Muslim Political Thought---Al-Farabi
Abu Nasr Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Tarkhan al-Farabi was born at Wasij, a village near Farab, a district of Transoxania. He was one of the greatest philosophers that the Muslim world had ever produced. He mainly studied in Baghdad and after gaining considerable proficiency in the Arabic language, he became an ardent pupil of the Christian savant Abu Bishr Matta bin Younus, quite prominent as translator of a number of works by Aristotle and other Greek versatile writers.
Being a first Turkish philosopher, he left behind lasting and profound influence upon the life of succeeding Muslim Philosophers. Being a great expositor of Aristotle’s logic, he was aptly called al-mu’alim al thani (the second teacher). According to Ibn-e-Khaldoon, no Muslim thinker ever reached the same position as al-Farabi in Philosophical knowledge. Al-Farabi is the first Muslim philosopher to have left political writings, either in the form of commentaries or in treaties of his own based upon Plato.
Al-Farabi’s works was preserved from ravages of time contain five on politics as under:
1. A Summary of Plato’s Laws
3. Ara’u ahli’l-Madinatu’l-Fadilah
Contribution of Al-Farabi to
Islamic Political Thought
“In pure philosophy, Farabi became as famous as any philosopher of Islam, and it is said that a savant of caliber of Avicenna found himself entirely incapable of understanding the true bearing of Aristotle’s Metaphysics until one day he casually purchased one of Farabi’s works and by its help he was able to grasp their purport.” (Sherwani)
Al-Farabi was a renowned philosopher of his age and deeply reverenced in all ages. Al-Farabi’s insatiated enthusiasm led him to study Philosophy, Logic, Politics, Mathematics and Physics. He left his indelible impact upon the succeeding generations through his works, which are still read, learnt and discussed with great passion and literal zest. His sincerity, profound moral convictions and his genuine belief in liberty and in the dignity of human being united with his moderation and humanitarianism made him the ideal spokesman of his age, which was full of rivalries, corrosions and false vanities.
Sherwani was of the view, “A man with such learning had no place in the ninth-century Baghdad and as we have pointed out, we find him regularly attached to Saif-ud-Dowlah’s court. In 946 Saif took Damascus and Al-Farabi became permanent resident of that delightful place, spending his time in the gardens of the erstwhile Umayyad capital discussing philosophical questions with his friends and writing down his opinions and compositions sometimes in a regular form, sometimes in an irregular form, sometimes, on merely loose leaves.” Al-Farabi renunciated from the worldly matters and he never pursued the pleasures and luxuries like other middle class Abbasids. He led exemplary simple life with full contentment with what he got to eat and to wear.
It can be very well asserted that al-Farabi was in the truest sense “the parent of all subsequent Arabic Philosophers”. The great Christian scholars namely Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquines acknowledged their indebtedness to al-Farabi in the development of their own political theories. Al-Farabi laid down several rules for teachers honestly striving to train the young students in philosophy. No scholar should start the study of philosophy until he gets very well acquainted with natural sciences. Human nature rises only gradually from the sensuous to the abstract, from the imperfect to the perfect. Mathematics in particular is very important in training the mind of a young philosopher, it helps him pass from the sensuous to the intelligible and further it informs his mind with exact demonstrations. Similarly, the study of logic as an instrument to distinguish the true from the false should precede the study of philosophy proper.
Al-Farabi voluminously wrote mainly on pure philosophy and there is no doubt that he had to draw on neo-Platonic ideas current in the Arab world of those days in his commentaries on Aristotle, Porphyry and Ptolemy. Sherwani says that we might accept the proposition that he was inspired by Plato, in this setting up of the Ideal City, but as there is a mass of new material in his political writings not found in Plato and taken from local sources, it is a matter of importance that such material should be analyzed and Farabi be given his rightful place on the scene of political philosophy. Al-Farabi died at the ripe age of nearly eighty years in 950. His name and works are everlasting and echoed in the corridors of time.
