Nathaniel Baruch ben Eli al-Baghdādī al-Baladī, haRoffe al-Musil al-Baghdād (c.1077 - c.1165) MP

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Nicknames: "Auhad az-Zaman", "Nethanel", "Abu ’l-Barakāt", "Abū ʾl-Barakāt Hibat Allāh ibn Malkān al-Baghdādī al-Baladī"
Birthplace: Balad, Balad, Salah ad-Din, Iraq
Death: Died in Baghdad, Baghdād, Iraq
Cause of death: Age, Leprosy, blindness
Occupation: haRoffe
Managed by: Jaim Harlow
Last Updated:

About Nathaniel Baruch ben Eli al-Baghdādī al-Baladī, haRoffe al-Musil al-Baghdād

Abū al-Barakāt - Hibat Allāh b. ʿAlī b. Malkā (Eli ben Malkān) al-Baghdādī, known as Awḥad al-Zamān (‘Unique in his time’) and Faylasūf al-ʿIrāqayn (‘the Philosopher of the two Iraqs: ʿAjamī and ʿArabī), a physician and philosopher of the first half of the 6th/11th century. In at least one Hebrew text, he is referred to as Nathaniel, the etymological equivalent of Hibat Allāh.

life

The exact date of Abū al-Barakāt's birth is not known, only that he was born into a Jewish family in the Balad region near Mosul sometime before 470/1077 (Pines, ‘Abū al-Barakāt’, 111). However, as he was brought up and lived in Baghdad, he was called both al-Baladī and al-Baghdādī (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/278; al-Bayhaqī, 110).

In Baghdad he studied medicine under a well-known teacher, Abū al-Ḥasan Saʿīd b. Hibat Allāh (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/278; Shahrazūrī, 2/79). Subsequently, due to his great reputation in this field, he was made physician to the ʿAbbāsid caliphs. His ability to cure his patients became so renowned that people called on his services. The Saljūq sultans used to summon him from Baghdad to Hamadān when they had need of him and he therefore amassed considerable wealth from the gifts he was given (al-Qifṭī, 224). Abū al-Barakāt had a particular approach to curing diseases that amazed the other physicians of his time: examples of his inventive treatments employing a psychiatric approach can be found in the writings of Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa and al-Qifṭī (1/279–280; pp. 225–226). According to al-Qifṭī, other physicians used to ask him questions on diseases, which he would reply to in his own hand. They then copied them down from him until these problems and responses became a book in its own right, which they circulated among themselves (p. 226).

On the other hand, Abū al-Barakāt was well known for propounding philosophical theories, which were criticised by other thinkers of his time. For example, Shihāb al-Dīn Yaḥyā al-Suhrawardī in Kitāb al-Mashāriʿ regarded him as ‘the philosopher-like physician’, and criticised his ideas regarding God's will (pp. 435–436, 468, 471). As Abū al-Barakāt later converted to Islam, he did not attract the attention of his former co-religionists, and thus seems to have had little influence on Jewish thought (Feldman, 5/984).

There are various accounts of his conversion to Islam: some regard the fact that he was denigrated by the supreme judge (qāḍī al-quḍāt) of Baghdad as the reason behind his decision (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280; Shahrazurī, 2/80); others believe that it was born of a fear that the wife of the Saljūq sultan Muḥammad b. Malikshāh (r. 498–511/1105–1118), who was his patient, would die (al-Qifṭī, 226–227). Al-Bayhaqī goes even further and states that Abū al-Barakāt was taken prisoner during the battle in 529/1135 between al-Mustarshid bi'llāh, the ʿAbbāsid caliph (r. 512–529/1118–1135), and the Saljūq sultan Masʿūd (r. 527–547/1133–1152), and fearing that he would be put to death, he converted to Islam. The result was that his conversion saved him from death and he enjoyed the patronage of the sultan (pp. 151–152; Shahrazūrī, 2/80). In later life Abū al-Barakāt suffered from leprosy and although he managed to cure himself by following his own method, he lost his sight (al-Bayhaqī, 151; Shahrazūrī, 2/79; al-Qifṭī, 226). Being blind, he used to dictate the Kitāb al-Muʿtabar, his most important philosophical work, to his students (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280; al-Dhahabī, 20/419).

The year of Abū al-Barakāt's death, like the year of his birth, remains unclear. Al-Ṣafadī states that he was eighty years old at the time, and that he died around 560/1165 (p. 304). Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, without referring to the actual date of his death, writes that he lived to the age of eighty (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280). Al-Dhahabī refers to 550/1155 or 1156 as the year of his death, and also believes that he lived to about eighty (al-Dhahabī, 20/419). Of all the sources, only al-Bayhaqī (p. 151) and Shahrazūrī (2/79), who follows him, state that he died in the year 547/1152 and that he lived for ninety (solar) years. The report by al-Bayhaqī, who himself died in 565/1170, would appear to be more accurate than the others. On this subject he writes:During the year 547 [= 1152] a colic befell the Saljūq Sulṭān Masʿūd b. Muḥammad b. Malikshāh, after he had been maimed by a lion. He had brought Abū al-Barakāt from Baghdad to Hamadān [to cure him]. As the people despaired for the sultan's life, Abū al-Barakāt feared for his own, and [actually] died in the forenoon. The sultan died [on the same day] in the afternoon. The coffin of Abū al-Barakāt was carried to Baghdad with the pilgrims' caravan (Meyerhof, pp. 71, being the translation from al-Bayhaqī, 151; see also Shahrazūrī, 2/79–80).

Among modern accounts, the author of Hadiyyat al-ʿārifīn states that Abū al-Barakāt died in 570/1150 in Baghdad (al-Baghdādī, 505). According to George Sarton, however, he died in Baghdad in 1174 or 1175 at the age of eighty from elephantiasis (2/382), but the source on which this statement is based is unknown.

Abū al-Barakāt left three daughters (al-Dhahabī, 20/419; Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280) who remained Jewish (al-Qifṭī, 225). Abū Barakāt had been anxious that they might not be entitled to inherit from him after his death but the caliph granted his request that they should not be deprived of their inheritance, and thus it turned out (al-Qifṭī, 225).

Abū al-Barakāt was a conceited and proud man, and most writers have described him as being of base character and ill-natured. The sources note his intrigues against Amīn al-Dawla Abū al-Ḥasan b. Tilmīdh, a fellow physician and a very humble and unassuming man much favoured by the caliph (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280; Yāqūt, 19/277–278). On this matter al-Qifṭī (p. 226) and Ibn Khallikān (6/75) quote the following poem by Badīʿ Usṭurlābī:Abu al-Ḥasan and Abū al-Barakāt were both physicians, but poles apart; the first, heavenly through humility, Abū al-Barakāt was very low because of his selfishness.

