Alfarabi and the Foundation of Islamic Political Philosophy by Muhsin Mahdi

Mahdi, Muhsin. Alfarabi and the Foundation of Islamic Political Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Overview:  The final work of perhaps the most important scholar of Alfarabi in the past generation was unfortunately left incomplete. The essays it contains, many of which have also been published elsewhere, are nonetheless extremely illuminating.


“Alfarabi was held in high esteem in medieval times by major philosophers such as Avicenna and eastern Islam and Averroes in western Islam. Although his fame was partially eclipsed by his two great successors, he remained the greatest political philosopher of the period. This judgement was confirmed during the second half of the twentieth century with the publication of the rest of his surviving political-philosophical works, including such fundamental treatises as the Philosophy of Plato, Plato’s “Laws”, and the Philosophy of Aristotle.

Having instituted a new epoch in human history and a new religious-political order, the revealed religions challenged the tradition of Greek philosophy to investigate and make intelligible a religious-political order based on prophecy, revelation, and the divine law. Alfarabi can be said to have been the first major philosopher to take up this challenge.”

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