Saturday, April 7, 2012

Is Aristotle a Prophet

I have been asked a question regarding Aristotle and his Prophethood. You, too, can ask via the Contact Us form on the blog. 

I remember once hearing that one of the Masoomeen (peace be upon the all) had referred to one of the Greek philosophers as a Prophet of God, who used to invite people to God using reason - I don't remember exactly who but I think it was Aristotle.

Can you give me a reference for this Hadith (if it exists and you know about it)? Sorry for giving you the trouble. If you can, please give a grading as well.


Aristotle in Arabic is referred to in two ways, one as أرسطو and another way as أرسطوطاليس.

When looking through the Shī`ah ḥadīth corpus, you do NOT find a hadeeth referring to Aristotle as a Prophet or a Waṣī / Walī. When you look through the Sunnī books you ALSO do NOT find any ḥadīth that refers to Aristotle as a Prophet.

One the other hand, the great companion of the sixth and seventh Imāms (عليهم السلام), Hishām bin al-Ḥakam, has authored a book called Kitāb al-Radd `Ala Aristotle fī al-Tawhīd (Book on Refutating Aristotle on Tawhīd - كتاب الرد على أرسطاطاليس في التوحيد). Both al-Najāshī and al-Ṭūsī have mentioned this as one of the books that Hishām has authored. Unfortunately, this book is not extant, but if Aristotle was a Prophet, how and why would Hishām refute him, especially on the major belief of Tawhīd?

I have found two shaadh (odd) sources that are attributed to Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) regarding Aristotle.

“It has been mentioned in the books of the people of haqq (truth)”:
أنا أرسطوطاليس هذه الأمة
The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said: "I am the Aristotle of this Ummah"

Analysis of adīth:
There is no source given to this particular adīth, which isn’t found in any of the Sunni and Shī`ah books. The only thing said before this adīth is ذكر في كتب أهل الحق (It has been mentioned in the books of the people of truth). This doesn’t mean much.

The other source is found in Muhammad al-Daylami's book Mahbūb al-Qulūb, pg. 14:

يروى أن عمرو ابن العاص قدم من الإسكندرية على النبي فسأله عما رأى؟ قال : رأيت قوما يتطلسون ويجتمعون حلقا، ويذكرون رجلا يقال له أرسطو طاليس لعنه الله! فقال له النبي: مه يا عمرو!، إن أرسطو طاليس كان نبيا فجهله قومه
It is narrated that `Amr bin al-`Āṣ came from Alexandria to the Prophet and he (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) asked him (`Amr) about what he saw? He (`Amr bin al-`Āṣ) said: ‘I saw a group of people would gather in a halaqa, and they would mention a man, they called him Aristotle, may Allāh curse him. Then the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) said to him (`Amr): ‘O `Amr, Aristotle is a Prophet, but his people were ignorant of him!’

Analysis of adīth:
There are many things wrong with this adīth.
1.)    There is no sanad (chain of narrators) to this adīth, and the book that this has been mentioned is a book that isn’t accepted by either Sunnī or the Shī`ah.
2.)   The primary narrator `Amr bin al-`Ā, is a narrator who would not be authentic per the Shī`ah science of adīth because of his stance after the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) death.
3.)   `Amr bin al-`Ā has never been mentioned to step foot in Alexandria until after the Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) death, making this adīth impossible.

Unfortunately, you have Shī`ah scholars such as Kamāl al-Haydarī in his first dars (lesson) on al-Mantiq (Logic) where he mentions this adīth to prove or praise Aristotle. Kamāl al-Haydarī also says that Imām al-Sādiq (عليه السلام) “praises” Aristotle in Tawhīd al-Mufaḍḍal.

Putting aside the authenticity of Tawhīd al-Mufaḍḍal, which is not authentic. When reading the statement from Imām al-ādiq (عليه السلام) where he mentioned Aristotle, you will see that this is in no way praising Aristotle.

و قد كان أرسطاطاليس رد عليهم فقال إن الذي يكون بالعرض و الاتفاق إنما هو شي‏ء يأتي في الفرط مرة لأعراض تعرض للطبيعة فتزيلها عن سبيلها و ليس بمنزلة الأمور الطبيعية الجارية على شكل واحد جريا دائما متتابعا
"Aristotle refuted them by saying: ‘That which comes into being by accident and chance is something that comes one time due to certain factors in nature making something unusual and not like the natural matters that happen in one form continually and successively."
1.     Al-Mufaḍḍal bin `Umar, Tawhīd al-Mufaḍḍal, (Qum: Maktabah al-Dāwirī, 3rd ed., 1376 AH), Fourth Session, pg. 180

As you can see, this statement does not praise Aristotle at all. Imām al-ādiq (عليه السلام) only mentioned the view of Aristotle. This is equivalent to Shī`ah scholars mentioned the view of Sunnī scholars, that does not mean that they are praising that scholar.

There is NOT a adīth from the Ahlul Bayt (عليهم السلام) where they praise any of the Greek philosophers. I believe, the reason why you see some scholars try to make Aristotle or any other Greek philosopher a Prophet is because of the fact that it is mentioned in adīth that there are 124,000 prophets, only 25 of them are mentioned in the Qur’ān. Some scholars seeing the big discrepancy of Prophets that are not mentioned, they try to put names to some of them. This is of course pure dhann (speculation).

And Allah Knows Best.

Nader Zaveri
Jamadi’ al-Awwal 16, 1433
April 7, 2012 


  1. Tawhīd al-Mufaḍḍal is not authentic? I love that book.

  2. Thanks for this beautiful research.

  3. Salaam Alaikum,

    out of curiousity, could you link to Sayyid Kamal's statement brother?

  4. Wa `Alaykum Assalaam,

    I need to relocate the original link, it is in Arabic though. If you were to go to his dars on al-Mantiq (Logic), the first session is the one where he talks about Aristotle, and he gives those hadeeth about him, that I mentioned in my post.

  5. It's not possible that Hisham ibn al Hakam wrote a book against Aristotle. Indeed Aristotle's works have been discovered and translated by the arabs, decades after Hicham's death, during the abbasside period.