Throughout the ages thinkers have raised the question of what human beings ought to learn in order to be in tune with their own epoch, to live intelligently in society, and to be citizens bringing benefit both to themselves and to the community; hence the importance of education. It is the aims of education that take precedence, only then come the means to realize these aims. For the most part, it is philosophy that is concerned with defining these aims, and here it may come into direct conflict with religion; Islamic civilization has experienced numerous controversies between religious lawyers (fuqaha) and philosophers in this respect, each with his own opinion about gnoseology.
The aim of this essay is to present the attitudes to education of Abu Nasr al-Farabi within the framework of his philosophical system, an aspect of his work about which little was known, since researchers have been more interested in the logical, metaphysical and political aspects, to the neglect of his educational concepts. However, scholars do know that al-Farabi studied Platos Republic, and this work, by which he was most certainly influenced, deals mainly with education, as is now accepted by historians of philosophy.1 It is even more unlikely that al-Farabi could have been unaware of this dimension of Platos philosophy since he made a summary of Platos Laws, a work which we know expresses his final thoughts on education.
So who was al-Farabi, and what is his contribution to education?
Al-Farabi was born at Wasij, in the province of Farab in Turkestan, in A.D. 872 (A.H. 259) of a noble family. His father, of Persian origin, was an army commander at the Turkish court. Al-Farabi moved to Baghdad, where he studied grammar, logic, philosophy, music, mathematics and science; he was a pupil of the great translator and interpreter of Greek philosophy, Abu Bishr Matta b. Yunus (d. 942/329) in Baghdad; he then studied under Yuhanna b. Haylan, the Nestorian (d. 941/328), at Harran. Thereby he is affiliated to the Alexandrian school of philosophy which had been located at Harran, Antakya and Merv, before definitively settling in Baghdad. As a result of these years of study, he accumulated such knowledge of philosophy that he earned the name of Second Teacher, by reference to Aristotle, the First Teacher.
He moved to Aleppo in 943/330 and became part of the literary circle in the court of Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamdani (d. 968/356). Al-Farabi was given to wandering on his own in the countryside to reflect and to write, and it was probably his despair at reforming his society that inclined him towards Sufism. His travels brought him to Egypt and it was in Damascus in 950/339 that he died at the age of 80.2
Al-Farabi had a great desire to understand the universe and humankind, and to know the latters place within the former, so as to reach a comprehensive intellectual picture of the world and of society. He undertook the meticulous study of ancient philosophy, particularly of Plato and Aristotle, absorbing the components of Platonic and neo-Platonic philosophy, which he integrated into his own Islamic-Arabic civilization, whose chief source is, as we all know, the Koran and the various sciences derived from it.
Al-Farabi represents a turning-point in the history of Islamic philosophical thought, since he was the true first founder of epistemology which relies upon universal reason and the demonstrations he gave. The intellectual, political and social circumstances prevailing in his day no doubt explain his approach since, in fact, he lived in a historical period of great turmoil, during which the central Islamic caliphate was torn apart into independent states and principalities in both the east and west; and sects and schools of thought (madhahib) sprang up undermining the nations intellectual and political unity (oumma). Thus al-Farabis concern was to restore unity to Islamic thought by confirming the gnoseology based on demonstration. He established logic within Islamic culture, and this is why he is known as the Second Teacher, as mentioned above. He was also engaged in restoring unity in politics,3 making political science the core of his philosophy, basing himself on the system of rules that governs nature and on the Koran which emphasized the relationship between gnoseology and values (axiology). He believed the first aim of knowledge was knowledge of God and his attributes, a knowledge that has a profound effect on an individuals moral conduct helping him to find the way to the ultimate aim of his existence, while indirectly arousing the intellect so that it should achieve wisdom, which al-Farabi held to be the highest level of intellectual attainment permitted to human beings in this life.4 Thus the core of his philosophy came to be the unity of society and the state to be achieved by unity of thought, wisdom and religion, each of these being the foundations of the communitys government, which should be the same as the unity and order found in the universe. Indeed, al-Farabi often compares the order and unity of the city to that of the universe. Philosophy and religion were for him simply two expressions of a single truth, the variance between them being only in the form of expression: philosophy explains religion and provides proof of it; it is neither in conflict nor in contradiction with it. Therefore we find him also bringing together the philosophy of Plato and of Aristotle to explain the unity of intellect; for, in his opinion, there is a general unity of thought between Plato and Aristotle, the disparities being mere details.
It is especially important to note here that al-Farabi described something that was taboo in the Hellenistic era: namely, the logical category called demonstration whose social and educational function he illustrated in the formation of the mind and political awareness.
The aims of education
Education is one of the most important social phenomena in al-Farabis philosophical system. It is concerned with the human soul and makes sure that the individual is prepared from an early age to become a member of society, to achieve his own level of perfection, and thus to reach the goal for which he was created. While it is true that there are no writings specifically devoted to education in al-Farabis books, anyone who follows his writings with care will come upon various texts scattered here and there containing clear educational elements corresponding to his overall philosophical views, which incline to integrate separate concepts and thoughts into a unified world view.
Indeed, the whole activity of education, in al-Farabis view, can be summed up as the acquisition of values, knowledge and practical skills by the individual, within a particular period and a particular culture. The goal of education is to lead individuals to perfection, since they were created for this purpose, and the goal of humanitys existence in this world is to attain happiness, which is the highest perfection - the absolute good.5
According to al-Farabi the perfect human being (al-insan al-kamil) is the one who has obtained theoretical virtue - thus completing his intellectual knowledge - and has acquired practical moral virtues - thus becoming perfect in his moral behaviour. Then, crowning these theoretical and moral virtues with effective power, they are anchored in the souls of individual members of the community6 when they assume the responsibility of political leadership, thus becoming role models for other people. Al-Farabi unites moral and aesthetic values: good is beautiful, and beauty is good; the beautiful is that which is valued by the intelligentsia.7 So the perfection that he expects from education combines knowledge and virtuous behaviour; it is happiness and goodness at one and the same time.
