Philosophical Underpinnings of Artificial Intelligence and the Concept of Human Soul in Islam: Some Issues at the Interface

Main Article Content

Juris Arrozy
Wendi Zarman


Can machines think like humans do? Is the mind essentially a physical entity like a machine? A particular view on the nature of the human mind and intelligence, i.e. the computational theory of mind, appears either to be the basis of, or to have taken inspiration from, the field of Artificial Intelligence. The theory aims to explain intelligence by only resorting to physical explanation. This might run counter to the worldview of Islam since Islam acknowledges the existence of a spiritual substance, i.e., the nafs (soul), in addition to the body and affirms its role in explaining human intelligence. Therefore, this article discusses some issues stemming from the interface between the philosophical underpinnings of Artificial Intelligence and Islam. Two strands of the computational theory of mind, i.e. strong symbol system hypothesis and connectionism, are elaborated. The Islamic conception of the human soul is adopted from the works of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas. It is shown that whereas the computational theory of mind regards intelligence and knowledge as purely physical, the Islamic conception of the human soul argues that the soul and the knowledge imprinted upon it are nonphysical. The disagreement is further illustrated by analysing examples from the current AI limitations: “adversarial examples” in visual abstraction, syntaxsemantics distinction, and abduction as a “leap” in reasoning.

Article Details

How to Cite
Arrozy, J., & Zarman, W. (2024). Philosophical Underpinnings of Artificial Intelligence and the Concept of Human Soul in Islam: Some Issues at the Interface. TAFHIM: IKIM Journal of Islam and the Contemporary World, 17(1 (June), 23–55.


Abdullah, Wan Suhaimi Wan. Abū al-Barakāt al-Baghdādī on the Human Soul: An Exposition of Some Major Problems of Psychology. Kuala Lumpur: Pertubuhan Pendidikan Futuwwah, 2021.

Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib. On Justice and the Nature of Man: A Commentary on Sūrat al-Nisāʾ (4):58 and Sūrat al-Muʾminūn (23):12–14. Kuala Lumpur: IBFIM, 2015.

______. Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islām: An Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the Worldview of Islām. Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995.

______. The Nature of Man and the Psychology of Human Soul: A Brief Outline and Framework for an Islamic Psychology and Epistemology. Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1990.

Badri, Malik. Abū Zayd al-Balkhī’s Sustenance of the Soul: The Cognitive Behavior Therapy of a Ninth Century Physician. London: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2013.

Bakar, Osman. Classification of Knowledge in Islam. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1998.

______. “The Clash of Artificial and Natural Intelligences: Will It Impoverish Wisdom?,” in Abdallah Schleifer (ed.), The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims 2023.

Amman: The Royal Islamic Strategik Studies Centre, 2023.

Bostrom, Nick. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Buckner, Cameron. “Deep Learning: A Philosophical Introduction.” Philosophy Compass 14 (2019): 1–19.

Carter, Matt. Minds and Computers: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

Chalmers, Alan. What Is This Thing Called Science? 3rd. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1999.

Copeland, Jack. Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1993.

De La Mettrie, Julien Offray. Machine Man and Other Writings. Edited by Ann Thomson. Translated by Ann Thomson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Dhaouadi, Mahmoud. “An Exploration into the Nature of the Making of Human and Artificial Intelligence and the Qurʾānic Perspective,” American Journal of Islam and Society 9, no. 4 (1992): 465–481.

Dreyfus, Hubert L. Dreyfus and Stuart E. Mind over Machine: The Power of Human Intuition and Expertise in the Era of the Computer. New York: Free Press, 1986.

Ford, Martin. Architects of Intelligence: The Truth About AI From the People Building It. Birmingham: Packt Publishing, 2018.

Frankish, Keith, and William M. Ramsey. The Cambridge Handbook of Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Good, Irving John. Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine. Vol. 6, in Advances in Computers, edited by Franz L. Alt and Morris Rubinoff, 31–88. New York: Academic Press, 1965.

Harnad, Stevan. “The Symbol Grounding Problem.” Physica D 42 (1990): 335–346.

Haugeland, John. Artificial Intelligence: The Very Idea. Cambride: The MIT Press, 1985.

Hobbes, Thomas. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan. Edited by John C. A. Gaskin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Hodges, Andrew. Alan Turing: The Enigma. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.

Kang, Minsoo. Sublime Dream of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Krizhevsky, Alex, Ilya Sutskever, and Geoffrey E. Hinton. “ImageNet Classification with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks.” Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems (2012): 1097–1105.

