Al-Ghazali was born in 450 AH or between March 1058 to February 1059 CE with the original name of Abu Hamind ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali. To many Westerners he is known as Algazel. Al-Ghazali was a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and a mystic descending from the Persians. He was born in the town of Tabaran in the district of Tus which is now situated in modern day Iran. Most posthumous traditions began that al-Ghazali’s father had passed away in stark poverty leaving both al-Ghazali and his younger brother Ahmad in the care of a Sufi. Al-Ghazali had begun to receive instruction in Islamic jurisprudence from a local teacher by the name of Ahmad al-Radhakani. He later on went to study the subjects of jurist and theology from al-Juwayni in Nishapur. After the death of al-Juwayni, al-Ghazali left Nishapur and joined the court of Nizam al-Mulk who was then the vizier of Seljuq sultans in Isfahan in 1085. Al-Ghazali was then bestowed the titles of “Brilliance of the Religion” and “Eminence among the Religious Leaders”. By 1091 Nizam al-Mulk promoted Ghazali to the professorship in Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad.
Al-Ghazali went through a spiritual crisis in 1095 abandoning his career in Baghdad and heading for a pilgrimage to Mecca. He spent some time Damascus and Jerusalem, with a visit to Mecca and Medina in 1096. In 1096 al-Ghazali returned to Tus spending the next several years in seclusion which consisted of abstaining from state-sponsored teachings. However, al-Ghazali continued to publish works, received visitors, and taught in private madrasas and Sufi monasteries which he had built. The grand vizier to Ahmad Sanjar, Fahr al-Mulk insisted Ghazali to return to Nizamiyya in Nishapur, however Ghazali gave up in 1106 to the requests.
During al-Ghazali’s life he wrote more than 70 books on science, Islamic philosophy and Sufism. Al-Ghazali published his book The Incoherence of Philosophers, this is marked as the turning point in Islamic epistemology. The encounter he had with skepticism led al-Ghazali to form a belief that all events and interactions are not the product of material conjunctions but instead are the present and immediate Will of God. Another of al-Ghazali’s most renowned work is Ihya’ Ulum al-Din or The Revival of Religious Sciences. The work covers almost all fields of Islamic science. This includes Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and Sufism. The book has received many positive criticisms. Al-Ghazali then wrote an abridged version of the The Revivial of Religious Sciences in Persian under the title Kimiya-yi sa’adat also known as The Alchemy of Happiness. Even though al-Ghazali has mentioned that he has wrote more than 70 books, presently there are more than 400 books that are attributed to him.
l-Ghazali had a significant influence on both Muslim and Christian medieval philosophers. One of the most influenced was St. Thomas Aquinas. Al-Ghazali also played a major role in amalgamating Sufism and Shariah. He was the first to combine the concepts of Sufism into Shariah laws and the first to give a formal description of Sufism in his works. The works of al-Ghazali strengthen the stance of Sunni Islam compared to other schools of thought.
Al-Ghazali returned to Tus in 1110 and declined the invitation of the grand vizier of Muhammad I to return to Baghdad. According to most historians’ al-Ghazali passed in the year 1111 on the 18th of December.
Hazrat Imaam Abu Haamid Muhammad al-Ghazaali rahmatullāhi alaihi :
Hujjat-ul-Islaam, Zain-ud-deen, Sharaf-ul-Aa’imma.
Aap ki wilaadat 450 Hijri (1058 A.D.) me Tabaran (Tus, Iran) me hui.
Aap ke waalid ka naam Muhammad ibn Muhammad hai.
Aap ke waalid oon kaatkar bechte the.
Bachpan me hi Aap ke waalid ka inteqaal ho gaya.
Aap ne Tus me me ibtidaai taaleem haasil ki aur Hazrat Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Razakani rahmatullāhi alaihi se fiqh ki ta’aleem haasil ki.
Phir 20 ssal ki umr me Jurjaan jaakar Imaam Abu Nasr Ismāeeli rahmatullāhi alaihi se ta’aleem hail ki. Phir Tus waapas aaye aur waha 3 saal rahe.
Phir Nishapur me Imaam al-Juwaini rahmatullāhi alaihi se ta’aleem haasil ki.
477 Hijri (1085 A.D.) me Imaam al-Juwaini ke inteqaal ke baad aap Nishapur chhodkar Khwaja Nizaam-ul-Mulk Abu Ali Hasan al-Tusi ki baargaah me gaye.
484 Hijri (1091 A.D.) me Khwaja Nizaam-ul-Mulk ne aap ko ‘Zain-ud-deen’ (Brilliance of the Religion) aur ‘Sharaf-ul-Aa’imma’ (Eminence among the Religious Leaders) ke alqaab ata farmaaye aur Aap ko Baghdad ke Madrasa Nizaamiya ki zimmedaari ata ki.
488 Hijri (1095 A.D.) me Aap apni tamaam milkiyat bechkar wo maal apne khaandan ko guzara karne ke liye de diya aur aap Hajj ke liye rawaana ho gaye.
Damishk aur Jerusalem me kuchh waqt guzaarne ke baad 489 Hijri (1096 A.D.) aap ne Madeena aur Makka jaakr hajj ada kiya.
Phir Tus waapas aakar aap ne kuchh saal uzla (tanhai) me guzaare.
Phir Aap ne zawiya (private madrasa) aur khaanqaah me logo ko taaleem dena shuru kiya.
