Dictionary of

Muslim Philosophy



In this short work, the first of its kind in the English language, an attempt has been made to give reliable definitions and clear explanations of the major terms used by the medieval Muslim philosophers in logic, metaphysics, psychology and other allied disciplines.

Among the many works consulted in the compilation of this dictionary are the Ta‘rifat by ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Jurjani, Mafatih al-‘Ulum by Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Khwarizmi, Lexique de la Langue philosophique d’ Ibn Sina by A. M. Goichon and Imam al-Ghazali’s Maqasid al-Falasifah. For fuller explanation of certain terms the monumental Kashf ‘Istilahat al-Funun has been resorted to, while quite a few terms have been culled from Sayyid Ja‘far Sajjadi’s Mustalihat Falsafi Sadr al-Din Shirazi. Nicholas Rescher’s Studies in the History of Arabic Logic has been helpful in the selection and elucidation of a number of logical terms.

To the important terms selected have been added some variants of Arabicised Greek names and titles which though commonly found in such source books as Ibn al-Nadim’s al-Fihrist, alQifti’s Tarikh al-Hukama’, Ibn abi ‘Usaibi‘ah’s ‘Uyun al-’Anba’ fi Tabaqat al-’Atibba’, are yet likely to be unfamiliar to the modern reader.

All terms given in Arabic script with transliteration in English have been arranged alphabetically except for the definite article "al" which has been disregarded in the listing of both the single words and the compounds. Where the technical meaning of a term differs widely from its literal meaning, the latter has also been given.

I feel deeply indebted to a large number of learned authors, both Oriental and Occidental, whose valuable works have been of great help to me in compiling this dictionary; the present work, however, is not a mere translation of what has been written on Muslim philosophy or its terminology in Arabic, or Persian, or German, or French. An effort has been made all along to strike a balance between the ipsessima verba of the classical texts consulted and the diction and idiom of modern philosophical thought to make the definitions and explanations of terms as easily and clearly communicable to the Western and West-oriented reader as is possible consistently with accuracy; this, however, could be attempted only by making a free use of cross-references:

This dictionary, it is hoped, will be of use not only to the students of Muslim philosophy, for whom it has been primarily designed, but will also be of interest to scholars of Islamics and philosophy generally. It is further expected to be of some help to the increasing number of scholars who are engaged in forging a new philosophical vocabulary in Arabic, Persian, or Urdu in alignment with the great Muslim intellectual heritage.

I wish to place on record my deep sense of indebtedness to my teacher, the late Professor M. M. Sharif, who urged me to work on this deplorably neglected field, helped me to prepare the original plan and remained my guide and constant source of inspiration, so long as he lived, in its execution in detail. May his soul rest in peace !

To Dr S. M. Ikram, the present Director of the Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, I owe a special debt of gratitude-without his personal interest, encouragement and patience this work would not have seen the light of the day.

I remember with gratefulness the help given me in understanding some passages of highly technical Arabic texts by Maulana M. Hanif Nadawi, an Arabist par excellence.

I am equally indebted to Mr. M. Ashraf Darr for the very special care with which he went through the manuscript and the closest attention with which he read the rather difficult proofs.

Needless to add that for imperfections and shortcomings which still remain I alone am responsible. Suggestions for improvement will be gratefully acknowledged.




23 June 1970

Fine print: A Dictionary of Muslim Philosophy is copyright of the Institute of Islamic Culture, 1970. First Impression, 1970: 1100 copies. Printed by: Muhammad Zarreen Khan at Zarreen Art Press, 61 Railway Road, Lahore. Published by: M. Munir Sheikh for the Institute of Islamic Culture, Club Road, Lahore-3

Postscript for the HTML version:

I would like to state here for the record that this work is presented here with the sole purpose of fair educational use policy. It is not meant as a copyright infringement. I am not making any money on this venture and merely placing it here for educational use only. If anyone out there is making money on this and the blood, sweat and tears of others shame on you. Stop it immediately, acknowledge your error, give all the earning to charity, and seek forgiveness, and do not do it again. 

The nature of the dictionary is that it is extensively self referential and it just lends it self so much more in a hypertext format. Further I have added some terms that I think were lacking in published original.  Also there are mistakes that were corrected from the printed version. I have pointed that out. There are terms referenced but not included. They are logic terms which I could not find in other dictionaries that were available to me at the time htmlizing

That leaves the problem of transliteration and the Arabic script. I have included an additional page which has all the terms in Arabic. Each term has been cross-referenced to the definition. The original transliteration scheme did not translate well into html. If I do solve this problem I will update the website accordingly. If anyone knows how to do this well do let me know as I am open to ideas. 

I am considering placing the rtf/word 97 files and if anyone finds that this idea is appealing let me know in order that it can be realized. Now that the dictionary has grown I think this option is not one that is useful as the current word file is in need of a major update just to match what is on the web. 

With that said I hope you enjoy your foray into Islamic Philosophy.

Muhammad Hozien

27 February 2001

Post Postscript:

Now it has been 4 years since I have placed this dictionary online. A lot of changes have been happened on the web side of things. New versions of the Microsoft office have come on the scene and embraced the www in a big way. At any rate the new programs allow the inclusion of Arabic interlaced with the English. Also I have been alerted to the existence of many fonts that do the full range of transliteration. Currently for this project I am using Georgia Ref font. This comes with some of Microsoft products and the font is available online for those that do not have it. See here: (font) Actually you need to this font to read the transliteration correctly. I have since added new entries to the dictionary that were not part of the original print edition. Also I found some minor errors that were corrected. I have retained many of the British spellings for now. I have developed this knee jerk reaction to spell checkers with their wiggly lines under the misspelled words and since I work in a non-British environment most of the words are always underlined.

At any rate the word files are now hopelessly outdated and I will not be releasing them, they are lost in some dark recess of my hard drive. So all the updating will be done live on the net. Currently, I am adding the Arabic in the text as well as the transliteration. Next is to re-organize the entries correctly according to the Arabic alphabet. Also to include English language index. Also I will attempt to bring the Latin and Greek of some of the terms as are available. The source of the Latin is the Ibrahim Makdour's edition of Ibn Sina's  illhyat of the Shifa. The Greek is from Max Meyerhof's article: An Arabic Compendium of Medico-Philosophical Definitions, ISIS, vol. 10. No. 2 (June 1928), 340-349.

25th February, 2005

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