prevailed until 
the time of the Muwahhids, for it does not appear 
that the Murabits, for all their fanaticism, took any 
measures against Christians or Jews. 

Important amongst the Jews of the Umayyad 
period was Hasdai ben Shabrut (d. 360 or 380 A.H.), 
a physician under 'Abdu r-Rahman, who sent presents 
to Sora and Pumbaditha, and carried on a correspond- 
ence with Dosa, son of the Gaon Sa'id al-Fayyumi. 
Hitherto it had been the custom for the western Jews 
to refer all difficult problems of the canon law to the 
learned of the academies in Mesopotamia, just as 
their Muslim neighbours referred to the East for 
guidance in jurisprudence and theology. But Hasdai 
took advantage of the accidental presence of Moses 
Ben Enoch in Cordova to found a native Spanish 
academy for rabbinical studies there, and appointed 
Moses its president, a step which received the warm 
approval of the Umayyad prince. This turned out 
to be more important than its founder had anticipated ; 
it was not merely a provincial school reproducing the 
work of the eastern academies, but resulted in the 
transference of Jewish scholarship to Spain. At 
that time Asiatic Islam was beginning to feel the 
restricting power of the orthodox reaction, whilst 
Spain, on the other hand, saw the opening of a golden 
age. Shortly before this date the Umayyad Hakim II. 
had been working to encourage Muslim scholarship 
in the west, and had sent his agents to purchase books 



242 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, and Alexandria. In 
the reactionary age of Mahmud of Ghazna (388-421) 
Muslim b. Muhammad al-Andalusi had been instru- 
mental in introducing the teachings of the u Brethren 
of Purity " to the Muslims of Spain. We cannot say 
that the Jews anticipated the Muslims of Spain in 
their study of philosophy, but it is clear that the Jews 
were associated with the first dawn of the new learn- 
ing in Spain, and thus as the sun was setting in the 
East a new day was beginning to break in the West. 
The first leader of Spanish philosophy was the Jew 
Abu Ayyub Sulayman 6. Yahya b. Jabirul (d. 450 A.H. = 
1058 A.D.), commonly known as Ibn Gabirol (Jabirul), 
and hence " Avencebrol " in the Latin scholastic 
writers. He is chiefly known as the author of Maqor 
Chayim, "The Fountain of Life," a title based on 
the words of Psalm 36, 10, which was one of the works 
translated into Latin at the college of Toledo and so 
well known to the scholastic writers as the Fons Vitae 
(ed. Baumer : Avencebrolis Fons Vitae, Munster, 
1895). It was this work which really introduced 
neo-Platonism to the West. Ibn Jabirul teaches that 
God alone is pure reality, and He is the only actual 
substance ; He has no attributes, but in Him are 
will and wisdom, not as possessed attributes but as 
aspects of His nature. The world is produced by 
the impress of form upon pre-existing universal 
matter. " Separate substances " in the sense of 
ideas abstracted from the things in which they exist 
(cf. Aristot. de anima. iii. 7, 8, " and so the mind when 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 243 

it thinks of mathematical forms thinks of them as 
separated, though they are not separated ") do not 
exist apart in reality ; the abstracting is only a mental 
process, so the general idea exists only as a concept, 
not as a reality. But between the purely spiritual 
being of God and the crudely material observed in the 
bodies existing in this world are intermediate forms 
of existence, such as angels, souls, etc., wherein the 
form is not impressed upon matter. 

Besides this u Fountain of Life " Ibn Gabirol was 
the author of two ethical treatises, the Tikkun 
Midwoth han-Nefesh, " the correction of the manners 
of the soul," in which man is treated as a microcosm 
after the kabbalistic fashion ; and Mibchar hap- 
Peninim, a collection of ethical maxims collected from 
the Greek and Arabic philosophers. The former has 
been published at Luneville in 1804, the latter at 
Hamburg in 1844. 

At the beginning of the sixth century A.H., a younger 
contemporary of al-Ghazali, we have Abu Bakr ibn 
Bajja (d. 533 A.H. =1138 A.D.), the first of the Muslim 
philosophers of Spain. By this time, some three- 
quarters of a century after the death of Ibn Sina, 
Arabic philosophy was almost extinct in Asia and 
was treated as a dangerous heresy. In Egypt, it is 
true, there was a greater degree of toleration, though 
less than in the golden age of the Fatimids, but Egypt 
was regarded with suspicion as the home of heresy 
and of forms of superstition which were uncongenial 
to the philosopher. Spain thus becomes the place 



244 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

of refuge for Muslim philosophy as it had already 

become the nursery of Jewish speculation. Ibn 

Bajja, known to the Latin schoolmen as " Avempace," 

found in Murabit Spain the freedom and toleration 

which Asia no longer afforded. He continues the 

work of al-Farabi, not, it will be noted, of Ibn Sina, 

and develops the neo-Platonic interpretation of 

Aristotle on sober and conservative lines. He wrote 

commentaries on Aristotle's Physics, de generatione 

et corruptione, and the Meteora ; he produced original 

works on mathematics, on " the soul," and a treatise 

which he called " The Hermit's Guide," which was 

used by Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and by the Jewish 

writer Moses of Narbonne in the 14th cent. A.D. In 

this last work he makes a distinction between " animal 

activity," in which action is due to the prompting of 

the emotions, passions, etc., and " human activity," 

which is suggested and directed by abstract reason, 

and from this distinction draws a rule of life and 

conduct. He is chiefly cited by the Latin schoolmen 

with reference to the doctrine of " separate 

substances." " Avempace held that, by the study 

of the speculative sciences, we are able by means of 

the images which we know from these ideas to attain 

to the knowledge of separate substances " (St. Thomas 

Aq. c. Gentiles, 3, 41). This question as to the 

possibility of knowing substances separated, i.e. 

abstracted, from the concrete bodies in which they 

exist in combination and the " separate substances " 

were regarded as spiritual things was prominent in 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 245 

mediaeval scholasticism, which inherited it from the 
Arabic philosophers, and from it came the further 
question whether the contemplation of such abstract 
ideas gives us a better knowledge of realities than 
observation of the concrete bodies. Both Albertus 
Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas associate Avempace 
especially with this question and with the doctrine 
of the " acquired intellect," to which we have 
already referred in our notes on Ibn Sina, and which 
completes the theory of " separate substances " by 
supposing that intelligible forms stream into our 
souls from an outside Agent Intellect by way of 
emanation as substantial forms descend on corporeal 
matter. St. Thomas Aquinas shows direct knowledge 
of Avempace's treatment of these subjects, but this 
is not so evident in Albertus. Avempace, like all 
other Arabic philosophers, describes ittisal or union 
of the human intellect with the Agent Intellect, of 
which it is an emanation, as the supreme beatitude 
and final end of human life. By the operation of the 
Agent Intellect on the latent intellect in man this is 
awakened to life, but eternal life consists in the com- 
plete union of the intellect with the Agent Intellect. 
In Avempace the Sufi strain is much weaker than in 
al-Farabi ; the means of attaining this union is not 
by ecstasy, but by a steady disentangling of the soul 
of those material things which hinder its pure intellec- 
tual life and consequent union. This leads us to the 
teaching of asceticism as the discipline of the soul for 
its spiritual progress, and the ascetic and solitary life 



246 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

is the ideal proposed by Avempace. This ascetic 
and contemplative hermit life is not, however, in any 
sense a religious life, for in this respect Avempace 
has advanced far beyond al-Farabi ; he is fully 
conscious that pure philosophy cannot be reconciled 
with the teachings of revelation, a conviction which 
now marks the definite separation of the 
" philosophers " from the orthodox scholastics of 
Islam, such as al-Ghazali and his school ; he regards 
the teachings of revelation as an imperfect presenta- 
tion of the truths which are more completely and 
correctly learned from Aristotle, and only admits the 
Qur'an and its religion as a discipline for the multitude 
whose intelligence neither desires nor is capable of 
philosophical reasoning. Strangely enough he lived 
in security, protected from the attacks of hostile 
theologians, under the protection of the Murabit 
princes. 

Within a few years after the death of Avempace 
the Murabit dynasty came to an end. The succeed- 
ing dynasty, the Muwahhids, were of Berber origin 
like the Murabits, and, like them, had their origin in 
a religious revival. 

