Al-Farabi
Overview
 
known in the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 as Alpharabius (c. 872 in Fārāb
Farab
Farab may refer to:*Farab, Ardabil, a village in Iran*Farab, an old name for Otrar, Kazakhstan...

 – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951 in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

), was a scientist
Islamic science
Science in the medieval Islamic world, also known as Islamic science or Arabic science, is the science developed and practised in the Islamic world during the Islamic Golden Age . During this time, Indian, Iranian and especially Greek knowledge was translated into Arabic...

 and philosopher
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 of the Islamic world
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

. He was also a cosmologist
Islamic astronomy
Islamic astronomy or Arabic astronomy comprises the astronomical developments made in the Islamic world, particularly during the Islamic Golden Age , and mostly written in the Arabic language. These developments mostly took place in the Middle East, Central Asia, Al-Andalus, and North Africa, and...

, logician
Logic in Islamic philosophy
Logic played an important role in Islamic philosophy .Islamic Logic or mantiq is similar science to what is called Traditional Logic in Western Sciences.- External links :*Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: , Routledge, 1998...

, and musician
Islamic music
Islamic music is Muslim religious music, as sung or played in public services or private devotions. The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and South Asia. Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents...

.
The existing variations in the basic accounts of al-Farabi's origins and pedigree indicate that they were not recorded during his lifetime or soon thereafter by anyone with concrete information, but were based on hearsay or guesses (as is the case with other contemporaries of al-Farabi).
Quotations

A just city should favor justice and the just, hate tyranny and injustice, and give them both their just deserts.

H. Gibb et al., eds., "Mazalim", The Dictionary of Islam vol. IV (Leiden: Brill, 1991)

Encyclopedia
known in the West
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 as Alpharabius (c. 872 in Fārāb
Farab
Farab may refer to:*Farab, Ardabil, a village in Iran*Farab, an old name for Otrar, Kazakhstan...

 – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951 in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

), was a scientist
Islamic science
Science in the medieval Islamic world, also known as Islamic science or Arabic science, is the science developed and practised in the Islamic world during the Islamic Golden Age . During this time, Indian, Iranian and especially Greek knowledge was translated into Arabic...

 and philosopher
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 of the Islamic world
Islamic Golden Age
During the Islamic Golden Age philosophers, scientists and engineers of the Islamic world contributed enormously to technology and culture, both by preserving earlier traditions and by adding their own inventions and innovations...

. He was also a cosmologist
Islamic astronomy
Islamic astronomy or Arabic astronomy comprises the astronomical developments made in the Islamic world, particularly during the Islamic Golden Age , and mostly written in the Arabic language. These developments mostly took place in the Middle East, Central Asia, Al-Andalus, and North Africa, and...

, logician
Logic in Islamic philosophy
Logic played an important role in Islamic philosophy .Islamic Logic or mantiq is similar science to what is called Traditional Logic in Western Sciences.- External links :*Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: , Routledge, 1998...

, and musician
Islamic music
Islamic music is Muslim religious music, as sung or played in public services or private devotions. The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and South Asia. Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents...

.

Biography

The existing variations in the basic accounts of al-Farabi's origins and pedigree indicate that they were not recorded during his lifetime or soon thereafter by anyone with concrete information, but were based on hearsay or guesses (as is the case with other contemporaries of al-Farabi). The sources for his life are scant which makes the reconstruction of his biography beyond a mere outline nearly impossible. The earliest and more reliable sources, i. e., those composed before the 6th/12th century, that are extant today are so few as to indicate that no one among Fārābī’s successors and their followers, or even unrelated scholars, undertook to write his full biography, a neglect that has to be taken into consideration in assessing his immediate impact. The sources prior to the 6th/12th century consist of: (1) an autobiographical passage by Farabi, preserved by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa. In this passage, Farabi traces the transmission of the instruction of logic and philosophy from antiquity to his days. (2) Reports by Al-Masudi
Al-Masudi
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas'udi , was an Arab historian and geographer, known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs." Al-Masudi was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work, Muruj adh-dhahab...

, Ibn al-Nadim
Ibn al-Nadim
Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'hāq al-Nadim , whose father was known as al-Warrāq was a Shia Muslim scholar and bibliographer. Some scholars regard him as a Persian, but this is not certain. He is famous as the author of the Kitāb al-Fihrist...

 and Ibn Hawqal
Ibn Hawqal
Muḥammad Abū’l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal was a 10th century Muslim writer, geographer, and chronicler. His famous work, written in 977, is called Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ ....

 as well as by Said Al-Andalusi
Said Al-Andalusi
Said al-Andalusí was an Andalusi Muslim Qadi. He was born at Almería and died at Toledo. Said Al-Andalusi was a historian, philosopher of science and thought, and mathematical scientist with an especial interest in astronomy. He was highly interested in the science of Astronomy his claim to the...

