Al-Farabi's "virtuous city" theory

Abu Nasr Mohammed al-Farabi (870-950) was born in the city of Farab in Maverannahr (modern southern Kazakhstan), a Turk by origin, he was educated in the slave language in Syria and became one of the founders of the Arabic-speaking philosophical and political-legal thought, for which he received the honorary names of “the first philosopher of the Arabs” and “Aristotle of the East.”

In Christianity and Islam, the relationship between religious doctrine and rational philosophical thought is fundamentally different. Both the Bible and the Koran do not strictly stipulate the principles of rational human thinking in its relationship with divine Revelation, but in Christian theology Thomas Aquinas in his formula “science is the servant of theology” defined them as the highest and lowest types of knowledge, which significantly narrowed the space of scientific search.

Pragmatic Islamic theology does not know any special restrictions for human thinking, which created a paradoxical situation of the flourishing of rational sciences (mathematics, chemistry, medicine) in the theocracies of the Arab East in the Middle Ages, when the Inquisition raged in Europe, which was the direct heir to the ancient world, and universities were dominated by teaching scholastic theology.

Arab scholars, unlike European ones, translated the texts of ancient authors into Arabic without religious correction and so accurately that in modern times these texts began to be translated back from Arabic into European languages.

In his main political and legal work “A Treatise on the Views of the Residents of a Virtuous City”, al-Farabi , following Plato , poses the problem of creating a model of an “ideal state”.

If Plato’s theory of world harmony was of a socio-legal nature, then al-Farabi ‘s was moral, since religious, legal and moral problems do not differ within the framework of the Islamic intellectual tradition. If the harmony of Plato’s state is based on the power of world law, then for al-Farabi it comes from an agreement between people.

Plato’s main problem is the contradictions between people, estates, society and the state. Al-Farabi, on the contrary, perceives the state, society and individuals as a single organic whole, in which contradictions cannot arise. The thinker understands a person as a conformal unit, which lacks an independent life instinct and which concentrates either positive or negative qualities.

Al-Farabi follows the dogma of the equality of all Muslims before Allah and, unlike Plato, in his “virtuous city” there is no division of citizens into classes by occupation.

The thinker divides people according to their intellectual and moral qualities:

– on the sages;

– to “people of religion”, to which he also refers scribes, poets and musicians;

– for accountants, geometers and doctors;

– for warriors;

– on people employed in the sphere of material production, i.e., on farmers, cattle breeders and merchants.

The “city” of al-Farabi is identical to the “state”, i.e., he manifests the identification of cities and villages typical of Eastern civilizations, there is no city self-government, autonomous from state power. The “city” of al-Farabi is inhabited by “subjects”, not “citizens”.

The “virtuous city” is led by an imam, whose main virtue is enlightenment, and whose main goal and duty is caring for his subjects. But if for Plato the goal of the sovereign’s activity is an abstract common good, then for al-Farabi these are quite specific practical tasks – ensuring security, educating and educating citizens, caring for their material well-being and moral dignity.

The imam is the only ruler, legislator and judge in a state in which the separation of powers is in principle impossible. He must be an enlightened ruler, that is, capable of legislating on the basis of a rational comprehension of the surrounding world and thereby ensuring the improvement of his subjects.

Al-Farabi chooses the concept of government by Plato, not Aristotle, not as a science, but as an art. His imam can arbitrarily change the laws, and he himself is not bound by the laws in his actions, for the results of which he is responsible to Allah, but not to his subjects.

The authoritarian power of the imam is determined by the Koran, which requires the obedience of Muslims to Allah and his deputies without its logical and legal definition. For a Muslim, the word of Allah is a law, not a matter of logical speculation.

At the same time, al-Farabi ‘s picture of the world is pantheistic. Allah is dissolved in nature, i.e., is the root cause of being in its ontological unity. He creates the world not arbitrarily, but in accordance with the requirements of strict causality. Accordingly, the reign of the imam cannot be

arbitrary dictatorship. His enlightenment manifests itself in the ability to comprehend the will of Allah as the universal law of the world order, to pass it on to his subjects and govern the state in accordance with it.7

Al-Farabi does not distinguish between orthodox religious doctrines and heresies, since the Islamic tradition has not developed a church as an autonomous institution relative to the state that could qualify religious movements as orthodox or heretical. The Islamic world was distinguished by significant pluralism and relatively high religious tolerance towards religious minorities.

At the same time, the denial of contradictions between the state and non-state structures blocked the source of development and led to the stagnation of Islamic civilization in the Middle Ages and Modern times.

Al-Farabi admits a hereditary monarchy as a form of “virtuous city”. He distinguishes the forms of the state not by the way they are organized, but by the methods of exercising power, as enlightened and unenlightened.

Al-Farabi identifies unenlightened states with unvirtuous ones, because in them an unenlightened imam determines the goal of social development not by objective “knowledge”, but by subjective “opinions””. The latter become the cause of perversity, because they define as good not spiritual benefits, not following the “five pillars of Islam” in their lives, but physical health, material wealth or honors. ; According to al-Farabi, an “immoral city” can be unvirtuous if the imam and his subjects have knowledge in it, but ignore them in their behavior. Another variant is the “changing city”, in which the imam gives up virtue for vice.

Also unvirtuous is the city, which the imam rules, following his unreasonable “passions”, which wages wars of conquest for the sake of material enrichment. The ideal of al-Farabi is peace between peoples, i.e., he begins the transition from “small” to “great jihad”.

Thus, the theory of the “virtuous city” marked the beginning of the creation of a rational Islamic political and legal thought, ensured the evolution of the Islamic political and legal tradition in accordance with the growing complexity and diversity of Islamic states.

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