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HTS Theological Studies

On-line version ISSN 2072-8050
Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Herv. teol. stud. vol.79 n.1 Pretoria  2023 



Periodisation of the philosophy of Islamic rationalism in the perspective of Zaki Naguib Mahmud



Supriyanto Supriyanto

Qur'an and Tafsir Study Program, Faculty of Ushuluddin Adab and Humanities, Universitas Islam Negeri Professor Kiai Haji Saifuddin Zuhri Purwokerto, Banyumas, Indonesia





In the current era of disruption, causality cannot be opposed to religion, so the independence of reason can contribute to the development of contemporary global thought in the Islamic world. This paper seeks to uncover the roots of the periodization of the philosophy of Islamic rationalism in the view of Zaki Naquib Mahmud. The primary data source is three books titled Arabiy baina Tsaqafatain, Tajdid Al-Fikr Al-Arabi, and Al-Ma'qul wa al-La Ma'qul fi Turatsina al-Fikribaik. Research data is a discourse that contains elements of religion and rationalism. The process of collecting data in this study is by studying literature and tracking various references related to the study's focus. Data analysis techniques are carried out by the method of content analysis. Data validity using a triangulation model, by comparing data and relevant theory. The result of this study is that there are five phases of periodization of the philosophy of Islamic rationalism in the perspective of Zaki Naquib Mahmud, namely simple thinking [misykat] represented by Ali ibn Abi Talib; the lamp of reason [misbah] is characterized by the occurrence of philosophical debates about leadership and the great sin; the lamp glass [Zujajah al Misbah] is marked by the appearance of Bayt al-ikmah in Baghdad; the luminous star [kaukab durriy] represented by the emergence of the Brotherhood of ash Shafa; and the endowed tree [syajarah mubarakah]. In this last phase, Zaki Naquib Mahmud positioned Ibn Rushd's rationalism as an appropriate representation so as not to regress, even allowing for the realization of the renaissance in the Islamic world. This reflection of thought is expected to be able to inspire the millennial generation of Muslims about the importance of the philosophy of rationalism in the Islamic tradition
CONTRIBUTION: This article contributed to the goal of HTS Theological Studies to promote transdisciplinary aspects of religious studies in the international theological arena on philosophy in literary texts

Keywords: Rationalism; Zaki Naguib Mahmud; Islamic philosophy; Islamic rationalism; periodisation philosophy.




The general unease of Muslim thinkers in the early 20th century about the decline of Islam has lasted until now. Various problems are illustrated in the question, 'why are Muslims left behind, and other nations can move forward?' (Arsalan 2014). The root of the problem began as early as a cleric from West Kalimantan.1 Shaikh Muhammad Basyuni Imran, in 1930, sent a letter to his teacher, Shaikh Muhammad Rasyid Ridha, who was then managing Al-Manar magazine. Shaikh Muhammad Basyuni expressed anxiety about the problem of weakness and setbacks that occur to Muslims in various parts of the world, including in Java2 and Melayu.3 Has not God guaranteed victory for the faithful? Meanwhile, Europeans, Americans and Japanese have made tremendous progress. For this reason, the problem considered essential for the cause of Islam's backwardness is the development of an attitude of rejection towards all that comes from non-Muslims (Arsalan 2014; Bostom 2019). In other words, Muslims tend to be closed to logical thinking expressed by non-Muslims.

The main issue indicated to be the cause of the decline of Muslims is the lack of rational ability. Some think so fatalistically that it often becomes frozen and rigid. In fact, Muslims 90 percent believe "to the sky". That is, Muslims believe in the power of God, ignoring the rationality of logic. In addition, the Salafists are preoccupied with political jihad. Meanwhile, other Salafists are also busy with Islamic religious renewal projects with their purification (Rabil 2014; Wehrey & Boukhars 2019). For this, however, logic became an important instrument in the formation of human ideas. Logic is believed to give rise to various life innovations that are changing the world today. In fact, in its golden history, Islam has experienced a heyday due to the ratio of human nality. Examples of thinkers of Islamic rationality are the Mu'tazilah group and the Sofa abu Ikhwan (Muin 2015; Solehah Hj. Yaacob, 2015; Turmudi 2017). In the field of philosophy, they represent a philosophical school of Islamic rationalism that has proven to have a tangible impact on Islamic civilisation. Therefore, to develop, Islam cannot ignore the rationality of philosophy.

