Abu Nasr Muhammad al-Farabi was one the earliest Islamic intellectuals who was instrumental in transmitting the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle to the Muslim world. He had a considerable influence on the later Islamic philosophers such as Avicenna.
He was an outstanding linguist who translated the Greek works of Aristotle and Plato and made considerable additions to them of his own.
He earned the nickname Mallim-e-Sani, which is translated as “second master” or “second teacher”.
Al-Farabi completed his earlier education at Farab and Bukhara. Later on he went to Baghdad for higher studies where he studied and worked for a long time. During this period he acquired mastery of several languages as well as various branches of knowledge and technology. Farabi contributed considerably to science, philosophy, logic, sociology, medicine, mathematics and music. His major contributions were in philosophy, logic and sociology and for which he stands out as an Encyclopedist.
Contributions and Achievements:
As a philosopher, Farabi was the first to separate philosophy from theology. It is difficult to find a philosopher both in Muslim and Christian world from Middle Ages onwards who has not been influenced by his views. He believed in a Supreme Being who had created the world through the exercise of balanced intelligence. He also asserted this same rational faculty to be the sole part of the human being that is immortal, and thus he set as the paramount human goal the development of that rational faculty. He gave considerably more attention to political theory compared to any Islamic philosopher.
Later in his work, Farabi laid down in Platonic fashion the qualities necessary for the ruler. He stated that a ruler should be inclined to rule by a good quality of a native character and exhibit the right attitude for such rule. At the heart of Al-Farabi’s political philosophy is the concept of happiness, in which people cooperate to gain contentment. He followed the Greek example and the highest rank of happiness was allocated to his ideal sovereign whose soul was ‘united as it were with the Active Intellect’. Farabi served as a tremendous source of aspiration for intellectuals of the middle ages and made enormous contributions to the knowledge of his day, paving the way for the later philosopher and thinkers of the Muslim world.
Farabian epistemology has both a Neoplatonic and an Aristotelian dimension. The best source for Farabi’s classification of knowledge is his Kitab ihsa al-ulum. This work neatly illustrates Farabi’s beliefs, both esoteric and exoteric. Through all of them runs a primary Aristotelian stress on the importance of knowledge. Thus al-Farabi’s epistemology, from what has been described may be said to be encyclopedic in range and complex in articulation, using both a Neoplatonic and an Aristotelian voice.
Farabi also participated in writing books on early Muslim sociology and a notable book on music titled Kitab al-Musiqa (The Book of Music). This book is, in reality, a study of the theory of Persian music of his day, although in the West it has been introduced as a book on Arab music. He invented several musical instruments, besides contributing to the knowledge of musical notes. It has been reported that he could play his instrument so well as to make people laugh or weep at will. Farabi’s treatise Meanings of the Intellect dealt with music therapy, where he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul.
Farabi traveled to many distant lands throughout his life and gained many experiences. As a result, he made many contributions for which he is still remembered and acknowledged. Despite facing many hardships he worked with full dedication and made his name among the popular scientists of history. He died a bachelor in Damascus in 339 A.H. /950 A.D. at the age of 80 years.