The Free Thinkers

"The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion."

John Stuart Mill
[Quoted in The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Page 4]

Nothing to say of the Western scholars, where, of course, atheism and agnosticisim reigns supreme, but people are little aware of the great scholars of Islam itself. Oft mentioned names like Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Omar Khayyam, Ibn Khuldoon were all religious heretics, and were seen with scorn by the general public... but it is these very names which have survived the vicissitudes of history.

Russell writes about the Islamic free thinkers:
"They were looked upon with suspicion by the populace, which was fanatical and bigoted; they owed their safety (when they were safe) to the protection of comparatively free-thinking princes." [History of Western Philosophy, Page 417]

But even this safety was meagre... these people often faced persecution and their books on religion were destroyed and burnt.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna), one of the most prominent scholars of Muslim world, was 'unquestionably, gloriously heretical' “Even during his lifetime Avicenna was suspected of infidelity to Islam; after his death accusations of heresy, free thought and atheism were repeatedly leveled against him.” [from “Avicenna on Theology” by Arthur J Arberry]

Ar Razi's works on religion were destroyed and his views earned him public condemnation for blasphemy.

Jabir Ibn Haiyan was not a very religious person and his views on religion were subject to criticism.

Al-Ma'arri, the Syrian poet, referred to religion as "noxious weeds" and called it a "fable invented by the ancients”.

Al-Biruni had "agnostic tendencies." [Encyclopedia Britannica 2000]

Omar Khayyam was flagrantly agnostic and hedonistic in his writings.

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) believed that religion contained philosophical truth in allegorical forms, so he was condemned for heresy and his writings were banned and burnt.

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