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Al-Ghazali: His Life

"Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali was born at Tus in Persia in 450 A.H. (1058 A.D.) and died in the same city in 505 A.H. (1111 A.D.)" 1   He was—and continues to be— a philosopher of note within the Muslim world.  Although his father died when he was young, his guardians provided him with an education under the esteemed theologian of his age, al-Juwayni, Imam al-Haramayn.  His keen intellectual talents were recognized.  And, at the early age of thirty-three years old, he was appointed university professor in Baghdad by the 'Abbasid vizier, Nizam al-Mulk. 

What makes his life and teachings especially noteworthy is the impact that Greek philosophy had upon his intellectual development.  Several years after accepting his professorship in Baghdad, his philosophic studies gave rise to intense intellectual skepticism.  Since he could not find satisfaction in skepticism, he was overcome with a deeply religious crisis where he became entirely burdened with the issue of his eternal destiny.  This crisis gave rise to psychosomatic symptoms; and, finally, he decided that he must leave his professorship, so he could devote his life to seeking the reward of paradise.  He turned to the life of a wandering ascetic, seeking religious reality in the practice of Sufic mysticism.  Towards the end of his life, he returned to teaching.  But now, he was devote religious philosophic teacher who felt he had intellectual certitude in the reality of Islamic Sufism.   

Deliverance from Error (al-Munqidh min ad-Dalal) is a book authored by al-Ghazali where he described his intellectual development and journey to Sufic mysticism.  Compared to other books, this book gives the most details of his life and most approximates an autobiography. 1

The Beginning of Guidance (Bidayat al-Hidayah) contains practical instructions for a Muslim who desires to follow the pathway of Sufic mysticism. 2

The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa) is a sustained attack upon Islamic speculative theology (kalaam) and Greek philosophy (falasifa). 3

Last edited 04/02/2000

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