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{{redirects|Abu Nasr}}

}}Al-Farabi ({{IPAc-en|ˌ|æ|l|f|ə|ˈ|r|ɑː|b|i}}; {{transl|fa|ALA|Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al Fārābī}};WEB, Dimitri, Gutas, Farabi, Encyclopædia Iranica, April 4, 2010,weblink known in the West as Alpharabius;Alternative names and translations from Arabic include: Alfarabi, Farabi, Avenassar, and Abunaser. c. 872BOOK, Corbin, Henry, Hossein Nasr, History of Islamic Philosophy, 2001, Kegan Paul, 978-0-7103-0416-2, Hossein Nasr, {{Verify source|date=June 2015}} – between 14 December, 950 and 12 January, 951)ENCYCLOPEDIA, Thomas Hockey, Dhanani, Alnoor, Fārābī: Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Tarkhān al‐Fārābī, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer, 2007, New York, 356–7,weblink 978-0-387-31022-0, etal, (PDF version) was a renowned philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music scholar.Ludwig W. Adamec (2009), Historical Dictionary of Islam, pp.95–96. Scarecrow Press. {{ISBN|0810861615}}.In Islamic philosophical tradition he was often called "the Second Teacher", following Aristotle who was known as "the First Teacher".SEP, al-farabi-psych, Al-Farabi's Psychology and Epistemology, López-Farjeat, Luis Xavier, He is credited with preserving the original Greek texts during the Middle Ages because of his commentaries and treatises, and influencing many prominent philosophers, like Avicenna and Maimonides. Through his works, he became well-known in the West as well as the East.


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). Little is known about his life. Early sources include an autobiographical passage where al-Farabi traces the history of logic and philosophy up to his time, and brief mentions by Al-Masudi, Ibn al-Nadim and Ibn Hawqal. Said Al-Andalusi wrote a biography of al-Farabi. Arabic biographers of the 12th–13th centuries thus had few facts to hand, and used invented stories about his life.From incidental accounts it is known that he spent significant time (most of his life) 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 and in Egypt before returning to Damascus where he died in 950-1.Reisman, D.(ed.)Before and After Avicenna. Princeton, NJ. 2001{{Page needed|date=March 2011}}His name was Abū Naṣr Muḥammad b. Muḥammad Farabi, sometimes with the family surname al-Ṭarḵānī, i.e., the element Ṭarḵān appears in a nisba. His grandfather was not known among his contemporaries, but a name, Awzalaḡ, suddenly appears later in the writings of Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa, and of his great-grandfather in those of Ibn Khallikan.His birthplace could have been any one of the many places in Central Asia-Khurasan that is known by that name. The name "parab/farab" is a Persian term for a locale that is irrigated by effluent springs or flows from a nearby river. Thus, there are many places that carry the name (or various evolutions of that hydrological/geological toponym) in that general area, such as Fārāb on the Jaxartes (Syr Darya) in modern Kazakhstan, Fārāb (modern Türkmenabat) on the Oxus Amu Darya in Turkmenistan, or evenFāryāb in Greater Khorasan (modern day Afghanistan). The older Persian Pārāb (in Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam) or Fāryāb (also Pāryāb), is a common Persian toponym meaning "lands irrigated by diversion of river water".DANIEL BALLAND, "FĀRYĀB" in Encyclopedia Iranica weblink{{dead link|date=June 2017 |bot=InternetArchiveBot |fix-attempted=yes }}. excerpt: "Fāryāb (also Pāryāb), common Persian toponym meaning “lands irrigated by diversion of river water"Dehkhoda Dictionary under "Parab" {{webarchive|url= |date=2011-10-03 }} excerpt: "پاراب . (اِ مرکب ) زراعتی که به آب چشمه و کاریز ورودخانه و مانند آن کنند مَسقوی . آبی . مقابل دیم" (translation: "Lands irrigated by diversion of river water, springs and qanats.") By the 13th century, Fārāb on the Jaxartes was known as Otrār.WEB,weblink C. E. Bosworth, "OTRĀR" in Encyclopedia Iranica,, 2002-07-20, 2012-09-19, Scholars largely agree that Farabi's ethnic background is not knowable.WEB,weblink al-Farabi – Muslim philosopher, WEB, Lessons with Texts by Alfarabi,weblink D. Gutas, "AlFarabi" in Barthaolomew's World accessed Feb 18, 2010,, 2012-09-19, David C. Reisman, "Al-Farabi and the philosophical curriculum", in Peter Adamson and Richard C. Taylor, The Cambridge companion to Arabic philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 53.F. Abiola Irele/Biodun Jeyifo, "Farabi", in The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought, Vol. 1, p. 379.

