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Ibn Miskawayh, Ahmad ibn Muhammad (c). Like so many of his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth centuries ah (tenth and eleventh centuries ad). Like so many of his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth centuries AH (tenth and eleventh centuries ad) Ibn Miskawayh was eclectic in philosophy, basing his. Ahmad Ibn Muhammad (Ibn) Miskawayh (ca//). A contemporary of Ibn Sina and al-Biruni, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Miskawayh was born in.

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Ya’qub Miskawayh is a brilliant intellectual and philosopher of 10th-century Buwayhid Baghdad. His effect on Islamic philosophy is mainly concerned with ethical issues. His book Tadhib al-akhlaq Ethical Instruction is considered as the first major Islamic work on philosophical ethics. Focusing on practical ethics, conduct, and refinement of character, it contains an original theory on the jbn of young boys. By Dr Nadia Jamal al-Din 1.

Ethics and education 3. The training of young men and boys 4. The aims of training young boys, according to Miskawahh 5. Manners Linked to the Boy’s Conduct 6. General rules of conduct 7.

Observations and critique miskxwayh. Education, teaching and learning institutions on MuslimHeritage. The following text was originally published as: International Bureau of Educationvol.

Ibn Miskawayh

Our republishing of the article relies on the authorisation embedded by the miskawayyh according to which the document may be reproduced free of charge as long as acknowledgement is made of the source.

The version we republish hereafter was edited miskawyah revised; we publish it with a slightly different title, new images and captions. Click here for the original version in PDF format. Scenes of teaching and learning in Islamic history Source. The 4th century H 10th century CE is regarded as one of the msikawayh brilliant periods of Islamic civilization; during this time the Muslims reached the peak of their intellectual maturity and progress in ideas.

It was in this century that Abu ‘Ali Ahmad b. Ya’qub Miskawayh also known as Ibn Miskawayh was born. It is established now that his name is actually Miskawayh, yet we find a number of his works, especially those not edited, but in fact attributed to him, where the misoawayh on the cover is Ibn Miskawayh.

Those few works that are edited bear the correct name, Miskawayh; and that is how he is referred to by his contemporaries and the intellectuals and writers who worked with him [3]. Miskawayh lived in the 4th century H and its scientific environment, and his very productive life extended for around 20 years into the 5th century, as is shown by the date of his death.

So he spent the whole of his life within the period of the Abbasid empire, the rule of miskaawayh extended from to H CE. This period of time is well known for the Muslims’ concentration on translating the sciences from other languages, and it witnessed also a flourishing of writing in Arabic, once the translation process had yielded its results.

Many Muslims excelled in the branches of learning known at that time. These operated somewhat like public libraries, well provided for the needs of the general readers and specialists.

Stationers’ shops also appeared, for selling books or renting them out to readers; and there was increased competition among the caliphs, viziers, learned men, and miakawayh, to acquire books and to establish their own private libraries in their castles, and to gather people together for learned discussions on the content of these books, in what might resemble seminars or study circles today.

Miskawayh himself worked as a librarian ibnn the libraries of a number of the viziers ministers of bin Buwayhids during the Abbasid rule.

The Ethical Theory of Education of Ahmad Miskawayh

Maybe this work helped him to be in such evident contact with the culture of his age, so varied in its sources and its types, to be able to learn for himself, and to make such a thorough study of the branches of science and human knowledge. Though Miskawayh was born to Muslim parents in Rayy, in the land of Persia, he travelled to Baghdad, where he studied and worked, and was well known there for a time.

Miskawayg he returned to live in Isfahan, in Persia, for a period of time; it was here that he died and was buried – according to the most reliable account – after a life of nearly a years.

Two recent editions of the Arabic text of Miskawayh’s Tahdhib al-akhlaq: Dar al-kutub al-‘ilmiya Beirut, and Dar maktabat al-hayat Beirut, Miskawayh is one of the outstanding personalities in the history of philosophical thought among the Muslims; so, as seems clear, his fame did not come about as a result of his involvement with teaching or with writing on education, in our modern terms, but his fame arose from his work in philosophy. Miskawayh was attracted to Greek philosophy, the books of which were available in a variety of Arabic translations because there miskswayh so many translators.

Rather, he continued his path to deal with matters left aside by most of his predecessors or contemporaries among the philosophers. He differed from them in his concern kbn ethics more than most other studies of traditional philosophy miskawyh that time.

If Miskawayh was famous particularly in the field of ethics, yet like others of the best Muslim intellectuals he was very much attracted to the philosophy of the famous Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle and others, whose books, translated into Arabic, exerted their special fascination on those who worked with philosophy or were devoted to it [5].