Al-Farabi’s Ideal Head of State
Every Islamic state is ruled by the ruler, or as later European Political scientists would call him the Sovereign. Plato after developing the matter of the government of his ideal city in his Republic had made the omnipotent and omniscient philosopher sovereign who should have no other interest but that of the affairs of state. Al-Farabi starts from the nature of the workers of leadership and impresses his readers that what is wanted for the office is the power of making proper deductions.
According to Al-Farabi, his Rais should be such superior man, who, by his very nature and upbringing, does not submit before any power or instructions of others. He must have the potentialities to convey his sense to others for complete submission. Rosenthal was of the view, “He is the Imam, the first ruler over the ideal city-state, over the ideal nation and over the whole inhabited earth. The philosopher-prophet, in the opinion of Al-Farabi, is alone qualified to help man, a citizen to reach his true human destiny, where his moral and intellectual perfection permit him to perceive God, under the guidance of the divinely revealed Shariat. Those ruled by the first ruler are the excellent, best and happy citizens.”
Al-Farabi contemplatively points out the virtuous qualities of his ideal Head of State, who should be competent to control the actions of all in the State and must be in possession of latest intellect as well as the gained intellect. All such refined and high qualities including his political and literal caliber make him an Ideal Sovereign for the overall interest of the society and the nation. He enumerated tweleve attributes of an ideal Sovereign:
1. He must possess persuasion and imagination to attain perfection as well as a philosopher skilled in the speculative science.
2. He must be physically sound with meticulous understanding.
3. He must have visualization of all that is said.
4. He must have a retentive and sharp memory.
5. He should discuss the matters with least possible arguments and must have authority to get the work done.
6. He must have power to convey to others exactly according to his wish and he has profound love of learning and knowledge.
7. He must have perfect capacity for a comprehensive knowledge and prescription of the theoretical and practical sciences and art, as well as for the virtues leading to good deeds.
8. He must shun off playfulness and control over anger and passions.
9. Al-Farabi’s ideal Rais must have love of truth, persuasion of justice and hatred of hypocrisy, knavery and duplicity.
10. He must vie for utmost happiness to his subjects and he should do away with all forces of tyranny and oppressions.
11. He must have power to distribute justice without any effort, fearless in doing things as he thinks best to be done.
12. He must serve the people of his state from all internal and external dangers. He must be in possession of considerable wealth, so that he should not prone to greed and lust.
Al-Farabi fully realizes that these fine qualities cannot be found in one single human being, so he says that one without just five or six of these qualities would make a fairly good leader. If however, even five or six of them are not found in a person, he would have one who has been brought up under a leader with these qualities, and would thus seen to prefer some kind of hereditary leadership, with the important condition that the heir should follow the footsteps of his worthy predecessor. In case even such a person is not available, it is preferable to have a council of two or even five members possessing an aggregate of these qualities provided at least one of them is a Hakim, i-e one who is able to know the wants of the people and visualize the needs of the state as a whole. This Hakim is to Farabi a desideratum of every kind of government, and if such a one is not procurable then the State is bound to be shattered to atoms.
Kon Kehta hy k Main Gum-naam ho jaon ga
Main tu aik Baab hn Tareekh mein Likha jaon ga
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Almasha Alfarsi (Monday, September 14, 2015)
Kinds of State
Al-Farabi describes the varieties of the states other than the Ideal States and the remarkable contribution of this philosopher are very much alive and given serious considerations even today. Al-Farabi divides states into following categories:
1. State of Necessity (Daruriya):
Its inhabitants aim, at the necessities of the life, like food, drink, clothing, a place to live and carnal gratification and they generally help each other in securing these necessities of life.
2. Vile State (Nadhala):
Its citizens strive for wealth and riches for their own sake. The account in the Siyasa includes a description of its ruler. Ibn-e-Rushd also succinctly touches upon this state.
3. Base and Despicable State:
Its inhabitants concentrate on the pleasures of the senses, games and other pastimes. This state is the one in which men help one another to enjoy sensual pleasure such as games, jokes and pleasantries and this is the enjoyment of the pleasures of eating and merry-making. This state is the happy and fortunate state with the people of ignorance, for this state only aims at attaining pleasure after obtaining first the necessities of life and then abundant wealth to spend.
