HMP – Chapter 30

History of Muslim Philosophy

Part 4. The Middle-Roaders

Chapter XXX


Table of Contents:

  1. Metaphysics
    1. Life
    2. Method
    3. Attack on the Philosophers
  2. Mysticisim
  3. Ethics
  4. Influence
  5. Bibliography





Al-Ghazālī occupies a position unique in the history of Muslim religious and philosophical thought by whatever standard we may judge him: breadth of learning, originality, or influence. He has been acclaimed as the Proof of Islam (hujjat al-Islam), the Ornament of Faith (zain al-din) and the Renewer of Religion (mujaddid).1 Al-Subki (d. 771/1370) went so far in his estimation of him as to claim that if there had been a prophet after Muhammad, al-Ghazālī would have been the man.2 To be sure he gathered in his own person all the significant intellectual and religious movements of his time and lived over again in the inwardness of his soul the various spiritual phases developed by Islam. He was in turn a canon-lawyer and a scholastic, a philosopher and a sceptic, a mystic and a theologian, a traditionist and a moralist. His –position as a theologian of Islam is undoubtedly the most eminent. Through a living synthesis of his creative and energetic personality, he revitalized Muslim theology and reorientated its values and attitudes. His combination of spiritualization and fundamentalism in Islam had such a marked stamp of his powerful personality that it has continued to be accepted by the community since his time. His outlook on philosophy is characterized by a remarkable originality which, however, is more critical than constructive. In his works on philosophy one is struck by a keen philosophical acumen and penetration with which he gives a clear and readable exposition of the views of the philosophers, the subtlety and analyticity with which he criticizes them, and the candour and open-mindedness with which he accepts them whenever he finds them to be true. Nothing frightened him nor fascinated him, and through an extraordinary independence of mind, he became a veritable challenge to the {581} philosophies of Aristotle and Plotinus and to their Muslim representatives before him, al-Farabi and ibn Sina. The main trends of the religious and philosophical thought of al-Ghazālī, however, come close to the temper of the modern mind. The champions of the modern movement of religious empiricism, on the one hand, and that of logical positivism, on the other, paradoxical though it may seem, would equally find comfort in his works. The teachings of this remarkable figure of Islam pertaining either to religion or philosophy, either constructive or critical, cannot, however, be fully understood without knowing the story of his life with some measure of detail, for, in his case, life and thought were one: rooted in his own personality. Whatever he thought and wrote came with the living reality of his own experience.



Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ta’us Ahmad al-Tusi al-Shafi’i, generally known simply by his nisbah al-Ghazālī, 4 was born in 450/1058 at Tabaran, one of the two townships of Tus, now in ruins in the neighbourhood of modern Meshed in Khurasan.

Al-Ghazālī was not the first scholar of distinction in his family: there had been another abu Hamid al-Ghazālī (d. 435/1043), his grand-uncle, who was a theologian and jurisconsult of great repute,5 possibly a model which he might have set before him in his ambitious youth. But he was early exposed to Sufistic influences. His own father was a pious dervish who according to al-Subki would not eat anything but what he could earn with his own hands {582} and spend as much time as he could in the company of the divines. Early left as an orphan, al-Ghazālī was brought up and educated by a pious Sufi friend of his father along with his brother who later made a mark as a great mystic. While still a boy al-Ghazālī began the study of theology and canon-law, with the express desire for wealth and reputation as he himself has acknowledged 6 first in his native town under Shaikh Abmad ibn Muhammad al-Radhkhani al-Tusi and then at Jurjan under the Imam abu Nasr al-Isma’ili.

After his return from Jurjan he stayed for a while in Tas and possibly during this period studied Sufism under Ynsuf al-Nassaj and perhaps even undertook some of the Sufistic exercises. At the age of about twenty he proceeded to the Nizamiyyah Academy of Nishapur to study under abu al-Ma’ali al-Juwaini known as Imam al-Haramain, the most distinguished Ash’arite theologian of the day, only fourth from al-Ash’ari himself in an apostolic succession of the Ash’arite teachers. The curriculum of the Academy included a wide range of subjects such as theology, canon-law, philosophy, logic, dialectics, natural sciences, Sufism, etc. Imam al-Haramain allowed full freedom of thought and expression to his pupils; they were encouraged to engage in debates and discussions of all kinds. Al-Ghazālī gave early proof of great learning and also of a tendency towards philosophizing. Imam al-Haramain described him as “a plenteous ocean to be drowned” and comparing him with two other pupils of his observed: “al-Khawafi’s strong point is verification, al-Ghazālī’s is speculation, and al-Kiya’s is explanation.”7 In his debates with other students he showed great suppleness of mind and a gift for polemics. Not long afterwaidil he began to lecture to his fellow-students and to write books. But al-Ghazālī was one of those rare minds whose originality is not crushed by their learning.-He was a born critic and possessed great independence of thought. It was verily during his studentship at the Nizamiyyah Academy of Nishapur that he became impatient of dogmatic teaching and freed himself from the bondage of authority (taqlid) and even showed the signs of scepticism.

During his stay at Niahapur, he also became a disciple to the Sufi abu ‘Ali al-Fadl ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Farmadhi al-Tusi, a pupil of al-Ghazālī’s own uncle and of the reputed al-Qushairi (d. 465/1074). From al-Farmadhi al-Ghazālī learnt more about the theory and practice of Sufism. He even practised rigorous ascetic and Sufistic exercises under his guidance but not to the desired effect. As he himself narrates, he could not attain to that stage where the mystics begin to receive pure inspiration from “high above.”8 So he did not feel quite settled down in his mind. On the one hand, he felt philosophically dissatisfied with the speculative systems of the scholastic theologians and could not accept anything on authority, on the other, the Sufistic practices {583} also failed to make any definite impression on him for he had not received any sure results. There is no doubt, however, that the increasing attraction of the Sufistic teaching, with its insistence upon a direct personal experience of God, added to al-Ghazālī’s critical dissatisfaction with dogmatic theology.

Al-Farmadhi died in 477/1084, and Imam al-Haramain in 478/1085. Al-Ghazālī was then in his twenty-eighth year, ambitious and energetic; the fame of his learning had already spread in the Islamic world. He betook himself to the Court of Nizam al-Mulk, the great vizier of the Saljnq sovereign Malikshah (r. 465/1072-485/1092) and joined his retinue of canonists and theologians. Nizam al-Mulk by his munificent patronage of scholarship, science, and arts had gathered round him a brilliant galaxy of savants and learned men. He used to hold frequent assemblies for debate and discussion and al-Ghazālī soon made his mark at these and was conspicuous for his skill in debate.

Al-Ghazali’s profound knowledge of Muslim law, theology, and philosophy so much impressed Nizam al-Mulk that he appointed him to the Chair of Theology in the Nizamiyyah Academy (established 458-60/1065-67) at Baghdad in 484/1091. He was then only thirty-four. This was most coveted of all the honours in the then Muslim world and one which had not previously been conferred on anyone at so early an age.

As a professor in the Academy, al-Ghazālī was a complete success; the excellence of his lectures, the extent of his learning, and the lucidity of his explanations attracted larger and larger classes including the chief savants of the time. Soon all Islam acclaimed his eloquence, erudition, and dialectical skill and he came to be looked upon as the greatest theologian in the Ash’arite tradition. His advice began to be sought in matters religious and political, and he came to wield influence comparable to that of the highest officials of the State. Apparently, he attained to all the glory that a scholar could by way of worldly success, but inwardly he began to undergo an intellectual and spiritual crisis.9 {584} His old doubts and scepticism began to assail him once again and he became highly critical of the very subjects that he taught. He keenly felt the hollowness of the meticulous spinning of casuistry of the canon-lawyers.10 The systems of the scholastic theologians (Mutakallimin) had no intellectual certainty, for they depended entirely on the acceptance of their initial dogmatic assumptions on authority. He denounced their over-emphasis on the doctrinal, for it led to a faulty representation of religion by reducing it to a mere mould of orthodoxy and catechism of dogmas. The disputes of the scholastics amongst themselves he considered as mere dialectical logomachies which had no real relation with religious life.11 Al-Ghazālī turned once again to the study of philosophy, this time as diligently and as comprehensively as he could,12 but found, like Kant, that it was impossible to build theology on reason alone. Reason was good so far as it went, but it could not go very far. The Ultimate, the Supreme Truth, could not be reached through it. Becoming keenly aware of the theological limitations of reason, he fell into a state of scepticism and lost his peace of mind. The hypocrisy of his orthodox teaching became unbearable and he found himself to be in a false position.

But all was not lost: he had some assurances that he could be delivered from this state of despair through the Sufi way. It was not that he now discovered that in Sufism lay the possibility for a direct encounter with reality; this fact he had been realizing over a period of years. He had made a theoretical study of Sufism and had even ventured into Sufistic exercises; only he had not advanced far enough into them. If he could consecrate himself to the Sufistic way of life through spiritual renunciation, sustained asceticism, and prolonged and deep meditation, he might have received the light he sought. But this meant in his case giving up his brilliant academic career and worldly position. He was by nature ambitious and had great desire for fame and self-glorification. On the other hand, he was the most earnest seeker after truth. Besides, he had the anxiety to reach a secure faith which was accentuated by his thought of life after death. He remained in the throes of a severe moral conflict and in a spiritual travail for about six months beginning from Rajah 488/July 1095. He collapsed physically and mentally; appetite and digestion failed and he lost his power of speech. This made it easy for him to {585} to renounce his post as a professor. He left Baghdad in Dhu al-Qa’dah 488/ November 1095, ostensibly on a pilgrimage to Mecca; actually he went into seclusion to practise the ascetic and religious discipline of the Sufis in order to secure certainty for his mind and peace for his soul. He gave away all his fortune except some “trust funds” to maintain his family and proceeded to Syria.

For two years from 488/1095 to 490/1097 he remained in strict retirement in one of the minarets of the mosque of the Umayyads in Damascus, undergoing most rigorous ascetic discipline and performing religious exercises. He moved to Jerusalem for another period of meditation in the mosque of `Umar and the Dome of the Rock. After having paid his visit to the tomb of Abraham at Hebron, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina; then followed a long period of retreat at different places in holy shrines and mosques and wandering in deserts.13 After eleven years the life of a wandering dervish and scholar came to an end and he finally returned to his native town, Tus, in 499/1105.14

Of his inner spiritual experiences in their experimental actuality, after he left Baghdad, al-Ghazālī tells us almost nothing except that there were revealed to him in his periods of solitude things innumerable and unfathomable. Apparently, these experiences culminated in his acknowledgment of the authority of the Prophet and the complete submission to the truth revealed in the Qur’an. The first public sign of his recovery to orthodoxy is perhaps al-Risalah al-Qudsiyyah, written during his retreat in Jerusalem, where in all probability he was before 492/1099, for in Sha’ban of that year Jerusalem was captured by the Crusaders. This has heen inserted as Qawa’id al-`Aqa’id in the third chapter of the second book of his massive magnum opus Ihyā’ ulm al-Din (The Revivification of the Sciences of Religion) in which he began to set down what he had learnt through his long periods of self-discipline and meditation.15 During his wanderings he not only kept on writing other {586} books besides Ihyā’ but also resumed teaching from time to time. He keenly felt it incumbent upon him to crush heresy and unbelief around him and to call people back to the truth and moral power of Islam, both through writing and teaching: he virtually assumed the role of a moral and religious reformer. He began to devote himself more and more to the study of the traditions of the Prophet and make an extensive use of them for the purposes of edification and spiritual guidance.

On his return to Tus he once again gave himself to the life of retirement and contemplation, but very soon Fakhr al-Mulk, the son of his old patron, Nizam al-Mulk, who was the vizier to Sultan Sanjar, urged him to accept the chair of theology at the Maimunah Nizamiyyah College at Nishapur which he did after some hesitation in Dhu al-Qa’dah 499/August 1106. But he did not stay there long and retired once more to his home in Tns and established a madrasah at which he began to teach both theology and Tasawwuf . At the instance of the learned and the common people of Baghdad he was once again summoned by the Grand Vizier al-Said to take up teaching in the old Nizamiyyah Academy of Baghdad but al-Ghazālī chose to remain at Tus. There he lived in peace with some personal disciples having charge of his madrasah. Every moment was filled with study and devotion till his death on the 14th of Jumada II 505/the 19th of December 1111. It was a beautifully complete and round life in which the end came to the beginning.



The most important thing about al-Ghazālī’s system of thought is its method which may be described as that of the courage to know and the courage to doubt. The best expression of it is given in his famous autobiographical work, al-Munqidh min al-Dalal (The, Deliverer from Error), which he wrote some five years before his death.16 In al-Munqidh al-Ghazālī makes {587} a critical examination of the methods of the various schools of thought current in his time in a manner closely similar to that of Descartes’ (d. 1060/1650) in his Discours de la methods (1047/1637).

All kinds of knowledge, al-Ghazālī held, should be investigated and nothing should be considered dangerous or hostile. For himself he said that he had embarked on the open sea of knowledge right from his adolescence setting aside all craven caution: “I poked into every dark recess and made an assault on every problem, I plunged into every abyss. I scrutinized the creed of every sect and I fathomed the mysteries of each doctrine. All this I did that I might distinguish between the true and the false. There was not a philosopher whose system I did not acquaint myself with, nor a theologian whose doctrines I did not examine. If ever I met a Sufi, I coveted to probe into his secrets; if an ascetic, I investigated into the basis of his austerities; if one of the atheistic zindiqs, I groped into the causes of his bold atheism.”17 Such was the courage of al-Ghazālī to know. He was free from the parochialism of the dogmatic theologians of his day who would rather consign the books of the atheists and philosophers to flames than read them. But prepared though he was to listen to every creed and doctrine, he would accept none and doubt all. For one thing, he came to the conclusion that the greatest hindrance in the search for truth was the acceptance of beliefs on the authority of others and blind adherence to the heritage of the past. He remembered the traditional saying of the Prophet: “Every child is born with a sound disposition (fitrah); it is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian”18 and he was anxious to know what that sound disposition was before it suffered the impress of the unreasoned convictions imposed by others. Indeed, he wanted to reconstruct all his knowledge from its very foundation and was led to make the following reflections: “The search after truth being the aim which I propose to myself, I ought in the first place to ascertain what are the bases of certitude. In the second place I ought to recognize that certitude is the clear and complete knowledge of things, such knowledge as leaves no room for doubt, nor any possibility of error.”19 As one might foresee, this proposed test for certitude only led him to a series of doubts. No part of the knowledge he had acquired {588} hitherto could stand this rigorous test. He further observed, “We cannot hope to find truth except in matters which carry their evidence in themselves, i. e., in sense-perception and necessary principles of thought; we must, therefore, first of all establish these two on a firm basis.” But he doubted the evidence of sense-perception; he could see plainly as Descartes did later that they so often deceive us. No eye can perceive the movement of a shadow, still the shadow moves; a small coin would cover any star yet the geometrical computations show that a star is a world vastly larger than the earth.19a

Al-Ghazālī’s confidence in sense-perception having been shaken, he turned to the scrutiny of what he called the necessary principles, but he doubted even these. Is ten more than three? Can a thing both be and not be at the same time or be both necessary and impossible? How could he tell? His doubt with

regard to sense-perception made him very hesitant to accept the infallibility of reason. He believed in the testimony of senses till it was contradicted by the verdict of reason. Well, perhaps there is above reason another judge who if he appeared would convict reason of falsity and if such a third arbiter is not yet apparent it does not follow that he does not exist.

Al-Ghazālī then considers the possibility that life in this world is a dream by comparison with the world to come; and when a man dies, things may come to appear differently to him from what he now beholds.20 There may be an order of reality different from this spatio-temporal order which may be revealed to a level of consciousness other than the so-called normal consciousness such as that of the mystics or the prophets. Such was the movement of al-Ghazālī’s thought, which though formulated a little artificially in the Munqidh was dramatic enough to make out a case for the possibility of a form of apprehension higher than rational apprehension, that is, apprehension as the mystic’s inspiration or the prophet’s revelation.21 {589} Al-Ghazālī’s method of doubt or sceptical attitude did certainly have its historical antecedents. The Ash’arites’ system of atomism, by reducing all categories except substance (jauhar) and quality (‘ard) to mere subjectivities, virtually amounted to a form of scepticism.22 Even earlier the Mu’tazilites like al-Nazzam (d. 231/845) and abu al-Hudhail (d. 266/840) had formulated the principle of doubt as the beginning of all knowledge.23 But with al-Ghazālī this was as much a matter of an inherent trait of his intellectual disposition as a principle. One may be tempted to say that his keenly alert and sensitive mind, though, exposed from early youth to all the various intellectual and spiritual movements of the times such as scholasticism, rationalism, mysticism, etc., was not fully captured by any one single movement. Ambitious and self-confident, he had been in a way playing with the various influences rather than affected exclusively by anyone of them. His restless soul had always been trying to reach for what it had not attained. In his sincere and open search for absolute truth, he possibly remained oscillating for a long time between the moments of belief and disbelief-moments when he might have found comfort in his religious convictions with complete submission to the teachings of the Qur’an and the moments when his doubts and scepticism might have overwhelmed him, clamouring for indubitable certainty. It is certainly very difficult to map the exact chronology of the spiritual development of such a complex mind as that of al-Ghazālī’s. The usual method of working out the history of the mental development of an author on the basis of the chronological order of his works is not possible in the case of al-Ghazālī for our knowledge of his works is incomplete. both with regard to their extent and relative order, not to speak of exact dating.24 None of his works, not even {590} al-Munqidh which has often been compared with the Confessions of Augustine allows us a peep into the inward workings of his soul.25 It is merely a schematized description of his spiritual development and not an existential study of the “phenomenology” of his soul: he has simply arranged in a logical order what must necessarily have come to him in a broken and sporadic form.

Nevertheless, al-Munqidh is our most valuable source to determine al-Ghazali’s relative position with regard to the various schools of thought around him. He had been moving through them all these years, studying them very closely in his quest for certainty, and of them he now gives us a critical evaluation in a summary fashion. He divides the various “seekers” after truth into the four distinct groups: Theologians, Mystics, Authoritarians Ta’limites), and Philosophers.

His criticism of the theologians is very mild. He himself had been brought up in their tradition and was thoroughly saturated into their system. It is doubtful if he ever parted company with them completely. He did not cease to be a theologian even when he became a mystic and his criticism of the philosophers was essentially from the standpoint of a theologian. Only he was dissatisfied with the scholastic method of the theologians, for it could not bring any intellectual certainty; their doctrines, he deemed, however, to be correct. His belief in God, Prophecy, and Last Judgment were too deeply rooted in him to be shaken altogether; his scepticism with regard to them, if at all, was a temporary phase; he only very much desired a confirmation of these fundamental beliefs either on some philosophical grounds or through some sort of first-hand experience.

So far as the mystics were concerned, al-Ghazālī found himself hardly in a position to level any criticism against them except for the extravagantly pantheistic utterances or antinomian tendencies of some of the intoxicated Sufis.26 They were essentially men of feeling (arbab al-ahwal) rather than men of words (ashab al-aqwal) and he had himself early realized the importance of experiences and states rather than that of definitions and dogmas. The claims of the mystics he knew could not be challenged by one who lacked their experiences.

Al-Ghazālī held a very poor opinion of the pretensions of those whom he called the party of ta’lim or authoritative instruction also known as Ismail῾iyyah and Batiniyyah.27 Theirs was a kind of Muslim popery or Montanist movement. {591} They renounced reason and held that truth can be attained only by a submissive acceptance of the pronouncements of an infallible Imam. This doctrine indeed was a part of the propaganda of the Fatimid Caliphate (297/909-555/1160) with its centre in Cairo and, thus, had its moorings in the political chaos of the day. Al-Ghazālī’s examination of the Taclimites was certainly due to his love for thoroughness in his search for truth, but perhaps he also wanted to make clear his position with regard to an ideology having political strings behind it.

It was the fourth class of the seekers of truth, namely, the philosophers, who engaged his attention most of all and troubled his mind more than anyone else.



1. Introduction.-Al-Ghazālī’s critical examination of the method and doctrines of the philosophers is the most exciting and important phase of his intellectual inquiry. He was not at all against philosophical investigation as such. His early interest in philosophy is evidenced by the treatises that he wrote on logic such as MiÐyar al-`Ilm fi Fann al-Mantiq: “The Touchstone of Science in Logic” (quite an elaborate treatise) and Mihakk al-Nazar fi al-Mantiq: “The Touchstone of Speculation in Logic” (a smaller work). In the history of Muslim thought his is the first instance of a theologian who was thoroughly schooled in the ways of the philosophers; the doctors of Islam before him either had a dread of philosophy, considering it a dangerous study, or dabbled in it just to qualify themselves for polemics against the philosophers. But al-Ghazālī very strongly realized that to refute a system before literally inhabiting it and getting thoroughly immersed into its very depths was to act blindly. “A man,” he tells us, “cannot grasp what is defective in any of the sciences unless he has so complete a grasp of the science in question that he equals its most learned exponents in the appreciation of its fundamental principles and even goes beyond and surpasses them . . . .”28 In all intellectual honesty he refrained from saying a word against the philosophers till he had completely mastered their systems.

