A1 Journal article (refereed)
Ancient Greek Philosophy and the Islamic Tradition : The Origins of Social Life, Diversity, and Political Authority (2020)

Syros, Vasileios (2020). Ancient Greek Philosophy and the Islamic Tradition : The Origins of Social Life, Diversity, and Political Authority. K̦azU̇U habaršysy, 23 (3), 42-52. DOI: 10.26577/EJRS.2020.v23.i3.r6 https://bulletin-religious.kaznu.kz/index.php/relig/article/view/288/259

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Syros, Vasileios

Journal or series: K̦azU̇U habaršysy

ISSN: 2413-3558

eISSN: 2521-6465

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 23

Issue number: 3

Pages range: 42-52

Publisher: al-Farabi Kazakh National University

Publication country: Kazakstan

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26577/EJRS.2020.v23.i3.r6

Persistent website address: https://bulletin-religious.kaznu.kz/index.php/relig/article/view/288/259

Open Access: Publication published in an open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/72900

Additional information: The name versions of the journal: K̦azU̇U habaršysy; KazNU bulletin. Religious studies series; Eurasian Journal of Religious studies.


The interplay between a naturalistic understanding of social origins and the vision of the ruler as God’s representative on earth is a major aspect of medieval and early modern Islamic political discourse. The ancient Greek tradition had a formative influence on Islamic meditation regarding the origins of human society, the role of government, justice, and the qualities of the good ruler. The aim of this article is to revisit the impact of the Greek legacy on various theories about the emergence of human society and political authority that were propounded medieval Islamic authors. In the first section of this article, I review the reception of ancient Greek sources in the Islamic world and reconsider their influence on subsequent debates about the nature and foundation of human society, especially during the ‘Abbāsid era. I will focus on Plato, Bryson, Themistius, and Nemesius, who depict human society as the corollary of human frailty and the need to procure the necessities of life. These authors articulate a naturalistic explanation of the origins of organized human society which reverberates in the philosophical and administrative literature of the ‘Abbāsid period. In addition, I will show how Qudāma B. Ja‘far and al-Fārābī facilitated the dissemination of Greek political ideas in the Islamic world and coupled Themistius’ rationale about communal association with the notion that rulership is related to a divine mandate for the sake of upholding social harmony. I will also demonstrate how these ideas reached their culmination in al-Ghazālī, who embraces a naturalistic approach to the creation of human society while proclaiming the ruler to be God’s shadow on earth in charge of maintaining order and implementing the ordinances of the sharī‘a.

Keywords: Islamic culture; ancient philosophy

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Last updated on 2020-01-12 at 13:06