The history of the intellectual sciencesJanuary 20, 2022
These sciences naturally arise from us being thinking beings. They are not restricted to any particular religious group.
They are studied by the people of all religious groups who are all equally qualified to learn them and to do research in them. They have existed (and been known) to the human species since civilization had its beginning in the world.
They are called the sciences of philosophy and wisdom and have four categories:
This science protects the mind from error in the process of evolving unknown facts one wants to know from the available, known facts. Its use enables the student to distinguish right from wrong wherever he so desires in his study of the essential and accidental perceptions and apperceptions. 577
Thus, he will be able to ascertain the truth concerning created things, negatively or positively, 578 within the limits of his ability to think.
This is when philosophers study the elemental substances perceivable by the senses:
- plants and animals
- These are created from the elemental substances
- the heavenly bodies
- natural motions
- the soul from which the motions originate, and other things. This discipline is called “physics.” It is the second of the intellectual sciences.
- Metaphysics (al-‘ilm al-ilahi)
This deals with metaphysical, spiritual matters.
- The study of quantities (measurements)
It comprises four different sciences, which are called the “mathematical sciences” (ta’alim).
It is the study of quantities (measurements) in general. 579 The quantities (measurements) may be either discontinuous, in as much as they constitute numbers, or continuous (as geometrical figures). They may be of one dimension - the line; of two dimensions - the plane; or of three dimensions - the mathematical solid. These quantities (measurements) and the qualities they possess, either by themselves or in combination with each other, are (what is) studied (in geometry).
It is the knowledge of the essential and accidental properties of the discontinuous quantity, number.
It is the knowledge of the proportions of sounds and modes and their numerical measurements. Its fruit is the knowledge of musical melodies.580
It fixes the (various) shapes of the spheres, determines the position and number of each planet and fixed star, and makes it possible to learn these things from the visible heavenly motions of each (sphere), their motions, both retrograde and direct, their precession and recession. These are the basic philosophical sciences. They are seven (in number).
Logic comes first. Then comes mathematics, beginning with arithmetic, followed in succession by geometry, astronomy, and music. Then comes physics and, finally, metaphysics. Each of these sciences has subdivisions. One subdivision of physics is medicine. Subdivisions of arithmetic are calculation, 581 the inheritance laws, andbusiness (arithmetic). A subdivision of astronomy is the astronomical tables (zij).
They are norms for computing the motions of the stars and adjusting (the data) in order to be able to know their positions, whenever desired. Another subdivision of the study of the stars is the science of stellar judgments (astrology). We shall discuss all these sciences, one after the other.
These sciences were most extensively cultivated by the two great pre-Islamic nations:
- the Persians
- the Greeks.
The sciences were greatly in demand among them, because they possessed an abundant civilization and were the ruling nations immediately before Islam and its time. In their regions and cities, the sciences flourished greatly.
The Chaldaeans and, before them, the Syrians, as well as their contemporaries, the Copts, were much concerned with sorcery and astrology and the related subjects of powerful (charms) and talismans.
The Persian and Greek nations learned these things from them.
The Copts especially cultivated those things, which enjoyed great prominence among them. The Qur’an (al-matltuw) mentions this fact in the story of Harut and Marut, 582 and the affair of the sorcerers. 583 There also are the reports of informed persons on the temples of Upper Egypt. 584
Later on, these things were declared forbidden and illegal by successive religious groups. As a result, the sciences concerned with them were wiped out and vanished, as if they had never been. Only a small remnant, transmitted by the practitioners of those crafts, has remained. And God knows better whether those crafts are sound.
The sword of the religious law hangs over them and prevents choice of them (as a subject of study). 585
Among the Persians, the intellectual sciences played a large and important role, since the Persian dynasties were powerful and ruled without interruption. The intellectual sciences came to the Greeks from the Persians, when Alexander killed Darius and gained control of the Achaemenid empire. He took the books and sciences of the Persians.
When the Muslims conquered Persia 586, they came upon an indescribably large number of books and scientific papers. Sa’d b. Abi Waqqas wrote to ‘Umar b. al-Khattab asking him for permission to take them and distribute them as booty among the Muslims.
Umar wrote him= “Throw them into the water. If what they contain is right guidance, God has given us better guidance. If it is error, God has protected us against it.” 587 Thus, the (Muslims) threw them into the water or into the fire, and the sciences of the Persians were lost and did not reach us.
The dynasty of the Rum originally belonged to the Greeks, among whom the intellectual sciences occupied a large place. They were cultivated by famous Greek personalities, among them the pillars of philosophy, and others.
