New Age Islam
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Books and Documents ( 31 Oct 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The last chapter ended with Ibn Rushd and I had said that "with him we come to the end of the reign of Philosopher Ullema or Imams." The majority of Muslims retained their orthodoxy and in the welter of confusion then prevailing their philosophical reasoning somehow got mixed up, in the orthodox mind, with the latter innovations (Bidat) of the Mutazallites and both got labelled as heresies...


It is time that the final coup de grace to the reign of philosopher-Imams was given by Abu Hamid Mohammad Al-Ghat Ali (1058-1111 A.D.) but he too was the product of his times. So let us have a quick look at his period.


The glory of the Abbasids began to fade within a century after Harun-al-Rashid (786-809 A.D.) with a weakened centre; the provincial Governors began to assert themselves. They had large locally recruited armies and perforce began to exercise wide powers. The caliphs had to acquiesce and legalise [16] those powers.


The administrative necessity was in decentralized authority. But strong ambition of the Provincial Governors with a weakened centre could lead to only one result - disintegration. While in the West, the Ummayyads of Spain never accepted the over all suzerainty of Baghdad, the Fatimids of Egypt repudiated and challenged it. In the East the all powerful Governors carved for themselves kingdoms as large as their arms could make them. They in fact founded autonomous dynasties wherein even succession was not in the hands of the Caliph but they maintained the myth of legal suzerainty and to claim legality formal recognition was sought and gladly granted. Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, (997.1030 A.D.) acknowledged the nominal suzerainty of Caliph Al-Qadir-Billah (991-1031 ) from whom he got the title of Yamin-al-Dawlah and even Sultan of Delhi Altamash (1211-1227 A.D.) sought similar recognition from the Caliph Al-Nasir-Billah (1180-1225) even when the twilight had set in and only seventeen years intervened be­tween Al-Nasir-Billah and the last Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustasim Billah (1242-1258).

The first to found a semi-independent autonomous state in the Eastern areas of the Empire was T'ahir-Ibn-Al-Husaini of Khurasan, who had helped Al-M'amun against his brother Al-Amin and was awarded by a grateful M'amun with the governorship of all the lands east of Bagh­dad. T'ahir established his Capital at Merve. The dynasty came to be known as T'ahirids and for four generations ruled Khurasan till 872 AD. when they were supplanted by Saffarids, a dynasty founded by another General Yaqub Ibn-al-Layth-al-Saffar; starting in Sijistan-' almost Southern Afghanistan, extended their rule to whole of Southern and Eastern Persia up to Oxus in the North.


The dynasty lasted till 903 A.D. though the nibbling by the Sam'andis started much earlier. Sam'andis was descendants of one Saman, a Zoroastrain noble of Balkh. Ismail Ibn Ahmad (892-907), a great-grandson of Saman wrested Khurasan from Saffarids and another brother Nasr-Ibn-Ahmad (913-943) A.D. extended the boundaries of their kingdom. The Caliph recognised them as Amirs but they were virtually independent of him. Following the general Muslim pattern, their Capital Bukhara and its twin Samarqand, outshone Baghdad as centres of art and learning. It was a Sam'anid Prince, Abu S'alih Man‑sur-ibn-Ishaq to whom Al-Ra'zi dedicated his famous book on medicine and entitled its Al-Mansuri' in his honour. And it was a Sam'anid prince Nuh. the second. (976-97) that invited Ibn-Sina to Bukhara and gave him free access to his rich and vast library.


A well established and well run state, the Sam'anids had to face a new threat internally from the Turkish nomads to the North who later had a rejuvenating role to play but to begin with it was a highly dis­turbing one. Among the Turkish slaves, whom the Caliphs and the Sultans and the Amirs of the day, everywhere, honoured with high Go­vernment posts, was one Alptigin, a member of the body-guard who rose high and fast and was promoted to the Governorship of Khurasan. His slave and son-in-law was Subaktigin (976-997) A.D. who was father of the brilliant Sultan Mahmud "the But-Shikan" who opened the nor­thern gates of India to Islam.


