Al-Farabi’s Humanistic Principles and “Virtuous City”


Since the 8th century, Islamic sciences have been categorized as kalam, fiqh, and mysticism. This had two sides. First, we can call it increased knowledge and expertise. Second would be the fight between the scientists, who have different ways and styles, to prove their competence. This fight could be hurtful sometimes, since they felt the pressure from the government on them; in other words, each movement of thought had something to do with either government or a sect.

The digestion of the new cultures issue came up as Muslims met with other societies thanks to the conquests. Foreign thoughts were not valued during the reign of the Four Great Caliphs. The ignorance for the opposite faiths of the Islamic belief and the concern to protect Islam were the reasons to that. It has been rumored that Omar had ordered the translation of the Pahlavi sagas, but he stopped it when he realized the deviances that were included.

At the edge of a new world
The interest in the foreign thoughts increased during the Emevis’ and the Abbasids’ period, therefore the translations began. Some of the philosophical articles that were in the library of Alexandria, which had been captured during the reign of Omar, had been sent to Antakya. The fathers of the Assyrian church adopted them. Through the translations made from Greek to Assyrian, and from Assyrian to Arabic, what we call the philosophy of Islam had been born.

It must be told that the interest in Greek philosophy is limited in Muslims. The science of logic was the center of this interest. The first great philosopher of Islam, which is believed by many that he is the greatest and the second teacher after Aristotle, Al-Farabi’s performance in logic was not a coincidence.

Ibn Khaldun says that Al-Farabi owes his fame to his contributions to logic. This comment actually hides the secret of why Muslims were not volunteering to adopt much from the Greeks or generally from the foreign people in literature and in philosophy in opposition to medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. Muslim Arabs had a complicated linguistic that was developed in understanding the Quran and the Sunnah. Ethics and metaphysics were not among their primary needs. The Quran and the Sunnah were enough for them in the aspects of ways of faith and life. Logic was an innocent surprise for them.

Subjectivity against objectivity
They were used to reveal their wise ideas through the deductive method before logic that was developed by Al-Farabi, adopted from Aristotle. The essence of it was the strength of the aim for arriving to the events one by one from the verses of the Quran and from the Prophet Mohammad’s deeds.

When there was only one Islam and the viewpoints of the Muslims became to vary, the deductive method began to be inadequate. One verse might have more than one interpretation. Sometimes these interpretations were the exact opposites of each other. As everyone were communicating their loyalty to the Quran, interpreting some certain events according to their own viewpoints by showing the Quran itself as the proof was a spreading situation.

Al-Farabi, who was born in either 871 or 872, was born almost to the middle of this thought plurality. The city of Farab was among the developing cities of Central Asia’s Islam during the 9th and the 10th centuries. The city was within the borders of today’s Kazakhstan and it was developing in sciences as it was in every other area. It was not hard for him to receive a good education there.

Still, we don’t know much about his childhood and youth. When he traveled to Baghdad to study sciences he was in his thirties and he had enough knowledge to teach logic to Ibn Serrac who taught him Arabic. Arabic was important for Al-Farabi who was originally a Turk. The language of science then was Arabic. Someone who didn’t know the technicality of Arabic could not expect to be taken seriously.

Al-Farabi who had arrived to Baghdad equipped with the knowledge of basic Islamic sciences, and logic had learned Arabic and linguistics in here and then he had begun to search his own way in philosophy. We can tell that it was a search for subjectivity which could be valid anytime anywhere. Numerous scientists who had set their own methods in each city of the Islamic world, which expanded from the Atlantic Ocean to Central Asia, existed, so, did their numerous scientific methods; however, none existed among them fit to become their referee. Al-Farabi put logic in the center of all other sciences for this reason.