Perhaps the influence of Plato and Aristotle on Miskawayh is shown most clearly in his book Tahdhib al-akhlaq wa-tathir al-acraq Refinement of character and purification of dispositions. He did not confine himself to the works of the great Greek philosophers, but studied others and referred to them also in his various works. From this latter he took jiskawayh most of what he wrote in connection with the education of young boys, although this man was not well known, as will be detailed later [6].


In addition, Miskawayh is very clearly distinguished from others who worked in science and philosophy, within Islamic civilization, by the fact that he indicated clearly and distinctly the sources on which he drew; something which proves his scientific reliability, and also emphasizes his patent admiration for the branches of learning which he studied, well known and widespread throughout the Islamic community.

So he did not hesitate to rewrite these in his own language, Arabic. Just as he was influenced by the Greek philosophers, so muskawayh was by his predecessors and contemporaries among the Muslim philosophers and scholars.

Some of those he referred to distinctly in his writings, such as al-Kindi or al-Farabi, while with others he was content to mention their ideas only. Maybe one of the most miskawayyh characteristics of Miskawayh also, emphasizing his great admiration for the Greek philosophy which had reached him, is that he did not aim for a reconciliation between religion and philosophy, as other previous Muslim philosophers had done.

Nor did he attempt to combine them, as was done by the Brethren of Purity for example; but the opinions he ibnn forth remained Greek in nature, and usually attributed to their miskwwayh exponents [7]. Miskawayh’s scientific output is not restricted precisely to the field of philosophy and ethics, but he made a distinguished contribution to history; he also busied himself with chemistry, and was concerned miiskawayh literature and other subjects.

This emphasizes the multiple facets of his ibb, making him a mirror for his age; for he is distinguished by the many sources of his culture and the encyclopedic nature of his writings [8].

Maybe this simply indicates how much he was influenced by the culture coming to the Islamic nation, and well known at his time. The book Tahdhib al-akhlaq is considered the most famous book of Miskawayh; so this is the obn of which we shall examine the contents quite carefully, so as to base on it our presentation of Miskawayh’s remarks on the education of young boys, only.

For the work contains, in general, the majority of opinions which he introduced in this subject, although he did aim for a basis to acquaint the reader with the way to reach the supreme happiness. For if the reader knows miskaawyh happiness, and is influenced by the contents of the book, all his actions will be fine, according to his interpretation.

Hence it can be said that Miskawayh’s book prepares the way for anyone who miskaawayh its contents to reach supreme happiness. So it is miskawayhh possible to separate the learner’s personality and character from the science he learns, and the aim and objective for which he is striving to learn it [11].

The second maqala section of the seven in the book discusses character, humanity, and the method of training young men and boys. This is preceded in the first maqala by a discussion of the soul and its virtues. This all amounts to a general introduction, which needed to be presented because of the prevailing opinion in Miskawayh’s day, where psychological studies took precedence over miskawayyh other philosophical subject.

This was like an obligatory introduction to every philosophical study. Thus it was a personal happiness which the human being could reach through intellectual effort, and striving to acquire the sciences which would make his thought inclusive of all the areas and all existent beings, and make him free himself from material things so as misjawayh reach the degree of wisdom whereby to grasp human perfection. Miskawayh mentions supreme happiness in the third maqala of Tahdhib al-akhlaqand gives a detailed account of it in order to attract the attention of one who does not know it, so that he will seek it and will be seized by the desire to reach it [13].

After this Miskawayh sets out to clarify the various kinds of miskawzyh and its virtues, which the human being is able to approach, and to live happily in this world following the requirements of virtue, misakwayh his view.

To realize this, he cites a number of mis,awayh, some internal and some external.

Ibn Miskawayh, Ahmad ibn Muhammad (c–) – Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Among internal conditions, which influence the rational state of the human being and his moral direction towards good or bad, are conditions within his own body, in respect of his enjoyment of health and moderate temperament. Other conditions are external to the human body, and help him to rise above shortcomings, and to love good for others, to include friends, children, and wealth. For love of others, and affection towards them, can play a part in the progress and upward movement of all people; that is because these are a sphere for fulfilling the different virtues.

In addition, there are conditions in the environment surrounding the human being, inasmuch as human society is one of the basic conditions of reaching supreme happiness.

The human being can only fulfil his perfection if it is affirmed that he is a social being, as well as being rational. As a result of human beings living together with others, and being in contact with them, their experience is enriched and virtues are rooted in their soul by way of putting these virtues into practice.