In addition to his considerable writings, Abū al-Barakāt held teaching sessions and took on pupils. His students included Shaykh Yūsuf, the father of Muwaffaq al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Baghdādī, Jamāl al-Dīn b. Faḍlān, Ibn al-Dahān the astronomer and Muhadhdhab al-Dīn Ibn Naqqāsh (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280). Another student, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm b. Izra (Yitzhak ben Avraham Ibn Ezra), who was also a friend of Abū al-Barakāt, praised him in a poem written in Hebrew (Pines, ‘Abū al-Barakāt’, 111).

works

1. Maqāla fī sabab ẓuhūr al-kawākib laylan wa ikhtifāʾihā nahāran (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280) (‘A Treatise on the Cause of the Appearance of the Stars at Night and their Disappearance in the Day’). This treatise has also been attributed to Khwāja Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (Markazī, Khaṭṭī, 16/339). Another treatise, called ‘Ruʾyat al-kawākib fī al-layl lā fī al-nahār’ or ‘Ruʾyat al-kawākib bi al-layl lā bi al-nahār’ is also extant, and has been attributed to Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) (Āstān-i Quds, 8/343, 10/252). However, as the introduction in the above manuscripts shows, the treatise was written to answer questions posed by the Saljūq sultan Muḥammad b. Malikshāh, and so its attribution to Ibn Sīnā and al-Ṭūsī is incorrect. It was translated into German by E. Wiedemann and published in Eders Jahrbuch für Photographie (Brockelmann SI/831; for manuscripts see Brockelmann I/602; Āstān-i Quds, 11/311; Markazī, Khaṭṭī, 10/1635, 14/3682).

2. Ikhtiṣār al-tashrīḥ (‘Compendium of Anatomy’), a summary and revision of Galen's discourses (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280).

3. al-Aqrābādhīn (‘Pharmacopeia’), (a ‘dispensatorium’, or collection of formulas for the preparation of complex drugs, including descriptions of their individual components and how to make up the compound) in three parts (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280).

4. Risāla fī al-ʿaql wa māhiyyatihi (‘A Treatise on the Intellect and its nature’), al-Dhahabī calls this Risāla fī māhiyyat al-ʿaql and al-Ṣafadī refers to it as Risāla fī al-ʿaql (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280; for information on a manuscript of this text entitled Kitāb ṣaḥīḥ adillat al-naql fī māhiyyat al-ʿaql, see Brockelmann, SI/831).

5. Barshiʿthā, a treatise on an antidote of the same name (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280), also called Tiryāq barshiʿthā (for manuscripts of this, see Fihrist-i Kitābkhānah-yi Markazī, 15/4157, entitled Sharba barshiʿthā, and Fihris Makhṭūṭāt Maktabat Köprülü, 1/501, entitled Ṣifat tiryāq barshiʿthā).

6. Amīn al-arwāḥ, about a medical amalgam or electuary (Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, 1/280). A copy of this treatise can be found in Manisa, incorrectly titled Amīr al-arwāḥ (see Fihris Makhṭūṭāt al-ṭibb al-Islāmī, 90).

7. A commentary on Ecclesiastes (attributed to Abū al-Barakāt), written in Judaeo-Arabic. There are manuscripts of this text in Oxford and St. Petersburg. Abū al-Barakāt dictated the work to his student, Isḥāq b. Ibrāhīm, and in the introduction the latter includes the poem in praise of his teacher, referred to above. Some sections of the manuscript have been edited and published by Pozanski (Feldman, 8/461).

8. A Hebrew grammar (attributed to Abū al-Barakāt) written in the Arabic language. A manuscript of the work is held in St. Petersburg (Feldman, 8/461).

9. Kitāb al-nafs (al-Bayhaqī, 150), a commentary on Aristotle's al-Nafs ‘De Anima’ (Ṣafā, 1/278).

10. al-Muʿtabar fī al-ḥikma, Abū al-Barakāt's most famous work on philosophy and ‘currently the best book on this subject’ according to al-Qifṭī (p. 224). Apparently, Abū al-Barakāt was himself aware of its importance. As a result, when he was near death, he asked them to write on his tombstone: ‘Here lies Awḥad al-Zamān, Abū al-Barakāt Dhī al-ʿIbar wa Sāḥib al-Muʿtabar’ (al-Qifṭī, 226). The book is in three parts: logic, physics, and metaphysics. Its significance can be gauged by the fact that thinkers such as Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Ṣadr al-Mutaʾallihīn Shīrāzī (Mullā Ṣadrā), Ibn Taymiyya and Samuel ben Eli, the Iraqi Jewish scholar, all referred to it (Pines, ‘Abū al-Barakāt’, 113). Furthermore, ʿAlī b. Zayd al-Bayhaqī wrote a work entitled al-Mushtahar fī naqḍ al-Muʿtabar (Yāqūt, 13/228). The task of editing al-Muʿtabar was undertaken by Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn Mūsawī, with glosses and an epilogue by Sulaymān Nadwī. It was published in three volumes in Hyderabad (1357–1358/1937–1938). A partial translation into Turkish of the section on metaphysics was published in Istanbul in 1932.

Abū al-Barakāt is regarded as a critic of Peripatetic philosophy. Although he wrote al-Muʿtabar on the model of the work of Aristotle and the Peripatetics, he did not slavishly imitate these earlier thinkers. He valued only logical principles and rational proofs (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/4). Since his objective was to know reality, and not to adhere to any particular individual or advocate any specific belief, he paid little attention to what was transmitted from the ancient philosophers. What he presented was the fruit of his own investigations and observations made during his lifetime:

‘When it was destined to me that I should study the philosophical sciences by reading the books of the Ancients as well as the exegeses, commentaries and interpretations of later writers, I became an avid reader and devoted myself most assiduously to it for a long time that I might gain a little knowledge of the subject. For it is difficult to understand much of what the Ancients wrote, because it is concise and there is little explicit distillation into sum and substance, and because of the defectiveness in its expression when translated from one language to another. Equally [I found that] the work of later authors is verbose, full of indications that do not indicate and proofs that do not prove, and in many places it lacks proper explanation and clarification… So I used to expend great effort in thinking and contemplating [on my own], in order to grasp and understand the concepts and to acquire sciences and verify them for myself. Sometimes my studies were in accord with the opinions of the Ancients, and sometimes not. Through a thorough observation of the Book of Existence, I also discovered certain truths which had not been stated or communicated before. None of that could simply be retained in memory, but had to be noted down on paper to be examined and studied [later]. When someone came across these writings and wanted to make a copy of them, I refused to allow that, because of what might have occurred if it had fallen into the hands of unqualified people, who would then accept or reject its contents or part of it on the basis of ignorance and lack of proper consideration. When these notes became copious, containing knowledge which was not to be wasted, and there were repeated requests for them from people who had to be replied to, I responded by composing this book’ (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/3–4).

Abū al-Barakāt regards the science of logic as ‘the principles of observation and the presentation of ideas’ (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/4). In this part of the work he attempts to demonstrate the imperfections of Aristotelian logic and to eliminate all superfluous explanation. In the section on physics, he gives some of his own observations, in addition to analysing and criticising the ideas of the Peripatetics (e.g., Abū al-Barakāt, 2/209, 224, 243).

an overview of abū al-barakāt's philosophical views

1. In regard to the origin of creation and how the multiplicity of existence manifests, Abū al-Barakāt rejects the view of the Peripatetic philosophers which was based on the famous principle that ‘Nothing proceeds from The One but one’ ( al-wāḥid lā yaṣdur ʿanhu illā al-wāḥid). The Peripatetics hold that the First Principle ( al-mabdaʾ al-awwal) is simple and unique in every respect, with no multiplicity in it, and the existents necessarily proceed from It. From this premise they then conclude that nothing proceeds from the First Principle but one thing. The first emanation ( al-ṣādir al-awwal), or the first divine effect, is one, an immaterial substance called ‘the First Intellect’. In contemplating the essence of the Creator, the First Intellect produces the second intellect, and in contemplating its own essence, it produces the first sphere ( al-falak al-awwal) and the soul which is related to it, through a process of emanations. The second intellect is generated from the First Intellect and the third intellect from the second, in an ongoing process until the tenth intellect emerges. The tenth or Active Intellect ( al-ʿaql al-faʿʿāl), which is regarded as the last of the ten intellects, has direct effect upon the physical world. In one respect, the Active Intellect is the cause of the earthly souls, and in the other aspect, through the mediation of the spheres, it is the originator of the four elements and compounds in the world of generation and corruption. The emanation of all the various compound forms is thus completed by means of it (3/148–151).