 (d. 1070), who devoted a biography to him.

When major Arabic biographers decided to write comprehensive entries on Farabi in the 6th-7th/12th-13th centuries, there was very little specific information on hand; this allowed for their acceptance of invented stories about his life which range from benign extrapolation on the basis of some known details to tendentious reconstructions and legends. Most modern biographies of the philosopher present various combinations of elements drawn at will from this concocted material.
The sources from the 6th/12th century and later consist essentially of three biographical entries, all other extant reports on Farabi being either dependent on them or even later fabrications: 1) the Syrian tradition represented by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa. 2) The Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān (“Deaths of Eminent Men and History of the Sons of the Epoch”; trans. by Baron de Slane, Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary, 1842–74) compiled by Ibn Khallikān. 3) the scanty and legendary Eastern tradition, represented by Ẓahīr-al-Dīn Bayhaqī.

From incidental accounts it is known that he spent significant time in Baghdad with Christian scholars including the cleric Yuhanna ibn Haylan, Yahya ibn Adi, and Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Baghdadi. He later spent time in Damascus, Syria and Egypt before returning to Damascus where he died in 950-1.

Name

His name was Abū Naṣr Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Farabi, as all sources, and especially the earliest and most reliable, Al-Masudi
Al-Masudi
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas'udi , was an Arab historian and geographer, known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs." Al-Masudi was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work, Muruj adh-dhahab...

, agree. In some manuscripts of Fārābī’s works, which must reflect the reading of their ultimate archetypes from his time, his full name appears as Abū Naṣr Moḥammad b. Moḥammad al-Ṭarḵānī, i.e., the element Ṭarḵān
Tarkhan
Tarkhan is an ancient Central Asian title used by various Indo-European Tarkhan (Old Turkic Tarqan; Mongolian: Darkhan; ; ; ; alternative spellings Tarkan, Tarkhaan, Tarqan, Tarchan, Tarxan, Tarcan or Targan) is an ancient Central Asian title used by various Indo-European Tarkhan (Old Turkic...

 appears in a nisba (family surname or attributive title). Moreover, if the name of Farabi’s grandfather was not known among his contemporaries and immediately succeeding generations, it is all the more surprising to see in the later sources the appearance of yet another name from his pedigree, Awzalaḡ. This appears as the name of the grandfather in Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa  and of the great-grandfather in Ibn Khallekān. Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa is the first source to list this name which, as Ibn Khallekān explicitly specifies later, is so to be pronounced as Awzalaḡ. In modern Turkish scholarship and some other sources, the pronunciation is given as Uzluḡ rather than Awzalaḡ, without any explanation.

Birthplace

His birthplace is given in the classical sources as either Fāryāb
Faryab Province
Fāryāb is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the north of the country. Its capital is Maymana. The majority of the population is Uzbek.-History:...

 in Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

 (in modern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

) or Fārāb
Otrar
Otrar or Utrar is a Central Asian ghost town that was a city located along the Silk Road near the current town of Karatau in Kazakhstan. Otrar was an important town in the history of Central Asia, situated on the borders of settled and agricultural civilizations...

 on the Jaxartes (Syr Darya
Syr Darya
The Syr Darya , also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes from its Ancient Greek name . The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta , a reference to the color of the river's water...

) in modern Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

. The older Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 Pārāb (in Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam) or Fāryāb (also Pāryāb), is a common Persian toponym meaning “lands irrigated by diversion of river water”. By the 13th century, Fārāb on the Jaxartes was known as Otrār
Otrar
Otrar or Utrar is a Central Asian ghost town that was a city located along the Silk Road near the current town of Karatau in Kazakhstan. Otrar was an important town in the history of Central Asia, situated on the borders of settled and agricultural civilizations...

.

Origin

There exist a difference of opinion on the ethnic background of Farabi. According to D. Gutas, "[...] ultimately pointless as the quest for Farabi’s ethnic origins might be, the fact remains that we do not have sufficient evidence to decide the matter [...] The Cambridge companion to Arabic philosophy also states that "[...] these biographical facts are paltry in the extreme but we must resist the urge to embellish them with fanciful stories, as the medieval biographers did, or engage in idle speculation about al-Farabi’s ethnicity or religious affiliation on the basis of contrived interpretations of his works, as many modern scholars have done [...]" According to the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Thought "[...] because the origins of al-Farabi were not recorded during his lifetime or soon after his death in 950 C.E. by anyone with concrete information, accounts of his pedigree and place of birth have been based on hearsay [...]"