The second interest of Al-Farabi was linguistics. Since we don’t talk about abstract-mathematical logic, when we talk about logic of Aristotle and Al-Farabi, his second interest coheres. A healthy method is captured, when the meanings of expressions are resolved based on logic. Other fields that the philosopher had interest in were psychology and metaphysics, and both of these fields are about the functioning of mind, language, and existence. Al-Farabi went through the way of observing everything according to the logic of that thing. He was a philosopher who was after absolute consistency, balance, and objectivity.

Some philosophers of the classical age were like the pied piper of Hamlin, as some could be content with getting protection from an understanding ruler. Al-Farabi couldn’t have become a populist philosopher. His works didn’t include subjects that would interest the majority directly. He was dealing with hard jobs such as creating the jargon of philosophy in Arabic by himself, reconciling the Greek philosophy with Islam, and determining the principles of a perfect civilization.

He was lonely. The Muslim and Christian scientists that he talked with, he took lessons or gave lessons were not as bright as he was. He had a mystic side but he was not like the other Sufis of his era. His mysticism was more like the divine principle, which is the base of the material universe. This was originated from his struggle to reconcile the Greek metaphysics with the spiritual side of Islam.

Al-Farabi’s heritage
If we are to compare Al-Farabi to Ibn Sina, Ibn Sina was not afraid of expressing his subjective ideas. He had maintained Al-Farabi’s philosophy after him and he grabs more attention from the Westerners. As the heritage of Al-Farabi was logic, the heritage of Ibn Sina was his individual bravery about metaphysics. For Al-Farabi, subjective reality was more important than the person himself was. Maybe, that is why we don’t know much about the life of Al-Farabi, as Ibn Sina seems more familiar and sincere.

What is left from Al-Farabi to the humanity is his eight-volume work of logic. He struggles to cover Aristotle’s Organon and go beyond it in his work. He settles the logic of language and verbalism from poetry to daily chats on concrete foundations. The logic of Al-Farabi has been written as a method for all following philosophers. He must be treated as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel with this side of him.

  • Al-Farabi’s Humanistic Principles and “Virtuous City”

by Anar Tanabayeva

In our time of globalization humanistic principles should be fundamental to the people around the world, otherwise we can not solve the global problems of mankind. At the present time, when the world globalization processes put before mankind new issues and identified the main problem, the study of the works of such thinker as Al-Farabi becomes extremely important. To study Al-Farabi’s philosophy is becoming more relevant in today’s context of increasing democratic reforms, creation of a legal, secular state and approval of harmony in society. In this respect, the study of political philosophy of Al-Farabi, especially his teachings on politics, freedom, happiness, and the need to mutual assistance between people, his appeal to science, intellectual and moral perfection of man and society, over-actualized. Particularly relevant today a thinker’s concept on political leadership, his ideas about the virtuous society, justice, equality, preserving peace, preventing war, condemnation of wars. In this regard, political philosophy and ideas of the thinker can be a valuable source for the education of the younger generation. Read more here

  • Utopian Literature of the Ideal Society:  A Study in Al-Farabi’s Virtuous City & More’s Utopia

Utopian literature in its broadest meaning deals with the idealistic conceptions and themes that are not applicative in real human life. This type of literature and thinking,
though we regard it as imaginative and may be fanciful, yet it embodies great themes, and aiming at noble human goals and purposes.
Al-Farabi in his work the Virtuous City and More in his Utopia present to the humanity through these two magnificent works, under discussion in this research, an example of the virtuous and idealistic community they aspire, as philosophers, to be achieved in real human life, if virtue and goodness guide mankind to its perfection and happiness.
This research discusses these two works as Utopian literature, irrespective to the profound philosophical thoughts they comprise. Read more here


