Al-Ghazali: Between Theology and Sufism

 

This article examines to what extent al-Ghazālī’s impact on medieval Islamic thought was distinguished by his orthodox articulation of Sufism as opposed to his contribution to theological discourse.

A tension between the rational, intellectual disciplines of Islam and its mystical practice are embodied in the famous life of Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī. Although he developed a singularly impressive pedigree in theology and law, something which his prestigious teaching position at the Niẓāmiyya College in Baghdād confirmed, his eventual decision to leave the scholarly environment at the height of his influence in order to practice Sufism, graphically demonstrated where his ultimate loyalties lay. Al-Ghazālī’s legacy looms large in the history of Islamic thought and its interpretation requires, above all, an understanding of the significance of the disparate aspects of his thought.

This investigation will begin by situating al-Ghazālī’s work within the intellectual tradition of kalām. In particular, attention will be paid to his relationship to the Ashʿārī school of theology, a connection which has been questioned by some scholars. In doing so, it will be possible to directly engage in issues of the content and provenance of al-Ghazālī’s theological discourse. This will lead into a discussion of his impact on the discipline of kalām and the place that he assigned for it within his conception of the religious sciences. The analysis of al-Ghazālī’s articulation of Sufism will begin by tracing the trajectory of the mystical tradition to which he belonged, before discussing the extent to which his most important work, Ihyā’ ulūm al-dīn, can be considered to have gone beyond that of those who preceded him, as well as analysing its importance within Islamic spiritual and intellectual history. In what follows, it will be argued that while al-Ghazālī can be credited with the achievement of introducing philosophical methods into kalām within the acceptable orthodox limits of the Ashʿārī school, greater impact on medieval Islamic thought was achieved through his popularising a distinct synthesis of ascetical, or ‘sober’ mysticism and the very intellectual disciplines with which he had started his career.

Al-Ghazālī’s theological training took place within the Ashʿārī school under the auspices of one of its most celebrated figures, Imām al-Juwaynī, and despite the complexity of his views on certain issues, he ostensibly stayed within its ranks throughout his life, as is evidenced, for instance, by the creedal content of Kitāb qawā’id al-ʿaqā’id in his Ihyā’. It would on the face of it, therefore, seem unproblematic to analyse his theological output on the basis of his positive development and elaboration of school doctrine. Despite this, Richard M. Frank, an expert on the development of kalām, has cast doubt on al-Ghazālī’s adherence to key Ashʿārī theological doctrines, arguing that in his ‘higher theology’, he took many of the positions of Ibn Sīnā. It is obvious that were these allegations, which fly in the face of received opinion, to be proven, a radically different judgment would have to be made, not only of the content of al-Ghazālī’s theology, but also in the very orthodoxy of his wider programme. For this reason, and because of the high regard in which Frank’s thesis has been held by some scholars[1], it has been considered relevant to seriously examine whether these claims can be sustained.

Frank presents his thesis that al-Ghazālī’s ‘formal commitment to Ashʿarite orthodoxy was tenuous in the extreme’ most fully in his book Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School. [2] However, it is significant that in relation to the fundamental theological issue of cosmology and the related topic of causality, his previous work Creation and the Cosmic System, laid the foundation for the perspective he outlines. In fact, he states openly that in writing of al-Ghazālī’s relationship to the Ashʿārīs, he is taking as given his previous conclusion that the theologian, influenced by Ibn Sīna holds:

‘(1) that the created universe is a closed, deterministic system of secondary causes..(2) that God cannot intervene in the operation of secondary causes…and  (3) that it is impossible that God have willed to create a universe in any respect different from this one which He has created.’[3]

