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Mohammad Azadpur

Interpreting Political Violence in Islamic Philosophy


In this essay, I address the issue of violence in the Islamic political culture in a way that shifts the emphasis from the intellectual to the historical factors. I use the tradition of Islamic philosophy to thematize the intellectual dimension of Islam, and the shift I want to bring about presupposes an understanding of the tradition of Islamic political philosophy and its reflections on violence. After introducing the basic elements of Islamic political philosophy, I isolate two main trends whose focus is the relation between the good life and political activity. No matter which of these trends we investigate, we find some philosophers who advocate violence and others who condemn it. This demonstrates that there is no logical or cultural axiom that forces an appeal to violence in the context of Islamic political philosophy! The roots for the surge of violence in the Islamic world become visible when we refrain from seeking a theoretical basis for it in Islamic thought and attend to the specific historical contexts conditioning this appeal to violence. This conclusion has important implications for the current discussions of »Islamic terrorism.« It means, essentially, that we have to search long and hard for the appeal of political violence in the Islamic world – and, moreover, our search must be directed at concrete historical factors that might have occasioned such violence. This essay will conclude with some reflections on this direction of thought. 1



1. Introduction

Seyyed Hossein Nasr:
»Islam and the Question of Violence«.
In: Al-Serat: A Journal of Islamic Studies 13.2.
external linkArticle
1 The tragic events of September the eleventh and the crises in the Middle East have simultaneously brought to the forefront of people's minds the so-called Islamic terrorism – and caused them to search for its roots. »Terrorism,« according to Noam Chomsky, is not difficult to define. In »International Terrorism: Image and Reality,« he refers to a »U.S. Army manual … [which] defines terrorism as ›the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear‹.« (Chomsky 1991, 7) Chomsky clarifies this by reference to »a Pentagon-commissioned study by noted terrorologist Robert Kupperman, which speaks of the threat or use of force ›to achieve political objectives without the full-scale commitment of resources‹.« (Ibid.) Chomsky's article aims at the problematic inclusiveness of the definition of »terrorism,« its propensity to encompass some of the international engagements of the government of the United States.
2 In this essay, I am not interested in debating the range of the various forms of terrorism, nor am I interested in exploring the meaning of »Islamic terrorism,« a label used to identify the activities of radical Islamic factions who, for the sake of a political ideology, engage in violent and destructive behavior towards the innocent. Rather, I want to focus on a more basic issue: the relation between Islamic political thought and political violence, a concept under which terrorism is subsumed. To represent Islamic political thought, I draw mainly from the Islamic philosophical tradition. More specifically, I am concerned with the question whether, in the Islamic context, there is a necessary internal connection between philosophical reflections on the nature of the political life and the appeal to violence or the threat of its use. It is my position that such a connection does not exist, and that the ground for the appeal to politically motivated violence in the Islamic context must be sought elsewhere.
3 My strategy for arguing this is straightforward. I first identify two main trends in Islamic political philosophy whose focus is the relation between the good life and political activity. No matter which of these trends we investigate, we find some philosophers who advocate violence and others who condemn it. This demonstrates that there is no logical or cultural axiom that forces an appeal to violence in the context of Islamic political philosophy! The roots for the surge of violence in the Islamic world become visible when we refrain from seeking a theoretical basis for it in Islamic thought and attend to the specific historical contexts conditioning this appeal to violence. This conclusion has important implications for the current discussions of »Islamic terrorism.« It means, essentially, that we have to search long and hard for the appeal of political violence in the Islamic world – and, moreover, our search must be directed at concrete historical factors that might have occasioned such violence. This essay will conclude with some reflections on this direction of thought.