This essay will explore some of al-Farabı’s paradoxical remarks on the nature and status of the democratic city (al-madı¯nah al-jamaıyyah). In describing this type of non-virtuous city, Farabı departs significantly from Plato, according the democratic city a superior standing and casting it in a more positive light. Even though at one point Farabı¯ follows Plato in considering the timocratic city to be the best of the imperfect cities, at
another point he implies that the democratic city occupies this position.
Since Farabı’s discussion of imperfect cities is derived from Plato’s Republic and follows it in many important respects, I will argue that his departure from Plato in this context is significant and points to some revealing differences between the two philosophers. In order to demonstrate this, I will first set up a comparison between Plato’s conception of the democratic city and Farabı’s. Then I will propose three explanations for the greater appreciation that Farabı seems to have for democracy, as well as for the apparent contradiction in Farabı’s verdict concerning the second best city. Read more here

  • Al-Farabi’s doctrin: virtuous people and a model of the «perfect man»

On the basis of reasonable activity of a man as his natural prop- erties Al-Farabi made a
number of conclusions about the humanistic equality of all people as a result of the overall reasonable nature of the autonomy of the human being, the creative activity of the person, freedom of the human will, independent of the value of human life. This issue Al-Farabi considered in his «Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city».
Perfect society of Al-Farabi divides into three types: the great, medium and small. Great Society – a collection of companies of all people living in the land, the average – an association of people in some parts of the land, small-a small association of residents.
The greatest good and the highest perfection can be achieved, according to al-Farabi,
primarily the city, but not society, standing on the lower level of perfection. The latter AlFarabi considers the village, district, street and house. This system is a perfect society, drawn by Al-Farabi with strict logical sequence is the result of logical thinking scientist coming from the relationship between the concepts of general and private.
So, the most perfect form of society, by Al-Farabi, is the city. He uses the term city not only represents the city in the modern sense, as a unit of administrative-territorial division, but also to refer to the state and social groups.
An important place in the social and ethical teachings of Al- Farabi is the idea of a
virtuous city. Virtue, according to Al-Farabi, – this is the best moral qualities.  Read More here

  • The making of the city of virtues-a traditional perspective on restoring values among people

According to the traditional classification, the source of mind is the brain and that of the inner self is the heart. These sources should be operated in a certain balance so as to decide and behave properly as it was the case in our primordial state. For, the will
that decides on something would not function operatively unless it is strengthened by the power of brain and the heart.The traditional values education aims to operate these two active centres intertwined rather than separately. In order to execute this task, human beings must be known/understood together with all their dimension, capabilities and capacities as well.The motto of traditional education is expressed perfectly in the following phrase: “Know Thyself.” Once the microcosm is known, then the
macrocosm would be easily comprehended.The human self has specific capacities such as intellect (aql), anger (ghadab) and desire. When these capacities are balanced, we may attain the virtues of wisdom (hikmah), courage (shajaah), honour (iffah) and
justice (adalah), and their sub-virtues as well. Thus it is of great importance not to operate them individually. Whence the balance is neglected, we witness some extreme inclinations inevitably. That is to say, if one is continuously encouraged to be courageous
without any balance, one may either show dishonesty and cunningness (ifrat) on one hand, or faintheartedness and lack of courage (tafrit) on the other. And even in some cases, we may face deviations such as pretentiousness, arrogance and behaving
like a wiseacre (radaah). This example is only related to the balance or imbalance of courage. This can be applied to all virtues.
Philosophers (in the exact meaning of the term philo-sophia) and sages convey noble virtues to the community in which they lived as the stations to become Universal Man (al-Insan al-Kâmil).Read more hereThe making of the city of virtues-a traditional perspective on


William C. Chittick

The name `Islam’ refers to the religion and civilization based upon the Qur’án, a Scripture revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the years AD 610-32. About one billion human beings are at least nominally Muslim, or followers of the religion of Islam. The modern West, for a wide variety of historical and cultural reasons, has usually been far less interested in the religious dimension of Islamic civilization than in, for example, that of Buddhistn or Hinduism. Recent political events have brought Islam into contemporary consciousness, but more as a demon to be feared than a religion to be respected for its sophisticated understanding of the human predicament.