According to Abū al-Barakāt, the Peripatetic doctrine of the Active Intellect is muddled and confused, and their view of the number of intellects also contains defects. The Peripatetics sometimes refer to the Active Intellect as the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon, guiding and directing human souls, believing that the souls issue from it. At other times they state that the Active Intellect is the effect of the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon, and not identical to it (3/151). On the other hand, the Peripatetics reduced the number of intellects to ten [as opposed to previous schemas of 47 or 55]. Here they were influenced by astronomers who described the number of intellects as being equal to the number of spheres (3/151). However, the question is whether the intellects should be confined to a definite number, or if the Active Intellect should be identified with the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon.

After making these points, Abū al-Barakāt embarks on a critique of the Peripatetic doctrine of the principle of ‘The One’ which constitutes one of the tenets of emanationism (3/156–158). The principle, in his opinion, is valid, but the Peripatetic philosophers derived unnecessary conclusions from it and did not employ it properly (3/156). Thus they argue that nothing proceeds from the First Principle, which is One, except one existent (= the First Intellect); then they make the First Intellect, which is essentially one (wāḥid al-dhāt), the source of three further emanations, namely the second intellect, the body of the First Sphere and the soul of the First Sphere. In ¶ this way they contradict the very principle that they themselves established: how can one justify the three subsequent emanations from the First Intellect, which is itself one, on the basis of this principle? In other words, if the First Intellect is indeed ‘one’, then nothing should proceed from it but ‘one’; and if it is not actually one, but embraces multiplicity—as taught by the Peripatetics—then its emanation from The One (= the First Principle) surely contradicts the principle.

Why should we not argue that in the First Principle contemplating Itself as First Intellect, is produced an existent, the first of Its creations? When It creates it, It knows it and apprehends it as an existent thing in Existence along with Itself, and thus through what It apprehends, another thing issues from It. Thus, the First Principle contemplates and then produces, produces and then contemplates. Therefore, some of Its creatures would be reasons for creating others: the second for the sake of the first, and the third for the sake of the second, and so on. This is as reported in the story of creation, where God first created Adam, and then created from him and for him Eve, and then from them both and for their sake He created their offspring (3/156).

The gist of Abū al-Barakāt's argument is that the real ‘Agent’ (fāʿil) and ‘Creator’ (khāliq) of all existents is God, without there being any intermediary in His agency and creativity, as the Peripatetics had claimed, through the mediation of a series of intellects emanating from each other and producing the multiplicity of existence. The First Principle, the Agent who is Free to choose and All-Powerful, can create a single being, and then for the sake of it, create another being, and yet at the same time, act as causa prima and direct agent for both. To clarify the point, Abū al-Barakāt provides an analogy: imagine a man buys a slave for himself; then he buys another slave for the sake of the first, and similarly he buys another slave for the sake of the second, and so on. In all cases, the buyer is the same man, although he has bought the second for the first and the third for the second, etc (3/156).

The major criticism which Abū al-Barakāt levels against the theory of emanation (ṣudūr) and the principle of ‘ al-wāḥid’ is that the Peripatetic doctrine imposes limits on the Divine Power. The principle, in their argument, implies that the process of emanation is merely vertical (ṭūlan). In that case, how is one to explain the plurality of existents, which proliferate horizontally (ʿarḍan), and among which there is no cause-effect relationship? (3/151). The basis of Abū al-Barakāt's argument, like the view of the Ashʿarī theologians (see Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, 2/501–508), is that God is not an Actor who is obliged and compelled; on the contrary, He is a Free Agent, and the principle of ‘ al-Wāḥid’, which is valid in itself, cannot apply to the Agent who is Free and All-Powerful. The arising of creation is not an emanation which is necessitated, but a voluntary act originating from the absolute Will, which is completely knowledgeable of Its action. The principle of ‘ al-Wāḥid’, as expounded by the Peripatetics, implies that God is the Creator and real Agent of one entity (= the First Intellect). And yet at the same time God's power and activity are not restricted, and the series of intellects play no active role in the act of creation. By virtue of His Omnipotence the Exalted Creator can create anything He wills, without intermediary, i.e. without the intermediary of the Intellects in the process of emanation and creation; and all that has manifested and will manifest in the world of existence is His direct action and creation.

Two points are worth mentioning here: firstly, contrary to what Abū al-Barakāt asserts, with regard to the vertical relationship between the degrees of being and based on the principle that the cause of the cause of a thing is equally the cause of that thing, the Islamic Peripatetics, including Ibn Sīnā, describe the First Principle as the real Agent, and the series of intellects as intermediaries in the process of emanation, rather than as the source of emanation. Abū al-Barakāt seems to have confused the two, and his argument does not provide a solution to the problem. Secondly, his explanation is not always convincing, nor does his slave analogy for the process of emanation resolve the ambiguity. For if the second creation emerged from the First Principle for the sake of the first creation in the very same manner that the first creation occurred, then the second would be exactly the same as the first and not something else; and if it did not emerge in the same manner, then a multiplicity of aspects would arise within the essence of the First Principle—which is where the main problem lies.

2. The various uses of the term ‘intellect’ are examined in the second chapter of the second section on metaphysics. Abū al-Barakāt rejects the existence of the Active Intellect as expounded by the Peripatetics: they believe that it is the Active Intellect that raises the human soul from the stage of potential intellect to the level of actual intellect. Indeed, it is this Active Intellect that is regarded as the teacher and educator of human souls. The Active Intellect is the source from which the soul emanates, which then, in its final stage of perfection, will be transformed back into the Active Intellect (Abū al-Barakāt, 3/148–149).

Abū al-Barakāt speaks against this doctrine in two sections. In the chapter on physics, he declares that the soul can attain perfection on its own, without the need for anything else to help it to the stage of perfection and actualisation (2/411). As a result, there is no need for the Active Intellect. On the other hand, in the chapter on metaphysics he gives a different kind of explanation, saying that it is right to refer to a master and educator for human souls, but whether there exists only one teacher for all souls or whether there is a particu-¶ lar teacher for one soul or several teachers for one soul, requires further investigation (3/152).

The Peripatetics say that the Active Intellect is the proximate cause (causa proxima) from which all human souls emanate. Souls are not different from each other in respect of their quiddities. However, their variations are related to accidents pertaining to bodies, temperaments, education, and habits. As a result, the existence of either one teacher or one proximate cause, which is the Active Intellect, is sufficient. However, according to Abū al-Barakāt, human souls are substantially and quidditatively different from each other. As a result, human souls require more than one proximate source from which to issue, and they must have more than one teacher, in order to learn (3/152–153).