The foundation of the Muwahhids is associated 
with Ibn Tumart (d. 524 A.H. = 1129 A.D.). He 
was a native of Morocco, and a strange combination 
of fanatic and scholastic. He claimed to be a descen- 
dant of *Ali, and posed as the " Mahdi " possessing 
the supernatural grace of isma or " security from 
error," and thus introduced Shi'ite ideas into Morocco ; 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 247 

and at the same time it was he who introduced to the 
West the orthodox scholasticism of al-Ghazali, al- 
though at the same time he professed to be a follower 
of Ibn Hazm. He travelled in Asia, where, no doubt, 
he learned of al-Ghazili and his doctrines. Eoughly 
treated at Mecca he removed to Egypt, where he 
rendered himself prominent and objectionable by his 
puritanical criticisms on the manners of the people. 
Setting out from Alexandria in a ship travelling 
westwards he occupied himself with a reformation of 
the morals of the crew, compelling them to observe 
the correct hours of prayer and the other duties of 
religion. In 505 he appeared at Mahdiya, where he 
took up his abode in a wayside mosque. There he 
used to sit at the window watching the passers-by, 
and, whenever he saw any of them carrying a jar of 
wine or a musical instrument, he used to sally out 
and seize the offensive article and break it. The 
common people reverenced him as a saint, but many 
of the wealthier citizens resented his activities, and 
at length brought a complaint against him before the 
Emir Yahya. The Emir heard their complaints and 
observed Ibn Tumart and took note of the impression 
he had made upon the populace. With character- 
istic craft the Emir treated the reformer with all 
possible respect, but advised, nay rather urged, him 
to bestow the favour of his presence upon some other 
town as soon as convenient to him, and so he removed 
to Bijaiya (Bougie in Algeria). Here his ways were 
extremely unpopular, and he was driven away. He 



248 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

next settled at Mellala, where he met a boy named 
'Abdu 1-Mumin al-Kumi (d. 558), a potter's son, 
whom he made his disciple and declared to be his 
successor. At this time the Murabit dynasty had 
fallen from its original puritariism and was dis- 
tinguished for the wealth and luxury which had been 
made possible by the conquest of Spain, and the 
splendour and ostentation of the royal family at 
Morocco laid it open to criticism. One Friday a 
faqir entered the public square where a throne was 
made ready for the Emir, and, pushing his way through 
the guards who stood round, boldly took his seat upon 
the throne and refused to leave. It was the Mahdi 
Ibn Tumart, and, so great was the superstitious 
reverence accorded to all faqira, and to him above 
all, that none of the guards standing round ventured 
to remove him by force. At length the Emir himself 
appeared and, finding who had occupied his official 
seat, declined to interfere with the redoubtable faqir's 
will, but it was privately made plain to Ibn Tumart 
that it would be wise for him to leave the city for 
a while. The Mahdi therefore retired to Fez, but 
soon afterwards returned to Morocco. One day he 
met in the streets the Emir's sister, who had adopted 
the shameless foreign custom of riding in public 
without a veil. The Mahdi stopped her and poured 
out a stream of abuse at her for this neglect of 
established custom, then, overcome by his indignation, 
he pulled her off the beast she was riding. He seems, 
however, to have felt some alarm at his own temerity 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 249 

and fled forthwith to Tinamel, where he openly raised 
the standard of revolt against a corrupt and un- 
faithful dynasty. At first this rebellion did not 
meet with much success, but, after the Mahdi's death, 
the leadership fell to his pupil, *Abdu 1-Mumin, who 
took Oran, Tlemsen, Fez, Sale, Ceuta, arid in 542 
became master of Morocco, and in due course seized 
all the empire of the Murabits. The new dynasty 
established by 'Abdu 1-Mumin is known by the name 
of the Muwahhids or " Unitarians," a title which the 
Spanish historians render by " Almohades," and 
their rule endured until 667 A.H. ( - 1268 A.D.). 

Ibn Tuniart professed to be a follower of al-Ghazali, 
und introduced his system of orthodox scholasticism 
to the West. In canon law he followed the reaction- 
ary school of Da'ud az-Zahiri and Ibn Hazm, like 
the Murabits who preceded him. To the multitude 
he was the champion of Berber nationality ; he 
translated the Qur'an into the Berber language, and 
caused the call to prayer to be made in Berber instead 
of Arabic. 

Muwahhid rule introduced a period of bigotry and 
of religious persecution. It was under the rule of 
this dynasty that we find the Jews leaving the country 
in large numbers and migrating to Africa or to 
Provence, and many Christians also fled to join the 
Castilian forces in the north. Modern historians tend 
to condemn the later severities of Christian rulers 
towards their Muslim subjects, and often seem to 
apeak of those subjects as the peaceable and cultured 



250 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

population which had lived under the Umayyads 
and the Murabits. But Spam's last experience of the 
Muslims was of the fierce, bigoted, and persecuting 
Muwahhids, whose tone was very different. Strangely, 
however, it was under these intolerant rulers that 
Spanish Islam passed through its golden age of 
philosophical speculation, and not only so, but the 
philosophers were protected and favoured by the 
Muwahhid court. Quite early in this period the 
position seems to have been tacitly arranged that 
the philosophers were absolutely free in their work 
and teaching, provided that teaching was not spread 
abroad amongst the populace : it was to be regarded 
as a species of esoteric truth reserved for the enlight- 
ened. It seems almost certain that this attitude 
was deliberately arranged by the philosophers them- 
selves ; it had already been sketched out by some of 
the Asiatic writers, and definitely laid down by al- 
Ash'ari and al-Ghazali, and the Muwahhids, it must 
be remembered, professed to be Ghazalians. But 
whilst the philosophers enjoyed this exceptional 
freedom of speculation, so different from the re- 
pressive orthodoxy of the Turkish dynasties in Asia, 
and defended the system in their writings, the rulers 
officially were enforcing amongst the multitude of 
their subjects the severest orthodoxy and the most 
reactionary system of jurisprudence, so reactionary 
that it was never admitted by the Asiatic sultans. 

The first great leader of philosophical thought in 
Muwahhid Spain was Ibn Tufayl (d. 581 1185), 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 251 

who was wazir and court physician under the 
Muwahliid Abu Yaqub (A.H. 558-580). His teaching 
was in general conformity with that of Ibn Bajja 
(Avempace), but the mystic element is much more 
strongly marked. He admits ecstasy as a means of 
attaining the highest knowledge and of approaching 
God. But in Ibn Tufayl's teaching this knowledge 
differs very much from that aimed at by the Sufis : 
it is mystic philosophy rather than mystic theology. 
The beatific vision reveals the Agent Intellect and 
the chain of causation reaching down to man and 
then back again to itself. 

In his views as to the need of removing the doctrines 
of philosophy from the multitude he shows the same 
principles as Ibn Bajja, which are those which came 
to be recognised as the proper ofticial attitude under 
the Muwahhids, and defends them in a romance 
called Hayy b. Yaqzan, " the Living One son of the 
Wakeful," the work by which his name is best remem- 
bered. In this story we have the picture of two 
islands, one inhabited by a solitary recluse who 
spends his time in contemplation and thereby raises 
his intellect until he finds that he is able to apprehend 
the eternal verities which are in the One Active 
Intellect. The other island is inhabited by ordinary 
people who are occupied in the commonplace in- 
cidents of life and follow the practices of religion in 
the form known to them. In this way they are con- 
tent and happy, but fall far short of the complete 
and perfect happiness of the recluse on the other 



252 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

island. In course of time the recluse, who is per- 
fectly well aware of the neighbouring island and 
its inhabitants, begins to feel great pity for them in 
that they are excluded from the more perfect felicity 
which he enjoys, and in an honest desire for 
their welfare, goes over to them and preaches the 
truth as he has found it. For the most part he is 
quite unintelligible to them, and the only result is 
that he produces confusion, doubt, and controversial 
strife amongst those whom he desired to benefit, but 
who are incapable of the intellectual life which he 
has led. In the end he returns to his island con- 
vinced that it is a mistake to interfere with the con- 
ventional religion of the multitude. 

Ibn Rushd (A.H. 520 - 595), known to the West 
&s Averroes, was the greatest of the Arabic philoso- 
phers, and was practically their last. He was a 
native of Cordova and the friend and prot^g^ of Ibn 
Tufayl, by whom he was introduced to Abu Ya'qub 
in 548. He was, however, more outspoken than Ibn 
Tufayl, and wrote several controversial works against 
al-Ghazali and his followers. The family to which 
he belonged was one whose members usually became 
jurists, and Ibn Eushd acted as Qadi in various Spanish 
towns ; like most of the Arabic philosophers he studied 
medicine, and in 578 was appointed court physician 
to Abu Ya'qub. By this time he had finished his 
career as an author. Under the Muwahhid Abu 
Yusuf al-Mansur he was censured as a heretic and 
banished from Cordova. It must be remembered 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 253 

that the Muwahhids, like the Murabits, were really 
Moroccan rulers, to whom Spain was a foreign 
province. It was whilst the Emir was in Spain and 
at Cordova, making ready for an attack upon the 
Christians, that Ibn Rushd was disgraced, and it 
seems probable that this was mainly a matter of 
policy, as the Emir, on the eve of a religious war, was 
desirous of proving his own strict orthodoxy by the 
public disapproval of one who had been rather too 
outspoken in his speculative theories. As soon as 
the Emir returned to Morocco the order of exile was 
revoked, and later on Ibn Rushd appears at the 
court of Morocco, where he died in 595. 

Amongst the Muslims Ibn Rushd has not exercised 
great influence ; it w r as the Jews who supplied the 
bulk of his admirers, and they, scattered in Provence 
and Sicily by Muwahhid persecution, seern to have 
been chiefly instrumental in introducing him to 
Latin Christendom. 