Those few Westerners who have looked beyond the political situation of the countries where Islam is dominant have usually devoted most of their attention to Islamic legai and social teachings. They quickly discover that Islam, like Judaism, is based upon a Revealed Law, called in Arabic the Shari’a or wide road. Observance of this Law — which covers such domains as ritual practices, marriage relationships, inheritance, diet and commerce —is incumbent upon every Muslirn. But western scholars have shown far less interest in two other, more inward and hidden dimensions of the Islamic religion, mainly because these have had few repercussions on the contem-porary scene. Even in past centuries, when Islam was a healthy and flourishing civilization, only a relatively smalt number of Muslims made these dimensions their tentral concern.

The more hidden dimensions of Islam can be called `intellectuality’ and `spirituality’. The first deals mainly with the conceptual understanding of the human situation and the second with the practical means whereby a full flowering of human potentialities can be achieved. They are important in the present context because they provide clear descriptions of human perfection and set down detailed guidelines for reaching it. If we want to discover how Islam has understood the concept of perfection without reading our own theories into the Queán or imposing alien categories on the beliefs and practices of traditional Muslims, we have to pose our question to the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Islam itself. Read more Here

  • An Analysis of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Insan al-Kamil, the Perfect Individual,

with a Brief Comparison to the Thought of Sir Muhammad Iqbal by Rebekah Zwanzig,

This thesis analyzes four philosophical questions surrounding Ibn al-‘Arabi’s concept of the al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Individual. The Introduction provides a definition of Sufism, and it situates Ibn al-‘Arabi’s thought within the broader context of the philosophy of perfection. Chapter One discusses the transformative knowledge of the Perfect Individual. It analyzes the relationship between reason, revelation, and intuition, and the different roles they play within Islam, Islamic philosophy, and Sufism. Chapter Two discusses the ontological and metaphysical importance of the Perfect Individual, exploring the importance of perfection within existence by looking at the relationship the Perfect Individual has with God and the world, the eternal and non-eternal. In Chapter Three the physical manifestations of the Perfect Individual and their relationship to the Prophet Muhammad are analyzed. It explores the Perfect Individual’s roles as Prophet, Saint, and Seal. The final chapter compares Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Perfect Individual to Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s in order to analyze the different ways perfect action can be conceptualized. It analyzes the relationship between freedom and action.

1) what type/s of knowledge are necessary to gain a complete understanding of the eternal and non-eternal, and how this transformative knowledge leads to perfection;

2) The Perfect Individual as a level of existence, and how the individual fits into the dichotomy of eternal and non-eternal;

3) The Perfect Individual as a reflection of the Divine in the cosmos, or what the transformation and embodiment of perfection entails;

4) the Perfect Individual as an active agent in the world, and how this individual, after reaching perfection, interacts with the world. Some of the problems that will arise in the proceeding chapters and the proposed solutions are outlined below. Read more here

  • On the Relation of City and Soul in Plato and Alfarabi

Abu Nasr Muhammad Alfarabi, the medieval Muslim philosopher and the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism, is best known for his political treatise, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila (Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City), in which he proposes a theory of utopian virtuous city. Prominent scholars argue for the Platonic nature of Alfarabi’s political philosophy and relate the political treatise to Plato’s Republic. One of the most striking similarities between Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila and Plato’s Republic is that in both works the theory of virtuous city is accompanied by a theory of soul. It is true that Alfarabi’s theory of soul differ considerably from that of Plato’s Republic. However, we propose that notwithstanding the differences, the two theories of soul do play an identically important role in the respective theory of virtuous city. The present article explores the relationship between the soul and the city in Plato’s Republic and Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila, and intends to show that in both works the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city is neither coincidental nor a casual concurrence of two themes. Rather, the
concept of soul serves as a foundation on which Plato and Alfarabi erect their respective theory of perfect association. Thus, Alfarabi’s treatise resembles Plato’s Republic not only in the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city, but also in the important role of the concept of soul in the theory of virtuous city. Read more here


The secularity of the society in which we live must share considerable blame in the erosion of spiritual powers of all traditions, since our society has become a parody of social interaction lacking even an aspect of civility. Believing in nothing, we have preempted the role of the higher spiritual forces by acknowledging no greater good than what we can feel and touch.” Vine Deloria Jr

The perspective of modernity where Western Man as the egolatrous being is placed at the top of existence for all others to look towards for recognition.