Theoretical and practical perfection can only be obtained within society, for it is society that nurtures the individual and prepares him to be free. If he were to live outside society, he might only learn to be a wild animal.8 Then, one of the goals of education is the creation of the ideal community, the one whose cities all work together in order to attain happiness.9
One of the aims of education is the formation of political leaders, because ignorance is more harmful in monarchs than it is in the common people.10 So, in al-Farabis view, just as the body needs food and the ship must have a captain, moral conduct must proceed from the soul and the citizens have a real need for a leader who conducts an acceptable policy, directing their affairs in a praiseworthy manner and improving their situation. There is integration between the individual, the family and the city in social life: What we say about all cities is also true of the single household, and of each person.11 The political leader, al-Farabi considers, has the function of a doctor who treats souls, and his political skill is to the well-being of the city what the physicians skill is to bodily health. The work of the politician should not be restricted to the organization and management of cities, inasmuch as he encourages people to help one another in achieving good things and overcoming evil; he must use his political skills to protect the virtues and praise-worthy activities that he has been encouraging in the citizens12 so that they are free of failings. Among the other characteristics of the political leader is the consultative faculty, in other words an intellectual capacity by which he can draw out what is most beneficial and most fair in the search for the good among others.13
The soundness of the city is a reflection of the good balance of morals among its people,14 and achieving this balance is one of the most important aims of education. When moral behaviour declines and there is doubt over behaviour and opinions, the absence of these common values governing peoples conduct disturbs the city. Morality, then, is a fundamental objective of education. Al-Farabi defines virtues as states of mind in which the human being carries out good and kind deeds.... They can be either ethical or rational; the latter are virtues of the rational element in the intelligent human being, such as wisdom, common sense, inventiveness and cleverness. The ethical virtues, which are virtues of the appetitive part, are, among others, temperance, courage, generosity and justice.15 These virtues in the individual must be internalized in the soul so that a person is ready to act upon them earnestly to desire them and, rather than being harmed by them, finds them attractive... so that he pursues always those ends which are truly good and makes them his goal.16
Among the other aims assigned to education, al-Farabi includes proficiency in the arts, because, in his view, perfection in theoretical and practical arts is one of the expressions of wisdom; for the wise are those who are very proficient in the arts, and reach perfection in them.17
Thus, in al-Farabis view, one of the goals of education is to combine learning with practical action, for the purpose of knowledge is that it should be applied, and perfection lies in its being transformed into action: Whatever by its nature should be known and practised, its perfection lies in it actually being practised.18 The sciences have no meaning unless they can be applied in practical reality, otherwise they are void and useless. The real practical sciences are those which are linked to readiness for action19 and absolute perfection is what the human being achieves through knowledge and action applied together.20 Moreover, if the speculative sciences are learned without having the opportunity to apply them, this wisdom is marred.21
Concerning the realization of these aims and the supervision of education and teaching, al-Farabi agrees with Plato and the Twelver Shia that it is the priest, ruler or philosopher who should be responsible.22 And since the lawgiver is also the ruler, al-Farabi concludes that the law has an educational function: The meaning of imam, in Arabic, indicates one whose example is followed, one who is well-regarded.23 Issuing laws for society does not simply mean that citizens should be obedient and diligent, but also that they should have praiseworthy morals and acceptable behaviour.24 Therefore al-Farabi considers that the one who prescribes the laws must be bound by them himself before expecting others to conform to them: The one who decrees the laws must first follow them, and only then make them compulsory.25 For he would not be acceptable to those under his command, nor would they respect him, if they did not see him observing his own laws. In short, the law has an educational function, since it leads to the inculcation of virtues when the leaders conform to it themselves and are seen as role models for the general public. For this purpose, the lawgiver must be trained from childhood in the affairs of state,26 and the imams or caliphs aim in legislation must be to please God. Only those whom God has prepared may make laws, including the Prophet, whom al-Farabi defines as: He who lays down the practices and the holy laws, and admonishes the people by incitement and intimidation.27 The function of the caliph is to pursue the educational role previously undertaken by the Prophet.
Al-Farabi considers it a duty of the state to set aside a budget for education, taking a portion from the alms tax (zakat) and land tax (kharaj), as well as other state resources for this purpose: Taxes and duties are of two kinds: one is taken to support mutual assistance and the other for the education of the young.28
What is education?
Al-Farabi used a large number of technical terms to describe this concept: discipline (tadib),29 correction/assessment (taqwim),30 training (tahdhib),31 guidance (tasdid),32 instruction (talim),33 exercise or learning (irtiyad),34 and upbringing or education (tarbiya).35
Good manners or culture (adab), in his opinion, in their true educational meaning are the combination of all the good qualities,36 while discipline is the way of creating the moral virtues, and the practical arts in the nations.37 Instruction (talim) is creating the speculative virtues in nations and cities.38 Al-Farabi distinguishes between instruction (talim) and discipline (tadib). The former is the way of acquiring a theoretical culture and is mainly verbal. The latter forms ethical conduct and leads to technical or practical skills. They are therefore quite different. But al-Farabi did not insist on this division, and on another occasion he defined instruction as including discipline.39
Al-Farabi divides instruction between special and general. The special is that which is achieved exclusively by demonstration.40 This kind of instruction is directed at the elite who do not restrict themselves in their theoretical knowledge to what is expected by generally accepted opinions, because among nations, as among citizens, there is an elite and the general public. The general public designates those who are restricted in their theoretical knowledge - whether by obligation or not-to what is demanded by generally accepted opinions.41 It is the elite of the elite that exercises leadership.42 It is for this reason that the method of instruction is different: Persuasive and descriptive methods are used in the instruction of common people and the masses in nations and cities; while demonstration methods... are used for instructing those who are destined to form part of the elite,43 that is, those who have been tested and found to have superior intelligence.
Al-Farabi believes that education is founded upon the basis of the human being having certain inborn aptitudes, which he calls nature; in other words the power that the human being possesses at the moment of birth, and which he could not have acquired.44 No normal human being lacks it, just as the whole is greater than the part.45 Al-Farabi also speaks about primary science and primary principals.46 He differs from Plato in that he gives a fundamental place to sensory perception. He describes the senses as the paths whence the human soul gains knowledge.47 Knowledge thus begins with the senses, then becomes an intellectual conception by way of imagination, since whatever the soul understands contains an element of imagination. Knowledge originates with the senses.48 Al-Farabi drew attention to Aristotles opinion in The Book of Demonstrations where he says: Whosoever loses a sensory perception loses knowledge.49 One function of the imagination is to preserve the sensory images,50 which in the end become intellectual possessions. Some of his views, dealing with what today we would call general psychology and educational psychology, should be the subject of an interesting study.51 Although he deals with sensory knowledge, he considers that the senses are only instruments of the mind, for it is the mind that possesses the potential of understanding. He pointed to Platos opinion that the nature of learning is based on memory and gives a metaphor of the concept of equality which, in his opinion, is fixed in the mind: confronted with a piece of wood equal to another piece of wood, we are aware of this equality, in other words the concept of equality is presented to the memory which compares it with the concept already in the mind. Any learner proceeds in the same way by comparing it with what is already in his mind.52 We find this also in al-Biruni (d. 1048/444): Our learning is no more than remembering what we have learned in the past... forgetting is the passing away of knowledge, and learning is remembering what the soul knew before it came into the body.53
As we have seen, al-Farabi considers that the method of instruction must be appropriate to the level of the learners, depending on whether they belong to the common people or the elite. Education, as he sees it, is necessary for every individual in the nation, since without it nobody would be able to reach perfection and happiness. So, if education must be available to all, the method of teaching should, however, be adapted according to the group it is intended for. There are two fundamental methods: the path of the common people, based on persuasion; the path of the elite, based on demonstration. Furthermore, the method of instruction may also vary according to the instructional material. Thus, teaching theoretical intellectual virtues is carried out by demonstration, while teaching practical arts and crafts is by way of persuasion.