Iranian origin theory

(File:Iranian Farabi.jpg|thumb|upright=0.6|left|An Iranian stamp with Al-Farabi's imagined face)Medieval Arab historian Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa (died in 1270)—al-Farabi's oldest biographer—mentions in his ʿUyūn that al-Farabi's father was of Persian descent.Ebn Abi Osaybea, Oyun al-anba fi tabaqat at-atebba, ed. A. Müller, Cairo, 1299/1882. وكان ابوه قائد جيش وهو فارسي المنتسب Al-Shahrazūrī who lived around 1288 A.D. and has written an early biography also states that Farabi hailed from a Persian family.Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Mehdi Amin Razavi. "An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, Vol. 1: From Zoroaster to Umar Khayyam", I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2007. Pg 134: "Ibn Nadim in his al-Fihrist, which is the first work to mention Farabi considers him to be of Persian origin, as does Muhammad Shahrazuri in his Tarikh al-hukama and Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah in his Tabaqat al-atibba. In contrast, Ibn Khallikan in his '"Wafayat al-'ayan considers him to be of Turkish descent. In any case, he was born in Farab in Khurasan of that day around 257/870 in a climate of Persianate culture"Arabic: و كان من سلاله فارس in J. Mashkur, Farab and Farabi, Tehran,1972. See also Dehkhoda Dictionary under the entry Farabi for the same exact Arabic quote. According to Majid Fakhry, an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, Farabi's father "was an army captain of Persian extraction."Majid Fakhry, Al-Farabi, Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism: His Life, Works and Influence, Great Islamic Thinkers (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2002), 157. {{ISBN|9781851683024}}. Dimitri Gutas notes that Farabi's works contain references and glosses in Persian, Sogdian, and even Greek, but not Turkish.
  • George Fadlo Hourani, Essays on Islamic Philosophy and Science, Suny press, 1975.
  • Kiki Kennedy-Day, Books of Definition in Islamic Philosophy: The Limits of Words, Routledge, 2002, page 32. Sogdian has also been suggested as his native languageJoshua Parens (2006). An Islamic philosophy of virtuous religions : introducing Alfarabi. Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York Press. pp. 3. {{ISBN|0-7914-6689-2}} excerpt: "He was a native speaker of Turkic {{sic}} dialect, Soghdian." [Note: Sogdian was an East Iranian language and not a Turkic dialect] and the language of the inhabitants of Fārāb.Joep Lameer, "Al-FārābÄ« and Aristotelian syllogistics: Greek theory and Islamic practice", E.J. Brill, 1994. {{ISBN|90-04-09884-4}} pg 22: "..Islamic world of that time, an area whose inhabitants must have spoken Soghdian or maybe a Turkish dialect..." Muhammad Javad Mashkoor argues for an Iranian-speaking Central Asian origin.مشكور، محمدجواد. “فاراب Ùˆ فارابي“. دوره14ØŒ Ø´161 (اسفند 54): 15-20- . J. Mashkur, "Farabi and Farabi" in volume 14, No. 161, pp 15–12, Tehran,1972. weblink" title="https:/-/">weblink English translations of the arguments used by J. Mashkur can be found in: G. Lohraspi, "Some remarks on Farabi's background"; a scholarly approach citing C.E. Bosworth, B. Lewis, R. Frye, D. Gutas, J. Mashkur and partial translation of J.Mashkur's arguments: PDF. ولي فارابي فيلسوف تنها متعلق به ايران نبود بلكه