Though the Ghazanavides (976-1186 A.D.) heralded the first victory of the Turks against Iranian predominance in the Eastern part of the Empire, it soon fell apart. The Western Provinces, the remnants of the Saffarids and Sam'anids, were taken over by the Buw'ahids - a Shiaite dynasty founded by a Shia General, Ahmad-ibn-Buwayh, who planted themselves even in Baghdad, made and unmade Puppet Caliphs, who were completely under their control, even had the Khutba read in the joint name of the Caliph and the Amir-ul-Umara "Muiz-al-Dawlah." They were supreme for over a century (945-1055 A.D.). The Eastern and Southern Persia fell to Seljuk Turks. In 1037 they look over Merve and Nishapur from the Ghaznavids and in Course of a few years they occupied and ruled Bukhara, Balkh, Sijistan, Jurgan, Tabaristan, Kha­warizm, Hamadan, Ray and Isfahan. At Hamadan they were sitting at the door steps of Baghdad where the internecine wars were rampant. The Shiat overlordship over a Sunni Caliph and a wholly Sunni popu­lation was widely resented and led to open riots. The Fa'timids, the challengers, were Ismaili Shias and deepened the confusion. The Seljuks under Tughral Beg were waiting for an opportunity. And on December 18, 1055 at the head of his Turkoman tribes marched into Baghdad. Al-Basasiri, the Turkish Commander and military Governor of Baghdad withdrew from Baghdad and the Caliph Al-Qaim-Billah (1031-1075, A.D.) welcomed the Seljuk invader as a deliverer and bestowed on him the title of Sultan. Al-Basasiri did not give up hope and was in corres­pondence with the Fat'imids in Syria. Taking advantage of temporary absence of Tughtil from Baghdad on an expedition, he re-entered Bagh­dad in 1058 and forced the supine Caliph Al-Qaim-Billah to sign a decree renouncing his rights and rights of all Abbasids as a Caliph in favour of the rival Fatimid Al-Mustansir (1035-1094) in Cairo. For forty Fridays the Khutba was read in the name of the Ismaili Imam in Baghdad itself. In 1060 A.D. the Seljuks re-entered Baghdad, killed Basasiri and restored the Abbasid Caliphate and Tughril began his reign in the name of the Caliph as a Sultan over the realm which in the East extended beyond the boundaries over which Harun-al-Rashid had ruled. How real and near the danger of the Fatimide take over was could not be forgotten by the Seljuks.


The Fatimids in Egypt and the Ummayyads in Spain were in complete independent control of all Muslim lands West of Syria. The Fatimids asserted politically the religious differences that divided the Ummah into two separate religious sects and established a claim to be the genuine Caliph. Their active rivalry began soon after their disillusionment when the Abbasids who had professed that they were in fact out to restore the descendents of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be-Upon Him) to their rightful place, occupied the throne for themselves. The minor revolts may be ignored but in 785 A.D., Idris-Ibn-Abdullah-Ibn Hasan Ibn Hazrat Imam Hasan (R.A.). After failure of one revolt in Medina, according to Ibn Khaldun, fled to Maghrib and in 788 founded a dynasty of the Idrisis in Morocco with the Capital at Fez, which lasted for nearly two centuries (788-974). The revolts against Abbasids were legitimately led by the descendants of Hazrat Imam Hasan rather than Hazrat Imam Husain. The Idrisi dynasty was the first Shia dynasty in Muslim history. The descendents of Hazrat Imam Husain remained quiet but were recognised as the real Im'ams till Hazrat J'afar Sa'diq, the sixth Imam. Hazrat J'afar disinherited his eldest son Ismail and appointed Hazrat Musa, the second son as the next Irmam. Ismail's dis­inheritance became a point of dispute, Hazrat J'afar's very right to dis­inherit the eldest son was questioned and though the majority accepted the decision, the Ismaili Sect was born. As Ismail predeceased his father in Medina he was subsequently hailed as the hidden Imam till the appearance of the Mahdi and this occurred in the person of the founder of the Fatimide dynasty Ubayd-ullah-Al-Mahdi in 909 A.D. According to Fatimide geneology Ubaydullah was the son of Hussain-bin-Ahmad-­bin-Abod-Allah-bin-Mohammad-bin-Ismail-bin Imam J'afar Sadiq. But before him a series of Imam Satr (concealed Imams) emerged teaching the faithfuls through agents (Dai's) but never directly.


As the Ismaili's posed the greatest threat to orthodoxy at the time when Al-Ghazali lived they deserve some attention. The birth of the sect due to an act of the sixth Imam J'afar Sadiq has been men­tioned. The Ismaili's really shook the foundations of the Muslim world. Even in the time of Imam J'afar the extremists were led by one Ab­dullah-bin-Maimun. Both the father and the son were disciples of one Khattab's who was a dai or a missionary agent of Imam S'adiq who held and propagated the view that the Quran has to be understood in an inward or Batin symbolically rather than in a literal sense and the Divine Light is transmitted through successive Imams. They are divinely guided and they alone could correctly interpret the Quran and the guide the faithful. Hazrat Imam S'adiq repudiated him. He was tried as a heretic and in 755 A.D. was executed by the first Abbasid Calliph Al-Mansur.