499 Hijri (1106 A.D.) me Sultaan Ahmad Sanjar ke wazeer Fakhr-ul-Mulk ne kai baar Nishapur ke Madrasa Nizaamiyya me aane ke liye kaha. Magar Aap ne har baar inkaar kiya.
Is ke baad 503 Hijri (1110 A.D.) me Sultaan Muhammad ke wazeer ne Aap ko Baghdad waapas aane ke liye kaha. Aap ne us ko bhi mana kiya.
Aap hamesha saadgi pasand karte the.
Ek martaba Makka mukarrama me qayaam ke dauraan Aap nihaayat saada aur maamooli libaas pehne hue the. Hazrat Abdur Rahmān Tusi ne arz kiya ‘Aap ke paas is ke ilaawa aur koi libaas nahi hai. Hazaaro log aap ke mureed hain aur aap ko Imaam e waqt aur Peshwa e qaum maante hai.’
Aap ne jawaab diya ‘Aise shakhs ka libaas kya dekhte ho jo is duniya me ek musaafir ki tarah muqeem hua aur jo is kaa’inaat ki ranginiyo ko faani aur waqti tasawwur karta ho. Jab Huzoor Sarwar e kaa’inaat sallallāhu alaihi wa sallam is Duniya me Musafir ki tarah rahe aur kuchh maal o zar jama na kiya to meri kya haisiyat ya haqeeqat hai.’
Aap 5wi sadi ke Mujaddid e Islaam hain.
(1) Insaan jitna Tangdasti se darta hai agar utna Jahannam se darta to dono se najaat pa leta, Aur jitni use Daulat se mohabbat hai agar Jannat se utni mohabbat hoti to dono ko paa leta, Aur jitna Zaahir me Logon se darta hai agar utna Baatin me ALLĀH ta’ala se darta to dono jahaan ki Sa’aadat paa leta.
(2) Khwaahishaat baadshaah ko bhi ghulaam bana deti hai aur Sabr wa parhez ghulaam ko bhi baadshaah bana deti hai.
(3) Rizq ALLĀH ta’ala ka waada hai to kisi bande se is ki umeed mat rakho.
(4) Narm alfaaz (guftagu) sakht patthar jaise dil ko bhi narm bana sakte hain aur sakht alfaaz resham jaise narm dil ko bhi sakht bana sakte hai.
(5) Daawat qubool karne me Ameer o Ghareeb ka farq na karo aur Door hone ki wajah se daawat radd na karo.
(6) Duniya ke saare insaan murda hain, Zinda woh hai jo Ahle Ilm hai.
Saare Ahle Ilm So rahe hai, Jaag woh raha hai jo Amal kar raha hai.
Saare Ahle Amal khasaare me hai, Kaamyaab woh hai jis ne Khuloos ke saath amal kiya.
Aap farmaate hain ki
‘Awaam ka Farz hai ki Eimaan aur islaam laakar Ibaadat aur apne rozgaar me mashgool rahe. Ilmi masa’il ko Ulma e deen ke hawaale kar de. Aam shakhs ka ilmi silsile me hujjat karna zina aur chori se bhi zyada nuqsaan-deh aur khatarnaak hai, Kyun ki jo shakhs deeni uloom ki baseerat aur pukhtagi nahi agar wo ALLĀH aur us ke deen ke masa’il me bahes karta hai to bahot mumkin hai ki wo aisi ray qaa’im kare jo Kufr ho aur us ko ehsaas bhi na ho ki wo jo us ne samjha hai wo kufr hai. Is ki misaal is tarah hai ke kisi ko tairna na aata ho aur samundar me kood pade.’
(Ihya’ ul uloom ul deen, Jild -3, Safa -36)
Aap ne taqreeban 70 kitaaben likhi hain.
Aap ki mash’hoor kitaaben :
(1) Tasawwuf :
Ihya’ ul uloom ul deen
Naseehat ul-muluk [Farsi]
Al-Munqidh min ul-dalaal
(2) Kalaam :
Al-maqsad al-asna fee sharah asma Allahu al-husna
Jawaahir al-Qur’an wa duraruh
Fayasl al-tafriqa bayn al-Islaam wal-zandaqa
Tafseer al-yaqut al-ta’wil
(3) Falsafa :
Miyar al-Ilm fi fan al-Mantiq
Mihak al-Nazar fi al-mantiq
(4) Fiqh :
Al-Mustasfa fi ilm-ul-isul
♦ Aap ne Baadshaaho, Wazeero, Qaazi aur apne dosto ko jo khat likhe the us ka majmua ‘Faza’ilul al-anam min rasa’ili Hujjat al-Islaam’ naam se mash’hoor hai.
Aap Hazrat Khwaja Shaikh Abu Ali Fazl ibn Muhammad al-Faarmadi rahmatullāhi alaihi ke mureed aur khalifa hain.
Aap ke khalifa Hazrat Abu Muhammad ibn Saalih ibn Harzihim rahmatullāhi alaihi hain.
Apne wisaal ke din namaaz e fajr ada karne ke baad Aap ne apne bhai Hazrat Shaikh Ahmad al-Ghazaali ko safed kapda laane ke liye kaha aur jab wo lekar aaye to Aap ne apne kafan ko chuma aur phir use bichhakar us par lait gaye aur farmaaya ‘Aye mere Rab! Main khushi ke saath teri ita’at karta hu.’ Aur inteqaal farmaaya.
