The Seven Best Books on Islamic Philosophy

Lennox Johnson Books, Uncategorized

From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works of Islamic philosophy, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s worth noting that there is no single best book on Islamic philosophy. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or pick up one of the classics.

It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best books on Islamic philosophy in no particular order.

Philosophy in the Islamic World: A Very Short Introduction – Peter Adamson

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 144 pages | Published: 2015

Publisher description: In the history of philosophy, few topics are so relevant to today’s cultural and political landscape as philosophy in the Islamic world. Yet, this remains one of the lesser-known philosophical traditions. In this Very Short Introduction, Peter Adamson explores the history of philosophy among Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in Islamic lands, from its historical background to thinkers in the twentieth century.

Introducing the main philosophical themes of the Islamic world, Adamson integrates ideas from the Islamic and Abrahamic faiths to consider the broad philosophical questions that continue to invite debate: What is the relationship between reason and religious belief? What is the possibility of proving God’s existence? What is the nature of knowledge? Drawing on the most recent research in the field, this book challenges the assumption of the cultural decline of philosophy and science in the Islamic world by demonstrating its rich heritage and overlap with other faiths and philosophies.

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Philosophy in the Islamic World – Peter Adamson

Category: Comprehensive Introduction | Length: 544 pages | Published: 2018

Publisher description: The latest in the series based on the popular History of Philosophy podcast, this volume presents the first full history of philosophy in the Islamic world for a broad readership. It takes an approach unprecedented among introductions to this subject, by providing full coverage of Jewish and Christian thinkers as well as Muslims, and by taking the story of philosophy from its beginnings in the world of early Islam all the way through to the twentieth century. Major figures like Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides are covered in great detail, but the book also looks at less familiar thinkers, including women philosophers. Attention is also given to the philosophical relevance of Islamic theology (kalam) and mysticism–the Sufi tradition within Islam, and Kabbalah among Jews–and to science, with chapters on disciplines like optics and astronomy. …

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Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources – McGinnis & Reisman

Category: Anthology | Length: 464 pages | Published: 2007

Publisher description: This volume introduces the major classical Arabic philosophers through substantial selections from the key works (many of which appear in translation for the first time here) in each of the fields–including logic, philosophy of science, natural philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and politics–to which they made significant contributions.

An extensive Introduction situating the works within their historical, cultural, and philosophical contexts offers support to students approaching the subject for the first time, as well as to instructors with little or no formal training in Arabic thought. A glossary, select bibliography, and index are also included.

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The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy – Peter Adamson

Category: Companion | Length: 466 pages | Published: 2011

Publisher description: Representing one of the great traditions of Western philosophy, philosophy written in Arabic and in the Islamic world was inspired by Greek philosophical works and the indigenous ideas of Islamic theology. This collection of essays, by some of the leading scholars in Arabic philosophy, provides an introduction to the field by way of chapters devoted to individual thinkers (such as al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes) or groups, especially during the ‘classical’ period from the ninth to the twelfth centuries.

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Incoherence of the Philosophers – al-Ghazali

Category: Classic | Length: 301 pages

Publisher description: Although Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali lived a relatively short life (1058-1111), he established himself as one of the most important thinkers in the history of Islam. The Incoherence of the Philosophers, written after more than a decade of travel and ascetic contemplation, contends that while such Muslim philosophers as Avicenna boasted of unassailable arguments on matters of theology and metaphysics, they could not deliver on their claims; moreover, many of their assertions represented disguised heresy and unbelief. Despite its attempted refutation by the twelfth-century philosopher Ibn Rushd, al-Ghazali’s work remains widely read and influential.

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The Metaphysics of The Healing – Avicenna

Category: Classic | Length: 868 pages

Publisher description: Avicenna, the most influential of Islamic philosophers, produced The Healing as his magnum opus on his religious and political philosophy. Now translated by Michael Marmura, The Metaphysics is the climactic conclusion to this towering work. Through Marmura’s skill as a translator and his extensive annotations, Avicenna’s touchstone of Islamic philosophy is more accessible than ever before.

In The Metaphysics, Avicenna examines the idea of existence, and his investigation into the cause of all things leads him to a meditation on the nature of God. From this discussion, Avicenna develops a theory of divine causation that synthesizes Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, and Islamic ideas. Within this emanative scheme, Avicenna establishes some of the basic ideas of his religious and political philosophy, as he discusses the divine attributes, divine providence, the hereafter, and the ideal “virtuous” city with its philosopher-prophet as the human link between the terrestrial and heavenly realms. With this edition, The Metaphysics can now be better seen as one of the most masterful works of classical Islamic philosophy.

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