Abdullah bin Maimun took up his teachings (minus the reincarnation theory). His dai's spread themselves throughout the Abbasids Caliphate whom now they hated as usurpers. Each one of them carried on a profession - as a merchant, artisan or tabib-and ingratiated themselves into various strata of the society, preached secretly and initiated the converts into secret doctrines and ritual. The strong rule of the early Abbasids and stabilisation of conditions under them forced them under-ground, working from various cells spread from Morocco to the Punjab.


A century later about 875 A.D. they suddenly surfaced up and one Hamdan Karamat won over the whole Yemen, the one place, which, up to the present day, has been continuously espousing every heretical cau­se that might bring them some political independence. The followers of Karamat, known as karamathians, successfully enlisted the support of Berbers [17] who were, like them, endowed with an independent spirit, and in 909 A.D. produced the hidden Imam and proclaimed him Caliph and the Mahdi at Rakkada near Kairawan. Thus the Fatimide anti-Abbasid Caliphate-began with Ubaidullah, Al Mahdi. He was claimed to be son of Husain-bin-Ahmad-bin-Abdullah-bin Mohammad Ismail bin Imam J'afar S'adiq. It was the fourth Fatimide Caliph Al-Muiz (953-975 A.D.) who conquered Egypt in 969 A.D. and made it the seat of the Fatimide Dynasty. It was his General and Governor Jawahar who founded - Cairo - and laid the foundation stone of Al-Azhar in April 970 A.D. So Al-Azhar started as a seat of Shia learning. Under the next two Cali­phs Al-Aziz and Al-Hakim the boundaries of the Empire were extended to Palestine, Yemen even Hijaz and their suzerainty recognised from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. Syria remained in turmoil and there were inter­necine wars between the Fatimides and the Buwayhids who controlled the Abbasid Caliph at Baghdad. Both were Shia dynasties but could not come together. It is strange that Buwayhids did not dethrone the Abba­sids and replace them by a new Mid line. But they were orthodox Shia's and on religious and political grounds opposed to Ismailis. Their twelfth Imam was still to appear and they could not produce an interim one. They could not bring in Fatimids who would be the real rulers and not the puppet ones in whose name they exercised full authority and they also could not afford to antagonize the entire population who were all Sunnis.


On the other side the Fatimides conquered Muslim Africa but failed in their attempts to capture Muslim Asia. They were denied the ultimate prize of a universal Muslim Empire ruled by a descendant of Hazrat Ali. Three factors were responsible for this denial - (1) the Bu­wayds effectively ruled Iraq and Persia and contested their claim to Sy­ria; (2) these two major contenders encouraged the third one the Byzantines who took over Crete and Sicily tried to control the Medi­terranean trade and rekindled the hope of recapturing Syria and the Holy land which subsequently led to the crusades and (3) the open breach between the Fatimides and the Karmathians, who were called Al d'awa-al-B'atiniya. This was an extreme militant group which offered a real threat to the Abbasid Empire. They established a State in Bahrain, from where they led forays into Basra, which they looted; threatened Baghdad itself and then turned south marched into Hejaz, pillaged the Kuba and took away even the Holiest Prize, the Black Stone, to Bahrain, their incursions into Syria were common and the marched even into Egypt

Such was the political conditions when the Seljuks marched into Baghdad. The three Caliphs were at the head of the three independent Caliphates - the Ummayeds in Spain, who just ignored the Abbasids, the Fatimids in Egypt, who challenged the right of the Abbasids to rule in the name of Islam, the Karamathians, who were a constant threat to both the Fatimids and the Abbasids.


Al-Ghazali was born in 1058 A.D., three years after the Seljuk occupation of Baghdad, (1055) in not too poor a family as is com­monly believed. Like most of the Muslims of the middle class his father must have been an educated man well versed in Quran and Muslim theo­logy. His love of learning is also evidenced by the story that on his death the father left all the money he had with an S'ufi friend charging him to see that his two sons Mohammad and Ahmed were well educat­ed. How well his S'ufi friend looked after the two boys is proved by the subsequent fame of both of them. Mohammad, the elder and the better known as Al-Ghazali, and not the so well known but distinguished eno­ugh in his own time as a scholar, poet and mystic, who even officiated as Head of the Nizamiya college at Baghdad when the elder brother left it abruptly. (I was lucky to have been present when the tomb stone of the grave of Ahmad Ghazali was accidently found buried in a room within the precincts of a mosque, which was being renovated by the Archaeology Dept., of Iran in a village near Tus. Probably the mosque, which was definitely of the Seljuk period, was at Ghazala, where both the brothers, in their native village Ghazala, were educated. The village has since disappeared completely).


