Monday, March 28, 2011

Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Awzalagh al-Farabi

1. Biography Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Awzalagh al-Farabi ابو نصر محمّد ابن طرخان ابن اوظلاغ الفارابی was born in ah 259/ad 870. 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 due to his work In the arena of metaphysics ( he has been rightly be acclaimed as one of the greatest of Islamic philosophers of all time and some designated him 'Father of Islamic Neoplatonism'). The information were gathered for record was found after finishing his early school years in Farab فاراب and Bukharaبغارہ , Farabi moved to Baghdad بغدادin 901 to pursue higher studies. Al-Farabi was known to the Arabs as the 'Second Master' (after Aristotle), and with good reason. It is unfortunate that his name has been overshadowed by those of later philosophers such as Ibn Sina, for al-Farabi was one of the world's great philosophers and much more original than many of his Islamic successors. A philosopher, logician and musician, he was also a major political scientist. Al-Farabi has left us no autobiography and consequently, relatively little is known for certain about his life. His philosophical legacy, however, is large. In the arena of metaphysics he has been designated the 'Father of Islamic Neoplatonism', and while he was also saturated with Aristotelianism and certainly deploys the vocabulary of Aristotle, it is this Neoplatonic dimension which dominates much of his corpus.

Persian origin The oldest known document regarding his background, written by the medieval Arab historian Ibn Abī Uṣaibi ابن ابی عصید (died in 1269), mentions that al-Farabi's fore-fathers were of Persian descent۔ Muḥammad ibn Maḥmūd al-Shahrūzī محمّد ابن محمود الشیرازی who lived around 1288 A.D. and has written an early biography also has stated that Farabi hailed from a Persian family. Ibn al-Nadimابن الندیم , a younger contemporary of Farabi and a close friend of Yaḥyā ibn Adī یحی' ابن عدّی(Farabi's closest and most successful student), states Farabi's origins to lie in Faryāb in Khorasanخراسان . Faryāb is also the name of a province in today's Afghanistan. The Dehkhoda Dictionary - based on Ibn Abī Uṣaibia's accounts - also calls him Persian (فارسی المنتسب‎), mentioning the fact that his father was a member of the Persian-speaking Samanid court of Central Asia. The older Persian form Parabپاراب (Persian word meaning cultivated land by streams) is given in the historical account Ḥudūd al Ālam حدودالعالم or his birthplace. Farabi has in a number of his works references and glosses in Persianفارسی and Sogdian pointing to an Iranian-speaking Central Asian origin. A Persian origin is also discussed by Peter J. King and some other western sources as well a comprehensive source on Islamic Philosophy written in Arabic by the Egyptian scholar Prof. Hanna Fakhuriحنّافخری .

Turkic origin Al-Farabi's face appeared on the currency of the Republic of Kazakhstan جمہوریہ قازقستان ۔The oldest known reference to a possible Turkic origin is given by the medieval historian Ibn Khallekān (died in 1282), who claimed that Farabi was born in the small village of Wasij near Farab (in what is today Otrar, Kazakhstanقازقستان ) of Turkic parents, and in the following decades and centuries, many others copied his work. But scholars criticize Ibn Khallekān's statement, as it is only aimed to ridicule the earlier reports of Ibn Abī Uṣaibia, and seems to have the sole purpose to prove that Farabi was a Turk. In this context, it is criticized that Ibn Khallekān was also the first to use the additional nisba نسبت(surname) "al-Turkالترک " - a nisba Farabi never had. Ibn Khallekān's statement also contradicts Ibn al-Nadim and Yaḥyā ibn Adī, both contemporaries of Farabi, who had reported that Farabi's birthplace was Faryāb in Khorasan (in modern Afghanistan). Ibn Khallekān's accounts are also partially contradicted by the above mentioned fact that Farabi has in many of his writings references and glosses in Persian, Sogdian, and Greek, but not in Turkish.

While his name tends to be overshadowed by that of Ibn Sinaابن سینا , a well-known story tells how Ibn Sina sought in vain to understand Aristotle's Metaphysics, and it was only through a book by al-Farabi on the intentions of the Metaphysics that understanding finally came to him. However, unlike Ibn Sina, al-Farabi has left us no autobiography and we know far less about his life in consequence. Considerable myth has become attached to the man: it is unlikely, for example, that he really spoke more than seventy languages, and we may also query his alleged ascetic lifestyle. We do know that he was born in Turkestan and later studied Arabic in Baghdad; it has been claimed that most of his books were written here. He travelled to Damascus(دمشق) , Egypt(مصر) , Harran and Aleppo, and in the latter city the Hamdanid ruler Sayf al-Dawla سیف الدّولہbecame his patron. He became one of the constant companions of the King, and it was here at Halab that his fame spread far and wide. During his early years he was a Qazi ( - قاضیJudge), but later on he took up teaching as his profession. During the course of his career, he had suffered great hardships and at one time was the caretaker of a garden. He died a bachelor in Damascus on2nd Rajab 339 A.H./14th December 950 C.E. at the age of 80 years.


