|The Story of Al-Farabi in India
by Don Robertson
(870-950 A.D.) was the great philosopher and musician from
Turkestan who invented the musical
instrument called the Quanun. He was
known to travel to may parts of the world, always assuming a disguise so as not to be
recognized. One day, when he was in India, he appeared in the throne room of the court of
the great King Suffudeen, one of the most knowledgeable men in India, dressed as a private
in the Kings own army. The king was very surprised to see a private standing in his
royal room and demanded the private to tell him what he was doing there.
"Where do you belong,
private," he demanded.
"Why, I belong there on the
throne, where you now sit!" the private exclaimed, walking up to the throne and
sitting on the edge. He then began pushing his weight against the king, sliding him aside
until each occupied half the throne.
The king was very angry and turned to
one of his guards and began speaking a very obscure tongue so that others could not
understand him. He told the guard "This man must either be a fanatic, or else he is
someone very amazing. I will ask him some questions and see which case it may be."
The king turned to Al-Farabi to ask him
a question; However, before he could open his mouth, Al-Farabi spoke to him in the same
obscure language and said "But king, why would you bother?"
At this point, the king and
Al-Farabi launched into a lengthy philosophical debate that lasted several hours. Point by point,
the kings arguments were defeated, and as the wisest men in India were brought in to
contribute to the debate, one by one they were defeated. Finally, the king graciously
accepted his defeat and told Al-Farabi that he would willingly give him whatever he
wanted. Al-Farabi said that he wanted nothing. So the King ordered his fine court
musicians, who were the best in the land, to play for the, now honored, guest.
When the musicians began playing,
Al-Farabi stopped them and corrected their intonation and their interpretation of the ragas.
Then he demanded that the musicians replay the music correctly. This kept on occurring,
every time the musicians tried to play and after a while, the king dismissed the
musicians. He then told Al-Farabi that since he had treated his musicians in such a
manner, he must prove his own musical ability.
pulled three small reeds from
his pocket and began playing a high, happy tune that, when played over and over, made
everyone in the courtroom, including the king, break out in laughter. Finally, everyone in
the court, including the king, were rolling on their sides in fits of uncontrollable
laughter. Suddenly, Al-Farabi stopped the tune, and began playing another, a slow mournful
one that put everyone to sleep, and when every person in the room, except
fast asleep in their chairs or on the floor, Al-Farabi quietly slipped out of the throne
room, never to be seen there again.
Information about Al-Farabi
Book "On the Perfect State"