He applied himself so assiduously to the study of the entire sweep of Greek philosophy current in his time and attained such a firm grasp of its problems and methods29 that he produced one of the best compendia of it in Arabic entitled as Maqasid al-Falasifah (The Intentions of the Philosophers). This compendium was such a faithful exposition of Aristotelianism that when it {592} came to be known to the Christian scholastics through a Latin translation made as early as 540/ 1145 by the Spanish philosopher and translator Dominicus Gundisalvus,30 it was taken to be the work of a genuine Peripatetic. Albert the Great (d. 679/1280), Thomas Aquinas (d. 673/1274), and Roger Bacon (d. 694/1294) all repeatedly mentioned the name of the author of the “Intentions of the Philosophers” along with ibn Sina and ibn Rushd as the true representatives of Arab Aristotelianism.31 But never did Arab Aristotelianism find a more vigorous foe than al-Ghazālī. His compendium in philosophy was merely propaedeutic to his Tahāfut al-Falasifah (The Incoherence of the Philosophers)32 in which he levelled a devastating attack on the doctrine of the Muslim Peripatetics with a dialectic as subtle as any in the history of philosophy. Al-Ghazālī, for the purposes of his scrutiny, divided the philosophers into three main groups: The materialists (dahriyyun),33 the naturalists or the deists (tabi’iyyun), and the theists (ilāhiyyun). The materialists completely dispensed with the idea of God and believed that the universe has existed eternally without a creator: a self-subsisting system that operates and develops by itself, has its own laws, and can be understood by itself. The naturalists or the deists, struck by the wonders of creation and informed of a running purpose and wisdom in the scheme of things while engaged in their manifold researches into the sciences of phenomena, admitted the existence of a wise Creator or Deity, but rejected the spirituality and immortality of the human soul. They explained the soul away in naturalistic terms as an epiphenomenona {593} of the body and believed that the death of the latter led to the complete non-existence of the former. Belief in heaven, hell, resurrection, and judgment they considered as old wives’ tales or pious fictions.

Al-Ghazālī discussed the theists at length for they, according to him, held a comparatively more final position and exposed the defects of the materialists and the naturalists quite effectively, thus saving him from doing so for himself. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle he listed as theists but concentrated on Aristotle who had criticized all his predecessors and even had refuted his own teacher, excusing himself of this by saying: “Plato is dear to us. And truth is dear, too. Nay, truth is dearer than Plato.”34

As far as the transmission of Aristotle’s philosophy in Arabic was concerned, al-Ghazālī found that none of the Muslim philosophers had accomplished anything comparable to the achievements of al-Farabi and ibn Sina. These two were Aristotle’s most faithful and capable translators and commentators; the works of others were marked with disorder and confusion. Thus al-Ghazālī came finally to concentrate on that philosophical thought of his day which had emerged from the writings of these two theistic philosophers (particularly ibn Sina) and applied himself to its examination in a systematic manner. He divided the philosophical sciences into mathematics, logic, physics, politics, ethics, and metaphysics, and went into their details in order to see if there really was anything false or untenable. He was most scientific in his approach: ready to accept whatever he found to be based on the evidence of factual data or susceptible of proof by argument in conformity with the principles of reason. He had least hesitation in accepting as true much of what the philosophers taught with regard to their sciences of mathematics, logic, and physics; he even had no serious quarrel with them in the spheres of politics and ethics. The most grievous errors of the theistic philosophers, he found, consisted in their metaphysical views which, unlike mathematical and natural sciences, were not grounded in compelling reason or positive inquiry but on conjecture and fanciful speculations. Had their metaphysics been so very well grounded in sound reasoning as their mathematical sciences were, they would have agreed amongst themselves on metaphysical issues as they did on the mathematical ones. But, above all, what al-Ghazālī saw to his dismay was that the philosophies of al-Farabi and ibn Sins, at points did violence without any philosophic warrant or justification to the principles of religion as enunciated in the Qur’an. His empirical and theological spirit revolted very strongly against this. The positive facts of religion could not be sacrificed for sheer metaphysical speculations, nor could they be interpreted externally from the point of view of a preconceived system of philosophy. These had to be interpreted intrinsically and reckoned on their own grounds. The Muslim philosophers had failed to take this empirical standpoint. They had also been slow in realizing that notwithstanding a great breadth of outlook that the {594} study of Greek philosophy had brought to the Muslims, there was in the ultimate analysis quite a gulf between the inspiration of the Qur’anic teachings and the spirit of Hellenism.35 Carried away by their enthusiasm to bring a reconciliation between philosophy and religion, al-Farabi and ibn Sina, according to al-Ghazālī, had so compressed the dogmas of Islamic religion within the moulds of Aristotelian and Plotinian systems as to fall either into a morass of inconsistencies or get implicated into heretical positions.

All this al-Ghazālī brought out with most accomplished understanding and admirable skill, and with a “transcendental” dialectic as subtle as that of Kant’s in his Tahāfut al-Falasifah which indeed is the most important of all his works from the point of view of our present study. Within less than a hundred years it called forth the most stimulating rejoinder (entitled Tahāfut al-Tahāfut) from the celebrated ibn Rushd and then a rejoinder of a rejoinder from Muslih al-Din Mustafa ibn Yusuf al-Bursawi generally known as Khwajah Zadah, a Turkish theologian who died in 893/1488.36 These works, particularly the first two, taken together epitomize the essential problems arising from the impact of classical philosophy on the teachings of religion.37

2. Method and Problems of Tahāfut.-It is generally believed that al-Ghazālī wrote his Tahāfut al-Falāsifah during the period of his doubts, but in fact the work is essentially of a polemical nature and shows in him an odd combination of scepticism and ecstatic assurances. The general effect of the teaching of the philosophers, al-Ghazālī felt, was so ruinous to the religious and moral life of the masses that his well-nigh apostolic humanism revolted against it and he dedicated himself to an open warfare against the philosophers. There is no doubt about the theological inspiration and the polemical spirit of the Tahāfut but then we add most emphatically that neither of them seriously affects the great philosophical value of this work.38 The modern reader cannot fail to be struck with clear anticipations of Hume (d. 1190/1776), Schleiermacher (d. 1250/1834), Ritschl (d. 1307/1889), and others, and even of the logical positivists of our day in some of the arguments and the general motif of the Tahāfut. His general position may be briefly described to be that the truths {595} of the positive facts of religion can neither be proved nor disproved, and to do otherwise leads the philosophers to take more often than not quite nonsensical positions.

Al-Ghazālī assails the philosophers on twenty points39 (beginning with creation and ending with the last things) and endeavours to show that their dogmas of the eternity and the everlastingness of the world are false; their assertion that God is the creator of the world is dishonest for it is flagrantly inconsistent with their dogma of the eternity of the world; that they fail to prove the existence, the unity, the simplicity and the incorporeality of God or God’s knowledge either of the universals or of the particulars; that their views with regard to the souls of the celestial spheres, and the spheres’ knowledge of the particulars and the purpose of their movement are unfounded; that their theory of causation which attributes effects to the very nature of the causes is false; and that they cannot establish the spirituality of the soul, nor prove its immortality; and, finally, that their denial of the resurrection of the bodies in the life hereafter is philosophically unwarranted. Al-Ghazālī charges the philosophers with infidelity on three counts, viz.,

  • (1) eternity of the world;
  • (2) denial of God’s knowledge of the particulars, and
  • (3) denial of bodily resurrection.

For the rest their views are heretical or born of religious indifference. But in all they are involved in contradictions and suffer from confusion of thought.

The problem which al-Ghazālī considers the most important is that of the eternity (qidam) of the world to which he allots the greatest space, almost a quarter of his book. This has been one of the most challenging and uncompromising problems in the conflict between religion and philosophy. The advocates of orthodoxy considered the eternality of the universe to be the most pernicious thesis of the philosophers and vehemently combated against it. Al-Ash’ari (d. 324/935) wrote a refutation of it in his Kitab al-Fusul which probably is the earliest scholastic treatise dealing with this question,40 and ibn Hazm (d. 457/1064) made the doctrine a dividing line between the orthodox and the heterodox sects. The orthodox could not possibly concede the philosophers’ claim of the eternality of the world, for with them there is nothing eternal but God; all else is created (hadith). To make anything co-eternal with God is to violate the strict principle of monotheism, for that infringes the absoluteness and infinity of God and reduces Him to the position of an artificer: a Demiurge. Virtually, the doctrine drives one to the materialists’ position that the world is an independent universe, a self-subsistent system, which develops by itself, and can be understood by itself. All this was hard to swallow for a theologian like al-Ghazālī.

The philosophers like al-Farabi and ibn Sina as Muslims did not deny that {596} God is an eternal creator of the universe, but as true Aristotelians believed that God’s activity consists merely in bringing forth in the state of actuality the virtual possibilities inherent in the prime matter which was alleged to be co-eternal with Him. This was in conformity with the Aristotelian notion of change not as a passage from non-being into being, which would make it unintelligible, but as a process by which what is merely “potential being” passes over, through “form,” into “actual being.”41 So God as an eternal creator constantly combines matter with new forms; He did not create the universe out of sheer nothingness at a definite time in the past. As a corollary they believed in the infinity of time.

Al-Ghazālī, on the other hand, in accordance with the obvious teachings of the Qur’an, firmly holds the position that the world was created by God out of absolute nothingness42 at a certain moment in the past which is at a finite interval from the present. He created not only forms but also matter and time along with them which had a definite beginning and hence is finite.

The two positions as outlined above readily remind one of Kant’s thesis and antithesis in the first antinomy43 which present an impossible problem in the sense that conditions requisite for their verification or falsification are de facto impossible. One is tempted to say that al-Ghazālī does recognize the impossibility of the problem for he clearly proclaims that he does not intend to defend his own position but only to refute that of the philosophers. This is true in general of all the other disputations in Tahāfut al-Falāsifah. The arguments of the philosophers are presented with very considerable plausibility, but the dialectical skill and philosophical acumen which al-Ghazālī employs to refute them are also overwhelming. Though the whole discussion is surcharged with a polemical spirit, yet one cannot fail to see that al-Ghazālī’s standpoint throughout remains highly scientific and logical; he does not succumb merely to verbal quibbles. He clearly says that he does not have any quarrel with the philosophers on the usages of terms.44

Al-Ghazālī’s quarrel with the philosophers is because many of their particular arguments are logically false and the various positions that they take in their system as a whole are inconsistent with one another, but, above all, because some of their basic assumptions are unfounded. These assumptions, al-Ghazālī proves most powerfully, can neither be demonstrated logically, nor are they self-evident through “intuition.” Such, for example, is the assumption that every event has a cause or that causes produce their effects necessarily. The {597} Muslim philosophers have accepted these assumptions merely in the dogmatic tradition of Aristotelian philosophy. The faulty reasonings of the philosophers or the inconsistencies in their positions are remediable but not so the uncritical acceptance of their assumptions. Al-Ghazālī for himself is not prepared to accept any part of the Aristotelian system except the first principles of logic and rules of syllogism-nothing else until and unless it has logical coerciveness about it. On the other hand, he is not prepared to reject any of the doctrines of religion until and unless it is disproved with a similar logical rigour and cogency. Nothing is “possible” in philosophy till it is logically necessary, and nothing is “impossible” in religion till it is logically self-contradictory. Apparently, this is a double-faced criterion to judge variously the truths of philosophic assumptions and those of religious assumptions, but from the point of view of philosophy of religion it is perfectly justified. Philosopher qua philosopher has to accept the facts of religion as given by religion; this is the sine qua non of any empirical philosophy of religion. Thus, in spite of the fact that al-Ghazālī’s whole polemic against the philosophers derives its inspiration from the Asst `arite theology, his method remains in its essentials purely philosophical, fulfilling in its own way some of the most important requirements of the modern and even contemporary approaches to the problems of the philosophy of religion.45

These few observations with regard to al-Ghazālī’s method in the Tahāfut were necessary before we could enter into some of the detailed arguments which he gives in the refutation of the philoapphera’ various positions.

3. Eternity of the World.-The proof of the philosophers for the eternity of the world starts with certain assumptions with regard to the notions of cause and will. These they take to be true axiomatically: (1) Every effect has a cause. (2) Cause must be the action of some external force other than the effect. (3) Cause or an act of will when executed must immediately lead to the effeet.46 For world’s coming from non-existence to existence there certainly should have been some cause; this cause could not be a physical cause for ex hypothe-si none yet existed. If this cause arose from an act of will by God at some specific time, then the divine will itself should have been determined by some other cause. This cause which led God to change His mind should certainly be outside His mind; but again this was not possible, for nothing outside Him yet existed. Thus, one is forced to conclude that either nothing ever arose from the being of God-which is not true, for the world does existor that the world must have been in existence from all eternity, as an immediate effect of His eternal will.

Al-Ghazālī declines to subscribe to any one of the assumptions as stated {598} above and shows that belief in the origination of the world from the eternal will of God at a specific moment of time as chosen by Him involves no violation of the fundamental principles of logic. The assumptions of the philosophers, that every effect has a cause and that a cause is a force external to its effect, do not have a logical coerciveness about them. It is quite legitimate to believe that God’s will does not have any cause or at least that this cause does not lie outside His will but in itself. Similarly, it is not logically necessary that the effect should follow a cause immediately, for it is not logically contradictory to hold the notion of “a delayed effect.” It is possible to think that God’s will is eternal and yet an object of that will has occurred at some period in time. Here a distinction should be made between the eternity of God’s will and the eternity of the object of His will. God, for example, can eternally will that Socrates and Plato should be born at such and such a time and that the one should be born before the other. Hence it is not logically illegitimate to affirm the orthodox belief that God eternally willed that the world should come into being at such and such a definite moment in time.

But the philosophers point out a real difficulty here. According to them, it is impossible to find out a differentiating principle for God’s eternal choice of a particular moment for the creation of the world. All moments of time are completely similar; how is it possible to choose between two completely similar things? Why, in short, was the world not created earlier or later than when it was created? One of the answers to this is that there arises no question of world’s being created earlier or later, for time yet was not; time too was created along with the creation of the world, i. e., both world and time are finite in duration. Al-Ghazālī adds further that should one assume with the philosophers that time is infinite, then at any present moment that infinite time has been brought to an end and a time that has an end is not infinite but finite. It is noteworthy that this is exactly the argument given by Kant in the thesis of his first antinomy.

Al-Ghazālī’s real standpoint, however, is that God just arbitrarily chose one particular moment rather than another for world’s coming into being. We need ask no more about this choice, for God’s will is completely undetermined. His will does not depend upon distinctions in the outside world, for it is itself the producer of all the distinctions therein. This creating of the distinctions in fact is the true significance of God’s will. God chooses a particular moment for the creation of the universe as He chooses a particular direction for the movement of the spheres of the (Ptolemaic) heaven, in some cases from east to west, in others from west to east (as described in the Aristotelian astronomy) even when the reversal of directions would have made no difference. There is no way to explain God’s choice either in one case or the other.

The difficulty posed by the philosophers arises because of their misguided attempt to understand the nature of divine will altogether in the terms of man’s will. Certainly, God’s will is not like man’s, as God’s knowledge is not like man’s knowledge. So far as God’s knowledge is concerned, the {599} philosophers avowedly admit that it differs from man’s knowledge in so many respects that in their final position it becomes indeed an inexplicable mystery. God, according to them, possesses the knowledge of all the universals without this knowledge necessitating plurality, without its being additional to His essence, and without its multiplying in proportion to the multiplicity of the objects known. Some of them assert after Aristotle that God is the knower, the knowledge, and the known, and that the three are one. Should we judge all this by what applies to man’s knowledge, it will be found to be an utter impossibility. While the philosophers admit that God’s knowledge cannot be compared with man’s knowledge, they insist upon drawing a comparison between God’s will and man’s will. This is exactly what al-Ghazālī calls the incoherence of the philosophers and, according to him, their thought-system taken as a whole reveals quite a number of such incoherences. Indeed, the philosophers’ very notion of eternal creation is self-contradictory and meaningless. Is it sense to speak of a creation of that which exists eternally? If God and the prime matter are both eternal existents, does it make sense to say that one is the cause of the other? Can the relation between two existents qua existents be regarded as a causal one?

Further, the philosophers put different constructions upon their notions of space and time. They assume time to be infinite and space to be finite, and yet consider time to be co-implicant of movement in space. Al-Ghazālī insists rightly that one who believes in the finitude of space must in consistency assume the existence of finite time, particularly when one holds the Aristotelian position that space, time, and movement in space are all related to one another.47 And if they insist that it is impossible to think of empty space, they should equally realize that it is impossible to conceive of an empty time.

These are just a few of the inconsistencies of the philosophers pointed out by al-Ghazālī in the course of his disputation with regard to the eternity of the world and they could be mentioned here only very briefly, considering the space at our disposal. One further point of criticism may, however, be added for its importance in the history of modern philosophy. Prior to its origination, the philosophers hold, the world must have either been possible (mumkin), or impossible (mumtani’), or necessary (wajib). It is impossible that it should have been impossible; for that which is impossible in itself is never brought into existence. Again, it is impossible for it to have been necessary in itself, for that which is necessary in itself is never deprived of existence. It follows then that the existence of the world must have always been possible in itself, otherwise it would never have come to be. This possibility cannot inhere in possibility itself, nor in the agent, nor in no-substratum, for the possible is that which is in the process of becoming actual. Hence the subject of possibility is some substratum which is susceptible of possibility, and this is matter. Now, this matter cannot be considered to have been originated. If it had been originated, the possibility of its existence would have preceded its {600} existence. In that case possibility would have existed in itself, but possibility existing in itself is unintelligible. Hence matter is eternal and it is only the passing over of the forms to matter which is originated.

In rebutting this highly sophisticated argument of the philosophers al-Ghazālī points out in Kantian fashion that possibility like impossibility is a purely subjective notion to which nothing need correspond in reality. If possibility requires an existent to correspond to it, so would impossibility require something to correspond to it, but avowedly there is no existing thing in concrete reality to which impossibility may be referred. Hence possibility like impossibility is merely a concept; the assumption of an existing substratum to which this concept may be related is to have a metaphysical jump from mere thought to actual existence and is to commit as we understand now an ontological fallacy.

4. Theory of Emanation.-The entire argument of the philosophers with regard to the eternity of the world is, thus, full of contradictions and unproved assumptions, but the most manifest of their inconsistencies and the sheer baselesaness of their assumptions become signally conspicuous when they come to explain the origination of the world from the being of God in the terms of the Plotinian Theory of Emanation. Plotinus considers the world to be a necessary outflow from the being of God like light from the sun48 or better as Spinoza described it later like the properties of a triangle from a triangle.49 Muslim philosophers’ subscription to this view according to al-Ghazālī is the clearest evidence that their verbal avowal of creation is a mere dissimulation and duplicity. The problem of emanation with the philosophers, however, arises because of their over-emphasis on the abstract unity and absolute perfection of God. Creation through an act of volition implies both will and knowledge, and these cannot be predicated of God as attributes apart from His essence without doing violence to His absolute unity. Further, both will and knowledge are limitations: will in particular implies a deficiency in a being who wills, for it means that he desires or wants to have that which he lacks. Hence the philosophers elaborated an ingenious theory of emanation which contrives to erect a cosmological staircase between the stable stillness of God’s unity and the changing and varied multiplicity of the world. This staircase is constituted of a finely graded series of intelligences and souls of celestial spheres, each emanating from the other in an hierarchical fashion. The view that the celestial spheres are perfect and have souls and intelligences superior to that of man had the overwhelming authority of Aristotle50 and further it was possible and even fascinating to conceive of them in terms of angels as described by the theologians.{601}

The emanationism of the Muslim philosophers in the final analysis worked under two governing principles: First, it is not thinkable that from God who is a pure unity anything could proceed except that which is itself a unity. This gave rise to the formula: from one only one can follow. Secondly, being has two aspects: it is either necessary (wājib) or possible (mumkin); it is either essence (māhīyyah) or existence (annīyyah). In the case of God alone are essence and existence identical; in all other beings essence is separate from existence. From this it follows that all things are possible by their essence, and they become necessary by the existence given to them by God.

