The human intellect: Liberation or limitation? Some notes on AQL in classical Islamic mysticism

Michael Ebstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The article discusses various attitudes towards the human intellect (aql) in classical Islamic mysticism, as reflected in key mystical writings composed from the third/ninth century to the rise of Ibn al- Arabī in the sixth/twelfth. It begins by presenting the basic challenge that the concept of aql posed for the mystics of Islam and then proceeds to analyze diverse approaches to the intellect in works that were written in both the east (mashriq) and the west (al-Andalus). Special attention is given to the impact of Neoplatonism on mystical attitudes towards the intellect. The conclusion to the article offers general observations on the problem of aql in classical Islamic mysticism, and attempts to explain the tendency of certain sixth/twelfth-century mystics who were exposed to Neoplatonic thought to reduce the role of the intellect in the mystical quest for God.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)198-233
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Sufi Studies
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Brill Academic Publishers. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Al-Andalus
  • Al-Ghazālī
  • I tibār (contemplation)
  • Ibn al-Arabī
  • Intellect
  • Mysticism
  • Neoplatonism
  • Reason and rationality
  • Sufism

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