Prophets And Politics In Islam And Judaism Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 4 Subject: History - Ancient Type: Essay Paper: #66574210 Related Topics: Judaism, Muhammad, Islam, Comparative Politics
Excerpt from Essay :

Jewish and Islamic Philosophers and the Role of the Prophet in Their Political Visions

To divide the view of the role of the prophet in Islam and Jewish writers' sense of the political order throughout history by looking solely at religion would be to ignore crucial elements that made up the perspective of these writers. Al-Farabi, for instance, was an Islamic philosopher of the 10th century whose political outlook was based more on Aristotelian ethics than it was on Islam, though his view of prophecy was shaped by his sense of Muhammad and the prophet's significance in Islam. Or there is the 12th century philosopher Judah Halevi, who, like Al-Farabi, viewed the philosophical order as a whole system complete in and of itself, independent of other systems. Yet, while Al-Farabi accepted the Aristotelian concept that Happiness was the ultimate end of humanity (the goal to be worked towards by society, or, "the City," which could be reached by exercising one's reason and operating virtuously), Halevi viewed that human reason had its limits and that it paled when compared to revelation: revelation alone could tell humans about God and themselves and the creation of the universe, whereas man and his finite reason could only speculate. For Halevi, religion was intimately united with his "anti-politics" view of a political order and essentially served to shape his role of the prophet in politics. As a Jew, Halevi viewed that the Jewish people owed allegiance to God, who was the Lawgiver and that throughout the history of the Hebrews, God and his prophets had made special covenants that served to set the Jews apart from other men as a "chosen race." These two philosophers of the Middle Ages were but two examples of the ways in which the Islamic and Jewish writers of history held differing views of prophecy, which shaped their view of the political order. This paper will discuss them and others as well in exploring this theme.

Al-Farabi viewed the idea of Plato's Philosopher-King in the light of Islamic tradition -- that virtue begins with knowledge of the interaction between the divine and the human. For Al-Farabi the Prophet-Legislator was the extension of this concept: the Prophet-Legislator serves as the link between God and man, putting into the terms that man can understand the dictates that God wants him to know and abide by. The Prophet is one who receives visualizations directly from God -- this is, in other words, revelation. Al-Farabi did not reject reason by accepting prophecy and its role in the...

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It was, moreover, the fact upon which the system of politics was to be founded, as it was this divine revelation that constituted the overall character of the pursuit of happiness. Virtue was still tied to reason; it was, however, colored by the acceptance of the role of Mohammed, who engaged directly with the "Active Intellect," which shapes human judgment.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Al-Farabi, "The Political Regime," in Medieval Political Philosophy ed. by Joshua Parens, Joseph Macfarland (London: Cornell University Press, 2011), 39.]

Averroes, a 12th century scholar from Spain was a follower of Al-Farabi. He was called "The Commentator" by Aquinas for his vast array of commentaries on Aristotle and Plato. For Averroes, philosophy was an obligation under Shari'a law for those who could attend to it -- and this he based on the readings of the Qur'an: "Take heed you who have eyes" and "Do they not consider how the camel was created, how heaven was lifted up"; therefore, Averroes judgted that "the door of reflection [leads] to true cognizance of Him."[footnoteRef:2] For Averroes, the Intellect was a gift from God that was meant to be used by God in order to pursue knowledge of God and His creation. As far as prophecy was concerned, Averroes was like Al-Farabi: he embraced Islam and the Qur'an as divine revelation. Revelation was tied to faith. Thus, for Averroes, the ideal state consisted of a public that had the Qur'an (since it was revelation needed for belief in the God of Mohammed as well as for understanding of Shari'a). This belief, when united with the knowledge of the philosopher essentially set the framework of the socio-political life as far as Averroes was concerned. Moreover, for Averroes, religion was superior to philosophy because it was related directly to God, whereas philosophy stemmed from men. For this…

Sources Used in Documents:

Bibliography

Al-Farabi. "The Political Regime." In Medieval Political Philosophy ed. by Joshua

Parens, Joseph Macfarland. London: Cornell University Press, 2011.

Averroes. "The Decisive Treatise." In Medieval Political Philosophy ed. by Joshua

Parens, Joseph Macfarland. London: Cornell University Press, 2011.


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