Aap ka wisaal 14 Jamaadi uṡ ṡaani 505 Hijri (19 December 1111 A.D.) ko Peer ke roz hua.
Aap ka mazaar Tus (Iran) me hai.
ALLĀH ta’ala us ke Habeeb sallallāhu alaihi wa sallam ke sadqe me
Aur Hazrat Imaam Muhammad al-Ghazaali rahmatullāhi alaihi aur Auliya Allāh ke waseele se
Sab ko mukammal ishq e Rasool ata farmae aur Sab ke Eimaan ki hifaazat farmae aur Sab ko sahi ilme deen haasil karne ki aur nek amal karne ki taufiq ata farmae.
Aur sab ko dunya wa aakhirat me kaamyaabi ata farmae aur Sab ki nek jaa’iz muraado ko puri farmae.
AL-GHAZALI, ABU HAMID (1058-1111)
al-Ghazali is one of the greatest Islamic Jurists, theologians and mystical thinkers. He learned various branches of traditional Islamic religious sciences in his home town of Tus, Gurgan and Nishapur in the northern part of Iran. He was also involved in Sufi practices from an early age. Being recognized by Nizam al-Mulk, the vizir of the Seljuq sultans, he was appointed head of the Nizamiyyah College at Baghdad in AH 484/AD 1091. As the intellectual head of the Islamic community, he was busy lecturing on Islamic jurisprudence at the College, and also refuting heresies and responding to questions from all segments of the community. Four years later, however, al-Ghazali fell into a serious spiritual crisis and finally left Baghdad, renouncing his career and the world After wandering in Syria and Palestine for about two years and finishing the pilgrimage to Mecca, he returned to Tus, where he was engaged in writing, Sufi practices and teaching his disciples until his death. In the meantime he resumed teaching for a few years at the Nizamiyyah College in Nishapur
Al-Ghazali explained in his autobiography why he renounced his brilliant career and turned to Sufism. It was, he says, due to his realization that there was no way to certain knowledge or the conviction of revelatory truth except through Sufism. (This means that the traditional form of Islamic faith was in a very critical condition at the time.) This realization is possibly related to his criticism of Islamic philosophy. In fact, his refutation of philosophy is not a mere criticism from a certain (orthodox) theological viewpoint. First of all, his attitude towards philosophy was ambivalent; it was both an object and criticism and an object of learning (for example, logic and the natural sciences). He mastered philosophy and then criticized it in order to Islamicize it. The importance of his criticism lies in his philosophical demonstration that the philosophers’ metaphysical arguments cannot stand the test of reason. However, he was also forced to admit that the certainty, of revelatory truth, for which he was so desperately searching, cannot be obtained by reason. It was only later that he finally attained to that truth in the ecstatic state (fana’) of the Sufi. Through his own religious experience, he worked to revive the faith of Islam by reconstructing the religious sciences upon the basis of Sufsm, and to give a theoretical foundation to the latter under the influence of philosophy. Thus Sufism came to be generally recognized in the Islamic community. Though Islamic philosophy did not long survive al-Ghazali’s criticism, he contributed greatly to the subsequent philosophization of Islamic theology and Sufism.
The eventful life of Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (or al-Ghazzali) can be divided into three major periods. The first is the period of learning, first in his home town of Tus in Persia, then in Gurgan and finally in Nishapur. After the death of his teacher, Imam al-Haramayn AL-JUWAYNI, Ghazali moved to the court of Nizam al-Mulk, the powerful vizir of the Seljuq Sultans, who eventually appointed him head of the Nizamiyyah College at Baghdad in AH 484/AD 1091.
The second period of al-Ghazali’s life was his brilliant career as the highest-ranking orthodox ‘doctor’ of the Islamic community in Baghdad (AH 484-8/AD 1091-5). This period was short but significant. During this time, as well as lecturing on Islamic jurisprudence at the College, he was also busy refuting heresies and responding to questions from all segments of the community. In the political confusion following the assassination of Nizam al-Mulk and the subsequent violent death of Sultan Malikshah, al-Ghazali himself fell into a serious spiritual crisis and finally left Baghdad, renouncing his career and the world.
This event marks the beginning of the third period of his life, that of retirement (AH 488-505/AD 1095-1111), but which also included a short period of teaching at the Nizamiyyah College in Nishapur. After leaving Baghdad, he wandered as a Sufi in Syria and Palestine before returning to Tus, where he was engaged in writing, Sufi practices and teaching his disciples until his death.
The inner development leading to his conversion is explained in his autobiography, al-Munqidh min al-dalal (The Deliverer from Error), written late in his life. It was his habit from an early age, he says, to search for the true reality of things. In the process he came to doubt the senses and even reason itself as the means to ‘certain knowledge’, and fell into a deep scepticism. However, he was eventually delivered from this with the aid of the divine light, and thus recovered his trust in reason. Using reason, he then set out to examine the teachings of ‘the seekers after truth’: the theologians, philosophers, Isma‘ilis and Sufis. As a result of these studies, he came to the realization that there was no way to certain knowledge except through Sufism. In order to reach this ultimate truth of the Sufis, however, it is first necessary to renounce the world and to devote oneself to mystical practice. Al-Ghazali came to this realization through an agonising process of decision, which led to a nervous breakdown and finally to his departure from Baghdad.