This study aims to uncover the philosophical roots of rationalism in Islamic history. This comprehensive periodisation of the philosophy of Islamic rationalism has not been widely discussed by contemporary Muslim thinkers. A person considered to be one of the contemporary Muslim thinkers is Zaki Naguib Mahmud. He not only studied Islamic rationalism but also was a very rational person in looking at religion and science. In fact, comprehensive studies in the field of Islamic rationalism philosophy have not been found much. Some thinkers only work on Islamic rationalism that focuses on specific Islamic figures (see Amir 2020; Irfan 2018; Kholis 2017; Rajali 2017; Soleh 2011). Some of these scholarly articles provide space for the author to comprehensively uncover the philosophical roots of Islamic rationalism using the perspective of Zaki Naguib Mahmud. For this reason, this study seeks to explore the roots of rationalism in the Islamic world, especially those related to Zaki Naguib Mahmud's thoughts on the course of rationalism in Islamic history. In addition, this research also explains the contribution of Mahmud's ideas to Islamic philosophical thought. This study is expected to contribute to the discursive strengthening of the role of reason in the process of forming Islamic civilisation. This research is expected to provide a radical entry point in international discussions on the importance of the philosophy of rationalism as an inspiration for contemporary Muslim thinkers today.


Materials and methods

This research uses a descriptive qualitative method, focusing on literature research (library research). The use of descriptive qualitative methods is caused because it conforms to the object and focus of the study. This is because research seeks to produce discoveries that cannot be achieved through measurement procedures or statistics (Creswell 2014; Neuman 2014). A literature study is a study that is used to compile information and data with the help of various kinds of materials in the library such as documents, books, magazines, historical stories and so on (Connaway & Powell 2007; Wildemuth 2007).

The research data comprised a discourse that contains elements of religion and rationalism. The primary data sources were books called Arabiy Baina Tsaqafatain (Mahmud 1990), Tajdid Al-Fikr Al-Arabi (Mahmud 1971) and Al-Ma'qul wa al-La Ma'qul fi Turatsina al-Fikribaik (Mahmud 1987b). Secondary data sources are books and articles that function to support research data. The process of collecting data in this study was by studying literature to track various references related to the study's focus. After the data were obtained, the research findings were classified by categories of religion and rationalism. Using relevant theories, the classification results were tested for validity (Holzhauser 2008). Once the encoding was confirmed valid, the data were interpreted based on the researcher's perspective. Data analysis techniques were carried out by content analysis (Connaway & Powell 2007; Elo & Kyngäs 2008). The analysis process included selecting, comparing, combining and sorting out information from related data to obtain valid inferences. In clarifying the validity of the data, researchers triangulate sources and methods (Connaway & Powell 2007; Creswell 2014). The results of the study were verified to formulate temporary conclusions. After careful verification, the last step was to conclude the study results.


Results and discussion

Religious and philosophical dialogue among early Muslim philosophers

The first generation of Muslim philosophers faced tremendous challenges when they began to develop a tradition of rational thinking based on ideas from the ancient Greek tradition. Their first task was to position a habit of logical philosophical thinking that did not contradict the teachings of the Islamic religion. Muhammad Yusuf Musa mapped out the efforts of Muslim philosophers in uniting religion and philosophy. Muhammad Yusuf Musa's efforts met with three conditions: (1) accepting religion and rejecting philosophy, (2) accepting philosophy and rejecting religion and (3) the parties who continue to seek dialogue between the two forces. Then, they continue to look for common ground between the two dichotomies (Musa 2017). After all, religion and philosophy are not in conflict but mutually reinforce one another (Al-Kindi 1950). For Al-Kindi, religion and philosophy come from the same source, which is Allah. Revelation and reason are both divine products. Therefore, it is impossible for two things to contradict that come from one source. Therefore, Al-Kindi calls on us to respect the philosophers who have been instrumental in transforming the tradition of rational thinking, even though they are non-Muslims. Ibn Sina also agreed that happiness and torment in the afterlife are reasonable at the core of religious teachings (Musa 2017). In addition to thoughts on prophethood and the afterlife, Ibn Sina showed an effort to bring spiritual teachings together with philosophy. He tried to reflect on the divine idea of Aristotle, who stated that God did not know the details. He reconstructed the idea that God knows the universe with universal, [kulliy] not partial [juz'iy] knowledge (Musa 2017). However, this was ultimately the idea that prompted Al-Farabi to propose 10 statements about the creation of the universe.

