Nick Name: Mallim-e-Sani, second master, second teacher
Died At Age: 78
Also Known As: Abu Nasr al-Farabi
Born Country: Afghanistan
Born in: Farab
Famous as: Philosopher
Died on: 950
place of death: Damascus, Syria
Who was Al-Farabi?
Al-Farabi was a renowned philosopher, jurist, scientist, and music scholar. He is known for his writing in various fields, including ethics, logic, metaphysics and political philosophy. In Islamic philosophical tradition, he is often regarded as the greatest philosophical teacher, next only to Aristotle. He was famous for helping Muslims answer questions with which they were struggling with the help of Greek teachings. According to him, human reasoning is far superior to divine revelation. He believed religion provided the truth in a symbolic form to those who are not philosophers as they would be unable to understand it in the purer form. Regarding his life, very little information has managed to survive. His probable place of birth is what is now known as Kazakhstan. Most of his life was spent in Baghdad, where he devoted his time to teaching, writing and studying.
Childhood & Early Life
Al-Farabi was probably born in 872, in Kazakhstan or Faryab in Khorasan, modern day Afghanistan. He is generally believed to be of Persian ancestry though some scholars debate that he is of Turkish ancestry.
Much of his life was spent in Baghdad. He studied logic, medicine, sociology, as well as Aristotle’s ‘Posterior Analytics.’ He is also said to have studied in Tétouan, Morocco, and is believed to have lived and taught for some time in Aleppo.
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Al-Farabi was mostly an Aristotelian logician, but he included a lot of non-Aristotelian elements in his works as well. He discussed topics like logic and grammar. He also categorized logic into two separate groups, ‘idea’ and ‘proof’. His book ‘The Selected Aphorisms’ discusses a lot about Greek philosophical teachings.
The theories of conditional syllogisms and analogical inference were also studied by him. He is known to have made an addition to the Aristotelian tradition in the form of his introduction to poetic syllogism, in a commentary about ‘Aristotle’s Poetics.’
He wrote a book on music, which was titled ‘Kitab al-Musiqa’ (The Book of Music). In the book, he talks about the philosophical principles of music, as well as its cosmic qualities and influences. He also wrote a treatise on ‘The Meanings of the Intellect’. It deals with music therapy and also talks about the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.
Coming to philosophy, he founded his own school of Early Islamic philosophy known as ‘Farabism’ or ‘Alfarabism’. It became quite popular, and Al-Farabi’s reputation in the fields of science and philosophy rose further. He was considered next only to Aristotle in his time. His work, which was aimed at the synthesis of philosophy and Sufism, paved the way for the work of Ibn Sina.
He had written a commentary on Aristotle’s work. One of his most significant works is ‘Al-Madina al-Fadila’, where he theorizes an ideal state similar to the one in Plato’s ‘The Republic’. He also states that religion always renders the truth through symbols and persuasion, and adds that it is the duty of philosophers to guide the people.
In ‘Al-Madina al-Fadila,’ he also states that the ideal city-state was Medina when it was governed by the Prophet Muhammad as its head of state. The prophet was said to be in communion with Allah, whose law was revealed to him.
He also wrote a short treatise ‘On Vacuum’, where he talked about the existence of void. It is also speculated that he carried out the first experiments regarding the existence of vacuum.
Al-Farabi also wrote ‘Social Psychology and Principles of the Opinions of the Citizens of the Virtuous City’. His works were among the first treatises that dealt with social psychology.
He stated that an isolated person could never achieve perfection by himself, without help from others. Therefore, it is the innate disposition of every man to join another human in the labor that he performs. He added that men need to associate with others in order to achieve that perfection.
The ‘Enumeration of the Sciences’ is one of Al-Farabi’s many works. It is a listing of the accepted sciences in medieval Islam. It emphasizes on logic more than traditional linguistic science. It also makes metaphysics appear more scientific than natural science. Arts, jurisprudence and theology are accorded much significance in the listing.
The ‘Book of Letters’ is another one of his works. It deals with questions of logic, language and translation. It establishes the firm hierarchy of the arts, placing philosophy on the top, and arts of the multitude on the bottom. He also writes about the promotion of a religion.
Death & Legacy
Al-Farabi passed away in around 950 AD, presumably in Damascus.
The 7057 Al-Farabi asteroid-belt has been named in his honor.