Iranian origin theory

Medieval Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 historian Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa (died in 1269) - al-Farabi's oldest biographer - mentions in his ʿOyūn that al-Farabi's father was of Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 descent. Al-Shahrazūrī
Al-Shahrazuri
Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Mahmud Shahrazuri was a 13th century Persian physician and philosopher of the Ilkhanate and late Abbasid era of Iran....

 who lived around 1288 A.D. and has written an early biography also state that Farabi hailed from a Persian family. Additionally, Farabi has in a number of his works references and glosses in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

 (and even Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 but, interestingly, no Turkish; see below). Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

 have been mentioned as his native language and the language of the inhabitants of Fārāb. Mohammad Javad Mashkoor argues for an Iranian-speaking Central Asian origin. A Persian origin has been discussed by other sources as well. Fihrist of Ibn Nadim, is the first work to mention Farabi, consider him to be of Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 origin.

Turkish origin theory

The oldest known reference to a possible Turkish origin is given by the medieval historian Ibn Khallekān (died in 1282), who in his work Wafayāt (completed in 669/1271) states that Farabi was born in the small village of Wasij
Wasij
Wasij was a village near Farab in Kazakhstan and the birthplace of the Central Asian scientist Farabi.-References:...

 near Fārāb (in what is today Otrar
Otrar
Otrar or Utrar is a Central Asian ghost town that was a city located along the Silk Road near the current town of Karatau in Kazakhstan. Otrar was an important town in the history of Central Asia, situated on the borders of settled and agricultural civilizations...

, Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

) of Turkish parents. Based on this account, some modern scholars state his origin to be Turkish. Others, such as Dimitri Gutas, criticize this, saying that Ibn Khallekān's account is aimed at the earlier historical accounts by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa, and serves the sole purpose to prove a Turkic origin for al-Farabi, for instance by inventing the additional nisba (surname) "al-Turk" (arab. "the Turk") - a nisba Farabi never had. In this regard, Oxford professor C.E. Bosworth
Clifford Edmund Bosworth
Clifford Edmund Bosworth FBA is an English historian and orientalist, specializing in Arabic studies. He received his B.A. degree from Oxford University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Edinburgh University. He held permanent posts at St. Andrews University, Manchester University, and the Center...

 notes that "great figures [such] as al-Farabi, al-Biruni
Al-Biruni
Abū al-Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-BīrūnīArabic spelling. . The intermediate form Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī is often used in academic literature...

, and ibn Sina
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 have been attached by over enthusiastic Turkish scholars to their race".

Life and Education

Al-Farabi spent almost his entire life in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, capital of Abbasids that ruled the Islamic world. In the auto-biographical passage about the appearance of philosophy preserved by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa, Farabi has stated that he had studied logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 with Yūḥannā b. Ḥaylān up to and including Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, i.e., according to the order of the books studied in the curriculum, Fārābī said that he studied Porphyry’s Eisagoge and Aristotle’s Categories, De Interpretatione, Prior and Posterior Analytics. His teacher, Yūḥannā b. Ḥaylān, was a Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 cleric who abandoned lay interests and engaged in his ecclesiastical duties, as Fārābī reports. His studies of Aristotelian logic with Yūḥannā in all probability took place in Baghdad, where Al-Masudi
Al-Masudi
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas'udi , was an Arab historian and geographer, known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs." Al-Masudi was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work, Muruj adh-dhahab...

 tells us Yūḥannā died during the caliphate of al-Moqtader (295-320/908-32). He was in Baghdad at least until the end of September 942 as we learn from notes in some manuscripts of his Mabādeʾ ārāʾ ahl al-madīna al-fāżela, he had started to compose the book in Baghdad at that time and then left and went to Syria. He finished the book in Damascus the following year (331), i.e., by September 943). He also lived and taught for some time in Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

. Later on Farabi visited Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

; and complete six sections summarizing the book Mabādeʾ in Egypt in 337/July 948-June 949. He returned from Egypt to Syria. Al-Masudi
Al-Masudi
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali al-Mas'udi , was an Arab historian and geographer, known as the "Herodotus of the Arabs." Al-Masudi was one of the first to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work, Muruj adh-dhahab...

 writing writing barely five years after the fact (955-6, the date of the composition of the Tanbīh), says that he died in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 in Rajab 339 (between 14 December 950 and 12 January 951). In Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, he was supported and glorified by Saif ad-Daula, the Hamdanid
Hamdanid dynasty
The Hamdanid dynasty was a Shi'a Muslim Arab dynasty of northern Iraq and Syria . They claimed to have been descended from the ancient Banu Taghlib Christian tribe of Mesopotamia....

 ruler of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

.

