AL-IKHWAN AL-SAFA' ON THE ETHICAL DIMENSIONS OF ART: AN ANALYSIS ON MUSIC
AuthorKilic, Muhammet Fatih
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Since Ancient Geek philosophy, one of the most fundamental problems of the aesthetics has been the relationship between ethics and aesthetics. At the beginning of the questions that determine the nature of this relationship is the question of whether an object which is subjected to the judgment of beauty should have an ethically related content. Until modern times, this question has been answered to the point that, an object which is subjected to the judgment of beauty must also bear an ethical value. This answer states that in order to qualify an object or thing as beautiful in aesthetic sense, it should be connected to the good in ethical sense. From Ancient Greek philosophy to Islamic thought, we can clearly see the ideas and theories about this close relationship between ethics and aesthetics. This study aims to reveal the integrity between ethics and aesthetics in the philosophy of the al-Ikhwan al-Safa', a group of philosophers living in Basra and its environs during 4th/10th century, through the art of music. For this purpose, it is discussed in this article how music influences on human morality in their philosophy. The relationship between music and morality could be established in two ways in the philosophy of the al-Ikhwan: metaphysical and physical ways. When they connect music to metaphysics, they argue that music is a door to metaphysics, unlike the other arts. They refer to the strong effect of music in the human soul when they compare it with the other arts. As an auditory art, music has a richness of meaning that transcends the boundaries of the physical world and language. Through the sense of sight, one knows only what is at his side, but through the sense of hearing he may know the metaphysical truths that transcend time-space dimensions. As an art based on the sense of hearing, music can convey metaphysical truths to the audience differently from the other arts based on the sense of sight. Accordingly, music is a door for humans to direct them to the metaphysical truths and to enrich their morality. The al-Ikhwan al-Safa' assert that music has a divine and prophetic sources. These sources render it in relation to the wisdom. This thought about the source of the music also provides an explanation of the legitimacy of music. In order to emphasize this ground of legitimacy, they give some examples of usage of music used during religious rituals. They also argue that music in these rituals enriches human's morality. Another dimension as a metaphysical level for the relation between music and ethics in the philosophy of the al-Ikhwan is the mathematical basis of music. According to them, mathematics is the first path to the discovery of divine wisdom. This is because God has created the world in a harmony with the supreme proportions that describe the specific relation between the world and the numbers. Music is an art that is located in mathematics and that these supreme proportions could be obviously seen. Accordingly, music presents definitively the truth, divine wisdom and secrets. The al-Ikhwan argue that music is similar and harmonious with the sounds that emerge from the movements of stars and planets. The happiness in the celestial world where there is no generation and corruption is reproduced by the artist in the world of generation and corruption through music. Thus, music increases the desire to rise to the celestial world. This desire is described by the al-Ikhwan as trying to resemble to God. This description demonstrate that they evaluate the nature of music in a metaphysical context. Consequently, performing music, according to them, creates a result that redirects the human to the metaphysics. This metaphysical redirection does not only have a theoretical dimension in the sense that one acquires knowledge of the truth, but also has a practical content in the act of human in the sense of the resemblance to God. This practical content concerns the moral development of a person. Regarding the relation between music and morality, the al-Ikhwan al-Safa' offer a physics-based explanation in addition to these metaphysical bases. They argue that music creates psycho-physiological effects on humans and that the melodies coming out of the strings of the lute influence the four elements; blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm in the human body. The background of this explication is the Hippocratic-Galician medical theory, which has become widespread in the Islamic world since the ninth century. Within this theory, they reveal that music influences the physical and psychological states of human and that it can create permanent moral virtues such as courage, generosity, chastity, and mercifulness.