Academic Programs 

Classical Islamic Philosophy*   (TH-684)
Winter/Spring 2010

This course explores the evolution and main debates of Islamic philosophy (falsafa) from the great translation movement of ancient Greek texts under the ‘Abbâsid dynasty (8th-9th centuries) until the golden age of inter-disciplinary intellectual, scientific and spiritual debates under the Mamlûks of Egypt and the Mongols of Iran (13th-14th centuries). Besides the major falâsifa known to the medieval Latins (Kindî, Fârâbî, Avicenna, Ghazâlî, Averroes…), attention will also be given to several other thinkers, generally less famous in the West, but nevertheless important: The Ikhwân al-Safâ, Miskawayh, Ibn Tufayl, Râzî, Tûsî, Qûnâwî… A selection of representative texts will be read in English translation and commented on. A basic knowledge of Greek philosophy, Islam and the history of Muslim societies (7th-14th centuries) would be useful for this course.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Tuesdays, 4:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m. beginning Jan. 26

Yahya Michot
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, Editor, Muslim World

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9530


Course Syllabus

pdf of syllabus

Course Objectives

  1. Students should be able to find their way around in the major reference works on classical Islamic philosophy.
  2. They are expected to gain an acquaintance with the thought and writings of the most important falâsifa.
  3. They should be able to benefit from the methodological approach adopted in these classes and apply them for their own studies and/or research projects.

Course Requirements

  1. It is strongly recommended that the student arrive at the first class already having a general knowledge about the religion of Islam, as well as about the history and geography of Muslim peoples. They should also be able to find their way around in the major reference tools for Islamic Studies (Encyclopaedia of Islam, Index Islamicus…).
  2. Weekly readings, class participation (including presentations of assigned readings), regular attendance. If
    you are unable to attend class, please contact the Professor.
  3. A final research paper and a viva voce, as described infra.

The final grade will be based upon the following:

  1. Active class participation & presentations (THE ASSIGNED READINGS ARE ESSENTIAL). (30%).
  2. A final research paper of a least 15 pages* on an aspect of classical Islamic philosophy (8th–14th c.). The topic should be chosen by the end of class VI in consultation with the Professor. This paper will be due by the end of class XII (45%).
  3. A final viva voce exam discussing the course, with an emphasis on the final research paper submitted (25%).

* All written work is to conform to the seminary writing guidelines, which can be found online at: The Hartford SeminaryGrading Guidelines will be the standard of evaluation for work in the course.

General references
ENDRESS, Gerhard, Islam: An Historical Introduction. Translated by Carole HILLENBRAND (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002 –
2d ed.), viii & 301 p., ISBN 0-­‐7486-­‐1620-­‐9. (DS35 .6.E5313 2004)

ADAMSON, Peter & TAYLOR, Richard C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), xviii & 448 p., 0-521-52069-X. (B741 .C36 2005)

NASR, Seyyed Hossein & LEAMAN, Oliver (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, 2 vols. (London - New York: Routledge, 1997), xx & 1211 p., ISBN 0-415-15667-5. (B741 .H58 2001)

GUTAS, Dimitri, The Study of Arabic Philosophy in the Twentieth Century. An Essay on the Historiography of Arabic Philosophy, in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 29/1, 2002, p. 5-25.



Class Schedule

I. January 26. The « House of Wisdom » (bayt al-ḥikma)
Topics: Pre-Islamic background. Translation Movement. Arab historians of falsafa.

General references:
ROSENTHAL, Franz, The Classical Heritage in Islam. Translated from the German by E. & J. MARMORSTEIN (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), xx & 298 p., ISBN 0-7100-7864-1. (DS36.82 .G7 R6713)

NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, Part I/1: Religious, intellectual and cultural context, p.