Kurzweil, Ray. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. New York: Penguin Books, 2012.

Larson, Erik J. The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2021.

LeCun, Yann, Yoshua Bengio, and Geoffrey Hinton. “Deep Learning.” Nature 521 (2015): 436–444.

Levesque, Hector J. “On Our Best Behaviour.” Artificial Intelligence 212, no. 1 (2014): 27–35.

Levesque, Hector J., Ernest Davis, and Leora Morgenstern. “The Winograd Schema Challenge.” Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, 2012. 552–561.

Levinovitz, Alan. The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win. May 12, 2014. Accessed March 30, 2022.

Marcus, Gary, and Ernest Davis. Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust. New York: Vintage Books, 2019.

Mayor, Adrienne. Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

McCarthy, John, Marvin L. Minsky, Nathaniel Rochester, Claude E. Shannon. “A Proposal for the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence.” AI Magazine 27, no. 4 (2006): 12–14.

McCarthy, John. “Programs with Common Sense.” Symposium on Mechanization of Thought Processes, 1959. Teddington. 1–15.

McCulloch, Warren S., and Walter Pitts.. “A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity.” Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 5 (1943): 115–133.

Mitchell, Melanie.. Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans. London: Pelican, 2019.

______. What Does It Mean for AI to Understand? December 16, 2021.

Molesworth, Sir William, ed. The Collected Works of Thomas Hobbes. 12 vols. London: Routledge, 1992.

Moravec, Hans. Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988.

Newell, Allen, and Herbert A. Simon. “Computer Science as Empirical Inquiry: Symbols and Search.” Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 19, no. 3 (1976): 113–126.

Nilsson, Nils J. The Quest for Artificial Intelligence: A History of Ideas and Achievements. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Pearl, Judea, and Dana Mackenzie. The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. New York: Basic Books, 2019.

Petzold, Charles. The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, 2008.

Popper, Karl R. Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

Raquib, Amana, Bilal Channa, Talat Zubair, and Junaid Qadir. “Islamic Virtue-based Ethics for Artificial Intelligence,” Discover Artificial Intelligence 2, no. 11: (2022).

Rescorla, Michael. The Computational Theory of Mind. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. September 21, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2022.

Rosenblatt, Frank. “The Perceptron: A Probabilistic Model for Information Storage and Organisation in the Brain.” Psychological Review 65, no. 6 (1958): 368–408.

Rahman, Fazlur. Avicenna’s Psychology. Westport: Hyperion Press, 1952.

Russell, Stuart, and Peter Norvig. Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach. 4th edition. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2022.

Searle, John R. “Minds, Brains, and Programs.” The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (1980): 417–457.

Seth D. Baum, Ben Geoertzel, and Ted G. Goertzel. “How Long Until Human-level AI? Results From an Expert Assessment.” Technological Forecasting & Social Change 78 (2011): 185–195.

Sharif, Mahmood, Sruti Bhagavatula, Lujo Bauer, and Michael K. Reiter. “Accessorize to a Crime: Real and Stealthy Attacks on State-of-the-Art Face Recognition.” CCS‘16: Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. New York: ACM, 2016, 1528–1540.

Simon, Herbert A., and Allen Newell. “Information Processing in Computer and Man.” American Scientist 52, no. 3 (1964): 281–300.

Szegedy, Christian, Wojciech Zaremba, Ilya Sutskever, Joan Bruna, Dumitru Erhan, Ian Goodfellow, and Rob Fergus. “Intriguing Properties of Neural Networks.” arXiv preprintarXiv:1312.6199 (2013): 1–10.

Tegmark, Max. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. New York: Penguin Books, 2018.

Turing, Alan. “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Mind 59, no. 236 (1950): 433–460.

Turing, Alan. “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42 (1936): 230–265.

Tzortzis, Hamza Andreas. Does Artificial Intelligence Undermine Religion? June 30, 2020. Accessed March 31, 2022.

Uthman, Muhammad Zainiy. Al-Attas’ Psychology. Kajang Selangor: Akademi Jawi Malaysia, 2022.

Wilson, Robert A., and Frank C. Keil. The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Massachusets: The MIT Press, 1999.

Zubair, Talat, Amana Raquib, and Junaid Qadir. “Combating Fake News, Misinformation, and Machine Learning Generated Fakes: Insights from the Islamic Ethical Tradition.” ICR Journal 10, no. 2 (2019): 189–212.