As studying, learning and teaching the Quran was incumbent on every Muslim, mosques were the earliest centres of formal education. Free lectures were given on the Holy Quran and Sunnah; later a Jurisprudence, Logic, Ethics, Philosophy were also included gradually. However, standard educational institutions were later set up and handsomely endowed not only providing free education but also free board and lodging. Throughout the Muslim world education was free at all levels and illiteracy was almost unknown.


The first known Madrasa or College was established in Nishapur around 950 A.D. though a Baitul-Hakama had been founded in 830 A.D. by Al-Mamun but that was an Academy rather than a School and to it were attached a translation Bureau, a Library and an Observatory but formal educational institutions were founded by Samanids. Many more were founded during the rest of the century besides the one in Nishapur.

Nizamul-Mulk Tusi gave great encouragement to the movement and founded nine or ten Nizamiah Colleges from Baghdad to Herat.


When Al-Ghazali went to Nishapur for advanced studies in 1077 A.D. Nishapur and the neighbouring areas had been for nearly over a century in the forefront of educational development owing to the comparative peaceful calm of the Samanids and their great open patronage of arts and learning while Baghdad had an uneasy time torn by strife and threatened on all sides.


The most prominent teacher of his times - Abdul Ma'ali Al-Juwayni, Imam-al-Haramayn was then heading the school to which Ghazali now went for further study.

Alduwayni's father had founded a School of Jurisprudence and related subjects at Nishapur in 1016 A.D. and on his death in 1046 A.D., the young Juwayni at the age of only 20 took it over. Soon he was the leading light - Zia-al-Din, Sheikhul-Islam and Imam-al-Harmayn Fame of his vast learning, his erudite scholarship spread to the whole Muslim world and his fatwaaz were the fmal word for the learned.


Al-Ghazali was not in the habit of acknowledging his debt to others and never mentions Al-Juwayni's role in shaping his mind but he was in fact what Al-Juwayni made him. Al-Ghazali was not the first to take up cudgels against the philosophers and refute their "blasphe­mies." The movement was as old as Al-Ghazali himself. The reaction was against the Mutazallites, whose free, rational, liberal thinking crys­talised in the common public mind was epitomised in their preaching of the createdness of the Quran and total indeterminism. Though the Mus­lim historians and others call them the Mutazallites - the seceders; they called themselves "Ahl-al-Tauhid-wa-al-Adl," `People of unity and justice." They admit that Allah is all knowing, all powerful, all seeing but these divine attributes are one with the Divine Essence. If their separateness is accepted then there will be plurality of "Eternals" which would be against the basic belief in His unity and would amount to "Kufr." Similarly His Justice demands that man should be totally free to choose his path of good and evil and then alone can he deserve reward and punishment in the hereafter. If man is not the free untram­melled creator of his own acts and if these acts are the creation of God, how can he go against His will? Would it not be injustice on the part of God that, after creating man helpless he should call him to account for his sins and send him to hell? As Al-Shahrastani in his- -"Kitab al-Millat­wa-al-Nihal" - mentions "the Mutazallites unanimously maintain that man decides upon and creates his own acts, both good and evil; that he deserves reward or punishment in the next world for what he does. In this way God is safe-guarded from association with any evil or wrong or any act of unbelief and transgression. For if he created the wrong, He would be wrong and if he created injustice, He would not be just." To them, the evil and goodness of things are "inherent in man and obvious to the intellect and require no ordinance or proof from Shariah."


Al-Ghazali (1058 - IIII AD.) after an imaginary sketch done by Khalil Gibran.


Shameful and unjust deeds are evil in themselves and therefore, God has forbidden indulgence in them. His decree forbidding them did not make the acts shameful and unjust.

"They held that God was Omnipresent, Timeless, and Directionless. His Arsh was "Samawati-wal-Ard" His beatific vision was not possible in this worlds [18] or thereafter."

The most embittered theory was that Quran was not in "Lohi-Mahfuz" but it originated or was created with the Prophet-hood of the Holy Prophet. Illogically they took their stand on Verse 101 of Surah 5 of the Holy Quran ignoring the warning given in the very succeeding verse 102, forgetting that in His Timelessness there is no past and future. The artificial barriers are for us and not for Him. The Mutazallites denied (1) Munkir Nakir and punishment and reward in the grave; (2) Kir'amun-K'atibin as useless as God knows all that happens; (3) coming of Yajuj and Majuj and of Dajjal and (4) Prayers for the dead. The bene­fit of prayers goes to the one, who prays and benefits him, and to no others.

These view became commonly current due to the patronage extended by the Abbasids particularly, Al-Mamum (813-833 A.D.) who accepted the doctronies of theirs and made them the official creed. Imam Hanbal's treatment is well known to be repeated. The hey-day of the intellectuals came with the availability of Arabic translations of the Greek Philosophers. The Mutazallites took them over and in their rationality made reason the sole basis of Truth and Reality and therefore, were active in interpreting Faith in terms of Pure Reason. The philosophers attempted to bring about a synthesis between Greek phi­losophy and precepts of Islam.