Abū al-Barakāt's ideas are based on the premise that a single teacher and educator (the Active Intellect according to the theory of the Peripatetics) for the actualising, guiding and teaching of human souls—given that they are different in terms of their substance and quiddities—is insufficient. Therefore, one must posit the existence of several teachers, or several proximate causes, or several intellects. Abū al-Barakāt, in contrast to the Peripatetics, seems to divide up the functions of the Active Intellect, that is to say the leading, teaching, and guiding of souls, among a number of intellects or angels. These intellects or angels, which act as spiritual teachers and spiritual directors for human souls, provide them with guidance, teach them knowledge, and give them strength. As a way of corroborating this, Abū al-Barakāt states that previous philosophers who had attained the ability to contemplate and understand the realm of the Divine, have also pointed this out. They referred to the angel whose duty is to guide, protect and direct each or a number of human souls, as al-ṭibāʿ al-tāmm (the perfect nature), which the conveyors of Divine revelation also called malak (angel) (2/391).

In discussing the perfect nature as the sentinel, guiding, and educator angel of the soul, Abū al-Barakāt seems to have been influenced by Hermetic ideas. The concept of the perfect nature derives from the Hermetics (Nasr, 73 ff.; Corbin, 183), and several years after Abū al-Barakāt, was exhaustively and incisively discussed in the writings of the Illuminationist master (shaykh al-ishrāq) Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī. The concept of al-ṭibāʿ al-tāmm meaning al-dhāt al-malakūtiyya (the angelic self) or the rabb al-nawʿ (archetype, or lord of the species of man) is expounded there (al-Suhrawardī, 464).

3. As regards the number of intellects, Abū al-Barakāt differs from the Peripatetics in not limiting them to ten. He interprets ‘intellects’ as angels and spirits, in accordance with religious terminology, and in his view, the cosmos is filled with angels, who are the educators and guardians of all the species. The number of these angels is equal to the number of visible and invisible stars, and known and unknown spheres. They may even be as numerous as the kinds of sentient creatures (3/167). Accordingly, each sentient creature, whether celestial or elemental, has an angel or archetype, which preserves the form of the species in the material world and sustains the species through its particulars. Hence these angels are called ‘the preservers of forms’ (3/167).

While the Peripatetics refer to the Active Intellect as wāhib al-ṣuwar (the bestower of forms), Abū al-Barakāt calls the angels who direct the species ‘the preservers of forms’ (ḥāfiẓ al-ṣuwar). In this way he attempts to reject the idea that angels or intellects can play any active role in the process of emanation and creation. In other words, according to him, angels merely take responsibility for preserving the species, and for directing and educating them, while ¶ the actual existence of the species depends on the direct power and activity of God. The Peripatetics, on the other hand, hold that the Active Intellect, in addition to being the director and educator of souls, is wāhib al-ṣuwar, and thus invests the perceptible creatures of the sub-lunar world with existence.

Abū al-Barakāt can also be seen as a forerunner to al-Suhrawardī in taking intellects as angels or archetypes, and in describing them as innumerable, as well as his discussion of the perfect archetype in the sense of the particular angel of the human being, for it was these views that were later to be explored in detail in al-Suhrawardī's works.

4. The soul, for Abū al-Barakāt, is a substance which is essentially immaterial. When it reaches its highest station of perfection, it becomes the immortal companion of angels and spirits, and attains to a beatific vision of the Divine lights and the knowledge of the truths of existence (3/214–215). The perfection of the soul is realised in its being united with the realm of the angels and the realm of the Divine, which is the domain of immaterial intellective substances. These substances are differentiated according to their degree of perfection or imperfection. They differ from souls in that they have no need of matter. It makes little difference whether the intellective substances are regarded as intellects, angels or spirits, but it is important to understand that they are immaterial, suprasensory species and entities that are not disposed to becoming immanent or to being affected by matter or bodily forms. The realm of the Divine is the domain of pure intelligibles and the realities of perceptible creatures. In this world, for instance, there is a fire that does not burn and there are contraries that do not destroy each other. Accordingly, Abū al-Barakāt leads his discourse towards Platonic ideas, regarding them as the intelligible forms of things in the Divine knowledge (3/93).

5. Knowledge of particulars, according to the Peripatetics, is something which God possesses only in a universal manner. That is to say, particulars are known by Him insofar as they are encompassed by universals: the particulars being changeable, knowledge also changes, following the object of knowledge (maʿlūm), and a change in knowledge also entails a change in the knower, whereas the Exalted Creator is free from any change or alteration. His Knowledge is neither temporal nor derived from creaturial existents, and any change in His Knowledge is impossible. Ibn Sīnā writes in this regard: ‘The Necessary Being knows everything in a universal manner; at the same time, nothing is concealed from Him’ (see Ibn Sīnā, al-Najāh, 594; Abū al-Barakāt, 3/71). He explains further that in contemplating His own Essence and thinking of Himself as the Originator of every existent, God contemplated the beginnings of existents from Himself and what proceeds from them. Thus nothing comes into existence unless it is necessitated by a cause from God, the Exalted. This causal efficacy originates from the Exalted Origin, and through the process of action and being acted upon (fiʿl wa infiʿāl) attains a stage in which the particulars come into being. Therefore, God knows the causes and what they entail. So necessarily He also knows what they lead to, their duration and final consequences; for it is impossible that He should know the one without knowing the other. Hence, God the Exalted does have knowledge of particulars insofar as they are universals, namely inasmuch as they possess attributes (Ibn Sīnā, al-Najāh, 595).

According to Abū al-Barakāt, God's knowledge also contains the particulars insofar as they are particular and changeable: however, this does not require any change and imperfection in the essence of the exalted Creator, or necessitate a body and bodily entities, from which God is free, because knowledge is nothing but a relation ( al-iḍāfa), and a change in relation does ¶ not require any change in the essence of the knower. The range of God's knowledge of an object is entirely without limit, just as His power in bringing it into existence is equally infinite (3/88). To clarify the issue, Abū al-Barakāt presents his own view of how particular things are perceived, advancing a thesis that no physical or material data are required for perception to occur. According to this doctrine, there is no validity in the view held by the Peripatetics, that sensory and imaginative perception, which is related to particulars, requires matter and contact with the physical, and that perception of particulars must take place through a body or physical entity (3/71). On the contrary, in the human being that which perceives imaginative forms, let alone sensory particulars, is neither a body nor a bodily faculty (3/84). Therefore, why should we deny knowledge of particulars to God and His angels? (3/88). If that were the case, God would be less perfect than the human soul, which can comprehend particulars and universals equally.

Another point worth noting here is that He may possess knowledge of particular things, but not of the limitless particulars at any given moment, for this is obviously a self-contradiction. While God may lack knowledge of the limitless particulars at any given moment, this is not an indication of any inability or imperfection in knowledge on His part. What renders it impossible is that although the object of divine knowledge can be potentially limitless, nevertheless for it to be actually so violates this said principle (3/187; Ibrāhīmī, 463). It is in regard to the same issue, namely God's knowledge of particulars, that Abū al-Barakāt considers God's will to be both renewed and circumscribed.

6. Abū al-Barakāt holds that God's actions (afʿāl, sing. fiʿl) depend upon infinite ever-renewed acts of will, which means that God has to renew His will for each temporal action, and that activity is endless. Divine actions, he argues, are divided into those which are pre-eternal (qadīm) and those which are temporal (muḥdath). Similarly, His Will is divided into that which is permanent (dāʾim) and those acts of will which are renewed (mutajaddida) (3/175). Abū al-Barakāt ascribes the movements of the spheres and their perpetual motion to the permanent divine Will, while viewing events in the world of generation and corruption as caused by the renewed divine acts of will. This is how he regards the renewing of the divine acts of will as the source of such things as are perpetually renewed (3/175). According to him, the creation of existents depends upon a succession of divine willings, be they eternal or temporal, meaning that God's Will caused the movement, and knowledge of the movement brought about the second will towards the other movement. Although the second will originates from the previous movement, nevertheless it is the same will which causes another movement, a process which continues through the cosmos. For example, the will causes the initial movement from A to B; then the knowledge of having arrived at B causes the second will which becomes itself the cause of the next movement from B to C. The knowledge of having arrived at C, causes another will which becomes the cause of movement from C to D, and so on' (3/175–176; Ibrāhīmī, 461).