The schematic presentation of al-Munqidh has allowed various interpretations, but it is irrelevant to question the main line of the story. Though certain knowledge is explained in al-Munqidh as something logically necessary, it is also religious conviction (yaqin) as mentioned in the Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences). Thus when he says that the traditional teachings did not grip him in his adolescence, he means to say that he lost his conviction of their truth, which he only later regained through his Sufi mystical experiences. He worked to generalize this experience to cure `the disease’ of his time.
The life of al-Ghazali has been thus far examined mostly as the development of his individual personality. However, since the 1950s there have appeared some new attempts to understand his life in its wider political and historical context (Watt 1963). If we accept his religious confession as sincere, then we should be careful not to reduce his thought and work entirely to non-religious factors. It may well be that al-Ghazali’s conversion from the life of an orthodox doctor to Sufism was not merely the outcome of his personal development but also a manifestation of a new stage in the understanding of faith in the historical development of Islam, from the traditional form of faith expressed in the effort to establish the kingdom of God on Earth through the shari‘a to a faith expressed as direct communion with God in Sufi mystical experience. This may be a reflection of a development in which the former type of faith had lost its relevance and become a mere formality due to the political and social confusion of the community. Al-Ghazali experienced this change during his life, and tried to revive the entire structure of the religious sciences on the basis of Sufism, while at the same time arguing for the official recognition of the latter and providing it with solid philosophical foundations.
2 Theological conceptions
Al-Ghazali wrote at least two works on theology, al-Iqtisad fi’I-i`tiqad (The Middle Path in Theology) and al-Risala al-Qudsiyya (The Jerusalem Epistle). The former was composed towards the end of his stay in Baghdad and after his critique of philosophy, the latter soon afterwards in Jerusalem. The theological position expressed in both works is Ash’arite, and there is no fundamental difference between al-Ghazali and the Ash‘arite school (see ASH‘ARIYYA AND MU‘TAZILA). However, some changes can be seen in the theological thought of his later works, written under the influence of philosophy and Sufism (see §4).
As Ash‘arite theology came into being out of criticism of Mu‘tazilite rationalistic theology, the two schools have much in common but they are also not without their differences. There is no essential difference between them as to God’s essence (dhat Allah); al-Ghazali proves the existence of God (the Creator) from the createdness (hadath) of the world according to the traditional Ash‘arite proof. An atomistic ontology is presupposed here, and yet there are also philosophical arguments to refute the criticism of the philosophers. As for God’s attributes (sifat Allah), however, al-Ghazali regards them as `something different from, yet added to, God’s essence’ (al-Iqtisad: 65), while the Mu‘tazilites deny the existence of the attributes and reduce them to God’s essence and acts. According to al-Ghazali, God has attributes such as knowledge, life, will, hearing, seeing and speech, which are included in God’s essence and coeternal with it. Concerning the relationship between God’s essence and his attributes, both are said to be ‘not identical, but not different’ (al-Iqtisad: 65). The creation of the world and its subsequent changes are produced by God’s eternal knowledge, will and power, but this does not necessarily mean any change in God’s attributes in accordance with these changes in the empirical world.
One of the main issues of theological debate was the relationship between God’s power and human acts. The Mu‘tazilites, admitting the continuation of an accident (arad) of human power, asserted that human acts were decided and produced (or even created) by people themselves; thus they justified human responsibility for acts and maintained divine justice. In contrast, assuming that all the events in the world and human acts are caused by God’s knowledge, will and power, al-Ghazali admits two powers in human acts, God’s power and human power. Human power and act are both created by God, and so human action is God’s creation (khalq), but it is also human acquisition (kasb) of God’s action, which is reflected in human volition. Thus al-Ghazali tries to harmonize God’s omnipotence and our own responsibility for our actions (see OMNIPOTENCE).
As for God’s acts, the Mu‘tazilites, emphasizing divine justice, assert that God cannot place any obligation on people that is beyond their ability; God must do what is best for humans and must give rewards and punishments according to their obedience and disobedience. They also assert that it is obligatory for people to know God through reason even before revelation. Al-Ghazali denies these views. God, he says, can place any obligations he wishes upon us; it is not incumbent on him to do what is best for us, nor to give rewards and punishments according to our obedience and disobedience. All this is unimaginable for God, since he is absolutely free and is under no obligation at all. Obligation (wujub), says al-Ghazali, means something that produces serious harm unless performed, but nothing does harm to God. Furthermore, good (hasan) and evil (qabih) mean respectively congruity and incongruity with a purpose, but God has no purpose at all. Therefore, God’s acts are beyond human ethical judgment. Besides, says al-Ghazali, injustice (zulm) means an encroachment on others’ rights, but all creatures belong to God; therefore, whatever he may do to his creatures, he cannot be considered unjust.
The Mu‘tazilites, inferring the hereafter from the nature of this world, deny the punishment of unbelievers in the grave from their death until the resurrection, and also the reality of the various eschatological events such as the passing of the narrow bridge and the weighing on the balance of human deeds (see ESCHATOLOGY). Al-Ghazali, on the other hand, rejecting the principle of analogy between the two worlds, approves the reality of all these events as transmitted traditionally, since it cannot be proven that they are rationally or logically impossible. Another important eschatological event is the seeing of God (ru’ya Allah). While the Mu‘tazilites deny its reality, asserting that God cannot be the object of human vision, al-Ghazali approves it as a kind of knowledge which is beyond corporeality; in fact, he later gives the vision of God deep mystical and philosophical meaning. In short, the Mu‘tazilites discuss the unity of God and his acts from the viewpoint of human reason, but al-Ghazali does so on the presupposition that God is personal and an absolute reality beyond human reason.
