Two Minutes w/Dr. Yahya: Ikhwan al Safa Psychology
Excerpt from: Rasa’il Ikhwan al Safa by Omar Farrukh, Managing Editor: Hasan Yahya-P.39-41
The Publisher’s Introduction
THE development of Islamic philosophy may started early in history. Two Muslim intellectual schools, al Mu’tazilah group and Ikhwan al Safa. were known of first school in Islamic philosophy called al Kalam school.
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) noticed that that Aristotle seemed to hesitate between the view that the prime constituent of the good life is intellectual thought and the alternative, based upon a broader collection of virtues. These two alternatives have very different implications, especially within the context of a religious philosophy.
Ikhwan al‑Safa a group of libres penseum, adapted these two alternatives. They cultivated science and philosophy not for the sake of science and philosophy, but in the hope of forming a kind of an ethico‑spiritual community may find a refuge from the struggle that was raging among religious congregations, national societies, and Muslim sects themselves.
The Ikhwan al‑Safa were a secret group holding meetings which were held once every two weeks. These meetings were restricted to the members and followers of the group, subjects of metaphysical and esoteric nature were discussed.
The Ikhwan al‑Safa were Muslims. But they had a special interpretation of religion in general, and of Islam in particular. The Shi`ite coloring helped them to play cleverly upon the emotions of the masses. But historically, Ikhwan al‑Safa did not belong to any sect. They, in fact, sought with the aid of Islam and Greek philosophy, to work out a spiritual doctrine without insulting any one.
Ikhwan al‑Safa produced numerous works known as Rasa’il Ikhwan al‑Safa (Epistles of the Ikhwan al‑Safa). The compilation of their work must have dragged over a long period, but by 373H/983A.D, the “Epistles” were already completed.
Politically speaking, as an intellectual sect Ikhwan al‑Safa were prophecizing the coming of daulatu ahl al‑khairi; (state of Charity people) if “the time when the adherents to their group would form the bulk of the nation.” A notion similar in our modern times to the Muslim Brothers call for establishing a Muslim State, when they got the top leadership of the nation as the case in Egypt.
Ikhwan al Safa in their encyclopedic work covers too many aspects of knowledge. This book, however, covers only nine: Classification of the Sciences, Theory of Knowledge; Metaphysics; Nature and the Sciences; Psychology; Politics; Ethics; Education and finally Religion.
This book was selected as part of Ihyaa al Turath al Arabi fil Mahjar; (Revival of Arab Heritage in Diaspora) project to disseminate knowledge among new Arab generations in Diaspora. The project was sponsored by the Arab American Encyclopedia-AAE,. Both projects are originally initiated and supported materially and spiritually by the Arab Palestinian scholar, writer, and scientist, professor Hasan Yahya, the publisher of this work.
May this work satisfy those who need more information about early Islamic philosophy in general and Ikhwan al Safa in particular.
Hasan A. Yahya,Ph.Ds
Managing Editor and Publisher
Michigan – USA
Ikhwan al Safa and Psychology
(1) The Soul ‑The soul has three major faculties or powers, every one of which is called equally a soul.
(i) The vegetative or nutritive soul common to all living beings: plants, beast, and man alike. It is subdivided into three powers: that of nutritive proper, that of growth, and that of reproduction. 
(ii) The animal, beastly, or sensitive soul belongs to beasts and men only. It is subdivided into two powers: locomotion and sensation. Sensation falls in turn in two categories: perception (sight, touch, etc.) and emotion. Emotion is either primitive (laughter, anger, etc.) or evolved (good food, social and political prestige, etc.). 
(iii) The human (rational, thinking, or talkative) soul is restricted to man.
These three faculties, together with their powers, work together and are united in man and likened to a tree with three boughs, every bough of which has several branches, and every branch many‑leaves and fruit. Comparison may also be made with a person who is a blacksmith, carpenter, and builder or who can read, write, and teach:  he is one man with three faculties.
(2) The Brain, and the Heart ‑ The prevailing belief in ancient times was that the heart constituted the most important organ of the body: the centre of sensation, the seat of intelligence, and the house of life. Aristotle was also of this opinion. The Ikhwan al‑Safa decided in favour of the brain and held that it is the brain where the processes of perception, emotion, and conception develop. 
(3) The Process of Thinking ‑ It begins in the five senses and continues in the brain. Fine nerves extend from the sense‑organs to different parts of the mass of the brain, where they form a net similar to a spider’s web. Whenever the senses come in touch with sensible bodies, their temperament undergoes a change which is communicated soon, together with the abstract forms of those sensible bodies, to the imaginative zone in the front part of the brain. Next, the imaginative faculty passes the traces which the abstract forms have left on it to the reflective faculty, in the middle part of the brain, to ponder upon them and verify their indications; then, the indications are transmitted in turn to the retentive faculty (or memory) in the back part of the brain to be stored there until a recollection of them is needed. At the right time the relevant data are referred to the expressive or talkative faculty by which they are abstracted, generalized, and given the form expressible by the tongue to be received intelligibly by the ear. 
 Rasa’il, i, pp. 241f.; ii, pp. 325ff.; Jami’ah, ii, p. 164.
 Rasa’il, i, pp. 241f.; ii, pp. 325ff.; Jami’ah, ii, pp. 164f.; cf. pp. 168‑86.
 Rasa’il, ii, pp. 325f., 347.
 Ibid., ii, p. 162; iii, p. 23 bottom.
 Ibid., ii, pp. 324, 328, 341, 347; ii:, pp. 17f., 29, 376ff., 386, 388, 392; Jami’ah, i, pp. 507, 602f., 60,5.