The first emanation from the existence of the First Principle (al-mabda’ al-awwal), the Necessary Being (al-wājīb al-wujūd), i. e., God, is the first intelligence (al-῾aql al-awwal) which is numerically one. Its existence is possible in itself and necessary through the First Principle; further, it knows its own essence as well as the essence of the First Principle. From its twofold existence and two-fold knowledge springs a multiplicity of knowledge and existence. The first intelligence, in fact, has three kinds of knowledge: of the First Principle, of its own essence in so far as it is necessary, and of its possible being. One might ask: What is the source of this three-foldness in the first intelligence when the principle from which it emanates is one? The answer is: From the First Principle only one proceeds, i.e., the essence of the first intelligence by which it knows itself. Now, its knowledge of its principle is evidently necessary, although this necessity is not derived from that principle. Again, being possible in itself the first intelligence cannot owe its possibility to the First Principle but possesses it in its own self. Though only one should proceed from one, yet it is possible that the first effect may come to possess not from the First Principle but by itself certain necessary qualities which express some relation or negation of relation and give rise to plurality. Thus, from the three kinds of knowledge possessed by the first intelligence emanate three beings, but only one from each kind. As it knows its principle there proceeds from it a second intelligence; as it knows its essence there proceeds from it the first soul of the highest sphere (which is the ninth heaven); and as it knows itself as possible in itself there proceeds from it the body of that sphere. In a similar fashion from the second intelligence emanates the third intelligence, the soul of the stellar sphere and the body of that sphere. From the third intelligence emanates the fourth intelligence, the soul of the sphere of Saturn and the body of that sphere. From the fourth intelligence emanates the fifth intelligence, the soul of the sphere of Jupiter and the body of that sphere. Now there are, according to the then current Ptolemaic system, only nine celestial spheres in all including the sphere of the fixed stars all in concentric circles with earth in the centre.51 So, starting from the First Principle the emanations proceed on till the last or the tenth intelligence appears and {602} with it the last sphere of the moon and its soul. The tenth intelligence, also called the active intellect (al-῾aql al-fa῾῾āl),52 acts in our world. It produces the first matter (hayūla) which is passive and formless but which is the basis of the four elements from which all creatures arise. The composition and decomposition of the elements is the cause of generation and corruption of all bodies. But all these transformations take place under the influence of the movement of the spheres. As the active intellect is the producer of matter, so it is the dispenser of forms, dator formarum (wāhib al-şuwar). It gives to each matter its proper form and it also gives each body a soul (which in fact is its form) when that body is ready to receive it. Thus, active intellect is also the source of the existence of the human souls. But the human soul does not feel at home in its physical abode and yearns for nothing less than the First Principle Himself. Hence it starts its spiritual journey back to the original source traversing through the various stages of the intelligences of the spheres. This is a rounded though brief description of the emanationistic world-view so enthusiastically elaborated by the Muslim philosophers, by ibn Sina, for example, in both of his major works on philosophy, viz., Kitāb al-Shifā᾿ and Kitāb al-Najāt and by al-Farabi in his al-Madīnat al-Fāďilah.53

Determinism implicit in this emanationistic world-view is so opposed to the theistic voluntarism of the Ash῾arite world-view that al-Ghazālī launches the moat vehement attack against it. His strictures against this grand cosmological construction made out of so many various foreign imported ideas are the strongest and the bitterest of all others that may be found in the entire Tahāfut. All this, he inveighs, is arbitrary reasoning, idle speculation; a wild guess work; darkness piled upon darkness. If someone says he saw things of this kind in a dream, it would be inferred that he was suffering from some disease. Even an insane person could not rest satisfied with such postulates.54 In our own times, to say nothing of the scientists, F. R. Tennant who may be described as an eminent “religious positivist” holds the theory of emanation more or leas in the same estimation. 55

Al-Ghazālī’s criticism of the emanatiorustic argument consists in showing, on the one hand, that it fails to account for the multiplicity and composition in {603} the universe and, on the other, that it does not at all succeed in safeguarding the absolute unity of God. If the formula ever so glibly repeated that from one only one proceeds should be observed strictly logically, then all the beings in the world would be units, each of which would be an effect of some other unit above it, as it would be the cause of some other unit below it in a linear fashion. But in fact this is not the case. Every object, according to the philosophers themselves, is composed at least of form and matter. How does a composite thing such as a body then come into existence? Does it have only one cause? If the answer is in the affirmative, then the assertion that only one proceeds from one becomes null and void. If, on the other hand, a composite thing has a composite cause, then the same question will be repeated in the case of this cause so on and so forth till one arrives at a point where the compound necessarily meets the simple. This contact between the compound effect and the unitary cause wherever it occurs would falsify the principle that only one proceeds from one. Now, strictly speaking, all the existents in the universe are characterized by composition and only the First Principle, i. e., God, alone can be said to possess true simplicity or unity, for in Him alone there is the complete identity of essence and existence. This would lead us necessarily to the conclusion that either the principle of “only one from one” fails to account for the composition and multiplicity which is apparent in the universe or that even God does not possess a genuine unity. But the philosophers cloak the issue with their artificial subtleties and the grandiose constructions they put upon their emanationistic foundations.

What earthly and even unearthly relation is there, al-Ghazālī questions rightly, between the first intelligence’s having a possible existence and the body of the sphere of the second intelligence which is supposed to proceed from it? Neither logic nor experience can substantiate this wild supposition and as such it is no more than pure nonsense. Further, how is it possible that from two kinds of knowledge of the first intelligence, that is, knowledge of the First Principle and that of itself, should arise two kinds of existence, first, that of the second intelligence and, second, that of the soul of the highest sphere? How can the knowledge of a thing lead to the existence of a thing (as we would now put it after Kant) without committing an obvious ontological fallacy? How can the knower emanate from the knowing, al-Ghazālī rightly wonders, as does F. R. Tennant, and like him deplores that of all the people, philosophers should believe in such mythical nonsense.56

Even if the triplicity with which the philosophers characterize the first intelligence should be taken for granted (which indeed cannot be done) it fails to account for all that they want to deduce from it. The body of the highest sphere, which according to them proceeds only from one aspect of the essence of the first intelligence, is surely not unitary in nature but composite and that in three ways. {604} First, as stated above, it is composed of form and matter, as indeed all bodies are according to the philosophers’ own admission. True, form and matter always exist conjointly in all bodies, yet they are so different from each other that one cannot be the cause of the other. Hence, form and matter of the body of the highest sphere require two principles for their existence and not one. A unitary aspect of the three-fold character of the first intelligence fails to account for it.

Secondly, the body of this sphere has a definite size. Its having a definite size is something additional to the bare fact of its existence. Certainly, it could have come into existence with a different size, bigger or smaller than what it is. Hence, over and above that which necessitated the existence of the body of the sphere, there should be an additional cause to account for the adoption of this particular size.

Thirdly, in the highest heaven, there are marked out two points as its poles, which are fixed. This fact was admitted by the philosophers in accordance with the Aristotelian astronomy. Now, either all the parts of the highest sphere are similar in which case it is impossible to explain why two points should be chosen in perference to all the others as its poles; or they are different, some of them possessing properties which are not possessed by the others. Hence, we require yet another aspect in the first intelligence to be the cause for differences in the various parts of the highest sphere which differences alone would justify the choice of two points therein to be the poles.

In view of what has been stated above, it is sheer “ignorance” on the part of the philosophers to hold that the body of the highest sphere has emanated only from one aspect of the essence of first intelligence. Either the principle that only one proceeds from one is true, in which case the first intelligence which is not a mere triplicity but a whole multiplicity remains unexplained, or this principle is an empty formula signifying nothing, and, thus, making it possible that “many may proceed from one.” In the latter case the infinite variety and plurality of the world can be directly derived from the unity of God and there is no need to erect an emanationistic staircase between Him and the world.

The above principle certainly collapses when we come to the second intelligence, for it is supposed to be, in one of its aspects, the cause of the sphere of the fixed stars. These are twelve hundred or so (according to the then Greek or Arab astronomers’ reekoning)57 and are different in magnitude, shape, position, colour, and in respect of their special function in nature, etc. Each one of these factors in every single star needs a separate cause as its {605} determinant (murajjih). All this necessitates a bewildering multiplicity in the second intelligence and also indirectly presupposes the same in the first intelligence in so far as the latter is the emanative cause of the former.

Should the above arguments fail to convince the philosophers, there is another way to show that the first intelligence is more than a mere triplicity. Is the self-knowledge of the first intelligence identical with its essence or other than it? It is not possible that it should be identical, for knowledge is not the same thing as that which is known. Hence, the first intelligence is not a triplicity but a quadruplicity, to wit: its essence, its knowledge of itself, its knowledge of the First Principle, and its being a possible existent by itself. To all these four aspects there can be added yet another, namely, its being a necessary being whose necessity is derived from an external cause. All this proves that the first intelligence has five aspects and not three, as arbitrarily assumed by the philosophers. Whether the first intelligence has five aspects or three, it certainly is not of purely unitary character according to the philosophers’ own admission. This shows that there is something in the effect which is not present in the cause, i. e., the First Principle, and this is scandalous.

Not only does the formula that only one proceeds from one become shamefacedly invalid right at the outset, but further, according to al-Ghazālī, the entire emanationistic line of argument does great violence to the concept of God’s unity and, thus, nullifies the very purpose for which it is adopted. There is no reason, according to him, that the very arguments which the philosophers advance to establish the triple character of the first intelligence should not be applied to God Himself. One of the aspects of plurality in the first intelligence according to the philosophers is its being a possible existent by itself. It may be asked: Is its being possible identical with its existence or other than it? If it is identical, no plurality would arise from it. If it is other than its existence, then why should it not be possible to say that there is as much plurality in the First Principle, i. e., God Himself, for He not only has existence but is necessary in His existence ? The necessity of existence as such is other than existence itself. In truth, existence may be considered to be a generic concept divided into necessary and possible. If one specific difference is an addition to existence per se in one case, it should be considered so in the other also. If the philosophers insist that the possibility of existence is other than existence in the case of the first intelligence, through the same argument they should admit that necessity of existence is different from existence in the case of the First Principle. Similarly, al-Ghazālī asks: Is the first intelligence’s knowledge of its principle identical with its existence and with its knowledge of itself or other than the two ? If it is identical, then there will be no plurality in its nature. But if it is other than the two, then such a plurality exists also in the First Principle, for He too knows Himself as well as what is other than Himself. Thus, al-Ghazālī contends that either there can be no plurality in the first intelligence or if it is there, then it is for the same reasons in the First Principle too, and, therefore, the beings characterized by diversity and plurality {606} would directly proceed from Him. Al-Ghazālī forces this conclusion upon the philosophers through their own logic.

For himself al-Ghazālī believes that: “The First Principle is an omnipotent and willing agent; He does what He wills, and ordains as He likes, and He creates the similar and dissimilar things alike, whenever and in whatever manner He wills? The impossibility of such a belief is neither a self-evident truth, nor a matter of inferential knowledge.” 58 Al-Ghazālī frankly and rightly confesses that the problem of God’s relation with the universe in the final analysis remains ever beyond the comprehension of human understanding. The inquiry into the manner in which the world proceeded from God’s will, he urges, is “an idle and aimless venture.” The modus operandi of God’s creative activity is wholly inexplicable and this inexplicability is inevitable; indeed, if it were explicable, it would not be “creative.” Explanation in all its forms establishes some connection or similarity with what is experienced, whereas God’s creativity is an activity through which the experients and what is experienced by them come to be. How can human comprehension envisage the mode of God’s act of creation when it is itself the creature of that act?

The philosophers try to avoid the charge of plurality with regard to the First Principle so far as His knowledge is concerned by affirming that the First Principle does not know anything other than Himself and that His self-knowledge is the same thing as His essence; so the knowledge, the knower, and the object of knowledge are all one in Him. This indeed was originally the position of Aristotle according to whom God is describable as thought thinking itself. In Aristotle’s own words, ` . . . it must be itself that thought thinks, and its thinking is thinking on thinking.” 59 This view of God as reflective thought, reflective in the literal sense of turning back upon itself, has been subjected to severe criticism by al-Ghazālī. According to him, self-knowledge of a literal and direct sort is An impossibility. He argues with Plotinus that self-knowledge even in the case of God implies an epistemological subject-object dualism and, therefore, would impede the philosophers’ thesis of the absolute unity of the First Principle. Not only the Aristotelian conception of God as thought thinking thought does not absolve the philosophers from introducing plurality in the First Principle, but further lends them into many more difficulties with regard to their emanationistic world-view. Consider, for example, the relative positions of the First Principle and the first intelligence in terms of their knowledge. The First Principle which is the emanative cause of the first intelligence does not know anything other than Himself, whereas the latter knows not only its cause but further knows itself and the three {607} effects which proceed from it, viz., the second intelligence, the soul of the highest sphere, and  the body of that sphere. It is a strange theory, al-Ghazālī observes, which makes the effect have the knowledge of its cause but not the cause of its effect. The necessity of a cause possessing the knowledge of its effect is more compelling than the necessity of an effect possessing the knowledge of its cause. In fact, the philosophers make the first intelligence superior to and “nobler” than the First Principle in so far as from the First Principle only one thing proceeds, while from the first intelligence three things proceed. Further, the First Principle does not know what prodeeds from Him; in fact, He does not know anything other than Himself, while the first intelligence knows itself, its cause, and its three effects. Al-Ghazālī feels so bitter at the Aristotelian conception of God as thought thinking itself that he goes to the length of saying that the philosophers by limiting God’s knowledge to the sphere of self-knowledge virtually reduce Him to the status of the dead. 60

5. God’s Knowledge of the Particulars. 61 Al-Ghazālī is very emphatic and uncompromising with regard to the all-circumscribing knowledge of God: “God knows the creeping of the black ant upon the rugged rock in a dark night, and He perceives the movement of the mote in the midst of the air.” 62 Ibn Sina also subscribes to the view that God knows everything: “Nothing, not even as much as a particle of dust in the heavens or on the earth, remains hidden from His knowledge.” 63 Yet, interestingly enough, al-Ghazālī does not hesitate to level a charge of infidelity against him on this score for, according to ibn Sina, though God knows all the particulars, He knows them only in a universal way. This means that God cannot have the perceptual knowledge of particular things but knows them by way of a universal knowledge. Ibn Sina realizes the difficulty of his position and so adds that the understanding of it needs great intellectual subtlety. The reasons that he advances to deny perceptual knowledge to God are fully recognized by al-Ghazālī. Perceptual knowledge is characterized both temporally and spatially, whereas God is above both time and space and so it is not possible to ascribe perceptual knowledge to Him. A particular event occurs at a particular moment of time and suffers change with the passage of time. Change in the object of perception implies a change in the content of perception itself which obviously leads to change in the subject of perception, i.e., in the percipient himself. But change in God is unthinkable; therefore, perception of a particular event is not {608} possible for Him. Similarly, to distinguish between one particular object and another in space is possible only through the senses and implies a special relation of a sensible thing to the percipient as being near to or far from him or in a definite position, and this is impossible where God is concerned. Hence, it is not possible for God to have perceptual knowledge of the particulars. His knowledge can only be that which rises above the particular “nows” and the particular “heres,” that is to say, is of conceptual or universal nature.

Ibn Sina’s position as briefly outlined above seems to be very well grounded in sound reasoning and is quite understandable, yet, according to al-Ghazālī, it is so pernicious to religion that it altogether demolishes the entire edifice of religious Law (hence his charge of infidelity). The theory implies that God cannot know any new state that emerges in John-He cannot know that John has becomes an infidel or a true believer, for He can know only the unbelief or the belief of man in general in a universal manner and not in specific relation to individuals. Yes, God cannot know Muhammad’s proclaiming himself a prophet at the time when he did. And the same will be true of every other prophet, for God only knows that among men there are some who claim prophecy, and that such and such are their attributes; but He cannot know a particular prophet as an individual, for that is to be known only by the senses. There certainly is a point in what al-Ghazālī says here for it is really difficult to show any relation between the temporal and the timeless, yet the above criticism of his is a little wide of the mark for it is based on a misinterpretation of ibn Sina’s position. By the statement that God does not have perceptual knowledge of the particulars, ibn Sina does not mean to say that God does not have the knowledge of the particulars or that His knowledge is restricted only to that of the universals or general concepts. Ibn Sina insists that God does have knowledge of the particulars; only this knowledge comes to Him not through sensuous perception but through intellectual perception, not from moment to moment but eternally.

Ibn Sina starts with the Aristotelian conception that God has only self-knowledge but adds emphatically that His self-knowledge necessarily implies knowledge of all the existent things in the universe in so far as He is the principal or the ultimate source of them all. There is not a single existent particular which does not proceed from Him directly or indirectly and the existence of which does not become in some way necessary through Him. The coming into existence of particular events and objects is due to the action and interaction of the various causes but ultimately all these have to be traced back to the First Cause. God, the First Cause, has the full prescience of the working of the various causes which originate from Him, and knows the effects produced by them and the time involved in their occurrence and recurrence. Thus, God knows the particular events even when they occur to a single individual under specific conditions and at particular times in so far as they are fully explicable in terms of general laws and all-pervasive causal nexus. This may be illustrated with reference to an analogous human situation. An astronomer {609} who has full understanding of the general laws governing the movements of the heavenly bodies can, through his proper calculations, describe the various phenomena such as the particular eclipses and the conjunctions of the stars. The analogy, however, though helpful, cannot be stretched to an identity, for, strictly speaking, there is nothing in our experience to compare with divine knowledge. Our knowledge is liable to error and is fragmentary, whereas God’s knowledge is infallible and all-embracing, so much so that the whole universe is known to Him in one single congruous manifestation which is not affected by time. God is immediately aware of the entire sweep of history regarded as an ordered string of specific events in an eternal now. Further, God not only knows but is also the very ground of the objects that He knows. The universe proceeds from the essence of God verily because of His knowledge of the universe: the ideal representation of the universal system is the very cause of its emanation. Had God not known the universe with all its concrete particularities, the universe would never have come into being. This indeed is a very original and quite ingenious theory with regard to God’s knowledge of the particulars. Yet it is undoubtedly of highly speculative nature and so al-Ghazālī is all out to bring quite an arsenal of criticism against it with a dialectical analyticity and rigour not incomparable to those of the logical positivists of our own day. He is not at all prepared to accept any of the assumptions of the philosophers until and unless they should either be atatable in the form of analytical propositions or be verifiable through some kind of intuitive experience. The attribution of knowledge to God as it is, but particularly that of “the other,” cannot go without jeopardizing to some extent at least His absolute unity and simplicity which otherwise are so much emphasized, rather over-emphasized by the philosophers. Above all, the theory, like any of its kind, fails to relate in any satisfactory manner the eternality of God’s knowledge with the tranaciency of human experience, which relation indeed is the very crux of religious experience. And so far as it suffers from the presuppositions of the intellectualistic-deterministic world-view of the philosophers, al-Ghazālī simply has no patience with it. For one, it suggests a block universe such as makes little allowance if any at all even for the exercise of God’s will. These are just a few general remarks to indicate the mode and the various lines of al-Ghazali’s arguments against the philosophers; they may now be substantiated and amplified by listing some of the actual points of his criticism.

The statement that God’s self-knowledge necessarily implies the knowledge of all the existent particulars in the universe cannot be logically validated, nor can it be verified on the basis of any analogous human experience. God’s self-knowledge and His knowledge of others do not have the relation of logical entailment, for it is possible to imagine the existence of the one without imagining the existence of the other at the same time. Looking to our own experience it would be wrong to claim that man’s knowledge of what is other than himself is identical with his self-knowledge and with his essence.

It may be said that God does not know other things in the first intention {610} (al-wajh al-awwal) but that He knows His essence as the principle of the universe and from this His knowledge of the universe follows in the second intention (al-wayh al-thani), i. e., by way of a logical inference. Now, the statement of the philosophers that God knows Himself directly only as the principle of the universe, according to al-Ghazali, is as much an arbitrary assumption as the earlier statement and is exposed to exactly the same kind of criticism. According to the philosophers’ own admission, it would suffice that God should know only His essence; the knowledge of His being the principle of the universe is additional to it and is not logically implicated in it. Just as it is possible for a man to know himself without knowing that he is “an effect of God” (for his being an effect is a relation to this cause), even so it is possible for God to know Himself without knowing that He is the principle or cause. The principle or cause is merely the relation that He bears to His effect, the universe. His knowledge of His relation to the universe is not by any means entailed by His knowledge of His own essence. Do not the philosophers themselves in their doctrine with regard to the attributes of God affirm the possibility only of negative or relational statements about God on the plea that negations or relations add nothing to His essence?64 The knowledge of the relation, therefore, cannot be identical with the knowledge of the essence. Hence the philosophers’ assumption that God knows His essence and thereby also knows Himself as the principle of the universe, remains unproved logically and unverified experientially. Al-Ghazālī raises many more points of criticism of a similar nature which fully bring out the “positivistic” and “analytic” thrusts in his thought. This type of criticism should have been sufficient with al-Ghazālī, for it served his purpose of refuting the philosophers quite effectively, but his religious calling and persuasion impell him to launch many more attacks on the philosophers. They do not aim so much at the complete smashing of the philosophers’ arguments as to bring out either inconsistencies in their various positions or more so the difficulties of a religious nature in accepting them.

Al-Ghazālī fully appreciates the motive of the philosophers in elaborating their theory with regard to the nature of God’s knowledge of the particulars, which is no other than that of safeguarding the immutability and the unity of God. Eliminating the factor of time or change altogether in God’s knowledge, however, has difficulties of its own which will be noted presently, but there is another aspect of the philosophers’ treatment of the problem of God’s knowledge which lands them into a morass of contradictions and annuls the very purpose for which it is belaboured, i. e., that of establishing the unity of God. Granted that God’s knowledge remains unaffected by change, for it rises above the distinction of “is,” “was” and “will,” yet how can God’s knowledge remain unaffected by the multiplicity and diversity of the objects that He knows? How can it be claimed that knowledge remains unitary even {611} when the things known are unlimited in number and are different, for knowledge has to conform to the nature of the things known? If the change in the objects of cognition necessarily presupposes change in the subject, multiplicity and difference in the former presuppose the same in the latter.