The orthodox section reacted against the Mutazallites and their extreme rationalistic attitude towards commonly held beliefs had to produce a reaction. Along with the Mutazallisin Caliph, Al-Mamun, the free thinker, extended his patronage to the B'atineyah movement which was Shiaite in its complexion. They were the seekers after the inner or spiritual interpretation of the revelation. They believed and propagated that every thing Zahir (evident) had a B'atin (inner or allegorical, secret meaning) as the Greek philosophy was so much in fashion they also used it as a tool to their B'atini interpretations.


Al-Mamum befriended them and went so far as to don their colour green and as they were Shias, he even proclaimed the eighth Imam Haz­rat All Rids (died 818 and buried in Meshhad) as his heir-apparent.

Politics, combined with orthodoxy, led to national outburst of the majority Sunni section, nurtured in the traditions of Medina, Ma­mun's two successors Mustasim (833) and Wasiq (842) tried to contain the reaction but the dams burst when Al-Mutawakkil (847-861) restart­ed the persecution of Shias and culminated in Al-Qadir (991-1031) who drove the B'atiniyas out in 1029 from the mosques and madrasahs. The reaction to B'atiniya gave birth to movements Al-Mazhab-al Z'ahid or Dawoodi School founded by Dawood-bin-Ali Khalaf: They repudiated all philosophical or allegorical interpretations and recognised only the Quran and the Hadith as the only sources of Jurisprudence and the interpretation would be Z'ahiri-open, literal and the obvious. They accepted Ijma later but denied the validity of Qiyas (analogy) Rai (opinion) and Taqlid (Decision based on older judgments).


The Z'ahiri School enjoyed its widest acceptance in the tenth century and the most famous Jurist of the Century was Abdullah-bin-Ahmad-ibn-Al-Mughallis (d.936) through whom the Fiqah of Dawood­ibn-Ali became extensively known and popular with the masses. But its strongholds were Syria, had deep roots in Mamluke Egypt and spread to Muslim Spain where the Chief exponent was the famous Ibn-Hazen (994-1063). Ibn-Hazm was a prolific writer and is believed to have written 400 books comprising 80,000 folios of some twenty million words.

The genius within him could not be confined to the obvious of the Z'ahirids and he branched off into speculative and rationalist theo­logy. He even tackled abstruse theories of Time and Space and seems to have forestalled Kant (d.1804), seven and half centuries earlier. Its elaboration, however, would be a lengthy digression. It may, however, be noted that Ibn-Haim enlarged a Z'ahirite system on an intellectual dogma and revised Muslim law from that point of view. His views en­joyed only a limited acceptance. In fact he and his philosophy both remained persecuted in Spain. 'Ibn Rushd naturally mentions him with disdain in his "Tahafut-al-Tahafut," the rejoinder to Al-Ghazali's "Tahafut-al-Falasfa.”


The keener minds had to fend other, outlets from the barren, brazen through bold. Zahirite literal interpretations and two fresh stirrings occurred. Al-Kindi, the philosopher of Arabs, dominated the 9th century and ushered in the glorious reign of the philosophers. The swing of the pendulum took them to the other extreme of Z'ahirate doctrines. All was speculation, Pure Reason, Pure Essence. The Islamic philosophy was refined, linked and synthesised with the Greeks and Plato and Aristotle became the philosopher Imams.

Al Kindi died in 873 A.D. And the same year was born Abul-Hasan Ali-lbn-Ismail-Al-Ashari (873-941). He was an ardent Mutazallite because of the influence of his teacher, the great Mutazallite scholar and preacher Abu All Mohammad-bin-Abdul-Wahab Al-Jubbai. A sud­den revolt and change occurred some say due to a dream and others tohis intellectual differences with his teacher and after due deliberation he publicly announced his recantation. He went to the Juma Mosque at Basra and declared: "He who knows me, knows who I am, and he who does not know me, let him know that I am Abdul Hasan All Al-Ashari, that I used to maintain that the Quran is created, that the eyes of men shall not see God and that the creatures create their actions. Lo, I repent that I have been Mutazallite, I renounce these opinions and I take the engagement to refute the Mutazallites and expose their infamy and turpitude."


After the change he wrote voluminously. Ibn Furak counts them to be 300 and lbn Askir Damashqi lists the titles of 93. Amongst the extant ones the most important is (discourses on Islam and differences amongst the Muslims), edited and published in Istanbul in 1929.

