Al-Ghazali

Al-Ghazali Picture

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.

Al-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.

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