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Ibn Miskawayh

Persian scholar
Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Miskawayh Razi
Title Ibn Miskawayh
Born 932 CE
Died 1030 CE
Ethnicity Persian
Era Islamic Golden Age
Region Iran
Main interest(s) History, Theology, medicine, ethics and philosophy
Notable work(s) Tadhib al-akhlaq (Ethical Instruction), Al-Fawz al-Asghar, Tajarib al-umam (Experiences of Nations)

Abu 'Ali Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ya'qub Ibn Miskawayh (Persian: ابن مسكوويه), also known as Ibn Miskawayh (932–1030) or Ebn Meskavayh, was a Persian[1] chancery official of the Buwayhid era, and philosopher and historian from Rey, Iran. As a neo-platonist, his influence on Islamic philosophy is primarily in the area of ethics. He was the author of the first major Islamic work on philosophical ethics, entitled Tahdhib al-akhlaq (تهذيب الأخلاق: Refinement of Morals), focusing on practical ethics, conduct, and refinement of character. He separated personal ethics from the public realm, and contrasted the liberating nature of reason with the deception and temptation of nature.

Life

Ebn Meskavayh was a prominent figure in the intellectual and cultural life of his time.[1] Miskawayh may have been a Mazdaean convert to Islam, but it seems more likely that it was one of his ancestors who converted[1][2] He was fluent enough in Middle Persian to have translated some pre-Islamic texts in that language into Arabic. He worked as a secretary and librarian for a sequence of viziers, including Adud al-Dawla. Some contemporary sources associated him with the Brethren of Purity, claiming that some of his writings were used in the compilation of the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity.[3]

Works

Ibn Miskawayh was one of the first to clearly describe a version of the idea of evolution. Muhammad Hamidullah describes the evolutionary ideas found in Ibn Miskawayh's al-Fawz al-Asghar as follows:

"[These books] state that God first created matter and invested it with energy for development. Matter, therefore, adopted the form of vapour which assumed the shape of water in due time. The next stage of development was mineral life. Different kinds of stones developed in course of time. Their highest form being mirjan (coral). It is a stone which has in it branches like those of a tree. After mineral life evolves vegetation. The evolution of vegetation culminates with a tree which bears the qualities of an animal. This is the date-palm. It has male and female genders. It does not wither if all its branches are chopped but it dies when the head is cut off. The date-palm is therefore considered the highest among the trees and resembles the lowest among animals. Then is born the lowest of animals. It evolves into an ape. This is not the statement of Darwin. This is what Ibn Maskawayh states and this is precisely what is written in the Epistles of Ikhwan al-Safa. The Muslim thinkers state that ape then evolved into a lower kind of a barbarian man. He then became a superior human being. Man becomes a saint, a prophet. He evolves into a higher stage and becomes an angel. The one higher to angels is indeed none but God. Everything begins from Him and everything returns to Him."[1]

Arabic manuscripts of the al-Fawz al-Asghar were available in European universities by the 19th century. This work is believed to have been studied by Charles Darwin, who was a student of Arabic, and it is thought to have had an influence on his inception of Darwinism.[1]

In his Tajarib al-umam (Experiences of Nations) he was one of the first major Muslim historians to write a chronicle of contemporary events as an eyewitness. As a Buwayhid bureaucrat, he worked under the vizier al-Muhallabi and had access to the internal happenings of the court. The chronicle is a universal history from the beginning of Islam, but it cuts off near the end of the reign of Adud al-Dawla.

His major work in the field of philosophy is his Tahḏib al-aḵlāq wa-taṭhir al-aʿrāq. The book is meant to provide students of philosophy and ethics an exposition of the main elements of philosophy.

Ketāb al-ḥekma al-ḵāleda (Book of Eternal Wisdom) is an Arabic translation of a Persian work called Jāvidān ḵerad ("Eternal Wisdom").[1] One manuscript of which bears the title Ketāb ādāb al-ʿArab wa’l-Fors (lit. "Book of Literatures of the Arabs and Persians").[1]

See also

References

External links

  • C. Edmund Bosworth, "MESKAVAYH, ABU ʿALI AḤMAD" in Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Ibn Miskawayh, Ahmad ibn Muhammad from www.muslimphilosophy.com

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