known as “the Philosopher of the Arabs”, was an Iraqi Muslim Arab philosopher, polymath, mathematician, physician and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is unanimously hailed as the “father of Islamic or Arabic philosophy” for his synthesis, adaptation and promotion of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy in the Muslim world.

Al-Kindi was a descendant of the Kinda tribe. He was born and educated in Basra, before going to pursue further studies in Baghdad. Al-Kindi became a prominent figure in the House of Wisdom, and a number of Abbasid Caliphs appointed him to oversee the translation of Greek scientific and philosophical texts into the Arabic language. This contact with “the philosophy of the ancients” (as Greek philosophy was often referred to by Muslim scholars) had a profound effect on his intellectual development, and led him to write hundreds of original treatises of his own on a range of subjects ranging from metaphysics, ethics, logic and psychology, to medicine, pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, astrology and optics, and further afield to more practical topics like perfumes, swords, jewels, glass, dyes, zoology, tides, mirrors, meteorology and earthquakes.

In the field of mathematics, al-Kindi played an important role in introducing Indian numerals to the Islamic and Christian world.[10] He was a pioneer in cryptanalysis and devised several new methods of breaking ciphers.[11]Using his mathematical and medical expertise, he was able to develop a scale that would allow doctors to quantify the potency of their medication.

The central theme underpinning al-Kindi’s philosophical writings is the compatibility between philosophy and other “orthodox” Islamic sciences, particularly theology. And many of his works deal with subjects that theology had an immediate interest in. These include the nature of God, the soul and prophetic knowledge.[13] But despite the important role he played in making philosophy accessible to Muslim intellectuals, his own philosophical output was largely overshadowed by that of al-Farabi and very few of his texts are available for modern scholars to examine.

Life

Al-Kindi was born in Kufa to an aristocratic family of the Kinda tribe. His father was the governor of Kufa, and al-Kindi received his preliminary education there. He later went to complete his studies in Baghdad, where he was patronized by the Abbasid Caliphs al-Ma’mun and al-Mu’tasim. On account of his learning and aptitude for study, al-Ma’mun appointed him to House of Wisdom, a recently established centre for the translation of Greek philosophical and scientific texts, in Baghdad. He was also well known for his beautiful calligraphy, and at one point was employed as a calligrapher by al-Mutawakkil.

When al-Ma’mun died, his brother, al-Mu’tasim became Caliph. Al-Kindi’s position would be enhanced under al-Mu’tasim, who appointed him as a tutor to his son. But on the accession of al-Wathiq, and especially of al-Mutawakkil, al-Kindi’s star waned. There are various theories concerning this: some attribute al-Kindi’s downfall to scholarly rivalries at the House of Wisdom; others refer to al-Mutawakkil’s often violent persecution of unorthodox Muslims (as well as of non-Muslims); at one point al-Kindi was beaten and his library temporarily confiscated. Henry Corbin, an authority on Islamic studies, says that in 873, al-Kindi died “a lonely man”, in Baghdad during the reign of Al-Mu’tamid.

After his death, al-Kindi’s philosophical works quickly fell into obscurity and many of them were lost even to later Islamic scholars and historians. Felix Klein-Franke suggests a number of reasons for this: aside from the militant orthodoxy of al-Mutawakkil, the Mongolsalso destroyed countless libraries during their invasion. However, he says the most probable cause of this was that his writings never found popularity amongst subsequent influential philosophers such as al-Farabi and Avicenna, who ultimately overshadowed him.

Medicine

There are more than thirty treatises attributed to al-Kindi in the field of medicine, in which he was chiefly influenced by the ideas of Galen. His most important work in this field is probably De Gradibus, in which he demonstrates the application of mathematics to medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacology. For example, he developed a mathematical scale to quantify the strength of drug and a system, based the phases of the moon that would allow a doctor to determine in advance the most critical days of a patient’s illness.

In the field of mathematics, al-Kindi played an important role in introducing Indian numerals to the Islamic and Christian world.[10] He was a pioneer in cryptanalysis and devised several new methods of breaking ciphers.[11]Using his mathematical and medical expertise, he was able to develop a scale that would allow doctors to quantify the potency of their medication.

The central theme underpinning al-Kindi’s philosophical writings is the compatibility between philosophy and other “orthodox” Islamic sciences, particularly theology. And many of his works deal with subjects that theology had an immediate interest in. These include the nature of God, the soul and prophetic knowledge.[13] But despite the important role he played in making philosophy accessible to Muslim intellectuals, his own philosophical output was largely overshadowed by that of al-Farabi and very few of his texts are available for modern scholars to examine.

Life

Al-Kindi was born in Kufa to an aristocratic family of the Kinda tribe. His father was the governor of Kufa, and al-Kindi received his preliminary education there. He later went to complete his studies in Baghdad, where he was patronized by the Abbasid Caliphs al-Ma’mun and al-Mu’tasim. On account of his learning and aptitude for study, al-Ma’mun appointed him to House of Wisdom, a recently established centre for the translation of Greek philosophical and scientific texts, in Baghdad. He was also well known for his beautiful calligraphy, and at one point was employed as a calligrapher by al-Mutawakkil.

When al-Ma’mun died, his brother, al-Mu’tasim became Caliph. Al-Kindi’s position would be enhanced under al-Mu’tasim, who appointed him as a tutor to his son. But on the accession of al-Wathiq, and especially of al-Mutawakkil, al-Kindi’s star waned. There are various theories concerning this: some attribute al-Kindi’s downfall to scholarly rivalries at the House of Wisdom; others refer to al-Mutawakkil’s often violent persecution of unorthodox Muslims (as well as of non-Muslims); at one point al-Kindi was beaten and his library temporarily confiscated. Henry Corbin, an authority on Islamic studies, says that in 873, al-Kindi died “a lonely man”, in Baghdad during the reign of Al-Mu’tamid.

After his death, al-Kindi’s philosophical works quickly fell into obscurity and many of them were lost even to later Islamic scholars and historians. Felix Klein-Franke suggests a number of reasons for this: aside from the militant orthodoxy of al-Mutawakkil, the Mongolsalso destroyed countless libraries during their invasion. However, he says the most probable cause of this was that his writings never found popularity amongst subsequent influential philosophers such as al-Farabi and Avicenna, who ultimately overshadowed him.

Medicine

There are more than thirty treatises attributed to al-Kindi in the field of medicine, in which he was chiefly influenced by the ideas of Galen. His most important work in this field is probably De Gradibus, in which he demonstrates the application of mathematics to medicine, particularly in the field of pharmacology. For example, he developed a mathematical scale to quantify the strength of drug and a system, based the phases of the moon that would allow a doctor to determine in advance the most critical days of a patient’s illness.