Meanwhile, Ibn Rushd was an important figure who became the pioneer of logic and divinity. In the book of Fashlul Maqal fima Baina Asy-Shari'ah wal Hikmah minal Ittishal, Ibn Rushd always sought the basic foundation of the scripture verses. In his argument, Ibn Rushd preferred the postulate 'inayah and ikhtira', which had strong roots in the verses of the Qur'an rather than other arguments. Ibn Rushd had predicted that 90% of human life tends to be practical. That is, most life practices are aimed at the material, not the spiritual (Rushd, 1986). In philosophy, Ibn Rushd explained a verse of the Qur'an that tells Muslims to study, research, think and i'tibar. I'tibar is a process that lacks clarity of legal basis. It was a process of analogy and syllogism (Aiwani 2017). After all, philosophical thinking is to observe everything that exists as evidence of the existence of a Creator. Ibn Rushd formulated the relationship between religion and philosophy, illustrated through three methods of thinking: (1) philosophers by the burhani method, (2) theologians by the jadali method and (3) the laity by the khithabi method. Through these three categories, religious teachings accommodate all human groups (Rushd 2012). This vital thought of the early Muslim philosophers is critical because it is the entrance of Mahmud's thinking on the map of the periodisation of the development of Muslim philosophy.

Periodisation of the development of the philosophy of rationalism in the Islamic world

Islamic religious texts are rich in the treasures of rational thought. It is just that, at this time, it seems to be covered by the rise of irrational views. Islamic rationalism, for one, is described in Sura An-Nur, verse 35:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأرْضِ مَثَلُ نُورِهِ كَمِشْكَاةٍ فِيهَا مِصْبَاحٌ الْمِصْبَاحُ فِي زُجَاجَةٍ الزُّجَاجَةُ كَأَنَّهَا كَوْكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُوقَدُ مِنْ شَجَرَةٍ مُبَارَكَةٍ زَيْتُونَةٍ لا شَرْقِيَّةٍ وَلا غَرْبِيَّةٍ يَكَادُ زَيْتُهَا يُضِيءُ وَلَوْ لَمْ تَمْسَسْهُ نَارٌ نُورٌ عَلَى نُورٍ يَهْدِي اللَّهُ لِنُورِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الأمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيم

It means:

God gives light [to] heaven and earth. The parable of God's light is like an impenetrable pit in which a great lamp exists. The lamp in the glass [and] the glass is as if a star [which is luminous] like a pearl, which is lit with the oil of a tree of many blessings, that is, an olive tree that grows neither to the east nor to the west, whose oil almost illuminates, though not touched by fire. Light upon light [in layers], God guides to His light which he wills, and God makes parables for man, and God is all-knowing of all things.

Imam Ghazali, in the book Misykat al-Anwar, explains that the word 'light' in this verse is best used as a metaphor for reason, not the eyes or senses (Ghazali 1986). Mahmud later used Imam Ghazali's interpretation in the book Misykat al-Anwar as an argumentative tool in analysing the verses of An-Nur. As an Averroist, Mahmud disagreed with Imam Ghazali. Mahmud disagreed with Imam Al-Ghazali's statement about inner strength as a stage of the evolution of human thought. Mahmud preferred a combination of reason and heart. Therefore, Mahmud, who originally borrowed Imam Ghazali's thoughts to interpret the verse an-Nur, turned to criticize Imam Al-Ghazali's Sufism. According to Mahmud, the concept of Sufism developed by Imam Ghazali is the cause of Islam's decline.

