“Knowledge” and “Action”: al-Ghazali and Arab Muslim Philosophical Tradition in Context of Interrelationship with Philosophical Culture of Byzantium

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“Knowledge” in Islam, Muslim culture and philosophy is considered as the key to understanding Muslim civilization, the formation of which took place in interaction with the cultures of peoples of the eastern and western parts of the former Roman Empire. The Byzantine theology and philosophy were of great importance for the points of contact and mutual enrichment of Muslim and Christian cultures in the Middle Ages, influencing the formation of Christian orthodox doctrine and the worldview of the ethnically diverse peoples of the Byzantine oikumene. The phenomenon of “knowledge” in Muslim culture is presented in the article in connection with some contexts of Byzantine culture. “Knowledge”, as well as the categorical space of Muslim culture as a whole, on the one hand, allows us to understand the spirit of Islam as a phenomenon of religion, culture and civilization, and on the other hand, to determine the role and significance of this space in the formation and development of the main directions of Arab-Muslim philosophy formed in the “golden era” of Islam. The article considers the spiritual attitude to the “search for knowledge” in Islam: in the Koran and the Sunnah. Particular attention is paid to the concept of “knowledge” in the Arab-Muslim culture, while it is noted that written culture, book knowledge and education in general were the property of not only a narrow circle of rulers and religious figures in the Arab Caliphate. Within the framework of the categorical space of the Arab Muslim culture and philosophy, it should be borne in mind that the categories of “knowledge” (‘ilm) and “action” ('amal) constitute an inseparable unity within the framework of the Arab Muslim spiritual tradition in the context of the relationship between “theoretical” and “practical” mind. The role of “knowledge” and “action” within the framework of the Arab Muslim philosophical tradition is considered on the example of the teachings of al-Ghazali, who had a huge impact on the development of philosophy both in the Arab East and the European West. Being a key figure in the spiritual history of Islam and Muslim civilization, al-Ghazali considered knowledge not just as a value, but also as a virtue. An ardent champion of the role of reason, he connected theoretical reason with the understanding of spiritual realities that give us various systems of knowledge called sciences. The area of competence of practical reason, which should be based on the theoretical, al-Ghazali associated with human behavior. Practical reason directs human actions based on the will, based on and guided by a moral ideal. Al-Ghazali’s teachings are considered in notions and terms formed and developed in the Middle Ages within the Arab-Muslim culture and reflecting some meanings of such historical type of philosophical culture as the Greek-Byzantine classical Patristics. Al-Ghazali and the Byzantine Church Fathers shared a philosophical and theological understanding of man in his relation to the Creator and the phenomenon of “knowledge”.

About the authors

Nur S. Kirabaev

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
Email: kirabaev-ns@rudn.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0192-6337

PhD in Philosophy, Professor, Department of History of Philosophy

6, Miklukho-Maklaya St., Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation


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