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Al Ghazali (b. 1058, Tus, Iran; d. 1111, Tus) is known as one of the great
philosophers and theologians of Islam. He wrote on various subjects, including
a critique of Neoplatonism, an exposition of legal theory, and a compilation
of theological doctrines. The vizier of Baghdad was so impressed by Al Ghazali's
learning that he appointed him chief professor of Nizamiyah College in 1091,
but a severe, physically draining illness forced him to abandon teaching. He
undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he came into contact with the ascetic
Sufi mystics and gained an interest in mysticism that forever changed his life.
Selling most of his worldly goods, he took his family into semimonastic isolation
in Tus, where he soon acquired a following of devoted disciples. During this
time Al Ghazali wrote his most important work, entitled Ihya ulum ad-din
(The revival of the religious sciences). In this forty-volume work, he showed
that although revelation was preferable to reason, the legalistic doctrines
and practices of Islam were compatible with Sufism (mysticism) and a devout
Muslim life. Al Ghazali’s battle against the excessive influence of reason
in matters of religion accounts for his profound influence on Islam in general
and Sunnism in particular. Al Ghazali was persuaded to teach again when his
followers impressed on him the duty of Islamic renewal for each new century
(in this instance the Islamic century beginning in September 1106) and the possibility
that he might be the teacher of renewal. He returned again to the college, but
this time taught the superiority of mystical experience over reason.
Works by the Author
Al Ghazali. Al-Ihya. 4 vols. Translated by W. Montgomery Watt. London:
George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1951.
Al Ghazali. Some Moral and Religious Teachings. Translated by Syed
Nawah Ali, Lahore.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.