His chief medical work was known as the Kulliyat, 
u the universal," which, under the Latinized name of 
u colliget," became popular as a manual in the 
mediaeval universities where the Arabic system of 
medicine was in use. He wrote also on jurisprudence 
a text-book of the law of inheritance, which is still 
extant in MS., and also produced works on astronomy 
and grammer. He maintained that the task of philo- 
sophy was one approved and commended by religion, 
for the Qur'an shows that God commands men to 
search for the truth. It is only the prejudice of the 



254 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

unenlightened which fears freedom of thought, 
because for those whose knowledge is imperfect the 
truths of philosophy seem to be contrary to religion. 
On this topic he composed two theological treatises 
" On the Agreement of Religion with Philosophy " 
and " On the Demonstration of Eeligious Dogmas," 
both of which have been edited by M. J. Mueller. 
The popular beliefs he does not accept, but lie regards 
them as wisely designed to teach morality and to 
develop piety amongst the people at large ; the 
true philosopher allows no word to be uttered against 
established religion, which is a thing necessary for 
the welfare of the people. Aristotle he regards as 
the supreme revelation of God to man : with it 
religion is in total agreement, but as religion is known 
to the multitude it only partially discloses Divine 
truth and adapts it to the practical needs of the many ; 
in religion there is a literal meaning, which in ail the 
uneducated are able to attain, and there is an 
" interpretation," which is the disclosing of deeper 
truths beneath the surface which it is not expedient 
to communicate to the multitude. He opposes the 
position of Ibn Bajja, who inclined to solitary medi- 
tation and avoided the discussion of philosophical 
problems ; he admits and desires such discussion 
provided it is confined to the educated who are able 
to understand its bearing, and not brought before the 
multitude who are thereby in danger of having their 
simple faith undermined. He agrees with Ibn Bajja, 
however, as against Ibn Tufayl in disapproval of 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 255 

ecstasy ; such a thing may be, but it is too rare to 
need serious consideration. 

There are different classes of men who fall roughly 
into three groups. The highest of these are those 
whose religious belief is based on demonstration 
(burhan), the result of reasoning from syllogisms which 
are d priori certain ; these are the men to whom the 
philosopher makes his appeal. The lowest stratum 
contains those whose faith is based on the authority 
of a teacher or on presumptions which cannot be 
argued out and are not due to the exercise of pure 
reason ; it is mischievous to put " demonstration " 
or reason or controversy before people of this type, 
for it can only cause them doubt and difficulty. 
Intermediate between these two strata are those who 
have not attained the use of pure reason which, 
with Ibn Rushd, seems to be simply intuition but 
are capable of argument and controversy by means 
of which their faith can be defended and proved ; 
44 demonstration " proper is not to be laid before 
these, but it is right to enter into argument with them 
and to assist them to rise above the level of those 
whose belief is based only upon authority. 

Most of all, Ibn Rushd opposed the teaching of the 
mutdkallimin or orthodox scholastic theologians, whom 
he regarded as subverting the pure principles of the 
Aristotelian philosophy, and of these he considered 
the worst to be al-Ghazali, " that renegade of 
philosophy " His leading controversial work is the 
Destruction of the Destruction (Tahafat at-Ta.hafa.tt. 



256 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

which he designed as a refutation of al-Ghazali'a 
Destruction of the Philosophers. 

But it was as a commentator on the text of Aristotle 
that he became best known to subsequent generations 
amongst the Jews and the later Latin scholastics ; 
he was the great and final commentator. Strangely, 
however, Ibn Kushd never perceived the importance 
of reading Aristotle in the original ; he had no know- 
ledge of Greek, and gives no sign of supposing that a 
study of the Greek text would at all assist a student 
of the philosopher. The method of his commentaries 
is the time-honoured form derived from the Syriac 
commentators : a sentence of the text is given and 
the explanatory comments follow. 

In main substance Ibn Eushd reproduces the psy- 
chology of Aristotle as interpreted by al-Parabi and 
Ibn Sina, but with some important modifications. 
In man is a passive and an active intellect : the active 
intellect is roused to action by the operation of the 
Agent Intellect, and thus becomes an acquired intel- 
lect ; the individual intellects are many, but the Agent 
Intellect is but one, though present in each, just as 
the sun is one, but there are in action as many suns 
as there are bodies which it illuminates. This is the 
form of the Aristotelian doctrine as it had been 
transmitted through Ibn Sina ; the Agent Intellect 
is one, but it is as by emanation present in each, so 
that the quickening power in each one is part of the 
universal Agent Intellect. But Ibn Eushd differs 
from his predecessors in his treatment of the passive 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 257 

intellect, the 'aql hayyulani, which is the seat of latent 
and potential faculties upon which the Agent operates. 
In all the earlier systems this passive intellect was 
regarded as purely individual and as operated on 
by the emanation of the universal Agent, but Ibn 
Eushd regarded the passive intellect also as but a 
portion of a universal soul and as individual only 
in so far as temporarily occupying an individual body. 
Even the passive powers are part of a universal 
force animating the whole of nature. This is the 
doctrine of pampsychism, which exercised so strong 
an attraction for many of the mediaeval scholastics, 
and has its adherents at the present day ; thus 
James (Principles of Psychology, p. 346) says : " I 
confess that the moment I become metaphysical and 
try to define the more, I find the notion of some sort 
of an anima mundi thinking in all of us to be a more 
promising hypothesis, in spite of all its difficulties, than 
that of a lot of absolutely individual souls." Ibn 
Eushd regards Alexander of Aphrodisias as mistaken in 
supposing that the passive intellect is a mere dis- 
position ; it is in us, but belongs to something outside ; 
it is not engendered, it is incorruptible, and so in a 
sense resembles the Agent Intellect. This doctrine 
is the very opposite to what is commonly described 
as materialism, which represents the mind as merely 
a form of energy produced by the activity of the 
neural functions. The activity of brain and nerves, 
according to Ibn Eushd, are due to the presence of 
an external force ; not only, as Ari^otle teaches, 

" K 

s 



258 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

at least according to Alexander Aph.'s interpretation, 
is the highest faculty of the reason due to the operation 
of the external one Agent Intellect, but the passive 
intellect on which this agent acts is itself part of a 
great universal soul, which is the one source of all 
life and the reservoir to which the soul returns when 
the transitory experience of what we call life is 
finished. 

Ibn Eushd's views do not receive much attention 
or criticism from Muslim scholars, but the Christian 
scholastics brought two main arguments against this 
theory, one psychological, the other theological. 
The psychological objection is that it is entirely 
subversive of individuality : if the conscious life of 
each is only part of the conscious life of a universal 
soul there can be no real ego in any one of us ; but 
there is no fact to which consciousness bears clearer 
witness than the reality and individuality of the ego. 
This did not touch the possibility that the individual 
soul might be drawn from a universal soul as its 
source, nor did it disprove that the individual soul 
might be reabsorbed again in the universal soul, but 
in so far as Ibn Kushd's view represented the soul as 
throughout a part of the universal soul it was argued 
that this is contrary to experience, which makes it 
clear that in this present life the ego is very distinctly 
individual. The theological argument was that Ibn 
Bushd's view denied the immortality of the soul, and 
so was contrary to the Christian faith. This objection 
deals more specifically with the reabsorption of the 



WESTERN PHILOSOPHY 259 

soul of the individual in the universal soul ; such 
cessation of separate and individual existence, it was 
argued, meant that the soul as such no longer existed. 
As we have already noted, Aristotle gives a rather 
narrow range to the highest faculty of reason, con- 
fining its activity to the perception of abstract ideas ; 
" as to the things spoken of as abstract (the mind) thinks 
of them as it would of the being snub-nosed, if by an 
effort of thought it thinks of it qua snub-nosed, not 
separately, but qua hollow, without the flesh in which 
the hollowness is adherent : so when it thinks of 
mathematical forms, it thinks of them as separated, 
though they are not separated " (Aristot. de anima. 
iii. 7, 7-8). Those who followed Alexander Aph. 
and the neo-Platonists took this " abstract " in a 
very narrow sense, and in the Arabic commentators 
these abstractions even become non-substantial beings, 
as it were disembodied, or rather bodiless, spirits : 
44 in quibusdam libris de Arabico translatis substautiae 
separatae, quae nos angelos dicimus, intelligentiae 
vocantur " (S. Thos. Aquin. Quaest. Disp. de anima. 
16). Can man know these substantiae separatae by 
his natural faculties Ibn Eushd says he can : if 
otherwise nature has acted in vain, for there would 
be an intelligibile without an intelligens to understand 
it; but Aristotle has shewn (Polit. 1, 8, 12) that 
nature does nothing in vain, so that if there be an 
intelligibile there must be an intelligens capable of 
perceiving it. " The commentator (i.e. Ibn Eushd) 
gays in 2 Met. comm. i. (in fine) that if abstract 



260 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

stances cannot be understood by us then nature has 

acted in vain, because it made that which is by 

nature understandable in itself to be not understood 

by anyone. But nothing is superfluous or in vain 

in nature. Therefore immaterial substances can be 

understood by us." (S. Thos. Aquin. Summa. 1, 88.) 

As the Agent Intellect enters into communication 

with relative being it has to suffer the conditions of 

relativity, and so is not equally efficient in all ; it acts 

on sensible images as form acts on matter, yet the 

Agent Intellect never becomes corruptible as that on 

which it acts. 

These are in outline the points in the teaching of 
Ibn Eushd, which show the most marked difference* 
from that of his predecessors, and which afterwards 
provoked most controversy amongst the Latin 
scholastics. 

Ibn Eushd realty ends the illustrious line of Arabic 
Aristotelians. A few Aristotelian scholars followed 
in Spain, but with the decay of the Muwahhid power 
these came to an end. Of those later scholars we 
may mention -Muhyi ad-Din b. 'Arabi (d. 638) and 
'Abdu 1-Haqq b. Sab'im (d. 667). The former of these 
was primarily a Sufi, and shows a strong inclination 
towards pantheism. *Abdu 1-Haqq, the last of the 
Muwahhid circle, was also a Sufi, but at the same time 
an accurate student of Aristotle. In modern Islam 
there is no Aristotelian scholarship, save only in logic, 
where Aristotle has always held his own. 



