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|Al-Ghazālī (الغزالي) (Algazel)|
Tus Persia, Great Seljuq Empire
|Died||December 19, 1111 (aged 52–53)
Tus, Persia, Great Seljuk Empire
|Era||Islamic Golden Age|
|Creed||Sunnite (Shafi'ite), Asharite, Sufism|
|Main interest(s)||Sufism, Theology (Kalam), Philosophy, Logic, Islamic Jurisprudence|
Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (c. 1058–1111); (ابو حامد محمد ابن محمد الغزالي), known as Al-Ghazali or Algazel to the Western medieval world, was a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Persian descent.
Al-Ghazali has sometimes been referred to by historians as the single most influential Muslim after the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Within Islam he is considered to be a Mujaddid or renewer of the faith, who, according to tradition, appears once every century to restore the faith of the community. His works were so highly acclaimed by his contemporaries that al-Ghazali was awarded the honorific title "Proof of Islam" (Hujjat al-Islam). Others[who?] have cited his opposition to certain strands of Islamic philosophy as a detriment to Islamic scientific progress.[full citation needed] Besides his work that successfully changed the course of Islamic philosophy—the early Islamic Neoplatonism developed on the grounds of Hellenistic philosophy, for example, was so successfully criticised by al-Ghazali that it never recovered—he also brought the orthodox Islam of his time in close contact with Sufism. It became increasingly possible for individuals to combine orthodox theology (kalam) and Sufism, while adherents of both camps developed a sense of mutual appreciation that made sweeping condemnation of one by the other increasingly problematic.:14–16
The traditional date of al-Ghazali's birth, as given by Ibn al-Jawzi, is 450 AH (March 1058–February 1059 CE), but modern scholars have raised doubts about the accuracy of Ibn al-Jawzi's information, and have posited a date of 448 AH (1056–1057 CE), on the basis of certain statements in al-Ghazali's correspondence and autobiography.:23–25 He was born in Tabaran, a town in the district of Tus, which lies within the Khorasan Province of Iran.:25
A posthumous tradition, the authenticity of which has been questioned in recent scholarship, arose that al-Ghazali's father died in poverty and left the young al-Ghazali and his brother Ahmad to the care of a Sufi. Al-Ghazali's contemporary and first biographer, 'Abd al-Ghafir al-Farisi, records merely that al-Ghazali began to receive instruction in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Ahmad al-Radhakani, a local teacher.:26–27
He later studied under al-Juwayni, the distinguished jurist and theologian and "the most outstanding Muslim scholar of his time",:29in Nishapur, perhaps after a period of study in Gurgan. After al-Juwayni's death in 1085, al-Ghazali departed from Nishapur and joined the court of Nizam al-Mulk, the powerful vizier of the Seljuq sultans, which was likely centered in Isfahan. After bestowing upon him the titles of "Brilliance of the Religion" and "Eminence among the Religious Leaders", Nizam al-Mulk advanced al-Ghazali in July 1091 to the "most prestigious and most challenging" professoriate at the time, in the Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad.:34
He underwent a spiritual crisis in 1095, and consequently abandoned his career and left Baghdad on the pretext of going on pilgrimage to Mecca. Making arrangements for his family, he disposed of his wealth and adopted an ascetic lifestyle. After some time in Damascus and Jerusalem, with a visit to Medina and Mecca in 1096, he returned to Tus to spend the next several years in 'uzla (seclusion). This seclusion consisted in abstaining from teaching at state-sponsored institutions, though he continued to publish, to receive visitors, and to teach in the zawiya (private madrasa) and khanqah (Sufi monastery) that he had built.