The pyramidal construction of Man from an Islamic perspective shifts our understanding of the seriousness of placing the egolatrous Man above God in constructing reality, while simultaneously allowing us to imagine what would be necessary in creating a transmodern critique in constructing the Human.



Those dimensions of Islam dedicated to providing the guidelines for the development of the full possibilities of human nature came to be institutionalized in various forms. Many of these can be grouped under the name `Sufism’, while others can better be designated by names such as `philosophy’ or `Shiite gnosis’. In general, these schools of thought and practice share certain teachings about human perfection, though they also differ on many points. Here we can suggest a few of the ideas that can be found in most of these approaches.

Look also: Polishing your heart, Virtues Ethic for a modern Devotion in our times

Current decadence, greed, evil, falsehood, corruption, violence, injustice, exploitation, thus have a Cosmic undertone. It is a “Cosmic Law” that civilizations which have become megalomaniacal will inevitably collapse. Because all levels of existence are corroded – including the religious realm – only a Dimension that is beyond  can redeem us.

One of the many disastrous consequences of an ongoing repression of this trans-personal Ground of Being – and the mistaken assumption of the Absolute by a relative entity or self – is epitomized in our techno-industrial pursuit to convert the earth into one large global factory – reinforced by multinational monopoly. Herein, nature is viewed simply as exploitable “raw material” for a “manufacturing” process aimed at churning out “products” for the “consumer.” This apparent narrowing of human perspective is the logical result of paradigmatic trends linking back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.



The first verses regarding Jihad were revealed in Makkah before the Hijra to Medina. These verses reference “Jihad al-Nafs” or the struggle against the self (ego/ base desires)



Meaning of nafs: It has two meanings.

First, it means the powers of anger and sexual appetite in a human being… and this is the usage mostly found among the people of tasawwuf [sufis], who take “nafs” as the comprehensive word for all the evil attributes of a person. That is why they say: one must certainly do battle with the ego and break it (la budda min mujahadat al-nafs wa kasriha), as is referred to in the hadith: A`da `aduwwuka nafsuka al-lati bayna janibayk [Your worst enemy is your nafs which lies between your flanks. Al-`Iraqi says it is in Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and its chain of transmission contains Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghazwan, one of the forgers].

The second meaning of nafs is the soul, the human being in reality, his self and his person. However, it is described differently according to its different states. If it assumes calmness under command and has removed from itself the disturbance caused by the onslaught of passion, it is called “the satisfied soul” (al-nafs al-mutma’inna)… In its first meaning the nafs does not envisage its return to God because it has kept itself far from Him: such a nafs is from the party of shaytan. However, when it does not achieve calmness, yet sets itself against the love of passions and objects to it, it is called “the self-accusing soul” (al-nafs al-lawwama), because it rebukes its owner for his neglect in the worship of his master… If it gives up all protest and surrenders itself in total obedience to the call of passions and shaytan, it is named “the soul that enjoins evil” (al-nafs al-ammara bi al-su’)… which could be taken to refer to the ego in its first meaning.


From the beginning of our entrance into the school of Sufism, we have been taught about the seven levels of being. These seven levels are like grades in any educational system which one must pass through in order to graduate. In our system, however, evaluations are made by a Higher Authority than the teacher.