To these three we can add Frank’s argument, also made in Creation and the Cosmic System, that the implicit consequence of these beliefs is that the world would not only be necessary in the sense of (3) above, but furthermore that God could not but have willed to create it, thus effectively removing the volition of God from the equation.[4] What is apparent from this last point, and highlighted excellently by Michael Marmura, is that were al-Ghazālī proven to have held it, he must not only be considered to have exited from Ashʿārī orthodoxy, but also to be liable to the legal ruling of takfīr that he himself pronounced on the falāsifa in the Tahāfut, as it was largely for the same reason that he condemned the belief in the world’s eternity.[5] Frank contends that the reason these beliefs are not explicitly to be found anywhere in al-Ghazālī’s writings is because they represent his ‘higher theology’, which he identifies with what the theologian has remarked about ‘that which he believes privately concerning the theoretical matters that have been revealed to him’[6], a theology that would without doubt have caused scandal to the Ashʿārī school, if stated openly. The task that Frank sets himself, then, is to skilfully weave together a large number of utterances spread throughout al-Ghazālī’s corpus, in order to show how he rhetorically manipulates Ashʿārī terminology to present a facade of orthodoxy, whilst giving select allusions to his real theological position. While the arguments that Frank makes in this regard are complex and assiduously referenced, the nature of his thesis and his selective quoting from al-Ghazālī’s works, leave him open to the charge that he inadvertently reads his own assumptions about what al-Ghazālī really must mean into dicta that, he admits, ostensibly communicate orthodoxy.

One example of the shortcomings of Frank’s analysis must suffice our purposes here, as well as allowing us to broach the topic of al-Ghazālī’s theological relationship to the Ashʿārī school in terms of the key issue of causality. Frank argues that al-Ghazālī breaks with the school tradition of occasionalism in describing individual events under the rubric of ‘God’s custom’ (ʿadāh), by using this term to instead refer to ‘the lawful operation of secondary causes in a deterministic universe willed and created by God.’[7] The reader is referred to a section of al-Ghazālī’s Miʿyār al-ʿilm, in which he gives two possible ways of understanding the manner of the connection between two events that, from experience, apparently have an invariant relationship between antecedent and consequent, such as decapitation and death. Here he states that the connection could either be necessary without possible alteration, or ‘the normal course of God’s custom through the efficacy of His eternal will, which is not subject to substitution and alteration’[8], without choosing between the two here. It is clear that the first represents the view of the falāsifa on causation, while the latter that of traditional Ashʿārī occasionalist understanding. Frank contends, however, that this is an allusion to Q35:43 (lan tajida li-sunnati llāhi tabdīlan fa-lan tajida li-sunnati llāhi taḥwīlā) and therefore should be construed as meaning that the operation of secondary causes, once initially set-up, cannot be interrupted.[9] While Frank admits that it is God’s eternal Will, not his custom, that al-Ghazālī explicitly qualifies as ‘not subject to alteration’, he sees this as being extended to the latter, due to the wording of the Qur’ānic ayah quoted.[10] This is not convincing, because ‘sunnat Allāh’, as used in Q35:43, is not employed in the technical Ashʿārī sense of ʿadāh, the regularity observed in apparent causation, but within the moral context of Divine retribution on those ‘behaving arrogantly within the land.’ Much stronger evidence than this would be required to show that al-Ghazālī is using skilful rhetoric here to hide the fact that the occasionalist alternative he offers to efficient causation is, in reality, nothing of the kind. Instead, it seems overwhelmingly likely that his position in Miʿyar al-ilm, as also presented in the Tahāfut, is that:

‘habitual causes and effects follow a strict regularity pre-ordained by God, but subject to interruptions, interruptions also divinely pre-ordained. These interruptions are the miracles and they are possible precisely because the connection between the habitual cause and its habitual effect is not necessary.’[11]