به عالم اسلام تعلق داشت و از بركت قرآن و دين محمد به اين مقام رسيد. از اينجهت هه دانشمنداني كه در اينجا گرد آمده‌اند او را يك دانشمند مسلمان متعلق به عالم انسانيت مي‌دانند و كاري به تركي و فارسي و عربي بودن او ندارند. A Persian origin has been stated by many other sources as well.
  • P.J. King, "One Hundred Philosophers: the life and work of the world's greatest thinkers", chapter al-Fārābi, Zebra, 2006. pp 50: "Of Persian stock, al-Farabi (Alfarabius, AbuNaser) was born in Turkestan"
  • Henry Thomas, Understanding the Great Philosophers, Doubleday, Published 1962
  • T. J. De Boer, "The History of Philosophy in Islam", Forgotten Books, 2008. Excerpt page 98: "His father is said to have been a Persian General". {{ISBN|1-60506-697-4}}
  • Sterling M. McMurrin, Religion, Reason, and Truth: Historical Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, University of Utah Press, 1982, {{ISBN|0-87480-203-2}}. page 40.
  • edited by Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins. (2003). From Africa to Zen : an invitation to world philosophy. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 163. {{ISBN|0-7425-1350-5}} "al-Farabi (870–950), a Persian,"
  • Thomas F. Glick. (1995). From Muslim fortress to Christian castle : social and cultural change in medieval Spain. Manchester: Manchester University Press. pp. 170. {{ISBN|0-7190-3349-7}} "It was thus that al-Farabi (c. 870–950), a Persian philosopher"
  • The World's Greatest Seers and Philosophers.. Gardners Books. 2005. pp. 41. {{ISBN|81-223-0824-4}} "al-Farabi (also known as Abu al-Nasr al-Farabi) was born of Turkish parents in the small village of Wasij near Farab, Turkistan (now in Uzbekistan) in 870 AD. His parents were of Persian descent, but their ancestors had migrated to Turkistan."
  • Bryan Bunch with Alexander Hellemans. (2004). The history of science and technology : a browser's guide to the great discoveries, inventions, and the people who made them, from the dawn of time to today. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 108. {{ISBN|0-618-22123-9}} "Persian scholar al-Farabi"
  • Olivier Roy, "The new Central Asia: the creation of nations ", I.B.Tauris, 2000. 1860642799. pg 167: "Kazakhistan also annexes for the purpose of bank notes Al Farabi (870–950), the Muslim philosopher who was born in the south of present-day Kazakhistan but who presumably spoke Persian, particularly because in that era there were no Kazakhs in the region"
  • Majid Khadduri; [foreword by R. K. Ramazani]. The Islamic conception of justice. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1984.. pp. 84. {{ISBN|0-8018-6974-9}} "Nasr al-Farabi was born in Farab (a small town in Transoxiana) in 259/870 to a family of mixed parentage — the father, who married a Turkish woman, is said to have been of Persian and Turkish descent — but both professed the Shi'l heterodox faith. He spoke Persian and Turkish fluently and learned the Arabic language before he went to Baghdad.
  • Ḥannā FākhÅ«rÄ«, TārÄ«kh al-fikr al-falsafÄ« Ê»inda al-Ê»Arab, al-DuqqÄ«, al-JÄ«zah : al-Sharikah al-Miá¹£rÄ«yah al-ʻĀlamÄ«yah lil-Nashr, LÅ«njmān, 2002.
  • ’Ammar al-Talbi, al-Farabi, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, vol. XXIII, no. 1/2, Paris, 1993, p. 353-372
  • David Deming,"Science and Technology in World History: The Ancient World and Classical Civilization", McFarland, 2010. pg 94: "Al-Farabi, known in Medieval Europe as Abunaser, was a Persian philosopher who sought to harmonize.."
  • Philosophers: Abu Al-Nasr Al-Farabi {{webarchive|url= |date=2016-03-07 }}, Trinity College, 1995–2000