Passing and failing grades are made known through real dreams, through the interpretation of which the teacher gives new responsibilities and duties to the seeker. But what is most important is that the seeker himself should be able to realize his own states so that he can live up to the next level to which he aspires. Obviously, first it is necessary that he be conscious, aware of his character and actions, and be sincere in looking at himself. But it is also necessary to thoroughly know the characteristics of each level, especially the level in which he is presumed to be, and the next level, in which he hopes to be. Read more here

  • To See Yourself within It: Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

by Todd Marlin Richardson

Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

The topics of blindness and self-awareness I discussed in relation to the
Peasant and Nest Robber bring me to the focus of my fourth and final chapter,
Bruegel’s Festival of Fools . In addition, the practices of making and viewing
works of art I have described for all of Bruegel’s later peasant paintings are also
helpful in thinking about this particular design. Nadine Orenstein argues for a late
dating of the print, after the now lost drawing by Bruegel, based on the words Aux
quatre Vents inscribed at the bottom center. This is the form of the publisher’s address
used by the widow of the print’s publisher, Hieronymus Cock, following his death in
1570. Orenstein speculates the drawing was completed in the last years of Bruegel’s
life, during the same time he painted the peasant panels, and the print produced after
his death.

Although fairly subtle, the composition of the Festival of Fools stages a
procession similar to a wagon play. (Wagon plays were processional dramas that took place during Ommegangen (devotional processions) in the 1550s and 1560s. Rhetoricians conceived of wagon plays as didactic episodes that could morally
edify and educate their audience. The plays utilized overt metaphors and personifications to create allegorical productions that focused on collective civic identity. Read more here

  • The Choice for Spiritual Ethics,Virtues and Uprightness in our times

The bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” Y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “Y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

The letter “Y”, in antiquity, has often represented a “bivium” (a fork in the road); a point in life where we have to make a vital decision. According to Pythagoras, it represents the paths of virtue and vice. The letter Y is also symbolic of looking within, Inner contemplation, Meditation and inner wisdom.

Read more here


  • To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love

What the Emigration to Sincerity demands of us

Emigration: Historical Hijra

Starting from a narrow family-tribal environment Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) underwent 13 years of hardship and torment in Meccan society; with the immigration (Hijra) to Medina, a new stage began. This stage, if one takes into consideration the time that it took all religions to spread, is the starting point of one of the fastest religious developments in recorded history. In this sense, when one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; one is speaking of a new start for humanity.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. ..

…The most important principle to learn from the Hijra is the constant observation of intention. In particular, Sufis consider the constant observation and control of intent to be a basic principle for attaining ikhlas (sincerity). From this aspect, Sufism can be considered to be a total investigation and interrogation of intention.

Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra

When one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar;  but one is  also speaking of a new start for humanity. And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe make his Hijra, his emigration and take refuge in Islam. He became a “Refugee”.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.

In this caravan poem, Goethe gives us a picture of the restless nomad existence which early Arabian poetry had enabled him to envision.

The whole “West-East Divan” is shot through with something of this nomadic restlessness. Already in the first great poem entitled “Hegir” the poet alludes to Arabian life and traditions. He is a True Pelgrim. He turns to the wisdom of the Sufis as Hafiz.

His own “Hedschra” is an inteliectual emigration to a simpler state of existence which seems to him to be purer and righter than his own immediate world. Thus he calls out to himself:


North and South and West are quaking,

Thrones are cracking, empires shaking;

Let us free toward the East

Where as patriarchs we’ll feast:

There in loving, drinking, singing

Youth from Khidr’s well is springing.

His goal: to discover and reconcile in himself in a new, higher unity the multiplicity of monotheism’s divine expressions.  Such unity was always Goethe’s goal, for he well understood the alchemical truth that unity only divides in order to find itself again in a higher sense. As he wrote:

Anything that enters the world of phenomena must divide in order to appear at all. The separated parts seek one another again, and may find each other and be reunited: in the lower sense by each mixing with its opposite, that is, by simply coming together with it, in which case the phenomenon is nullified or at least becomes indifferent. But the union can also occur in the higher sense, whereby the separated parts are first developed and heightened, so that the combination of the two sides produces a third, higher being, of a new and unexpected kind. Read more here