Contributions

Farabi made contributions to the fields of logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, and education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

.

Logic

Though he was mainly an Aristotelian logician, he included a number of non-Aristotelian elements in his works. He discussed the topics of future contingents, the number
Number
A number is a mathematical object used to count and measure. In mathematics, the definition of number has been extended over the years to include such numbers as zero, negative numbers, rational numbers, irrational numbers, and complex numbers....

 and relation of the categories, the relation between logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

 and grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

, and non-Aristotelian forms of inference
Inference
Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true. The conclusion drawn is also called an idiomatic. The laws of valid inference are studied in the field of logic.Human inference Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions...

. He is also credited for categorizing logic into two separate groups, the first being "idea" and the second being "proof".

Al-Farabi also considered the theories of conditional syllogisms and analogical inference
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

, which were part of the Stoic
STOIC
STOIC was a variant of Forth.It started out at the MIT and Harvard Biomedical Engineering Centre in Boston, and was written in the mid 1970s by Jonathan Sachs...

 tradition of logic rather than the Aristotelian. Another addition Al-Farabi made to the Aristotelian tradition was his introduction of the concept of poetic
Poetics
Aristotle's Poetics is the earliest-surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary theory...

 syllogism
Syllogism
A syllogism is a kind of logical argument in which one proposition is inferred from two or more others of a certain form...

 in a commentary on Aristotle's Poetics.

Music

Farabi wrote a book on music
Islamic music
Islamic music is Muslim religious music, as sung or played in public services or private devotions. The classic heartland of Islam is the Middle East, North Africa, Iran, Central Asia, Horn of Africa and South Asia. Due to Islam being a multi-ethnic religion, the musical expression of its adherents...

 titled Kitab al-Musiqa (The Book of Music). According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Seyyed Hossein Nasr is an Iranian University Professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, and a prominent Islamic philosopher...

 and Mehdi Aminrazavi: the book of Kitab al-Musiqa is in reality a study of the theory of Persian music of his day although in the West it has been introduced as a book on Arab music. He presents philosophical principles about music, its cosmic qualities and its influences. Al-Farabi's treatise Meanings of the Intellect dealt with music therapy
Music therapy
Music therapy is an allied health profession and one of the expressive therapies, consisting of an interpersonal process in which a trained music therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their...

, where he discussed the therapeutic
Therapy
This is a list of types of therapy .* Adventure therapy* Animal-assisted therapy* Aquatic therapy* Aromatherapy* Art and dementia* Art therapy* Authentic Movement* Behavioral therapy* Bibliotherapy* Buteyko Method* Chemotherapy...

 effects of music on the soul.

Philosophy

As a philosopher, Al-Farabi was a founder of his own school of early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy
Early Islamic philosophy or classical Islamic philosophy is a period of intense philosophical development beginning in the 2nd century AH of the Islamic calendar and lasting until the 6th century AH...

 known as "Farabism" or "Alfarabism", though it was later overshadowed by Avicennism. Al-Farabi's school of philosophy "breaks with the philosophy of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 [... and ...] moves from metaphysics to methodology
Scientific method
Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of...

, a move that anticipates modernity
Modernity
Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance...

", and "at the level of philosophy, Alfarabi unites theory and practice [... and] in the sphere of the political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 he liberates practice from theory". His Neoplatonic
Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

 theology is also more than just metaphysics as rhetoric. In his attempt to think through the nature of a First Cause
Primum movens
Primum movens , usually referred to as the Prime mover or first cause in English, is a term used in the philosophy of Aristotle, in the theological cosmological argument for the existence of God, and in cosmogony, the source of the cosmos or "all-being".-Aristotle's ontology:In book 12 of his...

, Alfarabi discovers the limits of human knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

".

Al-Farabi had great influence on science and philosophy for several centuries , and was widely regarded to be second only to Aristotle in knowledge (alluded to by his title of "the Second Teacher") in his time. His work, aimed at synthesis of philosophy and Sufism
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

, paved the way for the work of Ibn Sina
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 (Avicenna).

