Archives For MESA 250 Intro to Religion of Islam


Twelfth century Arab philosopher al-Ghazali used methodological skepticism to answer two of the main problems of philosophy: (1) how knowledge is acquired and, (2) how can one justify that knowledge. Seventeenth century French philosopher Descartes dealt with the problem of doubt in lockstep with al-Ghazali and came up with the same solution (Najm 133). It is evident that Arab philosophy significantly, albeit indirectly, influenced Western philosophy. Is it possible that Descartes was influenced by al-Ghazali? A close comparison of their epistemological methodology and results gives reason to believe that Descartes was influenced by al-Ghazali, but there is no conclusive proof of it (a paper).

Divergent Backgrounds

Al-Ghazali, a prominent philosopher, theologian, and jurist of Sunni Islam, lived between c. 1055 and 1111. In his most famous work, the Incoherence of the Philosophers, he advanced a nominalist critique of Aristotelian science developed later in 14th century Europe. In the Incoherence, he rejected and condemned some of the teachings of Aristotelian philosophy, while accepting and applying others. One of al-Ghazali’s contributions that greatly influenced Latin medieval thought, through the works of Averroes and Jewish authors, was his resolution of seeming contradictions between reason and revelation (“Al-Ghazali”).

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An Islamicized Christian element explained

He then reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: The Dajjal would appear in my Ummah and he would stay (in the world) for forty – I cannot say whether he meant forty days, forty months or forty years. And Allah would then send Jesus son of Mary who would resemble ‘Urwa b Mas’ud. He (Jesus Christ) would chase him and kill him (Muslim 1520).

Both the Christian and the Islamic traditions hold that the coming of the Antichrist signals the coming of the apocalypse. Both traditions also hold that Jesus Christ will return at that time, although the circumstances of his leaving the Earth in the first place and his role during the apocalypse differ between the two traditions. What is entirely at variance between the two traditions is the belief, set forth in the above quoted hadith, that Jesus Christ will return to the Earth before the apocalypse to kill the Antichrist. In fact, this idea is not even supported by the Qur’an, but appears only in the Hadith and in later Islamic literature (Esposito 21-22).

A metaphor and its meaning in relation to its eschatological context

(6790) Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The inmates of Paradise would see the inmates of the apartment over them just as you see the shining planets which remain in the eastern and the western horizon because of the superiority some have over others (Muslim 1477-1478).

The metaphor in the above quoted hadith seems to imply that there may be varying degrees of glory in the Islamic paradise, an element seeming to bear some resemblance to LDS thought, but not attested to in Christian or Jewish thought. The apartments over the those who dwell in paradise, visible to them just as the planets above us are to us, seem to imply a dwelling place in paradise of a higher order than that of the observers below.

An element seeming to bear some resemblance to LDS thought, but not attested to in Christian or Jewish thought

(6796) Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The first group of my Ummah to get into Paradise would be like a full moon in the night. Then those who would be next to them; they would be like the most significantly glittering stars in regard to brightness, then after them (others) in ranks (Muslim 1479).

Another element of Islamic eschatology bearing some resemblance to LDS thought, but not attested to in Christian or Jewish thought, appears in the above quoted hadith. Here, it seems even more explicit that there are degrees of glory in the realm of Islamic paradise. Furthermore, the comparison of these degrees of glory to celestial objects of varying degrees of luminosity very closely resembles that found in LDS scripture, specifically in section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Although a similar comparison is made in 1 Corinthians 15:41, it is not clear in 1 Corinthians that Paul is referring to degrees of Glory without the clarification offered in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Works Cited

Esposito, John L. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. New York. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Muslim, Imam. Sahih Muslim. Lahore, PK: SH. Muhammad Ashraf, 1976.