Farabi made notable contributions to the fields of logic, mathematics, medicine, music, philosophy, psychology and sociology. As a philosopher, he may be classed as a Neoplatonist who tried to synthesize Platonism and Aristotelism with theology and he wrote such rich commentaries on Aristotle's physics, meteorology, logic, etc., in addition to a large number of books on several other subjects embodying his original contribution, that he came to be known as the "al-Mou'allim al-Thani" ( المعلّم الثانی'Second Teacher') Aristotle being the First. One of the important contributions of Farabi was to make the study of logic more easy by dividing it into two categories viz., Takhayyul ( تخیّلidea) and Thubut ( ثبوتproof). In sociology he wrote several books out of which Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila(آراء اہل مدینۃالفضیلہ) became famous. His books on psychology and metaphysics were largely based on his own work: one of his works is entitled Kitab al-musiqa al-kabir (کتاب الموسقا الکبیر -The Great Book of Music). However, perhaps the book for which he is best known is that whose title is abbreviated to al-Madina al-fadila ( - المدینہ الفضیلہThe Virtuous City), and which is often compared, misleadingly in view of its Neoplatonic orientation, to Plato's Republic. Other major titles from al-Farabi's voluminous corpus included the Risala fi'l-'aql ( - رسالہ فی العقلEpistle on the Intellect), Kitab al-huruf ( - کتاب الحروفThe Book of Letters) and Kitab ihsa' al-'ulum ( - کتاب الاحساءالعلومThe Book of the Enumeration of the Sciences).

1. Logic Al-Farabi was also the first Muslim logician to develop a non-Aristotelian logic. He discussed the topics of future contingents, the number and relation of the categories, the relation between logic and grammar, and non-Aristotelian forms of inference. He is also credited for categorizing logic into two separate groups, the first being Takhayyul (تخیّل idea) and the second being Thubut ( ثبوتproof).

2. Metaphysics Majid Fakhry (1983) has described al-Farabi as 'the founder of Arab Neo-Platonism and the first major figure in the history of that philosophical movement since Proclus'. This should be borne in mind as we survey the metaphysics of the philosopher whom the Latin Middle Ages knew as Abunaser (ابونثر)and whom the Arabs designated the 'Second Master المعلّم الثانی ' (after Aristotleارسطو ). It should be noted that al-Farabi was an Aristotelian as well as a Neoplatonist: he is said, for example, to have read On the Soul two hundred times and even the Physics forty times. It should then come as no surprise that he deploys Aristotelian terminology, and indeed there are areas of his writings that are quite untouched by Neoplatonism. Furthermore, al-Farabi tried to demonstrate the basic agreement between Aristotle and Plato on such matters as the creation of the world, the survival of the soul and reward and punishment in the afterlife. In al-Farabi's conception of God, essence and existence fuse absolutely with no possible separation between the two. However, there is no getting away from the fact that it is the Neoplatonic element which dominates so much else of al-Farabi's work. We see this, for example, in the powerful picture of the transcendent God of Neoplatonism which dominates al-Madina al-fadilaالمدینہ الفضیلہ. We see this too in al-Farabi's references to God in a negative mode, describing the deity by what he is not: he has no partner, he is indivisible and indefinable. And perhaps we see the Neoplatonic element most of all in the doctrine of emanation as it is deployed in al-Farabi's hierarchy of being.

At the top of this hierarchy is the Divine Being whom al-Farabi characterizes as 'the First'. From this emanates a second being which is the First Intellect. (This is termed, logically, 'the Second', that is, the Second Being). Like God, this being is an immaterial substance. A total of ten intellects emanate from the First Being. The First Intellect comprehends God and, in consequence of that comprehension, produces a third being, which is the Second Intellect. The First Intellect also comprehends its own essence, and the result of this comprehension is the production of the body and soul of al-sama' al-ula السمع الاولی', the First Heaven. Each of the following emanated intellects are associated with the generation of similar astral phenomena, including the fixed stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. Of particular significance in the emanationist hierarchy is the Tenth Intellect: it is this intellect which constitutes the real bridge between the heavenly and terrestrial worlds. This Tenth Intellect (variously called by the philosophers the active or agent intellect in English, the nous poiétikos in Greek, the dator formarum in Latin and the 'aql al-fa''alعقل الفعال in Arabic) was responsible both for actualizing the potentiality for thought in man's intellect and emanating form to man and the sublunary world. With regard to the latter activity, it has been pointed out that here the active intellect takes on the role of Plotinus' Universal Soul.