The demonstrative path is achieved through speech. Oral instruction, according to al-Farabis words, is therefore that in which the teacher uses speech54 for matters that can be taught in this way. It leads to the acquisition of theoretical virtues. The persuasive method is conducted through speech and activity combined, and is suitable for teaching the applied arts and moral virtues.55
Following Platos model, al-Farabi uses the method of dialogue or debate,56 though he does not consider it as the only method to escape from the world of sensory perception to arrive at the world of intelligibles, beginning with contradictory ideas to arrive at unity. He emphasizes the importance of discussion and dialogue in instruction, and indicates two methods: the method of argument and the method of discourse; both of these can be used orally or in writing.57 When speaking to the common people, the methods used must be those closest to their powers of comprehension, enabling them to grasp what they are capable of understanding.
Al-Farabi defines the discourse of persuasion as: persuading the listener with what will satisfy his mind, without reaching certainty,58 as opposed to the demonstrative discourse whereby it is sought to instruct the truth, and to explain it in such a way as to bring about precise knowledge.59 Persuasion achieves its purpose when it leads to the hearer doing things that he is convinced are true.60 Similarly, the ability to produce an imaginative impression has an effect on poetry and other arts, such as music, so that: the soul of the hearer will rise up to seek the thing imagined, or to flee from it; to be drawn to it or be repelled by it.61 To sum up, the objective of the discourse method is simply to persuade without reaching certainty, which would require precise proof; while the objective of the demonstrative method is to gain precise knowledge based on reliable proof.
As for the debating method, it is used to prevail over an adversary, to make a particular idea triumph, to take an opinion to its furthest point, so that even the opponent believes that it is true, without it necessarily being so. This method is used against stubborn people.
There is another kind of discourse used by al-Farabi which he calls scientific discourse; that by which the knowledge of something is obtained62 either through asking questions about the thing, or from the replies obtained or, finally, by resolving a scientific problem.63
Al-Farabi sums up all the foregoing in his book Al-Alfaz, stating that instruction has two aspects: the way of audition, or learning based on speech, and the way of imitation, which is based on observing other peoples actions in order to imitate or apply them. Averroës agreed with him when he stated that there are two sorts of learning: by speech and by imitation,64 it being understood that the latter meant adopting a model and applying it.
Al-Farabi gives imagination a clear educational function, and makes producing an imaginative impression one way of instructing the common people in many of the concepts difficult for them to grasp. So, the educator resorts to metaphors or appropriate illustrations.65 Indeed, it is natural for the common people to be restricted in their theoretical knowledge to what is required by generally accepted opinion. The teacher uses the methods of persuasion and suggestion.66 The power to represent things by their metaphors is useful in two fields: for instruction and guidance; and for confronting someone who stubbornly denies the way of truth.67
In short, it can be said that for al-Farabi the elements of instruction can be summarized as: (a) making something understood by establishing its meaning in the mind and (b) by creating acceptance of what has been understood. Understanding something implies that the essence of the thing has been comprehended by the intellect and that the thing can be represented by something that resembles it. Acceptance is also internalized in two ways: demonstration leading to certainty, which is the philosophical approach, or persuasion, which is the religious method.68
One of the techniques that al-Farabi was concerned with is the one he called habituation, which he defined as a situation whereby the human being acquires a natural disposition or moves away from some haphazard disposition; by this I mean the frequent repetition of a particular action, at short intervals, over a long period of time.69 Ethical virtues are acquired by habituation and repetition, until they form a deep-rooted pattern in the mind, whence issues excellent moral behaviour.70 An admirable character is attained by habituation, and the character is admirable when its actions are marked by moderation, with neither excess nor neglect.71 This, once again, is an Aristotelian view of the true nature of virtue and the way to acquire it, but al-Farabi demonstrates this theory by stating: The fact that ethical morality is only attained by habit is shown by what we see in cities: the political leaders make the citizens good by making them used to good actions.72 Habituation is not only a technique for teaching moral virtues, but can also be employed in teaching other things, such as writing: Skill in writing is acquired only when the person copies the action of a skilful scribe, and so it is with all the arts.73
To sum up, the repetitive method is appropriate for teaching ethics and practical arts, and this habituation takes place by persuasion and affective speech, which establishes them in the mind, so that the learners resolve to carry them out voluntarily themselves; and by way of coercion, which is used with disobedient citizens who are not inclined to do what is right of their own accord, or take any notice of what they are told; this method is used with any one of them who disobeys and continues until they grasp the theoretical sciences which are taught to them.74
Al-Farabi speaks of the way of freedom and the way of slavery and subjection. Obedience is freedom, while coercion is slavery and subjection.75 The ruler employs two types of virtuous people with technical competence to educate, first, those who accept to be disciplined voluntarily, or, second, those who need to be disciplined under duress. The same is true in families, for there are children who can be disciplined by gentleness and persuasion, and others with harshness. The responsibility for this education lies with the ruler for the monarch is the one who disciplines and teaches the nation.76
Al-Farabi mentions another method - learning by heart - and conceives it in two sections: first, learning words and expressions which the listener repeats until they are memorized, such as learning a language, the Koran and songs; the second goes further than simple rote learning and is designed to inscribe the meanings of these expressions in the listeners soul.77
Al-Farabi was asked which was better, understanding or memorization, and replied:
Understanding is better than memorization, because the action of memorization deals mainly with words and expressions, in other words with details..., which could go on forever and are hardly useful, neither for individuals nor for classes.... But the action of understanding concerns meanings, universals and laws - defined matters, finite, and which are valid for all. To exert oneself in these matters is not without benefit. This also applies to the actions peculiar to acquiring them, such as analogy, organization, policies and consideration of the consequences. If the human being learns only the details, he is not secure from going astray.... When, however, he relies on principles and general concepts, and when some new matter is presented to him, he may refer to his understanding of the principles to compare one thing with another. So it is clear that understanding is better than memorization.78
The teacher and the learner
Al-Farabi lays down the conditions of both morality and learning for the teacher. He must be of good character, free from cravings and seek only the truth.79 For educating and teaching the people, none shall be employed but people of virtue, trained in the logical arts.80 The art of teaching should be undertaken voluntarily, without obligation, except in cases of absolute necessity. The other scientific and educational prerequisites that the teacher should meet are: mastery of the fundamentals of his art (his specialization) and its rules; the ability to demonstrate everything that it is possible to demonstrate, whenever asked to do so; the ability to make others comprehend what he himself knows; and the ability to guard against any distortions that might enter his art.81
Concerning the student, particularly if he wants to study philosophy, and in contrast to al-Ghazali (d. 1111/505) who wanted him in the first place to have studied the Koran, language, and the sciences of the Holy Law,82 al-Farabi does not make learning the Koran and the sciences of the Holy Law a precondition, for he places the learning of law (fiqh) and theology (kalam) at the end of the curriculum.