3 Refutation of philosophy
Al-Ghazali’s relationship with philosophy is subtle and complicated. The philosophy represented by AL-FARABI and IBN SINA (Avicenna) is, for al-Ghazali, not simply an object of criticism but also an important component of his own learning. He studied philosophy intensively while in Baghdad, composing Maqasid al falasifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers), and then criticizing it in his Tahafut al falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers). The Maqasid is a precise summary of philosophy (it is said to be an Arabic version of Ibn Sina’s Persian Danashnamah-yi ala’i (Book of Scientific Knowledge) though a close comparative study of the two works has yet to be made). In the medieval Latin world, however, the content of the Maqasid was believed to be al-Ghazali’s own thought, due to textual defects in the Latin manuscripts. As a result, the image of the ‘Philosopher Algazel’ was created. It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that Munk corrected this mistake by making use of the complete manuscripts of the Hebrew translation. More works by al-Ghazali began to be published thereafter, but some contained philosophical ideas he himself had once rejected. This made al-Ghazali’s relation to philosophy once again obscure. Did he turn back to philosophy late in life? Was he a secret philosopher? From the middle of the twentieth century there were several attempts to verify al-Ghazali’s authentic works through textual criticism, and as a result of these works the image of al-Ghazali as an orthodox Ash‘arite theologian began to prevail. The new trend in the study of al-Ghazali is to re-examine his relation to philosophy and to traditional Ash‘arism while at the same time recognizing his basic distance from philosophy.
Al-Ghazali composed three works on Aristotelian logic, Mi‘yar al-‘ilm (The Standard Measure of Knowledge), Mihakk al-nazar f’l-mantiq (The Touchstone of Proof in Logic) and al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Just Balance). The first two were written immediately after the Tahafut `in order to help understanding of the latter’, and the third was composed after his retirement. He also gave a detailed account of logic in the long introduction of his writing on legal theory, al-Mustasfa min ‘ilm al-usul (The Essentials of Islamic Legal Theory). Al-Ghazali’s great interest in logic is unusual, particularly when most Muslim theologians were antagonistic to it, and can be attributed not only to the usefulness of logic in refuting heretical views (al-Qistas is also a work of refutation of the Isma‘ilis), but also to his being fascinated by the exactness of logic and its effectiveness for reconstructing the religious sciences on a solid basis.
There is a fundamental disparity between al-Ghazali’s theological view and the Neoplatonic Aristotelian philosophy of emanationism. Al-Ghazali epitomizes this view in twenty points, three of which are especially prominent:
(1)the philosophers’ belief in the eternity of the world,
(2)their doctrine that God does not know particulars, and
(3)their denial of the resurrection of bodies.
These theses are ultimately reducible to differing conceptions of God and ontology. Interestingly, al-Ghazali’s criticism of philosophy is philosophical rather than theological, and is undertaken from the viewpoint of reason.
First, as for the eternity of the world, the philosophers claim that the emanation of the First Intellect and other beings is the result of the necessary causality of God’s essence, and therefore the world as a whole is concomitant and coeternal with his existence. Suppose, say the philosophers, that God created the world at a certain moment in time; that would presuppose a change in God, which is impossible. Further, since each moment of time is perfectly similar, it is impossible, even for God, to choose a particular moment in time for creation. Al-Ghazali retorts that God’s creation of the world was decided in the eternal past, and therefore it does not mean any change in God; indeed, time itself is God’s creation (this is also an argument based on the Aristotelian concept of time as a function of change). Even though the current of time is similar in every part, it is the nature of God’s will to choose a particular out of similar ones.
Second, the philosophers deny God’s knowledge of particulars or confine it to his self-knowledge, since they suppose that to connect God’s knowledge with particulars means a change and plurality in God’s essence. Al-Ghazali denies this. If God has complete knowledge of a person from birth to death, there will be no change in God’s eternal knowledge, even though the person’s life changes from moment to moment.
Third, the philosophers deny bodily resurrection, asserting that ‘the resurrection’ means in reality the separation of the soul from the body after death. Al-Ghazali criticizes this argument, and also attacks the theory of causality presupposed in the philosophers’ arguments. The so-called necessity of causality is, says al-Ghazali, simply based on the mere fact that an event A has so far occurred concomitantly with an event B. There is no guarantee of the continuation of that relationship in the future, since the connection of A and B lacks logical necessity. In fact, according to Ash‘arite atomistic occasionalism, the direct cause of both A and B is God; God simply creates A when he creates B. Thus theoretically he can change his custom (sunna, ‘ada) at any moment, and resurrect the dead: in fact, this is ‘a second creation’.
Al-Ghazali thus claims that the philosophers’ arguments cannot survive philosophical criticism, and Aristotelian logic served as a powerful weapon for this purpose. However, if the conclusions of philosophy cannot be proved by reason, is not the same true of theological principles or the teachings of revelation? How then can the truth of the latter be demonstrated? Herein lies the force of al-Ghazali’s critique of reason.