These arguments were dismissed by al-Suhrawardī at the beginning of a chapter in his Kitāb al-Mashāriʿ wa al-muṭāriḥāt, entitled ‘Fī ibṭāl qāʿida li-Abī al-Barakāt…’ (‘in refutation of a principle formulated by Abū al-Barakāt…’), where he is highly critical of his doctrine. He writes: ‘Abū al-Barakāt taught that God has a permanent eternal will as well as ever-renewed infinite wills, a doctrine at variance with even the most basic rationality as well as with the Jewish tradition he had observed and the Islamic teachings to which he converted’ (al-Suhrawardī, 435–436).

7. In chapter 22 of the section on metaphysics, Abū al-Barakāt describes the Creator as the Light of lights (nūr al-anwār), and correlates the degrees of existence with the ranks of lights. Light, he argues, is divided into intelligible and perceptible or hidden and apparent. God is the eternal source of all lights, and the whole universe consists of lights which are generated, in varying ways, from the Light of lights (3/126). God is the Light of all lights, hidden and manifest at the same time. His manifestation is by virtue of His essence, His attributes and His Being which is necessary in Itself, while His concealment is by virtue of the essential weakness of the eyes in perceiving Him, just as the eye of a bat is too weak to stand the daylight, which is hidden from it even though it appears, paralysing and dazzling it (3/128). As is evident, these expressions are more or less identical to those made before Abū al-Barakāt in Plotinus' Enneads and al-Ghazālī's Mishkāt al-anwār, and after him in the works of al-Suhrawardī.

According to Abū al-Barakāt, proving the existence of God by motion—which the Peripatetics stress—is not a proper method or a specific way of knowing Him (3/130). Knowledge concerning the existence of God is intimately linked to knowledge of existence insofar as we have direct experience of it. Furthermore, the wisdom which is revealed in the structure of outer existence points to the existence of the Creator, aside from a direct connection between man and the Truth, at certain times. The Essence of the Necessary Being (wājib al-wujūd) is unknowable, because on the one hand we are incapable of perceiving Him, and on the other, God is a single, simple Reality in which nothing composite exists, i.e. He has no essential parts (dhātiyyāt) by which His essence might be known (3/123). When He is said to be essentially qualified by such attributes as knowledge, power and wisdom, it does not mean that these attributes are ‘parts’ of His essence; rather, they belong to Him through His essence and they proceed from His essence, and not through anything else than Him or from anything else than Him, just as the three angles of any triangle are always equal to two right-angles [i.e. 180°] (3/123).

8. The human soul, in Abū al-Barakāt's view, has a strong connection with the beings of the transcendental world ( al-ʿālam al-ʿulwī). Just as the eye (baṣar) has a light by which outer things can be seen, so also the inner eye (baṣīra), which is the essential reality of the human being and ‘the rational human soul’ ( al-nafs al-nāṭiqa), possesses a light by which true realities are contemplated (3/166). Abū al-Barakāt agrees with Ibn Sīnā ( al-Ishārāt, the third namaṭ, 2/343–347; al-Shifāʾ, Physics, De Anima, 225–226) in saying that the basis of psychology (ʿilm al-nafs) is man's direct knowledge (maʿrifa) of himself, without any intermediary. This is prior to any other knowledge: for before knowing other things and anything other than himself, man is self-conscious, self-aware, a consciousness which is intuitive, certain and self-evident (2/306). The direct awareness which man possesses of himself indicates that the soul of any individual is a single reality (2/383), and man's consciousness of his own unity indicates the absurdity of the claim that there are various distinct faculties in the soul. Thus Abū al-Barakāt rejects the view of some Peripatetics who, according to him, believed that there was a distinction between theoretical and practical faculties and that the soul was made up of these two faculties. He is also critical of their views of the intellect and its division into material (hayūlānī), habitual (bi al-malaka), actual (bi al-fiʿl) and acquired (muktasab), and holds that the soul is a single indivisible reality, where that which perceives sensible objects in the human being, is the same as that which perceives the intelligibles, i.e. ‘the rational human soul’ ( al-nafs al-nāṭiqa) rather than a bodily faculty (see 3/149–150).

9. Perceptions of temporality (zamān) and of existence (wujūd), as well as self-consciousness, for Abū al-Barakāt, are prior to perceptions that man can have of other things, and the concepts of existence and time are interrelated (3/39). Thus time, contrary to what the Peripatetics taught, is not a measurement of motion, but a measurement of existence. Just as it is one of the characteristics of the creature's existence, so it is also one of the qualities of the existence of the Creator (3/40–42).

Those who consider time as a measure of motion, hold that since the Creator is immobile, He is not in time, but as mentioned above, the existence of every existent is in time, and non-temporal being is unimaginable, since time implies duration and extension of existence. Those who state that the Creator does not exist in time (zamān), say that He exists in dahr (atemporality or meta-time) and sarmad (timelessness), or rather that His existence is dahr and sarmad, changing the word for time without altering the meaning. For when they are asked what is meant by dahr and sarmad, they say that it means perpetual continuance ( al-baqāʾ al-dāʾim) in which there is no motion. However, perpetuity is one of the properties of duration and time, and so all that has happened is a change of terminology, while the meaning remains the same. In other words, time means duration and the continuance of existence: when the duration and continuance of something lacks a beginning and an end, or we cannot conceive of it having one, it is called pre-eternal (azalī) and post-eternal (abadī), or pre-eternity and post-eternity (3/41).

10. Dahr and sarmad are time itself in relation to entities which are permanent (thābit) and pre-eternal (azalī). Time embraces every existent, whether it undergoes change or not, whether it is creative (i.e. divine) or created. Mentally one cannot examine time in terms of whether it runs slow or fast or has different motions: it is the measure of existence [itself], and so what can be pictured in the mind is whether the existence of things is enduring or not, long-lasting or not. Time and existence are so interrelated that to speak of the createdness of time is identical to speaking of the createdness of existence. How can one say that time did not exist ‘before’ the world was created, when time is not eliminated unless existence disappears, and existence neither becomes non-existent nor comes into being? Just as physical measurement cannot be separate from a physical body, so time, which is the measurement of existence, has no separate existence or self-subsistent identity. This does not mean that time has no existence at all, for the existence of time is more evident and known than anything else which is found in time or related to it. The existence of time is intellectually prior to everything else, whether it be before reflection and consideration, whereby we have imperfect knowledge, or after comprehension and contemplation, through which we have full knowledge (3/40). The logical consequences of this view impelled Abū al-Barakāt to reject the other aspects of temporality, namely dahr and sarmad, as expounded in Peripatetic philosophy, and consider them simply as degrees of existence, and on the other hand, to connect the issue of time with theology and metaphysics rather than physics (see 3/2, 35 ff.).