Fakhr al-Mulk, grand vizier to Ahmad Sanjar, pressed al-Ghazali to return to the Nizamiyya in Nishapur; al-Ghazali reluctantly capitulated in 1106, fearing (rightly) that he and his teachings would meet with resistance and controversy.:53–4 He later returned to Tus, and declined an invitation in 1110 from the grand vizier of Muhammad I to return to Baghdad. He died on the 18 December 1111. According to 'Abd al-Ghafir al-Farisi he had several daughters, but no sons.:57–59
Al-Ghazali contributed significantly to the development of a systematic view of Sufism and its integration and acceptance in mainstream Islam. He was a scholar of orthodox Islam, belonging to the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence and to the Asharite school of theology. Al-Ghazali received many titles such as Sharaf-ul-Aʾimma (شرف الأئمة), Zayn-ud-dīn (زين الدين), Ḥujjat-ul-Islām (حجة الإسلام).
He is viewed as the key member of the influential Asharite school of early Muslim philosophy and the most important refuter of Mutazilites. However, he chose a slightly different position in comparison with the Asharites; his beliefs and thoughts differ, in some aspects, from the orthodox Asharite school.
Al-Ghazali wrote more than 70 books on the sciences, Islamic philosophy and Sufism.
His 11th century book titled The Incoherence of the Philosophers marks a major turn in Islamic epistemology. The encounter with skepticism led al-Ghazali to embrace a form of theological occasionalism, or the belief that all causal events and interactions are not the product of material conjunctions but rather the immediate and present Will of God.
The Incoherence also marked a turning point in Islamic philosophy in its vehement rejections of Aristotle and Plato. The book took aim at the falasifa, a loosely defined group of Islamic philosophers from the 8th through the 11th centuries (most notable among them Avicenna and Al-Farabi) who drew intellectually upon the Ancient Greeks. Al-Ghazali bitterly denounced Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek writers as non-believers and labeled those who employed their methods and ideas as corrupters of the Islamic faith.
In the next century, Averroes drafted a lengthy rebuttal of al-Ghazali's Incoherence entitled The Incoherence of the Incoherence; however, the epistemological course of Islamic thought had already been set.
This long-held argument has been disputed. Some argue that al-Ghazali was the first intellectual to champion the separation between several disciplines wrongly classified under falsafa (Arabic word for philosophy but one that used to include physics, maths and logic). "Al-Ghazali argued that some fundamentalists, who perceive falsafa to be incompatible with religion, tend to categorically reject all views adopted by 'philosophers', including scientific facts like the lunar and solar eclipses. And when that person is later persuaded of a certain view, he tends to blindly accept all other views held by philosophers".
The autobiography al-Ghazali wrote towards the end of his life, Deliverance From Error (المنقذ من الضلال al-munqidh min al-ḍalāl) is considered a work of major importance. In it, al-Ghazali recounts how, once a crisis of epistemological skepticism was resolved by "a light which God Most High cast into my breast...the key to most knowledge,":66 he studied and mastered the arguments of kalam, Islamic philosophy, and Ismailism. Though appreciating what was valid in the first two of these, at least, he determined that all three approaches were inadequate and found ultimate value only in the mystical experience and insight (the state of prophecy or nubuwwa) he attained as a result of following Sufi practices. William James, in Varieties of Religious Experience, considered the autobiography an important document for "the purely literary student who would like to become acquainted with the inwardness of religions other than the Christian" because of the scarcity of recorded personal religious confessions and autobiographical literature from this period outside the Christian tradition.:307
|Sufism and Tariqa|
Another of al-Ghazali's major works is Ihya' Ulum al-Din or Ihya'u Ulumiddin (The Revival of Religious Sciences). It covers almost all fields of Islamic sciences: fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), kalam (theology) and sufism. It contains four major sections: Acts of worship (Rub' al-'ibadat), Norms of Daily Life (Rub' al-'adatat), The ways to Perdition (Rub' al-muhlikat) and The Ways to Salvation (Rub' al-munjiyat). The Ihya became the most frequently recited Islamic text after the Qur'an and the hadith. It's great achievement was to bring orthodox Sunni theology and Sufi mysticism together in a useful, comprehensive guide to every aspect of Muslim life and death. The book was well received by Islamic scholars such as Nawawi who stated that: "Were the books of Islam all to be lost, excepting only the Ihya', it would suffice to replace them all." Ghazali then wrote a brief version of this book in Persian under The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi sa'ādat).
