While these great philosophers have incited Arabs to think freely and outside of the box, - and faced the consequences of doing so - contemporary Arab philosophers are keeping the legacy alive.
"You can't do without philosophy, since everything has its hidden meaning which we must know." - Maxim Gorky
Here are six modern Arab philosophers you should know about.
1. Professor Abdallah Laroui (Morocco)
Born in 1933, professor Abdallah Laroui is a philosopher and novelist. He received his Political Science degree from the University of Sorbonne, Paris, and earned an honorary certificate in Islamic studies in 1963.
Being a huge supporter of modernization, his philosophy is based on the Arab societies' need for it.
According to him, modernization can only be achieved by replacing traditional Arab reasoning and methodology with contemporary methods such as rationalism, criticism, and secularism.
Laroui's most poignant trait is, perhaps, his appreciation of Karl Marx as a modernist thinker.
"Arab culture both in its classical expression and in the most influential aspect of its present-day expression is opposed in almost every aspect to liberal culture."
2. Professor Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (Egypt)
Nasr Abu Zayd, born in 1943 in Egypt, earned a Ph.D. in Islamic studies while his philosophy mainly revolved around religious reform.
Abu Zayd insisted on the need of understanding and analyzing religious texts using contemporary methodology. He wanted people to read sacred passages in light of current humanistic ideologies instead of the traditional way.
Because of his liberal thoughts, he was sued by many conservative Muslim scholars and was forced to divorce his wife since he was declared an apostate - a person who abandons a religious or political belief.
He won the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005 - five years before he passed away.
"Secularism is not atheism. Secularism means separating political power from religious authority."
3. Professor Muhammad Arkoun (Algeria)
Muhammad Arkoun, born in 1928 in Alegria was best known for his humanistic views.
He was also a critic of backward Islamic reasoning and Eurocentric modernism - concentrating on European history and culture with disregard of a wider view of the world.
Arkoun had a strong stance against current educational systems in Arab countries since he blamed them for the intellectual regression in the region.
He received the Ibn Rushd Prize in 2003 and passed away in 2010.
"It is time [for Islam] to assume, along with all of the great cultural traditions, the modern risks of scientific knowledge."
4. Professor Hossam Al Alussi (Iraq)
Similarly to professor Abdallah Laroui, Hussam Al Alussi was a big defender of Marxism.
He was critical when it came to traditional Islam, saying Islamic traditional thought should be revised in a modernized way.
He passed away in 2013.
5. Professor Taha Abdurrahman (Morocco)
Abdurrahman is a rationalist as he believes human beings should rely on reason and rationality to tackle a problem or answer a question logically.
He consistently criticizes Western modernity. According to him, contemporary Arab thought shouldn't follow the lead of Western thought. Instead, Arabs should create their own philosophy by using their minds.
"Modernists talk about "modern" readings of the Quran when in fact, they are far from modernity."
6. Professor Tayyeb Tizini (Syria)
Born in 1934, professor Tayyeb Tizini has always been a revolutionist pushing Arabs toward change.
His whole philosophy revolves around two main points:
1. Arab thought is part of the evolution of human thought. The importance of Arabic (i.e. Islamic) philosophy is a crucial milestone in human history. If humans hadn't passed by that phase, nowadays "Western thoughts" wouldn't have existed.
2. Arab thought is usually seen as inferior to European thought since it is linked to the medieval era. This is unscientific and both philosophies are important.
"We should move forward with history and make freedom a reality."