In Farabian metaphysics, then, the concept of Neoplatonic emanation replaces that of Qur'anic creation ex nihilo (see Neoplatonism in Islamic philosophy §2). Furthermore, the Deity at the top of the Neoplatonic hierarchy is portrayed in a very remote fashion. Al-Farabi's philosophers' God does not act directly on the sublunary world: much is delegated to the Active Intellect. However, God for al-Farabi certainly has an indirect 'responsibility' for everything, in that all things emanate from him.

3. Epistemology Farabian epistemology has both a Neoplatonic and an Aristotelian dimension. Three primary Arabic sources for these are al-Farabi's Kitab ihsa' al-'ulum کتاب الاحساء العلم , Risala fi'l-'aql رسالہ فی العقلand Kitab al-huruf.کتاب الحروف

It is the second of these works, Risala fi'l-'aql رسالہ فی العقل, which provides perhaps the most useful key to al-Farabi's complex theories of intellection. In this work he divides 'aql عقل(intellect or reason) into six major categories in an attempt to elaborate the various meanings of the Arabic word 'aqlعقل . First, there is what might be termed discernment or prudence; the individual who acts for the good is characterized by this faculty, and there is clearly some overlap with the fourth kind of intellect, described below. The second of al-Farabi's intellects is that which has been identified with common sense; this intellect has connotations of 'obviousness' and 'immediate recognition' associated with it. Al-Farabi's third intellect is natural perception. He traces its source to Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, and it is this intellect which allows us to be certain about fundamental truths. It is not a skill derived from the study of logic, but it may well be inborn. The fourth of the six intellects may be characterized as 'conscience': )this is drawn by the philosopher from Book VI of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. It is a quality whereby good might be distinguished from evil and results from considerable experience of life(. Al-Farabi's fifth intellect is both the most difficult and the most important. He gives most space to its description in his Risala fi'l-'aql رسالہ فی العقل and considers it to be of four different types: potential intellect, actual intellect, acquired intellect and agent or active intellect. 'Aql bi'l-quwwa عقل بلقوہ (potential intellect) is the intellect which, in Fakhry's words, has the capacity 'of abstracting the forms of existing entities with which it is ultimately identified' (Fakhry 1983: 121). Potential intellect can thus become 'aql bi'l-fi’l عقل بی الفیہ (actual intellect). In its relationship to the actual intellect, the third sub-species of intellect, 'aql mustafad عقل مستفادہ (acquired intellect) is, to use Fakhry's words again, the 'the agent of actualization' to the actualized object. Finally, there is the 'aql al-fa''al عقل فعال (agent or active intellect), which was described in above and need not be elaborated upon again.

The sixth and last of the major intellects is Divine Reason or God himself, the source of all intellectual energy and power. Even this brief presentation of Farabian intellection must appear complex; however, given the complexity of the subject itself, there is little option. The best source for al-Farabi's classification of knowledge is his Kitab ihsa' al-'ulum .کتاب الاحساءالعلوم This work illustrates neatly al-Farabi's beliefs both about what can be known and the sheer range of that knowledge. Here he leaves aside the division into theological and philosophical sciences which other Islamic thinkers would use, and divides his material instead into five major chapters. Chapter 1 deals with the 'science of language', Chapter 2 formally covers the 'science of logic', Chapter 3 is devoted to the 'mathematical sciences', Chapter 4 surveys physics and metaphysics, Chapter 5 encompasses 'civil science' (some prefer the term 'political science'), A brief examination of these chapter headings shows that a total of eight main subjects are covered; not surprisingly, there are further subdivisions as well. To give just an examples, the second chapter on science of logic subdivided into two Takhayyul (تخیّل idea) and Thubut ( ثبوتproof)۔ . Third chapter on the mathematical sciences embraces the seven subdivisions of arithmetic, geometry, optics, astronomy, music, weights and 'mechanical artifices'; these subdivisions in turn have their own subdivisions. Thus al-Farabi's epistemology, from what has been described may be said to be encyclopedic in range and complex in articulation, with that articulation using both a Neoplatonic and an Aristotelian voice.