Reading Assignment:
GUTAS, D., Greek Thought, Arabic Culture. The Graeco–Arabic Translation movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbāsid Society (London - New York: Routledge, 1998). — Pages 11-60. (DS36.82 .G7 G88 1998)

II. February 2. Al-Kindî Topics: « Faylasûf al-‘Arab ». Abû Ma‘shar. Mu‘tazila.

General references:
ADAMSON, Peter, Al-Kindî and the reception of Greek philosophy, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 32-51.
—, Abû Ma‘sar, al-Kindî and the Philosophical Defense of Astrology, in Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales, 69/2, 2002, p. 245-270.

Reading Assignment:
IVRY, Alfred L., Al-Kindi’s metaphysics. A Translation of Ya‘qûb ibn Ishâq al-Kindî’s Treatise “ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY” (Fî al-Falsafah al-Ulâ), with Introduction and Commentary (Albany: State University of New York Press, « Studies in Islamic
Philosophy and Science », 1974), x & 207 p., ISBN 0-87395-092-5. — Pages 55-114.

III. February 9. Abû Bakr al-Râzî, the « Heretic »

Topics: Liber Continens. A‘lâm al-nubuwwa. Five eternal substances. Three Impostors.

General reference:
GOODMAN, Lenn E., Muhammad ibn Zakariyyâ’ al-Râzî, in NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, p. 198-215.

BRION, Fabienne, Philosophie et révélation : traduction annotée de six extraits du Kitâb A‘lâm al-Nubuwwa d’Abû Hâtim al-Râzî, in Bulletin de Philosophie médiévale, 28 (Louvain-la-Neuve: Secrétariat de la SIEPM, 1986), p. 134-162.
—, Le temps, l’espace et la genèse du monde selon Abû Bakr al-Râzî. Présentation et traduction des chapitres I, 3-4 du Kitâb a‘lâm al-nubuwwa d’Abû H âtim al-Râzî, in Revue philosophique de Louvain, 87 (Louvain-la-Neuve, May 1989) p. 139-164.

Reading Assignments:

GOODMAN, LENN E., Râzî vs Râzî – Philosophy in the Majlis, in H. LAZARUS-YAFEH (ed.), The Majlis (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1999), p. 84-107. — Pages 84-107. (Photocopy)
AND RÂZÎ, The Spiritual Physick of Rhazes. Translated from the Arabic by Arthur J. ARBERRY (London: John Murray, 1950). — Pages 18-49. (BJ1291 .R3413 1950)

IV. February 16. Ikhwân al-Safâ’: Gnosis and Humanism in the fourth/tenth century

Topics: The Rasâ’il. The Ismâ‘îlî philosophers.

General references:
DE CALLATAŸ, G., Ikhwân al-Safâ’. A Brotherhood of Idealists on the Fringe of Orthodox Islam (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005).

MICHOT, Y., Misled and Misleading… Yet Central in their Influence: Ibn Taymiyya’s Views on the Ikhwān al-Hafā’, in The Ikhwān al-Hafā’ and their Rasā’il. An Introduction. Edited by
N. El-Bizri. Foreword by F. Daftary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, « Epistles of the Brethren of Purity », 2008), p. 139-179.
– Revised version, with important editorial corrections, on

Reading Assignment:

VAN REIJN, Eric, The Epistles of the Sincere Brethren (Rasâ’il Ikhwan al-Safa’). An annotated translation of Epistles 43 to 47 (London: Minerva Press, 1995), x & 137 p., ISBN 1-85863-418-0. — Pages 50-94. Epistle 46: On faith and the faithful. (Photocopy)

V. February 23. Abû Nasr al-Fârâbî’s alternative society

Topics: The « Second Master ». The Baghdâdî Peripatetician literati.

General references:
KRAEMER, Joel L., Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam. The Cultural Revival during the Buyid Age. Followed by: Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam: a Preliminary Study. Second revised edition (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992), xxx & 329, 135-164 p., ISBN 90-04-09736-8.

