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Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi (in Persian: محمد فارابی) also known in the West as Alpharabus, Alfarabi, or Farabi, (870950 CE) was a Persian philosopher and scientist and one of the greatest scientists and philosophers of his time.



Missing image
Al-Farabi's face appears on the currency of Kazakhstan

There is no consensus or sufficient evidence to decide the matter of al-Farabi's ethnic origins. The existing variations in the basic facts about 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 rather based on hearsay or probable guesses.

Some historians thus claim Farabi was born in the small village of Wasij near Farab (in what is today Turkmenistan) of Persian parents. The older Persian form Parab is given in the historical account Hodud al-'alam for his birthplace. Ibn al-Nadim, among other historians, however states Farabi's origins (in ed. Flgel p. 263 l. 9) to lie in Faryab in Khorasan ("men al-Faryab men ardh Khorasan"). Very little is thus known of al-Farabi's life for certain and whether or not he was of Turkic origin or not.

But what is known with certainty is that after finishing his early school years in Farab and Bukhara, Farabi arrived in Baghdad to pursue higher studies in 901. He studied under a Christian cleric who abandoned lay interests and engaged in his ecclesiastical duties, and he remained 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 alfarrbio meaning an old, thick or boring book.

See also


  • Habib Hassan Touma (1996). The Music for the Arabs, trans. Laurie Schwartz. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340888
  • Majid Fakhry, Al-Farabi, Founder of Islamic Neoplatonism: His Life, Works, and Influence, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, (2002), ISBN 1-85168-302-X

External links

Template:Livedar:فارابي gl:Al-Farab sl:al-Farabi sk:Al-Farabi


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