Imam Ghazali, in Misykat al-Anwar, describes the level of idrak [knowledge]. In Sufism, Imam Ghazali explained that the level of expertise includes the journey of the spirit imagined by misykat, zujajah, misbah, syajarah and zaitunah. Philosophically, these five stages are commonly termed sensory power, imaginary power, rational thinking power, universal thinking soul and prophetic holy soul (Ghazali 1986). Based on the framework of the five stages of idrak, Mahmud tried to map the history of Islamic thought, both experienced by individuals and groups. He believed that the development of human thought must have gone through certain stages. This viewpoint of Mahmud can be understood from his written works, among them 'Arabiy baina Tsaqafatain, Tajdid al-Fikr al-'Arabi, and one of his monumental works Al-Ma'qul wa al-La Ma'qul fi Turatsina al-Fikri (Mahmud, 1987a, 1990, 1993). According to Mahmud, the level of human knowledge is as follows.

Misykat: Empirical knowledge

Human knowledge is a stage of knowledge that comes from the five senses. In the Arab-Islamic world, the first stage of the development of human knowledge seems to be attributed to the figure and character of the thought of Ali bin Abi Talib. The course of the conflict with Mu'awiyah [the events of Siffin] and also Aisyah [Jamal war] implies that one can 'know naturally and spontaneously'. It is an attitude that mixes literature, philosophy, war skills and politics. To this degree, a politician can be a literati and vice versa. On the one hand, a philosopher can know wisdom through his inner sight, but on the other hand, his hand is holding a sword to hurt people. Imam Ali is evidence of a person in whom all these sides are gathered (Mahmud 1987a).

The Siffin War culminated in the struggle for the caliphate between Ali and Mu'awiyah, which ended with an arbitration event. In this phase, the Arab-Islamic tradition forms when language fluency, courage and political shrewdness come together on the Islamic political history drama stage. This phase also features the first political schools coming to the fore, simultaneously leading Muslims to be uncertain. From this, there are two essential points to be gained: (1) the emergence of conflicts of political attitudes of Muslims depicted in arbitration support groups, arbitration deniers and indifferent groups; (2) the emergence of dualism and vagueness of thought, that is, the contestation between rationalists (Ali) and irrationalists (Khawarij). Khawarij's negative thinking of all parties is full of contradictions. Khawarij has represented rampant incoherence (Mahmud 1987a). Political constellations are repeatable situations. Rationality and irrationality are also images that have always existed in every history of human development. These various characters may represent different societal elements but can be attached to one individual. The figure of Ali bin Abi Talib featured in Nahjul Balagah is a comprehensive picture of human reason (Abduh 1993).

Lamp of reason [misbah] in Misykat: Experimentation of experiences in Basrah

The Misykat stage is an imaginative experiential experiment represented by general rules. In the animal world, some acquire knowledge of this model, and others do not. A bat cannot experiment with rays emerging from the fire. It will still slide there because it is considered a door to light. Unlike a dog, if hit with a piece of wood, it will run away to dodge it whenever it sees wood. Bats do not have the imaginary power that records and experiments on empirical experiences, while dogs have it (Ghazali 1986). In this phase, human thought begins to enter the stage of forming rules and attempts to restore experiments of a particular nature and experiences scattered into a series of general laws and regulations. This is at the heart of the scientific method because science is judged through its forms, not its object (Ghazali 1986).

The development of thinking in this phase is a continuation of the events in the first phase. The Jamal and Siffin Wars events created debates and theological concepts about the great sin. Initially, the question arises as to who is guilty. Is this guilty one still regarded as mu'min, or are they already infidel? What is the attitude of Muslims towards them? This issue has given rise to three schools of Islamic creed of thought. The first group is the extreme leftists. Khawarij asserted that the guilty were infidels. The second group is extreme rightists. Murji'ah (Ahlussunnah) argues that the great sinner remains a believer. Then, the third group is those who try to appear moderate by taking a position between the extreme left and the extreme right. Mu'tazilah, with his concept of al-manzilah baina al-manzilatain, claims that the great sinner is not infidel, nor are they mu'min (Mahmud 1987a). Another issue that is also the topic of debate for this phase is what happened between Mu'tazilah versus Ahlussunnah in terms of the nature of Allah. In addition, the thinking between Qadariyah and Jabariyah also does not produce a common point as to whether humans have free will that can be accounted for or whether all human deeds follow Allah's will.