If al-Ghazālī is to be viewed as firmly within the tradition of the Ashʿārī school, not withstanding his criticisms of those who seek dry theoretical knowledge in the place of spiritual experience – a point to which we shall return – then there remains the issue of his contribution to the discipline of theology and the place it formed in his wider intellectual programme. The issue of causality, tackled above, gives a good indication of his substantive achievements in speculative thought generally, in the sense that, doctrinally, he did not go far beyond what had already been established by such figures as al-Baqillānī and al-Juwayni, but brought an understanding of both Aristotelian logic and philosophy which enabled him to more rigorously conceptualise and defend Ashʿārī principles.[12] An example of this is al-Ghazālī’s expansion of the Ashʿārī explanation of the Divine Attributes, which takes account of the arguments of Ibn Sīnā and dovetails with his discourse on occasionalism and kasb.[13] Although eschewing those methods and doctrines of the philosophers which he felt led towards error, he implicitly acknowledged the intellectual benefit he had received from studying their works in his statement in al-Munqidh min al-ḍalāl, which reads:

‘What the logicians say is of the same kind as what has been said about proofs by the theologians and other theoreticians, though the logicians differ in the expressions and terms they use, and they go much further in their characterisations and distinctions.’[14]

While being in no way an inconsequential theologian, the fact that al-Ghazālī, given his talents, did not contribute more to the scholarly literature of kalām, is something that has been examined within the literature. The usual explanation is that the turn towards Sufism and the mystical practice that went with it, disinclined him from further major theological speculation.[15] Also it is important to consider the development of his thought as a whole and the role that he gave to theological discourse within it. Al-Ghazālī is incisive in his autobiography, al-Munqidh min al-ḍalāl, when he writes that theology was ‘a science that fulfilled its purpose but not mine.’[16] He goes on to elaborate that the systematic arguments of the mutakallimūn were used successfully in defending orthodoxy for those who otherwise would have been won over to the beliefs of heretical innovators, yet as ‘medications differ depending on the disease’, his own doubts could not be assuaged by this method.[17] It should also be remembered that al-Ghazālī was implacable in limiting the use of this particular form of ‘treatment’, as is evidenced by the name of one of the last books that he penned, Iljām al-ʿawāmm ʿan ʿilm al-kalām.

Marmura presents an intriguing argument that while kalām was certainly not seen by al-Ghazālī, in the latter portion of his life, as an end in and of itself, there are indications that he judged that, as well as protecting orthodox beliefs, it can possibly play a further role in an individual’s spiritual journey. The major evidence he provides for this is a comment about his earlier manual of Ashʿārī kalām, al-Iqtiṣād fī al-iʿtiqād, in which he remarks that it is ‘closer to knocking at the doors of gnosis (maʿrifah) than the official discourse encountered in the books of the mutakallimīn.’[18] While this statement does give an indication of the superiority which al-Ghazālī accords to his work vis-à-vis the school tradition, we should be hesitant in taking it in the apparent sense, as he immediately qualifies it by stating that, ‘the belief of creed does not reduce to becoming open to gnosis’ and goes on to list the places in his Sufi-orientated works that will apprise one of the way in which to seek gnosis.[19] It seems, therefore, that Ghazālī’s position both here in the Kitāb al-arbaʿīn and in the Ihyā’,[20] is that in safeguarding an individual’s beliefs, kalām may be a vital prerequisite to mystical development, but does not, in itself, represent a stage on the Sufi path. In this way, the instances that Marmura enumerates in which al-Ghazālī uses Ashʿārī concepts within discussions of spiritual matters within the Ihyā’, can be seen as higher mystical commentary on these essential foundations of ʿaqīdah, rather than as an admission that pure kalām partakes of gnosis.[21]

