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Abu-Hamid Al-Ghazali Introduction

Philosopher, theologian, jurist and mystic, Al-Ghazali (1058-1111CE) is called the Proof of Islam.
He is arguably Islams greatest teacher, after the time of the Prophet and his companions.
Al-Ghazalis two greatest contributions to Islamic thought were:
To establish a connection between and make a synthesis of the insights of early Islam and
ancient Greek philosophical speculation.
To reconcile the Sufi mystical tradition with the orthodox Islamic theology and law.
Born at Tus in Persia, he became the head of the Nizamia institute at Baghdad, the greatest seat of
learning in Islam at the time. He rose to great prominence through his scholarship and free-thinking,
and won honour at the court of Baghdads new political masters, the Seljuks.
He believed that his contemporaries were wrong in thinking that philosophical and logical
discussions undermined Islam. In his Inconsistency of the Philosophers, he demonstrated that
Greek philosophy was consistent with Islam. Using Socrates method of insistence of truth, he
emphasised the parts of philosophy which were valid and not antagonistic to religion. At the same
time he stressed the danger of any rationalisation that put philosophy above the Quran. He
explained difficult verses in the Quran and supported new interpretations of the Hadith.
Al-Ghazali was dissatisfied with the legalistic, ritualised religious practices that gave him no inner
peace. He turned to Sufism, and surprisingly renounced his post in Baghdad at the age of 38,
donned the wool of the Sufis and became a mystic. For a decade he was involved in
contemplation and study. During this time he wrote The Revival of Spiritual Sciences. Its four
volumes make up a significant work which weds theology, law and spirituality. He demonstrated
that not only was Sufism valid and consonant with the Quran and Hadith, it was the best way. Late
in his life he returned to teaching for several years.
It is extremely rare in the history of religious ideas for one thinker to be able to find equilibrium
between faith, reason and mysticism, and to be a path finder in all three. With Al-Ghazali, theology
was freed from narrow confines and allowed to develop an intellectual base, and suspicions about
Sufism were lessoned. His combination of rationalism and faith make hum very accessible to the
modern mind.
Studies of Religion