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Islamic Texts Society

Classification of Knowledge in Islam

Osman Bakar




The classification of knowledge is a recurring theme in Islamic scholarship. Successive generations of Muslim scholars, from al-Kindi in the ninth century to Shah Waliallah of Delhi in the eighteenth century, have devoted considerable efforts to the exposition of this theme. The lives and the ideas of the three thinkers discussed in Classification of Knowledge in Islam - al-Farabi (870-950AD), al-Ghazzali (1058-1111AD) and Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311AD) - ever the pivotal period in Islamic history from the first flourishing of the philosophical sciences to the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols. In Addition, each of these three thinkers was either the founder or an eminent representative of a major intellectual school in Islam. Al-Farabi was the founder and one of the most prominent representatives of the mashsha'i (Peripatetic) school of philosopher-scientists. Al-Ghazzali is still recognised as the most famous theologian/sufi of Islam. Qutb al-Din a-Shirazi represents the ishraqi (Illuminationist) school of philosophy. Prof Osman Bakar's Classification of Knowledge in Islam is the first work of its kind in the English language and is based on extensive scholarship and reference to the original texts.




Part I. Al-Farabi


1. The Life, Works and Significance of al-Farabi

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Al-Farabi's Educational Background and Scholarly Life

1.3 Al-Farabi's Works and Significance


2. Al-Farabi's Psychology in Its Relation to the Hierarchy of the Sciences

2.1 The Idea of the Unity and the Hierarchy of the Sciences

2.2 The Bases of the Hierarchy of the Sciences

2.3 The Hierarchy of the Faculties of the Human Soul


3. The Methodological Basis of the Hierarchy of the Sciences

3.1 Revelation, Intellect, and Reason

3.2 Religion, Philosophy and the Sciences

3.3 Al-Farabi's Theory of Knowledge


4. The Ontological and the Ethical Bases of the Hierarchy of the Sciences

4.1 The Ontological Basis

4.2 The Ethical Basis


5. Classification and Description of Linguistic Science and Logic

5.1 Classification and Enumeration of the Sciences

5.2 Characteristics of Al-Farabi's Classification

5.3 Division of Linguistic Science and Logic


6. Classification and Description of the Philosophical

6.1 The Mathematical Sciences

6.2 Natural Science

6.3 Metaphysics

6.4 Political Science

6.5 Jurisprudence and Dialectical Theology


Part II. Al-Ghazzali


7. The Life, Works and Significance of al-Ghazzali

7.1 Religious and Political Background of al-Ghazzali's Period

7.2 Al-Ghazzali's Early Education and Intellectual Interest

7.3 Al-Ghazzali's Intellectual Crisis

7.4 Post-Crisis Intellectual Life and Works

7.5 Al-Ghazzali's Spiritual Crisis

7.6 Spiritual Retreat and Scholarly Output

7.7 The Authenticity of Some Works Attributed to al-Ghazzali

7.8 Significance of al-Ghazzali's Ihya and His Sufism


8. Al-Ghazzali's Classification of Seekers After Knowledge

8.1 Basis of Classification

8.2 Al-Ghazzali's Views Concerning the Four Classes

8.3 Significance of the Classification


9. Al-Ghazzali's Classification of the Sciences

9.1 Basis of the Division into Theoretical and Practical Parts

9.2 Basis of the Division into "Presential" and Attained Knowledge

9.3 Basis of the Division into Religious and Intellectual Sciences

9.4 Basis of the Division into "fard'ayn" and "fard kifayah" Sciences

9.5 Classification of the Religions and Intellectual Sciences

9.6 Nature and Characteristics of the Religious Sciences

9.7 The Ethics-Legal Status of the Intellectual Sciences

9.8 Nature of the Theoretical-Practical Division

9.9 The Worldly and Other-Worldly Rational Sciences

9.10 Significance of the Division into "Presential" and "Attained" knowledge

9.11 Conclusion


Part III. Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi

10. The Life, Works and Significance of Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi

10.1 Qutb al-Din's Education and Intellectual Life

10.2 Qutb al-Din's Works

10.3 General Significance of His Works


11. Qutb al-Din's Classification of the Sciences

11.1 "Hikmat" as the Basis of Classification

11.2 Divisions of "Hikmat"

11.3 Non-Philosophical or Religious Sciences



The Philosophical Bases of the Three Classifications: Similarities and Differences