2. Islamic Philosophical Thought

4 According to the great scholar of Islamic thought, Louis Massignon, Islamic philosophy is a reconciliation of Greek philosophy and Abrahamic monotheism. At the outset of this discussion, however, I want to emphasize that the Greeks and Muslims have quite a different conception of philosophy than the one advocated by today's mainstream academic philosophers. Philosophy is, for them, not just a theoretical examination of concepts of and arguments concerning the various subjects of inquiry. It is, rather, a way of life. In a treatise titled The Attainment of Happiness, Alfarabi (Abū Nasr Muhammad al-Fārābī, 870-950), widely known as the second teacher (after Aristotle) and the founder of Islamic political philosophy, distinguishes between true philosophy and that which is counterfeit. He writes:
Nasr Muhammad al-Fārābī
(870 – 950)
external linkBiography
5 As for mutilated philosophy: the counterfeit philosopher, the vain philosopher, or the false philosopher is the one who sets out to study the theoretical sciences without being prepared for them. For he who sets out to inquire ought to be innately equipped for the theoretical sciences – that is, fulfill the conditions prescribed by Plato in the Republic: he should excel in comprehending and conceiving that which is essential … He should by natural disposition disdain the appetites, the dinar, and like. He should be high-minded and avoid what is disgraceful in people. He should be pious, yield easily to goodness and justice, and be stubborn in yielding to evil and injustice. And he should be strongly determined in favor of the right thing. (Fārābī Happiness, 80)
6 The cultivation and improvement of character therefore constitutes the centerpiece of Alfarabi's notion of true philosophy. In contemporary Anglo-American academic philosophy, it is merely an aspect of the sub-discipline of ethics. For the Greeks and the Muslims, the acquisition of virtue (Gr. aretē, Ar. fadl), the perfection of character, paves the way for the intellectual labors of theoretical inquiry. It allows the individual to resist extraneous goals and distractions and attend to the problems of thought and action. In the words of Alfarabi, a virtuous person excels »in comprehending and conceiving that which is essential.« (Ibid.)

3. Two Trends in Islamic Political Philosophy

7 In the Republic, Plato's Socrates portrays an ideal – the virtuous or just person – as the philosopher-king: He is an individual whose cultivated practical and theoretical sensibilities enable him to be the ultimate lawgiver. In the ideal city, Plato's philosopher is dragged from his solitary theoretical occupation into the work of ruling the city, as he is the best person for legislating right and wrong. His virtue enables him to maintain order in the city for the sake of justice, which, in turn, enables the citizens to actualize their potential for virtue. Early Islamic Peripatetics or Mashshā'ūn (e.g., Alfarabi), begin the process of reconciling the Greek with the Islamic tradition by attaching the quality of prophesy to the Greek ideal of the human individual. 2 In other words, for them the ideal human being is not just a philosopher and legislator (king); he is also a prophet (nabi).
Islamic philosophers respond ambiguously to the appeal to force or the threat of force as a means of realizing the ideal state. In itself, this is, I would argue, an important historical fact: it undermines the claim that there is a necessary connection between Islamic political philosophy and violence. 8 This move (i.e., the addition of the quality of prophecy to the ideals of philosophy and kingship) is aimed, in part, at bringing the Greek ideal into closer correspondence with the Islamic exemplar, Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet, according to the Islamic tradition, has three basic attributes: walāyah (friendship/intimacy with God), nubuwwah (prophecy), and risālah (conveying the divine law) (cf. Corbin 1993, 39-45). For the Islamic Peripatetics, the analogue to walāyah is philosophy, since a philosopher's practical and theoretical excellence brings him near the divine intellect (cf. Corbin 1993, 162-165). Nubuwwah, on the other hand, culminates in the practice (tariqah) set forth by the Prophet so that through its discipline the faithful can accomplish the ideal of intimacy with the divine. Alfarabi also specifies prophecy further in order to include the more common attributes of the prophet, i.e., the ability to foretell the future and have visions of the spiritual realm. For him, prophesy is the perfected faculty of imagination impregnated by the divine intellect (Fārābī Perfect State, 225). Finally, the ideal political state (madīnat al-fādilah) – according to Muslim Peripatetics – is one which is so organized that it brings the citizens as close as they can possibly be to a state of personal excellence. It is governed by the Shari'a, the divine law, which the philosopher/prophet (utilizing the quality of risālah) legislates in order to make perfection available to all members of the community.
9 Some of the Islamic philosophers emphasize the individual's struggle for excellence; for them, the inquiry into the ideal state is not a political program per se; it is rather the project of bringing to light the need for – and motivating the achievement of – the just (virtuous, fādil) soul. This harkens back to the Republic: In order to define what a just individual is, Socrates declares that it is easier to define justice in the city first and then, by establishing an analogy between the city and the individual, arrive at the definition of justice in the person. Socrates' strategy accords with his later contention that justice is primarily an attribute of persons and characters, and then only derivatively a property of laws, the social structure of the city-state, or the quality of our actions (Plato Republic, 442a-445e). Although the thrust of Socrates' arguments seems to be that happiness is not something that you calculate and maximize (it is intrinsic to the just life), one cannot help but notice the subservience of the city and citizenship to the demands of personal excellence. To put it more precisely, participation in the city is necessary for the achievement of virtue, but, upon acquiring virtue, the individual does not need to engage in political activity. In fact, he shuns the city and seeks the solitude necessary to philosophize, and, in the end, he must be forced to return and take on the responsibilities of rulership.
10 In contrast to Plato's account of the relation between the virtuous person and the city, Aristotle claims, in his Politics, that human beings are by nature political (Aristotle Politica, 1253a1-3). Aristotle's virtuous person – in contrast to the Platonic exemplar – cultivates friendships willingly and engages in political activity. It is important to understand that the Islamic philosophers vary in their commitment to political Aristotelianism or Platonism. But no matter which political stance they adopt, they respond ambiguously to the appeal to force or the threat of force as a means of realizing the ideal state. In itself, this is, I would argue, an important historical fact: it undermines the claim that there is a necessary connection between Islamic political philosophy and violence.

