An Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions

Introducing Alfarabi

By Joshua Parens

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791466902, 180 pages, January 2007
Hardcover : 9780791466896, 180 pages, February 2006

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Table of contents


1. Introduction


Alfarabi ’s Life and His Influence
Alfarabi’s Manner of Writing


2. The Impossibility of the City in the Republic


Kallipolis as Ideal State or Totalitarian Nightmare?
The Three Waves and the Problem of Possibility
The First Wave
The Second Wave
The Digression on War
The Third Wave


3. The A Fortiori Argument


Alfarabi on the Republic in the Attainment of Happiness: Educating Philosopher-kings to Rule the Inhabited World, the Challenge
Tension in the “Unity of the Virtues”: Hard vs. Soft
The Uneasy Peace between Prudence and Wisdom


4. Alfarabi on Jihad


From iman vs. kufr to islam vs. harb
Alfarabi’s Aphorisms on Jihad
Aphorisms 67 and 79
Aphorisms 11–16
Aphorisms 68–76
Alfarabi’s Attainment of Happiness on Jihad
Challenges to Compelling Good Character


5. The Multiplicity Argument


The Increasing Tendency toward Conquest and Domination
The Task of Deliberation: Shaping a Multiplicity of Characters
The Task of Theoretical Virtue: Shaping a Multiplicity of Opinions
Religion as an Imitation of Philosophy


6. The Limits of Knowledge and the Problem of Realization


Knowledge and Exploitation
Attainment of Happiness
The Philosophy of Aristotle: The Limits of Our Knowledge of Final Causes
Certainty and the Knowledge of Universals and Particulars
The Limits of Knowledge and the Inherent Multiplicity of Religion



Explores the approach to peaceful religious coexistence offered by Alfarabi, the greatest Islamic political philosopher.


Joshua Parens provides an introduction to the thought of Alfarabi, a tenth-century Muslim political philosopher whose writings are particularly relevant today. Parens focuses on Alfarabi's Attainment of Happiness, in which he envisions the kind of government and religion needed to fulfill Islam's ambition of universal acceptance. Parens argues that Alfarabi seeks to temper the hopes of Muslims and other believers that one homogeneous religion might befit the entire world and counsels acceptance of the possibility of a multiplicity of virtuous religions. Much of Alfarabi's approach is built upon Plato's Republic, which Parens also examines in order to provide the necessary background for a proper understanding of Alfarabi's thought.

Joshua Parens is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dallas and author of Metaphysics as Rhetoric: Alfarabi's Summary of Plato's "Laws," also published by SUNY Press.