At the insistence of his students in Jerusalem, al-Ghazali wrote a concise exposition of Islam entitled The Jerusalem Tract.:29
Al-Ghazali had an important influence on both Muslim philosophers and Christian medieval philosophers. Margaret Smith writes in her book Al-Ghazali: The Mystic (London 1944): "There can be no doubt that al-Ghazali’s works would be among the first to attract the attention of these European scholars" (page 220). Then she emphasizes, "The greatest of these Christian writers who was influenced by al-Ghazali was St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), who made a study of the Arabic writers and admitted his indebtedness to them. He studied at the University of Naples where the influence of Arab literature and culture was predominant at the time." In addition, Aquinas' interest in Islamic studies could be attributed to the infiltration of ‘Latin Averroism’ in the 13th century, especially at the University of Paris.
Al-Ghazali's influence has been compared to the works of Thomas Aquinas in Christian theology, but the two differed greatly in methods and beliefs. Whereas al-Ghazali rejected non-Islamic philosophers such as Aristotle and saw fit to discard their teachings on the basis of their "unbelief," Aquinas embraced them and incorporated ancient Greek and Latin thought into his own philosophical writings.
Al-Ghazali also played a very major role in integrating Sufism with Shariah. He was also the first to present a formal description of Sufism in his works. His works also strengthened the status of Sunni Islam against other schools. The Batinite (Ismailism) had emerged in Persian territories and were gaining more and more power during al-Ghazali's period, as Nizam al-Mulk was assassinated by the members of Ismailis. Al-Ghazali strongly rejected their ideology and wrote several books on criticism of Baatinyas which significantly weakened their status.
Al-Ghazali had mentioned the number of his works "more than 70", in one of his letters to Sultan Sanjar in the late years of his life. However, there are more than 400 books attributed to him today. Making a judgment on the number of his works and their attribution to al-Ghazali is a difficult step. Many western scholars such as William Montgomery Watt (The works attributed to Al-Ghazali), Maurice Bouyges (Essai de chronologie des oeuvres d'Al-Ghazali) and others prepared a list of his works along with their comments on each book.
Finally, Abdel Rahman Badawi, an Egyptian scholar, prepared a comprehensive list of al-Ghazali's works under 457 titles:
The following is a short list of his major works:
Al-Ghazali wrote most of his works in Arabic and few in Persian. His most important Persian work is Kīmyāyé Sa'ādat (The Alchemy of Happiness). It is al-Ghazali's own Persian version of Ihya'ul ulumuddin (The Revival of Religious Sciences) in Arabic, but a shorter work. It is one of the outstanding works of 11th-century-Persian literature. The book was published several times in Tehran by the edition of Hussain Khadev-jam, a renown Iranian scholar. It is translated to English, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and other languages.
Apart from Kimya, the most celebrated of al-Ghazali's works in Persian is Nasīhatul Mulūk (The Counseling Kings), written most probably for Sultan Ahmad Sanjar ibn Malekshah. In the edition published by Jalāluddīn Humāyī, the book consists of two parts of which only the first can reliably be attributed to al-Ghazali. The language and the contents of some passages are similar to the Kimyaye Sa'adat. The second part differs considerably in content and style from the well-known writings of al-Ghazali. It contains the stories of pre-Islamic kings of Persia, especially those of Anoshervān. Nasihatul Muluk was early translated to Arabic under the title al-Tibr al-masbuk fi nasihat al-muluk (The Forged Sword in Counseling Kings).
Zād-e Ākherat (Provision for the hereafter) is an important Persian book of al-Ghazali but gained less scholarly attention. The greater part of it consists of the Persian translation of one of his Arabic books, Bedāyat al-Hedāya (Beginning of Guidance). It contains in addition the same contents as the Kīmyāyé Sa'ādat. The book was most probably written during the last years of his life. Its manuscripts are in Kabul (Library of the Department of Press) and in Leiden.
