Abu Nbasr Muhammad Ibn Tarkhan Ibn Uzlugh Farabi

  September 01, 2021   Read time 2 min
Abu Nbasr Muhammad Ibn Tarkhan Ibn Uzlugh Farabi
Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Tarkhān ibn Uzlugh Fārābī, who was known among later Islamic philosophers as the Second Teacher (al-muʿallim al-thānī) and the philosopher of Muslims (faylasūf al-muslimīn), is not only the founder of logic in Islamic philosophy but is also considered by many to be the real founder of Islamic philosophy itself.

Little is known of his life and even his ethnic background has been disputed among traditional authorities. Ibn Nadīm in his al-Fihrist, which is the first work to mention Fārābī, considers him to be of Persian origin, as does Muḥammad Shahrazūrī in his Tāʾrīkh al-ḥukamāʾ and Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿah in his Ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbāʾ.

In contrast, Ibn Khallikān in his Wafayāt al-aʿyān considers him to be of Turkish descent. In any case, he was born in Fārāb in the Khurāsān of that day around 257/870 in a climate of Persianate culture. As an already mature scholar, he came to Baghdad, where he studied logic with the Christian scholar Yūḥannā ibn Haylān and with Ibn Bishr Mattā, who was a translator of Aristotle into Arabic. Fārābī was to become a teacher himself of the famous Christian theologian Yaḥyā ibn ‘Adī and the grammarian Ibn al-Sarrāj. Some time before 330/942, Fārābī left Baghdad for Syria, where he travelled to Aleppo and possibly also went to Egypt, but settled in Damascus, where he died in 339/950 and where he is buried.

Fārābī was a truly encyclopedic figure, at once master of many languages, logic, political philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics, as well as music. Some hundred works have been mentioned in diverse sources as having been composed by him. Many of these treatises are now lost, but a number of important ones have been discovered recently so that our view of his philosophy has been modified in recent years. His works include several commentaries upon the logical works of Aristotle, as well as his own writings on logic, which together form a major part of his intellectual output.

They also include a number of foundational texts on political philosophy and ethics, chief among them Mabādī ārāʾ ahl al-madīnat al-fāḍilah (Principles of the Opinion of the People of the Virtuous City), perhaps his greatest work, and al-Sīyāsat al-madaniyyah (Politics of the City) and Taḥṣīl al-saʿādah (Attainment of Happiness). In the domain of political thought, his aim was to synthesize the theses of Plato, rather than Aristotle, with the teachings of Islam.

Fārābī also wrote a number of metaphysical works based on the wedding of Aristotelian and Neoplatonic doctrines in the bosom of Islam and dealt with questions of ontology, emanation, and the like, which set the background for the grand synthesis of Ibn Sīnā. Works in this category include his attempt to harmonize the teachings of Plato and Aristotle (by whom he also understood the author of the Enneads or Plotinus) in the work al-Jamʿ bayn raʾyay al-ḥakīmayn Aflāṭūn al-ilāhī wa Arisṭū (The Book of Reconciliation of the Opinions of the Two Sages, Divine Plato and Aristotle), as well as independent treatises on Plato and Aristotle and the Aghrāḍ mā baʿd al-ṭabīʿah (Purposes of the Metaphysics), which had such an influence on Ibn Sīnā. Fārābī’s influential treatise Fi’l-ʿaql (On the Intellect) also belongs in this category.

Write your comment