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Avicenna's Influence on the Islamic World

Info: 2334 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 26th Oct 2021 in History

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In this massive and infinite universe, curiosity pushes people to explore the boundaries of their limits and understand the position of their life's purpose in the powerful, complicated system. Very first philosophers were driven by their imagination to question the ethics and reasonable standards of this world, such as how does one distinguish between sense and nonsense to the physical capabilities of the human body. Amongst them, a phenomenon born in 980 AD in Afshona, Uzbekistan, known as Iba Sina, or as commonly called in the western culture, Avicenna. In the perfect alignment of the stars, he was born into the century of exploration and philosophical articulation, which set of Avicenna's journey in intellectual awakening and metaphysics discoveries. Apart from being a metaphysician, Avicenna carries multiple titles ranging from the master of logic, physics, and medicine. After being exposed to religion and a variety of subjects at a young age, Avicenna's experience and literature shaped the way the world perceives and knows the significance of Islamic science in the Golden age which was able to demonstrate that science and religion in harmony foster growth and prosperity.

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In the early stages of his childhood, Avicenna was indulged in the world of religion because of his familial background, and at the age of ten, he was able to master the delicate and complex teachings of the Koran. It is no doubt that Avicenna was a gifted child; however, something that contributed to numerous of his theories was his childhood. Avicenna's father exposed him to philosophical debates by preaching and allowing him to learn about a variety of different subjects like geometry. He was always in an atmosphere where religion and education were significant points of influence. Instead of learning material for his age, Avicenna was allowed to work with different philosophers such as Abu Abd Allah al-Natili of whom he was able to grasp different sorts of knowledge and in the end, suppress his teachers which resulted in him to self-learn. In Islam, religion played a massive role in scientific progress, and this is clearly reflected in Avicenna's character. "Whenever I found myself perplexed by a problem, or could not find the middle term in any syllogism, I would repair to the mosque and pray, adoring the All-Creator, until my puzzle was resolved and my difficulty made easy."[1]

This demonstrates how Avicenna gained his strength in praise to God; he did not push away the religion but instead utilized it in a unique way to reach a profitable result in his difficulties. His necessity in God, however, can be analyzed from a higher perspective. He was born in the 9th century, at the time when the intellectual pursuit was aimed at the religion institutions known as madrasas. Members of wealthy families aimed to become authoritative scholars, and this was only possible if an individual is contributing to the religious knowledge of Islam. This, on its own, allows to conclude the need for religion in science, especially in the Islamic world where accomplishments are blessings from the creator.

By following the intellectual pursuit in the context of religion, Avicenna created a profound theological proof about the existence of God, which to the current day remains a piece of sufficient evidence in support of religion and the foundation for other philosophers after Avicenna. He attempted to provide an explanation of the existence of anything in this world in response to nothing existing. At first, he separated everything in this world into three different categories, "Things existing possibly terminate in a cause existing necessarily, in which case not every [effect] that exists as something possible has simultaneously with it a cause that exists as something possible."[2]

Through this, Avicenna tried to demonstrate the relationship between the different components of his theory. Primarily he starts by eradicating impossible outcomes known as the impossible existent, and an example for this could be a circular triangle. Then he proceeds to explain the contingent existence such as a table - at first, it is a table, but with the help of outside forces, the table breaks into random wooden pieces. It is the idea that there is always a reason why something is behaving in a specific way. The last and final category is the necessary existent because, in the end, all components of the universe need a final cause. McGinnis precisely explained the last category, he said, "... he proof shows that a causal chain whose members are all simultaneously actual must terminate at its two ends, namely, the possible effect on the one side, and the Necessary Existent on the other."[3] This acknowledges that no argument can refute the idea that God is the cause of the existence of the universe.

Avicenna notably argued that the world is indeed eternal and this makes God coeternal. Furthermore, from here, he focused on understanding the human soul and derived the system of the soul. He proclaimed that the human soul is born after the body is born and that when the body dies, the soul becomes eternal. This proof was enthusiastically received and utilized by the Kalam Scholars and Muslim thinkers like Al Ghazali. Avicenna's evidence of God made such a drastic impact in the philosophy that philosophers like St. Thomas of Aquinas centuries after Avicenna still referred to his work for inspiration. His formal argumentation resonated with philosophers and proposed a compelling argument in support of religion. With the help of his scientific knowledge and obscure way of thinking, Avicenna was able to explain the impossible.