4. Political Platonists and Violence

Abū 'Alī al-Husayn
Ibn Sīnā
(980 – 1037)
external linkBiography
11 Let us begin with political Platonists: Avicenna (Abū 'Alī al-Husayn Ibn Sīnā, 980-1037), for example, supports the Platonic view that the virtuous human being transcends the limitations of the political and engages in solitary intellectual inquiry, which may culminate in divine enlightenment (Avicenna On the Proof, 114-115). Political legislation, according to Avicenna, necessitates the rarefaction of divine wisdom (Avicenna On the Proof, 116). It is an activity that the ideal person performs for the sake of maintaining the basic associations needed to cultivate virtue (Avicenna Healing, 99), and not a necessary part of its practice.
12 Despite the fact that he sees political activity as having only instrumental value, Avicenna nevertheless prescribes the use of violence as a means of ensuring that the best possible individual be placed in a position of power, namely the philosopher/prophet. In the Shifā, he argues:
13 … the legislator must then decree in his law that if someone secedes and lays claim to the caliphate by virtue of power and wealth, then it becomes the duty of every citizen to fight and kill him. If the citizens are capable of so doing but refrain from doing so, then they disobey god and commit an act of unbelief. The blood of anyone who can fight but refrains becomes free for the spilling after this fact is established in the assembly of all. (Ibid., 107)
14 However, he qualifies this endorsement of violence by claiming that a leader must have independent judgment, be endowed with the noble qualities of courage, temperance, and good governance, and know the law to a degree unsurpassed by anyone else (ibid.). Fighting on behalf of such a leader (once we have found him), may not be so bad, but it is difficult for most any individual to demonstrate that he possesses such qualities of leadership. But if he does, Avicenna urges us to accept his rule: »If the seceder, however, verifies that the one holding the caliphate is not fit for it, that he is afflicted with an imperfection, and that this imperfection is not found in the seceder, then it is best that the citizens accept the latter.« (Ibid., 110)
Abū Hāmid Muhammad al-Ghazzālī
(1058 – 1111)
external linkBiography
15 The Sunni theologian and philosopher, Abū Hāmid Muhammad al-Ghazzālī (1058-1111), attacks the early Peripatetics (including Avicenna) for their unfettered endorsement of the power of human intellect. He uses philosophical arguments, drawn from the arsenal of the Greek Skeptical tradition, to limit the scope of the philosophical quality attributed to the ideal person. Ghazali argues that the intellect (philosopher's privileged faculty) cannot provide access to the inner meaning of the prophetic revelation (for a treatment of the limitations of human intellect, cf. Ghazzālī Deliverance, 15). He construes nearness to God (walāyah) as the achievement of practical excellence – in the manner of Sufis (ibid., 54-63). The ideal person is then the mystic/prophet/lawgiver, and the successors are the Sufis (in spiritual affairs), the ulemā (in matters pertaining to religious doctrine), and the caliphs or the sultans (in matters of governance).
16 Despite his attack on the Mashshā'ūn, Ghazali remains faithful to the Platonic thesis concerning the relation between the political life and the cultivation of the self. Political activity is only a means for achieving personal excellence and salvation; in fact, according to Ghazali, political order must be maintained, even if the state and its ruler are unjust. In the Ihyā ūlūm al-Dīn, Ghazali claims that »an evil-doing and barbarous sultan, so long as he is supported by military force, so that he can with difficulty be deposed, and that the attempt to depose him would create unendurable civil strife, must of necessity be left in possession, and obedience must be rendered to him.« (Quoted in Black 2001, 104) This is clearly a strong prohibition of the use of violence (or the threat of its use) for political gain.