4. Political philosophy The best known Arabic source for al-Farabi's political philosophy is al-Madina al-fadilaالمدینہ الفضیلہ . While this work undoubtedly embraces Platonic themes, it is in no way an Arabic clone of Plato's Republic. This becomes very clear right at the beginning of al-Farabi's work, Al-Farabi has a number of political divisions for his world. He identifies, for example, three types of society which are perfect and grades these according to size. His ideal virtuous city, which gives its name to the whole volume, is that which wholeheartedly embraces the pursuit of goodness and happiness and where the virtues will clearly abound. This vicious city is compared in its function to the limbs of a perfectly healthy body. By stark contrast, al-Farabi identifies four different types of corrupt city: these are the ignorant city (al-madina al-jahiliyyaالمدینہ الجاہلیہ ), the dissolute city (al-madina al-fasiqaالمدینہ الفاسقہ ), the turncoat city (al-madina al-mubaddala المدینہ المبادّلہ) and the straying city (al-madina al-dalla المدینہ الدلّہ). The souls of many of the inhabitants of such cities face ultimate extinction, while those who have been the cause of their fall face eternal torment. In itemizing four corrupt societies, al-Farabi was surely aware of Plato's own fourfold division of imperfect societies in the Republic into diarchy(مخلوط) , oligarchy (طبقہ امرا و رؤساء /مراعاتیافتہ), democracy (جمہوریت)and tyranny( آمرانہ/جبری/جابرانہ) . The resemblance, however, is more one of structure (four divisions) rather than of content. At the heart of al-Farabi's political philosophy is the concept of happiness (sa'ada سعادۃ ). The virtuous society (al-ijtima' al-fadil الاجتماع الفاضل ) is defined as that in which people cooperate to gain happiness. The virtuous city (al-madina al-fadilaالمدینۃ الفضیلہ ) is one where there is cooperation in achieving happiness. The virtuous world (al-ma'mura al-fadilaالمعمورۃالفضیلہ ) will only occur when all its constituent nations collaborate to achieve happiness. 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. Al-Farabi followed the Greek paradigm and the highest rank of happiness was allocated to his ideal sovereign whose soul was 'united as it were with the Active Intellect'.

5. Music and sociology Farabi wrote books on early Muslim sociology and a notable book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqa (کتاب الموسیقاThe Book of Music). According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr 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, where he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.

6. Influence The impact of al-Farabi's work on Ibn Sina was not limited merely to illuminating Aristotle's Metaphysics. It was with good reason that al-Farabi was designated the 'Second Master المعلّم الثانی ' (after Aristotle). One modern scholar recently acknowledged the dependence of Ibn Sina on al-Farabi in a book dealing with both which he entitled The Two Farabis (Farrukh 1944). And if Aquinas (§9) did not derive his essence-existence doctrine from al-Farabi but from the Latinized Ibn Sina, as is generally assumed, there is no doubt that Farabian concepts of essence and existence provided a base for the elaborated metaphysics of Ibn Sina and thence of Aquinas. Finally, the briefest of comparisons between the tenfold hierarchy of intellection produced by al-Farabi and the similar hierarchy espoused by Ibn Sina, each of which gives a key role to the Tenth Intellect, shows that in matters of emanation, hierarchy and Neoplatonic intellection, Ibn Sina owes a considerable intellectual debt to his predecessor.

Al-Farabi influenced many other thinkers as well. A glance at the period between ah 256/ad 870 and ah 414/ad 1023 and at four of the major thinkers who flourished in this period serves to confirm this: Yahya ibn 'Adi (یحی' ابن عدّی) , Abu Sulayman al-Sijistani (ابو سلیمان السیستانی) , Abu 'l-Hasan Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-'Amiri(ابو احسن محمّد ابن یوسف العامری) and Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi(ابو حيّان التوحیدی) may all be said to constitute in one form or another a 'Farabian School'. The Monophysite Yahya ibn 'Adi studied in Baghdad under al-Farabi and others. Like his master, Yahya was devoted to the study of logic; like his master also, Yahya held that there was a real link between reason, ethics and politics.

Whether or not al-Farabi actually intended to outline a political programme in his writings remains a matter of dispute amongst academics. In his admittedly complex theories of epistemology, al-Farabi has both an Aristotelian and Neoplatonic dimension, neither of which is totally integrated with the other. His influence was wide and extended not only to major Islamic philosophers such as Ibn Sina who came after him, and to lesser mortals such as Yahya ibn 'Adi(یحی'ابن عدّی) , al-Sijistani(السیستانی) , al-'Amiri(العامری) and al-Tawhidi(التوحیدی) , but also to major thinkers of Christian medieval Europe including Thomas Aquinas. Henry Corbin, says that his ideas should be understood as a "prophetic philosophy" instead of being interpreted politically. On the other hand, Charles Butterworth 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 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 ملّت) and philosophy (falsafaفلسفہ ) consituted the same praxeological value (i.e. basis for amal al-fadhil – عمل الفاضل"virtuos deed"), while its epistemological level (ilm – علم "knowledge") was different.