Al-Farabi also wrote a commentary on Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's work, and one of his most notable works is Al-Madina al-Fadila where he theorized an ideal state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 as in Plato's The Republic. Al-Farabi represented religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. Al-Farabi departed from the Platonic
Platonism
Platonism is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In a narrower sense the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism...

 view in that he regarded the ideal state to be ruled by the prophet
Prophets of Islam
Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

-imam
Imam
An imam is an Islamic leadership position, often the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community. Similar to spiritual leaders, the imam is the one who leads Islamic worship services. More often, the community turns to the mosque imam if they have a religious question...

, instead of the philosopher-king envisaged by Plato. Al-Farabi argued that the ideal state was the city-state of Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

 when it was governed by the prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 as its head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

, as he was in direct communion with Allah
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

 whose law was revealed to him.

Physics

Al-Farabi thought about the nature of the existence of void
Vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

. He may have carried out the first experiment
Experiment
An experiment is a methodical procedure carried out with the goal of verifying, falsifying, or establishing the validity of a hypothesis. Experiments vary greatly in their goal and scale, but always rely on repeatable procedure and logical analysis of the results...

s concerning the existence of vacuum
Vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

, in which he investigated handheld plungers in water. He concluded that air's volume can expand to fill available space, and he suggested that the concept of perfect vacuum was incoherent.

Psychology

In psychology, al-Farabi's Social Psychology and Model City were the first treatises to deal with social psychology
Social psychology
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

. He stated that "an isolated individual could not achieve all the perfections by himself, without the aid of other individuals." He wrote that it is the "innate disposition of every man to join another human being or other men in the labor he ought to perform." He concluded that in order to "achieve what he can of that perfection, every man needs to stay in the neighborhood of others and associate with them."

His On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Book of Opinions of the people of the Ideal City, was a treatise on dream
Dream
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

s, in which he distinguished between dream interpretation
Dream interpretation
Dream interpretation is the process of assigning meaning to dreams. In many ancient societies, such as those of Egypt and Greece, dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention, whose message could be unravelled by people with certain powers...

 and the nature and causes of dreams.

Philosophical thought

The main influence on al-Farabi's philosophy was the neo-Aristotelian tradition of Alexandria. A prolific writer, he is credited with over one hundred works. Amongst these are a number of prolegomena to philosophy, commentaries on important Aristotelian works (such as the Nicomachean Ethics
Nicomachean Ethics
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

) as well as his own works. His ideas are marked by their coherency, despite drawing together of many different philosophical disciplines and traditions. Some other significant influences on his work were the planetary model of Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 and elements of Neo-Platonism, particularly metaphysics and practical (or political) philosophy (which bears more resemblance to Plato's Republic than Aristotle's Politics).

Al-Farabi as well as Ibn Sina and Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

 have been recognized as Peripatetics (al-Mashsha’iyun) or rationalists
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 (Estedlaliun) among Muslims. However he tried to gather the ideas of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 in his book "The gathering of the ideas of the two philosophers".

According to Adamson, his work was singularly directed towards the goal of simultaneously reviving and reinventing the Alexandrian philosophical tradition, to which his Christian teacher, Yuhanna bin Haylan belonged. His success should be measured by the honorific title of "the second master" of philosophy (Aristotle being the first), by which he was known . Interestingly, Adamson also says that he does not make any reference to the ideas of either al-Kindi
Al-Kindi
' , known as "the Philosopher of the Arabs", was a Muslim Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is unanimously hailed as the "father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy" for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion...

 or his contemporary, Abu Bakr al-Razi, which clearly indicates that he did not consider their approach to Philosophy as a correct or viable one.

Metaphysics and cosmology

In contrast to al-Kindi
Al-Kindi
' , known as "the Philosopher of the Arabs", was a Muslim Arab philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is unanimously hailed as the "father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy" for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion...

, who considered the subject of metaphysics to be God, al-Farabi believed that it was concerned primarily with being qua being (that is, being in of itself), and this is related to God only to the extent that God is a principle of absolute being. Al-Kindi's view was, however, a common misconception regarding Greek philosophy amongst Muslim intellectuals at the time, and it was for this reason that Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 remarked that he did not understand Aristotle's Metaphysics properly until he had read a prolegomenon written by al-Farabi.

