Al-Kindi: An Arab Philosopher الفيلسوف العربي: الكندي
Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.Ds, Professor of Sociology
Al-Kindi was a descendant of the Kinda tribe. He was born and educated in Kufa, before going to pursue further studies in Baghdad. Al-Kindi became a prominent figure in the House of Wisdom, and a number of Abbasid Caliphs appointed him to oversee the translation of Greek scientific and philosophical texts into the Arabic language. This contact with “the philosophy of the ancients” (as Greek philosophy was often referred to by Muslim scholars) had a profound effect on his intellectual development, and lead him to write a number of original treatises of his own on a range of subjects ranging from metaphysics and ethics to mathematics and pharmacology.
His complete name, Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī (c. 801–873 CE), was known by the Latinised version of his name Alkindus to the Western world, was a Muslim Arab scientist, philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is best known for his efforts to introduce Greek and Hellenistic philosophy to the Arab world. (1)
Al-Kindi received his preliminary education at al-Kufa. South of Baghdad. He later went to complete his studies in Baghdad, where he was patronized by the Abbasid Caliphs al-Ma’mun who appointed him to House of Wisdom. (Bayt al-Hikmah)
After al-Ma’mun, , his brother, al-Mu’tasim became Caliph. Al-Kindi’s position enhanced under al-Mu’tasim, who appointed him as a tutor to his son. Unfortunately, Al-Kindi suffers under al-Mutawakkil’s violent persecution. Henry Corbin, an authority on Islamic studies, says that in 873, al-Kindi died “a lonely man”, in Baghdad during the reign of Al-Mu’tamid.
The central theme underpinning al-Kindi’s philosophical writings is the compatibility between philosophy and other “orthodox” Islamic sciences, particularly theology. And many of his works deal with subjects that theology had an immediate interest in. These include the nature of God, the soul and prophetic knowledge. But despite the important role he played in making philosophy accessible to Muslim intellectuals, his own philosophical output was largely overshadowed by that of al-Farabi and very few of his texts are available for modern scholars to examine. Despite this, he is still considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of Arab descent, and for this reason is known simply as “The Arab Philosopher”.
In the field of mathematics, al-Kindi played an important role in introducing Indian numerals to the Islamic and Christian world. He was a pioneer in cryptanalysis and devised several new methods of breaking ciphers. Using his mathematical and medical expertise, he was able to develop a scale that would allow doctors to quantify the potency of their medication. He also experimented with music therapy.
Al-Kindi accomplished high rank position among philosophers. He was a master of many different areas of thought. And although he would eventually be eclipsed by names such as al- Farabi and Ibn Sina. The Arab historian Ibn al-Nadim (d. 955), described him as:
“The best man of his time, unique in his knowledge of all the ancient sciences. He is called the Philosopher of the Arabs. His books deal with different sciences, such as logic, philosophy, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy etc. We have connected him with the natural philosophers because of his prominence in Science.”
According to Ibn al-Nadim, al-Kindi wrote at least two hundred and sixty books, contributing heavily to geometry (thirty-two books), medicine and philosophy (twenty-two books each), logic (nine books), and physics (twelve books). His influence in the fields of physics, mathematics, medicine, philosophy and music were far-reaching and lasted for several centuries.
Al-Kindi was recognized as one of the twelve greatest minds of the Middle Ages.by the Italian Renaissance scholar Geralomo Cardane. (661 words) www.hasanyahya.com
ملحوظة: هذا المقال ضمن جهود إحياء التراث العربي في الغرب بدعم من الدكتور حسن يحيى بدعم الموسوعة العربية الأمريكية التي يمولها مالكها الدكتور حسن يحيى
Note: This article is a part of Ihya’ al-Turath al-Arabi in the West. A project sponsored by the Arab American Encyclopedia Originator and owner, the writer.