Al-Ghazâlî's Reports of the falâsifa's Teachings

After having already made a name for himself as a competent author of legal works, al-Ghazâlî published around 1095 a number of books where he addresses the challenges posed by falsafa and by the theology of the Ismâ’îlite Shiites. The movement of falsafa (from Greek: philosophía) resulted from the translation of Greek philosophical and scientific literature into Arabic from the 8th to the early 10th centuries. The Arabic philosophers (falâsifa) were heirs to the late-antique tradition of understanding the works of Aristotle in Neoplatonic terms. In philosophy the translators from Greek into Arabic focused on the works of Aristotle and although some distinctly Neoplatonic texts were translated into Arabic—most notably the pseudo-Aristotelian Theology, a compilation from Plotinus' Enneads—the most significant Neoplatonic contributions reached the Arabs by way of commentaries on the works of the Stagirite (Wisnovsky 2003, 15). Falsafa was a movement where Christians, Muslims, and even pagan authors participated. After the 12th century it would also include Jewish authors. For reasons that will become apparent, al-Ghazâlî focused his comments on the Muslim falâsifa. In the early 10th century al-Fârâbî (d. 950) had developed a systemic philosophy that challenged key convictions held by Muslim theologians, most notably the creation of the world in time and the original character of the information God reveals to prophets. Following Aristotle, al-Fârâbî taught that the world has no beginning in the past and that the celestial spheres, for instance, move from pre-eternity. Prophets and the revealed religions they bring articulate the same insights that philosophers express in their teachings, yet the prophets use the method of symbolization to make this wisdom more approachable for the ordinary people. Avicenna continued al-Fârâbî's approach and developed his metaphysics and his prophetology to a point where it offers comprehensive explanations of God's essence and His actions as well as a psychology that gives a detailed account of how prophets receive their knowledge and how they, for instance, perform miracles that confirm their missions. Avicenna's philosophy offers philosophical explanations of key Muslim tenets like God's unity (tawhîd) and the central position of prophets among humans.