Al-Farabi's 1150th birth anniversary celebrated

By Chelsea Ntuli Time of article published Jun 30, 2020

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Pretoria - This year Kazakhstan and the world community celebrate under The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (Unesco) support for the 1150th birth anniversary of outstanding scientist, philosopher and educator of 10th Century Al-Farabi. 

A great medieval thinker with Turkic roots, who was a renowned jurist, cosmologist, music scholar and translator who wrote in fields of politology, mathematics, chemistry, history, psychology, metaphysics, ethics, logic, and many others.

Kazakhstan authorities are proposing a joint cultural project with South Africa that the name of famous Islamic scientist and philosopher of the 10th century Al-Farabi be given to one of the streets in Erasmia. 

In return one of the streets in Nur-Sultan, the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan will be named after Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, for the first time in that part of the world.

Ambassador of Kazakhstan Kanat Tumysh said they suggested Erasmia because the overwhelming majority of the residents in the area are composed by the Muslim community, which has a close relationship and shared the same cultural and religious identity with the people of Kazakhstan.

“Local people are supporting this idea fully. Al-Farabi’s fame and recognition is flourishing, thanks to joint efforts of the scholar's homeland and native region, as well as support of Unesco. The Embassy intends to organise a special solemn event in December, along with commemorating the 29th anniversary of Kazakhstan's Independence,” said Tumysh.

Al-Farabi made his scientific masterpieces in Arabic language. Ambassador Tumysh highlighted that he influenced many prominent philosophers, scientists and physicians, like Avicenna who was one of the most significant scholars and writers of Islamic Golden Age, father of early modern medicine, as well as Maimonides who was the greatest Jewish religious philosopher of the Middle Ages. 

In philosophical tradition, Al-Farabi was often called “the Second Teacher of the World”, following Aristotle who was known as “the First Teacher”.

“He was born in the ancient city of Farab/Otrar in the vast region of Central and South Asia. He was a famous figure of Muslim Renaissance and spent around 80 years of his nomadic life in many important scientific centres of his lifetime such as Damascus and Baghdad, and also on African soil, in Alexandria, located on the crossroads of different cultures,” he said.

Tumysh underlined the life story of the philosopher and scholar, who was born more than a millennium ago on Asian land, became an inspiration for the entire globe, including South Africa.  He said his works and scientific legacy was repeatedly published in the South African Journal of Philosophy and other publications, and discussed in universities in South Africa where they have been accepted by local academic society with appreciation.

“When Kazakhstan became independent in 1991, its leading academic establishment, Kazakh National University (165th place in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings), was renamed in honour of the world’s Second Teacher. He promoted ideas of humanism and dialogue among civilizations. Apart from his brilliant knowing, practicing and promoting Islam, Al-Farabi was also well familiar with Christian theologies thought of ancient world,” added Tumysh.

Al Farabi mastered dozens of languages and translated many ancient treatises into Arabic from Greek and Latin. He is credited with saving works of greatest philosophers Aristotle, Plato and others from medieval oblivion. Tumysh stated that his works were translated from Arabic into Greek and Latin back in the 12-13 centuries. In the 20th century, they became widely available in most UN languages. 

“He is recognised by the world’s scientific community as a great scholar of the East. His fame and recognition are only flourishing, thanks to joint efforts of the scholar’s homeland and native region, as well as support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation,” he said.

The Ambassador applauded how Al-Farabi  managed to preserve roots of the European civilization by saving works of its neglected philosophers. He emphasised that now his legacy is returning from West to East, thanks to preservation of Al-Farabi’s name in works of European intellectuals. Yet, in the 20th century they inspired Kazakh patriots to start their struggle for recognition of Al-Farabi’s legacy. Consequently, Kazakhstani scientists managed to organise the First Worldwide Conference on Al-Farabi in 1970, dedicated to his 1100th birth anniversary.

Fifty years later after that, independent Kazakhstan organised an international conference devoted to his 1150th jubilee under the theme, “Al-Farabi’s Legacy”. Tumysh highlighted the conference was arranged by the Al-Farabi University in May, and was attended by scholars from Asia and Africa, Europe and Americas. He said in their speeches, participants pointed to the truly connective nature of his works that unites continents. 

He noted the president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s address during the conference and how he praised the medieval thinker and highlighted the importance of promoting further spiritual legacy of Al-Farabi. According to the head of state, this is especially important for awakening public consciousness and promoting spiritual modernisation, as well as the formation of value guidelines for the younger generation.

“Teachings of Al-Farabi, without exaggeration, are comprising of important part of the world’s treasury of humanity ideas. His prominent life is a truly inspiring story of a great man, connecting East and West”, summarised the Kazakhstan president.

Tumysh said the jubilee will be marked further all over the globe and this autumn, festivities will continue in Paris, France, at the Headquarters of The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. 

“This organisation endorsed the worldwide celebration of Al-Farabi’s birth anniversary by its General Resolution 68 of November 25 2019, included it in its calendars of events for 2020, and kindly requested all the United Nations’ states to support it and contribute to this end,” said the ambassador.

Tumysh emphasised as South Africa is celebrating youth month, one of the important places in the Al-Farabi's works and treatises was given to the idea of the promotion of youth. He said if the country does not empower and develop young people, then the country has no future, reminding Al-Farabi's quote: "If you want to see the future of the country, look at its youth". 

“We think that after been acquainted with Al-Farabi's political philosophy, all Africans should strive for the creation of a perfect state in their countries. With that, they should promote rule of law and good governance, put an end to conflicts and violence, empower women as well as intensify economic co-operation and integration,” he continued.

The Ambassador concluded that during the horrible pandemic that we were facing today, human beings should not give up spiritually, because it was important not to lose faith.

Pretoria News

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