Immortality in Islamic Philosophy

The following basic concepts are major themes that relate to immortality in Islamic philosophy.

It is difficult to grasp the complexity of the terms: immortality, intellect and soul, as they are discussed and explained in Islamic philosophy. The questions up for debate for the Islamic philosophers include: what the soul is, how the soul relates to the intellect, how this is related to immortality, the legitimacy of corporal resurrection and finally the problem of individuality.

Some Islamic philosophers such as Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd find it important to continue with the tradition of the Greeks, especially Aristotle, with further complicates definitions of the matter, while other order for strict and harsh interpretation like Al-Ghazali.

Corporal Resurrection and Judgment

First, there is the question of corporal resurrection; that is, when souls are judged by God, will the souls be punished and rewarded spiritually or corporally? Al-Ghazali believes that the body is resurrected, and punished or rewarded.

In contrast, Ibn Sina believes that the greatest punishment for the person is not bodily punishment, but soul punishment or eternal separation from God. Ghazali is usually criticized in this belief because some argue that God does not have a concept of petty human revenge. There is also the idea, made famous by Nietzsche, that a truly great society should not have to punish criminals, so why would an ideal religious system have a concept of judgment?

The Active Intellect and Immortality

The second issue to contemplate is immortality and how to achieve or explain it. The philosophers use a term called “active intellect” to describe the advancement and maturation of minds towards a model of absolute intellectual perfection. This is related to the common idea of Islamic philosophers that the intellect, a faculty of the soul, must be trained in order to appreciate God – or it must be capable of understanding God’s majesty before it can receive immortality.

The Problem of Individuality

There also finally arises what is called “the problem of individuality” in Islamic philosophy, which is the idea that if there is only one truly, perfect emanation, then all truly emanated and perfect souls would look alike. How would they be distinguishable in the afterlife?

It is the aim of Islamic philosophy to reach the final developmental stage of active intellect, in which the intellect and the soul unite. However, once arriving there, since objective Truth exists, a person of immortality would look no different from another enlightened person of immortality. This is quite fascinating and curious considering how much the Islamic philosophers tend to dispute and refute their fellow Islamic philosopher’s claims.

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