5. Political Aristotelians and Violence

17 In his work, On the Perfect State, Alfarabi accepts the Platonic ideal of the virtuous person, but he reconciles it with the Aristotelian stance on the status of political activity in the good life – the life led by the virtuous. According to Aristotle, as we have seen, human beings are by nature political. Therefore, the virtuous person must also cultivate the political dimension of his soul and exercise it in the political life – i.e., life in the polis. 3 In this same vein, Alfarabi maintains that the achievement of personal virtue is not the culmination of happiness or personal fulfillment (sa'ādah). Rather this fulfillment requires that one dwells in a virtuous city (madīnah), a city where co-operation is the order of the day as far as the exercise of virtue is concerned. He writes:
18 The most excellent good and the utmost perfection is, in the first instance, attained in a city, not in a society which is less complete than it. But, since good in its real sense is such as to be attainable through choice and will and evils are also due to will and choice, only a city may be established to enable its people to co-operate in attaining some ends that are evil. Hence felicity is not attainable in every city. The city, then, in which people aim through association at co-operating for the things by which felicity in its real and true sense can be attained, is the excellent city. (Fārābī Perfect State, 231)
19 Alfarabi admits the Platonic view that virtue, »utmost perfection,« requires a city as the smallest co-operative unit, which satisfies all the needs of the community. However, he also embraces Aristotelianism, when he claims that »felicity in its real and true sense« can only be attained in the excellent city, through the exercise of excellence in a political context (involving co-operation).
20 In regard to the political use of violence, Alfarabi rejects – as ignorant – cities which are instituted upon the appeal to violence as the principle ground for instilling order and maintaining obedience to authority. He also declares that practical cities (not ideal ones) can be classified as peace-loving or war-mongering, and that the citizens of peace-loving ones are free from everything unsound in their nature (ibid., 315).
Khāwjah Nasīr ad-Dīn al-Tūsī
(1201 – 1274)
external linkBiography
21 In the Nasirean Ethics, the Shiite philosopher and theologian, Khāwjah Nasīr ad-Dīn al-Tūsī (1201-1274), identifies the qualities of the philosophical and political ideal in a characteristically Shiite (mainly Isma'ili) manner. According to Tusi, the enactment of contracts, the management of a kingdom, and the administration of a city require a philosopher/prophet/legislator. He calls this person »the possessor of law« (sāhib-e namūs) or »the speaker« (nātiq). Aside from the promulgation of religious law, each age is also in need of a philosopher/ruler, the »absolute regulator of the world« (malik 'alā al-itlaq; also referred to as imām or asās). He writes:
22 In short, not every age and generation has need of a Possessor of the Law, for one enactment suffices for the people of many periods; but the world does require a Regulator in every age, for if management ceases, order is taken away likewise, and the survival of the species in the most perfect manner cannot be realized. (Tūsī Nasirean Ethics, 192)
23 Tusi makes sure that the emphasis is placed on the perfection of the human species rather than its survival. He goes on to say that the goal of the science of politics is the study of universal laws, which are given by the nātiq and maintained by the asās. The purpose of the laws is the production of »the best interest of the generality inasmuch as they are directed, through co-operation, to true perfection.« (Ibid.) This is virtue or excellence, which I mentioned earlier as constituting the core of Islamic and Greek philosophy. But, like Alfarabi, Tusi appropriates the Aristotelian position and claims that man is by nature political. 4 In the same vein, he contends that the perfect man is not solitary (ibid., 242), but rather requires a city, a civil society. He writes:
24 Now, since natural fellowship is one of the properties of men, and inasmuch as the perfection of any thing lies in the manifestation of its property …, so the perfection of this species too lies in the manifestation of this property to its own kind. This property, moreover, is the principle of the love calling forth civilized life and the (social) synthesis. (Ibid., 199)
25 Tusi's view differs from Aristotle's in the way he characterizes the human characteristics exhibited in the civilized life. Aristotle considered friendship as perhaps the primary mode in which the political feature of virtuous man is exhibited (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, 1169b3-1170b20), whereas Tusi opts for a more comprehensive attribute: love. »Love is more general than friendship, for Love is conceivable amid a swarming throng, but Friendship does not reach this degree of comprehensiveness.« (Tūsī Nasirean Ethics, 197)
26 According to Nasir ad-Din Tusi, if a king abandons his concern for justice and the good and gives »himself up to enjoyment and pleasure-seeking …, confusion and infirmity overtake the city's business …, felicity turns to misery, close association becomes hatred and affection is replaced by distance …, [and] the people of such an age remain without the possibility of acquiring goods.« (Ibid., 233) In such a situation, Tusi promotes political activism, involving the use of violence; his co-operation with Isma'ilis of Alamūt and later with Hūlāgū, against the Abbasid caliph, testifies to this. He writes: »At such a time, it becomes necessary to take up once more (the process of) management and seek the Imam of Truth and the Just King.« (Ibid., 233-234)
Abu Bakr Muhammad
ibn Bajjāh
(d. 1138)
external linkBiography
27 The Andalusian Avempace (Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Bajjāh, d. 1138) is, like Tusi, an Aristotelian in his conception of the perfect individual's relation to the city. He writes that »man is political by nature, and … all isolation is evil.« (Avempace Governance, 132) However, he differs from Tusi in an interesting way: He does not prescribe active involvement in undermining the unjust city and overthrowing its ruler, but rather he advocates the solitary life:
28 The happy, were it possible for them to exist in these [unjust] cities, will possess only the happiness of an isolated individual, and the only right governance [possible in these cities] is the governance of the isolated individual, regardless of whether there is one isolated individual or more than one, so long as a nation or a city has not adopted their opinion. (Ibid., 128)
29 As to why the solitary life is not an evil in this case, he writes that isolation
30 is only evil as such; accidentally it may be good … For instance, bread and meat are by nature beneficial and nourishing, while opium and colocynth are mortal poisons. But the body may possess certain unnatural states in which the latter two are beneficial and must be employed, and the natural nourishment is harmful and must be avoided. However, such states are necessarily diseases and deviations from the natural order. (Ibid., 132-133)
31 In a diseased political state, Avempace prescribes solitariness as an antidote to overcoming the evils of injustice. This, of course, implies a rejection of the appeal to violence in the face of unjust political conditions.