Al-Farabi's cosmology is essentially based upon three pillars: Aristotelian metaphysics of causation, highly developed Plotinian
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 emanational cosmology
Emanationism
Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation, from the Latin emanare meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of", is the mode by which all things are derived from the First Reality, or Principle...

 and the Ptolemaic astronomy. In his model, the universe is viewed as a number of concentric circles; the outermost sphere or "first heaven", the sphere of fixed stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and finally, the Moon. At the centre of these concentric circles is the sub-lunar realm which contains the material world. Each of these circles represent the domain of the secondary intelligences (symbolized by the celestial bodies themselves), which act as causal intermediaries between the First Cause (in this case, God) and the material world. Furthermore these are said to have emanated from God, who is both their formal and efficient cause. This departs radically from the view of Aristotle, who considered God to be solely a formal cause for the movement of the spheres, but by doing so it renders the model more compatible with the ideas of the theologians.

The process of emanation begins (metaphysically, not temporally) with the First Cause, whose principal activity is self-contemplation. And it is this intellectual activity that underlies its role in the creation of the universe. The First Cause, by thinking of itself, "overflows" and the incorporeal entity of the second intellect "emanates" from it. Like its predecessor, the second intellect also thinks about itself, and thereby brings its celestial sphere (in this case, the sphere of fixed stars) into being, but in addition to this it must also contemplate upon the First Cause, and this causes the "emanation" of the next intellect. The cascade of emanation continues until it reaches the tenth intellect, beneath which is the material world. And as each intellect must contemplate both itself and an increasing number of predecessors, each succeeding level of existence becomes more and more complex. It should be noted that this process is based upon necessity as opposed to will. In other words, God does not have a choice whether or not to create the universe, but by virtue of His own existence, He causes it to be. This view also suggests that the universe is eternal, and both of these points were criticized by al-Ghazzali in his attack on the philosophers

In his discussion of the First Cause (or God), al-Farabi relies heavily on negative theology
Negative theology
Apophatic theology —also known as negative theology or via negativa —is a theology that attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, by negation, to speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God...

. He says that it cannot be known by intellectual means, such as dialectical division or definition, because the terms used in these processes to define a thing constitute its substance. Therefore if one was to define the First Cause, each of the terms used would actually constitute a part of its substance and therefore behave as a cause for its existence, which is impossible as the First Cause is uncaused; it exists without being caused. Equally, he says it cannot be known according to genus and differentia, as its substance and existence are different from all others, and therefore it has no category to which it belongs. If this were the case, then it would not be the First Cause, because something would be prior in existence to it, which is also impossible. This would suggest that the more philosophically simple a thing is, the more perfect it is. And based on this observation, Adamson says it is possible to see the entire hierarchy of al-Farabi's cosmology according to classification into genus and species. Each succeeding level in this structure has as its principal qualities multiplicity and deficiency, and it is this ever-increasing complexity that typifies the material world.

Epistemology and eschatology

Human beings are unique in al-Farabi's vision of the universe because they stand between two worlds: the "higher", immaterial world of the celestial intellects and universal intelligibles, and the "lower", material world of generation and decay; they inhabit a physical body, and so belong to the "lower" world, but they also have a rational capacity, which connects them to the "higher" realm. Each level of existence in al-Farabi's cosmology is characterized by its movement towards perfection, which is to become like the First Cause; a perfect intellect. Human perfection (or "happiness"), then, is equated with constant intellection and contemplation.

Al-Farabi divides intellect into four categories: potential, actual, acquired and the Agent. The first three are the different states of the human intellect and the fourth is the Tenth Intellect (the moon) in his emanational cosmology. The potential intellect represents the capacity to think, which is shared by all human beings, and the actual intellect is an intellect engaged in the act of thinking. By thinking, al-Farabi means abstracting universal intelligibles from the sensory forms of objects which have been apprehended and retained in the individual's imagination.

This motion from potentiality to actuality requires the Agent Intellect to act upon the retained sensory forms; just as the Sun illuminates the physical world to allow us to see, the Agent Intellect illuminates the world of intelligibles to allow us to think. This illumination removes all accident (such as time, place, quality) and physicality from them, converting them into primary intelligibles, which are logical principles such as "the whole is greater than the part". The human intellect, by its act of intellection, passes from potentiality to actuality, and as it gradually comprehends these intelligibles, it is identified with them (as according to Aristotle, by knowing something, the intellect becomes like it). Because the Agent Intellect knows all of the intelligibles, this means that when the human intellect knows all of them, it becomes associated with the Agent Intellect's perfection and is known as the acquired Intellect.