In turning our attention to al-Ghazālī’s articulation of Sufism, it is important to summarise the position of this discipline within Islamic thought up to his time, in particular in regard to the issue of the perceived heterodoxy of some of its elements. The general scholarly consensus is that the mysticism of classical Sufism grew out of a previous ascetical piety with its roots in early Islamic figures such as Ḥasan al-Baṣrī.[22] Though the history is composed of dizzyingly complex threads of influence and cross-fertilisation, it is possible to discern that mystical ideas, particularly when associated with the idea of ʿishq (intense love) and reports of antinomian tendencies, had brought opposition from some quarters by the late 3rd/9th century. This took a diffuse form:  not only from stereotypically stern Ḥanbalī jurists, but also ascetics such as Ghulām Khalīl who took up the first trial of a mystic, that of Abū al-Ḥasan al-Nūrī, in Baghdad.[23] In fact, the most famous of Sufi executions, that of al-Ḥallāj, which proceeded based on both theosophical and political allegations, took place despite support from Ḥanbalīs whose pietism mirrored his calls for moral reform and, like him, were influential among the common people – to the chagrin of the courtly circle.[24] It was al-Ḥallāj’s one time teacher, al-Junayd, who is credited, however, with developing a language of mystical experience that would not offend[25], and his reconciliation of ‘sober’ Sufism was unsurprisingly an influence upon al-Ghazālī, a fact he admitted by citing him in his Munqidh.[26]

While taking stock of the other predecessors of al-Ghazālī in the task of steering an orthodox course for Sufism within the distinctive juristic culture that had taken root in Islamic civilisation and, indeed, had become a counterweight to the ruling powers[27], our aim is to assess how much had already been accomplished, as this will affect how distinctive an impact he can be credited with. In terms of Sufi teachings, there is significant evidence that the writings of Ḥārith al-Muḥāsibī, a 3rd/9th century contemporary of al-Junayd, were used extensively by al-Ghazālī in composing his Ihyā’. His discussion of the states of the heart, both virtues and vices, not only parallels the subjects dealt with by al-Muḥāsibī, but even in many places uses the same aḥadīth and other ascetical sayings, such as the statement ascribed to the Prophet ʿIsā that, ‘as the seed grows in soft soil, so wisdom dwells in the humble heart.’[28] Similarly, the extent to which al-Ghazālī relied on the teachings, elements of the structure and even entire pages of the Qūt al-qulūb of Abū Ṭālib al-Makkī, has been recognised by scholars of the tradition.[29] Although he admits owing a general debt to the individuals who have been mentioned, al-Ghazālī does not usually reference their work within the Ihyā’, which by modern standards would receive a judgment of plagiarism. However, more interesting for our present purposes than trying to debate how relevant today’s scholarly norms are to a figure who lived a thousand years ago, is to examine what he set out to achieve with his magnum opus. In a general sense, it can be summarised as presenting within the framework of the existing sunnī orthodoxy of theology and law, ‘the focus of religious life in its training the believer to the intuitive life of the soul, to an awareness of man’s dependency.’[30] While this goal was substantially already in place within al-Makkī’s work, we are given an explanation in the introduction to the Ihyā’ of the manner in which al-Ghazālī intended to go beyond the efforts of those who came previously,

‘First, by deciphering (ḥall) what they have made difficult (ʿaqadū), and disclosing what they have summarised. Second, by arranging what they have scattered, and ordering what they have separated. Third, by summarising what they have elaborated, and defining precisely what they have resolved upon. Fourth, by omitting what they have repeated, and confirming what they have made clear. Fifth, by determining ambiguous matters, difficult to comprehend, which were never originally dealt with in their books.’[31]

It should be noticed from this statement that only the last point comprises an entirely original area of investigation; all the rest are concerned in one way or another with compiling, editing and distilling what had gone before. As we have argued with al-Ghazālī’s contribution to kalām, the role that he consciously took in relation to Sufism in the Ihyā’ was one of synthesis. Here, rather than making the blanket statement that he fused inner spiritual development with the exoteric practices of Islam, we should specify that he combined the ‘sober’ tradition of ascetical-mysticism exemplified by al-Junayd, with the fundamentals of Ashʿārī aqīdah, Shāfiʿī jurisprudence, philosophical training, and if we are to accept the argument of Lenn Goodman, the virtue ethics of Ibn Miskawayh.[32] However, the whole was certainly more than the sum of its parts and, in the case of the Ihyā’, combined such excellent organisation, comprehensiveness and elegant style that it effectively made the earlier books within its genre obsolete, despite the criticism that it contained many weak aḥadīth.[33] Futhermore, one of the significant achievements of the Ihyā’ was that it was consciously written for a wide audience and helped to popularise an orthodox strain of Sufism that did not go beyond the acceptable limits of the sunnī schools of theology and jurisprudence.[34]