CHAPTER X 
THE JEWISH TBANSMITTOBS 

We have already seen that the Jews took a promi- 
nent part in bringing a knowledge of philosophical 
research from Asia to Spain, and Ibn Jabirul 
(Avencebrol) takes his place in the line of transmission 
by which Spanish Islam was brought into contact 
with these studies. This did not end the partici- 
pation of the Jews in philosophical work, but their 
subsequent writers do not form part of the regular 
series of Aristotelian students influencing the Muslim 
world, but are rather confined to Jewish circles. Yet 
they are of an importance wider than merely sectarian 
interests, for it was by means of Jewish disciples of 
Ibn Eushd that he was raised to a position of much 
greater importance than he has ever enjoyed in the 
Muslim world. Amongst the Jews, indeed, there 
arose a strong Averroist school, which later on was 
the chief means of introducing Ibn Eushd's theories 
to Latin scholasticism. As we shall see later the 
transmission of philosophy from Arabic to Latin 
surroundings falls into two stages : in the earlier the 
Arabic material passes directly, and the works used 
are those which had attained a leading importance 
in Islam, but in the later stage the Jews were the 

261 



262 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

intermediaries, and thus the choice of text-books and 
authorities was largely influenced by an existing 
Jewish scholasticism. 

Ibn Jabirul shows the Aristotelian philosophy in- 
troduced to Jewish surroundings, just as Sa'id al- 
Fayyumi in Mesopotamia shows the entrance of 
Mu'tazilite discussions amongst the Jews. In fact, 
all the intellectual experiences of the Muslim com- 
munity were repeated amongst the Jews. In Islam the 
Mu'tazilites and the philosophers were followed by 
the scholastics, who took their final form under al- 
Ghazali, and so in Judaism also al-Ghazali has his 
parallel. 

The founder of an orthodox Jewish scholasticism 
was the Spanish Jew, Jehuda hal-Levi (d. 540 A.H. 
1145 A.D.), who lived during the Murabit rule 
and the coming of the Muwahhids. His teaching 
is known by a work entitled Scfer ha-Kuzari, which 
consists of five essays, supposed to be dialogues 
between the King of the Chazars and a Jewish 
visitor to his court. These dialogues discuss various 
topics of a philosophical add political character. The 
study of philosophy is commended, but it is pointed 
out that good conduct is not attained by philosophy, 
which is occupied with scientific investigations, and 
many of these have no direct bearing upon the duties 
of practical life ; the best means of promoting right 
conduct is religion, which is the established tradition 
of wisdom revealed to men of ancient times. Even 
in speculative matters a surer guidance is often 



THE JEWISH TRANSMITTORS 263 

furnished by religious tradition than by the specu- 
lations of philosophers. God created all things from 
nothing ; the attempt to explain the presence of 
imperfection and evil in the world by the theory of 
the eternity of matter, or by the operation of laws of 
nature is futile ; those laws themselves must refer 
back to God. The difficulty arising from the mingling 
of evil with good in creation is admitted ; the real 
solution is unknown, but it must be maintained that 
creation was the work of God in spite of the difficulties 
which this presents. 

As to the nature and attributes of God, the dis- 
tinction which Sa'id al-Fayyumi tried to make 
between the essential and other attributes is un- 
tenable. The attributes stated in the Old Testament 
may be applied to God because they are revealed, 
which is exactly the same teaching as that of al- 
Ash'ari and al-Ghazali. These attributes are either 
referring to active qualities, or to relative, or to 
negative. Those which are active and those which 
are relative are used metaphorically; we do not 
know their real significance. 

The fifth essay is more especially directed against 
the philosophers as teaching doctrines subversive of 
revelation. In the first place he disapproves the 
theory of emanations ; the work of creation was 
directly performed by God without any intermediary ; 
if there were emanations, why did they stop short at 
the lunar sphere ? This refers to the descriptions 
given by the Arabic writers who endeavour to explain 



264 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

the successive emanations from the First Cause as 
reaching down to different spheres. He opposes also 
the attempt of the Mutakallimin to reconcile 
philosophy and theology as tending to undermine 
the truths of revealed religion, so that he takes a 
more reactionary position than al-Ghazali. This was 
inevitable, for Jewish thought had as yet been much 
less influenced by philosophy than was the case with 
the Muslims. He objects also to the description of 
the soul as intellect, more it would appear because 
common usage confined " intellectual activity " too 
much to philosophical speculation, arid especially he 
protested against the implication that only souls of 
philosophers were finally united to the Agent Intellect. 
The soul of man is a spiritual substance and im- 
perishable ; it does not win immortality by intellec- 
tual activity but is necessarily immortal by its own 
nature. He admits, however, that the passive soul 
in man is influenced by the Agent Intellect, which he 
seems to regard as the wisdom of God personified. 
Generally, therefore, Hal-Levi defined Jewish ortho- 
doxy as against the teachings of the philosophers : 
he recognises the force of philosophical speculation, 
but is himself distinctly conservative. God was 
literally the creator, and no philosophical definition 
of creation which tended to explain it otherwise 
than according to traditional belief was permissible. 
But Hal-Levi does not seem to have had any great 
influence outside Judaism, and his work rather tends 
to show how far Jewish thought of the 6th cent, of 



THE JEWISH TRANSMITTORS 265 

the Hijra was out of sympathy with current philo- 
sophical speculation, though no longer ignorant of 
it. 

It was in Spain that the Jews especially 
distinguished themselves as physicians, reproducing 
and extending the investigations of the Arabic authori- 
ties, who were pupils of the B"estoriaris and Jews in 
the first place. The most distinguished of these 
Spanish Jews who became leaders in medical science 
was Ibn Zuhr (d. 595 A.H. = 1199 A.D.), commonly 
known to the mediaeval West as " Avenzoar." He 
was a native of Seville and member of a family of 
physicians. Jewish philosophy does not take a 
leading place until the appearance of Abu Imran 
Moses b. Maymun b. 'Abdullah (d. 601 A.H. -1204 
A.D.), a contemporary and follower of Ibn Eushd and 
the one who did most to establish an Averroist school, 
and so passed on his work and influence to Latin 
Christendom. He was the son of a pupil of Hal-Levi, 
and, it is said, a pupil of one of Ibn Bajja's pupils. 
His family retired to Africa to avoid the persecution 
of the Muwahhids and settled for a time in Fez, then 
removed to Egypt. It was whilst he was at Cairo 
that Ibn Maymun, or Maimonides as he is more 
commonly called by European writers, first heard 
of Ibn Eushd. 

His chief work is known as Dalalat al-Ha J irin, "the 
Guide of the Perplexed," which, like all his other 
books, was produced in Arabic ; about the time of 
his death this work was translated into Hebrew by 



266 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Samuel b. Tibbon as Moreh Nebukin. The Arabic 
text, edited by Munk, was published at Paris (3 vols.) 
in 1856-66, and in 1884 an English translation by 
Friedlander was published in London. Next to this 
in importance is the treatise Maqalah fi-t~Tawhid, 
a treatise on the unity of God, of which a Hebrew 
translation was made in the 14th cent. A.D. His 
other works were mainly medical, and include 
treatises " on poisons and their antidotes," " on 
haemorrhoids," " on asthma," and a commentary 
on Hippocrates. 

Maimonides' teaching reproduces the substance of 
that already associated with al-Farabi and Ibn Sina 
put into a Jewish form. God is the Intellect, the 
ens intettigens, and the intelligibile : lie is the 
necessary First Cause and the permanent source. He 
is essentially and necessarily one, and attributes cannot 
be so used as to imply plurality : only those attributes 
which describe activity are admissible, not those 
which imply relations between God and the creature. 
Like Ibn Eushd he disapproves of the Mutakallimin 
whom he regards as mere opportunists in their 
philosophy and without any staple principles, besides 
which their method of compromise does not face 
fairly the law of causality. The Aristotelian doc- 
trine of the eternity of matter cannot, however, be 
admitted ; creation must have been from nothing, as 
follows from the law of causality ; that such was 
the case cannot be proved, but every contrary 
supposition is untenable. All the properties of 



THE JEWISH TRAtfSMITTORS 267 

matter, the laws of nature, etc., had their beginning 
at creation. On the first day God created the begin- 
nings (reshit), that is to say the intelligences, from 
which proceeded the several spheres, and introduced 
movement, so that on this day the whole universe 
and all its contents came into existence. On the 
succeeding days these contents were disposed in order 
and developed ; then on the seventh day God rested, 
which means that He ceased from active operation 
and laid the universe under the control of natural 
laws, which guided it henceforth. 

The teaching of Maimonides shows a somewhat 
modified form of the system already developed by 
al-Farabi and Ibn Sina adapted to Jewish beliefs. 
It had a rapid and wide success, spreading through 
the greater part of the Jewish community in his own 
lifetime. But this success was not without some 
opposition the synagogues of Aragon, Cataionga, 
and of Provence, where a very large number of Jews 
had sought refuge from the Muwahhids ; the syna- 
gogue at Narbonue, on the other hand, defended him. 
It was not until the following century, and chiefly 
by the efforts of David Kimchi, that Maimonides 
was at length generally accepted as the leading doctor 
of the Jewish church. 