Turkic origin theory

File:KazakhstanP20-200Tenge-1999-donatedoy f.jpg|thumb|Al-Farabi on the currency of the Republic of KazakhstanRepublic of KazakhstanThe oldest known reference to a Turkic origin is given by the medieval historian Ibn Khallikān (died in 1282), who in his work Wafayāt (completed in 669/1271) states that Farabi was born in the small village of Wasij near Fārāb (in what is today Otrar, Kazakhstan) of Turkic parents. Based on this account, some modern scholars say he is of Turkic origin.B.G. Gafurov, Central Asia:Pre-Historic to Pre-Modern Times, (Shipra Publications, 2005), 124; "Abu Nasr Farabi hailed from around ancient Farabi which was situated on the bank of Syr Daria and was the son of a Turk military commander".Will Durant, The Age of Faith, (Simon and Schuster, 1950), 253.Nicholas Rescher, Al-Farabi's Short Commentary on Aristotle's Prior Analytics, University of Pittsburgh Pre, 1963, p.11, Online Edition.Antony Black, The History of Islamic Political Thought: From the Prophet to the Present, Routledge, p. 61, Online EditionJames Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Kessinger Publishing, Vol. 10, p.757, Online Edition* edited by Ted Honderich. (1995). The Oxford companion to philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 269. {{ISBN|0-19-866132-0}} "Of Turki origin, al-Farabi studied under Christian thinkers"
  • edited and translated by Norman Calder, Jawid Mojaddedi and Andrew Rippin. (2003). Classical Islam : a sourcebook of religious literature. New York: Routledge. pp. 170. {{ISBN|0-415-24032-8}} "He was of Turkish origin, was born in Turkestan"
  • Ian Richard Netton. (1999). Al-FārābÄ« and his school. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon. {{ISBN|0-7007-1064-7}} "He appears to have been born into a military family of Turkish origin in the village of Wasil, Farab, in Turkestan"
  • edited by Henrietta Moore. (1996). The future of anthropological knowledge. London: Routledge. {{ISBN|0-415-10786-5}} "al-Farabi (873–950), a scholar of Turkish origin."
  • Diané Collinson and Robert Wilkinson. (1994). Thirty-Five Oriental Philosophers.. London: Routledge. {{ISBN|0-203-02935-6}} "Al-Farabi is thought to be of Turkish origin. His family name suggests that he came from the vicinity of Farab in Transoxiana."
  • Fernand Braudel ; translated by Richard Mayne. (1995). A history of civilizations. New York, N.Y.: Penguin. {{ISBN|0-14-012489-6}} "Al-Farabi, born in 870, was of Turkish origin. He lived in Aleppo and died in 950 in Damascus"
  • Jaroslav Krejčí ; assisted by Anna Krejčová. (1990). Before the European challenge : the great civilizations of Asia and the Middle East. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 140. {{ISBN|0-7914-0168-5}} "the Transoxanian Turk al-Farabi (d. circa 950)"
  • Hamid Naseem. (2001). Muslim philosophy science and mysticism. New Delhi: Sarup & Sons. pp. 78. {{ISBN|81-7625-230-1}} "Al-Farabi, the first Turkish philosopher"
  • Clifford Sawhney. The World's Greatest Seers and Philosophers, 2005, p. 41
  • Zainal Abidin Ahmad. Negara utama (Madinatuʾl fadilah) Teori kenegaraan dari sardjana Islam al Farabi. 1964, p. 19
  • Haroon Khan Sherwani. Studies in Muslim Political Thought and Administration. 1945, p. 63
  • Ian Richard Netton. Al-Farabi and His School, 1999, p. 5 Dimitri Gutas, an American Arabist of Greek origin, criticizes this, saying that Ibn Khallikān's account is aimed at the earlier historical accounts by Ibn AbÄ« Uá¹£aibiÊ¿a, and serves the purpose to "prove" a Turkic origin for al-Farabi, for instance by mentioning the additional nisba (surname) "al-Turk" (arab. "the Turk")—a nisba Farabi never had. However, Abu al-Fedā', who copied Ibn Ḵhallekān, corrected this and changed al-TorkÄ« to the phrase "wa-kāna rajolan torkÄ«yan", meaning "he was a Turkish man." In this regard, Oxford professor C.E. Bosworth notes that "great figures [such] as al-Farabi, al-Biruni, and ibn Sina have been attached by over enthusiastic Turkish scholars to their race".BOOK, C. Edmund Bosworth, The Turks in the Early Islamic World,weblink 15 May 2017, Taylor & Francis, 978-1-351-88087-9, 381,

