Islamic Theology and Philosophy in the Middle Ages

Thinkers of Medieval Islam

Wasil b. Ata

708 - 748

Founder of the Mu'tazili school of thought.


872 - 950

Known as the Second Teacher, Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Fārābī wrote comprehensively on Aristotelian philosophy, notably arguing for God as the First Cause.


874 - 936

Rejecting early training in the Mutazilah theological school, Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ismā'īl al-Ash'arī's philosophy would form the foundation for the Ash'ari school of thought, oriented around divine command theory.


932 - 1030

A Persian neo-Platonist, Abu 'Ali Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ya'qub Ibn Miskawayh wrote some of the defining works of philosophical ethics.


980 - 1037

Though he wrote influentially on medicine and other sciences of his day, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā is known in the Muslim world today as the writer of a rational proof for the existence of God relying heavily on Aristotelian metaphysics.


1058 - 1111

One of Islam's most famous thinkers, Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī is known for his condemnation of philosophical doctrines, written using philosophical logical language, and for bringing together elements of orthodoxy and mysticism.

Ibn al-Jawzi

1114 - 1200

A writer in the Hanbali jurisprudential tradition, Ibn al-Jawzi criticized the school for overemphasis on the Attributes of God and a literal reading of the Qur'an that lead to anthropomorphization of the divine.


1126 - 1198

Writing in part in response to al-Ghazali, ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd, a Spanish Muslim philosopher, wrote defenses of Aristotelian philosophy.

Ibn Qudama

1147 - 1223

Muwaffaq ad-Deen Abu Muhammad 'Abd Allaah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Qudaamah Ibn Miqdaam Ibn Nasr Ibn 'Abdillaah al-Maqdisee, known as the Imam of the Hanbalis, was known for his jurisprudence and his rebukes of "speculative theology."


1155 - 1191

Shahāb ad-Dīn" Yahya ibn Habash as-Suhrawardī was the original writer on illuminationist philosophy, or what he called "theosophy," bringing together Sufi theological tradition and neoplatonic philosophy. His relatively short life ended in execution by the son of Saladin for teaching pantheist ideas that were politically problematic.

Ibn Arabi

1165 - 1240

'Abū 'Abdillāh Muḥammad ibn 'Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn `Arabī is best known for his mystical writings on the Oneness of God/Existence.


1322 - 1390

Sa'ad al-Din Masud ibn Umar ibn Abd Allah al-Taftazani was an adherent to the Hanafi school of jurisprudence who wrote works endorsing certain Ash'ari doctrine, including divine command theory.


1414 - 1492

Sufi scholar Nur ad-Dīn Abd ar-Rahmān Jāmī was a commentator on Ibn Arabi, writing about Ibn Arabi's mystic theology using philosophical/neoplatonic language.