“Would that I could understand,” says al-Ghazālī, “how an intelligent person can allow himself to disbelieve the oneness of the knowledge of a thing whose states are divisible into the Past, the Present, and the Future; while he would not disbelieve the oneness of knowledge which relates to all the different Genera and Species. Verily the difference and the disparity among the diverse Genera and Species is more marked than the difference which may actually be found to exist among the states of a thing divisible in accordance with the division of time. If that difference does not necessitate multiplicity and difference, how can this do so either?”65

Though the philosophers ascribe omniscience and fore-knowledge to God, they make His knowledge a sort of mirror which passively reflects in an eternal now the details of an already finished sequence of events just as we in a particular present moment have the memory of a fixed and inalterable sequence of past events. Thus, God’s knowledge of time is restricted only to the relational aspect of time, i. e., that of the sequence of before and after or of earlier and later. There is, however, another aspect of time which typically characterizes the human experience and forms its very essence, namely, that of the ever-fleeting, ever-changing now. This is the time which is born afresh at every moment, the time in which the future is perpetually flowing through the present into the past. Now, according to the philosophers’ thesis of God’s knowledge as explained above, in God’s eternal being there can be no counterpart of the experience of this living time in which we humans move and act. God may know, for example, that my acts of religious devotion are subsequent to my religious conversion, but He cannot know now that I am acting or have acted in such and such a way. So God in His supra-temporal transcendence would remain impervious to my religious solicitations, for I am eternally doomed to the tyranny of this ever-fleeting, ever-trembling now. 66 Should this be true and should I come to realize it, I may cry in despair: “Of what use is God to me!” Such is the catastrophe to which the philosophers’ over-emphasis upon the eternality and changelessness of God’s knowledge leads through its very incumbent logic. The problem of the relation of the eternality of God to {612} the temporality of human experience is almost an impossible problem and the philosophers of all times have stumbled over it. It may be suggested, however, that God is transcendental to both time and change and yet in some mysterious way immanent in it. Viewed superficially, this seems to be an apparent logical contradiction, but, adds al-Ghazālī, the philosophers dare not point this out for they themselves have affirmed with regard to their doctrine of the eternity of the world that the world is eternal and yet at the same time subject to change.

The statement that God not only knows the universe but, further, that this knowledge is the very ground and the cause of the universe, though very significant in itself, is made by the philosophers essentially within the framework of their deterministic-emanationistic world-view and as such, according to al-Ghazālī, involves them into an embarrassing predicament. There is no sense in talking about the knowledge of an agent when his action is a “natural action” in the sense that it follows from him necessarily and is not the result of his volition. We do not say that knowledge of light possessed by the sun is the requisite condition for the emanation of light from the sun, and this in fact is the analogy which the philosophers have employed to explain the procession of the world from the being of God. Further, according to them, the universe has not been produced by God all at once but has proceeded from Him through “the intermediaries and the other consequences and the consequences of those consequences all indirectly connected with these intermediaries.” 67 Even if it should be granted that the necessary procession of something from an agent requires the knowledge by him of that which proceeds, God’s knowledge at best would be only that of the first intelligence and of nothing besides. That which proceeds from something which proceeds from God may not be necessarily known to Him. Knowledge is not necessary in the case of the indirect consequences of volitional actions; how can it be so in the case of the indirect consequences of necessary actions? Thus, the assertion of the philosophers that God’s knowledge is the very ground and cause of that which He knows loses its entire significance because of its moorings in the Plotinian scheme of emanationism.

Through a strange irony of logic the emanationistic argument of the philosophers, instead of building a staircase between God and the world, creates almost an unbridgeable gulf between the two. It certainly leads to the conclusion that God is directly related only to the first intelligence, i.e., the first item of the series of emanations between God and the world; on the other hand, the world is directly related only to the lowest end of that series. Further, the argument makes the world an independent and autonomous system, which can be understood by itself because of its insistence on an inexorable causal necessity such as pervades the entire scheme of things. This conception of a through and through causally determined universe rooted in the {613} intellectual-emanationistic metaphysics of the philosophers was so radically different from his own dynamic-occasionalistic world-view grounded in the theistic-voluntaristic metaphysics of the Ash’arite tradition that al-Ghazālī declared a complete parting of the way with them. Their world-view, al-Ghazālī made it clear, militates particularly against the fundamental Islamic doctrine of God’s providence and omnipotence, and leaves no possibility for the happening of miracles such as turning of a rod into a serpent, denaturing fire of its capacity to burn, revivification of the dead, splitting of the moon (all so clearly referred to in the Qur’an). 68 There certainly is no scope for the exercise of God’s freewill in a universe in which there is no real becoming and in which the future is already given in the present as its necessary effect. Nor, in view of the reign of the inexorable law of causal necessity in such a universe, is there any possibility for the miracles, except those which can be “naturalized” through scientific explanation.

6. Causality.-Al-Ghazālī’s desire to vindicate the truth of the religious position mentioned above led him to make a highly critical and acute analysis of the philosophers’ concept of causality. This analysis, which bears a strikingly close similarity to that of Hume’s, brings 69 out clearly the most remarkable originality and acumen of al-Ghazālī’s thought. The problem that engaged him at the outset of his inquiry with regard to the seventeenth disputation in the Tahāfut is the problem of the alleged necessity of the causal connection as maintained and insisted on by the philosophers. He challenges the validity of this necessity right as he opens the discussion. 70 “In our view,” he asserts, “the connection between what are believed to be cause and effect is not necessary.” The reason that he offers for the justification of his position is that the relation between cause and effect is not that of logical entailment. The affirmation of the one does not imply the affirmation of the other, nor does the denial of the one imply the denial of the other. Neither the existence nor the non-existence of the one is necessarily presupposed by the existence or the non-existence of the other. The relation between quenching of thirst and drinking, satiety and eating, burning and fire, or light and sunrise, etc., is not a necessary relation, for in no case does the one term logically imply the other. There is nothing logically contradictory in assuming that fire may not burn, and drinking may not quench thirst, and so on.

The alleged necessity of the causal connection is not logically warranted because through no amount of logical reasoning can we deduce the effect from {614} the cause. At best it is based on observation or experience. We observe that objects succeed one another or that similar objects are constantly conjoined. Now, this proves succession, not causation, or conjunction, not connection, The fire which is an inanimate object has no power to produce the effect of burning; “observation shows only that one is with the other and not that it is by it,” i. e., the effect happens with the cause and not through it (`indahu la bihi). 71

The notion of necessity is valid only in the case of logical relations such as identity, implication, disjunction, etc. In the sphere of mere natural relations necessity has no scope. In the order of nature, unlike the order of thought, we deal merely with the contingent and alogical entities which remain unrelated to each other except in the minds of the perceiver. Objects as such are not connected with one another; only the ideas of them get connected in our mind by association. The relation between fire and burning is not a necessary relation, for it does not belong to the realm of necessity but to that of possibility such as may happen or may not happen depending on the will of God. “It is only,” al-Ghazālī enunciates clearly, “when something possible is repeated over and over again (so as to form the Norm), that its pursuance of a uniform course in accordance with the Norm in the past is indelibly impressed upon our minds.” 72 Thus, if there is any semblance of necessity in the order of natural relations such as that of cause and effect, it is merely because the two terms which in nature remain extrinsic to each other, through constant repetition become conjoined in our consciousness. Causal necessity is just the habit of our mind: it is merely a psychological necessity and not a logical necessity. The psychological necessity differs from logical necessity in this that its denial like the latter does not involve us in a logical impossibility. Hence the miracles, such as the fire not burning the body of Abraham when he was thrown into it, are not impossible to think. Al-Ghazālī insists that the denial of miracles can be justified only when it should be proved that they are logically impossible and where such proof is not forthcoming their denial is sheer ignorance and obduracy.

It is interesting to note further that al-Ghazālī, in the course of his discussion of the principle of causality and the possibility of miracles, comes close to propounding the notion of the composite nature of a cause and also that of plurality of causes. Cause he understands to be the sum total of many contributory factors, some of which are positive while others negative, and all of which have to be considered in conjunction. Take the case of a man seeing a coloured object: he should possess sound vision, he should open his eyes, there should be no obstruction between the eyes and the object of vision, the object should be a coloured one, the atmosphere should be not dark but have sufficient light, etc. Any one condition by itself cannot be taken to be a cause and a single negative condition such as the blindness of the {615} person or the darkness of atmosphere may make the cause non-operative though logically not impossible. The relation of cause and effect is based on observation and observation as such does not rule out the possibility that the same effect might follow some cause other than the apparent one. Even where we recognize that there are many causes for the same effect, we cannot limit the number of causes just to those which we ourselves have observed. So there are many causes for the same effect 73 and a cause is a sum total of many conditions. In view of this it is not possible to negate an effect on the negation of one particular cause but on the negation of all the various causes. This latter possibility, however, is emphatically discounted by al-Ghazālī so far as we are concerned, for it presupposes a complete and exhaustive knowledge of all the causes and their conditions, which knowledge we humans can never come to possess. Moreover, causes by themselves are inert entities; will and action cannot be attributed to them. They act only through the power and agency of God. 74 The only will is the absolutely free-will of God which works unconstrained by any extraneous law or incumbency except the self-imposed law of contradiction. Thus, the things to which God’s power extends include mysterious and wonderful facts such as “elude the discernment of human sensibility.” Indeed, God’s power extends to all kinds of logical possibilities such as turning of a rod into a serpent, or the revivification of the dead. For the same reason it is not impossible for Him to bring about the resurrection of bodies in the life hereafter and all other things with regard to paradise and hell which have been mentioned in the Qur’an. 75 To deny them is both illogical and irreligious. One may add that, according to al-Ghazālī, not only all miracles are natural but also all nature is miraculous. 76 Nature, however, seems to be pervaded by a causal nexus only because as a rule God does not choose to interrupt the continuity of events by a miracle; it is possible, however, that Ile might intervene at any moment that He deems fit. Such a standpoint may make one sceptical of the phenomena of nature, but it may equally lead one to an acute mystical sense of the presence of God to all things. Scepticism of this kind and mysticism need not always be antithetical-the former may as well lead to the latter. This indeed is said to have had happened in the case of al-Ghazālī. {616}

Written by Saeed Sheikh, M. A. Professor of Philosophy, Government College, Lahor (Pakistan)


Chapter XXXI

AL-GHAZĀLĪ (Continued)



1. Introduction.-It will not be quite true to say that al-Ghazālī’s final resort to Sufi-mysticism was merely the result of his disillusionment with philosophy and dissatisfaction with scholastic theology. This is only a part of the truth; his own confessional statement to this effect in al-Munqidh seems to be rather an over-statement of the actual facts. Sufistic influences had all along been working upon his mind right from his early childhood. We need only recall that his father was a pious dervish and his guardian a Sufi devout, that in his youth he studied1 and even practised Sufism first under Yusuf al-Nassaj in Tus and then under al-Farmadhi at Nishapur and that his own brother Ahmad al-Ghazālī (d. 520/1126) made a name as a great Sufi. It is not improbable that he should have also learnt of Sufism from his teacher Imam al-Haramain, for it is reported that the Imam himself had been the pupil of the renowned Sufi abu Nu‘aim al-Isfahani (d. 430/1038). So al-Ghazālī’s eventual adoption of the Sufi way of life was in reality a continuation of these early influences and not simply the consequence of his failure to find the philosophical solution of theological problems. Further, it has to be emphasized that, in spite of his explicit official denunciation of philosophy, al-Ghazālī could never completely part company with it. His Sufi-mysticism was as much influenced by his thorough study of philosophy as by theology; in its final development it was the mysticism of a philosopher and a theologian. There is a marked note of Hellenic thought in his mystical doctrines and even the tracings of Neo-Platonism, and yet paradoxical though it may seem they remain circumscribed within the limits of orthodoxy. His is surely a sober kind of mysticism carefully eschewing all kinds of pantheistic extravagances and severely criticizing the antinomian tendencies of the intoxicated Sufis. On the one hand, he tried to make mysticism orthodox and, on the other, orthodoxy mystical. It is the mystical element in religion, he insisted, which is most vital and makes religious life a reality. Both to the philosophers {617} and the scholastic theologians he brought home the fact that the basis of all religious certainty is the first-hand living experience of God. He indeed did his best to vitalize the Law and the doctrine of Islam through this emphasis on the living religious experience, and this is evident from the very title of his magnum opus, Ihyā’ `Ulum al-Din (Revivification of the Sciences of Religion). But the mystical teaching of al-Ghazālī found in Ihyā’, meant for all to read, must be studied in conjunction with what is given in his other works dealing more specially with the Sufi doctrine such as Mishkāt al-Anwar, al-Ma’ārif al-`Aqliyyah, Mukāshafat al-Qulūb and the like. The theory developed in these works represents what may be labelled as theosophical mysticism and this cannot be properly understood without reference to al-Ghazālī’s specific views about the nature of God and the human soul. From the point of view of our present study his mystical views with regard to God and soul may be profitably compared with those of the philosophers, i. e., al-Farabi, ibn Sina, and their followers.

God.-The philosophers have particularly emphasized the absolute unity of God. No positive attributes can be ascribed to God for that leads to the subject-predicate dualism. Even existence can only be referred to Him. He is above all distinctions and above all the categories of thought. This overemphasis on unity shorn of all qualities reduces God to a mere contentless inanity. He becomes an ineffable, indescribable, impredicable something. Such is the result of the dialectic of the philosophers’ monistic reductionism. As mentioned in the preceding chapter, some (if them, following Aristotle, have described God as thought thinking thought. That which He knows comes into being emanating from the over-effulgence of His Being, but He does not positively will anything, for willing implies a need-a deficiency. He recognizes only Himself or at best His first emanent, the first intelligence, and, thus, is purely transcendent to this world of change and multiplicity.

Like the philosophers, al-Ghazālī lays stress on the unity of God: God is the sole-existent and the ultimate cause and ground of all being, the only self-subsisting reality. Yet He possesses the fullness of being, all the attributes mentioned in the Qur’an inhere in Him, only the modality of this inherence is rationally unknowable. We should, however, understand that all His attributes are spiritual. He is perfect goodness and perfect beauty: the supreme object of love.2 He is the light of lights, the eternal wisdom, the creative truth, but above all He is the eternal will.

To the philosophers God is primarily thought or intelligence, but to al-Ghazālī He is primarily a will which is the cause of creation. “The First Principle,” he says, “is an omnipotent and willing agent, He does what He wills, and ordains as He likes, and He creates the similar and dissimilar things alike, whenever and in whatever manner He wills.” 3 So Ultimate Reality is {618} essentially will. The entire choir of the heavens and the furniture of the earth are the direct work of God, produced out of sheer nothingness simply through His terrific “Be.” 4 God has created the universe through His will, sustains it through His will, and one day will let it pass away by His will. According to the philosophers, God wills the world because He thinks of it. According to al-Ghazālī, “God has cognizance of the world because He wills it and in His willing it.” 5

Like the philosophers, al-Ghazālī also emphasizes the transcendent aspect of God. He is exalted beyond the limitations of space and time, for He is the creator of space and time. He was before time and space were. But He is also immanent in this apatio-temporal order; His eternal wisdom and supreme beauty manifest themselves through the wonders and glory of His creation. His eternal will is in action throughout the universe; it is in the swing of the sun and the moon and in the alternation of day and night. Everywhere around is the touch and working of God.6 Al-Ghazālī’s God is not the Absolute of the philosophers who is bleak and cold, but a personal God, a living God. He desires intercourse with His creatures and makes it possible for them to enter into fellowship with Himself through prayer and contemplation and, above all, through the gift of mystical gnosis.

Soul.-The difference between al-Ghazālī and the philosophers with regard to the nature of the soul is not so very well marked. He only insists, like Kant, 7 that the philosophers through their rational arguments cannot give any conclusive proof for the spirituality, substantiality, unity, immortality, etc., of the human soul. His attack on the philosophers on this issue is as incisive and analytic as that of Kant but probably more violent. He actually smashes one by one all the ten arguments which he himself expounds as forcefully as they could be in favour of their thesis. 8 Like Kant again, he does not disagree with their basic position but only with their method. He even joins the philosophers in their refutation of the position of some of the scholastic theologians, who maintained that the soul is a kind of subtle body or an accident and not a substance. 9 What is more and rather strange, while determining the place of the soul in the realm of beings, al-Ghazālī talks the very language of {619} the Neo-Platonic philosophers. His cosmological triad of the divine world (`ālam al-malakūt), the celestial world (`ālam al-jabrūt), and the material, phenomenal world (`ālam al-mulk w-al-shahādah) runs closely parallel to that of Plotinus consisting of the universal mind, the universal soul, and matter. 10 Like Plotinus, he seems to vouchsafe that the human soul belongs to `ālam al-jabarūt, i.e., midway between the divine world and the material world, and so is neither purely eternal like the former nor merely temporal like the latter but partakes of them both.

Al-Ghazālī’s conception of the human soul, however, is essentially based on the teachings of the Qur’an and the Tradition. The interesting thing about this conception is that it runs parallel to his conception of God. Soul like God is a unity and like Him it is primarily and essentially a will. Further, as God is both transcendent to and immanent in the universe so is soul with reference to body. “Man is made in the image of God,” 11 is a saying of the Holy Prophet and it is twice stated in the Qur’an that “Allah breathed into man of His own spirit.” 12 The soul is a mirror illumined by the divine spark reflecting the qualities and even the essence of God. “Not only are man’s attributes,” says al-Ghazālī, “a reflection of God’s attributes but the mode of existence of man’s soul affords an insight into God’s mode of existence . . . .” Knowledge of the self is the key to the knowledge of God, for so is the oftquoted tradition: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” “Both God and soul,” al-Ghazālī adds, “are invisible, indivisible, unconfined by space and time, and outside the categories of quantity and quality: nor can the ideas of shape, colour, or size attach to them . . . .”13

The soul of man is different from everything else in the sensuous world. There are two worlds: the world of command (amr) and the created world (khalq).14 Everything devoid of quantity and dimension belongs to the world of amr. Soul belongs to the world of amr also because it proceeds from the command of God: “Say, the spirit proceedeth at the command of my Lord”15 is God’s instruction to the Prophet. It is the world of amr that rules the created world; the command is the divine force which directs and regulates the world. Thus soul is a spiritual principle which having life in itself vitalizes the body and controls it and regulates it. Body is the instrument and vehicle of the soul. God is primarily a will and man is akin to God especially in respect of will. Volo ergo sum is the dictum on which al-Ghazālī builds his mystical {620} psychology and epistemology. The essential element of the soul is not thought which in the final analysis is based upon the bodily perceptions and the categories of thought but will which created them both for its own purposes. Man in himself has the infinite spiritual possibilities and it is through his will that he comes to realize them and thus brings himself close to the mind and will of God till God says: “O’ soul at rest! return to thy Lord, satisfied with Him, giving satisfaction unto Him. So enter among My servants and enter My garden.”16 This final encounter of the soul with God through the unfolding of its own spiritual possibilities and the realization of its inmost aspirations is attained by walking on a mystic Path, under the guidance of a Shaikh, and constitutes what is the very essence and acme of religious experience.

Religious Experience and Moral and Intellectual Values.-Whatever the essence or inner content of religious experience may be, it certainly is not a mere state of pure contemplation or knowledge as the philosophers proclaim it to be. It is a vital experience which must translate itself into good action. Religion without good works, according to al-Ghazālī, is a dead religion. The life of the true mystics is the best life and their character the purest character. “Were the intellect of the intellectuals and the learning of the learned and the scholarship of the scholars . . . brought together to improve the life and character of the mystics, they would find no way of doing so.”17 Indeed, the source from which the philosophers derive their ethical theories is the lives and teachings of these moral geniuses, i. e., the saints and the mystics. In the final analysis the mystics themselves are illumined by the light of the lamp of the prophetic revelation. But what if you were to doubt the prophethood of a prophet? So close is the relation between the inner religious life and the outer moral expression of it that you can move from one back to the other. The authenticity of a prophet can be attested by applying a moral test, that is, by making a close study of his conduct, by assessing the transformations which his creative will has wrought in human history and by evaluating the new socio-politico-legal system that he has introduced and established in a society. Of the truths of religion, we acquire not a theoretical but a moral certainty: the deed is more important than mere idea, the will is more ultimate than pure intellect.