In addition, the student should possess three further qualities: he should be able to grasp concepts and understand their meaning; accept the existence of what he has grasped or understood; be able to describe what he has grasped and accepted. Al-Farabi calls these three points the modes of teaching and considers that a person who brings together all these modes is indeed a teacher.83 Likewise, Galen also considers that if the learner wishes to surpass all others in knowledge, he must have the highest intelligence and should begin with logic, have a passionate desire to know the truth, and should study by night and day so as to understand the viewpoint of the Ancients. He is not to be content with that: he should pursue his studies for a long time so as to select those opinions that agree with the meaning and reject those that contradict it, especially in medicine.84 In the same way, al-Farabi considers that the student must always be most eager to learn and study, and quotes the example of little drops of water which, over time, can wear away a stone. The student should not let anything distract him from learning, since he who pays attention to too many things at once ends up with confused and disorganized ideas. Learning requires a great deal of time.85
If the student wishes to learn by himself from a book, al-Farabi advises that he begin by identifying the books objective, purpose and structure, then its relationship to the sciences and its relative position on that branch of science.86
In every age, to reach its objectives, education has to follow a programme listing the elements that will enable the individual to learn about the cultural heritage of his nation, on the one hand, and, on the other, to acquire the knowledge that will lead him to maturity in his feelings, judgement and actions, and to developing a critical approach. Al-Farabi is considered to be the first Muslim philosopher to classify the sciences and learning, not just for the sake of enumerating them, but also with an educational objective.
For al-Farabi, the sequence of learning must begin with the language and its structure, that is, its grammar, so that the student can express himself as do the people who speak that language; without this ability, he will not be able to understand others nor they him, and he will be affected by it. Mastery of the common language, the foundation for all other kinds of knowledge, is therefore indispensable. Al-Farabi was keenly aware of the value and influence of language since he spoke several languages himself, which allowed him to compare cultures and tongues.87
After language comes logic, which is the instrument of the sciences and their methodology, and thus leads to sound reflection; and also because it is closely connected with language. Furthermore, the Arabic word for logic (mantiq) includes both verbal expression and intellectual procedures, and this is why, in his opinion, language comes before rules about forming the mind, and prepares the way for it.88
Then come mathematics, which the Muslim philosophers call the teachings (taalim). Al-Farabi considers that arithmetic comes first, since it is an important stage in the hierarchy of the theoretical sciences: Whosoever desires to learn the theoretical art begins with numbers, then ascends to magnitudes (measures), then to the other things to which numbers and magnitudes essentially belong, like perspectives (optics).89 The study of optics, astronomy and the natural sciences in general requires mathematics, and arithmetic is one of the basic tools. Al-Farabi divides mathematics into seven parts: numbers (arithmetic), geometry, the science of perspectives, scientific astronomy (contrasted with astrology), music, dynamics and the science of machines.90 Mathematics includes algebra. Al-Farabis explanation for beginning instruction with mathematics is that numbers and magnitudes do not allow for any confusion, and perfect order reigns. They are an example of precision and clarity, and train the students intellect in that path. The student must proceed in stages to different levels of mathematics, from the immaterial and the unmeasurable to that which requires material expression, and so on. Geometry comes after arithmetic, for it depends on demonstrations giving us certain knowledge and banishing all uncertainty.91 Geometry has two methods: that of analysis and that of structure. Then there are perspectives, astronomy, music, dynamics and mechanics,92 and finally the natural sciences whose subject is matter (animal, vegetable, mineral, etc.).
Following the exact sciences come theology or metaphysics, the human sciences (political science in particular), jurisprudence (fiqh), law (qanun) and, finally, theology (kalam).
In short, al-Farabis curriculum is confined to a group of sciences, graded as follows: science of language; logic; the teachings (mathematics); natural science; theology; civics (political science); jurisprudence; and theology. The link between the natural sciences and theology is, in his opinion, the human soul, which he therefore places among the natural sciences, even though it has a metaphysical aspect. One can then move on to the study of the first principle of all existing being, then return to human science, beginning with those governing society among other things, and the law that governs trade, and ending that the science that defends the beliefs on which society is founded. It should be noted that al-Farabi did not place medicine among the sciences; he devoted an entire treatise to it and mentions it in many other of his works, calling it sometimes a science, sometimes an art. Nor did he mention in Kitab al-ihsa [The Book of Lists] any physical exercise, but he does mention it in Talkhis nawamis Aflatun [Abridgement of the Laws], noting that it is beneficial to the body as well as the mind: When the body is sound, so is the mind.93
It can be said that al-Farabi designed a mathematical curriculum in education resembling that of Plato. As a reminder of the famous inscription over the door of the Academy (Let none enter who is not a geometer), al-Farabi stated that the demonstrations used in geometry are the soundest of all demonstrations.94
Al-Farabi mentions another theory, the one subscribed to by the followers of Theophrastus, according to which education begins with reforming the morals, for he who cannot reform his own morals cannot learn any science correctly,95 as well as a third theory, that of Boethius of Sidon, which begins with natural science, because its subject matter is closer to us and better known, and can be grasped by the senses; even though his pupil al-Saydawi disagreed with him and chose to begin with logic, since it is a standard whereby we can always distinguish between truth and falsehood. On these various theories, al-Farabi comments that it is possible to combine some of them. In fact, he thought that, before beginning the study of philosophy, the student should reform his own ethical values, so as to desire nothing but virtue; he must then strengthen the rational mind by training in scientific demonstration, which is geometry giving access to logic.96
By comparison, in The Republic, Plato considered the starting point to be physical exercise, then arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music and philosophy (dialectics). However, in his Laws he considered the starting point was ethics, because it inculcates love of good and hatred of evil. He did not pay any special importance to observation and experiment, for his was a world of ideas not objects, while al-Farabi is quite concerned with practical aspects of each one of the mathematical sciences.
Philosophy, the queen of disciplines
But it was philosophy that al-Farabi places as the highest form of learning for mankind, for it is the knowledge of distant causes by which all beings are governed.97 It enables us to learn about the best of things in the best possible way,98 and it is the way to happiness. Through it, the soul of the learner is raised to the level of the rational human being in whom two elements meet: one, natural and biological, and the other intellectual or spiritual, until we reach the first principle of existence.99
The ultimate objective of studying philosophy is twofold: theoretical and practical. The theoretical part is knowledge of the Creator, the Most High, the active cause of all things and the governor of this world by His wisdom and justice. The practical and ethical part for human beings consists of imitating the Creator, as far as they are able, by carrying out admirable actions.
