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In this much-anticipated work, Muhsin Mahdi-widely regarded as the preeminent scholar of medieval Islamic political philosophy-distills more than four decades of research to offer an authoritative analysis of the work of Alfarabi, the founder of Islamic political philosophy. Mahdi, whose research brought to light writings of Alfarabi previously known only through medieval bibliographical references, presents this great thinker as his contemporaries and followers would have seen him: as a philosopher who sought to lay the foundations for a new understanding of revealed religion and its relation to the tradition of political philosophy.
Mahdi begins with a survey of Islamic philosophy and a discussion of its historical background. He then gives a general sense of the philosophical debate, or an introduction, to the interrelated spheres of philosophy, political thought, theology, and jurisprudence within Islam and, more particularly, within medieval Islam at the time of Alfarabi. Mahdi turns to Alfarabi's concept of "the virtuous city" in the second part of the book. Here, philosophy is distinguished from science on the one hand and religion on the other. Mahdi concludes with an examination of the work that is key to understanding Alfarabi's political thought, the trilogy knows as the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.
An extraordinary philosophical engagement with the writings of and about this great thinker, Alfarabi and the Foundation of Islamic Political Philosophy is essential reading for anyone interested in medieval political philosophy.
About the Author
Muhsin S. Mahdi is the James R. Jewett Professor Emeritus of Arabic in the Department of Near Eastern languages and Civilization, Harvard University. He has published the critical Arabic editions of many of Alfarabi's works, as well as the definitive edition of the Thousand and One Nights and a pathbreaking study of Ibn Khaldun's philosophy of history.