Life and education

Al-Farabi spent almost his entire life in Baghdad. In the auto-biographical passage preserved by Ibn Abī Uṣaibiʿa, Farabi stated that he had studied logic, medicine and sociology with Yūḥannā bin Ḥaylān up to and including Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, i.e., according to the order of the books studied in the curriculum, Fārābī was claiming that he had studied Porphyry's Eisagoge and Aristotle's Categories, De Interpretatione, Prior and Posterior Analytics. His teacher, bin Ḥaylān, was a Nestorian cleric. This period of study was probably in Baghdad, where Al-Masudi records that Yūḥannā died during the reign of Al-Muqtadir (295-320/908-32). He was in Baghdad at least until the end of September 942, as recorded in notes in his Mabādeʾ ārāʾ ahl al-madīna al-fāżela. He finished the book in Damascus the following year (331), i.e., by September 943). He also studied in Tétouan, MoroccoBOOK, Sadler, Anthony, Skarlatos, Alek, Stone, Spencer, Stern, Jeffrey E., The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Heroes, 2016, PublicAffairs, New York, 978-1-61039-734-6, 18, and lived and taught for some time in Aleppo. Farabi later visited Egypt, finishing six sections summarizing the book Mabādeʾ in Egypt in 337/July 948 – June 949 when he returned to Syria, where he was supported by Sayf al-Dawla, the Hamdanid ruler. Al-Masudi, writing barely five years after the fact (955-6, the date of the composition of the Tanbīh), says that Farabi died in Damascus in Rajab 339 (between 14 December 950 and 12 January 951).

Religious beliefs

Henry Corbin writes that the evidence supports the opinion common in Iran that al-Farabi was a Shia Muslim. Corbin argues that there are many similarities between what he calls Farabi's "prophetic philosophy" and the teachings of Shiite Imams.BOOK,weblink History Of Islamic Philosophy, Henry, Corbin, 23 June 2014, Routledge, Google Books, 9781135198893, Najjar Fauzi likewise argues that al-Farabi's political philosophy was influenced by Shiite sects.Fazi, Fārābī's Political Philosophy and shī'ism, Studia Islamica, No. 14 (1961), pp. 57–72 Giving a positive account, Nadia Maftouni describes shi'ite aspects of Farabi's writings. As she put it, Farabi in his Al-Millah, Al-Sīyāsah al-Madanīyah, and Tahsil al-Sa’adah believes in a utopia governed by prophet and his successors: the Imams. JOURNAL, Maftouni, Nadia, 2013, وجوه شیعی فلسفه فارابی, Shi'ite Aspects of Farabi`s Philosophy,weblink Persian, Andishe-Novin-E-Dini, 9, 33, 12, 31 October 2018,

Works and contributions

Farabi made contributions to the fields of logic, mathematics, music, philosophy, psychology, and education.


Al-Farabi wrote: The Necessity of the Art of the Elixir BOOK,weblink E. J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, 9789004097902, Houtsma, M. Th, 1993,


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 and relation of the categories, the relation between logic and grammar, and non-Aristotelian forms of inference.History of logic: Arabic logic, Encyclopædia Britannica. He is also credited with 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, which were part of the Stoic tradition of logic rather than the Aristotelian.JOURNAL, 0022-362X, 61, 22, 726, Feldman, Seymour, Rescher on Arabic Logic, The Journal of Philosophy, 26 November 1964, 2023632, Journal of Philosophy, Inc., BOOK, Cambridge University Press, 0-521-27556-3, Long, A. A., D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers. Vol 1: Translations of the principal sources with philosophical commentary, Cambridge, 1987, Another addition al-Farabi made to the Aristotelian tradition was his introduction of the concept of poetic syllogism in a commentary on Aristotle's Poetics.JOURNAL, The Islamic roots of the poetic syllogism, College Literature, February 1996, Ludescher, Tanyss,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink dead, 2005-05-31, 2008-02-29,


File:Al-Farabi.png|thumb|upright|Drawing of a musical instrument, a shahrudshahrudAl-Farabi wrote a book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqa (The Book of Music). In it, he presents philosophical principles about music, its cosmic qualities, and its influences.He also wrote a treatise on the Meanings of the Intellect, which dealt with music therapy and discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.