4 Relation to philosophy
Philosophy declined in the Sunni world after al-Ghazali, and his criticism of philosophy certainly accelerated this decline. Nearly a century later, IBN RUSHD (Averroes) made desperate efforts to resist the trend by refuting al-Ghazali’s Tahafut in his Tahafut al-tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence) and Fasl al-maqal (The Decisive Treatise), but he could not stop it. Philosophy was gradually absorbed into
Sufism and was further developed in the form of mystical philosophy, particularly in the Shi’ite world (see MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHY IN ISLAM). In the Sunni world also, Aristotelian logic was incorporated into theology and Sufism was partially represented philosophically. In all this, al-Ghazali’s influence was significant.
Ghazali committed himself seriously to Sufism in his later life, during which time he produced a series of unique works on Sufism and ethics including Mizan al-‘amal (The Balance of Action), composed just before retirement, Ihy’ ‘ulum al-din, his magnum opus written after retirement, Kitab al-arba‘in fi usul al-din (The Forty Chapters on the Principles of Religion), Kimiya’-yi sa‘adat (The Alchemy of Happiness), Mishkat al-anwar (The Niche of the Lights) and others. The ultimate goal of humankind according to Islam is salvation in paradise, which is depicted in the Qur’an and Traditions as various sensuous pleasures and joy at the vision of God. The greatest joy for al-Ghazali, however, is the seeing of God in the intellectual or spiritual sense of the beatific vision. In comparison with this, sensuous pleasures are nothing. However, they remain necessary for the masses who cannot reach such a vision.
Resurrection for IBN SINA means each person’s death – the separation of the soul from the body – and the rewards and punishments after the `resurrection’ mean the pleasures and pains which the soul tastes after death. The soul, which is in contact with the active intellect through intellectual and ethical training during life, is liberated from the body by death and comes to enjoy the bliss of complete unity with the active intellect. On the other hand, the soul that has become accustomed to sensual pleasures while alive suffers from the pains of unfulfilled desires, since the instrumental organs for that purpose are now lost. Al-Ghazali calls death `the small resurrection’ and accepts the state of the soul after death as Ibn Sina describes. On the other hand, the beatific vision of God by the elite after the quickening of the bodies, or ‘the great resurrection’, is intellectual as in the view of the philosophers. The mystical experience (fans) of the Sufi is a foretaste of the real vision of God in the hereafter.
A similar influence of philosophy is also apparent in al-Ghazali’s view of human beings. Human beings consist of soul and body, but their essence is the soul. The human soul is a spiritual substance totally different from the body. It is something divine (amr ilahi), which makes possible human knowledge of God. If the soul according to al-Ghazali is an incorporeal substance occupying no space (as Ibn Sina implies, though he carefully avoids making a direct statement to that effect), then al-Ghazali’s concept of the soul is quite different from the soul as ‘a subtle body’ as conceived by theologians at large. According to al-Ghazali, the body is a vehicle or an instrument of the soul on the way to the hereafter and has various faculties to maintain the bodily activities. When the main faculties of appetite, anger and intellect are moderate, harmonious and well-balanced, then we find the virtues of temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. In reality, however, there is excess or deficiency in each faculty, and so we find various vicious characteristics. The fundamental cause for all this is love of the world (see SOUL IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY).
The purpose of religious exercises is to rectify these evil dispositions, and to come near to God by `transforming them in imitation of God’s characteristics’ (Iakhalluq bi-akhlaq Allah). This means transforming the evil traits of the soul through bodily exercises by utilizing the inner relationship between the soul and the body. Al-Ghazali here makes full use of the Aristotelian theory of the golden mean, which he took mainly from IBN MISKAWAYH. In order to maintain the earthly existence of the body as a vehicle or an instrument of the soul, the mundane order and society are necessary. In this framework, the traditional system of Islamic law, community and society are reconsidered and reconstructed.
The same is also true of al-Ghazali’s cosmology. He divides the cosmos into three realms: the world of mulk (the phenomenal world), the world of malakut (the invisible world) and the world of jabarut (the intermediate world). He takes this division from the Sufi theorist Abu Talib al-Makki, although he reverses the meanings of malakut and jabarut. The world of malakut is that of God’s determination, a world of angels free from change, increase and decrease, as created once spontaneously by God. This is the world of the Preserved Tablet in heaven where God’s decree is inscribed. The phenomenal world is the incomplete replica of the world of malakut, which is the world of reality, of the essence of things. The latter is in some respects similar to the Platonic world of Ideas, or Ibn Sina’s world of inteiligibles. The only difference is that the world of malakut is created once and for all by God, who thereafter continues to create moment by moment the phenomenal world according to his determination. This is a major difference from the emanationist deterministic world of philosophy. Once the divine determination is freely made, however, the phenomenal world changes and evolves according to a determined sequence of causes and effects. The difference between this relationship and the philosophers’ causality lies in whether or not the relation of cause and effect is necessary. This emphasis on causal relationship by al-Ghazali differs from the traditional Ash‘arite occasionalism.
The Sufis in their mystical experience, and ordinary people in their dreams, are allowed to glimpse the world of the Preserved Tablet in heaven, when the veil between that world and the soul is lifted momentarily. Thus they are given foreknowledge and other forms of supernatural knowledge. The revelation transmitted by the angel to the prophets is essentially the same; the only difference is that the prophets do not need any special preparation. From the viewpoint of those given such special knowledge of the invisible world, says al-Ghazali, the world is the most perfect and best possible world. This optimism gave rise to arguments and criticism even in his lifetime, alleging that he was proposing a Mu‘tazilite or philosophical teaching against orthodox Ash‘arism. He certainly says in his theological works that it is not incumbent upon God to do the best for humans; however, this does not mean that God will not in fact do the best of his own free will. Even so, behind al-Ghazali’s saying that God does so in actuality, we can see the influence of philosophy and Sufism.