11. Abū al-Barakāt, unlike the Peripatetics, believed in the void and the infinity of space, and the inability of the human mind to conceive of space having a limit or an end (2/48–69). On the other hand, in his theory of the propulsion of objects, he argues that a projectile receives a force called an ‘inclination’ (mayl) from that which projects it, and it is this inclination that causes the propulsion (2/113). The inclination supplies the necessary power to continue the motion of the object. Gradually, the impetus is exhausted when confronted by an opposing force, until it vanishes completely and the motion stops. ‘Forced’ (qasrī) inclination is contrasted with ‘natural’ (ṭabīʿī) inclination. With regard to the speed of falling objects, it is the forced inclination that causes the object to accelerate as it falls, or moves it towards its natural place—which comes from a natural inclination. As the forced inclination gradually decreases, the speed of the fall [actually] increases. For instance, when an arrow is released from the bow, because of the force that the projectile receives from the one who fires it, it continues in motion as long as the forced inclination remains in it. As the forced inclination decreases, the natural inclination increases as does the speed of falling, until the force it has received from the archer comes to an end, and the arrow returns to its natural inclination and place, and [thus] falls (2/112).

According to S. Pines, this theory is a reworking of the ideas of Ibn Sīnā, and was originally based on the work of John Philoponus (or ‘John the Grammarian’, the Christian thinker of the 6th century CE), who had refuted Aristotle's statements on the velocity of projectiles (the theory of ballistic motion, whereby the speed is proportional to the weight of moving bodies and indirectly proportional to the density of the medium). A direct linkage can be seen between Abū al-Barakāt's theory and the fundamental law of modern dynamics, that a constant force gives rise to an accelerated motion (Pines, ‘Abū al-Barakāt’, 112).

the reception of abū al-barakāt by islamic scholars

Abū al-Barakāt's philosophical ideas and his criticisms of Peripatetic philosophy, particularly that of Ibn Sīnā, regularly met with objection from certain Islamic thinkers. ʿUmar Khayyām found Abū al-Barakāt's critique of Ibn Sīnā to be unfounded: in his discussions with ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla Farāmarz b. ʿAlī, one of the descendants of ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla Kākūyah, he said that Abū al-Barakāt was not even capable of understanding Ibn Sīnā's words, let alone criticising them (Bayhaqī, 110–111). Al-Suhrawardī also regarded Abū al-Barakāt's teachings as ‘hadhyānāt qabīḥa’ (vile drivel), referring to his doctrine as ‘the cause of the demise of philosophy’ (al-Suhrawardī, 435–438, 468). Nonetheless, certain important similarities can be found between al-Suhrawardī's and Abū al-Barakāt's thought. These may either be regarded as Abū al-Barakāt's impact on al-Suhrawardī, simply a co-incidence or as both philosophers having come under the influence of similar sources. The most important similarities that merit further investigation are as follows:

1. The body is not a composite of prime matter and form.

2. The number of intellects is not limited to 10.

3. The use of the term ‘light’, and discussion of the degrees of light and their correlation with the degrees of being, and referring to God as the Light of lights.

4. Belief in al-ṭibāʿ al-tāmm (perfect nature) as the guide and educator of human souls.

Unlike this group, other Islamic thinkers praised Abū al-Barakāt and were influenced by his ideas. One of his supporters was the aforementioned ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla Farāmarz b. ʿAlī, an erudite king of Yazd (d. 510/1116) and author of Kitāb Muhjat al-tawḥīd, who was keen on philosophy and one of the sages (Bayhaqī, 110–111). In a discussion with ʿUmar Khayyām, ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla defended Abū al-Barakāt and criticised ʿUmār Khayyām for using polemics and slander rather than clear argument to refute Abū al-Barakāt (Bayhaqī, 110–111).

Abū al-Barakāt's ideas caught the attention of Ashʿarī theologians and the defenders of sunna and ḥadīth. According to Shahrazūrī, most of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī's doubts about Peripatetic philosophy were provoked by Abū al-Barakāt's writings (2/148).

Ibn Taymiyya, in his Minhāj al-sunna al-nabawiyya (1/96), also praised Abū al-Barakāt for not following the philosophers. He regarded Abū al-Barakāt's ideas on the subject of God's knowledge of particulars as much closer to those of the traditionalists and the ahl al-ḥadīth than other Islamic philosophers. In al-Radd ʿalā al-manṭiqiyyīn he refers several times to Abū al-Barakāt (pp. 125, 231–232, 336, 444, 525), and equates him to al-Suhrawardī, and relies on his arguments against Peripatetic philosophy.

WRitten by: Samad Movahhed, Tr. Maryam Rezaee, Jawad Qasemi

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Citation Movahhed, Samad; Rezaee, Maryam; Qasemi, Jawad. " Abū al-Barakāt." Encyclopaedia Islamica. Editors-in-Chief: Wilferd Madelung and, Farhad Daftary. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 29 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-islamica/abu-al-barakat-COM_0050>

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Abū ʾl-Barakāt Hibat Allāh ibn Malkā al-Baghdādī al-Baladī was a physician and philosopher in twelfth-century Iraq. His contemporaries dubbed him “the Singular One of the Age” (Ar. awḥad al-zamān), and some claimed that as a philosopher he had attained the level of Aristotle himself. Born in Balad, near Mosul, around 1077, Abūʾl-Barakāt was one of the foremost Jewish intellectuals of his time. Under his Hebrew name, Baruch ben Melekh, he wrote Bible and Talmud commentaries in Judeo-Arabic, including commentaries on the Book of Ecclesiastes and on tractate Soṭa of the Babylonian Talmud. Fragments of his writings have been preserved in the Cairo Geniza. It was under his Hebrew name, too, that he was honored in a Hebrew panegyric by Isaac ibn Ezra in which he is also called Nethanel, a rendering of Hibat Allāh (Shirim, ed. Schmelzer, p. 45). This appellation, however, appears nowhere else. Abū ʾl-Barakāt become a Muslim toward the end of life, and apparently Ibn Ezra followed his mentor and friend into Islam.

Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s greatest fame came from his achievements in medicine and general philosophy. He was a disciple of Abū ʾl-Ḥasan Saʿīd ibn Hibat Allāh ibn al-Ḥusayn, the most famous physician of the time. Abū ʾl-Ḥasan at first refused to take him as a student because he was Jewish, but he relented after Abū ʾl-Barakāt, who had been listening in on the master’s classes from the corridor, solved a problem that baffled all the other students. Abū ʾl-Barakāt became a court physician to the Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and to Seljuk lords in Mosul and the Iranian province of Jibal. Two Muslim biographers of physicians, Ibn al-Qifṭī (d. 1248) and Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa (d. 1270), recount anecdotes about his wondrous cures for everything from coughs to mental illness. They also note that he often had difficult relations with his patrons and their courtiers.

At an advanced age, Abū ʾl-Barakāt converted to Islam. The biographies repeat several rumored explanations of his decision. According to one, his pride was wounded because the chief qadi did not rise along with everyone else when he came into the sultan’s court. According to another account, he had been attending the beloved wife of Sultan Maḥmūd II (r. 1118-1131) and converted out of fear when she died. Still another attributed his conversion to fear for his life when he was captured during a battle in which the army of the caliph al-Mustarshid (r. 1118–1135) was defeated by Sultan Masʿūd (r. 1134-1152). Goitein observed that Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s Jewish contemporaries do not seem to have taken his apostasy very seriously, since Samuel ben Eli Gaon cites him in his polemic against Maimonides (Med. Soc., vol. 2, p. 303). Apparently, there were Muslims who also questioned the sincerity of his conversion, because he apparently had to demonstrate his zeal by invoking God’s curse upon the Jews and their children before his rival, the Christian physician Amīn al-Dawla ibn al-Tilmīdh.

