The Language of the Future
Sufi Terminology
by Murshid F.A. Ali ElSenossi

Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad

(450-505/1058-1111) Philosopher, theologian, jurist and mystic; he was known in Europe as "Algazel". He was born and died in Tus, Persia. An extraordinary figure, al-Ghazali was the architect of the latter development of Islam. In his youth al-Ghazali attracted the attention of his teachers because of his capacity and desire for learning. He studied at Nayshabur with al-Juwayni, the "Imam of the Haraman", and was appointed a professor of law at the Nizamiyyah in Baghdad by the Vizier Nizam al-Mulk, the great statesman, patron of learning and a prolific founder of schools. At Baghdad, al-Ghazali achieved renowned and great success as a lawyer, but after four years experienced a crisis of faith and conscience. A temporary speech impediment, which interfered with his work, made action urgent.

Under guise of going on the pilgrimage, al-Ghazali turned his post over to his brother (who later became a noted Sufi), and retired to Damascus. After periods of great solitude he visited the spiritual fountainheads of Jerusalem and Hebron (the site of the tomb of Abraham), as well as Mecca and Medina. It has been said that during this period of searching he went so far as to question the senses, knowing they could deceive.

He turned his attention to the ways of knowledge one by one: philosophy, theology, and the various schools of the age. In the end he found his satisfaction in mysticism, or Sufism; or he returned to it, because it was, in fact, the intellectual climate of his family upbringing. In the light of this continuity and the certainty which he exhibits even as he describes his searching, it would seem that the crisis of his life was not one of doubt as such, but a turning inward away from the world; for al-Ghazali says: "I arrived at Truth, not by systematic reasoning and the accumulation of proofs, but by a flash of light which God sent into my soul."

He wrote his great works, the Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Din, ("the Revival of the Religious Sciences"), al-Munqidh min ad-Dalal, ("the Saviour from Error"), about his search for knowledge. In the Tahafut al-Falasifah (or "the Destruction of the Philosophers") he refutes the ability of philosophy - on the basis of its own assumptions - to reach the truth and certainty, and reduces it to an ancilla of theology. His ethical works are Kimiya as-Sa'adah, ("the Alchemy of Felicity"), and Ya Ayyuha'l-Walad, ("O Young Man"). On mysticism his most famous work is the Miskat al-Anwar, ("the Niche of Lights"). In all he wrote about seventy books.

See also: Asha'ri
One of the schools of thought in Islam. One of the most famous scholars to ascribe to this school is Imam al Ghazali.

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