A lot of great scholars have contributed tremendously towards the growth and development of science through their writing. And one of such scholars whose writing had a significant impact on science is Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi. Have you heard of this name before? If you’ve not, he is one of the great writers and thinkers from the Muslim world. Al-Farabi is well respected both within and outside the Muslim world because of the great importance his work has on science. But before we proceed with this discuss, it will be great to have an idea of who he was.

Who was Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi?

Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi was among the earliest Islamic philosophers that were substantially responsible for the propagation of the works of great philosophers like Aristotle and Plato in the Muslim world. His works had a significant impact on other Islamic thinkers that came after him like Avicenna. He was an excellent linguist that succeeded in translating the works of Plato and Aristotle from the original Greek language and made additions to them. Al-Farabi was nicknamed Mallim-e-sani, which when translated stands for “the second Teacher,” and Aristotle was referred to as the first teacher. He was born in present-day Afghanistan in a city known as Khorasan. Al-Farabi had the earlier part of his education at Farab and Bukhara before proceeding to Baghdad to further his studies.  His contributions were in the fields of science, logic, philosophy, and political science. Al-Farabi was also known for the great jobs he did in the area of music.

His Outstanding Contributions to Science

As earlier discussed, Al-Farabi made significant contributions to science. And if you are not yet convinced about his reputation as a great thinker, below are some of his contributions to science

  • Contributions to physics: Al-Farabi had a short paper that he wrote about vacuum. In which his thoughts were centered on the nature and existence of void. The scholar is likely to be the first to conduct an experiment that has to do with the presence of vacuum where his investigation was about handheld plungers in water. Al-Farabi then arrived at the conclusion that the volume of air can expand and fill a space that is available. The thinker then offered the suggestion that the theory of an ideal vacuum is not logical.
  • Contributions to psychology: The scholar authored two great books on the subject of psychology, they are “Principles of the Opinions of Citizens of the Virtuous City” and “Social Psychology.” He postulated that it is not possible for an individual in isolation to attain perfection alone without the help of other people. Al-Farabi equally wrote that it is the inborn desire of every individual to help others in performing their task. His conclusion was that every man needs the company and assistance of others to achieve perfection.
  • Contributions to logic: Although he was a student of Aristotle, most of his writing on logic was not taken from the work of Aristotle. Al-Farabi addressed the following issues in his content, the relationship existing between grammar and logic, the topics of future contingents, and some inferences that were different from that of Aristotle. The idea of categorizing logic into two categories is credited to him. The scholar divided logic into idea and proof. The philosopher was also credited with working on the concepts of conditional syllogisms and analogical inferences which form a part of Stoic style of logic instead of that of Aristotle. He was attributed to having added the theory of poetic logic in a comment on Aristotle’s poetics.
  • Contribution to philosophy: Al-Farabi founded an early school of Islamic philosophy that was known as “Farabism” or “Alfarabism.” Although it was to be overshadowed later by Avicennism, his school of philosophy broke away from the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato and drifted away from metaphysics to methodology. This move shows an element of modernization, a level at which his school of thought brought together theory and practice. In a bid to work on the nature of first cause, the scholar identified the limitations of the knowledge of man. His influence on philosophy and science made an impact for several centuries and was reputed to be second to Aristotle in wisdom during his day. Al-Farabi’s writings in trying to bring together philosophy and Sufism opened the door for the works of Avicenna.
  • Contribution to music: Al-Farabi authored a book on music that is called “Kitab al-Musical” ( The Book of Music). The book was used by the philosopher to teach philosophical principles on music, its enormous qualities, and the influence it exerts. He equally wrote a piece about the meanings of the intellect, which centered on music therapy and listed the therapeutic effects music has on the soul.
  • Contribution to political philosophy: Al-Farabi’s famous work on political philosophy is known as Al-Madina al-fadila. In the book, he embraces most of Plato’s views, but it was in no wise a copied version of Plato’s Republic. However, within the book he discussed the necessary qualities required of a ruler that were similar to what Plato wrote in his book. Some of these qualities were described by him. The qualities were the desire to rule with virtue and display it by being an example. The leader should be someone that is a good orator, possess a good physique, and be of unquestionable character. The ruler should have a sound mind and be vast in knowledge.

Final Words

There is no doubt that Al-Farabi is one of the best scholars to have come out of the Muslim world. His contributions to science are well documented, and they include contributions to science in the areas of physics, politics, philosophy, psychology, logic, among others. One major thing that helped him was his quest for knowledge that made him come in contact with the writings of Aristotle and Plato, two great philosophers whose work helped to shape his thinking. It is our sincere believe that we have been able to expand your horizon of your knowledge with this discussion about the man called Abu Nasr Muhammad Al-Farabi and his numerous contributions to science.

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