The route which must be taken by anyone wishing to learn philosophy is that of action, so true is it that a person only reaches the goal of his deeds through complete knowledge, the purpose of which is action. To arrive at the high point of learning, it is vital to be aware of the natural sciences, then the mathematical sciences; but to achieve excellence in our deeds, we must first reform ourselves, before reforming those who share our house and, finally, our fellow citizens.100
As for learning the scientific subjects which must precede the study of philosophy, al-Farabi sometimes indicates the mathematical method, at other times the ethical method, and at others the natural, without particularly favouring any one. He seems to consider them complementary, but believes that, in the final analysis in the teaching of philosophy, the teacher should first attempt to modify the appetitive morals of the soul to direct them towards excellence,101 then the rational soul, so that the student can find the path of truth. This can only be achieved in one way: mastery of the science of demonstration which is acquired through that of geometrical (mathematical) demonstration and the path of logical demonstration. Al-Farabi chose to begin with the former, but saw nothing wrong by starting with the natural sciences since they are more related than mathematics to the senses, which are the beginning of knowledge.
The student of philosophy must also know its history, starting with Plato, then Aristotle,102 so as to know the latters aims in his various books, his technical terms, and the various philosophical schools he should be familiar with, and al-Farabi points out the intellectual, moral and religious qualities which the student of this discipline must possess.103
In his own personal philosophy, al-Farabi applies two different methods: (a) the descending method which begins from the Cause (the One) and ends with the effect (the world of the senses), which is what he applied in his book On the Views of the People of the Ideal City; and (b) the ascending method, which begins with the effect and proceeds to the Cause, which he applied in his book Politics.
Unlike Plato who believed that only the Greeks were capable of understanding, al-Farabi has a wider vision not considering philosophy to be a special attribute of any one nation to the exception of all others. He believed that philosophy already existed among the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia, and was then passed to the Egyptians, from them to the Greeks, the Syrians and finally to the Arabs.104
Ways and means of elucidation in teaching
Al-Farabi is concerned with the means of clarifying, understanding and making people aware of meanings. He recommends the use of visual observation for whatever could actually be seen, placing the object before the eye.105 In his opinion, the first step in teaching about something is to use the correct name that signifies it, then define it, explaining the various parts of this definition, and likewise explaining its particular and general characteristics, so that the former forms part of the latter. One may use illustrations of the object, and describe its special features and its unusual features. It is also possible to make it understood by resorting to something that resembles it or which can be compared with it, and to use the method of subdivision, induction, analogy and metaphor. Al-Farabi considers that all these methods will facilitate both comprehension and retention.106 This understanding of something is also supported by knowledge of the characteristics of an object, so that it may be imagined all the easier, inasmuch as by imagining its characteristics, one imagines the thing itself and thus can more easily call it to mind.
He also mentions what he called the rule of substitution: if some object has a popular name, this term is used instead of a more complicated one, and the object itself is defined by its constituent elements, an operation which al-Farabi calls division and analysis. When it is difficult to grasp a concept because of its abstraction, a start is made with the term used to describe it, and if it still cannot be imagined, an illustration is used representing its characteristics. Al-Farabi recalls that Aristotle used to employ substitutes for expressions to make them more intelligible, a method which gives encouragement to the learner.107
As with other techniques, al-Farabi recommends during learning and demonstration the use of geometric shapes drawn upon a board so as to stimulate the imagination, and so that the demonstration itself will not confuse the intellect, and the imagination may be busy with something similar to the thing which it is intended to demonstrate, and will therefore not obstruct the process.108 This makes the mind completely occupied with the demonstrations, with the imagination stimulated by the drawing on the board.
Learning about astronomy, among other things, involves the use of instruments, since many of the essentials can only be acquired by observations provided by such instruments. Similarly, listening to instruments is vital in the study of music; for him, musical skill is acquired by long application to listening.109 Al-Farabi was particularly interested in instruments that make the theoretical side of music easier to understand.110 For this purpose he himself fashioned an instrument and modified some others, like the Baghdad drum (tanbur) and the rabab, so as to improve them. He considered that music is the most typical of the sciences whose principles are mostly obtained through the senses, like astronomy, optics and medicine: for the art of medicine takes many of its principles from natural science, and is learned principally from sensory experience acquired through anatomy.111
Use of sensory perception in the theoretical art of music is a matter to which al-Farabi returned many times in his Kitab al-musiqa al-kabir [Great Book of Music], and he called for the making of instruments for this purpose: the fundamentals of the science of music are learned through perception and practice. And we have also given... guidance for making an instrument... which, if tuned in the way I have indicated to produce the notes in a scale, will enable you to hear the same notes. Hence, the rules given verbally will conform to what is heard.112
In this way al-Farabi not only dealt with the theory of music, but also analysed in detail the way of converting theory into practice: [In our two books] we have dealt at length with the principles of this science and shown how to make them tally with what is perceived, and in them we have given guidance for making an instrument in which can be applied all the sensory aspects that these principles require.113 These instructions for making a training instrument are an important feature in al-Farabis educational philosophy; he declared that his books aimed to harmonize theory with practice: Most of what we have summarized in this book we have made directly perceptible through well-known instruments, with the result that what was explained by words and analogy was in agreement with what is heard.114
On an entirely different subject, al-Farabi turned his attention to the purpose of educational games and the function of play in human activity: Different types of play have serious purposes, and play is not then an aim in itself.115 The value of play must be considered in relation to its aim: The intention behind various types of play can only be truly ascertained when they have been evaluated.116 In his view, play overcomes fatigue and restores the strength required for action.117 As with all distractions, and like salt in food, it should be used in moderation for the aim of play is recreation which, in its turn, is designed to restore a persons strength to undertake more serious activity.118 He recommends games that stimulate a childs creativity: like the child who uses doors and houses in his play acquires talents and abilities useful to him if he desires to take crafts seriously.119 In the same way, Plato had noted that the Ancient Egyptians used an excellent method to teach children arithmetic: they were required to divide a number of apples into different groups, or flowers into bouquets of different sizes, or to distinguish containers of different metals, after they had been deliberately mixed up.120
Is there a place for punishment in al-Farabis educational theory? The teacher, he thinks, must not be too severe, nor excessively lenient. If he is too severe, his pupils will hate him; but if he is too lenient, the pupils will not take him seriously and will be inclined to laziness and to pay no attention to his lessons.121 This moderate position leads him to regulate the degree of punishment in accordance with the childrens attitude: If they are inclined to be mischievous because of some short-term pleasure, then they can be won over by offering them some pleasure when they refrain from it or if they behave in the opposite way. This is how children should be disciplined. If this is not sufficient, then the teacher should add some inconvenience to follow immediately after the misbehaviour, and make it as unpleasant as possible.122 It is also possible to substitute bad behaviour with good giving similar pleasure, as long as the misbehaviour itself is followed by a suitable punishment to make the child abandon it. Al-Farabi does not explain what kind of punishment he has in mind, confining himself to the general idea and leaving it to the educator to decide on the form of correction, depending on the pupil. But he did point out that physical punishment is more effective than psychological punishment, such as fear.