Lamp glass [Zujajah al-Misbah]

The stage of knowledge of reason is a movement of rational thinking. This power can capture meanings beyond the senses and imagination. This power is a human feature that animals and young children do not have. The knowledge gained is universal general rules (Ghazali 1986). The difference between this stage and the second stage is that the general rational rules have reached the point of maturity. This stage developed in the late 8th century to the beginning of the 9th century AD. At this stage, Mahmud describes the development of human thought in 3 stages, namely: 1) the stage of transition of power from the Umayah to the Abbasids, which is characterized by the emergence of al-hikmah verses and the massive translation of Greek books into Arabic; 2) the stage of personal maturity of the Mu'tazilah masters; and 3) the emergence of the Arab reform figure al-Jahiz (Ghazali 1986).

The political turmoil of the transition of power from the Umayyads to the Abbasids seems to impact the growth of irrational thoughts among the people. The Persians seemed to be returning to the ancient heritage of their superstitious culture of thought. Ironically, this they did only to stem the Arab culture that was considered hegemonic. As a result, Zindiq schools emerged, such as the Sinbad, the ar-Rawandiyah and Zarathustra. Then came Mu'tazilah, who felt that the irrational teachings of the Zindiq community could threaten faith and Islam. With logical arguments, Mu'tazilah opposed the movement of the Zindiq group and his group (Ghazali 1986). Mu'tazilah succeeded in firmly establishing the foundation of rationalism among the people. In fact, the total support the caliph Bani Abbas gave further positioned Mu'tazilah's pattern of thought more legitimately than other thoughts. The harmony between the rationalism of Mu'tazilah and the Abbasid caliph (especially al-Ma'mun) transformed into a phenomenal academic force, namely with the construction of the Bait al-Hikmah in 832 AD. The emergence of Mu'tazilah's teachers influenced by Greek culture was transmitted into Arab-Basrah culture (al Jahiz 1965). They managed to inventory some of the main problems in the theological discourse of the time (Asy Syahrastani 1990). This phase displays the phenomenon of a change from a culture of 'feelings' to a culture of 'thinking' (Al Jabiri 1993; Mahmud 1987a).

The luminous star

The luminous star phase is a period that occurred in the 10th century AD in the Islamic world, where many great philosophers were born among the Muslims. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration if there are people who call the 10th century the era of Muslim philosophers. In the 10th century, rationalist thinking began to rise from constant premises toward more general assumptions, that is, from the level of science to the level of philosophy, that is, the level of thought that seeks broad principles of all problems. The following three philosophers are representations of this phase: Ikhwan as-Shafa, At-Tauhidi and Ibnu Jinni.

Ikhwan as-Shafa: The Ikhwan as-Shafa is a group of Muslim philosophers. Their thoughts and ideas are written in several treatises with a distinctive character, that is, using the literary style of depiction (allegorical). Ideas are expressed in various stories, such as when they write down conversations conducted by animals. The treatises amount to 52. Fourteen treatises discuss mathematical sciences, 17 treatises deal with the natural sciences, 10 treatises discuss the sciences of logic and psychology and 11 treatises concern the sciences of sharia [religion]. At the same time, one treatise of association stands alone (al Hafni 1990). The primary purpose of their treatise was to explain the existence of conformity between Islamic sharia and Greek philosophy. However, they placed philosophy in a higher position than sharia. Their argument method that puts forward a logic based on experimentation is very similar to some schools of empiricism in contemporary philosophy (Nasution 2002).

Abu Hayyan at-Tauhidi: Abu Hayyan at-Tauhidi al-Imta' wa al-Muanasah's work is a vivid picture of Arab culture in the 10th century AD. This book summarises the points Abu Hayyan discussed during the discussion activities at the house of the minister Abu Abdillah al-'Arid for more than a month. The main themes addressed include the following: what is the nature of the soul; the importance of education for people who want to write literary writings; characteristics of the Persians, Romans, Chinese, Turks, Indians and Arabs; comparison between mathematical sciences and balaghah science; which is more practical, a comparison between Greek mantiq and Arabic nahwu; the division of the human soul into three parts; an-natiqah lust, al-gadbiyyah lust and al-shahwaniyyah lust; philosophical conversation about predestination and free will; talk about the ash-Shafa brotherhood, philosophical discussion of al-kulli [universal] with al-juz'i [particular]; how is the relationship between the two and how to know it; a meeting of the problem of 'the one and the many'; and also about the comparison between poetry and prose (Mahmud 1987a).

