(This five-part series on early Islamic history begins with the rise of Islam, shifts to its golden age, examines two key currents of early Islamic thought—rationalism and Sufi mysticism—and concludes with an epilogue. It builds on precursor essays I wrote at Stanford’s Green Library during a summer sabbatical years ago, and on subsequent travels in Islamic lands of the Middle East and beyond.) __________________________________________
Islamic scholars during the golden age of Islam (roughly 9th-12th centuries) widely referred to Aristotle as the ‘First Teacher,’ evidence of the high regard in which they held the ancient Greek philosopher. The man ranked by them as second only to Aristotle was a tenth-century Muslim thinker by the name of Abu Nasr al-Farabi (870-950 CE).  Perhaps a good way to illustrate the rational current of early Islam is through the life and times of this important thinker. In the words of Muhsin Mahdi, a modern scholar of Islamic studies,
‘[Al-Farabi was] the great interpreter of the thought of Plato and Aristotle and their commentators, and the master to whom almost all major Muslim as well as a number of Jewish and Christian philosophers turned for a fuller understanding of the controversial, troublesome and intricate questions of philosophy ... He paid special attention to the study of language and its relation to logic. In his numerous commentaries on Aristotle’s logical works he expounded for the first time in Arabic the entire range of the scientific and non-scientific forms of argument and established the place of logic as the indispensable prerequisite for philosophic inquiry.’ 
For a flavor of what other notable thinkers of his age thought of him, consider this remarkable passage from the autobiography of Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna, 980-1037 CE), the Persian philosopher and physician famous in the West as the ‘Islamic Galen.’ Ibn Sina wrote that after a diligent study of ‘the logical, natural, and mathematical sciences’ in his youth, he finally reached the study of metaphysics:
‘I read the Metaphysics [of Aristotle], but I could not comprehend its contents, and its author’s object remained obscure to me, even when I had gone back and read it forty times and had got to a point where I had memorized it. In spite of this I could not understand it nor its object, and I despaired of myself and said, ‘This is a book which there is no way of understanding.’ But one day in the afternoon when I was at the booksellers’ quarter a salesman approached with a book in his hand which he was calling out for sale. He offered it to me, but I refused it with disgust, believing that there was no merit in this science. But he said to me, ‘Buy it, because its owner needs the money and so it is cheap. I will sell it to you for three dirhams.’ So I bought it and, lo and behold, it was Abu Nasr al-Farabi’s book on the objects of Metaphysics. I returned home and was quick to read it, and in no time the objects of that book became clear to me because I had got to the point of having memorized it by heart. I rejoiced at this and the next day gave much in alms to the poor in gratitude to God, who is exalted ...’ 
Should you eat meat? Here is a really good essay by Elizabeth Kolbert that also reviews Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.
Americans love animals. Forty-six million families in the United States own at least one dog, and thirty-eight million keep cats. Thirteen million maintain freshwater aquariums in which swim a total of more than a hundred and seventy million fish. Collectively, these creatures cost Americans some forty billion dollars annually ... “We have so many customers who say they’d eat macaroni and cheese before they’d cut back on their dogs,” a Colorado pet-store owner recently told the Denver Post. In a survey released this past August, more than half of all dog, cat, and bird owners reported having bought presents for their animals during the previous twelve months, often for no special occasion, just out of love. (Fish enthusiasts may bring home fewer gifts, but they spend more on each one, with the average fish gift coming to thirty-seven dollars.) A majority of owners report that one of the reasons they enjoy keeping pets is that they consider them part of the family.
Americans also love to eat animals. This year, they will cook roughly twenty-seven billion pounds of beef, sliced from some thirty-five million cows. Additionally, they will consume roughly twenty-three billion pounds of pork, or the bodies of more than a hundred and fifteen million pigs, and thirty-eight billion pounds of poultry, some nine billion birds. Most of these creatures have been raised under conditions that are, as Americans know—or, at least, by this point have no excuse not to know—barbaric. Broiler chickens, also known, depending on size, as fryers or roasters, typically spend their lives in windowless sheds, packed in with upward of thirty thousand other birds and generations of accumulated waste. The ammonia fumes thrown off by their rotting excrement lead to breast blisters, leg sores, and respiratory disease. Bred to produce the maximum amount of meat in the minimum amount of time, fryers often become so top-heavy that they can’t support their own weight. At slaughtering time, they are shackled by their feet, hung from a conveyor belt, and dipped into an electrified bath known as “the stunner.”...
How is it that Americans, so solicitous of the animals they keep as pets, are so indifferent toward the ones they cook for dinner?
More here. (via 3QD. Also check out my previous posts on this topic here, here, and here.)