The Role of the Arabic Astrologer

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The objective of this essay is to determine whether the belief in astrology is a belief in fatalism through an evaluation of the concept of fate officially adopted by the state during the reigns of the Mu’tazilite Abbassid Caliphs al-Ma’mūn (813-833 AD) and al-Mu’tașim (833-842 AD), and the subsequent role of the Arabic astrologer; the term ‘Arabic’ here refers to the language used in academic writings of scholars not their ethnicity. Richard Walzer (1900-1975) argued that within the Golden Age of Islam (8th to 13th centuries AD), the period corresponding to the reigns of the two aforementioned Caliphs in particular, was characterized by increased dynamism in scientific and artistic endeavors in an empire that was at the height of its political power. Moreover, Muzzafar Iqbal pointed out that it was during the reign of al-Ma’mūn the illustrious ‘Bayt al-Hikma’ or House of Wisdom was established to become the ‘hub of one of the most fascinating cross-cultural movements of transmission of knowledge’ through an intensive translation movement. The reign of al-Ma’mūn, Iqbal continued, marked the second phase of more polished translations that covered a wide range of ancient texts, hence introducing to the Arabic culture a number of foreign sciences and subjects, astrology being one. George Hourani (1913-1984) further identified an association between the massive translation movement during the said period and Mu’tazilitism; a theological school of thought that was enthusiastically adopted by both al-Ma’mūn and al-Mu’tasim; and this eventually led to the birth of Islamic philosophy. Both Walzer and Hourani traced strong links and similarities between the views of Ya’qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī (c. 801-873 AD); who was a philosopher, ...

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