NETTON, Ian R., Al-Fârâbî and His School (London - New York: Routledge, « Arabic thought and Culture », 1992), XIII & 128 p., ISBN 0-415-03595-3. (B745.K53 N48 1992)

REISMAN, David, Al-Fârâbî and the philosophical curriculum, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 52-71.

BLACK, Deborah L., al-Fârâbî, in NASR & S. H., LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, p. 178-197.

Reading Assignment:
FÂRÂBÎ, Abû Nasr (al-), Al-Fârâbî on the Perfect State, Abû Nasr al-Fârâbî's Mabâdi’ ârâ’ ahl al-madînat al-fâdila. A revised text with introduction, translation, and commentary by Richard WALZER, Postscript by ENDRESS Gerhard (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1985), 571 p., ISBN 0-19-824505-X. — Pages 197-259 (Chapters 13-15). (Photocopy)

VI. March 2. Ibn Sînâ. I: Milieu, Life, Works

Topics: From Bukhârâ to Hamadhân. Qânûn, Shifâ’, Ishârât, Mubâḥathât, etc.

General references:
GUTAS, D., Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition. Introduction to Reading Avicenna’s Philosophical Works (Leiden: E. J. Brill, « Islamic Philosophy and Theology. Texts and Studies, IV », 1988).
—, Avicenna’s madhhab. With an Appendix on the Question of his Date of Birth, in Atti del XIII Congresso dell’Union Européenne d’Arabisants et d’Islamisants (Venezia 29 settembre - 4 ottobre 1986), Quaderni di Studi Arabi 5-6 (Venise: Armena, 1987-1988), p. 323-336.

MICHOT, Y., IBN SÎNÂ. Lettre au vizir Abû Sa‘d. Editio princeps d’après le manuscrit de Bursa, traduction de l’arabe, introduction, notes et lexique (Paris: Albouraq, « Sagesses Musulmanes, 4 », 1421/2000), xii, 130*, 61, 4 & 186 p. ISBN 2-84161-150-7.
—, La réponse d’Avicenne à Bahmanyâr et al-Kirmânî. Présentation, traduction critique et lexique arabe-français de la Mubâhatha III, in Le Muséon, CX (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1997), p. 143-221.

Reading Assignments:
GOHLMAN, W. E., The Life of Ibn Sina. A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation, « Studies in Islamic Philosophy and Science », State University of New York Press, Albany, 1974. — Pages 16-88. (B751.A5 S5 1974)
GUTAS, D., Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition. — Pages 23-30 (Text 3) & 43-54 (Texts 8-9), 56-72 (Texts 11-13).

VII. March 9. Ibn Sînâ. II: « al-Shaykh al-Ra’îs »
Topics: Metaphysics, psychology, prophetology, eschatology. An “Oriental philosophy” ?

General references:
GOODMAN, Lenn Evan, Avicenna (London - New York: Routledge, Arabic thought and Culture, 1992), XIII & 240 p., ISBN 0-415-07409-6. (B751.Z7 G66 1992)

NASR, S. H., Ibn Sînâ’s “Oriental philosophy”, in NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, p.247-251.

GUTAS, Dimitri, Avicenna's Eastern ("Oriental") Philosophy: Nature, Contents, Transmission, in Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 10 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 159-180.

Reading Assignments:
INATI, Shams, Ibn Sînâ and Mysticism. Remarks and Admonitions: part Four (London & New York: Kegan Paul International, 1996), ISBN 0-7103-0482-X. — Pages 69-108. (PDF:
CORBIN, Henry, Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, Translated from the French by Willard R. TRASK (Princeton, Princeton University Press, « Bollingen series, LXVI », 1988), xiii & 423 p., ISBN 0-691-01893-6. — Pages 137-150: Translation of the Recital of Hayy ibn Yaqzân. (Photocopy)

VIII. March 16. Autodestructions (Tahâfut), from Abû Hâmid al-Ghazâlî to Ibn Rushd

Topics: Opposing Avicenna. Reconciling reason and Islam.