Though the philosophers do not deny the importance of transforming truth values into moral values, ideas into deeds, so far as their theory of prophecy is concerned, yet in pursuance of the dominant Hellenic tradition they seem to hold that knowledge without consequent action has its own intrinsic value. Good deeds are preparatory to correct thinking. The ultimate perfection of the soul consists in God-like contemplation, in a state of pure knowledge which though not without joy is certainly without action. Al-Ghazālī strongly revolted against this extreme intellectualism of the {621} philosophers, yet he did not remain altogether unaffected by it. It is indeed futile to look for any lifeless consistency in his attitudes which make a happy synthesis of voluntarism, pragmatism, and idealism. He concedes, for example, that a prophet is a person endowed with extraordinary intellect which enables him to attain contact with the active intellect, the proximate source of prophetic revelation.18 Like the philosophers, he also affirms that perfection of the soul consists in knowledge, albeit intuitive knowledge; like them, he also shows predilections for knowledge for its own sake. “The ink of the scholar is better than the blood of the martyr.”19 It is certainly true so far as by knowledge we here understand knowledge of the religious sciences, but it is also in a sense true of all other sciences. Knowledge of the sciences dealing with things that God has made is regarded by al-Ghazālī as a necessary prelude to the knowledge of God Himself. The study of all branches of knowledge and taking the greatest share of most of them is a necessary part of the mystic discipline. “If the soul has not been exercised in the sciences dealing with fact and demonstration, it will acquire mental phantasms which will be mistaken by it to be truths descending upon it …. Many Sufis remain stuck for years in such figments of imagination, but they certainly would have been saved from these, had they first followed the path of scientific study and acquired by laborious learning as much of the demonstrative sciences as human power could encompass . . . .”20

It has almost become a fashion to label al-Ghazālī as an anti-intellectualist and to ascribe to him much of the backwardness of Muslim community ever since the sixth/twelfth century: its conservatism and its anti-liberalism.21 It is alleged that al-Ghazālī through his emphasis on fundamentalism and spiritualism initiated a movement in Muslim thought that killed all zest for philosophic inquiry and scientific reflection, if it did not outright create an antipathy for them. The anti-intellectualism or the anti-liberalism of the Muslim community is a highly complex sociological phenomenon and its causes shall have to be explored in a great many areas; it would be too much of an oversimplification of facts to ascribe it to a single name, however great that name may be. We have only to remember that al-Ghazālī never left philosophy altogether and that he himself was very well acquainted with the scientific knowledge of his day,22 most of which he accepted as true. The charge of the kind mentioned above may be made only with reference to some one {622} particular work but it cannot at all be justified if the whole course o£ his works is taken into consideration.

Considering, however, the number and complexity of the subjects with which his works deal, the various levels of readers for whom they were written and the fact of his own spiritual development, it is not always possible to reconcile his various views and attitudes and to defend him against all charges of inconsistency.23 One such difficulty arises when, after having considered his views about the nature of the soul and God, we come to formulate his position with regard to the relation between the two. Whether his conception of this relation makes an allowance for pantheism, is a question which has puzzled some students of al-Ghazālī.24

Pantheism.-Al-Ghazālī’s view of God as being both immanent and transcendent, his firm belief in God being a personal God who allows His creatures to enter into communion with Him, his emphasis on God’s being a creator who created the universe at a specific time through an act of volition, one and all, can hardly fit into any scheme of pantheism. The description of the mystic’s experience of God at the higher reaches of his ecstatic flights as identification (ittihad) or unification (wusūl) with God or inherence or indwelling (hulul) in Him, al-Ghazālī has expressly mentioned as false and erroneous.25 At beat the mystics can claim only a nearness to or proximity with God and no more. But it has been pointed out that in his doctrine of the soul he makes it resemble God so closely both in essence and qualities that there remains hardly any difference between the two. Al-Ghazālī is aware of this dangerous deduction and asserts most emphatically that there is one special quality (akhassu wasfihi) . which belongs to God alone and of which none else partakes and that is the quality of self-subsistence. God is self-. subsistent (qayyūm)26 while everything else exists through Him and not through its own essence. “Nay, things through their own essence have nothing {623} but non-existence, and existence comes to them only from something else, by way of a loan.” But surely there is the lurking danger of pantheism in such a statement if it is stretched to its logical limits. If the contingency of the world should be over-emphasized, it becomes nothing more than a show of shadows having no reality or actuality of its own whatsoever. All actuality is devoured by the being of God. This conclusion is confirmed by al-Ghazālī’s own approval of the pantheistic formula: la huwa illa huwa (there is no it but He) to which may be added his statement: “He is everything: He is that He is: none but He has ipseity or heity at all.”27 To this may be added that al-Ghazālī has taken a very lenient view of some of the obviously pantheistic utterances of the Sufis of extreme type such as “I am the Creative Truth;”28 “Glory be to Me! How great is My glory”; “Within this robe is naught but Allah,”29 etc. Statements of this kind clearly indicate a sense of complete self-deification. But al-Ghazālī has no word of condemnation for them except the comment that “the words of passionate lovers in the state of ecstasy should be concealed and not spoken of.” True, the statements of this kind should not be taken strictly philosophically but only as emotive expressions indicative of a deep inner experience which has many phases and aspects and a language and a logic of its own. But then al-Ghazālī seems to forget sometimes the advice he has so strongly given to those who have attained the mystic state that they should not try to speak the unspeakable and follow the poet who said:

“What I experience I shall not try to say;

Call me happy, but ask me no more.”30

written by Saeed Sheikh, M. A., Professor of Philosophy, Government College, Lahor (Pakistan)




Al-Ghazālī is the best known Muslim writer on moral subjects. But there are some critics31 who have recently made attempts to belittle the importance of his ethical theory by trying to show that it is entirely, or at least mainly, derived from the Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic doctrines and from the writings of the Muslim philosophers whose systems were Hellenic in spirit. Al-Ghazālī was, undoubtedly, a widely read scholar and was, therefore, well versed in the ethical thought of the Greeks, which did influence him. But it would be basically wrong to say that he was dependent on Greek philosophy for his {624} inspiration. He was, in fact, against the philosophers and their heretical doctrines. Throughout his writings, al-Ghazālī takes his stand upon Islamic teachings and invariably quotes from the Qur’an and the traditions in support of his views. Following the Qur’an, for example, he lays emphasis on spiritual values like gratitude (shukr), repentance (taubah), reliance (tawakkul), fear (khauf) of God, etc., which were completely unknown to the Greeks. Similarly, al-Ghazālī is thoroughly Islamic in taking the perfect human representation of the moral ideal in the Prophet of Islam (peace be on him), whom God Himself testifies to have the highest character.32 Further, we can legitimately say that the notion of the love of God as the summum bonum, leading directly to the beatific vision in the next world, has nothing like it in Greek philosophy. This is undeniably based upon the Qur’anic teachings. All these assertions will become clearer as we proceed with the detailed discussion.

Asceticism is the spirit that runs throughout al-Ghazālī ethics. He does not deal with the heroic virtues like courage, etc., in detail, and lays greater emphasis on the purification of the heart after one has severed all ties with this world, at least in spirit. He says: “The experienced guide and teacher should bring home to the disciple that he should root out anger and keep no wealth . . . otherwise if he gets the slightest hint that both wealth and selfassertion are good and necessary in a certain measure, he will get an excuse for avarice and self-assertion, and to whatever limits he goes he will imagine that he is permitted as far as that. So he ought to be told to eradicate these tendencies.”33 Again, in Minhaj al-Abidin, al-Ghazālī differentiates between two kinds of virtues: positive, i.e., good actions; and negative, i.e., the abandonment of bad ones. The negative side is better and more excellent. To elucidate this point further, he discusses the question in Ihyāwhether marriage or celibacy is better. After counting the advantages and the disadvantages of both, he ultimately tends to the conclusion that celibacy is better. One may marry, he grants, provided one is at the same time like the unmarried, i. e., lives always in the presence of God. All this has a colouring of otherworldliness.

Avoidance of the world is, however, not put forward as an end-in-itself. It has been over-emphasized by al-Ghazālī simply to counteract the tendencies to vice, luxury, and pride, which were so common in his days. The curbing or controlling of passions has been stressed merely to achieve moderation; otherwise he fully knows the psychology of human nature. He is quite aware of the social spirit of the Qur’an and of the Prophet’s teaching that there is no asceticism in Islam.34 Accordingly, al-Ghazālī does sometimes lay emphasis on our duties and obligations to other individuals and to society as a whole. Jihād has been mentioned as a necessary obligatory duty; even prayers have to be sacrificed, if need be, during a war. In the chapter on “Renunciation {625} of the World,” in the Ihyā’ he warns against its evils and holds that renunciation is a grievous sin if a man has dependants who need his support. He defends music by saying that “gaiety and sport refresh and cheer the heart and bring relief to the tired mind. . ., rest prepares a man for work, and sport and gaiety for grave and serious pursuits.”35 Further, among virtues, he includes good appearance (husn al-hai’ah) with adornment which is sensible and has no tinge of ostentation in it. Similarly, there are the virtues of self-respect, dignity, etc., which point to a man’s relation with other individuals and presuppose a social set-up.

Before discussing al-Ghazālī’s theory of ethics we may consider the problem which forms the basis of all ethical systems, viz., the problem of the freedom of the will. The fact that man can change from the state of the insinuating self (al-nafs al-ammārah) to the state of the self at peace (al-nafs at-mutma’innah) through a good deal of conscious struggle and deliberate effort necessarily suggests that he is free in his will. The Mu’tazilites had taught that the freedom of the will is an a priori certainty, that man possesses power (qudrah) over his actions and is their real author. The Ash’arites, who represented the orthodox reaction, however, held that “Man cannot create anything. God is the only creator. Nor does man’s power produce any effect on his action at all. God creates in His creature power (qudrah) and choice (ikhtiyar). He then creates in him action corresponding to the power and choice thus created. So the action of the creature is created by God as to initiative and as to production, but it is acquired by the creature. By acquisition (kasb) is meant that it corresponds to the creature’s power and choice previously created in him, without his having had the slightest effect on the action.”36 This position comes very close to the “pre-established harmony” of Leibniz. It, thus, gives us at the most only a consciousness of freedom, and not freedom in the real sense of the term.

Over this question al-Ghazālī finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, God is represented as the disposer of everything. He is the unmoved mover of the material world and the only efficient cause of all creation. Whatever happens in the heavens or on the earth happens according to a necessary system and a predetermined plan. Not even a leaf can move without His decree; His law is supreme everywhere. “Whomsoever God wishes to guide, He expands his breast to Islam; but whomsoever He wishes to lead astray He makes his breast tight and strait.”37 And, on the other hand, man is shown to be responsible for his actions and for deserving place either in hell or in heaven. This implies complete moral freedom. Al-Ghazālī seeks to reconcile both these tendencies on the basis of an analysis of the human mind. The heart or the soul of man, according to him, is furnished with two kinds of impressions. Either there are sensations {626} through which one gets the sensible qualities of the outside world, or there is reflection or internal sense which supplies the mind with its own operations. These impressions, which al-Ghazālī calls khwatir (Locke would call them “simple ideas” and James Ward would term them “presentations”), are, according to him, the spring and fountain-head of all activity. Whatever the heart intends, resolves, etc., must come to it as knowledge in the form of such impressions. These impressions or ideas have an inherent tendency to express themselves in overt movements. They have a motive part of their own and are capable of exciting a strong impulse or inclination (raghbah) in the first instance. This inclination must, if the action is to take place, be followed by decision or conviction (i’tiqād). (These three stages correspond pretty closely to what psychologists call respectively appetite, desire, and wish.) Conviction, in turn, is followed by resolution or the will to act (irādah). Will excites power and then the action comes.

The first two stages of this process, viz., impression and inclination, are recognized to be beyond man’s complete control; if an individual merely thinks intently of falling forward, swaying forward begins. So “the conclusion would be that, while the occurrence of a strong desire or inclination may come without man’s responsibility, his reason is free to make a decision and his will is free to accept the decision of reason as good and to implement the corresponding action. In such a case, man would be free to do what he desires, but the complete control of his desire would be beyond his power.”38 Thus, al-Ghazālī tries to reconcile the positions of the determinists and the indeterminists.

In fact, al-Ghazālī recognizes three stages of being. The lowest is the material world where the absolute necessity of God’s will is all in all. Second is the stage of the sensuous and the psychical world where a relative sort of freedom is recognized. Lastly comes God who is absolutely free. But His freedom is not like that of a man who arrives at decisions after hesitation and deliberation over different alternatives. This is impossible in the case of God. “To speak of choice between alternatives is to suggest that other than the best might be chosen and this would be inconsistent with the idea of perfection.”39

Thus, having established human freedom and responsibility and having justified his discussion of ethical questions, al-Ghazālī goes on to present before us his notion of the moral ideal and the means that are to be adopted for its realization. The path is long and difficult and needs a great deal of patience and perseverance on the part of the seeker. Slowly and steadily, by leading a virtuous life, he has to take his soul towards perfection so that it might be able to attain the knowledge of God and consequently divine love, which is the summum bonum or the Highest Good in this world. This will lead to the beatific vision in the world to come. It should, however, be remembered {627} that man cannot move a single step forward without the help of God. He is guided throughout by the gift of God (taufiq). Taufiq manifests itself in various forms:

  1. Guidance from God (hidāyah) is the very condition of all virtues. It stands for the telling of the moral from the immoral, the good from the bad and the right from the wrong. Unless these distinctions are clearly seen, we cannot be supposed to do any good action or avoid evil.
  2. Direction (rushd). Mere knowledge of good actions might be necessary but is not sufficient for their performance. We should also have the will to do them. This is “direction.”
  3. Setting aright (tasdid). It is the power from God which makes the body obey the will in order to realize the end.
  4. Confirmation (la’ad). It makes circumstances congenial for the actualization of the will.

Helped by God in this way the individual proceeds to exercise virtues which gradually raise the heart higher and higher up towards the ideal.

Before taking up this enterprise, however, the soul or the heart is to be subjected to a thorough surgical operation and cleansed of all impurities. “He will indeed be successful who purifies it and he will fail who corrupts it.”40 It is only when the heart has thus been freed of its fetters and the veils of darkness and ignorance have been rent asunder that anything positive can be attempted. Al-Ghazālī explains it by an allegory. Once the Chinese and the Greeks held a contest on the art of drawing and painting. One part of a big room was given to the Chinese and the other to the Greeks. In between was hung a curtain so that they might not see the work of each other. The Greeks decorated the wall with many rare colours, but the Chinese proceeded to brighten their side and polish it. When the curtain was raised, the beautiful art of the former was reflected on the latter’s wall in its original beauty and charm. Such is the way of the saints who strive for the purification of their heart to make it worthy of the knowledge of God Most High. But what are these impurities and what are they due to? What is that which darkens and casts gloom upon the soul of man? Al-Ghazālī’s answer is: love of the worldthe root from which all the multifarious sins and vices spring. The pious people avoid it and seek loneliness. “Be in the world as if you are a stranger or journeying upon the road.” 41 On seeing a dead goat, the Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) is reported to have said, “The world has lesser value in the eyes of God than this goat has for its owner.”

Let us now discuss briefly al-Ghazālī ‘s enumeration of the main kinds of vices that result from the love of the world, the removal of which from the heart is incumbent upon us. {628}

First, there are those vices which are connected with a particular part of the body. Hunger is one of them. It is, no doubt, a very important biological function and, thus, indispensable for the preservation of life. But when it transgresses its limits and becomes gluttony, it is the cause of immense evil and disturbance. “Eat and drink,” says God, “but be not prodigal. Verily He loves not the prodigal.” 42 Over?eating dulls the intellect and weakens the memory. It also causes too much sleep which, besides being a wastage of time, slackens the mind; the light of wisdom is dimmed and one becomes unable to differentiate good from evil. 43 Further, the glutton forgets what need and hunger arc. Gradually, he becomes oblivious of, and unsympathetic to, the poor and those who have really nothing to eat. So one should eat only as much as is barely sufficient to sustain oneself, out of what one has earned honestly. 44

The second group of vices belonging to this category are those arising out of the sex instinct. This instinct is supposed to be the most powerful in man, 45 and so are its distractions from the right path. The sex appetite must always be directed, controlled, and managed by reason and should not be allowed to run wild: adultery is a moral and social as well as religious evil. Further, says al-Ghazālī, the seeker after the ideal should not marry in the earlier stages of his search, for the wife and children may prove a hindrance. But if, in spite of wilful determination, he is not able to control himself’, he may marry and then perform all his duties as a husband.

Lastly, we come to the vices of speech, which are many. Talkativeness, using indecent words, ridiculing, abusing, cursing, etc., belong to this kind. Similarly, lying is also a heinous sin: “A painful doom is theirs because they lie.” 46 Lying, however, loses its immoral sting in special circumstances when the end in view is good. We can, for instance, legitimately make use of it as a war tactic. “War is deception itself,” 47 goes the tradition. Slandering and talebearing are also very prominent vices of speech. “Don’t backbite one another,” 48 says God. Similarly, we have been prohibited from making false promises because it is the characteristic of hypocrites (munāfiqun). 49

Next, there are vices arising out of self?assertion. When working in its proper limits, this instinct is, no doubt, natural. But the lack or excess of it makes it an evil. A person who has no self?assertion has no self?respect. He is disgracefully meek and silent and dare not make his personality felt. Excessive self?assertion, on the other hand, degenerates into vices like anger (ghadab), malice (hiqd), pride (kibr), and vanity (`ujb). Man is roused to

{629} anger when some desire of his is not fulfilled, when another person possesses the thing which, he thinks, should rightfully belong to him. When not gratified, anger often turns into malice, which consists in the desire that the desired thing should be lost to the possessor also. It is a feeling of pain at another’s good. Sometimes, however, there is no feeling of pain but simply a strong desire that one should also possess a thing like the one the other has. This is known as emulation (ghibtah) and is not undesirable. We can overcome the vices of excessive self-assertion by forbearance, mildness, forgiveness, humility, etc.

Anger, malice, and emulation are aroused when man is not in possession of the objects of his desire. Pride and vanity, on the contrary, occur when he has secured such objects. Vanity is a sense of self-admiration. The individual regards his possessions as great, has no fear of losing them, and forgets that they are merely gifts of God. If he is vain about his intellect, wisdom, and opinion, all development in knowledge ceases and all progress is congealed. A proud man, on the other hand, actively compares himself with others, is rightly or wrongly aware of some religious or worldly perfection in himself, and feels elated and raised above them. He looks down upon them and expects respect from them as a superior. Learned men, worshippers, and devotees are very much prone to this evil. The cure of pride lies in recognizing God and one’s own self. By this he would come to know that pride becomes God and greatness belongs to Him alone. Further, he should remember his humble beginnings and recognize the filthy stuff he is made of. Let him consider the origin and end of his forefathers and of the proud persons like Pharaoh and Nimrud who tried to equal God Almighty. Let him consider also that beauty, wealth, and friendship are all transitory and unreliable.

To the third category of vices belong the love of wealth (hubb al-mal) and of position (hubb al-jah), hypocrisy (riya’), and willful self-deception (ghurur). Wealth in itself, however, is not bad. It is the use of it that makes it so. Wealth can be spent on the poor and the needy to alleviate their sufferings, but can also lead directly to sins or can supply means for them. Those who love money often forget God and He, in turn, prepares and reserves for them a painful doom.50 Love of wealth may lead to avarice: the more one has, the more one desires. It can also lead to miserliness, which means not spending even where one is duty-bound to spend. The cure of all these evils is to give away all that is superfluous and keep only as much as is essential for supporting life and getting peace of mind. We must further be convinced in our hearts that wealth, like shadows, is a transitory affair and that God is sufficient for us and our children. We should hasten to spend when occasion demands, setting aside the checks and hesitations arising within.

Love of position means the desire to win and dominate the hearts of others. It is generally gained by creating in others a conviction that one possesses {630} the so-called qualities of perfection such as beauty, strength, ancestory. Real perfection, however, lies in knowledge and freedom: knowledge of God and spiritual values, and freedom from the vices and the rebellious nature of passions. Just as wealth is allowed if used as a means for some good, so may we win the admiration of those whose help is necessary to realize the ideal. But if position is sought for its own sake, it is a vice and should be eradicated. One must impress upon oneself that position is not everlasting and that death is a leveller. One should also know that a prominent person creates enemies very easily.

The lover of position generally falls into hypocrisy and tries to deceive people that he possesses something which actually he does not. An individual, for example, may pretend to be a pious man by a thin, lean, neglected body, long prayers, virtuous and humble talk, and so on. In religious matters, hypocrisy has been condemned very much by both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This deadly disease must be cured, otherwise all the so-called virtuous actions, the inner spiritual basis being absent, will be entirely useless and unacceptable to God. One must perform all good actions, including the religious observances and acts of worship, in secret. We may perform them in the open if our sincere intention is that others may also be persuaded thereby to do the same. Love of position also gives rise to self-deception. The individual is convinced that he has something which he really does not have. Four classes of people among the believers are, according to al-Ghazālī, very likely to involve themselves in this evil. They are, for example, such religious, devotees as do not have the real sense of values. They do not realize what is more important and what is less important and, by performing the latter, they assume themselves to be exempt from the former. For instance, they take greater care in the correct pronunciation of the words of the Qur’an than in understanding their true meanings. Instead of helping a hungry neighbour, they would go on pilgrimage to Mecca. Some dress themselves poorly and meekly and think they have become saints thereby. All these persons are deceiving themselves as to the true nature of things. Similar is the case with the Sufis. Some of them learn only the terminology of the real Sufis and think they are likewise able to see God. Some are always wondering about the power and majesty of God and do nothing more. Some do actually try to cleanse the heart and perform good actions but wrongly think that they have passed most of the stages and are the true lovers of God. Again, there are some who make a distinction between Shari’ah and tarīqah and regard themselves above Shari’ah. They give up the performance of obligatory duties and religious observances. The same is the case with the learned and the rich, who are generally involved in one kind of self-delusion or another.