Al-Ghazālī’s impact in matters of theology, as has been indicated earlier, was most significant in introducing philosophical methods, including Aristotelian logic, into Ashʿārī kalām, while retaining a fundamental consistency with the school’s orthodox tradition.[35] The most important later theologian of the Ashʿārī school to be greatly influenced by his methods was none other than Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, who was noted for his philosophical approach to kalām and Qur’ānic exegesis.[36] This legacy, however, was overshadowed by the impact of al-Ghazālī’s articulation of Sufism, which despite partly basing its authority on his reputation as a theologian and jurist, bore the marks of authenticity and brilliant synthesis that allowed it to become the quintessential expression of a mystical practice that was thoroughly embedded in the ritual and social life of Islam.

Bibliography:

Anawati, G.C. “Fak̲h̲r al- Dīn al- Rāzī.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). 21 April 2009 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-0206.

Frank, R. M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, (Duke University Press, 1994)

Frank, R. M, Creation and the Cosmic System: Al-Ghazālī and Avicenna , (Heidelberg, 1992)

Gairdner, W. H. T, Al-Ghazzālī’s Mishkāt al-Anwār, (London, 1924)

Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’ ulūm al-dīn, 4 vols, (Cairo, 1377/1957); 5 vols, (Beirut: Dār al-Qalam, 198-)

Al-Ghazālī, Miʿyār al-ʿilm, (Cairo, 1329/1911)

Al-Ghazālī, al-Munqidh min al-ḍalāl, (Beirut, 1959), p. 22.

Goldziher, I, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, Hamori, A, Hamori, R (trans.), (Princeton University Press, 1981)

Goodman, L, Islamic Humanism, (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Khalidi, M. A (ed.), Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings, (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Leaman, O, An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy, (Cambridge University Press, 2002

Leaman, O, Review of Creation and the Cosmic System: Al-Ghazālī and Avicenna, by Richard M. Frank, (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 57, No. 1, In Honour of J.E. Wansbrough, 1994)

Makdisi, G, The Rise of Colleges, (Edinburgh University Press, 1981)

Marmura, M, Al-Ghazālī, in The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (ed. P. Adamson, R. Taylor, Cambridge University Press, 2005)

Marmura, M, Ghazālī and Ashʿarism Revisited, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy , (Cambridge University Press, v. 12, 2002)

Marmura, M, Ghazālian Causes and Intermediaries, in  Journal of the American Oriental Society, v. 115, n. 1 (Jan.-Mar., 1995)

Massignon, L. “al- Ḥallād̲j̲ (the wool-carder), Abu ‘l-Mug̲h̲īt̲h̲ al-Ḥusayn b. Manṣūr b. Maḥammā al-Bayḍāwī.”; “Abū Ṭālib Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ḥārit̲h̲ī al- Makkī.”  Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. 20 April 2009 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-0256.

Melchert, C, The Transition from Asceticism to Mysticism at the Middle of the Ninth Century C.E. (Studia Islamica, no. 83, 1996)

Ormsby, E, An Islamic Version of Theodicy, (UMI, 1981.)