Although Maimonides was known to the Latin 
scholastics, it was not his work nor that of any other 
Jewish teacher which really made the Jews important 
to mediaeval western thought so much as the work 
they did in popularising Ibn Eushd, whom they 



268 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

called " the soul and intelligence of Aristotle." 
Jewish MSS. of Aristotle a.re rarely found without 
Ibn Eushd's commentary, and his paraphrases 
very commonly bear the name of Aristotle at their 
head. It was as the commentator that he held so 
high a position in Jewish thought, and it was as the 
final and authoritative commentator that he finally 
took his place in Latin scholasticism introduced by 
Jewish teachers. 

The Muwahhid persecution scattered many of the 
Spanish Jews to Africa and to Provence and Lan- 
guedoc. Those who took refuge in Africa, like Mai- 
monides, retained the use of the Arabic language, 
but Arabic quickly became obsolete amongst those 
who had fled north. No doubt the refugees in 
Provence found it necessary to use the Provencal 
dialect for communication with their Christian neigh- 
bours, but that dialect had never yet been used for 
scientific or philosophical purposes ; in Western 
Christendom Latin was invariably used for all educa- 
tional and scholarly purposes, but the refugee Jews 
did not feel disposed to adopt a language which had 
no traditional associations for them and was altogether 
a foreign tongue never as yet employed for Jewish 
purposes. Under these circumstances the Jewish 
leaders deliberately copied the actual condition 
prevailing amongst their Jewish neighbours where 
the ancient Latin was in use as a learned language, 
whilst its derived dialects were the speech in every- 
day use, and so they revived the use of Hebrew as 



THE JEWISH TRAN$MITTORS 269 

the medium of teaching and literature. Throughout 
Hebrew had retained its place as a liturgical language ; 
there had been synagogue liturgies in Greek, but 
those belonged to a much earlier period. The revival 
of Hebrew produced a neo-Hebrew which does not 
preserve a line of historical continuity with the 
ancient Hebrew. For some time Hebrew had been 
a dead language in the East, and it had never spread 
as a living speech to the West. But this artificial 
revival, which has more than one parallel in history, 
was not so difficult a feat as it sounds at first. The 
vernacular speech of the Spanish Jew was Arabic, 
and philologically Arabic is very nearly a dialect 
if not of Arabic, yet at least of a proto- Arabic, which 
shows many close parallels with Hebrew. Of course 
at that time the true philological relations were not 
understood : influenced by theological prepossessions 
the Jew rather tended to regard Arabic as a derivative 
of Hebrew ; yet the kinship was obvious, and in the 
early translations made from Arabic to Hebrew it is 
not uncommon to find that most of the words are 
translated in such a way that the same root-form is 
used as in the original. Secondly, it was not only 
the case that Hebrew " came easily " to those who 
knew Arabic, but there had been serious philological 
studies by Jehudh Chayyug, David Kimchi, and others 
which had emphasized this close kinship, and had 
indeed adapted all the rules of Arabic grammar to the 
use of Hebrew ; it was therefore possible to compose 
and even to speak a tolerable Hebrew by the con* 



270 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

scious rendering of the Arabic vocabulary into 
Hebrew. It is not suggested that the inaugurators 
of neo-Hebrew ignored the characteristics of the 
classical speech ; in fact they did not do so, but they 
were in a position to use Hebrew as though a dialect 
differing from Arabic only in detail, and in this 
attitude they were more strictly correct than they 
supposed. Before long Arabic began to be entirely 
discarded, and Hebrew, whose revival flattered 
Jewish susceptibilities, was taken up with vigour as a 
language of the schools ; how far it came into use in 
the home we do not know. 

This change necessitated the translation of the 
later theological and philosophical writers from Arabic 
into Hebrew. Tradition puts the beginning of this 
work of translation in the 12th century, but this is 
not possibly true. It was not until well into the 
13th century that Hebrew translations begin to appear. 
The most famous translators were of the family of 
Jehuda ben Tibbon, who cannot himself be accepted 
as a translator. The first work was done by Samuel 
ben Tibbon, who compiled a Hebrew " Opinions of 
the Philosophers," which is a catena of passages 
from Ibn Eushd and other Muslim falasifah. This 
production was in general use as a popular manual 
until it was replaced by complete translations of the 
actual texts, when, of course, such compilations went 
out of use. The principal part of the work was done 
by Moses ben Tibbon (circ. 1260 A.D.), who translated 
most of the commentaries of Ibn Bushd, some portions 



THE JEWISH TRANSMITTORS 271 

of his medical works, and Maimonides' " Guide of the 
Perplexed." About this time Frederick II. was 
strongly desirous of introducing the Arabic writers 
to the knowledge of the West, a matter to which we 
shall refer again when we come to consider the trans- 
lation of the Arabic philosophical works into Latin, and 
BO we find him protecting and pensioning Yaqub ben 
Abba Mari, a son-in-law of Samuel ben Tibbon, at 
Naples, and this Yaqub employed in preparing a 
Hebrew translation of Ibn Eushd's commentaries on 
the Aristotelian Organon. 

The thirteenth century AJD. shows us a continuous 
series of Hebrew scholars cither preparing compilations 
and abridgments or actually translating the full 
text of the leading Arabic philosophers, and especially 
of Ibn Eushd. About 1247 Jehuda ben Salomo 
Cohen, of Toledo, published his Hebrew " Search for 
Wisdom," an encyclopaedia of Aristotelian doctrines 
mainly based upon the teachings of Ibn Eushd. 
A little later Shem-Tov b. Yusuf b. Falaquera also 
reproduced the doctrines of Ibn Eushd in his essays, 
and later again in the 13th century Gerson b. Salomo 
compiled " The Door of Heaven," which shows the 
same influence. 

About 1257 Solomon b. Yusuf b. Aiyub, a refugee 
who had come from Granada to B&ziers, translated 
the text of Ibn Eushd's commentary on the de coelo 
and de mundo, and in the latter part of this century 
complete translations begin to take the place of 
abridgments and collections of extracts. About 



272 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

1284 Zerachia ben Isaac from Barcelona translated 
Ibn Eushd's commentaries on the Physics, the 
Mataphysics, and the treatises de coelo and de mundo. 
Eenan has drawn attention to the fact that the same 
works are translated again and again, sometimes by 
translators who were very nearly contemporary and 
lived in the same neighbourhood. Evidently these 
translations did not quickly enter into wide circula- 
tion, and it does not seem that the task of the trans- 
lator was held in any great esteem ; it was regarded as 
a purely mechanical work, and not credited with any 
literary possibilities. 

Early in the 14th century Kalonymos b. Kalonymos 
b. Meir translated Ibn Eushd's commentaries on the 
Topica, Sophistica, and analytica Posterior (com- 
pleted 1314) ; then his commentaries on the Physica, 
Mataphysics, de coelo and de mundo, de generatione 
and de corruptione, and the Meteora (completed 1317), 
and followed these by a translation of the Destruction 
of the Destruction. An independent Hebrew trans- 
lation of this latter work was made about the same 
time by Kalonymos b. David b. Todros. About 1321 
Eabbi Samuel ben Jehuda ben Meshullam at Marseilles 
prepared Hebrew versions of Ibn Eushd's commen- 
taries on the Nichomachsean Ethics and his paraphrase 
of the Eepublic of Plato, which was regarded by the 
Arabic writers as part of the Aristotelian canon. 
It is rather interesting to note that somewhere about 
the same time Juda ben Moses ben Daniel of Eome 
prepared a Hebrew translation of de substantia 



THE JEWISH TRANSMITTORS 273 

orbis from the Latin translation which, was itself 
derived from the Arabic. To a great extent the 
Hebrew and Latin translations were being made 
contemporaneously but quite independently ; it was 
not until well into the 14th century that they begin to 
influence one another. It was during this later stage 
that so many of the Arabic philosophical works were 
translated into Latin via Hebrew, and this gave a 
marked preponderance to Ibn Eushd, the result of 
the Jewish vogue of his writings ; the earlier trans- 
lations into Latin from the Arabic rather tend to lay 
weight on Ibn Sina. 

In the course of the 14th century A.D. the Hebrew 
commentators on Ibn Eushd begin. Chief amongst 
these was Lavi ben Gerson, of Bagnols, who wrote a 
commentary on Ibn Eushd's Ittisal on the doctrine 
of the union of the soul with the Agent Intelligence, 
and on Ibn Eushd's treatise " on the substance of 
the world." Levi's teaching reproduces the Arabic 
Aristotelianism much more freely and frankly than 
was ventured by Maimonides ; he admits the eternity 
of the world, the primal matter he describes as sub- 
stance without form, and creation meant only the 
impress of form on this formless substance. 

Contemporary with Levi was Moses of Narbonne, 
who, between 1340 and 1350, produced commentaries 
on the same works of Ibn Eushd as had already been 
treated by Levi, as well as other of the treatises on 
physical science. 

