Humanism in Ismaili thought: The case of the Rasail Ikhwan al-Safa
Cultural historians are divided as to whether the term "humanism," a product of the Graeco-Roman humanitas ideal, can be applied to the world of medieval Islam. In his chapter entitled "al-Naza al-insaniyya fi'l-fikr al-'arabi" (The Humanist Trend in Arab Thought), 'Abd al-Ral:rman Badawi, reflecting on humanism in Arab thought, states that Greek culture was not unique in creating a humanist ideal. Every high culture, he asserts, produces this phenomenon in its own way. A number of other scholars, such as Louis Gardet, and Mohammed Arkoun have discussed and elaborated on humanism as a feature of Arab-Islamic civilization. In The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West, George Makdisi has covered all aspects of Islamic learning and rendered the Arabic term adab as humanism.
This article appeared in Universality in Islamic Thought: Rationalism, Science and Religious Belief, Edited by Michael Morony, London: I.B.Tauris, 2014.