The importance of transactions with people, as Miskawayh says, refers to the fact that transactions lead to the appearance of virtues which only miskqwayh so in company and in dealings and interaction with others, such as integrity, courage, and miskawagh.

If the person did not live in this human milieu, these virtues would not be apparent, and the human being would become just like people frozen or dead. Miskawayh repeats in several places that it is for this reason the wise men said that man is civil by nature, meaning that he needs a city, containing many people, for his human happiness to be complete.


This being so, it is easy to refer the idea back to its mismawayh source, since Aristotle presented it in his book the Nicomachean Ethics [14].

Ibn Miskawayh – Brill Reference

Besides all this, the basic conditions for reaching happiness are psychological conditions and factors; this is because training the soul, cleansing it, teaching it, making it profit from general and particular experiences, are centred on the human’s will and his ability to raise his inclinations, so as to attain the degree of happiness appropriate for him.

In this maqala, Miskawayh does not distinguish between evil and illness; and the psychological evils or illnesses he lists are: Miskawayh is concerned with talking about the fear of death, also grief.

For he considers that it is not difficult for the rational man who desires to free his soul from its pains and save it from its dangers to examine the illnesses and treat them so as to be set free from them.

This must be by success from God and by the man’s own personal striving; both are required, one completing the other [15]. The above may serve to explain that, for Miskawayh, ethics are very closely bound up with the objective of the human being’s education; for he stresses continually that it is not possible to distinguish between the learner’s personality and character, on the one hand, and on the other the science he learns and the aim and objective for which he is striving to learn it.

This is what he stresses very clearly in the introduction to his book, stating: Our aim in this book is that we should acquire for our souls a character, whereby we shall give rise to deeds which are all fine and good, yet will be easy for us, with no trouble nor hardship. This will be by craft and educational organization, and the way here is that we should firstly know our own souls, what they are, and what kind of thing they are, and for what reason they were created within us – I mean, their perfection and their aim – and what are their faculties and abilities, which, if we use them as is needful, will bring us to this high rank; and what are the things holding us back from it, and what will purify them so they prosper, and what will come miskaqayh them so that they fail [16].

Ethics as a philosophical study is considered a practical philosophy, which strives to decide what should be; so examining this field miskaawyh study does not lead to philosophical reflection as a final aim, but rather it is used in practical life.

Maybe Miskawayh himself emphasizes this in his looking at philosophy and its divisions, for he sees that it is divided into two parts: It should be pointed out that when Miskawayh set out to talk of the training of young boys, he only approached this subject as his serious intellectual concern with the final end to which the human being is heading, or should be heading; and his moral philosophy, as a whole, brings the human being to reach supreme happiness; for there is no paradise nor fire, no reward nor punishment, since he distinguishes between philosophy and religion.

He considers that religion retains man in his state of childhood and boyhood, where the faculty of the intellect is weak, while philosophy and supreme happiness remain for the human being’s youth and manhood, where his intellect is mature and he knows how to use it towards the highest virtues and most perfect aims [18]. The foregoing clarifies, to a great extent, how Miskawayh remained one of the Muslim thinkers most devoted to Greek philosophy.

For he distinguishes between reason and faith, or between philosophy and religion, since the supreme mislawayh is a human happiness, one which is neither imposed on man nor withheld from him by anything outside the scope ivn his will, mlskawayh issuing from an intellect greater and stronger than his [19].

Within this framework Miskawayh’s discussion of the training of young men and boys is placed, and within this framework also his viewpoint must be understood and read, in what concerns the choice of this age-group rather than another to talk about, and to present some opinions and viewpoints on the matter of their training.

The training of young men and boys. The painting illustrates a scene of a school with few boys and girls studying and learning from their teacher Source. The opinion here is that reading the text in accordance with the language of his age, and the meanings it carries which the writer himself intended to express, is more precise and closer to scientific integrity. This can be attested by reference to the Qur’anic words, for instance: This being so, education indicates a task, of an obligatory nature, which is undertaken by adults, particularly parents, for the young [21].

If so, it can be said that the meaning of training miekawayh indicates the effort expended and directed by adults, to impart to the young desirable knowledge, morality, customs, and behaviour, to prepare them in the manner which makes them the acceptable human model within their society, i.

For he sees that repeated warnings, and training, and people’s niskawayh good virtuous policies, must have some sort of influence among the kinds of people; there are some who accept training and move swiftly towards virtue, and others who approach it, mismawayh move towards virtue slowly [22]. Miskawayh ends his discussion of this opinion by explaining his view that every person can be changed; having done this, he indicates its influence on young men and boys, and the necessity to train them.