Pand-nāma (Book of Counsel) is another book of advice and probably attributed to Sultan Sanjar. The introduction to the book relates that Al-Ghazali wrote the book in response to a certain king who had asked him for advice. Ay farzand (O son!) is a short book of counsel that al-Ghazali wrote for one of his students. The book was early translated to Arabic entitled ayyuhal walad. His another Persian work is Hamāqāti ahli ibāhat or Raddi ebāhīyya (Condemnation of antinomians) which is his fatwa in Persian illustrated with Quranic verses and Hadiths.
Faza'ilul al-anam min rasa'ili hujjat al-Islam is the collection of letters in Persian that al-Ghazali wrote in response to the kings, ministers, jurists and some of his friends after he returned to Khorasan. The collection was gathered by one of his grandchildren after his death, under five sections/chapters. The longest letter is the response to objections raised against some of his statements in Mishkat al-Anwar (The Niche of Light) and al-Munqidh min al-dalal (Rescuer from Error). The first letter is the one which al-Ghazali wrote to Sultan Sanjar presenting his excuse for teaching in Nizamiyya of Nishapur; followed by al-Ghazali's speech in the court of Sultan Sanjar. Al-Ghazali makes an impressive speech when he was taken to the king's court in Nishapur in 1106, giving very influential counsels, asking the sultan once again for excusing him from teaching in Nizamiyya. The sultan was so impressed that he ordered al-Ghazali to write down his speech so that it will be sent to all the ulemas of Khorasan and Iraq.
According to William Montgomery Watt, Al-Ghazali considered himself to be the Mujaddid (Revivier) of his age. Many, perhaps most, later Muslims concurred and according to Watt, some have even considered him to be the greatest Muslim after the Prophet Muhammad.
As an example, the Islamic scholar al-Safadi states:
|“||Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad, the Proof of Islam, Ornamont of the Faith, Abu Hamid al-Tusi (al-Ghazali) the Shafi'ite jurist, was in his later years without rival||”|
and the jurist, al-Yafi'i stated that:
He was called The Proof of Islam and undoubtedly was worthy of the name, absolutely trustworthy (in respect of the Faith) How many an epitome (has he given) us setting forth the basic principles of religion : how much that was repetitive has he summarised, and epitomised what was lengthy. How many a simple explanation has he given us of what was hard to fathom, with brief elucidation and clear solution of knotty problems. He used moderation, being quiet but decisive in silencing an adversary, though his words were like a sharp sword-thrust in refuting a slanderer and protecting the high-road of guidance.
The Shafi'i jurist al-Subki stated that
Praise for al-Ghazali not withstanding, he also received criticism from within Islam:
Ibn Taymiyyah states:
|“||If we assume that someone narrated the view of the salaf but what he narrated is far removed from what the view of the salaf actually is, then he has little knowledge of the view of the salaf, such as Abu’l-Ma’aali, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Ibn al-Khateeb and the like, who did not have enough knowledge of hadith to qualify them as ordinary scholars of hadith, let alone as prominent scholars in that field. For none of these people had any knowledge of al-Bukhari and Muslim and their hadiths, apart from what they heard, which is similar to the situation of the ordinary Muslim, who cannot distinguish between a hadith which is regarded as sahih and mutawatir according to the scholars of hadith, and a hadith which is fabricated and false. Their books bear witness to that, for they contain strange things and most of these scholars of ‘ilm al-kalam (science of kalam) and Sufis who have drifted away from the path of the salaf admit that, either at the time of death or before death. There are many such well-known stories. This Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, despite his brilliance, his devotion to Allah, his knowledge of kalam and philosophy, his asceticism and spiritual practices and his Sufism, ended up in a state of confusion and resorted to the path of those who claim to find out things through dreams and spiritual methods."||”|
Ibn Rushd (Averroes), a rationalist, famously responded that "to say that philosophers are incoherent is itself to make an incoherent statement." Rushd's book, The Incoherence of the Incoherence, attempted to refute al-Ghazali's views, though the work was not well received in the Muslim community.
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