Ibn Sina

Ibn Sina Picture

Ibn Sina, also known by his Latinized name in Europe as Avicenna, was a Persian philosopher and polymath, born in 980 CE. Regarded as one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, Ibn Sina wrote extensively on philosophy of ethics and metaphysics, medicine, astronomy, alchemy, geology psychology and Islamic theology. He was also a logician, mathematician and a poet.

Born in Afshana, Bukhara in Central Asia, his work on medicine, specifically the Canon, or the Qanun fil Tibb, was taught in schools in the Islamic world and in Europe alike till the early modern era. His treatise on philosophy, the Cure, or al Shifa, was greatly influential on European scholastics, such as Thomas Aquinas.

Chiefly being a metaphysical philosopher, Ibn e Sina attempted at presenting a comprehensive system linking human existence and experiences with its contingency, while staying in harmony with the Islamic exigency. Thus, he is considered as the first significant Muslim philosopher of all times. He based his theories on God as the chief Existence, and this forms the foundations of his ideas on soul, human rationale and the cosmos. He also attempted at a philosophical interpretation of religion and religious beliefs.

For Ibn Sina, gaining education was of foremost importance. Grasping the logic and the comprehensible is the first step towards determining the fate of one’s soul, thereby deciding human actions. For Ibn Sina, people can be categorized on the basis of their ability to grasp the intelligible. The highest category comprises of the prophets, who have pure rational souls and have knowledge of all things intelligible. The lowest is the person with an impure soul, who lacks the capability of developing an argument. People can elevate their position in the categories by having a rational approach, balanced temperament and by purifying their soul.

In the field of metaphysics, Ibn Sina differentiates between what exists and its essence. Essence is what comprises the nature of things, and should be recognized as something separate from the physical and mental realization of things. This difference applies to all things except God, said Ibn Sina. For him, God is the basic cause and so it is both the essence and the existence. He further argued that soul is ethereal and intangible; it cannot be destroyed. Is it the soul which compels a person to choose between good and evil in this world, and is a source of reward or punishment in the hereafter.

Being a devout Muslim himself, Ibn Sina applied rational philosophy at interpreting divine text and Islamic theology. His ultimate aim was to prove God’s presence and existence and the world is His creation through scientific reason and logic. His teachings and views on theology were part of the core curriculum of various schools across the Islamic world well into the nineteenth century. Ibn Sina also penned down a significant number of short treatise on Islamic theology and the prophets, whom he termed as ‘inspired philosophers’. He also linked rational philosophy with interpretation of Quran, the holy book of muslims.

Ibn e Sina passed away in June 1037, in the Hamadan area of Iran. Out of his 450 various publications and treatises, almost 240 of them have survived, majority of which belongs to philosophy and medicine.

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