4. Timocracy (Madina Karama):
It contains a variety of honours. Since the Arabic source of Al-farabi is lost in the wealth of legend, we are unable to determine whether this lengthy and diffuse description goes back to it or represents Al-Farabi’s own amplification. The latter seems to be more correct. The citizens of these honor-loving states assist each other in gaining glory, fame and honor. The honors fall into two groups. The first is a personal relationship between one who is worthy to be honored because of some virtue in him, and the others who accord him honor and respect because they recognize him as their superior. The second kind of honor is accorded to men because of their wealth, or because of they have been victorious, exercise authority or enjoy other distinctions. This state in the opinion of Al-Farabi is the best of all the states.
5. Tyranny (Taghallub):
It receives from the aim of its citizens; they co-operate to give victory over others, but refuse to be vanquished by them. Al-Farabi sets out to distinguish between despotic states and define tyranny or despotism according to aim, mastery over others and over their possessions for power’s sake, within or externally, by force and conquest or by persuasion and achieving enslavement. His despotic rule is a mixed one and thus often resembles timocracy or plutocracy. Ibn-e-Rushd avoids this by following Plato’s description of tyranny and the tyrannical man, and the transition from democracy to tyranny and of the democratic to the tyrannical man but done to their common source both Al-Farabi and Ibn-e-Rushd similarly define tyranny as absolute power.
Rosenthal was of the view, “Tyranny has even more variations for Al-Farabi than timocracy; as many as the tyrant has desires, for this despotism expresses itself in imposing his will on his subjects and making them work for his personal ends. Al-Farabi knows of two kinds of tyranny within which these variations occur, internal and external tyranny. The first consists in the absolute mastery of the tyrant and his helpers over the citizens of the state, and the second is the enslavement of another state or people.”
6. Democracy (Madina Jama’iya):
It is marked by the freedom of its inhabitants to do as they wish. They are all equal and no body has master over another. Their governors only govern with the explicit consent of the governed. Democracy contains good and bad features and it is therefore not impossible that at some time the most excellent men grow up there, so that philosophers, orators and poets come into being. It is thus possible to choose from its elements of the ideal state.
Apart from the afore-mentioned classification of the states, which seems to be idealistic, Al-Farabi has a definite place for the trait of political character over other nations. He initiates reasons for this mastery and says that it is sought by a people owing to its desire for protection, ease ort luxury and all that leads to the satisfactions of these necessities. In this powerful state, they might be able to get all the desire. There is nothing against human nature for the strong to over power the weak, so nations which try to get other nations under their control consider it quite proper to do so, and it is justice both to control the weak and for the weak to be so controlled, and the subdued nation should do it for the good of its masters.
There is no doubt that all the lapse of centuries and the international ideology which is the current coin in politics, the psychology of the nations today is much the same as described by the Master centuries ago. Al-Farabi said, “But the more chivalrous among them are such that even when they have to shed human blood they do so only face to face, not while their opponent is asleep or showing his back, nor do they take away his property except after giving him proper warning of their intentions. Such a community does not rest till it thinks it has become supreme forever, nor does it give any other nation an opportunity of over powering it, always regarding all other peoples their opponents and enemies and keeping itself on Guard.”
Al-Farabi is comprehensively clear about the principles of colonization. He opines that the inhabitants of a State must scatter hither and thither in different parts of a State because they have been overpowered by an enemy or by an epidemic or through economic necessity. There are only alternatives to the colonists, either to migrate I such a way as to form one single commonwealth or divide themselves in different political societies. It may come to compass that a large body of these people are of opinion that it is not necessary to change the laws which they have brought from their mother country; they would then simply codify existing laws and begin to live under them. It will thus be clear to understand that A-Farabi not only contemplates colonization but also self-Government of a republican kind which is closer to the modern conceptions.
Kon Kehta hy k Main Gum-naam ho jaon ga
Main tu aik Baab hn Tareekh mein Likha jaon ga
Can you please provide me information about asbiyah of Ibn Khaldun.
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