Another source of literature that significantly shaped the way the modern world thinks of the Islamic world was Avicenna's book called The Canon of Medicine. Canon was such a profound medical textbook that it resonated for 600 years after it was created and this work of art earned Avicenna the title of Father of Pre-Modern Medicine. "... relatively small handbook the medical knowledge of the Greeks, such as the voluminous works of Galen, and the new discoveries of physicians working in the Arabic-speaking world such as Abü Bakr ar-R⎺az␣ ī␣ (ca. 864–ca. 930), as well as Avicenna's own contributions to medicine."[4] The Canon was a multivolume book in which Avicenna in detail summarized and analyzed the works of Galen, Hippocrates, and added his knowledge as well. The book was organized in such a way it was easy to comprehend and follow. It smoothly transitions from one body part to another and provided herbal treatments and remedies that are still studied to this day. While all the content of the book was not necessarily correct and at some points complete nonsense, this textbook still laid the foundation for the future of medicine. It allowed people in Medieval Europe to learn how to treat diseases and prevent them from happening knowing the biological origin of the disease. This literature carried such a crucial historical meaning that Avicenna's book of medicine was marked the pinnacle of medicine.

Avicenna was born in an excellent period because, during the 9th century, the Islamic world hit its Golden Age that lasted until the 14th century. The golden age fostered economic growth for world but also it allowed philosophers to pursue research and experimentation. Avicenna's books, mainly Canon spread furiously across the Islamic world and at a massive speed and his knowledge was translated into different languages and utilized in the Western world. This all became possible since creative minds and people of different cultures and backgrounds have migrated to the major cities like Baghdad and Samarqand. People worked collaboratively in the institution of knowledge known as madrasas, which made it possible for Islamic state to learning about the Chinese technology of papermaking. Society shifted and adjusted to new forms of learning. Islamic world employed binding glue in order to keep papers together and Chinese technology allowed books to be reproduced in massive quantities. Avicenna's works were made accessible to people from one end to another. The second way of translation movement hit and allowed for Avicenna's work to be translated into other languages and spread across Europe. "Greek and Arabic philosophical and scientific achievement … books were copied and spread quickly to educational centers, where they contributed to an educational revolution."[5] Avicenna's works directly contributed to the educational revolution because it opened new revolutionizing ideas, but it also fostered other philosophers to do the same.

While Avicenna does not necessarily have the title of a peacemaker, his actions and subtle discoveries could be said to bring conflicting parties together. His most notable accomplishment in proving the existence of God proved that science and religion could coexist in harmony. "... natural philosophy 'threatened' religion."[6] Around the 7th century, during Arabic conquests, a new Islamic philosophy was formed known as Kalam. It stood firm with religion and attempted to protect religion for any new challenges that attacked the religion. However, as the translation movement came about and many philosophical books were translated into Arabic, a rivalry philosophy was formed known as Falsafa. Falsafa's philosophy focused on conquering reasoning and logic through the Greek traditions of Plato and Aristotle.

"There were specific problems for the relationship between the views of some natural philosophers and the interest of some religious institutions."[7] Avicenna was a Falsafa and was deeply influenced by Aristotle; however, he was able to synthesize Greek philosophy with Islamic theology by proposing the Necessary Existent by utilizing science and theology. In some sense, Avicenna was able to soften and almost diminish the Great Divide between the two Islamic philosophies. He demonstrated the idea that "Science as Religion's Handmaid,"[8] can work in unanimity and cooperation like no other.

The universe is such a complex system and not everyone could be gifted to propose solutions and explanations to the ways it functions. Avicenna was an enormous influence in the Muslim philosophy that the timeline was divided into pre and post-Avicenna. His teachings on philosophy such as the existence of God and the purpose of the soul changed the way Islamic philosophy was considered and inspired future thinkers like Ibn Rushd and Rene Descartes centuries after his death. Additionally, he synthesized a masterpiece in which he detailed the functions and treatments of the body that serves the purpose to this day. On the way to satisfy his curiosity, he harmonized the political dispute of Falsafa and Kalam, and he employed his environment during the translation movement that allowed him to spread knowledge effectively. Because of his accomplishments, Islamic science has a new face and is perceived differently in the modern world.

Bibliography

Arberry, A. J. Aspects of Islamic Civilization​ ​. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Pr, 1971.

Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science: the European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450​. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

McGinnis, Jon. Avicenna​ ​. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution.​ ​ Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.


[1] 1 Arthur J Arberry, Aspects of Islamic Civilization​ ​ (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Pr, 1971), 138

[2] 2 Jon McGinnis, Avicenna​ ​ (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 166-167.

[3] ​ Jon McGinnis, Avicenna​ (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 167.

[4] ​ Jon McGinnis, Avicenna​ (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 21

[5] David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: the European Scientific Tradition inPhilosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450 ​(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 217-218.

[6] 6Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution​ ​ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 135-136.

[7] 7 Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution​ ​ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 136.

[8] 8 Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution​ (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), 135.

 

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