As could be expected, he had to face opposition both from the Mutazallites who at last came to question revelation on the criteria of Reason alone and from the extreme orthodox Zahirist (traditionalists) and the Jurists who would regard innovation as heresy if any one went behind the literal meaning or to explain or establish its truth on a rational basis. For them there was God and His word revealed to the Holy Prophet and that was enough. He makes it plain by saying. "A sec­tion of the people - Zahirites and others - make capital out of their own ignorance; discussions and rational thinking about matters of faith became a heavy burden for them and therefore they became inclined to blind faith and blind following (Taqlid)." They condemned those who tried to rationalise the principles of religion as innovaters. They con­sidered discussion about Harkat (motion) Sukut (rest) Body, Space, Atom, the leaping of atoms and attributes of God to be a sin. They said that had such discussions been the right thing, the Holy Prophet and his Companions would have definitely done so; they further pointed out that the Prophet before his death discussed and fully explained all those matters which were necessary from the religious point of view, leaving none of them to be discussed by his followers; and since he did not dis­cuss them, it was evident that to discuss them must be regarded as inno­vation.


This was briefly their objections to what came to be known as Kal'am in matters of faith.

Al-Ashari met these objections in three ways. He pointed out that the Prophet had nowhere laid a ban on such rational discussion or said that he who would attempt to discuss them was to be condemned as an innovator, Hence charging or condemning such men as innovators was itself an innovation.


Secondly, he contended that the Prophet was not unaware of body, motion; rest, atom etc., and the general usual (principles) were mentioned in the Quran and Hadith.

Thirdly, the elaboration is not there because the problems about them did not arise during his life time. Had these questions been raised then, he would have definitely explained them as he did in so many matters raised, when even raised by his enemies.

The companions of the Holy Prophet discussed so many new problems which faced them during the expansion period and in the ab­sence of direct verdict (Naas) from the Prophet they even differed amongst themselves. The famous case is whether land in conquered lands could be divided as booty amongst those who took part in the campaign leading to the conquest. Even the Ashrai Mubasshara was divided on the issue. And Hazrat Umar decided by taking a rational view of the verse [19] of the Quran.

Al-Ashari asserted that Islam is not opposed to the use of Reason and in fact rationalisation of faith is a necessity in Islam.


But he had renounced the extremes of the Mutazallites. There was great controversy over the question whether the Quran was created or un-created and eternal. This question was bound up with another question whether speech is one of the attributes of God or not. The Mutazallites denied all attributes of God including that of speech. They argued that if speech is an attribute of God then speech would be eternal too and God would continue to speak and there would be mul­tiplicity of eternals and not only one Quran which would be contrary to the very basis of the Quran. As it was revealed in twenty three years life time of the Holy Prophet, it should be regarded as created and created for him.

Against this Asharites argued that the Quran in its meanings is untreated and eternal because it is "Knowledge from God" and is therefore inseparable from God's attribute of knowledge which is eternal and uncreated. Hence Quran is also uncreated and eternal. Further, Quran makes a distinction between creation and command when it says "Are not the creation and command alone." Hence God's Command, His word or Kalam is different from created things and so his Kalam must be uncreated and eternal.

The Asharisni revolted against their extreme view of raising Reason above Revelation. To them revelation merely confirmed what is accepted by Reason and if there is a conflict between the two, Reason is to be preferred and revelation may be so interpreted as to be in confor­mity with the dictates of Reason. The Asharites held that revelation, and not Reason, is the real authority to determine what is good or bad. Actions in themselves are not good or bad. Divine Law and Shariah make them so. What is commanded by Shariah is good, what is prohibit­ed is bad. But kalam can find the reason behind the command or the prohibition. Reason has to be subordinated to Revelation. Its function is to rationalise the faith and not to question the validity or truth of the principles, revealed in the Quran, and incorporated in Shariah.


The third most controversial issue - not yet resolved is determi­nation versus free will. The orthodox firmly held that every thing is predetermined by God, who has absolute power over everything includ­ing human will and human actions. The predestination leaves no man­ouvering ground to any human, who can not create any thing including his own action. The Mutazallites swung to other extreme and argued that reward and punishment is related to man's free will to choose the path and mould his own actions. This power to choose was creat­ed by God and given to man, reward and punishment according to Shariah is due to following the right path ordained or going away from it. Al-Sharastani explains: "God creates, in man, the power, ability, choice and will to perform an act; and man endowed with this derived power, chooses freely one of the alternatives and wills an action and corresponding to this intention, God creates and completes the action. It is this intention on the part of the man which makes him responsible for his deeds and misdeeds."


My own view is some-what different. It is correct to state that God has given man the power, ability and to choose his course. But He has not left him rudderless. The Quran very clearly lays down the guide-lines and in unambiguous language tells him that his destiny here and in the hereafter lies in his own hand.