File:Bnf lat 9335.jpg|thumb|upright|Gerard of CremonaGerard of CremonaAs a philosopher, Al-Farabi was a founder of his own school of early Islamic philosophy known as "Farabism" or "Alfarabism", though it was later overshadowed by Avicennism. Al-Farabi's school of philosophy "breaks with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle [... and ...] moves from metaphysics to methodology, a move that anticipates modernity", and "at the level of philosophy, Alfarabi unites theory and practice [... and] in the sphere of the political he liberates practice from theory". His Neoplatonic theology is also more than just metaphysics as rhetoric. In his attempt to think through the nature of a First Cause, Alfarabi discovers the limits of human knowledge".JOURNAL, Ian Richard, Netton, Breaking with Athens: Alfarabi as Founder, Applications of Political Theory By Christopher A. Colmo, Oxford University Press, Journal of Islamic Studies, 2008, 19, 3, 397–8, 10.1093/jis/etn047, Al-Farabi had great influence on science and philosophy for several centuries,BOOK, Glick, Thomas F., Steven Livesey and Faith Wallis, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, 2014, Routledge, New York, 978-0415969307, 171,weblink and was widely considered 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, paved the way for the work of Ibn Sina (Avicenna).ENCYCLOPEDIA,weblink Avicenna/Ibn Sina (CA. 980–1137), 2007-07-13, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,weblink" title="">weblink 23 June 2007, live, Al-Farabi also wrote a commentary on Aristotle's work, and one of his most notable works is Al-Madina al-Fadila () where he theorized an ideal state as in Plato's The Republic.Arabic and Islamic Natural Philosophy and Natural Science, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Al-Farabi argued that religion rendered truth through symbols and persuasion, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. Al-Farabi incorporated the Platonic view, drawing a parallel from within the Islamic context, in that he regarded the ideal state to be ruled by the prophet-imam, instead of the philosopher-king envisaged by Plato. Al-Farabi argued that the ideal state was the city-state of Medina when it was governed by the prophet Muhammad as its head of state, as he was in direct communion with Allah whose law was revealed to him.


Al-Farabi wrote a short treatise "On Vacuum", where he thought about the nature of the existence of void. He also may have carried out the first experiments concerning the existence of vacuum, in which he investigated handheld plungers in water.{{citation needed|date=August 2019}} His final conclusion was that air's volume can expand to fill available space, and he suggested that the concept of perfect vacuum was incoherent.


Wrote Social Psychology and Principles of the Opinions of the Citizens of the Virtuous City, which were the first treatises to deal with social psychology. He stated that "an isolated individual could not achieve all the perfections by himself, without the aid of other individuals," and 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 to "achieve what he can of that perfection, every man needs to stay in the neighborhood of others and associate with them."Amber Haque (2004), "Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Early Muslim Scholars and Challenges to Contemporary Muslim Psychologists", Journal of Religion and Health 43 (4): 357–377 [363].In his treatise On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Principles of the Opinions of the Citizens of the Ideal City, he distinguished between dream interpretation and the nature and causes of dreams.

Philosophical thought

File:Bodlein Library MS. Arab.d.84 roll332 frame1.jpg|thumbnail|right|Pages from a 17th-century manuscript of Al-Farabi's commentary on AristotleAristotle


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.Black, D. Al-Farabi in Leaman, O & Nasr, H (2001). History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Routledge. p178. Amongst these are a number of prolegomena to philosophy, commentaries on important Aristotelian works (such as the Nicomachean Ethics) 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 and elements of Neo-Platonism,Motahhari, Mortaza, Becoming familiar with Islamic knowledge, V1, p:162 particularly metaphysics and practical (or political) philosophy (which bears more resemblance to Plato's Republic than Aristotle's Politics).Reisman, D. Al-Farabi and the Philosophical Curriculum In Adamson, P & Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p52

Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Maimonides

In the handing down of Aristotle’s thought to the Christian west in the middle ages, al-Farabi played an essential part as appears in the translation of Farabi’s Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle’s de Interpretatione that F.W. Zimmermann published in 1981. Farabi had a great influence on Maimonides, the most important Jewish thinker of the middle ages. Maimonides wrote in Arabic a Treatise on logic, the celebrated Maqala fi sina at al-mantiq. In a wonderfully concise way, the work treats of the essentials of Aristotelian logic in the light of comments made by the Persian philosophers: Avicenna and above all al-Farabi. Rémi Brague in his book devoted to the Treatise stresses the fact that Farabi is the only thinker mentioned therein.Al-Farabi as well as Ibn Sina and Averroes have been recognized as Peripatetics (al-Mashsha’iyun) or rationalists (Estedlaliun) among Muslims.Motahhari, Morteza, Becoming familiar with Islamic knowledge, V1, p.166اگر بخواهيم كلمهای را بهكار بريم كه مفيد مفهوم روش فلسفی مشائين باشد بايد كلمه ( استدلالی ) رابه كار بريم .WEB,weblink Dictionary of Islamic Philosophical Terms,, 2012-09-19, WEB,weblink Aristotelianism in Islamic philosophy,, 2012-09-19, However, he tried to gather the ideas of Plato and Aristotle in his book "The gathering of the ideas of the two philosophers".Motahhari, Mortaza, Becoming familiar with Islamic knowledge, V1, p.167فارابی كتاب كوچك معروفی دارد به نام ( الجمع بين رأيی الحكيمين ) دراين كتاب مسائل اختلافی اين دو فيلسوف طرح شده و كوشش شده كه به نحویاختلافات ميان اين دو حكيم از بين برود .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.BOOK, Mahdi, Muhsin, Alfarabi: Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, 1962, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 0801487161, 4,weblink 17 August 2015, Adamson also says that he does not make any reference to the ideas of either al-Kindi 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.Reisman, p55