Abū ʾl-Barakāt contracted leprosy and became blind toward the end of his life. He died in Baghdad around 1165, after the caliph al-Mustanjid (r. 1160–1170) assured him that his daughters, who were still Jewish, could inherit his estate.

2. Scientific Oeuvre

Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s principal work was the Kitāb al-Muʿtabar, dealing with logic, naturalia (including psychology), and metaphysics (3 vols., ed. Şerefettin Yaltkaya, Hyderabad, 1939). His detailed Arabic commentary on Ecclesiastes is of considerable philosophical interest but almost entirely unpublished. Among the smaller treatises ascribed to him is the Risāla fī Sabab Ẓuhūr al-Kawākib Layl wa-Ḵh̲afāʾihā Nahār (cf. Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa, vol. 1, p. 280), trans. E. Wiedemann (in Eders Jahrbuch für Photographie, 1909, pp. 49–54). Under a slightly different title, Ruʾya ʾl-Kawākib bil-Layl lā bi'l-Nahār, it passes for a work by Ibn Sīnā (cf. G. C. Anawati, Essai de Bibliographie avicennienne, no. 162).

In al-Muʿtabar, Abū ʾl-Barakāt adopts and quotes literally several theses from the Shifāʾ of Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), a work on which to a great extent he modeled his own book, but at the same time he attacks other theses that are among the most essential elements of the Shifāʾ. His opposition to Ibn Sīnā in the field of physics is often at one with the tradition, termed Platonic in Islamic lands, that was followed by Abū Bakr al-Rāzī. His psychology, as compared to Ibn Sīnā’s in the Shifāʾ, is in some respects more closely (or at least more manifestly) related to that of the Neoplatonists.

Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s philosophical method does not lend itself easily to recourse to the authority of tradition. This is shown by the very title of the Kitāb al-Muʿtabar, which in Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s usage means something like “The book about what has been established by personal reflection.” His method is distinguished in the first instance by an appeal to self-evident truths, the certainties a priori that nullify the theses a posteriori of the dominant philosophy of the period. Abū ʾl-Barakāt refuses to make a distinction between the certainties of reason, admitted as valid by the Peripatetics (Aristotelians), and those depending on the estimative faculty (Ar. wahm), which they dismissed. It is mainly this method that leads him to assert, against the partisans of the Aristotelian theory of space, the existence of a tridimensional space. With John Philoponus (490–570) he refutes the proposition denying the possibility of movement in the void. Having demonstrated the fallacy of the Peripatetic arguments to the contrary, he proves the infinity of space by the impossibility of man’s conceiving a limited space.

Similarly, it is by appealing to the a priori knowledge of the human mind that Abū ʾl-Barakāt is able to clarify the problem of time—the true solution of which, according to him, depends upon metaphysics rather than upon physics. In effect, he shows that the apperception of time, of being, and of self is anterior in the soul to any other apperception the soul might have, and that the nature of being and the nature of time are closely linked. According to his definition, time is the measure of being (and not, as the Peripatetics held, of movement). He does not admit the diversity of the various levels of time, the gradations of zamān, dahr, and sarmad assumed by Ibn Sīnā and other philosophers. In his opinion, time characterizes the being of the Creator as well as of created things.

Abū ʾl-Barakāt identifies prime matter with the body considered merely from the point of view of corporality, apart from any other characteristic; corporality being an extension susceptible of being measured. Among the four elements, earth alone is, in his view, constituted of corpuscles indivisible because of their solidity.

Dealing with the movement of projectiles, Abū ʾl-Barakāt accepts, though with modifications, the theory of Ibn Sīnā—ultimately, as it seems, inspired by John Philoponus—according to which the cause of this movement is a “violent inclination,” that is to say, a force (later called impetus by certain Latin schoolmen) imparted by the projecting body to the projectile. He explains the acceleration in the fall of heavy objects by the fact that the principle of natural inclination (Ar. mayl ṭabīʿī, a current philosophical term) contained within them furnishes them with successive inclinations. The text of the Muʿtabar treating of this doctrine is the first, so far as is known at present, to imply the fundamental law of modern dynamics that a constant force gives rise to an accelerated movement.

It is Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s psychological doctrine that shows most palpably the role his philosophical system gives to recourse to what is self-evident. The doctrine has as its starting point man’s consciousness of himself, i.e., of his soul. This consciousness bears the stamp of certainty and is anterior to any other knowledge; it would be there even without the perception of the sensible things. Ibn Sīnā had already availed himself of this a priori datum but had great difficulty integrating it with his psychology—which bears the stamp of Peripateticism—whereas Abū ʾl-Barakātis was led by it toward other psychological verities, equally guaranteed and authenticated by their self-evident character. For instance, man’s valid consciousness of being one—which is the same when he sees and hears, thinks, remembers or desires, or accomplishes any other psychical act—is sufficient, in Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s view, to refute the various theories postulating a multiplicity of faculties of the soul. Another example: the certainty one has of perceiving, in the act of seeing, the very object one sees, and in the place where it really is—and not an image, which according to certain hypotheses is situated inside the brain—this certainty proves by itself the truth of the impressions it guarantees. Thus Abū ʾl-Barakāt posits a psychology that consists in part of a system of self-evident truths and is dominated up to a certain point by the notion of consciousness or apperception (Ar. shuʿūr, a term used in a similar sense by Ibn Sīnā). It denies the distinction between intellect and soul established by Aristotelian doctrine. In fact, according to Abū ʾl-Barakāt, it is the soul that accomplishes so-called acts of intellection—an idea which he criticizes. Similarly, he denies the existence of the active intellect postulated by the Peripatetics.

Platonic or Plotinian influences—in harmony, to be sure, with his personal intuitions—appear perhaps in Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s definition of the soul as an incorporeal substance acting in and by the body. He understands immateriality in a very strict sense that was not at all current—in his theory of memory, for instance. Human souls are caused, in his view, by the stellar ones, and return, after death, to their causes.

Knowledge of God, the cause of causes, comes at the end of knowledge of existing things and of being as perceived by a priori knowledge that divides being into necessary and contingent. On the other hand, the wisdom manifested in the order of nature proves the existence of a Creator. Last but not least, there are ways of direct communication between God and men. Abū ʾl-Barakāt, following the Avicennian tradition on this point, does not admit the proof for the existence of God based on movement. He holds that God’s essential attributes, such as knowledge, power, and wisdom, belong to His essence in the same way as having three angles equal to two right angles belongs to the essence of a triangle. God may also have manifold knowledge about particulars. In order to refute arguments to the contrary, Abū ʾl-Barakāt refers to his psychological doctrine, whereby he proves that the forms of the things perceived, stored up in the human soul, are immaterial, like the entity that has perceived them. In this way, divine knowledge is, up to a point, analogous to human knowledge.

Rejecting the theory of emanation held by the philosophers, Abū ʾl-Barakāt thinks that things have been created by a succession of divine volitions, either pre-eternal or coming into being in time. The first of these volitions, an attribute of the divine essence, created the first thing in existence—in religious terminology, the highest of the angels. The personalism of Abū ʾl-Barakāt’s conception of God is sometimes similar to the doctrines of the kalā m, but this does not necessarily justify the conclusion that the kalām influenced his thought.

