Utopias: Farabi’s “The Virtuous City (El Medinetü’l Fazila)” UtopiaJune 29, 2021
The Ideal State, El-Medinetü’l-Fazıla, or the City of Virtue or the Virtuous City is Farabi’s utopia-type book in which he analyzes the ideal state. According to Farabi, who enumerates the virtues of a head of state in the book, the person who will preside must have the following virtues: His organs must be fully understanding, his memory strong, eager to learn, smart and subtle; should speak well, not be fond of food and drink and entertainment; love the truth and avoid lying.
He should keep his ego high and refrain from things that will make him doubt himself, he should be religious and not have an eye for worldly concerns, he should be just and refrain from doing evil, he should be willing in his work. Farabi, who explains the Virtuous City in detail in his work El-Medinetü’l-Fâzıla, calls the opposite of the virtuous city the “city of ignorance”.
According to him, knowledgeable and virtuous people should govern the individuals who come together under the influence of natural needs and form the society. Only a person who is physically and mentally sound, intelligent, loves learning and teaching, is honest, self-confident, believes in God, and is hardworking should be the president of a society. Managers with these characteristics elevate the people they manage in terms of knowledge.
They ensure the happiness of people by realizing the good, the truth and the beautiful in social life. If the managers do not have these qualities, the people they manage will be unhappy. Every city established to achieve happiness is a virtuous city. From this point of view, Farabi calls a nation that works hand in hand to reach happiness as a “virtuous nation”, and a world whose all nations work together to achieve happiness is a “virtuous world”. Thus, a virtuous “world state” is reached from a virtuous society.
Farabi uses the terms “under the moon” and “over the moon” instead of our terms of earth and sky. According to this, “The sub-moon realm is the home of the person who has reason and will. It is in his hands to establish order here. A virtuous city to be established here will be an integral part of the superlunar realm, which itself constitutes a virtuous order, on the divine plane. A perfect order, which is free from corruption and change, is dominant in the superlunar realm, while the sublunar realm has moved away from perfection because it is mixed with matter.
While a person with the ability to reason is in pursuit of true happiness with his spiritual side, he is under the influence of forces such as wealth, fame and lust in terms of material aspects. Human nature is doomed to live in society. In that case, it will be possible for him to reach real happiness in a social order. The name of this order, which enables people to reach real happiness, is the “Virtue City”.
The first goal of politics in Fârâbî is to reach real happiness. Happiness is the defining feature and essence of the virtuous city.
For Farabi, the real place of true happiness is the hereafter. Therefore, the two realms are directly related to each other. Religious life is not separate and disconnected from worldly life; on the contrary, religious life is the center and axis of worldly life. Here, the city where the happiness of the world and the hereafter will be realized together is the “virtuous city”. The ruler of the virtuous city and the ruler of the realm should not be different. However, the administration of the earth has to be done indirectly, not directly, but indirectly through revelation and prophets. “This revelation, which comes from al-Awvel through the spirit of al-quds, begins to apply in the city as shari’ah, that is, the prevailing will here is the will of al-Awvel. Thus, the entire universe becomes a place where God’s will is embodied. The mayor of the virtuous city is also an intermediary for this.”
“What will be done in the absence of a person who possesses all of these characteristics unique to the prophets? In such a case, if there is a person among the people of the virtuous city who collects a significant part of these characteristics, he becomes the president. Imitation of the sharia and sunnahs of the ancients is the last resort in Fârâbî.
Enemies of the Virtuous City
“According to al-Farabi, the virtuous city is one city, but there are many types of the unrighteous city. He characterizes all vice cities as “ignorance” with a moderate feature. The word ignorance, which is preferred as the common name of all cities without virtue, may be used to refer to the meaning of ignorance, which is the opposite of knowledge, or it may be preferred to refer to the “era of ignorance” used for the pre-Islamic period.
As can be understood from the above, the main criterion for distinguishing whether a city is virtuous or not is the first president and the politics he implemented. If the first president is a virtuous person and the administration is a virtuous administration, this city is a virtuous city, but if the first president’s administration is an ignorant administration, this city is also an ignorant city.
Al-Farabi considers the traits such as health, welfare, generosity and greatness that are put before the ignorant societies as good deeds. Such good deeds cannot be the target of a virtuous city, the city that targets them is an ignorant city. first again