Philosophy and ‘Jihād.’ Al-Fārābī on Compulsion to Happiness

Sweeney, Michael. “Philosophy and ‘Jihād.’ Al-Fārābī on Compulsion to Happiness.” Review of Metaphysics. Vol. 60, No. 3 (March 2007), pp. 543-572.

Overview: A spirited effort to understand Alfarabi’s views of jihād in a manner very different from both Butterworth and Kraemer.


“Abu Nasr Muhammed Alfarabi (870-950 A.D), arguably the most important political philosopher of medieval Islam, discusses at some length in his writings the value of offensive war for the purpose of bringing the conquered to virtue, and this to happiness, and on occasion even uses the term “jihad” or derivatives from it. Although there are remarkably few studies devoted to Alfarabi’s understanding of jihad, one can identify three distinct positions among scholars. The first is, prima facie, the most literal reading: Alfarabi is supporting the notion of jihad with philosophy. The methodology of philosophy independently justifies the Islamic call to jihad: one can start with either philosophy or religion, for each confirms the other.”