Saturday, April 4, 2009

Imam al-Ghazali: The Original Philosopher

Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad, abu Hamid al- Tusi al Ghazali al Shafi(450-505), the great venerable philosopher not only in the history of Muslim philosophy but also in the human thought. It is amazing to note that imam is known in Islamic surface the proof of Islam (Hujjat al-Islam) ornament o the faith, gatherer of the multifarious sciences, great Siddiq absolute mujtahid, he considered a mujaddid and reckoned on a par with the four imams. Imam Ghazali was expert of in the principles doctrine and those of jurisprudence. Shaykh Yusuful Qaradawi remarks that, like Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and al Shafi for their respective times, al-Ghazali is unanimously considered the renewer of the fifth Islamic century.
Life and Education
Imam Ghazali was born in Khurasan in 450/1048. He received thorough education in Quranic exegesis, Hadith, fiqh and kalam. His teachers were the celebrated scholars at that time. Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Radhakani in Tus, abu Nasar al-Ismaili in Jurjan and Imam al-Haramayn abu al-Ma’ali al- Juwayni in Naysabur were his teachers in law, debate, and principles. Teachers of Hadith were Abu Sahl Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Hafsi, Nasr bin Ahmad al-Hakim al-Tusi, Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin al-Khawari and other leading figures in Hadith. His sheikhs in tasawwuf were al-Fadl bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Farmadi al-Tusi and Yusuf al-Sajjaj.
In 484/1091, after education Imam al-Ghazali appointed as a professor in the Nizamiyah Madrasah in Baghdad which was built by Nizamul Mulk. Imam took this responsibility with proud and enjoyed a position of prestige and prominence for four years and lectured to over three thousand students. During this period imam spent times to study the philosophy and penned down some important works. In 488/1095 imam sunk in a deep existential and spiritual crisis. Hence imam left the teaching and went to Damascus where he spent ten years for self-introspection, meditation and spiritual exercises. Narrating this spiritual crisis imam al- Ghazali says: “the thirst for knowledge was innate in me from an early age: it was like a second nature implanted in my by God… no sooner had I emerged from my boyhood than I had already broken the fetters of tradition and authority and freed myself from hereditary beliefs… the diversity in beliefs and religions and the variety of doctrines in the sects which divide men are like a vast ocean strewn with shipwrecks…each sect believes itself to be exclusively in possession of truth and of salvation… from the period of adolescence I have again and again plunged myself into this vast ocean… struck with the contradictions which I encountered in endeavoring to descent angle the truth and falsity of these opinions, I was led to make the following reflections
The search after truth being the aim which I propose to myself, I ought to in the first place ascertain as to what are the foundations of certitude. In the next place I ought to recognize that certitude is the clear and complete knowledge of things such as leaves no room for doubt nor possibility of error.”
. At the end of the spiritual inquisition imam convinced that Islamic mysticism was the highest and the purest way of life. In this period he began writing his magnum opus Ihya Ulumi al-din(the revival of religious sciences).
Imam and Philosophy
Imam al-Ghazali bravely criticized the scholastic analysis, the aims and purposes of the philosophy.
1. Islamic shariah assumes natural regularity to be a product of divine providence, where as the philosophers view it as being independent of any external agency or power.
2. Certain views of the philosophers are clearly contrary to the tenets of Islamic shariah. They deny the possibility of the resurrection of the dead on the day of the judgment and they claim that punishment by god is spiritual, not physical
3. The philosophers hold that the world is eternal and co-existent with God
4. They believe that God knows only the universals but the particulars.
Al-Ghazali extremely charged the philosophers who created the great confusion and misgiving about Islamic doctrines and principles by adopting the neo-platonic cosmology and Aristotelian logic. In Tafahat ul Falasifa Imam al-Ghazali identified twenty points to challenge those philosophers. In respect of seventeen points, imam pointed out that the philosophers are guilty of innovations and other three points about their blasphemy.
The encyclopedic knowledge of imam Al-Ghazali includes the analysis about the human nature and comparative study of animal and human behavior. Imam alludes man possesses within himself qualities which are partly angelic, partly animal and partly satanic. The God has referred in the Quran to the secrets of the human self. He points out that the self is basically a spiritual entity. The self according to him includes six faculties .appetite, anger, impulse, apprehension, intellect, and will. Animal on the other hand, have only three faculties, namely appetite, anger and apprehension. It is the presence of intellect and will in man who distinguishes him from animals as well as from the rest of the nature. Imam discussed psychological disorders and suggested their suitable solutions through spiritual methods.
Thoughts about Psychology
Imam Al-Ghazali contribution to the moral philosophy is the great example of his wide-range knowledge. In is famous work Mizanul Amal imam describes that the knowledge and action are associable and that welfare and prosperity in this world and the hereafter depends on a combination of these two elements. Man has been endowed with two kinds of potentialities, one relating to reasoning and discernment, and the other to moral virtues. These potentialities can be actualized and developed in two ways: through education and training, and through divine revelation as in the case of prophets. Imam Al-Ghazali says about the theory of politics and government in his book Nasihatul Muluk, the prosperity of people as well as their downfall and ruin depend to a large extend on the kind of rulers they may have.
Criticizing the contemporary situations of imam narrates the failure of the Ulama therefore necessity of the true knowledge and the social role of the man of knowledge in Islam and responsibilities of the teachers and the students. Imam Al-Ghazali enumerated eight obligations on the part of teachers and ten obligations on the part of students. About the tasawwuf in Khulasa al-Tasniffi al-Tasawwuf imam defines the tasawwuf: “know that tasawwuf two things: truthfulness with Allah Almighty and good conduct with people. Anyone that practices these two things is a Sufi. Truthfulness with Allah is that the servant put an end to his ego’s shares in the divine command. Good conduct with people is to not prefer one’s demands over theirs as long as their demands are within the parameters of the law. Whoever approves of the contravention of the law or contravenes it can never be a Sufi, and if he claims he is lying”.
Due to prolific writing of imam and his point of view to take the Ahadith, he had been criticized. Another argument about imam, he did not mention about jihad in his magnum opus Ihya Ulumi al-din, at the time, Muslim countries had been attacked by the crusaders and thousands of Muslims were killed. Shaykh Yusuful Qaradawi replied to these argument with the following words: The great imam’s excuse may be that his most pressing engagement was the reform of his own self first, and that it is one’s personal corruption which paves the way for external invasions, as indicated by the beginning of sura al Isra’. The Israelites, whenever they became corrupt and spread corruption in the earth, were subjected to the domination of their enemies. But whenever they did good and reformed themselves and others, they again held sway over their enemies. He directed his greatest concern toward the reform of the individual, who constitutes the core of the society. The reform of the individual can be affected only through the reform of his heart and thought. Only through such reform can his works and behavior be improved, and his entire life.The is basis of societal change to which the Quran directs us by saying: “lo, Allah changes not the condition of a folk until they first change that which is in their hearts”
The great philosopher of island as remark of imam al-Haramayn Al-Ghazali is a quenching sea. He cultivated the right path to the pure Islamic philosophical view point and indicated moral ethics in the basis of Quran. Through his numerous books and thoughts, imam is still the guiding light of adherents of Islam and their deliberate approach towards life.

1) Studies in Muslim Philosophy M.Saeed Sheikh
2) Islam and the Promotion of Knowledge A.R.Momin
3) Book of knowledge Imam al-Ghazali
4) Encyclopaedic survey of Islamic Culture Muhamed Taher
5) alghazali.htm

1 comment:

kunju said...

its really great work...

carry on...