The fourteenth century was the golden age of 



274 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Jewish scholasticism and the following century sees 
it in its decay. Ibn Eushd was still studied and 
commentaries were still compiled. About 1455 Joseph 
ben Shem-Tob of Segovia produced a commentary on 
Aristotle's Ethics which he intended to supplement 
Ibn Eushd, who had not written a commentary on 
this portion of Aristotle. Elias del Medigo, who taught 
at Padua towards the end of the 15th century, is 
regarded by Ednan as the last great Jewish Averroist. 
He wrote a commentary on the de substantia orbis 
in 1485, and also published annotations on Averroes. 
The 36th century shows the final decay of Jewish 
Averroism. In 1560 an abridgment of the logic of 
Averroes was published at Eiva di Trento, and this 
has remained a standard work amongst Jews, but 
outside logic Averroes was beginning to fall into 
disrepute. Eabbi Moses Almosnino (circ. 1538) uses 
al-Ghazali's work against the philosophers to oppose 
Ibn Eushd, and evidences occur of an interest in 
Plato by those who despised Aristotle as a relic of 
the dark ages. The later Jewish philosophers such as 
Spinoza are not in touch with the mediaeval tradition, 
whose continuity is severed towards the end of the 
16th century ; later work shows the influence of 
post-renascence non-Jewish thought. 



CHAPTER XI 

INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC 
PHILOSOPHERS ON LATIN SCHOLASTICISM 

We have now followed the way in which Hellenistic 
philosophy was passed from the Greeks to the Syrians, 
from the Syrians to the Arabic- speaking Muslims, 
and was by the Muslims carried from Asia to the far 
West. We have now to consider the way in which 
it was handed on from these Arabic-speaking people 
to the Latins. The first contact of the Latins with 
the philosophy of the Muslims was in Spain, as might 
be expected. At that time, that is to say during the 
Middle Ages, we can rightly describe the Western 
parts of Europe as u Latin," since Latin was used not 
only in the services of the church but as a means of 
teaching and as a means of intercourse between the 
educated ; it does not imply that the vernacular 
speech in all the western lands was of Latin origin, 
and of course makes no suggestion of a " Latin race " ; 
it refers only to a cultural group, and we are employing 
the term " Latin " only to denote those who shared 
a civilization which may fairly be described as of 
Latin origin. In Spain this Latin culture was in 
contact with the Arabic culture of the Muslims. 
The transmission of Arabic material to Latin is 

275 



276 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

especially associated with Baymund, who was Arch- 
bishop of Toledo from 1130 to 1150 A.D. Toledo had 
become part of the kingdom of Castile in 1085, during 
the disordered period just before the Murabit invasion. 
It had been captured by Alfonso VI., and he had made 
it the capital city of his kingdom, and the Archbishop 
of Toledo became the Primate of Spain. When the 
town was taken it was agreed that the citizens should 
have freedom to follow their own religion, but the 
year after its capture the Christians forcibly seized 
the great church, which had been converted into a 
congregational mosque about 370 years before, and 
restored it to Christian use. For the most part, 
however, the Muslims lived side by side with the 
Christians in Toledo, and their presence in the same 
city as the king, the royal court, and the Primate 
made a considerable impression on their neighbours, 
who began to take some interest in the intellectual 
life of Islam during the following years. The Arch- 
bishop Kaymund desired to make the Arabic philo- 
sophy available for Christian use. At the moment, it 
will be remembered, the Muwahhids were established 
in Spain, and their bigotry caused a number of the 
Jews and Christians to take refuge in the surrounding 
countries. 

Eaymund founded a college of translators at 
Toledo, which he put in the charge of the archdeacon 
Dominic Gondisalvi, and entrusted it with the duty 
of preparing Latin translations of the most important 
Arabic works OB philosophy and science, and thus 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 277 

many translations of the Arabic versions of Aris- 
totle and of the commentaries as well as of the abridg- 
ments of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina were produced. 
The method employed in this college and the method 
commonly followed in the Middle Ages was to use the 
services of an interpreter, who simply placed the 
Latin word over the Arabic words of the original, and 
finally the Latinity was revised by the presiding 
clerk, the finished translation usually bearing the 
name of the revisor. It was an extremely mechanical 
method, and the interpreter was treated as of minor 
importance. It seems that the preparation of a 
translation was done to order in very much the same 
way as the copying of a text, and was not regarded as 
more intellectual than the work of transcription. 
The revisor did no more than see that the sentences 
were grammatical in form : the structure and syntax 
was still Arabic, and was often extremely difficult for 
the Latin reader to understand, the more so as the 
more troublesome words were simply transliterated 
from the Arabic. The interpreters employed in this 
college certainly included some Jews ; it is known 
that one of them bore the name of John of Seville. 
We have very little information as to the circulation 
of the translations made at Toledo, but it is certain 
that about thirty years afterwards the whole text 
of Aristotle's logical Organon was in use in Paris, 
and this was not possible so long as the Latin trans- 
lations were limited to those which had been trans- 
mitted by Boethius, John Scotus, and the fragments 



278 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

of Plato derived through St. Augustine. But this 
material already in the possession of the West was 
the foundation of scholasticism, and was developed 
as far as it would go. Boethius transmitted a Latin 
version of Porphyry's Isagoge and of the Categories 
and Hermeneutics of Aristotle, whilst John Scotus 
translated the Pseudo-Dionysius. The further de- 
velopment of Latin scholasticism came in three 
stages : first, the introduction of the rest of the text of 
Aristotle, as well as the scientific works of the whole 
logical canon, by translation from the Arabic ; then 
came translations from the Greek following the 
capture of Constantinople in 1204 ; and thirdly, the 
introduction of the Arabic commentators. 

The first Latin scholastic writer who shows a 
knowledge of the complete logical Organon was John 
of Salisbury (d. 1182 A.D.), who was a lecturer at 
Paris, but it does not appear that the metaphysical 
and phychological works of Aristotle were in circu- 
lation as yet. 

By this time Paris had become the centre of 
scholastic philosophy, which was now beginning to 
predominate theology. This takes its form, as yet 
untouched by Arabic methods, in the work of Peter 
Lombard (d. 1160 AJX), whose " Sentences," an 
encyclopaedia of the controversies of the time but 
a mere compilation, remained a popular book down 
to the 17th century. The methods and form used in 
the " Sentences " shows the influence of Abelard, and 
still more of the Decretals of Gratian. It is interest- 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 279 

ing to note that Peter Lombard possessed and used a 
newly finished translation of St. John Damascene. 

Early in the 13th century we find various contro- 
versies at Paris on subjects very like those debated 
by the Arabic philosophers, but in reality derived 
from quite independent sources. Nothing would 
seem more suggestive of Arabic influence than dis- 
cussion of the essential unity of souls, which seems as 
though it were an echo of Ibn Eushd ; but this 
doctrine had been developed independently from 
neo-Platonic material in the Celtic church, and, in 
its main features not at all unlike the teaching of 
Ibn Eushd, was fairly common in Ireland (cf. E&nan : 
Averroes, 132-133). So we find Eatramnus of 
Corbey in the 9th century writing against one Macarius 
in refutation of similar views. Here Arabic influence 
is out of the question ; at the time, indeed, Ibn Eushd 
was not yet born. So of Simon of Tournay, who was 
a teacher of theology at Paris about 1200 A.D., we 
read that " whilst he follows Aristotle too closely, 
he is by some recent writers accused of heresy " 
(Henry of Gand : Lib. de script, eccles. c. 24 in Fabrisius 
Bibliotheca, 2, p. 121), but this simply means that he 
carried to an extreme the application of the dialectical 
method to theology. 

More interest attaches to the decrees passed at a 
synod held at Paris in 1209 and endorsed by the 
decisions of the Papal Legate in 1215. These measures 
were provoked by the pantheistic teaching of David 
of Dinant and Amalric of Bena, who revived the semi- 



280 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

i,, 
eriphysis, and 

the prohibitions dealing with them cite passages from 
Scotus verbatim. The PeripJiysis itself was con- 
demned by Honorius III. in 1225. But the decrees 
of 1209 also forbade the use of Aristotle's Natural 
Philosophy and the " commenta," whilst the Legate's 
orders of 1215 allowed the logical works of the old 
and new translations where perhaps the " new 
translations " refers to the " new " translations made 
from the Arabic as contrasted with the " old " 
versions of Boethius, though it is just possible that 
gome version direct from the Greek was in circula- 
tion and known as the " new translations," and also 
forbade the reading of the Metaphysics, Natural 
Philosophy, etc., all material which had become 
accessible through the Arabic. 