Thus, we end the brief and synoptic survey of al-Ghazālī’s account of the main vices of character. Now we turn to virtues, which are the redeeming qualities (al-munjiyāt) and represent the positive efforts of the seeker towards God. Al-Ghazālī has given us a detailed, interesting, and illuminating {631} discussion on this topic in the fourth quarter of his “Revivification of Religious Sciences.” The virtues that, speaking chronologically, come first are repentance, abstinence, poverty, and patience. Repentance belongs to the purgative period of life which is an indispensable prerequisite for the higher stages. It means abandoning the sins of which man is conscious and resolving never to return to them. It is a sort of spiritual conversion. “Those who repent and believe and do righteous work, for such Allah will change their evil deeds to good deeds.”51 The penitent knows that his heart has been shrouded in the mist and darkness of sins, feels contrition and shame, and abandons them for ever. Love of the world, which is the root of all vices, has, however, to be removed first; the passions have to be subjected to a strict control and the devil within has to be turned out. But, certainly, we do not give up the world for nothing. We do get something in return: “… the ascetic who renounces what is sensual and material knows that what is abandoned is of small value in relation to what is gained, just as the merchant knows that what he receives in exchange is better than what is sold, otherwise he would not sell.”52 Al-Ghazālī compares the ascetic with a person who is prevented from entering into the palace by a dog at the gate. He throws a morsel towards it and thus, by distracting its attention, enters and gets his desires from the king. The dog is like Satan, who prevents him from going towards God, and the morsel of bread is like the world by the sacrifice of which we can get something better.

This brings us to the virtue of abstinence (zuhd). Repentance is simply turning away from something, whereas abstihence includes turning away from as well as towards something better and more excellent. As a term in Sufistic literature, it signifies severing the heart’s attachment from all worldly things, purging it of the rubbish. and then adorning it with the love of God. Abstinence can, in fact, have three grades. We might be inspired and motivated by the love of God itself, by the hope of reward, or by the fear of punishment. The highest grade is the love of God which makes us sacrifice all considerations of heaven and hell for the sake of God. This is absolute abstinence (zuhd al-mutlaq). We are reminded here of the fable of a saint who was carrying in one hand a flame and in the other a glass of water with the alleged purpose of burning heaven with the one and quenching the fire of hell with the other, so that everyone acts sincerely to attain nearness to God.

The individual who renounces the world is a poor man (faqīr) in the terminology of al-Ghazālī and, in fact, of all mystics. So poverty is to be wilfully cultivated. The faqars are of various kinds: the abstinent (zahid), who is pained when wealth comes to him; the satisfied (radi), who is neither pleased at the possession of wealth nor pained at its loss, and when it comes to him he does not positively hate it; the contented (qani’), who wants to {632} get wealth but does not actively pursue this desire; the greedy (hares), who has a very strong desire to get property but is somehow or other unable to do so; the constrained (mudtar), who, being in a state of want such as starvation or nakedness, is ill at ease and in consternation. The first of these, i.e., one in the state of being a zahid, is the best. The zahid is the one who, being busy in enjoying the love of God, is indifferent to all worldly losses and gains.

All the virtues considered above-repentance, abstinence, poverty-demand an immense amount of courage and steadfastness. They are not possible to attain without unswerving passion, which is doubly more difficult to cultivate, impatience being in the very nature of man.53 It, however, does not mean toleration of things that are illegal and against religion. If a man wrongs us, we may pay him back in the same coin; if he strikes us, we can strike him too (though forgiveness is also commendable). Patience in the real sense of the term has three grades: patience in performing a religious duty, patience in avoiding actions prohibited by God, and patience over sufferings and difficulties in the arduous path towards Him. The last grade is the noblest.

Gratitude (shukr) too is a necessary virtue and also so difficult that only a few can exercise it.54 It is, according to al-Ghazālī, complementary to patience: he who eats until he is satisfied and is thankful is in the same station as he who fasts and is patient. Further, gratitude is based upon man’s knowledge that all that comes to him comes from God and upon the feeling of joy over it. If one is pleased with the gift only, without any reference to the Giver, it is no gratitude: “Gratitude is the vision of the Giver, not the gift.” Secondly, we may be pleased with the Giver over a gift because it is a sign of His pleasure. This is gratitude, no doubt, but of a low variety. The highest stage is reached when we are pleased with the Giver and determine to use His gift in order to attain greater.and greater nearness to Him. “If ye give thanks,” says God, “I shall give you more, but if ye are thankless, My punishment is dire.”55

After repentance from sin and successful renunciation of the world, the individual directs his attention towards his own self with a view to making it submissive and obedient to the will of God. The process has various steps and stages: assigning the task to the self (musharatah); watching over the self (muraqabah), taking critical account of the self (muhasabah), punishing the self (mu’āqabah), exerting the self (mujāhadah), and upbraiding the self (mu’atabah). The whole affair which results in self-mastery is so difficult that it has been called the bigger jihād (al-jihād at-akbar), while the physical fighting against the enemies of Islam is the smaller jihād (al-jihād at-asgr). We have constantly to keep a vigilant eye on our thoughts and actions and check ourselves at every step. We have to convince our hearts of the {633} omnipresence of God and His omniscience: that God knows even what lies hidden in the innermost depths of our being. Such a conviction creates in the soul an all-pervading reverence for God. Single-mindedness (ikhlas) is the fruit of the self thoroughly mastered and trained. A fashioned soul has only one motive force, and that is the desire for nearness to God; the lesser purposes are weeded out.

Single-mindedness leads to the virtue of truthfulness (sidq). Truthfulness is there in words, intentions, and actions. Truthfulness in words consists in making a statement which is unequivocal and clear and is not aimed at deceiving others. We can, however, in some cases make ambiguous and false statements if thereby we are aiming at the betterment of society. Such special cases may be war tactics, restoration of happy relations between husband and wife, amity among Muslims, and so on. Further, our intention must be rightful and true. The right direction of intention is very important because actions are judged only by intentions56 : if our intention is good and the result incidentally turns out to be bad, we are not to blame; conversely, if our intention is evil, we are culpable whatever its outcome. Lastly, truthfulness in actions lies in the fact that the inward state of a person is literally translated into outward behaviour without any tinge of hypocrisy. The highest truthfulness which is at the same time most difficult to attain is the complete realization of the various attitudes of the soul towards God, e.g., trust, hope, love, etc.57

Fear (khauf) and hope (raja’) also mark stages in moral progress. Fear may be of the wrath and the awe-inspiring attributes of God, or it may be produced in man by the consciousness of his guilt and the apprehension of divine displeasure. A nobler kind of fear is aroused by the feeling of separation from God who is the ultimate goal of all our aspirations. Hope, on the other hand, is a pleasant tendency. It consists in the expectation, after the individual has tried his best, of the divine love in the world and of the beatific vision in the hereafter. Fear is the result of knowledge-the knowledge of our infirmity as compared with the supremacy of our ideal: hope is the result of assured faith in the loving kindness of our Lord in acceding to our requests and prayers. It lies at a higher plane because it strengthens love and enables man to realize the goal.

The highest virtue, according to al-Ghazālī, is reliance (tawakkul), which is based on the knowledge of God’s oneness or unification (tauhid). Those who profess belief in unification may be classified into three groups: those, including hypocrites, who confess the unity with the tongue only; those who believe on the basis of some so-called reliable authority; and those who, on the evidence of their direct, intuitive perception, believe that God is the unmoved mover of the material world and the ultimate cause of all creation and that He alone has real or absolute existence. The last stage is the highest. It signifies “that the servant can abandon himself to God in complete trust and merge his will {634} in the divine will. The servant no longer finds his own powers and personality to be self-sufficient and has allowed God to dominate his life . . . he considers himself as a dead body moved by the divine decree and is content that the divine strength should replace his own human weakness.”58 Reliance, therefore, is the casting of the soul into self-surrender and the withdrawal of it from self-assertion.

The moral soldier who is sincerely set upon his task must also form the habit of meditation and reflection. He has to reflect on the works of God, on the alternation of day and night, on the waxing and waning of the moon, on the rise and fall of nations, and on the general management of this cosmological scheme. For that purpose seclusion away from the active hustle and bustle of society is very necessary. A heart preoccupied with worldly things has no place for the knowledge of God. The true significance of meditation is a firm conviction in the omnipresence of God, which results from the realization that He is aware of what we do under cover of darkness and of what lies buried in the innermost depths of our heart. Further, from meditation and reflection the soul is led on to contemplation, which is of three kinds:

  • (i) contemplation bi al-haqq, e., the seeing of things pointing towards divine unity;
  • (ii) contemplation li al-haqq; e., seeing signs of the Creator in created things; and, finally,
  • (iii) the contemplation of God Himself. This form of contemplation surely and undeniably leads to His love, the final aim of all moral endeavour.

The last stage of contemplation and the love of God are not, however, the results of, but are simply occasioned by, our concentration and thinking. There is nothing like a causal necessity here. The sacred knowledge is direct and, immediate -and is due to God only. The Sufi has the impression that something has dropped upon him “as gentle rain from heaven,” a gift of God due to His grace and mercy.

The highest contemplation is the valence of love, absorption of all human attributes in the vision of God, and then annihilation in the everlastingness of God. But why in the first instance should mere contemplation lead to His love? In answer, al-Ghazālī explains at length how God is the ultimate and absolute source of all the causes because of which objects are loved. The sentiment of love is, broadly speaking, of four kinds:

  1. Self-love. An egoistic tendency is ingrained in the very nature of man. Instincts and the so-called organic needs point towards that fact. Our soul, life, or the pure ego is, certainly, the dearest to us, but beyond that we also love what William James would call our material and social selves.
  2. Love of a benefactor for the benefits received from him. This is also a sort of self-love, though an indirect one. We love others because they promote our own cause in one way or another. We love the physician because he looks after our health and the engineer because he beautifies our material environments and, thus, makes our lives comfortable and happy. {635}
  3. Love of beauty. Beauty has almost universally been recognized as a thing of intrinsic value. It means the orderly and systematic arrangement of parts, and this is not the quality of material things only; it lies in the activities and the behaviour of man and in his ideas and concepts. Whatever is beautiful is loved by us for its own sake.
  4. Love due to the harmonious interaction and secret affinity between two souls. A thief loves a thief and a noble person loves a noble friend.

Now, if love exists for all these separate causes, will not that individual be loved who holds all these in their supreme and perfect form ? Such an individual is God Himself, the possessor of the most lovable qualities. It is to Him that we owe our very existence. He is the only real benefactor and from Him all benefits are received. If we get something from a human being, it really comes from God. Had He willed otherwise, we would not have been able to get it. Thirdly, God also possesses the attributes of beauty. There is beauty in His design and in His creative behaviour. “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” 59 said the Holy Prophet. Lastly, the human soul has affinity with its divine source: God has created man after His own image. So once we know God with all these attributes and also know where we stand in relation to Him, our love for Him becomes a necessity. And then He loves us too. “Verily Allah loves the repentant and those who purify themselves.” 60

But the lover who claims to love the Most Lovable must show some signs. The first sign, according to al-Ghazālī, is that the lover has no fear of death, for it means meeting the Beloved face to face and having a direct vision of Him. This world is a hindrance and a barrier which obstructs the lover’s path. The sooner it is done away with, the better. Another mark of the true lover is that the remembrance of God ever remains fresh in his heart. Once the fire of love is kindled, it cannot be extinguished. It remains ever ablaze and the flames go on rising higher and higher. The lover, in fact, feels happy in this condition. That is why he often seeks undisturbed loneliness to brighten these flames by contemplation and onesided thought. Further, the lover sacrifices his will for that of the Beloved. His likes and dislikes, his behaviour and his ways of life are entirely directed and controlled by God. Lastly, the intensity of love for God demands that we should love all His activities. So also we should love our fellow-men for they are all His servants and creatures.

Love includes longing (shauq), for every lover pines to see the beloved when absent. The lover of God craves for the vision of God which would be the noblest grace and the highest delight held out to him. Again, love results in affability (uns), which, according to al-Ghazālī, is one of the most glorious fruits of love and signifies the feeling of pleasure and delight consequent upon God’s nearness and the perception of His beauty and perfection. Thirdly, successful love means satisfaction (ridā’). This includes the satisfaction of {636} God with men and the satisfaction of men with Him. “God is satisfied with them and they with God.”61 This is the stage of the tranquil soul (al-nafs al-mutma’innah). “O tranquil soul!” God will say, “return to thy Lord wellpleased (with Him) and well-pleasing (Him), so enter among My servants and enter into My garden.”62

Now, because love is consequent upon the knowledge and contemplation of God, the lover is the gnostic (`ārif). Gnosis (ma’rifah), however, is a gem, a precious thing which is not to be wasted: the sun which enlightens the heart of the gnostic, says al-Ghazālī, is more radiant than our physical sun; for that sun sets and may be eclipsed, but the sun of gnosis knows no eclipse nor does it set. It is an invaluable gift to be given only to those who deserve it and to be given more or less according to the degree of self-mortification to which they attain. The limited human mind is not capable of grasping the entire expanse of divine majesty. The more one knows of God, the more one loves Him. The height of contemplation is reached when plurality passes away entirely, when there is complete cessation of conscious perception of things other than the Beloved, and the individual sees God everywhere. It was in this state that one said, “I am the Truth”; and another, “Glory be to Me! How great is My majesty”; and another, “Under this robe is naught but God.” This is the state of absolute unicity and identity.

The gnostic and the lover of God in this world will see God in the next world. The Mu’tazilites had denied the beatific vision because it involved a directing of the eyes on the part of the seer and the position on the part of the seen. They said that because God is beyond space, the question of limiting Him to a particular place and direction does not arise. But al-Ghazālī meets their objection by saying that this vision, like meditation, will not have any references to the eye or any other sense-organ. It will be without their mediation. Similarly, just as the conception of God is free from the implication of spatial and temporal characteristics, so will the. vision of Him be beyond all such limitations and boundaries.

Written by Abdul Khaliq, M. A. Professor of Philosophy, Islamia College, Lahore (Pakistan)




Al-Ghazālī’s influence within Islam has been both profound and most widespread: his works have been and still are being read and studied from West Africa to Oceania more than those of any other Muslim writer, and his teaching has been accepted and made a rule of life more than that of any other theologian. It has been claimed and rightly so that “al-Ghazālī’s influence, taken singly, on the Muslim community has been perhaps greater than that of all the scholastic theologians.” {637} But we hasten to add that, like any other original thinker in the world, al-Ghazālī did not go without his share of criticism. The unprecedented attempt on his part to make orthodoxy mystical and mysticism orthodox, and both philosophical, naturally incurred suspicion and criticism from all schools of thought and all shades of opinion both before and after his death. Liberals have criticized him for his conservatism, and conservatives for his liberalism; philosophers for his orthodoxy, and the orthodox for his philosophy.

Al-Ghazālī’s. constant use of philosophical language and his mode of argument and preoccupation with Sufism led Tartushi (d. 520/1126), al-Mazari (d. 536/1141), ibn Jauzi (d. 597/1200), ibn al-Salah (d. 643/1245), ibn Taimīyyah (d. 728/1328), ibn Qayyim (d. 751/1350) and other famous theologians of the orthodox school to denounce him publicly as “one of the misguided.” Ibn Jauzi is reported to have once exclaimed: “How cheaply has al-Ghazālī traded theology for Sufism!”63 Ibn Taimiyyah, on the other hand has accused him of having traded “theology” for philosophy. Qadi abu `Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Hamdin of Cordova went so far as to issue a decree (fatwa) against al-Ghazālī’s works, with the result that all his books including the Ihyā’ 64 were burnt and destroyed throughout Spain and the possession of them was forbidden on the threat of confiscation of property or even on that of death. The destruction of his philosophical and even theological writings was also ordered in North Africa during the reign of the Marrakush Sultan ‘Ali ibn Yusuf ibn Tashifin (477/1084-537/1142), who was fanatically orthodox in his religious views. Both of these incidents, however, bear ample testimony to the fact that al-Ghazālī’s writings had gained a very wide circulation in the Muslim West even as early as that.

Amongst the philosophers, al-Ghazālī’s most renowned and bitterest critic was ibn Rushd (520/1126-595/1198). He took up a point-by-point refutation of al-Ghazālī’s arguments against the philosophers as given in the Tahāfut and named his own work Tahāfut al-Tahāfut  (576/1180). Ibn Rushd’s defence of the philosophers is as subtle and vigorous as is al-Ghazālī’s attack against them. Ibn Rushd indeed handles his arguments with accomplished understanding and ingenious skill, yet, in the considered opinion of those who are competent to judge, al-Ghazālī’s arguments are in the final analysis more telling than those of his adversary.65 Ibn Rushd in the course of his discussion accuses al-Ghazālī of hypocrisy and insincerity by saying that his polemics against the philosophers was merely to win the favour of the orthodox;66 there is nothing to substantiate this charge. He also accused al-Ghazālī of {638} inconsistencies in his thought. He alleges, for example, that in the Mishkāt al-Anwār al-Ghazālī lends wholehearted support to the theory of emanation which he had so vehemently criticised in the Tahāfut.67 Al-Ghazālī’s teaching, according to him, is sometimes detrimental to religion and sometimes to philosophy and sometimes to both. It is said, on the report of ibn Taimiyyah, that ibn Rushd was so struck by the duplicity of al-Ghazālī’s thought that he would often quote the following verse with reference to him. “One day you area Yemenite when you meet a man from Yemen. But when you see someone from Ma’add you assert you are from `Adnān!”68

The charge of inconsistency against al-Ghazālī has also been made by another Muslim philosopher, namely ibn Tufail (d. 501/1185), who says that in his works meant for general readers al-Ghazālī is “bound in one place and loose in another and has denied certain things and then declared them to be true.” In spite of his pointing out certain contradictions in al-Ghazālī’s works, ibn Tufail had on the whole great admiration69 for his teaching, and the influence of it can be seen in his own greatly admired philosophical romance Hayy Bin Yaqzān.

Indeed, the amount of criticism levelled against al-Ghazālī 70 is itself the proof of his widespread influence. The number of al-Ghazālī’s followers and admirers who accepted his teaching and spread it is immensely greater than that of his critics; it is neither possible nor useful here to give a long catalogue of names. One fact, however, becomes conspicuous that it includes mostly people of two types, namely, the orthodox theologians and the Sufis, or those who were equally qualified as both. This makes it clear that the influence of al-Ghazālī within Islam expressed itself simultaneously in two different traditions, i. e., those of mysticism and orthodoxy, and, thus, along with the other forces of history went a long way in determining the permanent attitudes in the religious consciousness of the Islamic community, namely, the attitudes of spiritualization and fundamentalism.

Of all the works of al-Ghazālī it is in his Ihyā’ that he tries to maintain an equidistant poise between these two aspects of the religious consciousness. Ihyā’ indeed is still the most widely read of all the works of al-Ghazālī in all {639} sections of the community, if not in its entirety at least in the form of fragments and summaries which are available in large numbers.71 It has been so eulogized by some that they have not hesitated to call it the second Qur’an, and the theologians and traditionalists have not tired of writing voluminous commentaries on it.

But it is not within Islam only that al-Ghazālī’s influence exerted itself so strongly; it also had its impact on Western, particularly Jewish and Christian, thought, and indeed has flowed right into the most modern of our philosophical traditions. The influence of al-Ghazālī on modern European philosophy is a fascinating subject. It will be dealt with in the next volume in the chapter on “The Influence of Muslim Philosophy on the West.”




So far the best sources for a bibliography on al-Ghazālī are Sayyid Murtada, Ittihaf al-Sadah, Cairo, 1311/1893, Vol. I, pp. 41-44; Carl Broekelmann, Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur, Weimar, 1898, Vol. I, pp. 419-26, Supplementbände Leiden, 1937, Vol. I, pp. 744 et sqq.; and Zweite den Supplementbänden angepasate Auflage, Vol. I. Leiden, 1943, pp. 535 et sqq. A list of articles on al-Ghazālī in English and some of the European languages published in the various periodicals etc., from 1906-1955 is to be found in Index Islamicus, Cambridge, 1958, pp. 150-52. A fairly comprehensive subject-wise classification of al-Ghazālī’s works and a topic-wise though brief, bibliography can be found in the article “Al-Ghazzālī” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam. In the three sections below an attempt has been made to list: (i) those of al-Ghazālī’s works which can be arranged-in a chronological order with some measure of certainty, (ii) works the authenticity of which has been doubted by the professional students of al-Ghazālī (for both these sections, cf. note No. 24 in the preceding chapter), and (iii) books (or sections thereof) and articles most of which have been referred to in the notes but which are not included in any of the sources mentioned above.

