The First Encounter of Islam with Science and Greek Philosophy

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In 331 BCE, before the advent of Islam, a significant battle took place between Alexander the Great and Darius at Arbela. In this battle, Alexander emerged victorious, leading to the occupation of Persia. Alexander's entry into Persia marked a meeting of two cultures : Greek and Persian. Rather than destroying the conquered culture, Alexander aimed to amalgamate them. He adopted Persian clothing, married Statira, Darius's daughter, and encouraged his generals and soldiers to marry Persian women.

Following Alexander's death, his vast empire was divided into three: Macedonia in Europe, the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt with Alexandria as its capital, and the Seleucid Kingdom in Asia. The Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms continued efforts to unify the Greek and Iranian cultures. Although their attempts were not entirely successful, they left a significant impact. For instance, in Egypt and Syria, Greek remained the administrative language even after Islam's entry, later replaced by Arabic during the reign of Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan in the 7th century. Alexandria, Antioch, and Bactra remained centers of Greek science and philosophy.

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During the reign of Harun al-Rashid, the fifth caliph of the Abbasid dynasty, there was a significant effort to translate Greek scientific books into Arabic. Harun had a profound love for knowledge, and he desired to develop the intellectual heritage of Greek civilization within his realm. Notable translators during this era included Hunayn ibn Ishaq, Sabit ibn Qurra, Qusta ibn Luqa, Hubays, and Abu Bisr Matta ibn Yunus.

Many works of Aristotle, Plato, and Neoplatonism were translated during this period, making them accessible to Islamic scholars. The philosophical works, particularly those of Greek philosophy, caught the attention of the Mu'tazilah, influencing their rationalistic approach. Figures like Abu Huzail Al-Allaf from the Mu'tazilah, who extensively read philosophical books, were shaped by these influences, contributing to the rationalistic nature of their thoughts.

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Soon after, scholars within Islam itself, such as Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Razi, Al-Biruni, emerged in the field of science. Consequently, the initial contact between Islam and Greek philosophy and science occurred when Islam entered or governed regions that already possessed or had been influenced by Greek culture. The significant impetus for the infusion of Greek philosophy and science into the Islamic world, however, took place during the reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, paving the way for subsequent developments.

Mushpih Kawakibil Hijaj, Shariavest Writer.

This text was translated from Indonesian to English using ChatGPT/Google Translate.