Renard, J, Karamustafa, A, Knowledge of God in classical Sufism: foundations of Islamic mystical theology, (Paulist Press, 2004)

Schimmel, A, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, (University of North Carolina Press, 1975)

Smith, M, The Forerunner of al-Ghazālī, (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1936)

Van Ess, J, Sufism and Its Opponents, De Jong, F, Radtke, B (ed.), Islamic Mysticism Contested, (Brill, 1999)

Watt, W. M, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, (Edinburgh University Press, 1962)

Weiss, B, The Spirit of Islamic Law, (University of Georgia Press, 1998)


[1] In reviewing the first of Frank’s books in which he outlined this perspective, Oliver Leaman described his analysis as ‘quite breathtaking in places’ and his central thesis as being argued ‘persuasively’, while nonetheless raising important caveats. [Leaman, O, Review of Creation and the Cosmic System: Al-Ghazālī and Avicenna, by Richard M. Frank, (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 57, No. 1, In Honour of J.E. Wansbrough, 1994), p. 230-1.]

[2] Frank, R. M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, (Duke University Press, 1994), p. x.

[3] Ibid, p. 4.

[4] Frank, R. M, Creation and the Cosmic System: Al-Ghazālī and Avicenna , (Heidelberg, 1992), p. 73, [quoted in Marmura, M, Ghazālian Causes and Intermediaries, in  Journal of the American Oriental Society, v. 115, n. 1 (Jan.-Mar., 1995), p. 99-100].

[5] Marmura, M, Ghazālian Causes and Intermediaries, p. 100. [It is interesting in this context that Frank does not argue that al-Ghazālī also accepted Ibn Sīna’s theory of emanation, although it would seem that a similar position would result from the idea of a non-volitional creation that would therefore presumably be co-eternal with God. This is despite the fact that it was explicitly on this point that al-Ghazālī’s Mishkāt al-anwār was criticised by Ibn Rushd in the latter’s Kashf Manāhij al-adillah. However, this historical attack has not ultimately been given a great deal of credence by scholarship both classical and modern. See Gairdner, W. H. T, Al-Ghazzālī’s Mishkāt al-Anwār, (London, 1924), p. 10-12.]

[6] Quoted in Frank, R., M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, p. 96.

[7] Frank, R., M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, p. 38-9.

[8] Frank, R., M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, p. 18, [the quote is his translation from al-Ghazālī, Miʿyār al-ʿilm, (Cairo, 1329/1911), p. 109.]

[9] Frank, R., M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, p. 19. [He backs up this assertion with al-Ghazālī’s position that there is not possibly a better and more perfect universe and that were any instance of evil to be removed, it would ultimately result in what is far worse, which he argues suggests that al-Ghazālī holds that there can be no interference in the operation of secondary causes within the created order (p. 20). However, it is important to make a distinction about this last point: al-Ghazālī’s theodicy does not have as a logical consequence that secondary causes must have necessary effects, as it is quite possible to argue from the occasionalist perspective that God’s continuous maintenance of the creation brings about its optimal nature, although al-Ghazālī was actually quite exceptional in this, see Ormsby, E, An Islamic Version of Theodicy, (UMI, 1981.) On the other hand, while it is true that within Ibn Sīnā’s cosmology, ‘God’s will is identical to the knowledge of the best universal world order’ (Leaman, O, An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy, (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 52), this must be understood within the quite different context of necessary emanation. Thus it seems that this position of al-Ghazālī does not furnish evidence as to his views on causality.

[10]Frank, R., M, Al-Ghazālī and the Ashʿarite School, p. 20.

[11] Marmura, M, Ghazālian Causes and Intermediaries, p. 91. [The point made by Mamura here regarding miracles is significant given al-Ghazālī’s unambiguous support of their traditional scriptural interpretation, which presents acute problems to the falāsifa. See Leaman, O, An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy, p. 100-2.]

[12] Watt, W. M, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, (Edinburgh University Press, 1962), p. 118.

[13] Marmura, M, Al-Ghazālī, in The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (ed. P. Adamson, R. Taylor, Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 141-3.

[14] Al-Ghazālī, al-Munqidh min al-ḍalāl, (Beirut, 1959), p. 22. [Translation by Khalidi, M. A (ed.), Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings, (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 70-1.]

[15] Watt, W. M, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, p.118.

[16] Khalidi, M. A (ed.), Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings, p. 65.

[17] Ibid, p. 65-6.