Metaphysics and cosmology

In contrast to al-Kindi, 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 and 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 remarked that he did not understand Aristotle's Metaphysics properly until he had read a prolegomenon written by al-Farabi.Black, p188Al-Farabi's cosmology is essentially based upon three pillars: Aristotelian metaphysics of causation, highly developed Plotinian emanational cosmology and the Ptolemaic astronomy.Reisman, p56 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.Black, p189 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.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. 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 philosophersReisman, p57Corbin, H. (1993). History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Keagan Paul International. p161In his discussion of the First Cause (or God), al-Farabi relies heavily on negative theology. 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.Reisman, p58-59

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.Reisman, p61Al-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.WEB,weblink page 461, dead,weblink" title="">weblink 2007-03-25, 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.Reisman, p64 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).Reisman, p63 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.Black, p186While 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.Corbin, p158According to al-Farabi, the afterlife is not the personal experience commonly conceived of by religious traditions such as Islam and Christianity. 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 compares this eschatology with that of the Ismaili Neo-Platonists, for whom this process initiated the next grand cycle of the universe.Corbin, p165 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 and Ibn Bajjah would assert that he repudiated this view in his commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics, 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.Black, p184 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 and Averroes.Reisman, p60-61Black (2), D. Psychology: Soul and Intellect in Adamson, P and Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p313Special 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".Black (b), p313Black, p185 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.Corbin, p164Black, p187

Practical philosophy (ethics and politics)

The practical application of philosophy was 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 was unmistakably based on that of Plato.Corbin, p162 In a similar manner to Plato's Republic, al-Farabi emphasized that philosophy was 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 wrote, 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.Black, p190 Al-Farabi compared 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" just as the city is determined by the moral habits of its people. The philosopher's duty, he wrote, was to establish a "virtuous" society by healing the souls of the people, establishing justice and guiding them towards "true happiness".Butterworth, p278Of course, al-Farabi realized that such a society was rare and required a very specific set of historical circumstances to be realized, which means very few societies could ever attain this goal. He divided 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. Al-Farabi mentions "weeds" in the virtuous society: those people who try to undermine its progress towards the true human end.Black, p191 The best known Arabic source for al-Farabi's political philosophy is his work titled, al-Madina al-fadila (The Virtuous City).Whether or not al-Farabi actually intended to outline a political programme in his writings remains a matter of dispute amongst academics. Henry Corbin, 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.Corbin, p162-163 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".Butterworth, C. Ethical and Political Philosophy in Adamson, P and Taylor, R. (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p276 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.Reisman, p68 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.Joshua Parens, An Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions: Introducing Alfarabi (New York: State University of New York Press, 2006), 2. Some other authors like Mykhaylo Yakubovych argue that for al-Farabi religion (milla) and philosophy (falsafa) constituted the same praxeological value (i.e. basis for amal al-fadhil—"virtuous deed"), while its epistemological level (ilm—"knowledge") was different.Mykhaylo Yakubovych. Al-Farabi's Book of Religion. Ukrainian translation, introduction and comments / Ukrainian Religious Studies Bulletin, 2008, Vol. 47, P. 237.