While this process seems mechanical, leaving little room for human choice or volition, Reisman says that al-Farabi is committed to human voluntarism. This takes place when man, based on the knowledge he has acquired, decides whether to direct himself towards virtuous or unvirtuous activities, and thereby decides whether or not to seek true happiness. And it is by choosing what is ethical and contemplating about what constitutes the nature of ethics, that the actual intellect can become "like" the active intellect, thereby attaining perfection. It is only by this process that a human soul may survive death, and live on in the afterlife.

According to al-Farabi, the afterlife is not the personal experience commonly conceived of by religious traditions such as Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 and Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Any individual or distinguishing features of the soul are annihilated after the death of the body; only the rational faculty survives (and then, only if it has attained perfection), which becomes one with all other rational souls within the agent intellect and enters a realm of pure intelligence. Henry Corbin
Henry Corbin
Henry Corbin was a philosopher, theologian and professor of Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.Corbin was born in Paris in April 1903. As a boy he revealed the profound sensitivity to music so evident in his work...

 compares this eschatology with that of the Ismaili Neo-Platonists, for whom this process initiated the next grand cycle of the universe. However, Deborah Black mentions we have cause to be skeptical as to whether this was the mature and developed view of al-Farabi, as later thinkers such as Ibn Tufayl, Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

 and Ibn Bajjah
Ibn Bajjah
Abū-Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn al-Sāyigh , known as Ibn Bājjah , was an Andalusian polymath: an astronomer, logician, musician, philosopher, physician, physicist, psychologist, botanist, poet and scientist. He was known in the West by his Latinized name, Avempace...

 would assert that he repudiated this view in his commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics
Nicomachean Ethics
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

, which has been lost to modern experts.

Psychology, the soul and prophetic knowledge

In his treatment of the human soul, al-Farabi draws on a basic Aristotelian outline, which is informed by the commentaries of later Greek thinkers. He says it is composed of four faculties: The appetitive (the desire for, or aversion to an object of sense), the sensitive (the perception by the senses of corporeal substances), the imaginative (the faculty which retains images of sensible objects after they have been perceived, and then separates and combines them for a number of ends), and the rational, which is the faculty of intellection. It is the last of these which is unique to human beings and distinguishes them from plants and animals. It is also the only part of the soul to survive the death of the body. Noticeably absent from these scheme are internal senses, such as common sense, which would be discussed by later philosophers such as Avicenna
Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 and Averroes
Averroes
' , better known just as Ibn Rushd , and in European literature as Averroes , was a Muslim polymath; a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics, Arabic music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy,...

.

Special attention must be given to al-Farabi's treatment of the soul's imaginative faculty, which is essential to his interpretation of prophethood and prophetic knowledge. In addition to its ability to retain and manipulate sensible images of objects, he gives the imagination the function of imitation. By this he means the capacity to represent an object with an image other than its own. In other words, to imitate "x" is to imagine "x" by associating it with sensible qualities that do not describe its own appearance. This extends the representative ability of the imagination beyond sensible forms and to include temperaments, emotions, desires and even immaterial intelligibles or abstract universals, as happens when, for example, one associates "evil" with "darkness". The prophet, in addition to his own intellectual capacity, has a very strong imaginative faculty, which allows him to receive an overflow of intelligibles from the agent intellect (the tenth intellect in the emanational cosmology). These intelligibles are then associated with symbols and images, which allow him to communicate abstract truths in a way that can be understood by ordinary people. Therefore what makes prophetic knowledge unique is not its content, which is also accessible to philosophers through demonstration and intellection, but rather the form that it is given by the prophet's imagination.

Practical philosophy (ethics and politics)

The practical application of philosophy is a major concern expressed by al-Farabi in many of his works, and while the majority of his philosophical output has been influenced by Aristotelian thought, his practical philosophy is unmistakably based on that of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

. In a similar manner to Plato's Republic, al-Farabi emphasizes that philosophy is both a theoretical and practical discipline; labeling those philosophers who do not apply their erudition to practical pursuits as "futile philosophers". The ideal society, he says, is one directed towards the realization of "true happiness" (which can be taken to mean philosophical enlightenment) and as such, the ideal philosopher must hone all the necessary arts of rhetoric and poetics to communicate abstract truths to the ordinary people, as well as having achieved enlightenment himself. Al-Farabi compares the philosopher's role in relation to society with a physician in relation to the body; the body's health is affected by the "balance of its humours
Humorism
Humorism, or humoralism, is a now discredited theory of the makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers, positing that an excess or deficiency of any of four distinct bodily fluids in a person directly influences their temperament and health...