Uthman bin Jinni (Ibn Jinni): Uthman ibn Jinni was a language philosopher author of the Kitab al-Khasa'is (discussing the characteristics of Arabic). In this book, Ibn Jinni analyses language from a rational perspective. The power of linguistic logic can hardly be defeated, except when compared with religious science (Mahmud, 1987a). Ibn Jinni distinguishes two linguistic terms, namely, kalam and qaul. Qaul is a series of letters whose essence is oriented towards the mouth and tongue movement. Meanwhile, kalam shows strength and awesomeness. This discussion then became an essential basis in developing linguistics and logic. Kalam requires a perfect set of words that denote a specific meaning, whereas qaul does not require it. He argued that the rules of Arabic grammar would be subject to logic. Although sometimes, the language is simply heard for no reason whatsoever. The arguments of nahwu experts are closer to theologians than jurists (Jinni 2013).

Endowed trees (syajarah mubarakah)

Imam Ghazali described human knowledge in this phase as ar-ruh al-qudsiy an-nabawi [prophetic holy soul]. This learning model is possessed only by the prophets and guardians of God. This knowledge will open up about the mystique, the mysteries of the afterlife, the secrets of heaven, and the divine wisdom that logic cannot reach. In verse An-Nur, this phase is depicted as asy-syajarah al-mubarakah, an endowed tree (Ghazali 1986). According to Mahmud, Imam Ghazali has written down logical research methods. However, Imam Ghazali was inconsistent. He rejected the thought of the Greek philosophers. In his opinion, the highest intrinsic knowledge can only be obtained by intuition. In the book of Tahafut Al-Falasifah, Imam Ghazali explains the mistakes of Muslim philosophers. He summarised it into 20 errors; 17 are in the heresy category, and the remaining three are in the variety of kufr. On this basis, he later forbade some philosophical thoughts (Al-Ghazali 1966). As a result, philosophy became stagnant in the Eastern Islamic world and did not gain a place. However, philosophy developed in the Western Islamic world, especially in Andalusia. It began with Ibn Bajah, then Ibn Thufail and Ibn Rushd. Thus, the phase of syajarah mubarakah is represented by Imam Ghazali with his various thoughts. For Mahmud, Imam Ghazali's journey of rational thought is very clear. Nanun also contributed to the cessation of philosophical thinking in the Eastern Islamic world.


The contribution of the map of Mahmud's thought in the periodisation of the philosophy of Islamic rationalism

Periodisation in the history of the development of thought and philosophy generally refers to three phases, namely ancient [ancient and classical], medieval [medieval] and modern. These three phases are most widely used to map the periodisation of almost all areas of knowledge, including philosophy, science, law and the like. Islamic thought in its development can be categorised into those three periods: (1) classical Islamic thought, (2) medieval Islamic thought and (3) modern Islamic thought. These three periods in his study can be broken down into several phases. The classical period can be grouped into two steps, namely progress and disintegration. Medieval Islamic Thought can also be grouped into two parts: the step of decline and the three phases of the Islamic kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid kingdom in Persia and the Mughal Empire in India. Meanwhile, the modern period can also be broken down into two parts: the initial awakening phase and the second awakening phase that lasted from the 18th century to the present, known as the contemporary century. This map of the division of Mahmud's period contributed to complementing the study of the periodisation of Islamic thought, especially in the context of the study of Islamic belief of the classical and middle ages. With a more detailed and focused periodisation, the richness of Islamic thought in philosophy, theology, language and law can be explored more deeply. It also includes the characteristics of each phase that are increasing. According to Mahmud, classical Islamic thought begins with the period of Ali Bin Abi Talib. This ended with Imam Ghazali's harsh criticism of philosophy, which had an impact on subsequent developments in the middle Islamic period. At this end, Mahmud invited the people to separate from his mubarakah shah, Imam Ghazali. Later, he proposed to follow the rationalism of Ibn Rushd. According to Mahmud, Imam Ghazali's last step was a step backwards and was not appropriate. The course of people's thoughts will be more precise and dynamic, as well as a continuation of the rational phases that Ghazali offered by following the path of Ibn Rushd.



The development of the philosophy of rationalism in the Islamic world can be presented as analogous to the development of human thought in general into five phases, namely (1) misykat, which is a stage of simple thinking in that Islamic history is represented by Imam Ali Bin Abi Talib; (2) the lamp of reason (misbah), which is a stage of thought characterised by the occurrence of philosophical debates related to issues of leadership and the perpetrator of the great sin; (3) the lamp glass [Zujajah al-Misbah], which is a phase of thought that positions rationalism as a massive thought movement. This period is illustrated by the emergence of the Temple of Al-Hikmah in Baghdad, the maturity of the Mu'tazilah teachers (Al-'Allaf and An-Nadzam) and the Arab reformist Al-Jahidz with his monumental work Al-Hayawan; (4) the luminous star (Kaukab Durriy), that is, the phase of thought represented by the emergence of the Brotherhood of ash-Shafa with its rationalism movement, Abu Hayyan At-Tauhidy with his philosophical treatises and deliberations, as well as Al-Jinni in the field of linguistics; and (5) the endowed tree (syajarah mubarakah), which is the phase of thought that Mahmud said was represented by Ibn Rushd's rationalism. Imam Ghazali described human knowledge in this phase as ar-ruh al-qudsiy an-nabawi [prophetic holy soul]. It was at this point that Mahmud parted ways with Misykat Al-Anwar. According to him, Ibn Rushd's rationalism is more appropriate for describing the phase of syajarah mubarakah. Thus, Mahmud's efforts to fight for Islamic values of rationality did require a long struggle. Mahmud has a solid contingency to break out of the paradigm of a spiritualist Islam toward a rationalist Islam.

Mahmud's thinking may be the result of his efforts to remain consistent with the logic of positivism. Still, he also did not want to be aggressive with society because it adhered to a school of positivist logic that rejected metaphysics and placed religion at the lowest level of science. On the other hand, he also wanted the religious dimension not to be fixated on belief alone because it is equivalent to limiting Islam to the Qur'an only and making religion a dead archive. Therefore, Mahmud tried conceptualising another dynamic element in the belief that he called religious science. He seemed to hope that the dynamics of religious thought would continue to develop so that religion remained relevant to its time. An important implication of this research is that philosophy can promote transdisciplinary aspects of faith in the international theological arena in the study of narrative and scientific texts. Mahmud's thought was an interdisciplinary confluence: religious, metaphysical, cultural and philosophical, all of which contributed to advanced theological study. Thus, religion and logic play an essential role in science. However, this research is still limited to the influence of Mahmud's thoughts on certain figures. For this reason, and for further investigation, it is also essential to conduct a critical study of the impact of Mahmud's thinking from other perspectives.



The author thanks the Chancellor of Universitas Islam Negeri Professor Kiai Haji Saifuddin Zuhri Purwokerto, who has fully supported this research.

Competing interests

The author declares that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Author's contributions

S.S is the sole author of the research article.

Ethical considerations

Ethical clearance to conduct this study was obtained from the Universitas Islam Negeri Professor Kiai Haji Saifuddin Zuhri Purwokerto (ref. no. 347/UINSAIZU.27.02/IP/I/2022).

Funding information

This research was funded by Universitas Islam Negeri Professor Kiai Haji Saifuddin Zuhri Purwokerto, Indonesia.

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new data were created or analysed in this study.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the author.



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Supriyanto Supriyanto

Received: 25 Sept. 2022
Accepted: 18 Nov. 2022
Published: 23 Feb. 2023



1. West Kalimantan is a province in Indonesia, located on the island of Borneo, with the capital or centre of government being in the city of Pontianak (Nakaya 2018).
2. Java is an island in Indonesia located in the Greater Sunda archipelago and is the 13th largest island in the world (Pamungkas et al. 2021; Ricklefs 1991).
3. The Malays are an Austronesian ethnic group that inhabits the Malay Peninsula, the east coast of the island of Sumatra, the southern part of Thailand, the southern coast of Burma, the island of Singapore, the coast of Borneo and the small islands located around this location - collectively known as the 'Malay World'. (Mohamad & Aljunied 2011).

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