The Peripatetic philosophers, in particular the Stoics, 588 possessed a good method of instruction in the intellectual sciences. It has been assumed that they used to study in which protected them from the sun and the cold. Their school tradition is assumed to have passed from the sage Luqman 589 and his pupils to Socrates of the barrel; so and then, in succession, to Socrates 590 pupil, Plato, to Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, to Aristotle’s pupils, Alexander of Aphrodisias and Themistius, and others.
Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander, the ruler of the (Greeks) who defeated the Persians and deprived them of their realm. He was the greatest Greek scientist and enjoyed the greatest prestige and fame. He has been called “the First Teacher.” 591
He became world-famous.When the Greek dynasty was destroyed and the Roman emperors seized power and adopted Christianity, the intellectual sciences were shunned by them, as religious groups and their laws require. (But) they continued to have a permanent life 592 in scientific writings and treatments which were preserved in their libraries.
The Roman emperors 593 later on took possession of Syria. The (ancient) scientific books continued to exist during their (rule). Then, God brought Islam, and its adherents gained their incomparable victory. They deprived the Byzantines (Rum), as well as all other nations, of their realms.
At the beginning, they were simple (in their ways) and disregarded the crafts. Eventually, however, the Muslim rule and dynasty flourished. The Muslims developed a sedentary culture, such as no other nation had ever possessed. They became versed in many different crafts and sciences. Then, they desired to study the philosophical disciplines.
They had heard some mention of them by the bishops and priests among (their) Christian subjects, and man’s ability to think has (in any case) aspirations in the direction of the intellectual sciences. Abu Ja’far al-Mansur, therefore, sent to the Byzantine Emperor and asked him to send him translations of mathematical works.
The Emperor sent him Euclid’s book and some works on physics. The Muslims read them and studied their contents. Their desire to obtain the rest of them grew. Later on, al-Ma’mun came. He had some (scientific knowledge). Therefore, he had a desire for science.
His desire aroused him to action in behalf of the (intellectual) sciences. He sent ambassadors to the Byzantine emperors. (These ambassadors were) to discover the Greek sciences and to have them copied in Arabic writing. He sent translators for that purpose (into Byzantine territory).
As a result, a good deal of the material was preserved and collected.
Muslim scientists assiduously studied the (Greek sciences). 594 They became skilled in the various branches. The (progress they made in the) study of those sciences could not have been better. They contradicted the First Teacher (Aristotle) on many points.
They considered him 595 the decisive authority as to whether an opinion should be rejected or accepted, because he possessed the greatest fame. They wrote systematic works on the subject. They surpassed their predecessors in the intellectual sciences. Abu Nasr al-Farabi and Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina (Avicenna) in the East, and Judge Abul-Walid b. Rushd (Averroes) and the wazir Abu Bakr b. as-Sa’igh (Avempace) 596 in Spain, were among the greatest Muslim (philosophers), and there were others who reached the limit in the intellectual sciences. The men mentioned enjoy especial fame and prestige.
Many (scientists) restricted themselves to cultivating the mathematical disciplines and the related sciences of astrology, sorcery, and talismans. The most famous practitioners of these sciences were Jabir b. Hayyan in the East, 597 and the Spaniard, Maslamah b. Ahmad al-Majriti, and his pupils.
The intellectual sciences and their representatives succeeded to some degree in penetrating Islam. They seduced many people who were eager to study those sciences and accept the opinions expressed in them. In this respect, the sin falls’ upon the person who commits it.
Later on, civilizational activity stopped in the Maghrib and in Spain. The sciences decreased with the decrease of civilization. As a consequence, scientific activity disappeared there, save for a few remnants that may be found among scattered individuals and that are controlled by orthodox religious scholars.
We hear that the intellectual sciences are still amply represented among theinhabitants of the East, 599 in particular in the non-Arab ‘Iraq and, farther east, in Transoxania. The people there are said to be very successful in the intellectual and traditional sciences, because their civilization is abundant and their sedentary culture firmly established.
In Egypt, I have become acquainted with numerous works by a great scholar of Herat in Khurasan, by name Sa’d-ad-din at-Taftazani. 600 Some of his works are on speculative theology, the principles of jurisprudence, and syntax and style (bayan).
They show that he is well grounded in these sciences. They (also) contain things proving that he has studied and knows the philosophical sciences and is well versed in all the intellectual disciplines. “God aids whomever He wishes to aid.” 601 We further hear now that the philosophical sciences are greatly cultivated in the land of Rome and along the adjacent northern shore of the country of the European Christians.
They are said to be studied there again and to be taught in numerous classes. Existing systematic expositions of them are said to be comprehensive, the people who know them numerous, and the students of them very many.