[18] Quoted in Marmura, M, Ghazālī and Ashʿarism Revisited, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy , (Cambridge University Press, v. 12, 2002) p. 100.

[19] Ibid, p. 100.

[20] Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’ ulūm al-dīn, 4 vols, (Cairo, 1377/1957), v. 3, p. 15.

[21] Marmura, M, Ghazālī and Ashʿarism Revisited, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy , p. 102-110.

[22] Melchert, C, The Transition from Asceticism to Mysticism at the Middle of the Ninth Century C.E. (Studia Islamica, no. 83, 1996) p. 51. Also see Schimmel, A, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, (University of North Carolina Press, 1975).  [This view can be contested by a perspective seeking to blur the distinctions between the ‘mystical’ and the ‘ascetical’ as being distinct phenomena. This could potentially be done by stressing the asceticism of many of at least the ‘orthodox’ later mystics, as well as the arguably mystical experiences of earlier figures. Such an analysis would then foreground the changing symbolic language used to describe such states, rather than conceding an underlying difference in content. Although fascinating, this question is not, of course, within the scope of the present inquiry.]

[23] Van Ess, J, Sufism and Its Opponents, De Jong, F, Radtke, B (ed.), Islamic Mysticism Contested, (Brill, 1999), p. 26-7.

[24] Massignon, L. “al- Ḥallād̲j̲ (the wool-carder), Abu ‘l-Mug̲h̲īt̲h̲ al-Ḥusayn b. Manṣūr b. Maḥammā al-Bayḍāwī.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). 20 April 2009 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-0256.

[25]Melchert, C, The Transition from Asceticism to Mysticism at the Middle of the Ninth Century C.E., p. 66.

[26]Khalidi, M. A (ed.), Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings, (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 77. [It should be noted that while al-Ghazālī is justifiably given credit for defending an orthodox form of Sufism that rejected both laxness in the observance of the religious law and heretically blurring the distinction between the human and the Divine, both these elements are already fully present in al-Junayd. As we shall see, al-Ghazālī’s distinctive contributions are to be found elsewhere.]

[27] Weiss, B, The Spirit of Islamic Law, (University of Georgia Press, 1998), p. 7. Also see Makdisi, G, The Rise of Colleges, (Edinburgh University Press, 1981).

[28] Smith, M, The Forerunner of al-Ghazālī, (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1936) p. 69.

[29] Renard, J, Karamustafa, A, Knowledge of God in classical Sufism: foundations of Islamic mystical theology, (Paulist Press, 2004), p. 46; Massignon, L. “Abū Ṭālib Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-Ḥārit̲h̲ī al- Makkī.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. 20 April 2009 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_SIM-0259.

[30] Goldziher, I, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, Hamori, A, Hamori, R (trans.), (Princeton University Press, 1981), p. 160.

[31] Al-Ghazālī, Ihyā’ ulūm al-dīn, 5 vols, (Beirut: Dār al-Qalam, 198-), v. 1, p. 9.

[32] Goodman, L, Islamic Humanism, (Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 112-121.

[33] One notices this feature immediately upon reading al-ʿIrāqī’s taqīq, however, this has not affected the Ihyā’s perpetual popularity, because the weaker reports are used for the purposes of targhīb and tarhīb.

[34] The short-lived burning of the Ihyā in Andalusia is rightly to be seen as an anomaly in the general wide-acceptance of al-Ghazālī’s programme. [Goldziher, I, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, p. 161.]

[35] Marmura, M, Al-Ghazālī, in The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (ed. P. Adamson, R. Taylor, Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 137. [Ormsby also sees al-Ghazālī as being significant in the popularising of Ashʿārī kalām in the 5th/11th and 6th/12th centuries. See Ormsby, E, An Islamic Version of Theodicy, p. 32.]

[36] Anawati, G.C. “Fak̲h̲r al- Dīn al- Rāzī.” Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. 21 April 2009 http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-0206.

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