In 1215 Frederick II. became Emperor, and in 
1231 he began to reorganize the kingdom of Sicily. 
Both in Sicily and in the course of his crusading 
expeditions in the East Frederick had been brought 
into close contact with the Muslims and was greatly 
attracted to them. He adopted oriehtal costume and 
many Arabic customs and manners, but, most im- 
portant of all, he was a great admirer of the Arabic 
philosophers, whose works he was able to read in the 
original, as he was familiar with German, French, 
Italian, Latin, Greek, and Arabic. Contempo^y 
Mstorians represent him as a free-thinker, who regained 
all religions as equally worthless, and attributed to 
him the statement that the world had suftefrad from 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 281 

three great imposters, Moses, Christ, and Muhammad. 
This opinion of Frederick is expressed in passionate 
words by Gregory IX. in the encyclical letter " ad 
omnes principes et prelatos terrae " (in Mansi. 
xxiii. 79), where he compares the Emperor to the blas- 
pheming beast of Apocalypse xiii., but Frederick in 
reply likened the Pope to the beast described in Apoc, 
vi., " the great dragon which reduced the whole world, 11 
and professed a perfectly orthodox attitude towards 
Moses, Christ, and Muhammad. It is quite probable, 
as Bnan (Averroes, p. 293) supposes, that the vfUwtf 
ascribed to Frederick really are based on a professed* 
sympathy towards the Arabic philosophers, who 
regarded all religions as equally tolerable for the 
uninstructed multitude, and commonly illustrated 
their remarks by citing the " three laws " which were 
best known to them. In 1224 Frederick founded a 
xuitversity at Naples, and made it an academy for the 
purpose of introducing Arabic science to the western 
world, and there various translations .were made 
from Arabic into Latin and into Hebrew. By his 
encouragement Michael Scot visited Toledo about 
1217 and translated Ibn Kushd's commentaries on 
Aristotle's de coelo et de mundo, as well as the first part 
of the de anima. It seems probable also that he was 
the translator of commentaries on the ~3feteora, Parva 
Naturalia, de substantia orbis, Physics, and de genera- 
tione et de corruptione. Ibn Sina's commentaries 
were in general circulation before this, so that they 
were very probably the " commentaries " referred 



282 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

to in the Paris decree of 1209, but we do not know who 
was responsible for their rendering into Latin, save 
that they almost certainly proceeded from the college 
at Toledo. The introduction of Ibn Eushd, not of 
great repute amongst the Muslims, bears evidence to 
the weight of Jewish influence in Sicily and in the 
new academy at Naples. We know that Michael 
Scot was assisted by a Jew named Andrew. 

Another translator of this period was a German 
Hermann who was in Toledo about 1256, after 
Frederick's death. He translated the abridgment 
of the Ehetoric made by al-Farabi, Ibn Eushd's 
abridgment of the Poetics, and other less known 
works of Aristotle. Hermann's translations were 
described by Eoger Bacon as barbarous and hardly 
intelligible ; he transliterated the names so as to 
show even the tanwin in Ibn Eosdin, abi Nasrin, etc. 

By the middle of the 13th century nearly all the 
philosophical works of Ibn Bushd were translated 
into Jjatin, except the commentary on the Organon, 
which came a little later, and the Destruction of the 
Destruction, which was not rendered into Latin until 
the Jew Calonymos did so in 1328. Some of his 
medical works also were translated in the 13th 
century, namely, the Colliget, as it was called, and the 
treatise de formatione ; others were translated from 
the Hebrew into Latin early in the following century. 

The first evidence of the general circulation of 
ideas taken from Averroes (Ibn Eushd) is associated 
with William of Auvergne, who was Bishop of Paris, 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 283 

and these show a considerable amount of inaccuracy 
in detail. In 1240 William published censures 
against certain opinions, which he states to be derived 
from the Arabic philosophers ; amongst these he 
expresses his disapproval of the doctrine of the First 
Intelligence, an emanation from God, as being the 
agent of creation, a doctrine common to all the 
philosophers, but which he attributes specifically to 
al-Ghazali ; he objects also to the teaching that the 
world is eternal, which he attributes correctly to 
Aristotle and Ibn Sina, but mentions Averroes as an 
orthodox defender of the truth ; he further condemns 
the doctrine of the unity of intellects, which most 
incorrectly he attributes to Aristotle, and also refers 
to al-Farabi as maintaining this heresy ; throughout 
he cites Averroes as a sounder teacher who tends to 
correct these ideas, but his description of the doctrina 
of the unity of intellects reproduces the features 
which are distinctive of Averroes. The arguments 
he uses against this latter doctrine are, on the whole, 
very much the same as those employed a little later 
by Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas, viz., that the 
doctrine undermines the reality of the individual 
personality, and is inconsistent with the observed 
facts of diversity of intelligence in different persons. 
He cites Abubacer (Ibn Bajja) as a commentator 
on Aristotle's Physics, but in fact this was a book on 
which Ibn Bajja did not write a commentary, and the 
substance of the citation agrees with the teaching 
of Averroes. At that time evidently the position was 



284 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

that Aristotle and the Arabic commentators generally 
were regarded with suspicion save in the treatment of 
logic, the one exception being Averroes, who was 
considered to be perfectly orthodox. So strange a 
perversion of the facts could only be due to Jewish 
influence, for the Jews at that time were devoted 
adherents of Averroes. 

When the friars began to take their place in the 
work of the universities we note t^vvo striking changes : 
(i.) the friars cut loose entirely from the timid policy 
of conservatism and begin to make free use of all the 
works of Aristotle and of the Arabic commentators, 
and also make efforts to procure newer and more 
correct translations of the Aristotelian text from the 
original Greek ; under this leadership the universities 
gradually became more modern and enterprising in 
their scientific work, though not without evidence 
of strong opposition in certain quarters, (ii.) As a 
natural corollary a more correct appreciation was 
made of the tendencies of the several commen- 
tators. 

The leader in these newer studies was the Franciscan 
Alexander Hales (d. 1245), who was the first to make 
free use of Aristotle outside the logical Organon. 
His Summa, which was left unfinished and continued 
by the Franciscan William of Melitona, was based on 
the Sentences of Peter Lombard, and serves as a 
commentary to it. Peter Lombard, however, had 
not quoted Aristotle at all, whilst Alexander uses the 
metaphysical and scientific works as well as the logic. 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 285 

From this time forth the Franciscans begin to use the 
Arabic commentators. 

The more accurate study of Aristotle in mediaeval 
scholasticism begins with Albertus Magnus (1206- 
1280), the Dominican friar who first really perceived 
the importance of careful and critical versions of the 
text, and thus introduced a strictly scientific standard 
of method. He studied at Padua, a daughter uni- 
versity of Bologna, but became a Dominican in 1223. 
His methods were followed and developed by his 
pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), who arranged his 
work on the lines already indicated in Albertus' 
commentary on Aristotle's Politics, lines which 
became the regulation method in Latin scholastic 
writers, and he was at pains to get new translations 
made directly from the Greek, which was now freely 
accessible ; a new translation direct from the Greek 
was made by William de Moerbeka at the request of 
St. Thomas. But there is a significant change from 
the time when Albertus delivered his lectures : in the 
work of Albertus the commentator chiefly used was 
Ibn Sina, but in that of St. Thomas there is a free use 
of Averroes (Ibn Eushd), although St. Thomas 
shows that he is perfectly well aware of the peculiar 
doctrines held by this latter philosopher, and guards 
himself carefully from them. 

St. Thomas frequently enters into controversy 
with the Arabic commentators, and especially attacks 
the doctrines (i.) that there was a primal indefinite 
matter to which form was given at creation (c. 



286 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Summa. lae quaes. 66, art. 2) ; (ii.) that there were 
successive series of emanations, a doctrine which 
had now assumed an astrological character ; (iii.) 
that the Agent Intellect was the intermediary in 
creation (cf. Summa. 1, 45, 5 ; 47, 1 ; 90, 1) ; (iv.) 
that creation ex nihilo is impossible ; (v.) that there is 
not a special providence ruling and directing the 
world; and (vi.) most of all, the doctrine of the 
unity of intellects, a doctrine which, as he shows, is riot 
to be found in Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, 
Avicenna, or Ghazali, but is a speculative theory of 
Averroes alone, at least in the form then becoming 
popular as pampsychism. All these objections were 
essentially the same as had been already brought for- 
ward by the orthodox scholastics of Islam, and un- 
doubtedly al-Ghazali is used in refuting them. 
According to St. Thomas, the doctrine of pampsychism 
is entirely subversive of human personality and of 
the separate individuality of the ego, to which our 
own consciousness bears witness. God creates the 
soul for each child as it is born ; it is no emanation, 
but has a separate and distinct personality. As a 
corollary he denies the ittisal or final u union," 
which involves the reabsorption of the soul in its 
source. 

It is worth noting that St. Thomas received his 
education before joining the Dominican order in the 
university of Naples, which had been founded by 
Frederick II. and was a centre of interest in the 
Arabic philosophers, and this probably goes far to 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 287 

account for his more accurate appreciation of their 
teaching. Unquestionably St. Thomas Aquinas 
must be regarded as the prince of the Latin scholastics, 
for it is he who first draws freely upon metaphysics 
and psychology and co-ordinates them with theology 
the psychological analysis given in the Secunda 
secundae of the Summa is one of the best products 
of the Latin scholastics and also he was the first to 
appreciate correctly the difficulties of translation and 
insist on an accurate rendering as essential to an 
understanding of Aristotle. For the most part, as 
we have noted, the mediaeval scholars undervalued 
the translator's task and were content with a hack 
interpreter, and saw no reason for applying them- 
selves to the study of the original test, a view in 
which the Arabic philosophers shared. Incidentally 
St. Thomas was the first who makes free use of all 
the Arabic commentators and shows that he is fully 
aware of their defects. Undoubtedly he regarded 
Averroes as the best exponent of the Aristotelian 
text and the supreme master in logic, but heretical 
in his metaphysics and psychology. 

About 1256 Averroes' teaching about the unity of 
intelligences was sufficiently widespread at Paris to 
induce Albertus to write his treatise " On the unity 
of the intellect against the Averroists," a treatise 
which he afterwards inserted in his Summa. In 
1269 certain propositions from Averroes were for- 
mally condemned. At this time his works were well 
known, and there was a distinct party at Paris which 



288 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

had adopted his views and which we may describe as a 
semi-Judaistic party. This time both Albertus and 
St. Thomas published treatises against the doctrine 
of the unity of intelligences. 