General references:
MARMURA, Michael E., al-Ghazâlî, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 137-154.

JANSSENS, Jules, Al-Gazzâlî and His Use of Avicennian Texts, in Problems in Arabic Philosophy, redigit Mikols MAROTH (Piliscsaba: The Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, « Acta et studia, II », 2003), ISBN 963-86359-24, p. 37-49.

URVOY, Dominique, Ibn Rushd, in NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, p. 330-345.

GHAZÂLÎ, Abû Hâmid (al-), The Incoherence of the Philosophers - Tahâfut al-Falâsifa, A parallel English-Arabic text translated, introduced, and annotated by Michael E. MARMURA (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, « Islamic Translation Series », 2000), xxxi & 261 p., ISBN 0-8425-2466-5. (B753.G33 T3313 1997)

Reading Assignments:
MONTGOMERY WATT, W., The faith and practice of al-Ghazâlî (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1952). — Pages 19-85: Deliverance from error. (PDF: : Watt’s Translation)
HOURANI, George F., Averroes on the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy. A translation, with introduction and notes, of Ibn Rushd’s Kitâb fasl al-maqâl, with its appendix (Damîma) and an extract from Kitâb al-kashf ‘an manâhij al-adilla (London: Luzac & Co., « E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Series. New Series, XXI », 1976), [xii] & 128 p., ISBN 0-7189-022-X. — Faṣl al maqâl (# 1 to 197) (

IX. March 23. « Oriental Wisdom » East & West, from Yahyâ l-Suhrawardî to Ibn Tufayl

Topics: Re-inventing Avicenna.

General references:
PUIG MONTADA, Josef, Philosophy in Andalusia, Ibn Bâjja and Ibn Tufayl, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 155-179.

WALBRIDGE, J., Suhrawardî and Illuminationism, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 201-223.

ZIAI, Hossein, The Illuminationist Tradition, in NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. I, p. 465-499.

GUTAS, Dimitri, Ibn Tufayl on Ibn Sînâ's Eastern Philosophy, in Oriens 34 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), p. 222-241.

Reading Assignments:
IBN TUFAYL, Abû Ja‘far, Hayy Ibn Yaqzân. A philosophical tale translated with introduction and notes by Lenn Evan

GOODMAN (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972), ix & 246 p. — Pages 95-166. (B753 .I53 R53 1972)
SUHRAWARDÎ, Shihâb al-Dîn Yahyâ, The Philosophy of Illumination - Hikmat al-Ishrâq. A New Critical Edition of the Text of Hikmat al-ishrâq with English Translation, Notes, Commentary, and Introduction by John WALBRIDGE & Hossein ZIAI.
(Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, « Islamic Translation Series », 1999), xliii, 163* & 219p., ISBN 0-8425- 2457-6. — Pages 115-163: Discourses III-V. (Photocopy)

X. April 6. Philosophizing (tafalsuf) after the Falâsifa
Topics: Philosophizing Sufis, theologians and scientists. The primacy of logic.

General references:
GUTAS, D., The Heritage of Avicenna: The Golden Age of Arabic Philosophy, 1000 - ca. 1350, in J. JANSSENS & D. DE SMET (eds), Avicenna and his Heritage. Acts of the International Colloquium, Leuven - Louvain-la-Neuve, Sept. 8-11, 1999 (Louvain: Leuven University Press, « Ancient and Medieval Philosophy. De Wulf-Mansion Centre. Series 1, XXVIII », 2002), p. 81-97.

MICHOT, Y., La pandémie avicennienne au VIe/XIIe siècle. Présentation, editio princeps et traduction de l’introduction du Livre de l’advenue du monde (Kitâb hudûth al-‘âlam) d’Ibn Ghaylân al-Balkhî, in Arabica, XL/3 (Paris, Nov. 1993), p. 287-344.

