The Rationalistic and Philosophical Spirit of Islam

  • Amir Ali


Like all other nations of antiquity, the pre-Islamic Arabs were stern fatalists. The remains of their ancient poetry, sole record of old Arab thought and manners, show that before the promulgation of Islam the people of the Peninsula had absolutely abandoned themselves to the idea of an irresistible and blind fatality. Man was but a sport in the hands of Fate. This idea bred a reckless contempt of death, and an utter disregard for human life. The teachings of Islam created a revolution in the Arab mind; with the recognition of a supreme Intelligence governing the universe, they received the conception of self-dependence and of moral responsibility founded on the liberty of human volition. One of the remarkable characteristics of the Quran is the curious, and, at first sight, inconsistent, manner in which it combines the existence of a Divine Will, which not only orders all things, but which acts directly upon men and addresses itself to the springs of thought in them, with the assertion of a free agency in man and of the liberty of the intellect. Not that this feature is peculiar to the Moslem scripture; the same characteristic is to be found in the Biblical records. But in the Quran the conception of human responsibility is so strongly developed that the question naturally occurs to the mind, How can these two ideas be reconciled with each other? It seems inconsistent at first sight that man should be judged by his works, a doctrine which forms the foundation of Islamic morality, if all his actions are ruled by an all-powerful Will.


Moral Responsibility Free Agency Islamic Morality Cultivate Humility Aristotelian Ethic 
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© Mansoor Moaddel and Kamran Talattof 2000

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  • Amir Ali

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