Again in 1277 various Averroist theses were con- 
demned at Paris, for the most part emanating from 
the Franciscans, who, as Bacon notes (opus Tert. 23), 
were strongly inclined towards Averroes both at 
Paris and in England, a condition which prevailed 
until the great Franciscan doctor Duns Scotus 
(d. 1308) took a definitely anti- Averroist line. Still, 
even in the 14th century, when Averroism was practi- 
cally dead at Paris, it still retained its hold amongst 
the Franciscans in the English " nation." 

The Dominicans were less favourably disposed 
towards the Arabic writers, at least after the time of 
Albertus, and show a much more careful estimate of 
their work. This was no doubt due to the fact that 
they had a bouse of Arabic studies in Spain, and were 
actually engaged in controversy with the Muslims. 
As a rule a careful distinction is drawn between 
Averroes the commentator, who is treated with great 
respect as an exponent of the text of Aristotle, and 
Averroes the philosopher, who is regarded as heretical. 
It seems as though there was a deliberate policy to 
secure Aristotle by sacrificing the Arabic commenta- 
tors. Very characteristic of the work of the Domini- 
cans was the Pugio Fidei adversum Mauros et Judueos 
ol Eaymund Martini, who lived in Aragon and Pro- 
vence ; he was familiar with Hebrew, and freely uses 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 289 

the Hebrew translations of the Arabic philosophers. 
His arguments are largely borrowed from al- 
Ghazali's Destruction of the Philosophers. It is 
curious to note that, in his anxiety to defend Aristotle, 
he accuses Averroes of borrowing the doctrine of the 
unity of intelligences from Plato, and in a sense 
there was an element of truth in this, for the Averroist 
doctrine was ultimately derived from neo-Platonic 
sources. Eaymund also cites the medical teaching 
of Averroes at a date earlier than any Latin version, 
and here again shows familiarity with the Hebrew 
translations. ^ 

John Baconthorp (d. 1346), the provincial of the 
English Carmelites and " doctor " of the Carmelite 
order, tends to palliate the heretical tendencies of 
Averroes' teaching, and was called by his contempor- 
aries " the prince of Averroists," a title which was 
apparently regarded as a compliment. 

Amongst the Augustinian friars Giles of Rome in 
his de Erroribus Philosophorum was an opponent of 
the teaching of Averroes, especially attacking the 
doctrine of the unity of souls and the union or ittisal, 
but Paul of Venice (d. 1429), of the same order, shows 
a tendency favourable to Averroism in his Summa. 

The 13th century had generally used Ibn Sina 
(Avicenna) as a commentator on Aristotle, but in 
the 14th century the general tendency was to prefer 
Averroes, who was regarded as the leading exponent 
of the Aristotelian text even by those who disapproved 
hie teaching. 



290 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

The University of Montpelier as a centre of medical 

studies might be expected to use the Arabic authorities, 

but this university, though traditionally founded by 

Arabic physicians driven out of Spain, was re-founded 

as a distinctly ecclesiastical institution in the 13th 

century, and became the home of Greek medical 

studies based on Galen and Hippocrates, though 

probably the earlier texts in use were translated 

from the Arabic versions. To this more wholesome 

Greek character the university remained faithful, 

and there was always a tendency at Montpelier to 

regard the Arabic use of talismans and astrology in 

medicine as heretical. It was not until the beginning 

of the 14th century that the Arabic medical writers 

began to be used there at all, and they remained in 

quite a secondary rank. In 1304 Averroes' Canonea 

de medicinis laxativis was translated from the Hebrew, 

and in 1340 we find that i. and iv. of the Canons 

of Avicenna are included in the official syllabus set 

for candidates for medical degrees, and from this 

time forward the lectures include courses on the Arabic 

physicians. In 1567 the Arabic medical works were 

definitely struck off the list of books required for 

examination in the schools at the petition of the 

students, but occasional lectures on the Canons of 

Avicenna were given down to 1607. ^ 

The real home of Averroism was the University 
of Bologna, with its sister University of Padua, and 
from these two centres an Averroist influence spread 
over all N.E. Italy, including Venice and Ferrara, 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 291 

and BO continued until the 17th century. It was a 
precursor of the rationalism and anti-church feeling 
of the renascence, perhaps assisted by Venetian 
contact with the East. At Bologna Arabic influence 
was predominant in medicine ; already in the later 
13th century the medical course centres in the Canon 
of Avicenna and the medical treatises of Averroes, 
with the result that astrology became a regular 
subject of study, and degrees were granted in it. 
Most of the physicians of Bologna and Padua were 
astrologers, and were generally regarded as free- 
thinkers and heretics, Bologna had at one time 
enjoyed the favour of Frederick II., and he had 
presented the University with copies of the Latin 
translations prepared by his order from Arabic and 
Greek. 

The " Great Commentary " was firmly established 
at Padua, and in 1334 the Servite friar TJrbano de 
Bologna published a commentary on the commentary 
of Averroes, which was printed in 1492 by order of 
the general of the Servites. But it is Gaetano of 
Tiena (d. 1465), a canon of the cathedral at Padua, 
who is generally regarded as the fouMer of Paduan 
Averroism. He was less bold in his statements 
than the Augustinian Paul of Venice, but still quite 
definitely an Averroist in his teaching as to the Agent 
Intellect and the unity of souls, etc. He seems to 
have had a great popularity, as many copies of Us 
lectures survive. This Averroist cult in Padua held 
good through the greater part of the 15th century. 



292 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

Towards the end of the century, however, the re- 
action begins, and comes from two distinct sources. 
On one side Pbmponat lectured at Padua on the 
de an^na, but interprets it by the aid of Alexander 
of Aphrodisias and discards Averroes, setting forth 
his doctrines in the form of essays instead of the time- 
honoured commentary on the Aristotelian text. 
From this time (circ. 1495) the university of Padua 
was divided into two factions, the Averroists and the 
Alexandrians. Pomponat was at the same time a 
representative of more distinctly rationalist theories, 
towards which the Italian mind was then tending. 
It was not that Alexander was more difficult to 
reconcile with the Christian faith than Averroes, but 
that those whose scepticism was inclined to be more 
freely expressed took advantage of these new methods 
of interpretation to give free vent to their own 
opinions. Quite independent of these Alexandrians 
were the humanists proper, who objected most to the 
barbarous Latinity of the text-books in general use, 
and especially to the terminology employed in the 
translations made from the Arabic commentators. 
Representative of these was Thomaeus, who about 
1497 began to lecture at Padua on the Greek text 
of Aristotle, and to treat it very largely as a study of 
the Greek language and literature. 

Philosophical controversy at this time was centred 
chiefly in the psychological problems connected with 
the nature of the soul, and especially with its separate 
existence and the prospects of immortality. This 



INFLUENCE OF THE ARABIC PHILOSOPHERS 293 

indeed was perceived to be a crucial problem of 
religion and was very keenly debated. In the early 
years of the 16th century the controversy became 
even more prominent, until the Lateran Council of 
1512 tried to check such discussions and passed a 
a formal condemnation, which, however, was powerless 
to restrain the debates. It is to be noticed that these 
discussions did not arise from any philo-pagan 
attitude of the renascence, although they favoured 
that attitude, but from the topics suggested by the 
study of the Arabic philosophers in 1T.E. Italy, and 
had their beginning in the problem as to whether the 
soul at death could continue an individual existence 
or was reabsorbed in the source, the reservoir of 
life, whether Agent Intellect or universal soul. 

Officially the University of Padua continued to 
maintain a moderate Averroism. In 1472 the editio 
princeps of Averroes' commentaries was published 
at Padua. Then in 1495-7 Mphus produced a fuller 
and more complete edition. Through the next half- 
century a series of essays, discussions, and analyses 
of Averroes were produced almost continuously, 
and in 1552-3 appeared the great edition of Averroes' 
commentaries, with marginal notes by Zimara. In 
the course of the 16th century, also, Padua produced a 
new translation of Averroes from the Hebrew. The 
last of the Averroist succession was Csesar Cremonini 
(d. 1631), who, however, shows strong leanings towards 
Alexandrianism. By this time the study of the 
Arabic philosophers in Europe was confined to the 



294 ARABIC THOUGHT IN HISTORY 

medical writers and to the commentaries of Averroes. 

Outside Padua and Bologna Averroes retained his 
position as the principal exponent of Aristotle to the 
end of the 15th century. In the ordinances of 
Louis XI. (1473) it is laid down that the masters at 
Paris are to teach Aristotle, and to use as commen- 
taries Averroes, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, 
and similar writers instead of William of Ockham and 
others of his school, which is no more than saying 
that the official attitude is to be realist and not 
nominalist. 

With the 16th century the study of the Arabic 
commentators on Aristotle fell into disrepute outside 
Padua and its circle, but for a century more the. .Arabic 
medicaljwriter^J^d^^Lmited range of influence in 
the J2iu*pjeean^ 

The actual line of transmission inland after the 
15th century lay in the passage of the anti-ecclesiasti- 
developed in North East Italy 

to 



renascence. The arrival of Greek scholars after tne 
fall of Constantinople and the resultant interest 
developed in archaeological research diverted attention 
into a new direction, but this should not disguise the 
fact that the pro- Arabic element m^ch^i^ic days 
was the direct parent of the philopagan element in 
ttuT renascence, at least in Soui^m_Europe, IL. 
northern lands it was the archaeological side which 
assumed greater importance and was brought to 
bear upon theological subjects*