This paper considered a special aspect of the process of emanation: the way in which the First Principle is introduced by al-Farabi, particularly in Madina al-fadila, and by al-Kirmani, particularly in Rahat al-‘aql. After a presentation of the similarities and the different perspectives of these treatments, the paper focused on the relationship, or rather the lack of relationship, between the First Principle and the concepts of ‘contrary’ (didd) and ‘similar’ (mithl).

Al-Farabi refers to God as al-mawjud al-awwal, or al-awwal; al-Kirmani invariably uses the attributes ta‘ala and muta‘alin, the Exalted, emphasising the special attribute of the First Principle in his system. The two treatments have many common elements, but the authors address these themes differently.

The negation of contrariety and similarity in God appears especially interesting with reference to the question of the authors’ classical sources and the possible influence of al-Farabi on al-Kirmani. Aristotle’s works provided the tools necessary for clarifying the nature of contrariety in both authors. But al-Farabi appears to be much more Aristotelian, in spite of his much-advocated ‘neoplatonism’. For him, the First Principle is continuously and explicitly linked to the chain of being and He is the first cause of everything, as demonstrated in the entire Madina al-fadila. Al-Kirmani, probably, realised not only that the idea of contrariety in itself invalidates the Muslim conception of God and His basic attributes, but also his own representation of the Exalted – and, of course, that of the Farabian ‘First Principle’ too. Consequently, Aristotle’s positions were to be ultimately rejected in favour of others, which is why, despite any discernible discrepancy, al-Kirmani’s text offers similarities with Plotinus that are not found in al-Farabi. The texts examined – and the very co-existence of the treatment of contrariety with that of similarity as well – could, in future, also constitute a further proof of the important links that have still to be discovered between Stoic and Muslim logic.


Professor Carmela Baffioni


Carmela Baffioni is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, having previously been Professor of the History of Islamic Philosophy and of the History of Muslim Philosophies and Sciences at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ until 2012.


Read more