Al-Farabi was well aware of the concept of evaluating the outcomes of teaching. He emphasized that the aim of an examination is to find out a learners level in the field being studied. When the time comes, in other words, when a learner is thought to have completed that discipline, he is tested in it so as to determine his level in the discipline he is supposed to have mastered.123 He considers that the questions asked could have either an educational or an experimental character. In the first case, it is directed at the pupil who is supposed to know something so as to demonstrate that knowledge. But a person can also test himself to ascertain if he has made a quantitative or methodological mistake. For this purpose, instruments are made available to help us check, like the plumbline, the compass, the ruler, the scales, the abacus, astronomic summary tables, etc.,124 which al-Farabi classifies among the rules which are few in number yet applicable to many things. If we learn and remember these rules, we also learn the many matters incorporated in them.125
In the same way that knowledge is tested, so is intelligence: (a) the ability to discriminate; (b) the capacity for deductive and critical reasoning; and (c) understanding the relationship between isolated pieces of information and grasping the links between them. One of the most important ways of recognizing intelligence is through mathematical ability.126
The influence of al-Farabi
Another entire study would be required to analyse the influence that al-Farabi had over numerous contemporary philosophers and those who came after him: Yahya b. Adi (d. 974/374), who was his direct disciple; the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwan al-Safa); Ibn Miskawayh (d. 1130/421); al-Masudi (d. 956/346); Abul-Hasan al-Amiri (d. 991/381); Ibn Rushd (Averroës) (d. 1198/595); Maimonides (d. 1204/601); and Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406/808). Some of his books were translated into Latin and Hebrew. In Latin he was known as Alfarabius and Avennasar.
Elements of al-Farabis educational ideas still remain valid today, such as his emphasis on the importance of mathematics and the sciences, as well as the experimental method, the integration of knowledge, the importance of values and aesthetic taste. One could even add that Arabic culture has declined in relation to his educational philosophy, which was designed to form an integrated personality, in body, intellect, ethics, aesthetics and technology, an aim which no contemporary education system would neglect.
English translations of the Arabic titles of al-Farabis writings mentioned in these notes can be found in the list of his works below.
1. Edward Zeller, Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, p. 140, New York, Dover Publications, 1980.
2. T. De Boer, Tarikh al-falsafa fi l-Islam [The History of Philosophy in Islam] (trans. from German by Mohammed Abd al-Hadi Abu Rida), p. 191, Beirut, Dar al-Nahda al-Arabiyya, 1981; Ibrahim Madkour, La place dal-Farabi dans lécole philosophique musulmane [Al-Farabis Place in the Muslim School of Philosophy], Paris, Maisonneuve, 1934; Henri Corbin, Tarikh al-falsafa al-Islamiya [The History of Islamic Philosophy] (trans. from French by Nasir Marwa and Hasan Qubaisi), p. 241, Beirut, Manshurat Awaidat, 1966.
3. Mohammed Abid al-Jabiri, Takwin al-aql al-Arabi, p. 241, Beirut, Markaz Dirasat al-Wahda al-Arabiyya, 1989.
4. Frederick Copleston, Philosophies and Cultures, London, Oxford University Press, 1980.
5. Al-Farabi, Tahsil al-saada (ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin), p. 61, Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1983.
6. Ibid., p. 89.
7. Al-Farabi, Talkhis nawamis Aflatun, in Abd al-Rahman Badawi (ed.), Kitab Aflatun fi l-Islam, p. 54, Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1982.
8. Al-Farabi, Al-Siyasa al-madaniya (ed. by Fawzi al-Najjar), p. 87, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1964; Al-Siyasa al-akhlaqiya (ed. by Yuhanna Qamir), p. 64, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1954.
9. Al-Farabi, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadila (ed. by Albert Nusri Nadir), p. 97, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1959.
10. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 55.
11. Ibid., p. 57.
12. Al-Farabi, Kitab al-milla (ed. by Muhsin Mahdi), p. 65, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
13. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 50.
14. Al-Farabi, Fusul mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadila, in Muhsin Madhi (ed.), Kitab al-milla, p. 24, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
15. Ibid., p. 30; al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 40.
16. Ibid., p. 34.
17. Ibid., p. 54.
18. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih ala sabil al-saada (ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin), p. 73, Beirut, Dar al-Manahil, 1987.
19. Al-Farabi, Al-Burhan, Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10, folio 174, Tehran University (Unpublished MS.).
20. Al-Farabi, Al-Daawa al-qalbiya, p. 11, Hyderabad, The Ottoman Encyclopedia, 1346 A.H.
21. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 89.
22. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 62.
23. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 93.
24. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 57.
25. Ibid., p. 42.
26. Ibid., p. 43.
27. Al-Farabi, Zaynun al-kabir, p. 8, Hyderabad, The Ottoman Encyclopedia, 1346 A.H.
28. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 71.
29. Tadib al-ahdath, in al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 10.
30. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., pp. 10, 17, 45, 47; al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., pp. 84-5.
31. Ibid., p. 81.
32. Ibid., p. 17: tasdid al-anfus (the guidance of souls).
33. Ibid., pp. 25-6; al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 64.
34. Ibid., pp. 43, 45.
35. Ibid., pp. 71, 82.
36. Al-Farabi, Al-Asila al-lamia, Kitab al-milla, op. cit., p. 96.
37. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 78.
39. Al-Farabi, Al-Burhan, op. cit., p. 175.
40. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 78.
41. Ibid., pp. 79, 86.
42. Ibid., p. 87.
43. Ibid., p. 88.
44. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih..., op. cit., p. 6.
45. Ibid., p. 39.
46. Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 49.
47. Al-Farabi, Al-Taliqat (ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin), p. 39, Beirut, Dar al-Manahil, 1988.
49. Al-Farabi, Al-Thamra al-murdiyya (ed. by F. Dieterici), p. 21, Leiden, Neudruck der Ausgabe, 1890.
50. Al-Farabi, Ajwibat masail suila anha (ed. by F. Dieterici), p. 97, Leiden, Neudruck der Ausgabe, 1890.
51. According to al-Farabi (Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadila, op. cit., p. 70), in the psychological development of the child, the first to appear is the nutritional capacity, then the sensorial capacity, followed by the imagination, and finally the reasoning capacity or speech.