Maqāsid al-Falāsifah, 2nd edition, Egypt, 1355/1936 (statement of the teachings of the Muslim Peripatetics); Mi’yār al-`Ilm, Cairo, 1329/1911 (an elaborate treatise on logic); Tahāfut al-Falāsifah ed. M. Bouyges, S. J., Beyrouth, 1927 (against the philosophers); Mihakk al-Nazar, Cairo (a smaller work on logic); al-Mustazhiri, Leiden, 1916 (against the Batinites); al-Iqtisad fi al-Itiqād, Cairo, 1327/1909 (on speculative theology); Ihyā’ `Ulum al-Din 15 Vols Cairo, 1356/ 1937-1357/1938 (magnum opus, a compendium of al-Ghazali’s whole system); Bidayat al-Hidayah, Cairo, 1353/1934, 47 pp. (on religious conduct; the authenticity of the closing section, pp. 40-47, doubtful); al-Hikmah fi Makhlqat Allah Cairo, 1321/1903 (on evidence of God’s wisdom in His creation); al-Maqsad al-Asna fi Asmā’ Allah al-Husna, Cairo, 1322/1904 (an exhortation to imitation of the divine qualities); al-Imlā’ `an Ishkalāt al-Ihyā’ (reply to attacks on Ihyā’ can be found on the margin of Sayyid Murtada’s Ittihaf al-Sādah, Vol. I, pp. 41-252; the definitions of the Sufi terms in the introduction are perhaps not authentic); al-Madnūn bihi `ala-Ghairi Ahlihi, Cairo, 1309/1891 (an esoteric work to be kept from those unfit {640} for it); Jawahir al-Qur’an, Egypt (an exposition of the faith of the orthodox on the basis of the Qur’an); Kitab al-Arba῾in, Cairo, 1328/1910 (a second part of the preceding work); Kimiya-i Sa῾ddat (in Persian), lithograph edition, Bombay (a summary of Ihyā’; to be distinguished from a spurious work of the same title in Arabic); al-Qistas al-Mustaqim, Cairo, 1318/1900 (a smaller work against the Batinites) ; Iljam al-`Awamm `an ῾Ilm al-Kalam, Egypt, 1309/1891 (a work on the science of dogmatics); Ayyuha al-Walad, Egypt, 1343/1924 (advice in the sphere of ascetic theology); al-Munqidh min al-Dalal, Damascus, 1358/1939 (autobiographical); Mishkat al-Anwar, Egypt, 1343/ 1924 (on mysticism : an exposition of the light verse in the Qur’an; the authenticity of the veil-section at the end is questionable; cf. note No. 24 above).

Al-Durrat al-Fakhirah Kashf `Ulum al-Akhirah, ed. Gauthier, Leipzig 1877; Risalah Ladunniyah, Cairo, 1343/1924 (English translation by Margaret Smith): Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1938, pp. 177-200, 353-74; Raudat al-Tālibin wa `Umdat al-Salikin in Farā’id al-La’āli Cairo 1343/1924, pp. 121-261; Sirr al-`Alamain wa Kashf ma fi al-Darain, Cairo, 1328/1910; Kimiya’ al-Sa’ādah (Arabic) in al-Jawahir al-Ghawāli, Cairo, 1343/1924; al-Nafkh al-Taswīyyah (referred to by Sayyid Murtala in Ittihaf); al-Madnūn al-Saghir, also known as al-Ajwibah al-Ghazālīyyah fi al-Masa’il al-Ukhrawiyyah, Cairo, 1309/1891; al-Madnun bihi ῾ala Ghairi Ahlihi, Cairo, 1309/1891; Mankhūl (refutation of the Fiqh of abu Hanifah; referred to in Kashf al-Zunun); Mi’raj al-Salikin in Farā’id al-La’āli, Cairo, 1343/1924, pp. 1-99; Mukāshafat al-Qulūb, Cairo, 1300/1882; Minhaj al-`Abidin, Cairo, 1313/1895; Mizan al-`Amal, Cairo, 1328/1910.

III. (A) Books.—S. A. Kamali, al-Ghazālī’s Tahāfut al-Falāsifah (English translation), The Pakistan Philosophical Congress, Lahore, 1958; W. M. Watt, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazālī (English translation of al-Munqidh min al-Dalal and Bidayat al-Hidayah), George Allen & Unwin, London, 1953; Muhammad Hanif Nadawi, Qadim Yunani Falsāfah (Urdu translation of Maqsaid al-Falāsifah), Majlis-i Taraqqi-i Adab, Lahore, 1959; Sarguahasht-i Ghazālī (Urdu translation of al-Munqidh min al-Dalal with an Introduction), Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 1959; Afkar-I Ghazālī (al-Ghazālī’s teachings with regard to knowledge and faith based on Ihyā’ with an Introduction), Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 1956 (Urdu); M. Ahsan, Madhdq al-῾Arifin (Urdu translation of Ihyā’) 4 Vols., Matba’ah Tejkumar, Lucknow, 1955 (seventh edition); M. ῾Inayat Allah, Kimiya-I Sa῾ādat (Urdu translation), Din Muhammadi Press, Lahore, n. d. (revised edition); Sayyid ῾Abd al-Quddus Hashimi Nadawi, al-Murshid al-Amin (summary of Ihyā’ in Urdu), Urdu Manzil, Karachi, 1955; Syed Nawab Ali, Some Moral and Religious Teachings of al-Ghazālī (English translation of extracts from Parts III and IV of Ihyā᾽ with Introduction by Alban G. Widgery), Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1946; Claud Field, The Alchemy of Happiness (English translation of some parts of Kimiya-i Sa῾ādat), Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, n. d. (reprint from the Wisdom of the East Series); W. H. T. Gairdner, Mishkat al-Anwar, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Lahore, 1952 (new edition); Sulaiman Dunya, Tahāfut al-Falāsifah li al-Ghazālī, Cairo, 1947; al-Haqiqah fi Nazar al-Ghazālī, Dar Ihyā’ al-Kutub al-`Arabiyyah, Cairo, n. d.; A. W. Zuhuri, Makatib-i Imam Ghazālī (Letters of al-Ghazālī in Urdu), Karachi, 1949; M. Umaruddin, The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ghazzālī, 4 Parts, published by the author Muslim University, Aligarh, 1949-1951; Some Fundamental Aspects of Imam Ghazzālī’s Thought, Irgkad Book Depot, Aligarh 1946; Nur al-Hasan Khan, Ghazālī ka Tasawwur-i Akhldq (Urdu translation of Dr. Zaki Mubarak’s al-Akhlaq `ind al-Ghazzālī), al-Maktabat al-`Ilmiyyah, Lahore, 1956; Shibli Nu’mani, al-Ghazālī, M. Thana Allah Khan, Lahore, 1956 (Urdu); Simon van den Bergh, Averroes’ Tahāfut al-Tahāfut (English translation with extensive notes), 2 Vols., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1954. An Urdu {641} translation of ibn Rushd’s Tahāfut at-Tahāfut is under preparation, to be published by the Board for Advancement of Literature, Lahore.

(B) Sections of Books.-`Abd al-Salam Nadawi, Hukama’-i Islam, Azamgarh, 1953, Vol. I, pp. 386-408 (Urdu); abu al-Hasan ‘Ali, Tarikh-i Da’wat-a `Azimat, Azamgarh, 1375/1955, Part I, pp. 111-81 (Urdu); Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionaliam, George Allen & Unwin London 1958, chapter 2 and by index; M. M. Sharif, Muslim Thought: Its Origin and Achievements, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, 1951, pp. 75-80; F. Rahman Prophecy in Islam George Allen & Unwin, London. 1958, pp. 94-99; M. Saeed Sheikh, Studies in Muslim Philosophy (in press), Pakistan Philosophical Congress, Lahore, chapter on al-Ghazālī; D. M. Donaldson, Studies in Muslim Ethics, S. P. C. K., London 1953, chapter 6 and by index; A. J. Arberry, Sufism, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1956 (second impression), pp. 74-75, 79-83 and by index S. M. Afnan, Avicenna: His Life and Works, George Allen & Unwin London, 1958, pp. 235-41; E. I. J. Rosenthal, Political Thought in Medieval Islam Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1958, pp. 38-43 and by index; J. W. Sweetman, Islam and Christian Theology, Lutterworth Press, London, 1955, Part II, Vol. I, pp. 90-93, 262-309 and by index of authors; C. Hartshorne and W. L. Reese, Philosophers Speak of God, Chicago, 1953, pp. 106-11.

(C) Articles.-G. F. Hourani, “Al-Ghazālī and the Philosophers on the Origin of the World,” The Muslim World, 1958, Vol. XLVIII, Nos. 3 & 4, pp. 183-91, 308-14; Michael E. Marmura “Al-Ghazālī and the Argument of Time,” The Muslim World, 1959, Vol. XLIX No. 4 ; M. M. Sharif, “Muslim Philosophy and Western Thought,” Iqbal, July 1959, Vol. VIII, No. 1, pp. 7-14; M. Hanif Nadawi, “ Ghazālī ka Nazriyyah-i Ta’lil,” Thaqāfat (Urdu), Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, July 1959, Vol. VII, No. 7, pp. 11-19.


Written by Saeed Sheikh, M. A. Professor of Philosophy, Government College, Lahor (Pakistan)


1 For al-Ghazālī’s role as a renewer of religion, cf. abu al-Hasan ‘Ali, Tarikh-i Da’wat-a `Azimat, Azamgarh, 1375/1955, Part I, pp. 111-81 (Urdu); Shibli Nu’mam, al-Ghazālī, Lahore, 1956, pp. 279-352 (Urdu). Cf. also A. W. Zuhfiri (Tr. and Comp.), Makatib-i Imam Ghazālī (Letters of Imam al-Ghazālī), Karachi, 1949 (Urdu). See al-Munqidh, English translation by W. Montgomery Watt in his Faith and Practice of al-Ghazālī, London, 1953, p. 75. All references to al-Munqidh are to this translation unless mentioned otherwise.

2 Al-Subki (Taj al-Din), Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyyah al-Kubra, Cairo, 1324/1906, Vol. IV, p. 101. See also note No. 10, below.

3 The principal sources for the life of al-Ghazālī are his autobiographical al-Munqidh, S. Murtada Ittihaf al-Sadah Cairo, 1311/1893, Vol. I (Introduction) pp. 2-53, and al-Subki, op. cit., Vol. IV, pp. 101-82. For the account of al-Ghazālī’s life in English, cf. D. B. Macdoland, “Life of al-Ghazzālī with Special Reference to His Religious Experience,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. XX, 1899, pp. 71-132 (Important); M. Smith, al-Ghazālī: The Mystic, London, 1944, Part 1, pp. 9-104; W. H. T. Gairdner, An Account of Ghazālī’s Life and Works, Madras 1919; S. M. Zwemer A Moslem Seeker after God, London, 1920. An account in Urdu can be found in Shibli Nu’mani, op. cit., pp. 19-73; M. Hanif Nadawi, Afkar-i Ghazālī, Lahore, 1956, Introduction, pp. 3-113; `Abd al-Salam Nadawi, Hukamā’-i Islām, Azarngarh, 1953, pp. 386-408.

4 Known as Algazel, sometimes as Abuhamet to Medieval Europe. Some of the Western scholars even now use Algazel (e.g. Bertrand Russell, History of Western, Philosophy, London, 1946, p. 477) or its other varients al-Gazal, Algazali, Gazali, etc. Whether al-Ghazālī should be spelt with double or single “Z” has been a matter of long and strong dispute. More general practice both with the contemporary Muslim writers and the Orientalists now is to use single “Z”. Cf. Hanif Nadawi, op. cit., pp. 3-6; D. B. Macdonald, “The Name Al-Ghazzali,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1902, pp. 18-22; S. M. Zwemer, op. cit., pp. 63-65, 140-43.

5 Known thereafter as al-Ghazālī al-Kabir. He is reported to have taught canon-law (Fiqh) to al-Farmadhi, the Sufi guide of our own al-Ghazālī; cf. Macdonald, “Life of al-Ghazālī – . .”JAOS, p. 126; also al-Subki, op. cit., Vol. IIl, p. 36.

6 Cf. al-Subki, op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 102.

7 Ibid., pp. 103, 106.

8 Cf. ibn Khallikan, Wafayat al-A’yan (English trans. by de Slane), Paris, 1842-1871, Vol. 11, p. 122.

9 It may be recalled that not only theology but medicine and philosophy were also taught at Baghdad and the school of Baghdad from the first was characterized by its scientific spirit and freedom of thought. The city of Bagh-dad had more than thirty-five libraries for the use of scholars and the place attracted all sorts of people belonging to different sects and schools. A few generations back there flourished the association of the Ikhwan al-Safa; its meetings were attended by abu al-`Ala’ al-Ma’arri, said to be the arch-heretic in Islam who died (at the ago of 84) only a year before al-Ghazālī was born. Al-Qushairi the teacher of Farmadhi, yet himself a pupil of al-`Ash’ari in theology, died in 465/1074 when al-Ghazālī was a boy of seventeen, but then probably this is also the date of the death of Nasir-i Khiisrau, the Isma’ili propagandist and philosopher. `Umar Khayyam (d. c. 517/1123), the great mathematician, astronomer, and the agnostic philosopher (the Lucretius and the Voltaire of Islam in one), enjoyed with al-Ghazālī the patronage of Nizam al-Mulk. Only a year after al-Ghazālī’s appointment in the Nizamiyyah Academy, Nizam al-Mulk died (485/1092) as the first victim of the Isma’ili assassins headed by al-Hasan ibn al-Sabbah (483/1090-518/1124)-the second victim was no less than the king himself (Malikshah) only after an interval of thirty-five days.

10 He was himself a master of the canon-law and compiled works of the very highest order on it, e. g., al-Wajiz, al-Basit, al-Wasit, al-Mustaafa, etc., According to Sayyid Murtada (d. 1206/1791), al-Wajiz was commented on by later scholars for about seventy times and that had al-Ghazālī been a prophet he could have claimed this work as his miracle. Al-Ghazālī on his part considered canon-law only to be `ilm al-mu’āmalah (knowledge dealing with practical affairs of life) and not ‘ilm al-mukāshfah (gnosis of Ultimate Reality); cf. M. Hanif Nadawi, op. cit., pp. 92-111.

11 For al-Ghazali’s criticism of Kalām, cf. his Iljām al-`Awāmm `an `Ilm al-Kalām and Risālah fi al-Wa’z wa al-I’tiqād. He, however, approved of Kalām to explain and defend faith; cf. his al-Iqtisād f al-I’tiqad.

12 See note No. 29 below.

13 He is also reported to have gone to Egypt visiting Cairo and Alexandria. There is a good deal of uncertainty about the various places that he visited and the time and order of his journeyings (except the first two years of his stay in Syria). These extensive travels must have added considerably to his experience of life in general, to his first-hand contact with the cultures of many lands, and to his involvement with other religions-hence his humanism. For his understanding of Christian religion and involvement with it, cf. J. W. Sweetman, Islam and Christian Theology, London, 1955, Part II, Vol. 1, pp. 22-23, 262-309; also L. Massignon in Revue des Études islamiques, 1933.

14 The period of al-Ghazālī’s rather unduly long retreat coincides with the time when Barkiyaruq ruled as the great Saljuq. In the civil war between Barkiyaruq and his uncle Tutush, al-Ghazālī is reported to have sided with the cause of the latter. To this may be added the fact that in Syria where al-Ghazālī spent some years Tutush (r. 487/1094-488/1095) and his sons were the kings (488/1095511/1117). All this is strongly suggestive of some possible political complications. Cf. Macdonald, JAOS, pp. 71-132.

15 An analytical account of the contents of Ihyā’ can be found in D. M. Donaldson’s Studies in Muslim Ethics, London, 1953, pp. 159-65. Cf. also Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, London, 1953, Vol. V, pp. 508a, 509b. A large part of Ihyā’ has also been analysed by Miguel Asin Palacios in his Algazel, dogmatica, moral, asética, Zaragoza, 1901. Ihyā’ is divided into four parts each comprising ten books. Part III, Book ii; Part II, Book vii; Part IV, Book vi, have been translated into English by D. B. Macdonald, in his Religious Attitude and Life in Islam Chicago, 1909, Lectures vii-x; Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, 1901-1902, and Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. II, pp. 677-80, respectively. Translation of some of the extracts from Parts III and IV can also be found in Syed Nawab Ali’s Some Moral and Religious Teachings of al-Ghazzālī, Lahore, 1946, pp. 28-133. Hans Bauer has made a German translation of some of the “Books” of Ihyā’; cf. his Islamische Ethik (Three Parts), Halle, 1916, 1917, 1922. For a complete Urdu translation of Ihyā’, cf. M. Ahsan, Madhaq al-`Arifin, 4 Vols., Lucknow, 1955 (seventh edition).

16 Al-Munqidh min al-Dalāl as an autobiographical work is unique in the whole of Arabic literature for “the keenness and the fullness of its self-revelation.” It is the most often referred to book and has been translated and edited a number of times; C. Brockelmann in his Arabische Litteratur, Weimar, 1899, Vol. I, pp. 419-26, has given 69 items. For some of the important translations of Munqidh, cf. Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden, 1913-34, Vol. 11, p. 149. For Urdu translations see Hāfiz M. Anwar ‘Ali, Lecture Imam Ghazālī, Lahore, 1311/1893, ill pp. (with Arabic text) and M. Hanif Nadawi, Sargudhasht-i Ghazali, Lahore, 1959, 188 pp. (with an Introduction, pp. 3-108).

17 Cf. al-Munqidh, pp, 20, 21.

18 Bukhari (23: 80, 93); also the Qur’an, xxx, 30; xxxv, 1. The term fitrah came to be used by the philosophers in the sense of lumen naturals.

19 Cf. al-Munqidh (English translation by Claud Field, The Confessions of al-Ghazzālī, London 1909, p. 13). This is exactly the first of the four rules mentioned by Descartes in his Discours de la méthode and the second rule of his Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii composed as early as 1038/1628; cf. E. S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross (Trs.), The Philosophical Works of Descartes, Cambridge, 1911, Vol. I, pp. 3, 92, 101.

19a Haldane and Rose, op. cit., p. 101, where Descartes makes similar observations.

20 Cf. Ihyā’, Cairo, 1340/1921, Vol. IV, p. 19 where al-Ghazālī refers to a tradition: People are asleep; when they die, they awake. Cf. also Kimiya-i Sa’adat (Urdu tr. by M. `Inayat Allah), Lahore, n.d., pp. 738, 740.

21 It is, however, a serious though widespread error of interpretation to consider al-Ghazālī to be an anti-intellectualist. Macdonald’s statement in his article “al-Ghazzālī” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam that “he taught that intellect should only be used to destroy trust in itself,” is very unfortunate. So also is Iqbal’s allegation that al-Ghazālī denied dynamic character to thought and its self-transcending reference to the infinite (cf. S. M. Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Oxford, 1934, pp. 4-6). Al-Ghazālī very definitively and explicitly brings out both these aspects of thought in his analysis of intelligence in the Mishkat al-Anwar (cf. English translation by W. H. T. Gairdner, Lahore, 1952, pp. 83-91). This section in the Mishkat is quite noteworthy in view of the general opinion that the Mishkat was written by al-Ghazālī at a time very close to the writing of al-Munqidh (probably after it) : a period in the spiritual history of al-Ghazālī during which he came to advocate the supremacy of intuition over reason as against an earlier phase say that of Ihyā’, when he ranked them as equal and made reason go parallel with intuition (e. g:, Part I, Book I, Chapter 7). True, in al-Munqidh al-Ghazālī makes a delimitation of the province of the human intellect by denying it a finality in the field of transcendental problems, yet it would not be altogether right to say that Ghazālīan epistemology is a mere intuitive critique of knowledge. Keeping other works of his in view, it may be said that his philosophy is mainly directed to the vindication that intellect and intuition must at the end supplement each other. Cf. M. Umaruddin, The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ghazzālī, Aligarh, 1949, Vol. I, Part III, pp. 228-259.

22 Cf. M. Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism, London, 1958, pp. 25-48; also D. B. Macdonald, “Continuous Re-creation and Atomism,” Isis, Vol. IX, 1927, pp. 326-44.

23 Cf. S. M. Iqbal, The Development of Metaphysics in Persia, London 1908, pp. 55, 100; also A. S. Tritton, Muslim Theology, London, 1947, pp. 84, 90.

24 For the chronological order of al-Ghazālī’s works, cf. Louis Massignon Recueil de textes, p. 93, and Introduction to Maurice Bouyges’ edition of Tahāfut al-Falasifah, Beirut 1927. An allied and quite important, though very difficult, problem for a student of al-Ghazālī is the authenticity of his works. Cf. M. Asin Palacios, La espiritualdidad Algazal, Madrid 1934, Vol. IV, pp. 385-90, and W. M. Watt, “The Authenticity of the Works Attributed to al-Ghazālī,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic, Society, 1952, pp. 24-45, along with his article “A Forgery in al-Ghazālī’s Mishkat?” in the same Journal of the year 1949, pp. 5-22. Cf. also Shibli Nu’mani, op. cit., pp. 80-84, and M. Hanif Nadawi, op. cit., pp. 54-58. A consolidated study of these references shows that there are in all thirteen works the authenticity of which is a matter of dispute besides three considerable sections of works otherwise admitted to be authentic. The “problem of authenticity” requires very careful further investigation.

