Dr. Heba Raouf
Plato, Aristotle and Alfarabi
On The Notion of Citizenship
Alfarabi was the first of all philosophers to try to link political philosophy with Islam. Alfarabi is significant because he was able to improve the classical political tradition of Aristotle and Plato and place it within the context of Islamic religious principles. Despite the fact that there is general agreement amongst scholars that Alfarabi clearly draws from Plato in his interpretation of the philosopher-king, there is disagreement over the extent to which the appearance of Aristotle’s citizen in Alfarabi’s work modifies this philosopher-king and whether or not there is an active role for the citizen. Although Alfarabi never explicitly states how his citizen should function within a political or social context, this paper seeks to find from different works and opinions of different authors made within his works to provide an interpretation of the role of Alfarabi’s citizen. Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi, referred to as simply Alfarabi, lived from about 870 A.D. to 950 A.D. He spent most of his life in Baghdad. Not much is known about Alfarabi’s private life. He was born of Turkish descent in the Farabi district of Turkestan. Alfarabi was generally known as the “second master “amongst his peers, Aristotle being the first. He was known as a logician, physicist, metaphysician, musician, and an astronomer. However, his most well-known achievements came when he began his broad interpretations on both Plato and Aristotle concept of the citizen. Many Muslims, Jewish and Christian philosophers turned to Alfarabi for a fuller understanding of the controversial, complex, and troublesome questions of philosophy. He tried to combine the philosophical learning of the Greek with Islam. Combining Aristotelian cosmology and psychology with Neoplatonic metaphysics and a curious political Platonism, he made a unique contribution of political thought of Islam” Alfarabi created a recognizable school of intellect that was pursued and developed by many other philosophers.Alfarabi tried hard to promote political order against an environment of instability and change.
Plato’s Influence on Alfarabi
Before Alfarabi, most of the Islamic world looked upon the works of philosophical thinkers as ineffective because of their inability to interrelate ancient philosophical works to the most basic Islamic principles. However, Alfarabi became the first respected philosopher to succeed in linking the philosophical ideas of his predecessors to the important Muslim religious set of guidelines. He interpreted on Plato’s philosophy of how to set up a political community and placed it within an Islamic context. In order to understand how Alfarabi ultimately defines his citizen. Plato believes that the citizen does not have an active role in politics. The role of the individual can be divided into three certain classes within the community. The Guardians, or gold class, possess wisdom, “The quality of good judgment”. While the Guardians rule by reason, the Auxiliaries, or silver class, exercise spirit under the rule of reason by the Guardians. They possess courage, which is a learned and basic awareness of what to fear. The largest class of workers, or bronze class, have self-discipline and control over their desires as Plato believed. They agree to live their lives ruled by reason and spirit. Similarly in Alfarabi’s Perfect State, he sets out to categorize the people in classes. Al Farabi believes that each citizen must “guide and imitate his superiors according to their capacity, choosing to aim precisely on the strength of its established rank in the universe”. However despite the fact that the citizens strive to mirror the actions of their superiors, they are confined to their natural rank with little or no opportunity for advancement. “The excellent city ought to be arranged in the same way, all its parts ought to...