52. Al-Farabi, Al-Thamra..., op. cit., p. 19; al-Farabi is using Platos Phaidon as a source.
53. Al-Biruni, Ma lil-Hind min maqula maqbula fil-aql aw mardhula (ed. by Edward Sachau), p. 28, London, 1887; here again al-Farabi refers to Plato.
54. Al-Farabi, Al-Alfaz al-mustamala fil-mantiq (ed. by Muhsin Mahdi), p. 86, Beirut, Dar al-Mashriq, 1968; al-Farabi, Al-Burhan, op. cit., p. 178.
55. E. I. J. Rosenthal, Studia Semitica, Islamic Themes, Vol. 11, p. 97, London, Cambridge University Press, 1971.
56. Al-Farabi (Talkhis..., op. cit., pp. 40-1) states: the debate between the one asking the questions and the one replying, the purpose being to study and examine in order to ascertain the validity (of good things) and to make a choice.
57. Ibid., p. 19.
58. Al-Farabi, in the Preface to his work on logic, Al-Mantiq, Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10, folio 121, Tehran University (MS.).
59. Ibid., p. 121.
60. Al-Farabi, Fusul tashtamil ala jamii ma yudhtarr ila marifatihi man arada al-churu fi sinaat al-mantiq, Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10, folio 63, Tehran University (MS.).
61. Al-Farabi, Fusul mabadi..., op. cit., p. 63; Ihsa al-ulum (ed. by Uthman Amin), p. 67, Cairo, Librairie Anglo-Égyptienne, 1939; Ihsaal-ulum, p. 67; Qawanin al-shir, in Abd al-Rahman Badawi (ed.), Kitab Aristutalis fi l-shir, p. 151, Beirut, Dar al-Thaqafa, 1973; Sharh al-ibara, p. 52, Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1971; Kitab al-musiqa al-kabir (ed. by Ghattas Abd-al-Malik Khashba and Mahmud Ahmad al-Hafni), p. 1184, Cairo, Dar al-Kitab al Arabi, 1967.
62. Al-Farabi, Al-Huruf (ed. by Muhsin Mahdi), p. 164, Beirut, Dar al-Mashriq, 1970.
63. Ibid. On the whole, al-Farabi considers that demonstrative discourses are entirely justified, as are most dialectic discourses and about half of rhetorical discourses; sophist discourses are based on truth to a lesser degree and poetic discourses are entirely false since they are drawn purely from the imagination (al-Farabi, Qawanin al-shir, in Kitab Aristutalis fi l-shir, op. cit., p. 101).
64. Averroës, Sharh urjuzat Ibn Sina, p. 5 (MS., private collection).
65. Al-Farabi, Falsafat Aristutalis (ed. by Muhsin Mahdi), p. 85, Beirut, Dar Majallat al-Shir, 1971.
66. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 86.
67. Al-Farabi, Falsafat Aristutalis, op. cit., p. 85.
68. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 90.
69. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih..., op. cit., p. 8; Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 63.
70. Al-Farabi, Fusul mabadi..., op. cit., p. 31.
71. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih..., op. cit., p. 7.
72. Ibid., p. 57.
73. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 63.
74. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 79.
75. He puts forward this idea concerning the acceptance of laws by citizens in Talkhis nawamis Aflatun: it is good if they are accepted voluntarily but obviously very bad if they are tolerated under duress.
76. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 80.
77. Al-Farabi, Al-Burhan, op. cit., p. 175.
78. Al-Farabi, Ajwibat masail suila anha, p. 86, 1890.
79. Al-Farabi, Ma yanbaghi an yuqaddam qabla taallum al-falsafa (ed. by F. Dieterici), p. 10, Leiden, 1890.
80. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 81.
81. Al-Farabi, Al-Jadal, Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10, folio 192, Tehran University (MS.).
82. Al-Shahrazuri, Nuzhat al-arwah wa-raudat al-afrah, p. 180, Cairo University Library, (undated MS.); De Boer, op. cit., p. 202, note 1.
83. Al-Farabi, Al-Alfaz..., op. cit., pp. 83, 87; Al-Burhan, op. cit., p. 178.
84. Averroës, Talkhis al-quwa l-tabiiyya, in: Georges C. Anawati and Said Zayid (eds.), Rasail Ibn Rushd al-tibbiyya, p. 275, Cairo, Al-Haya al-Misriyya al-Amma lil-Kitab, 1987.
85. Al-Farabi, Ma yanbaghi..., op. cit., p. 52.
86. Al-Farabi, Al-Alfaz..., op. cit., pp. 94-5.
87. He spoke Turkish, Persian, probably Greek, as well as Arabic, which he considered his mother tongue.
88. Jaafar Al-Yasin, Faylasufan raidan..., p. 80, Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1980.
89. Al-Farabi, Fusul mabadi...., op. cit., p. 96.
90. Al-Farabi, Ihsa al-ulum, op. cit., pp. 53, 93.
91. Ibid., p. 96.
92. Ibid., p. 97.
93. Al-Farabi, Talkhis..., op. cit., p. 76.
94. Al-Farabi, Ma yanbaghi..., op. cit., p. 52.
95. Ibid., p. 52.
96. Ibid., p. 53.
97. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih..., op. cit., p. 82.
98. Al-Farabi, Fusul mabadi..., op. cit., p. 52.
99. Al-Farabi devoted a special treatise to philosophy in Ma yanbaghi..., op. cit.
100. Ibid., p. 49.
101. Ibid., p. 53.
102. Al-Farabi, Tahsil..., op. cit., p. 97.
103. He mentions a total of sixteen characteristics (Tahsil, op. cit., pp. 94-5).
104. Al-Farabi, Falsafat Aristutalis...., op. cit., p. 82.
105. Al-Farabi, Al-Alfaz..., op. cit., p. 91.
106. Ibid., p. 87.
107. Ibid., p. 91.
108. Ibid., p. 94.
109. Al-Farabi, Kitab al-musiqa al-kabir, op. cit., p. 100.
110. Ibid., p. 672.
111. Ibid., p. 807.
113. Ibid., p. 482.
114. Ibid., p. 483.
115. Ibid., p. 1185.
120. Plato, Laws, VII. Plato was already an adult when he learned mathematics, which led him to say that he was ashamed not only for himself but for the Greeks in general because of their backwardness in geometry compared with the Egyptians.
121. Al-Farabi, Ma yanbaghi..., op. cit., p. 52.
122. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih..., op. cit., p. 72.
123. Al-Farabi, Al-Burhan, op. cit., p. 181.
124. Al-Farabi, Ihsa al-ulum, op. cit., p. 58.
126. Al-Farabi, Al-Tanbih, op. cit., pp. 4, 6, 53-4.
Works by al-Farabi
The works listed here are classified in Arabic alphabetical order.
