Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi (in Persian: محمد فارابی) also known in the West as Alpharabus, Alfarabi, or Farabi, was a Persian philosopher and scientist and one of the greatest scientists and philosophers of his time.
Farabi was born in the small village of Wasij near Farab (Turkistan) of Persian parents. Very little is known of al-Farabi's life. He was of Turkic origin, and is thought to have been brought to Baghdad as a child by his father, who was probably in the Turkish bodyguard of the Caliph. After finishing his early school years in Farab and Bukhara, Farabi arrived in Baghdad to pursue higher studies in 901. He studied in Baghdad for well over 40 years and acquired mastery over several languages and fields of knowledge.
Farabi made notable contributions to the fields of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and even music. As a philosopher and Neo-Platonist he wrote rich commentary on Aristotle's work. He is also credited for categorizing logic into two separate groups, the first one being idea and the second being proof. Farabi wrote books on sociology and a notable book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqa (The Book of Music). He played and invented a varied number of musical instruments and his pure Arabian tone system is still used in Arab music (Touma 1996, p.170). Farabi is also famous for his demonstration of the existence of void in physics.
Farabi had great influence on science and knowledge for several centuries. Unfortunately the book Theology of Aristotle, that he relied upon, eventually turned out to be the work of Plotinus (a neo-Platonic philosopher). Nevertheless, he was regarded as the Second Teacher in philosophy for centuries. His work, aimed at synthesis of philosophy and sufism, paved the way for Ibn Sina's work.
Farabi saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. Influenced by the writings of Aristotle, in The Ideas of the Citizens of the Virtuous City and other books, he advanced the view — heretical for a Muslim — that reason is superior to revelation. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Qur'an and rejected predestination. These were unorthodox ideas, and it can be argued that they belonged to Islam in the same way that Voltaire belongs to Christianity: he was in Muslim culture but not of it, indeed opposed to its orthodox core.
His name originated the Portuguese word alfarrábio meaning an old, thick or boring book.
- Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music for the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340888.
Last updated: 05-14-2005 21:24:53