Al-Ghazali’s criticism of philosophy and his mystical thought are often compared to the philosophical and theological thought of Thomas AQUINAS, NICHOLAS OF AUTRECOURT, and even DESCARTES and PASCAL. In the medieval world, where he was widely believed to be a philosopher, he had an influence through the Latin and Hebrew translations of his writings and through such thinkers as Yehuda HALEVI, Moses MAIMONIDES and Raymond Martin of Spain.
See also: ASH‘ARIYYA AND MU‘TAZILA; CAUSALITY AND NECESSITY IN ISLAMIC THOUGHT; IBN SINA; IBN RUSHD; ISLAM, CONCEPT OF PHILOSOPHY IN; MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHY IN ISLAM; NEOPLATONISM IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY
5 LIST OF WORKS:
Al-Ghazali (1094) Maqasid al falasifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers), ed. S. Dunya, Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1961. (A precise summary of Islamic philosophy as represented by Ibn Sina.)
– (1095) Tahafut al falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), ed. M. Bouyges, Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1927; trans, S.A. Kamah, Al-Ghazali’s Tahafut al-Falasifah, Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1963. (Al-Ghazali’s refutation of Islamic philosophy.)
– (1095) Mi‘yar al-‘ilm (The Standard Measure of Knowledge), ed. S. Dunya, Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1961. (A summary account of Aristotelian logic.)
– (1095) Mihakk al-nazar fi’l-mantiq (The Touchstone of Proof in Logic), ed. M. al-Nu‘mani, Beirut: Dar al-Nahdah al-Hadithah, 1966. (A summary of Aristotelian logic.)
– (1095) al-Iqtisad fi’l-‘tiqad (The Middle Path in Theology), ed. I.A. Qubukçu and H. Atay, Ankara: Nur Matbaasi, 1962; partial trans. A.-R. Abu Zayd, Al-Ghazali on Divine Predicates and Their Properties, Lahore: Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf, 1970; trans. M. Asin Palacios, El justo medio en la creencia, Madrid, 1929. (An exposition of al-Ghazali’s Ash‘arite theological system.)
— (1095) Mizan al-‘amal (The Balance of Action), ed. S. Dunya, Cairo: Dar al-Ma‘arif, 1964; trans. H. Hachem, Ghazali: Critere de l’action, Paris: Maisonneuve, 1945. (An exposition of al-Ghazali’s ethical theory.)
– (1095-6) al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Just Balance), ed. V. Chelhot, Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1959; trans, V Chelhot, ‘Al-Qistas al-Mustaqim et la connaissance rationnelle chez Ghazali’, Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales 15, 1955-7: 7-98; trans. D.P. Brewster, Al-Ghazali: The Just Balance, Lahore: Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf, 1978. (An attempt to deduce logical rules from the Qur’an and to refute the Isma‘ilis.)
– (1096-7) Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din (The Revival of the Religious Sciences), Cairo: Matba‘ah Lajnah Nashr al-Thaqafah al-Islamiyyah, 1937-8, 5 vols; partial translations can be found in E.E. Calverley, Worship in Islam: al-Ghazali’s Book of the Ihya’ on the Worship, London: Luzac, 1957; N.A. Faris, The Book of Knowledge, Being a Translation with Notes of the Kitab al-ilm of al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Lahore: Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf, 1962; N.A. Faris, The Foundation of the Articles of Faith: Being a Translation with Notes of the Kitab Qaw‘id al-‘Aqa’id of al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Lahore: Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf, 1963; L. Zolondek, Book XX of al-Ghazali’s 1hya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Leiden: Brill, 1963; T.J. Winter, The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife: Book XL of the Revival of Religious Sciences, Cambridge: The Islamic Text Society, 1989; K. Nakamura, Invocations and Supplications: Book IX of the Revival of tae Religious Sciences, Cambridge: The Islamic Text Society, 1990; M. Bousquet, Ihya’ ‘ouloum ed-din ou vivification de la foi, analyse et index, Paris: Max Besson, 1951. (Al-Ghazali’s summa of the religious sciences of Islam.)
– (1097) al-Risala al-Qudsiyya (The Jerusalem Epistle), ed. and trans. A.L. Tibawi, ‘Al-Ghazali’s Tract on Dogmatic Theology’, The Islamic Quarterly 9 (3/4), 1965: 62-122. (A summary of al-Ghazali’s theological system, later incorporated into the Ihya’.)
– (1106-7) Mishkat al-anwar (The Niche of the Lights), ed. A. Afifi, Cairo, 1964; trans. WH.T Gairdner, Al-Ghazzali’s Mishkat al-Anwar, London: The Royal Asiatic Society, 1924; repr. Lahore: Shaykh Muhammad Ashraf, 1952; R. Deladriere, Le Tabernacle des lumieres, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1981; A.-E. Elschazli, Die Nische der Lichter, Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1987. (An exposition of al-Ghazali’s mystical philosophy in its last phase.)
– (1109) al-Mustafa min ‘ilm al-usul (The Essentials of the Islamic Legal Theory), Cairo: al-Matba’ah al-Amiriyyah, 1322-4 AH. (An exposition and standard work of the Islamic legal theory of the Shaffite school.)