6. Some Modern Islamic Philosophical Reflections on Violence

32 Since the nineteenth century the call to active participation in overcoming political stagnation and injustice has pervaded the political discourse of prominent Islamic philosophers. In the writings of such figures as Sayyid Jamāl ad-Dīn al-Afghānī (1837-97) and Muhammad Iqbāl (1877-1938), an ideal Islamic state is promoted through a concrete political program – involving the use of violence – so as to awaken the slumbering Muslim masses and effect their rectitude and enlightenment. Afghani argues for the institution of an Islamic state as a pragmatic solution to the plight of colonized Muslims. A strict Islamic state mobilizes the Muslim masses and instills the necessary values to enable them to become culturally and economically competitive with the Europeans (cf. Keddie 1968, 36-45). For Iqbal, on the other hand, the institution of an Islamic state disciplines the individual so that he can break out of the narrowness of taqlīd (imitation of an exemplar), and exercise ijtihād (independent judgment) (Iqbāl 1965, 146-180).
Islamic Philosophy Online:
Dictionary - Map - Philosophers - Forum - Journal.
external linkWebsite
33 Rūhollāh Khomeini's (1902-89) notion of governance of the jurist (velāyat-e faqīh) is also an example of the appropriation of the Islamic philosophical ideal for a specific political program. Khomeini argues that the jurists are the true representatives of the hidden Imam (Khomeini 1985, 82-84). In a limited way, they evidence his walāyah, the quality that puts the Imam in possession of the inner meaning of the revelation. As such, in Khomeini's activist appropriation of the Islamic philosophical tradition, a just jurist (faqīh) is not only the authority in religious and legal matters; he is also the perfect political leader. A government of the jurists is the only government, according to Khomeini, that can be just, i.e., it can preserve Islamic ideals and lift Muslims from the misery brought upon them by their oppressors (ibid., 84). Furthermore, the achievement of independent judgment (ijtihād), which is considered to be the culmination of a jurist's course of study, is limited by the larger, extant political goal of maintaining the clerical regime. 5