In the Quran the message is centred at God, the Creator and man, His sublime creation. He gave him intellect to acquire knowledge and free will to choose his course in life but made it clear and abso­lute that there is only one God, the supreme Creator. His was the sove­reignty and He was sending the man down to this tiny earth as Khalifa. The short period of life was to be a period of preparation for the eter­nal life to follow when he would give an account of life spent and the work done. To help him to pass the final test, He would tell him the guidelines - the straight path. The man's prayer shall be: "Show us the straight path; the path of those whom thou: hast favored; not of those who have incurred Thy wrath, nor of those who have gone astray." The freedom of choice of the path endowed was in no way restricted but in fairness, the result and the consequences were spelled out in no uncer­tain terms. If you follow the directions given from time to time you would have contentment, bliss and success and when you return He would bestow eternal peace and happiness in a place which is named `Jannat' and if you ignore the guiding lines and became a prey to your own passions and desires, you would lead an unsatisfied life and when you return to Him, you would fail in the final test, deserve punishment in eternal agony, shame and degradation, consigned to their flames in the abode called `Douzakh.'So the Quran is called `Al-Furqan,' the criterion of Right and Wrong and says: "Beautiful for mankind is love of the joys that come from women and offsprings, and stored up heaps of gold and silver and horses branded with their mark and cattle and land. This is comfort of the life of the world. Allah, With Him is a more excellent abode" (Surah 3, Al Imran, Verse 14). The righteous shall inherit the world and the hereafter. He Himself defines what righteousness is: "It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but the righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and give his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observes proper worship and pays the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and in times of stress. Such are they who are sincere (and truthfull). Such are the God-fearing (who keep their duty)." (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, Verse 177).

Al-Ashari had tremendous, continuous and deep influence not in his own times but in subsequent ages too. Ibn Taimiyah said in his 'Minhaj-al-Sunnah' that "the most comprehensive of the books he went through on views of different people on the basic principles of Islam was Al-Ashari's "Al Magaalati-al-Islamiyyin" and that he discussed many of such views in detail as were not ever mentioned by others." His pupils further developed his doctrines and dogma. Amongst the older Asharites were the famous theologians Hafiz Abu Bakr Jarjani, Abu Qaffal, Abdul Hasan Bahili and the famous historian Sh: Abu Mo­hammad Tabari. The next generation of Asharites were even more learned and more influential and amongst them were Qazi Abu Bakr Baqillani, Abu Bakr-bin-Furak and Abu Ishaq Isfrainil [20] and above all Abu Al-Maa'ali-Al-Juwaini, known through out the Muslim world as Imamul-Harmayn under whom AI-Ghazali did all his learning for full eight years till the death of the Imam in 1085 A.D.


Al-Juwayni's main contribution was "usual-i-fikh" and his princi­pal treaties. "Al warakat-fi-usnli-alfikhi" continued to be studied and. commented upon till the 17th Century. He is important because he took Al-Ashari's method of rational justification of faith deeper in Fikha too and his methodology was taken up and perfected by Al-Ghazali: his unique way of presentation of the problems, the conduct of discussions, selection of subjects for discussions and importance of conclusions through rational reasoning - borrowed from Mutazallities and the Greek philosophers reflected in Muslim thought but moulded in an orthodox tinge- the essence of llm-Kalam was taken up by Al-Gha­zali, who mastered it. It is also important to note his swaying away to metaphorical interpretation (Ta'wil) of anthropomorphic terms applied to God. For example Al-Ashari had held that "hand as applied to God was to be understood as hand without explaining precisely how," Al Juwayni argued the corporeal. Meaning was impossible and that it must be understood as "Power." Al-Juwayni's interest in philosophy was also transmitted to Al-Ghazali.


To sum up; when Ghazali came of age the Muslim world was in sheer turmoil, politically and spiritually. The decadent Abbasid Caliphs were captives and tools of the warlords, the Shia creed was triumphing every where. The Buwayids ruled at Baghdad, in the name of the Ca­liph; and their effective rule extended throughout the Eastern parts of the Empire. The Arabs had lost even Sind which had been parcelled and three independent principalities came into existence - Makran, Man­soura, and Multan. In Multan the Khutba was read in the name of the Caliph jointly with the real ruler the Buwayid, Aizud-Dawlah. The Karmathians and the Ismailis were threat to orthodox Sunni Islam both politically and doctorinally. The emergence of the Fatimide Caliphate was a major disturbing event. For the first time a large part of Darul-Islam had passed under the control of a sect which not only re­jected the spiritual claims of the Abbasids but actively worked openly and through sabotage to replace them by universalist Imamate. Muq­qaddasi, the early Arab Geographer who visited Sind stated in his book 'Ahsan-al-Maqaseem-Fi-Marafat-i-Al-Aqlim" abridged and translated by Abdul Halim Sharar, quoted in his "Tarikh-i-Sind (History of Sind)" that "people of Multan were Shias and the current coinageis that of Fatimids of Egypt whose suzerainty is acknowledged by the Ruler who has to obtain sanction of the Fatimide ruler before issuing any order. There is almost a courier service between Multan and Cairo whose cont­rol is so great that a new Ruler can not assume powers without their affirmation and approval."