– (c. 1108) al-Munqidh min al-dalal (The Deliverer from Error), ed. J. Saliba and K. Ayyad, Damascus: Maktab al-Nashr al-‘Arabi, 1934; trans. W M. Watt, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali, London: Allen & Unwin, 1953; trans. R.J. McCarthy, Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of al-Ghazali’s al-Munqidh min al-Dalal and Other Relevant Works of al-Ghazali, Boston, MA: Twayne, 1980. (Al-Ghazali’s spiritual autobiography.)
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING:
Abu Ridah, M. (1952) Al-Ghazali and seine Widerlegung der griechischen Philosophie (Al-Ghazali and His Refutation of Greek Philosophy), Madrid: S.A. Blass. (An analysis of al-Ghazali’s refutation of philosophy in the framework of his religious thought.)
Campanini, M. (1996) ‘Al-Ghazzali’, in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds) History of Islamic Philosophy, London: Routledge, ch. 19, 258-74. (The life and thought of al-Ghazali is discussed in detail, with a conspectus of his thought through his very varied career.)
Frank, R. (1992) Creation and the Cosmic System: al-Ghazali and Avicenna, Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag. (One of the recent works clarifying the philosophical influence upon al-Ghazali, representing a new trend in the study of al-Ghazali.)
Frank, R. (1994) Al-Ghazali and the Ash‘arite School, Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (A new attempt to prove al-Ghazali’s commitment to philosophy and his alienation from traditional Ash‘arism.)
Ibn Rushd (c.1180) Tahafut al-tahafut (The Incoherence of Incoherence), trans, S. Van den Bergh, Averroes’ Tahafut al-Tahafut, 2 vols, London: Luzac, 1969. (A translation with detailed annotations of Ibn Rushd’s refutation of al-Ghazali’s criticism of philosophy.)
Jabre, F. (1958a) La notion de certitude selon Ghazali dans ses origines psychologiques et historiques (The Notion of Certitude According to al-Ghazali and Its Psychological and Historical Origins), Paris: Vrin. (A comprehensive analysis of al-Ghazali’s important concept of certitude.)
Jabre, F. (1958b), La notion de la ma’rifa chez Ghazali (The Notion of Gnosis in al-Ghazali), Beirut: Librairie Orientale. (An analysis of the various aspects of the notion of mystical knowledge.)
Laoust, H. (1970) La politique de Gazali (The Political Thought of al-Ghazali), Paris: Paul Geuthner. (An exposition of al-Ghazali’s political thought, showing him as an orthodox jurist.)
Lazarus-Yafeh, H. (1975) Studies in al-Ghazali, Jerusalem: The Magnes Press. (Literary stylistic analyses applied to al-Ghazali’s works.)
Leaman, O. (1985) An Introduction to Medieval Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (A good introduction to al-Ghazali’s philosophical arguments against the historical background of medieval Islamic philosophy.)
Leaman, O. (1996) ‘Ghazali and the Ash‘arites’, Asian Philosophy 6 (1): 17-27. (Argues that the thesis of al-Ghazali’s distance from Ash‘arism has been overdone.)
Macdonald, D.B. (1899) ‘The Life of al-Ghazzali, with Especial Reference to His Religious Experiences and Opinions’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 20: 71-132. (A classic biography, dated but still somewhat useful.)
Marmura, M.E. (1995) ‘Ghazalian Causes and Intermediaries’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 115: 89-100. (Admitting the great influence of philosophy on al-Ghazali, the author tries to demonstrate al-Ghazali’s commitment to Sufism.)
Nakamura Kojiro (1985) ‘An Approach to Ghazali’s Conversion’, Orient 21: 46-59. (An attempt to clarify what Watt (1963) calls ‘a crisis of civilization’ as the background of al-Ghazali’s conversion.)
Nakamura Kojiro(1993) ‘Was Ghazali an Ash‘arite?’, Memoirs of Research Department of the Toyo Bunko 51: 1-24. (Al-Ghazali was still an Ash‘arite, but his Ash‘arism was quite different from the traditional form.)
Ormsby, E. L. (1984) Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al-Ghazali’s ‘Best of All Possible Worlds’, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (A study of the controversies over al-Ghazali’s ‘optimistic’ remarks in his later works.)
Shehadi, F (1964) Ghazali’s Unique Unknowable God: A Philosophical Critical Analysis of Some of the Problems Raised by Ghazali’s View of God as Utterly Unique and Unknowable, Leiden: Brill. (A careful philosophical analysis of al-Ghazali’s religious thought.)
Sherif, M. (1975) Ghazali’s Theory of Virtue, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. (A careful analysis of al-Ghazali’s ethical theory in his Mizan and the philosophical influence on it.)
Smith, M. (1944) Al-Ghazali the Mystic, London: Luzac. (A little dated, but still a useful comprehensive study of al-Ghazali as a mystic and his influence in both the Islamic and Christian worlds.)
Watt, W M. (1963) Muslim Intellectual: A Study of al-Ghazali, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (An analysis of al-Ghazali’s life and thought in the historical and social context from the viewpoint of sociology of knowledge.)
Zakzouk, M. (1992) Al-Ghazali’s Philosophie im Vergleich mit Descartes (Al-Ghazali’s Philosophy Compared with Descartes), Frankfurt: Peter Lang. (A philosophical analysis of al-Ghazali’s thought in comparison with Descartes with reference to philosophical doubt.)