How Al Ghazali Transformed Philosophy and Theology

Al Ghazali | Author Unknown

Islam is one faith that places a lot of value on knowledge and it is for this reason that scholars are highly valued, respected, and venerated. Talking of Islamic scholars with vast intellectual abilities, one name that readily comes to mind is Al Ghazali. Even though many know him as Al Ghazali, his full name was Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad At-Tusiyy Al-Gazzaliy, he was born in what is now the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One of the legendary scholars of the Islamic Golden Age, he distinguished himself as an outstanding intellectual whose works left a remarkable impact on generations of theologians, mystics, philosophers, and jurists. He was so prolific with his works that his contemporaries gave him a befitting title. He was called Hujjat al-Islam (meaning the Proof of Islam).

Al Ghazali held the belief during his era  the spiritual tradition and spiritual sciences of Islam as a faith were becoming too mediocre and needed proper rejuvenation. He strongly believed that all that the first generation of Muslims had taught were getting eroded gradually. It was with this revolutionary spirit that Al Ghazali set out to leave his imprints on the fields of philosophy and theology in Islam.

A very productive writer, he is the brain behind so many works but some of his works were more influential than the others. One of his works was his unforgettable magnum opus that he gave the apt title of Ihya Ulum Ad-Din (translated to mean the Revival of the Religious Sciences). In this work, he discussed practically all areas of the Islamic sciences. These include theology (kalam), Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and mysticism.

He also did other works like the one named Tahafut Al Falasifa (translated to mean Incoherence of the Philosophers). The Tahafut Al Falasifa was so groundbreaking in the field of philosophy that it remains in use till today. In this work, he argued that everything that happens is not a result of forces of the material world but because Allah (SWT) willed it. He also got the intellectual world around when he soundly rejected the arguments of Plato and Aristotle. Later on, in his work titled The Eternity of the World, he discussed his extensive rebuttal of the views of Aristotle concerning the fate of the Universe as we know it.

Even while he was being feted as one of the greatest scholars to have ever walked the face of the earth, Al Ghazali never forgot that the true source of all his success was the Almighty Allah (SWT). Hence, he remained his humble self and maintained an ascetic lifestyle. He shunned materialism and was more interested in spiritual seclusion and engaging in intellectual meditations.

At the end of his intellectual pursuit, Al Ghazali had written more than 70 books on Islamic reasoning, mysticism, science, and philosophy but well over 400 books have been attributed to him. He did not just contribute to Islamic philosophy and theology, he redefined the entire field. May Allah (SWT) forgive Al Ghazali of all his sins and grant him the mercies of the Hereafter, aameen.