Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Arabic
About the Author
Abu Nasr Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Tarkhan b. Awzalaugh (or Uzlugh) al-Farabi was born abut 870 AD in Turkestan, at Wasij in the district of Farab on the Jaxartes. He eventually settled down and spent many yars in Baghdad, the seat of the Abbasid calphs. During part of the last ten years of his life, he stayed at the court of Sayf al-Dawla, the renowned Hamdanid Amir of Aleppo. He is reported to have died in 950 AD.
Al-Farabi's life was more that of a cynical philosopher than of an aristocratic intellectual. We are told that he always wore a brown Sufi garb. In al-Farabi's day no adherence to mystical Sufi views was indicated by the use of this garment, and in his particular case it can be easily shown that he was decidedly opposed to the mystic's unworldly interpretation of life and his overemphasis on the world-to-come. In the tenth century AD the Sufi cloak had a quite different meaning. This has been aptly characterized by Professor G. Makdisi, People of this kind are often what we may call nowadays militant intellectuals. They accept no one's patronage, they are afraid of compromising their independence by becoming connected with men of wealth and power and prefer to remain self-employed and are content with living on a mere subsistence level.