" just as the city is determined by the moral habits of its people. The philosopher's duty, he says, is to establish a "virtuous" society by healing the souls of the people, establishing justice and guiding them towards "true happiness".

Of course, al-Farabi realizes that such a society is rare and will require a very specific set of historical circumstances in order to be realized, which means very few societies will ever be able to attain this goal. He divides those "vicious" societies, which have fallen short of the ideal "virtuous" society, into three categories: ignorant, wicked and errant. Ignorant societies have, for whatever reason, failed to comprehend the purpose of human existence, and have supplanted the pursuit of happiness for another (inferior) goal, whether this be wealth, sensual gratification or power. It is interesting to note that democratic societies also fall into this category, as they too lack any guiding principle. Both wicked and errant societies have understood the true human end, but they have failed to follow it. The former because they have willfully abandoned it, and the latter because their leaders have deceived and misguided them. Al-Farabi also makes mention of "weeds" in the virtuous society; those people who try to undermine its progress towards the true human end.

Whether or not al-Farabi actually intended to outline a political programme in his writings remains a matter of dispute amongst academics. Henry Corbin
Henry Corbin
Henry Corbin was a philosopher, theologian and professor of Islamic Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.Corbin was born in Paris in April 1903. As a boy he revealed the profound sensitivity to music so evident in his work...

, who considers al-Farabi to be a crypto-Shi'ite, says that his ideas should be understood as a "prophetic philosophy" instead of being interpreted politically. On the other hand, Charles Butterworth
Charles Butterworth
Charles Butterworth, Ph.D. is a noted philosopher of the Straussian school and currently a professor of political philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park....

 contends that nowhere in his work does al-Farabi speak of a prophet-legislator or revelation (even the word philosophy is scarcely mentioned), and the main discussion that takes place concerns the positions of "king" and "statesmen". Occupying a middle position is David Reisman, who like Corbin believes that al-Farabi did not want to expound a political doctrine (although he does not go so far to attribute it to Islamic Gnosticism either). He argues that al-Farabi was using different types of society as examples, in the context of an ethical discussion, to show what effect correct or incorrect thinking could have. Lastly, Joshua Parens argues that al-Farabi was slyly asserting that a pan-Islamic society could not be made, by using reason to show how many conditions (such as moral and deliberative virtue) would have to be met, thus leading the reader to conclude that humans are not fit for such a society. Some other authors like Mykhaylo Yakubovych attest that for al-Farabi religion (milla) and philosophy (falsafa) constituted the same praxeological value (i.e. basis for amal al-fadhil - "virtuos deed"), while its epistemological level (ilm - "knowledge") was different.

See also

  • List of Iranian scholars
  • Islamic scholars
  • Islamic mythology
    Islamic mythology
    Islamic mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Islam from a mythographical perspective. Many Muslims believe that these narratives are historical and sacred and contain profound truths...

  • List of Shi'a Muslims

Literature

  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 978-0-931340-88-8
  • Majid Fakhry, Al-Farabi, Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism: His Life, Works, and Influence, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, (2002), ISBN 1-85168-302-X. Trad. esp.: "Alfarabi y la fundación de la filosofía política islámica", trad R. Ramón Guerrero, Barcelona, Herder, 2003.
  • Christoph Marcinkowski, "A Biographical Note on Ibn Bajjah
    Ibn Bajjah
    Abū-Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn al-Sāyigh , known as Ibn Bājjah , was an Andalusian polymath: an astronomer, logician, musician, philosopher, physician, physicist, psychologist, botanist, poet and scientist. He was known in the West by his Latinized name, Avempace...

     (Avempace) and an English Translation of his Annotations to Al-Farabi's Isagoge". Iqbal Review (Lahore
    Lahore
    Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

    , Pakistan
    Pakistan
    Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

    ), vol. 43, no 2 (April 2002), pp 83–99.
  • Deborah Black. Al-Farabi in Leaman, O & Nasr, H (2001). History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Routledge.
  • David Reisman. Al-Farabi and the Philosophical Curriculum In Adamson, P & Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Deborah Black. Psychology: Soul and Intellect in Adamson, P and Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Charles Butterworth
    Charles Butterworth
    Charles Butterworth, Ph.D. is a noted philosopher of the Straussian school and currently a professor of political philosophy at the University of Maryland, College Park....

    . Ethical and Political Philosophy in Adamson, P and Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rafael Ramón Guerrero. “Apuntes biográficos de al-Fârâbî según sus vidas árabes”, in Anaquel de Estudios Árabes, 14 (2003) 231-238.

External links

(PDF version)
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK