St. Thomas Aquinas and Islamic Influence


بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

There is no doubt that the greatest Philosopher and Theologian to come out of the Christian faith is none other than Thomas Aquinas, more commonly known as Saint Thomas Aquinas. His book, Summa Theologica has had a significant, positive impact on the development, teaching and continued persistence of Christian teachings since the 13th century CE, well into our times. Yet, what most Christians who rely on the arguments and reasoning of Christianity’s biggest and best intellectual mind fail to mention is best summed in the following quote:

“Averroes’ greatest influence was as a commentator. His doctrines had a varying fortune in Christian schools. At first they secured a certain amount of adherence, then, gradually, their incompatibility with Christian teaching became apparent, and finally, owing to the revolt of the Renaissance from everything Scholastic, they secured once more a temporary hearing. His commentaries, however, had immediate and lasting success. St. Thomas Aquinas used the “Grand Commentary” of Averroes as his model, being, apparently, the first Scholastic to adopt that style of exposition; and though he refuted the errors of Averroes, and devoted special treatises to that purpose, he always spoke of the Arabian commentator as one who had, indeed, perverted the Peripatetic tradition, but whose words, nevertheless, should be treated with respect and consideration. The same may be said of Dante’s references to him. It was after the time of St. Thomas and Dante that Averroes came to be represented as “the arch-enemy of the faith”.” – The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Averroes”.

Some through their ignorance might focus on Aquinas’ refutation of the errors of Averroes, however anyone who has actually read the works of the revered Christian saint and teacher would understand that these “refutations” were more in defense of philosophical positions and creeds which Christians held dear. It is clear that if anyone were to read Averroes’, “”Kitab al Fasl al Maqal – On the Harmony Between Religions and Philosophy”, most of Aquinas’ arguments are explicitly based on the logical positions expounded upon within. A free download of the book is available here and is essential reading for any Muslim.

wa Allaahu ‘Alam.

3 comments

  • Can you please elaborate how Averroes “perverted the Peripatetic tradition”?

  • as-Salaamu Alaikum, brother Ijaz

    Aquinas was influenced most, not by ibn Rushd, but by Imam Ghazzali.

    Imam Ghazzali in his famous ‘Incoherence of Philosophers’ refuted philosophical stance of his predecessors ibn Sina and Farabi who were greatly influenced by Greek metaphysics. Imam Ghazzali’s refutation was so comprehensive that those influences were expelled forever from Muslim world.

    After Ghazzali, ibn Rushd tried to refute Ghazzali’s position, unsuccessfully of course. So it may be so that Aquinas used Ghazzali’s arguments to refute ibn Rushd’s argument.

  • As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatu Allāhi wa-barakātuh.

    Can someone clarify what was it in ibn Rushd’s arguments that needed refutation from an Islamic perspective? I have always heard about it, but when I read parts of the book you mentioned above, I found nothing contrary to Islam.

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