7. Conclusion

34 In conclusion, I want to emphasize that the justification of (violent) activism, so prominent in modern Islamic political thought, is not due to a specific theoretical orientation within Islam's scholarly tradition. As we have noted in regard to the earlier history of Islamic political thought, different philosophical positions (concerning the nature of the political) admit of contradictory interpretations regarding the use of violence. The adoption of an activist (involving the use of violence) or a pacifist (non-violent) interpretation of them has nothing to do with the intrinsic features of the theory – and everything to do with the specific historical context and the political involvements of the relevant thinker. Nasir ad-Din Tusi's engagement in the Mongol invasion of Iran and the overthrow of the Abbasid Baghdad was (likely) the main motivation for his activist appropriation of Aristotelian political philosophy (cf. Dabashi 1996, 530-532). Avicenna's implication in the political activities of the Būyid kings and their manipulation of the Caliphate motivates, in my view, his activism. Ghazali's pacifism, on the other hand, is prompted by his alliance with the Seljuk court and his condemnation of the Shiite opposition to the rule of its Sultans (cf. Watt 1985, 85-97). Alfarabi and Avempace advocated pacifism, I believe, mainly because of their commitment to the contemplative life and their lack of interest in political intrigue.
Confronted with various forms of colonialism, imperialism, and totalitarianism, desperate people find themselves in desperate situations. It is not surprising that some of them turn to violence. 35 The call to violent uprising in modern Islamic political philosophy is also due to the specific concerns of its diverse authors. Each of the thinkers mentioned above was actively involved in establishing a new political order. Afghani's political activities spanned the whole of the Middle East, from India through Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey to Egypt. He is best known for his anti-British position, his advocacy of a pan-Islamic state, and his participation in the assassination of Nāsir ad-Dīn Shāh (cf. Keddie 1968, 30-32). Iqbal's political activities in regard to establishing a separate Muslim Indian state led his followers to reserve for him the posthumous title of »the spiritual father of Pakistan.« (Kurzman 1998, 255) Khomeini's denunciation of the Pahlavi dynasty culminated in his assumption of the leadership of Iran in 1978 (cf. Algar 1985, 13-23).
36 What is fascinating is perhaps not the philosophical legitimization of political violence offered by these thinkers, but the relative popularity of these interpretations among some Muslims today. This popularity does not have to do with the claimed ascendancy of violence in the Islamic culture; as we have seen, the philosophical tradition – at least – vacillates between endorsing violence and advocating non-violence. Instead, I would argue that the mass appeal of violence in modern Islamic world is directly proportional to the level of tyrannical oppression. Confronted with various forms of colonialism, imperialism, and totalitarianism, desperate people find themselves in desperate situations. It is not surprising that some of them turn to violence.
polylog: Forum for Intercultural Philosophy 5 (2004).
Online: http://them.polylog.org/5/fam-en.htm
ISSN 1616-2943
© 2004 Author & polylog e.V.



A slightly different version of this article was published in: The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning 5.1. Online: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/ssr/. go back
According to Aristotle, ethical standards are not abstract moral principles (as prevalent in modern moral philosophy); rather they are given by moral exemplars, the spoudaios or phronimos, i.e., the practically wise person (Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics, 1140a25-28, 1143b21-25). go back
For a defense of the claim that Aristotle's Politics, or at least relevant parts of it, were available to Alfarabi, refer to Pines 1975, 150-160. Muhsin Mahdi argues that the primary objective of Alfarabi's efforts in On the Perfect State and Political Regime is political. He maintains these texts are »models to guide future legislators in establishing new cities. Models of this kind … are artful productions created by the teachers of legislators with an eye to general habits, character, opinions, and conditions, and these the legislator will adjust further with a view to a particular city under particular conditions« (Mahdi 2001, 123). This is an interesting interpretation that reveals the Aristotelian dimension of Alfarabi's philosophy, according to which the madīnah is seen to be necessary for the exercise of excellence. go back
Nasir ad-Din Tusi's political thought betrays a remarkable familiarity with Aristotle's Politics. Cf. Black 2001, 149. go back
This constraint has continuously justified appeals to violence and the threat of violence by the clerics who belong the circle of power in today's Iran. go back


Mohammad Azadpur (*1964 in Kerman, Iran) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University; he joined the faculty in 2003. In 1986, he received his B.A. in English Literature from Bucknell University, and in 1993, his M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1999, he obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Virginia, with a thesis on Experience Conceptualized: Between the Myth of the Given and Coherentism. His areas of speciality are Islamic Philosophy, Ethics, and Aesthetics.
Prof. Dr. Mohammad Azadpur
San Francisco State University
Department of Philosophy
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
external linkhttp://www.sfsu.edu/~phlsphr/mohammad_azadpur.html
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