25 Cf. Henrieh Frick, Ghazālī’s Selbstbiographie, ein Vergleich mit Augustins Konfessionen, Leipzig, 1919, esp. p. 80.

26 See next chapter (pp. 617-24).

27 Ismā’īlites or Bātinites were known as Ta’līmites in Khurāsan. Al-Ghazālī wrote quite a number of books against them; those mentioned in al-Munqidh (p. 52) are: (1) Al-Mustazhiri, (2) Hujjat al-Haqq, (3) Mufassil al-Khilaf, (4) Durj, (5) Qustas al-Mustaqim. The first work is the most elaborate of them all. For the doctrines of the Ta’līmites, of. Hanif Nadawi, Sargudhasht-i Ghazālī, pp. 19-54; also the article “Isma’iliya,” Encyclopedia of Islam.

28 al-Munqidh, p. 29. Cf. also preface to Maqsaid al-Falasifah.

29 Ibid. Al-Ghazālī’s statement that, in spite of his arduous duty of teaching and engagement in writing he could master all the sciences of the philosophers unaided by an instructor within the span of two years, is perhaps a story to be taken with a grain of salt.

30 The date 1506 C. E. for the Latin translation of Maqsaid al-Falasifah given in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th edition, Vol. II, p. 188b, is incorrect. This is the date when it was for the first time printed in Venice. Gundisalvus’ translation under the title Logica et Philosophia Algazelis Arabes was made in collaboration with John of Seville to whose name it is sometimes ascribed. It might have been the case that John translated it from Arabic into Castilian and Gundisalvus from Castilian into Latin; cf. G. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, Baltimore, 1931, Vol. II, pp. 169-72.

31 This confusion was caused by the fact that the Latin translation of Maqsaid in circulation amongst the seventh/thirteenth-century Scholastics did not contain the short introduction in which al-Ghazālī speaks disparagingly of the philosophers’ metaphysics and makes it clear that his ultimate purpose to make an objective and dispassionate study of it is to refute it in Tahāfut at-Falasifah. It may be added that al-Ghazālī again mentions his intention to write the Tahāfut in the ending paragraph of the book. How this was overlooked by the Latin scholastics is anybody’s guess.

32 Maurice Bougyes in Introduction to his edition of Tahāfut at-Falasifah points out that the word “incoherence” does not give an exact meaning of Tahāfut and that al-Ghazālī has used it sometimes with reference to philosophers and sometimes with reference to their doctrines. He, therefore, suggests that it would be better to retain the original word Tahāfut.

33 The Dahriyyūn are those who teach the eternity of time and matter. It is, however, difficult to give a precise translation of the term; in its actual usage in Arabic philosophy, Dahriyyūn are sometimes hardly distinguishable from the Tabi’iyyun. Cf. the article “Dahriyyah,” Encyclopedia of Islam.

34 Cf. Aristotle’s Ethica Nichomachea, section 6, p. 1096 a 15.

35 Cf. M. Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, pp. 3-4. What really hinted at here is the Platonic and Neo-Platonic bias in the Hellenic thought which inculcates a dichotomy between the empirical and the transcendental-the secular and the spiritual.

36 All the three works can be found in one volume published by Matba’t al-`Alamiyyah, Egypt, 1302-1303/1884-1885: al-Ghazālī’s Tahāfut al-Falāsifah, 92 pp.; ibn Rushd’s Tahāfut al-Tahāfut, 141 pp., and Khwajah Zadah’s Tahāfut al-Falasifah, 137 pp.

37 For an analytical account of the contents of Tahāfut al-Falāsifah and Tahāfut al-Tahāfut, cf. A. F. van Mehren, “Études sur la philosophic d’Averrhoes concernant son rapport avec cello d’Avicenne et Gazzali,” Le Muséon, Vol. VIl, pp. 613-27; Vol. V111, pp. 5-20, Louvain, 1888-1889.

38 Cf. al-Ghazālī’s Tahāfut al-Falāsifah, English translation by Sabih Ahmad Kamali, The Pakistan Philosophical Congress, Lahore, 1958, pp. 1-3. All references to the Tahāfut are to this translation.

39 It is noteworthy that Simon van den Bergh has listed forty contradictions in Aristotle’s philosophy; see his English translation of Averroes’ Tahāfut al-Tahāfut, London 1954 Vol. II, p. 215.

40 Cf. Ibn ‘Asakir, Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari, Damascus, 1347/1928, p. 128.

41 Aristotle’s notion of potentiality fails to solve the riddle of becoming as propounded by the Eleatics and later by the Megarics. W. D. Ross says, “The conception of potentiality has often been used to cover mere barrenness of thought.” Cf. his Aristotle London, 1923 pp. 176-78. The Ash’arites like the Megarics denied the existence of potentiality. Cf. S. van den Bergh, op. cit., pp. 37-40.

42 For the thesis of creatio ex nihilo, cf. the Qur’an, ii, 117; xxx, 27; xxxv, 1.

43 Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd ed., pp. 454-61.

44 Tahāfut, p. 5. It may be noted here that the Muslim philosophers and theologians sometimes used different terminology with regard to the same subject.

45 Cf. M. Saeed Sheikh, “Philosophy of Religion: Its Meaning and Scope,” Proceedings of the Fifth Pakistan Philosophical Congress, Lahore, 1958, pp. 37-51.

46 Cf. G. F. Hourani, “Alghazali and the Philosophers on the Origin of the World,” The Muslim World (1958), Vol. XLVIII, No. 3, pp. 183-91.

47 Cf. W. D. Ross, op. cit., pp. 89 et sqq.

48 Plotinus uses the light metaphor, for he conceived light to be incorporeal after Posidonius of Rhodes (c. 135-50 B. C.) who is perhaps the first to propound the notion of emanation.

49 Cf. Spinoza, Ethics, Part 1, Section 17, note.

50 Cf. Aristotle, De Caelo, 285 a 29, 292 a 20, b 1.

51 The nine spheres are as follows: the first, sphere, the sphere of the fixed stars, the sphere of Saturn, the sphere of Jupiter, the sphere of Mars, the sphere of the Sun, the sphere of Venus. the sphere of Mercury, and the sphere of the Moon.

52 Some of the Muslim thinkers have referred to the Qur’an, Ixxviii, 38, in support of the notion of the active intellect, e. g., al-Baidawi in his Anwar al-Tanzil, ed. H. O. Fleischer, Leipzig, 1846-48, Vol. II, p. 383, also Ihyā’ (Urdu Tr.), Vol. III, p. 5, where al-Ghazālī refers to the Tradition that “the first thing that God created was the Intellect.”

53 Cf. Kitab al-Shifā’, “Metaphysics,” Section ix, Chapter 6; al-Najat, Cairo, 1331/1912 pp. 448 et sqq.; al-Madinat al-Fadilala, Cairo, 1368/1948 p. 19. For the Aristotelian ingredients in the theory of emanation as explained above, cf. W. D. Ross, op. cit., pp. 181 et sqq.; A. E. Taylor, Aristotle, London, 1943, pp. 98 et sqq.; and A. H. Armstrong, The Architecture of the Intelligible Universe in the Philosophy of Plotinus, Cambridge, 1940, by index.

54 Cf. Tahāfut, pp. 77, 87.

55 Cf. F. R. Tennant, Philosophical Theology, Cambridge, 1930, Vol. II, pp. 125 et sqq., 153 et sqq.

56 Ibid., p. 154.

57 In Ptolemy’s Almagest the number of stars mentioned is 1,025. This number was generally accepted by the Arab astronomers. `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Umar al-Sufi (291/903-376/986), one of the greatest Muslim astronomers, in his work Kitab al-Kawakib al-Thabitah al-Musawwar (Illustrated Book of the Fixed Stars), adds that there are many more stars than 1,025, but they are so faint that it is not possible to count them.

58 Cf. Tahāfut, p. 88, Al-Ghazālī, in support of his agnosticism with regard to the modus operandi of God’s creativity, alludes at the end to the tradition: “Think over the product of God’s creative activity: do not think over His essence.” Cf. Takhrij al-Hafz al-Iraqi appended to Ihyā’, Part IV, p. 410; also the Qur’an, xviii, 15, which is referred to by al-Ghazālī earlier, i.e., on p. 80.

59 Metaphysica, p. 1072 b 20. Cf. also De Anima, p. 424 a 18.

60 Cf. Tahāfut, p. 80.

61 Problem thirteenth of Tahāfut, pp. 153-62; cf. also other passages pertaining to God’s knowledge by index. For a clear and balanced exposition of the philosopher’s position with regard to this problem, see Maqsaid al-Falsifah (Urdu trans. by M. Hanif Nadawi, Qadim Yunani Falsafah), Lahore, 1959, pp. 168-78.

62 Cf. Ihyā’, Vol. II, Bk. ii, Section I, English trans. by D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, London, 1903, p. 302.

63 Ibn Sina says this in his Kitab al-Shifa’: “Metaphysics,” VIII, 6. It is really an allusion to a verse of the Qur’an (x, 61): “. . . and not the weight of an atom in the earth or in the heaven is hidden from thy Lord . . .”; also xxxiv, 3.

64 Ibid.; cf. also al-Najat, pp. 408 et sqq.

65 Tahāfut, p. 159. Even though al-Ghazālī is not justified in alleging that philosophers restrict God’s knowledge merely to the universals, namely, the genera, the species, and the universal accidents, yet his criticism of the philosophers on this point is not vitiated by this misunderstanding and he is quite right in pointing out the inconsistency in their position.

66 Aristotle’s conception of time is essentially intellectualistic and static, whereas al-Ghazālī’s standpoint with regard to time in keeping with his theistic occasionalism, is intuitionistic and dynamic much like Bergson’s durée. Cf. Louis Massignon, “Time in Islamic Thought” in Man and Time (Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks), London, 1958, pp. 108-14. Also M. F. Clough, Time, London, 1937.

67 Cf. Tahāfut, p. 189.

68 Miracles ascribed to the prophets Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad respectively; cf. the Qur’an, xx, 17-23, xxviii, 31; xxi, 68, 69, xx, 124, xxxvii, 97, 98; iii, 48; v, 110; and liv, 1.

69 Cf. Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Bk. I, Part iii. Cf. also Hanif Nadawi, Sargudhasht-i Ghazali, pp. 62-76; also article “ Ghazali ka Nazriyyah-i Ta’lil,” Thaqafat (Urdu), Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, July 1959, Vol. VII, No. 7, pp. 11-19.

70 The real starting point of the discussion on causality belongs to the later part of the sixteenth disputation. See Tahāfut, p. 181.

71 Tahāfut, p. 186.

72 Ibid., p. 189.

73 Cf. Mill’s doctrine of the Plurality of Causes, System of Logic, Bk. III, Chap. X, Section 2.

74 It is interesting to note that Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese call al-Ghazālī’s conception of God as Etiolatry, i.e., cause-worshipping; cf. their compendium: Philosophers Speak of God, Chicago, 1953, pp. 106-11, esp. p. 109.

75 Cf. Qur’an, xiii, 5; xvi, 38; xvii, 49-51, 98, 99.

76 In spite of Hume’s notorious repudiation of the miraculous (Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section, 10, Parts 1 & 2), his notion of causality through its own logic can be finally resolved to the Ghazālī an or better the Ash’arite position expressed in this statement. Cf. A. E. Taylor, “David Hume and the Miraculous,” in his Philosophical Studies, London, 1934, pp. 330-65; also F. R. Tennant, Miracle and Its Philosophical Presuppositions, Cambridge, 1925, p. 84.

1 In the Munqidh al-Ghazālī expressly mentions that he had studied the Qut al-Qulub of abu Tayib al-Makki (d. 386/996), the works of Harith al-Muhasibi (d. 243/857), and the fragments of al-Junaid (d. 298/910), al-Shibli (d. 334/945), and abu Yazid al-Bistami (d. 261/875). At the end he adds that he had read the discourses of all the leading Sufis. In al-Ghazālī’s works, indeed, there are references to be found to all the great mystics of Islam. For al-Ghazālī’s Sufistic sources, cf. Margaret Smith, Al-Ghazālī: The Mystic, London, 1944, pp. 123-32. For a comparison of Qut al-Qulub and Ihyā’ cf. Shibli Nu’mani, Al-Ghazālī, Lahore, 1956, p. 107; for the comparison of Muhasibi’s Kitab al-Wasaya and Munqidh, cf. A. J. Arberry, Sufism, London, 1950, pp. 47-50.

2 Cf. Ihyā’, Cairo, 1340/1921, Vol. IV, p. 259 et. sqq.

3 Tahāfut, p. 88; see note No. 38 in the preceding chapter.

4 Qur’an ii 117; xvi, 40.

5 T. J. de Boer, The History of Philosophy in, Islam, English trans. by E. R. Jones, London, 1933, p. 163.

6 Cf. Qur’an, iii, 189, 190; vi, 100; x 5 6; xiii, 3, 4, etc.; cf. also al-Ghazali’s al-Hikmah fi Makhlūqāt Allah, Cairo, 1321/1903.

7 Cf. M. Saeed Sheikh, “Kant’s Critique of Rational Psychology and Its Paralogisms,” Proceedings of the Sixth Pakistan Philosophical Congress, Lahore, 1959, pp. 185-93.

8 Cf. Tahāfut, pp. 200-20. For a comparison of al-Ghazālī’s and ibn Sina’s views with regard to soul, of. Sulaiman Dunya, al-Haqiqah fi Nazr al-Ghazālī, Egypt, 1367/1947, pp. 356-455.

9 Cf. article “Nafs,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, esp. sections 9 and 10; also Maqāsid al-falasifah (Urdu translation) by M. Hanif Nadawi, Lahore, 1959, pp. 323-32.

10 See Ihyā’, Cairo 1340/1921, p. 54. Cf. also D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology…, London, 1903, pp. 234, 235, and A. J. Wensinek, The Relation between al-Ghazali’s Cosmology and His Mysticism, Amsterdam, 1933.

11 See Kimiya-i Sa’ādat, Urdu trans. by M. `Inayat Ullah, Lahore, n. d., pp. 8, 36. Also cf. Qur’an, xxx, 30.

12 Qur’an, xv, 29; xxxviii, 72.

13 Kimiya-i Sa`ādat, English trans. by Claud Field, The Alchemy of Happiness, Lahore, n. d., pp. 19, 35.

14 See Kimiya-i Sa`ādat, Urdu trans., p. 10.

15 Qur’an, xvii, 85.

16 Ibid., lxxxix, 27-30.

17 Munqidh, p. 60; see note No. 1 in the preceding chapter.

18 Cf. F. Rahman, Prophecy in Islam London, 1958, p. 96.

19 Ihyā’ Urdu trans. by M. Ahsan Siddiqi, Lucknow, 1955, Vol. I, pp. 11 et sqq.

20 Cf. Mizan al-`Amal, Cairo, 1342/i923, pp. 35, 36; also Ihyā’, Part I, Book I, Section 7 on `Aql (Intellect).

21 Cf. P. K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, London, 1949, p. 432; Max Meyerhof, The Legacy of Islam, ed. T. Arnold and A. Guillaume, Oxford, 1931, p. 337; and Will Durant, The Age of Faith, New York, 1950, pp. 256, 257, 332.

22 He himself wrote a treatise on astronomy. Cf. Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, Baltimore, 1927, Vol. I, p. 753.

23 The charge of esotericism, in the narrow sense of the theory of two-fold truth, against al-Ghazālī, is, however, unfounded. Cf. W. Montgomery Watt, “A Forgery in al-Ghazālī’s Mishkat”, Journal. of Royal Asiatic Society, 1949, pp. 5-22; also article “al-Ghazzālī,” (section 3), Encyclopedia of Islam. This question is connected with the problem of the authenticity of al-Ghazālī’s works.

24 Cf. M. Iqbāl, “. . . to this day it is difficult to define with accuracy, his view of the nature of God. In him, like Borger and Solger in Germany, Sufi Pantheism and the Ash’arite dogma of personality appear to harmonize together, a reconciliation which makes it difficult to say whether he was a Pantheist, or a Personal Pantheist of the type of Lotze” (The Development of Metaphysics in Persia p. 75). Also C. R. Upper, “Al-Ghazālī’s Thought Concerning the Nature of Man and Union with God,” The Muslim World, 1952, Vol. XLII, pp. 23-32. C. R. Upper ends this article by a significant remark: “Al-Ghazālī’s occasional pantheism is indubitable, yet his orthodoxy is impeccable. How this can be is the secret between him and Allah.” For the great synthetic acumen and creativity of al-Ghazālī in having a via media between the various positions cf. S. R. Shafiq, “Some Abiding Teachings of al-Ghazālī,” The Muslim World, Vol. XLIV, No. 1, 1954, pp. 43-48.

25 Cf. Munqidh, p. 61.

26 Cf. Qur’an, ii, 255.

27 Cf. Mishkat al-Anwar, English translation by W. H. T. Gairdner, Lahore, p. 62.

28 Saying of al-Hallaj (executed 309/922). Cf. R. A. Nicholson, The Idea of Personality in Sufism, Cambridge, 1923, p. 32.

29 Sayings ascribed to abu Yazid al-Bistami, who is probably the first of the intoxicated Sufis.

30 Munqidh, p. 61.

31 Margaret Smith, Dr. Zaki Mubārak, and others.

32 Qur’an, lxviii, 4.

33 Al-Ghazālī Ihyā’ `Ulum al-Dīn Part III p. 50.

34 Hadith: Ahmad b. Hanbal, Vol. IV, p. 226.

35 Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’, Part II, Chap. on Music.

36 D. B. Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, p. 192.

37 Qur’an, vi, 125.

38 Donaldson, Studies in Muslim Ethics, p. 156.

39 W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and the Idea of God, p. 446.

40 Qur’an, XC, 9‑10.

41 Ibn Hajr, Bulugh al‑Maram, “Bab al‑Zuhd w‑al‑Wara’.”

42 Qur’an, VII, 31.

43 Al‑Ghazālī, Ihya’, Part III, p. 72.

44 Ibid., p. 66.

45 Ibid., p. 85.

46 Qur’an, II, 10.

47 Jami’ Tirmidhi, Matba’ah Mujtaha’i, p. 201

48 Qur’an, XLIX, 12.

49 Al‑Mishkāt al‑Masābih, “Bab al‑Kaba’ir wa `Alamat al‑Nifaq.”

50 Qur’an, ix, 34.

51 Ibid., xxv, 70.

52 Margaret Smith, Al-Ghazālī: The Mystic, pp. 167-68.

53 Qur’an, lxx, 19.

54 Ibid., xxxiv, 13.

55 Ibid., xiv, 7.

56 The opening hadith in al-Sahih al-Bukhāri.

57 Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’, Part IV, pp. 334-35.

58 Margaret Smith, op. cit., pp. 167-68.

59 Al-Mishkat al-Masabih “Bab al-Ghadab w-al-Kibr.”

60 Qur’an, ii, 222.

61 Ibid., xcviii, 8.

62 Ibid., lxxxix, 27-30.

63 Cf. Jamal al-Din ibn al-Jauzi, al-Namūs fi Talbis Iblis, Cairo, 1340/1921, p. 377.

64 For the theologians’ various objections to Ihyā’ and an answer to them, see M. Hanif Nadawi, Afkar-i Ghazālī, Lahore, 1956, pp. 61-73.

65 Cf., e.g., Majid Fakhry, Islamic Occasionalism, London, 1958, pp. 103 et sqq.

66 Cf. also ibn Rushd, al-Kashf `an Manahij al-Adillah, Cairo, 1319/1901, pp. 57, et sq.

67 Cf. Mishkat al-Anwar, English translation by W. H. T. Gairdner, Lahore, pp. 17-21.

68 Quoted by F. Rahman, op. cit., London, 1958, p. 112. It is significant to note that S. van den Bergh concludes in his introduction to Averroes’ Tahāfut al-Tahāfut that resemblances between Ghazālī and Averroes seem sometimes greater than their differences pp xxxv, xxxvi.

69 Cf. ibn Tufail, Hayy Bin Yaqzān (Urdu trans. by Zafar Ahmad Siddiqi), Aligarh, 1955, pp. 26-30.

70 For a modern criticism of al-Ghazālī cf. M. Zaki `Abd al-Salim Mubarak, al-Akhlaq `ind al-Ghazzālī, Cairo, 1924 (Urdu trans. by Nur al-Hasan khan, Lahore, 1956). Very recently F. Rahman in his short treatment of al-Ghazālī’s views on prophecy in the above-cited work has made a very strong charge of inconsistency against him.

71 With the exception of al-Ghazālī’s own Kimiya-i Sa’adat (in Persian) the first of such summaries was written by al-Ghazālī’s own brother, Ahmad al-Ghazālī (d. 520/1126), under the title Lubab al-Ihyā’. A list of these may be found in Sayyid Murtada’s Ittihaf al-Sādah, Cairo, 1311/1893, p. 41.