The main-belt asteroid 7057 Al-Fārābī was named in his honor.WEB, 7057 Al-Farabi (1990 QL2), Minor Planet Center,weblink 21 November 2016,

See also



Primary Sources (Fārābī) in translation

  • Al-Farabi's Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle's De interpretatione, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.
  • Short Commentary on Aristotle's Prior Analytics, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963.
  • Al-Farabi on the Perfect State, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.
  • Alfarabi, the Political Writings. Selected Aphorisms and Other Texts, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Alfarabi's Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, translated and with an introduction by Muhsin Mahdi, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001.
  • Fusul al-Madani: Aphorisms of the Statesman Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961.
  • "Al-Farabi's Long Commentary on Aristotle's Categoriae in Hebrew and Arabic", In Studies in Arabic and Islamic Culture, Vol. II, edited by Abrahamov, Binyamin. Ramat: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2006.
  • Texts translated by D. M. Dunlop:
    • "The Existence and Definition of Philosophy. From an Arabic text ascribed to al-Farabi", Iraq, 1951, pp. 76–93).
    • "Al-Farabi's Aphorisms of the Statesman", Iraq, 1952, pp. 93–117.
    • "Al-Farabi's Introductory Sections on Logic", The Islamic Quarterly, 1955, pp. 264–282.
    • "Al-Farabi's Eisagoge", The Islamic Quarterly, 1956, pp. 117–138.
    • "Al-Farabi's Introductory Risalah on Logic", The Islamic Quarterly, 1956, pp. 224–235.
    • "Al-Farabi's Paraphrase of the Categories of Aristotle [Part 1]", The Islamic Quarterly, 1957, pp. 168–197.
    • "Al-Farabi's Paraphrase of the Categories of Aristotle [Part 2]", The Islamic Quarterly, 1959, pp. 21–54.

  • Le Livre du régime politique, introduction, traduction et commentaire de Philippe Vallat, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2012.

  • Catálogo De Las Ciencias, Madrid: Imp. de Estanislao Maestre, 1932.
  • "Al-Farabi: Epístola sobre los sentidos del término intelecto", Revista Española de filosofía medieval, 2002, pp. 215–223.
  • El camino de la felicidad, trad. R. Ramón Guerrero, Madrid: Ed. Trotta, 2002
  • Obras filosóficas y políticas, trad. R. Ramón Guerrero, Madrid: Ed. Trotta, 2008.
  • Las filosofías de Platón y Aristóteles. Con un Apéndice: Sumario de las Leyes de Platón. Prólogo y Tratado primero, traducción, introducción y notas de Rafael Ramón Guerrero, Madrid, Ápeiron Ediciones, 2017.

Secondary Sources

  • Deborah Black (2001). Al-Farabi in Oliver Leaman and Hossein Nasr. History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Routledge.
  • Deborah Black (2005). Psychology: Soul and Intellect in P. Adamson and R. Taylor (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, {{Page needed|date=November 2017}}. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Charles Butterworth (2005). "Ethical and Political Philosophy". In P. Adamson and R. Taylor, The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, {{Page needed|date=November 2017}}. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • BOOK, Henry Corbin, Hossein Nasr, Hossein Nasr, Utman Yahya, History of Islamic Philosophy, 1993, Keagan Paul International, 978-0-7103-0416-2, Henry Corbin,
  • Majid Fakhry (2002). Al-Farabi, Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism: His Life, Works, and Influence, Oxford: Oneworld Publications. {{ISBN|1-85168-302-X}}. Spanish translation, as: Alfarabi y la fundación de la filosofía política islámica, translated by R. Ramón Guerrero. Barcelona: Herder, 2003.
  • Miriam Galston (2003). Politics and Excellence: the Political Philosophy of Alfarabi. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Rafael Ramón Guerrero (2003). “Apuntes biográficos de al-Fârâbî según sus vidas árabes". In Anaquel de Estudios Árabes 14:231–238.
  • Christoph Marcinkowski (2002). "A Biographical Note on Ibn Bajjah (Avempace) and an English Translation of his Annotations to Al-Farabi's Isagoge". Iqbal Review vol. 43, no 2 (April), pp 83–99.
  • Monteil Jean-François (2004). “La transmission d’Aristote par les Arabes à la chrétienté occidentale: une trouvaille relative au De Interpretatione”. Revista Española de Filosofia Medieval 11: 181–195.
  • Nicholas Rescher (1964). Al-Kindí; An Annotated Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
  • David Reisman (2005). Al-Farabi and the Philosophical Curriculum In P. Adamson and & R. Taylor. The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, {{Page needed|date=November 2017}}. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music of the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. {{ISBN|978-0-931340-88-8}}

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