Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 September 2021
This chapter surveys phenomena and trajectories related to atheism, doubt, and freethought in the medieval Islamic world. Since the existence of God was thought to be rationally proven by both Muslim philosophers and theologians alike, there were next to no Muslims that came to espouse atheism in the Middle Ages. However, there were a number of authors and scholars – some of them highly influential – who can be called freethinkers, though no such term existed in the Arabic or Persian of the time. Similar to their seventeenth-century European counterparts, the medieval Muslim freethinkers held that arguments and positions about truths should be based on reason and demonstrative argumentation rather than revelation and tradition. Some of them directed venomous criticism against prophecy and the Quran, which they all but rejected. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the works (or citations of them) of the medieval Muslim critics of religion have survived to this day.
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