ABU AL-NASR AL-FARABI (Al-Pharabius)
(870 - 950 C.E.)

by
Dr. A. Zahoor

Al-Farabi, known as Al-Phrarabius in the West, contributed to philosophy, logic, sociology and science. He was best known as the "Second Teacher" (al-Mou'allim al-Thani), Aristotle being the First. Abu Nasr Mohammad Ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi was born near Farab in Turkistan in 870 C.E. His ancestors were originally of Persian descent and his father was a General. After completing his education at Farab and Bukhara, he moved to Baghdad for higher studies. Here, he studied several languages, science and technology, and philosophy. Also, he traveled to Damascus and Egypt for further studies. Al-Farabi died a bachelor in Damascus in 950 C.E.

Al-Frabi was a Qadi (Judge) in the early years of his long career. He eventually decided to take up teaching as his profession. Al-Farabi showed remarkable competence in several languages. Due his exceptional talents in several branches of science and philosophy, he received the attention of King Saif al-Daula at Halab (Aleppo). However, due to some unfortunate circumstances, he suffered great hardships and was once demoted to the caretaker of a garden.

Al-Frabi's major contribution is in logic, philosophy, and sociology. In addition, he contributed immensely to Mathematics, science, medicine, and music. He was also an Encyclopedist. Al-Farabi's great contribution in logic was that he made the study of logic systematic by dividing the subject into two categories: Takhayyul (idea) and Thubut (proof). He attempted to reconcile Platonism and Aristotelism with theology and wrote commentaries on physics, logic, and meteorology. Al-Farabi held the belief that philosophy and Islam are in harmony. He proved the existence of the void in his contribution to Physics. His book Kitab al-Ihsa al-'Ulum presents fundamental principles and classification of sciences from a fresh perspective.

Al-Frabi wrote several books on sociology, the most famous of which is the book entitled 'Ara Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila' (The Model City). It is a significant contribution to sociology and political science. He also wrote books on metaphysics and psychology that included his original work. Al-Farabi states that an isolated individual cannot achieve all the perfections by himself and without the aid of many other individuals. It is the innate disposition of every man to join another human being or other men in the labor he ought to perform....Therefore, to achieve what he can of that perfection, every man needs to stay in the neighborhood of others and associate with them. At another place he writes, "Instruction in the theoretical science should be given either to the imams and princes, or else to those who should preserve the theoretical sciences....They should be made to pursue a course of study and form the habits of character from their childhood until each of them reaches maturity."

He was an expert in music, contributed to musical notes and invented several musical instruments. Al-Farabi could play his instrument so well as to make people laugh or weep. His book on music, entitled 'Kitab al-Musiqa,' is well known.

Al-Farabi wrote a large number of books in several fields that include his original contribution. One hundred seventeen books are known to have survived. Of theses forty-three books are on logic, seven each on political science and ethics, eleven on metaphysics, and twenty-eight books on medicine, sociology, music and commentaries.

Al-Farabi's book 'Fusus al-Hikam' was used as a text book of philosophy for several centuries in Europe. He had great influence on science and philosophy for several centuries.

A Short List of References

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