Ajwibat masail suila anha [Replies to Questions]. Ed. by F. Dieterici. Leiden, 1890.
Ihsa al-ulum [List of the Sciences]. Ed. by Uthman Amin. Cairo, Librairie Anglo-Égyptienne, 1939.
Al-Alfaz al-mustamala fil-mantiq [Terms Used in Logic]. Ed. by Muhsin Mahdi. Beirut, Dar al-Mashriq, 1968.
Al-Burhan [The Demonstration]. Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10. Tehran University. (Unpublished MS.)
Tahsil al-saada [Reaching Happiness]. Ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin. Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1983.
Al-Taliqat [Commentaries]. Ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin. Beirut, Dar al-Manahil, 1988.
Talkhis nawamis Aflatun [Summary of Platos Laws]. In: Abd al-Rahman Badawi (ed.), Kitab Aflatun fi l-Islam, Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1982.
Al-Tanbih ila sabil al-saada [Guidance on the Path to Happiness]. Ed. by Jaafar Al-Yasin. Beirut, Dar al-Manahil, 1987.
Al-Thamra al-murdiyya [The Pleasant Fruit]. Ed. by F. Dieterici. Leyden, 1890.
Al-Jadal [Dialectics]. Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10. Tehran University. (Unpublished MS.)
Al-Jam bayna rayay l-hakimayn [Harmony in the Doctrines of the Two Philosophers]. Ed. by Albert Nasri Nadir. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
Al-Huruf [The Letters]. Ed. by Muhsin Mahdi. Beirut, Dar al-Mashriq, 1970.
Al-Daawa al-qalbiya [Sincere Requests]. Hyderabad, India, The Ottoman Encyclopedia, 1346 H.
Zaynun al-kabir [Zenon the Great]. Hyderabad, India, The Ottoman Encyclopedia, 1346 H.
Al-Asila al-lamia [Brilliant Questions]. In: Muhsin Mahdi (ed.), Kitab al-milla. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
Al-Siyasa al-madaniya [The Policies of the City]. Ed. by Fawzi al-Najjar. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1964.
Fusul mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadila [Bases of the Inhabitants Views in the Ideal City]. In: Muhsin Mahdi (ed.), Kitab al-milla. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
Fusul tashtamil ala jamii ma yudhtarr ila maarifatihi man arada al-shuru fi-sinat al-mantiq [What You Should Know Before Tackling Logic]. Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10. Tehran University. (Unpublished MS.)
Fusul muntazaa [Some Aphorisms]. Ed. by Fawzi al-Najjar. Beirut, Dar al-Mashriq, 1971.
Falsafat Aristutalis [Aristotles Philosophy]. Ed. by Muhsin Mahdi. Beirut, Dar Majallat al-Shir, 1971.
Falsafat Aflatun [Platos Philosophy]. In: Abd al-Rahman Badawi (ed.), Aflatun fi l-Islam. Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1982.
Ma yanbagbi an yuqaddam qabla taallum al-falsafa [On What One Should Know Before Learning Philosophy]. Ed. by F. Dieterici. Leiden, 1890.
Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadila [A Treatise on the Inhabitants Views in the Ideal City]. Ed. by Albert Nusri Nadir. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1959.
Maqala [Introduction to his work on logic: Al-Mantiq]. Maktabat Mishkat, No. 240/10. Tehran University. (Unpublished MS.)
Kitab al-milla [On Religion]. Ed. by Muhsin Mahdi. Beirut, Imprimerie Catholique, 1968.
Kitab al-musiqa al-kabir [The Great Book of Music]. Ed. by Ghattas Abd al-Malik Khashaba and Mahmud Ahmed al-Hafni. Cairo, Dar al-kitab al-Arabi, 1967.
Idées des habitants de la cité vertueuse. Trans. by R. P. Jaussen, Y. Karam and J. Chlala. Cairo, Publications de lInstitut Français dArchéologie Orientale, 1949.
Liber Alpharabii de Scientiis, translatus a Magistro Gerardo Cremonesi. Madrid, University of Madrid, 1932. Published with a Spanish translation by González Palencia.
Al-tanbih ila sabil al-saada. (Latin translation by H. Salman.) In: Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, Vol. XII, 1940.
Works on al-Farabi
Al-Biruni, Muhammad b. Ahmad. Ma lil-Hind min maqula maqbula fil-aql aw mardhula [Description of India]. Ed. by E. Sachan. London, Trubner, 1887.
Al-Jabiri, Muhammad Abid. Takwin al-aql al-Arabi [Formation of the Arab Intellect]. Beirut, Markaz Dirasat al-Wahda al-Arabiyya, 1989.
Al-Shahrazuri. Nuzhat al-anvah wa-raudat al-afrah [The Promenade of the Mind and the Garden of Joy]. (MS. in the Library of Cairo University.)
Averroës. Shark urjuzat Ibn Sina [An Interpretation of Avicennas Mysteries]. (MS.: private collection.)
Al-Yasin, Jaafar. Muallafat al-Farabi [The Works of al-Farabi]. Baghdad, Ministry of Information, 1975. (Collective Work.)
Al-Yasin, Jaafar. Faylasufan raidan: Al-Kindi wa-l-Farabi [Two Early Philosophers: al-Kindi and al-Farabi]. Beirut, Dar al-Andalus, 1980.
Al-Yasin, Jaafar. Al-Farabi fi hududih wa-rusumih [Al-Farabi through his Definitions and his Projects]. Beirut, Alam al-Kutub, 1985.
Corbin, H. Histoire de la philosophie islamique. I: Des origines jusquà la mort dAverroès (1198) [History of Islamic Philosophy. I: From the Beginnings to the Death of Averroës]. Paris, Gallimard, 1964.
De Boer, T. Tarikh al-falsafa fi l-Islam [History of Islamic Philosophy]. Trans. by Mohammed Abd al-Hadi Abu Rida. Beirut, Dar al-Nahda al-Arabiyya, 1981.
Falkenheim, F. L. Al-Farabi, His Life, Works and Thought, on the Occasion of the Millenary Anniversary of his Death. Middle East Affairs, Vol. 2, 1951, pp. 54-9.
Farmer, H. G. Al-Farabis Arabic-Latin Writings on Music. Glasgow, The Civic Press, 1934. (Collection of Oriental Writers on Music, 2.)
Farmer, H. G. The Influence of al-Farabis Ihsa al-ulum (De scientiis) on the Writers on Music in Western Europe. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (London), 1943, Part III, pp. 561-92.
Rescher, N. Al-Farabi: an Annoted Bibliography. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 1962, 1977.
Rescher, N. Studies in the History of Arabic Logic. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 1964.
Salmon, D. The Medieval Latin Translations of al-Farabis Works. New Scholasticism, 1939, pp. 245-61.