Al-Jahiz is one of the philosophical superstars of Arab literature. Not only did he write an enormous number of books, but his output was remarkably diverse. Besides a great number of satires, he wrote books on rhetoric and philosophy. And he is well-known for having said that he preferred Aristotle to the Qur'an. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down the passage where he says that. I'd like to know why, ie what aspect of Aristotle was particularly salient for him, and how he justified philosophically his unusual preference.

  • Francis Edwards Peters's two accounts related to Aristotle and Arabs may provide clues.
    – user1207
    Dec 22, 2011 at 5:57
  • I can't comment because of low reputation, but this probably would have more response in the Islam Q&A site, islam.stackexchange.com.
    – user2953
    Jan 6, 2013 at 18:21
  • "He is well-known for having said that he preferred Aristotle to the Qur'an" It is no well-kown and it is implausible. Jul 29, 2013 at 16:54

1 Answer 1


Al-Jahiz was a Mu'tazilah which was:

an Islamic school of theology based on reason and rational thought that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq, during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu'tazili school are best known for their having asserted that, because of the perfect unity and eternal nature of Allah, the Qur'an must therefore have been created, as it could not be co-eternal with God. From this premise, the Mu'tazili school of Kalam proceeded to posit that the injunctions of God are accessible to rational thought and inquiry: because knowledge is derived from reason, reason is the "final arbiter" in distinguishing right from wrong. It follows, in Mu'tazili reasoning, that "sacred precedent" is not an effective means of determining what is just, as what is obligatory in religion is only obligatory "by virtue of reason."

Greek rationalism was used here to express how they interpreted the truths of the Qu'ran. Its most unlikely that Al-Jahiz preferred Aristotle to the Qu'ran. Its sounds similar to the myth that above Platos Academy was a sign that said 'Let no one ignorant of Geometry enter here'. What is more likely is that he also recognised the excellence of Aristotle too.

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