So far as the problem of the eternity of the world is concerned, Abū ʾl-Barakāt, having confronted the theses of those who affirm it and those who deny it, does not explicitly state his own conclusions, but hints that one who has understood his exposition of the question will not fail to find the correct answer. It seems, in summing up the discussion, that the true solution, in his view, is that which asserts the eternity of the world.

Abū ʾl-Barakāt had had his partisans among Muslim thinkers. ʿAlāʾ al-Dawla Farāmurz ibn ʿAlī, prince of Yazd, defended him and his doctrines in a work entitled Muhjat al-Tawḥīd and in a dispute he had with ʿUmar al-Khayyām (see al-Bayhaḳī, Tatimma, 110–111). Abū ʾl-Barakāt seems to have decisively influenced a first-order thinker like Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, as is especially apparent in the latter’s al-Mabāḥith al-Mashriqiyya, a major and historically important work. In fact, Muḥammad ibn Sulaymān al-Tanakabunī, a Persian Shīʿī author of the nineteenth century, says, in substance, that the tradition of Ibn Sīnā almost succumbed under the attacks of Abū ʾl-Barakāt and Fakhr al-Dīn, but was re-established by Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī (Qiṣas al-ʿUlamāʾ, lith. 1304, 278). He was referring to a crisis in Muslim philosophical speculation that originated with Abū ʾl-Barakāt, and remained alive in the memories of Iranian students of Ibn Sīnā.

Abū al-Barakāt is regarded as a critic of Peripatetic philosophy. Although he wrote al-Muʿtabar on the model of the work of Aristotle and the Peripatetics, he did not slavishly imitate these earlier thinkers. He valued only logical principles and ¶ rational proofs (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/4). Since his objective was to know reality, and not to adhere to any particular individual or advocate any specific belief, he paid little attention to what was transmitted from the ancient philosophers. What he presented was the fruit of his own investigations and observations made during his lifetime:

‘When it was destined to me that I should study the philosophical sciences by reading the books of the Ancients as well as the exegeses, commentaries and interpretations of later writers, I became an avid reader and devoted myself most assiduously to it for a long time that I might gain a little knowledge of the subject. For it is difficult to understand much of what the Ancients wrote, because it is concise and there is little explicit distillation into sum and substance, and because of the defectiveness in its expression when translated from one language to another. Equally [I found that] the work of later authors is verbose, full of indications that do not indicate and proofs that do not prove, and in many places it lacks proper explanation and clarification… So I used to expend great effort in thinking and contemplating [on my own], in order to grasp and understand the concepts and to acquire sciences and verify them for myself. Sometimes my studies were in accord with the opinions of the Ancients, and sometimes not. Through a thorough observation of the Book of Existence, I also discovered certain truths which had not been stated or communicated before. None of that could simply be retained in memory, but had to be noted down on paper to be examined and studied [later]. When someone came across these writings and wanted to make a copy of them, I refused to allow that, because of what might have occurred if it had fallen into the hands of unqualified people, who would then accept or reject its contents or part of it on the basis of ignorance and lack of proper consideration. When these notes became ¶ copious, containing knowledge which was not to be wasted, and there were repeated requests for them from people who had to be replied to, I responded by composing this book’ (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/3–4).

Abū al-Barakāt regards the science of logic as ‘the principles of observation and the presentation of ideas’ (Abū al-Barakāt, 1/4). In this part of the work he attempts to demonstrate the imperfections of Aristotelian logic and to eliminate all superfluous explanation. In the section on physics, he gives some of his own observations, in addition to analysing and criticising the ideas of the Peripatetics (e.g., Abū al-Barakāt, 2/209, 224, 243).

According to Abū al-Barakāt, the Peripatetic doctrine of the Active Intellect is muddled and confused, and their view of the number of intellects also contains defects. The Peripatetics sometimes refer to the Active Intellect as the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon, guiding and directing human souls, believing that the souls issue from it. At other times they state that the Active Intellect is the effect of the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon, and not identical to it (3/151). On the other hand, the Peripatetics reduced the number of intellects to ten [as opposed to previous schemas of 47 or 55]. Here they were influenced by astronomers who described the number of intellects as being equal to the number of spheres (3/151). However, the question is whether the intellects should be confined to a definite number, or if the Active Intellect should be identified with the intellect of the Sphere of the Moon.

Ibn al-Ḳifṭī (Lippert), 343-6

Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa (Müller), i, 278-80

Bayḥaḳī, Tatimmat Ṣiwān al-Ḥikma (S̲h̲afīʿ), 150-3

S. Poznanski, in Zeitschrift für hebrädische Bibliographie, 1913, 33-6 (edition of some pages of the Commentary on Ecclesiastes)

Ṣerefettin, incomplete Turkish translation of the Ilāhiyyāt of al-Muʿtabar, with introduction, Istanbul 1932

study of Sulaymān al-Nadwī on Abu ’l-Barakāt, at the end of vol. iii of the ed. of al-Muʿtabar, 230-52

S. Pines, Beiträge zur islamischen Atomenlehre, Berlin 1936, 82-3

idem, Etudes sur Awḥad al-Zamân Abu’l-Barakāt al-Baghdâdî, in REJ, ciii, 1938, 4-64

civ, 1938, 1-33

idem, Nouvelles Etudes sur Abu’l-Barakāt al-Bag̲h̲dâdî, will appear in REJ, 1953. Bayḥaqī. Tatimmat Ṣiwān al-Ḥikma, ed. M. Shafīʿ (Lahore: Ishwar Das, 1935), pp. 150–153.

Gil, Moshe. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2004), pp. 468–472.

Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society, vol. 2 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).

Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿa. ʿUyūn al-Anbāʾ fī Ṭabaqāt al-Aṭibbāʾ, vol. 1, ed. August Müller (Königsberg: Selbstverlag, 1884), pp. 278–280.

Ibn Ezra, Isaac ibn Abraham. Shirim, ed. Menahem Schmelzer (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1980).

Ibn al-Qifṭī. Taʾrīkh al-Ḥukamāʾ, ed. Julius Lippert (Leipzig: Dieterich’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1903), pp. 343–346.

Pines, Shlomo. “Le-Ḥeqer Perusho shel Abu’l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī ʿal Sefer Qohelet,” Tarbiṣ 33 (1964).

———. Studies in Abu’l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī: Physics and Metaphysics (Leiden: Brill; Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1979).

Poznanski, Samuel. In Zeitschrift für hebräische Bibliographie, 1913, pp. 33–36 (edition of several pages of the Commentary on Ecclesiastes).

Stroumsa, Sarah. “On Jewish Intellectual Converts to Islam in the Early Middle Ages,” Peʿamim 42 (1990), pp. 61–75 [Hebrew].

Norman A. Stillman; Shlomo Pines. " Abū ʾl-Barakāt al-Baghdādī." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 17 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/abu-l-barakat-al-baghdadi-COM_0000470>

Citation Pines, S.. " Abu ’l-Barakāt." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 17 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopaedia-of-islam-2/abu-l-barakat-SIM_0167>

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Nathaniel Baruch ben Eli al-Baghdādī al-Baladī, haRoffe al-Musil al-Baghdād's Timeline

1077
1077
Balad, Balad, Salah ad-Din, Iraq
1130
1130
Age 53
1165
1165
Age 88
Baghdad, Baghdād, Iraq
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