SHIHADEH, A., From al-Ghazâlî to al-Râzî: 6th/12th Century Developments in Muslim Philosophical Theology, in Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 15 (Cambridge, 2005), p. 141-179.

CHITTICK, William C., Mysticism versus Philosophy in Earlier Islamic History: the al-Tûsî, al-Qunawî Correspondence, in Religious Studies, 17 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 87-104.

RESCHER, N., The Development of Arabic Logic (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1964).

Reading Assignment:
TUSÎ, Nasîr al-Dîn (al-), Contemplation and Action. The Spiritual Autobiography of a Muslim Scholar. A New Edition and English Translation of Sayr wa Sulûk by S. J.

BADAKHCHANI (London: I. B. Tauris - The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1998),
xiii, 86 & 22 p., ISBN 1-85043-908-7. — Pages 23-54. (Photocopy)
MICHOT, Y., Al-Nukat wa-l-Fawâ’id: An Important Summa of Avicennian Falsafa, in Classical Arabic Philosophy: Sources and Reception, ed. by Peter ADAMSON (London: The Warburg Institute - Turin: Nino Aragno Editore, « Warburg Institute Colloquia, 11 », 2007) — Pages 90-124. (PDF:

XI. April 13. Beyond the boundaries of Islam, from Maimonides to George Bush
Topics: the influence of falsafa in Judaism and the West from the Middle Ages to the modern period.

General references:
HARVEY, Steven, Islamic philosophy and Jewish philosophy, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 349-369.

BURNETT, Charles, Arabic into Latin: the reception of Arabic philosophy into Western Europe, in ADAMSON, P. & TAYLOR, R. C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, p. 370-404.

WILSON, Catherine, Modern Western philosophy, in NASR, S. H. & LEAMAN, O. (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy, vol. II, p. 1013-1029.

TAKAHASHI, Hidemi, The Reception of Ibn Sînâ in Syriac: The Case of Gregory Barhebraeus, in David C. REISMAN (ed.), Before and After Avicenna. Proceedings of the First Conference of the Avicenna Study Group (Leiden - Boston: Brill, « Islamic Philosophy and Science. Texts and Studies, LII », 2003), xix & 302 p., ISBN 90-04-12978-2.

Reading Assignment:
MICHOT, Y., Avicenna’s Almahad in 17th Century England: Sandys, Pococke, Digby, Baron, Cudworth et alii…, in Uluslararası İbn Sînâ Sempozyumu Bildiriler, 22-24 Mayıs 2008, İstanbul – International Ibn Sina Symposium Papers, May 22-24, 2008, Istanbul, eds. Mehmet MAZAK & Nevzat ÖZKAYA, 2 vols. (Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kültür A. Ş. Yayınları, 2009), vol. II, p. 299-336. — Pages 299-318. (PDF:

XII. April 20. « Poisoned by Falsafa »: Ibn Taymiyya

Refutation of Greek logic. Commentaries on Thâbit, IS, etc. Opposition to the rationalism of Ghaz & Râzî. Influence of IS (theodicy). Subki’s accusations.

General references:
MICHEL, Thomas F., Ibn Taymiyya’s Critique of Falsafa, in Hamdard Islamicus, VI/1 (Karachi, 1983), p. 3-14.

HOOVER, Jon, Ibn Taymiyya as an Avicennan Theologian, in Theological Review, 27 (2006), p. 34-46.

Reading Assignment:
MICHOT, Y., A Mamlūk Theologian’s Commentary on Avicenna’s Risāla Adhawiyya : Being a Translation of a Part of the Dar’ al-Ta‘ārud of Ibn Taymiyya, with Introduction, Annotation, and Appendices, in Journal of Islamic Studies, 14:2–3 (Oxford, 2003), Part I, pp. 149–203; Part II, pp. 309–363. — Part I, pages 150-194. (PDF:

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500