The Karmathian Shia missionaries were active in Sind, Gujrat and lower in Bombay from their bases in Bahrain and Yemen where they were in eftective control. Khojas and Bohras are their converts. In Mansourah, Z'ahirids had the upper hand Muqqaddasi mentions having met Qazi Abu Mohammad-Mansouri, who was the Imam of Dawood Z'ahiri sect.


The Muslim world was in real turmoil, the different forces were pulling it apart and the pieces were turning into a patchy pattern. The glory that was Islam was fading into a multitude of facets and beliefs. The Karmathians, the Fatimids, the Ismailis. the B'atiniyas. Were dig­ging in to root out the orthodox Islam as understood, held and felt by the majority even in the territories under their political control. The reaction that was setting in was typified by the Z'ahirids and Imam Hanbal, who led an undaunted fight against the free lancers of the Mutazallites, patronised so openly by Al-Mamun. He was scourged but didn't give up courage. He patiently submitted to corporal punishment and imprisonment under three successive Caliphs - Mamun, Mustasim, W'asiq - but would not accept that the Quran was created. The Hana­bills erred in the complete swing to the rightist reaction. Any discussion of tenets of Islam was an innovation and "Bidat" and so frowned upon. Al-Muhasibi and other contemporaries of Imam Abul Hanbal incurred his displeasure for defending the faith with arguments on a rational basis. The Mutazallite doctrines could be contraversed only through de­veloping a rival science of reasoning based on material from the Quran and Sunnah. It was first a drift but developed into a powerful wave sweeping in Iraq through Al-Ashari, in Egypt through Al-Tahawi and in Samarkand through Abu Mansur Al-Maturide.


In this flux world was Al-Ghazali. It has been said that Al-Ghazali had supreme intellectual courage - courage to doubt and courage to know - his autobiographical "Al-Munqidh-min-ad-Dalal" - "Deli­verence from Error" - is unique in self-revelation and gives an intellec­tual analysis of his spiritual growth. He says - and it is worth requoting -"From my early youth, since I attained the age of puberty before I was twenty, until the present time when I am over fifty, I have ever recklessly launched out into the midst of ocean depths. I have ever bra­vely embarked upon on the open sea, throwing aside all craven caution; I have poked into every dark recess. I have made an assault on every problem, I have plunged into every abyss, I have scrutinized the creed of every sect, I have tried to lay bare the inmost doctrines of every community. All this I have done that I might distinguish between true and false, between sound tradition and heretical innovation. When-ever I meet one of the B'atiniyah, I like to study his creed; whenever I meet one of the Zahirryah, I want to know the essentials of his belief. If it is a philosopher, I try to become acquainted with the essence of his philosophy; if a scholastic theologian I busy myself in examining his theological reasoning; if a sufi, I yearn to fathom the secret of his mysticism; if an ascetic, I investigate the basis of his ascetic practices; if one of Zandiq or Mutazillah, I look beneath the surface to discover the rea­sons for his bold adoption of such a creed."


This thirst after comprehension of things as they really are was God given, a part of his nature and temperament and not of his choice or contrivance. He frankly states that as "I drew near the age of adoles­cence the bonds of mere authority tradition ceased to have any hold on me and inherited beliefs lost their grip upon me. I, therefore, said to myself: To begin with, what I am looking for is knowledge of what things really are, so I must undoubtedly try to find what knowledge really is" And this knowledge has to be certain knowledge. He is fond of giving an example of turning a rod into a serpent and says "Let us suppose that some one says to me: "Three is more than ten and in proof of that I shall change this rod into a serpent and let us suppose that he actually changes the rod into a serpent and I see him doing so." This does not lead him to accept that three is more than ten but the only result was that "I wonder precisely how is he able to produce the change of rod into a serpent but my knowledge that ten is more than three is certain and infallible." Let us now trace his journey through the chartered seas of doubts and truths. He tells the story himself and let us hear him say it "Now that despair has come over me, there is no point in taking problems except in the sphere of what is self-evident, namely, necessary truths and the affirmation of the senses. I, therefore, proceeded with extreme earnestness to reflect and to see whether I could make myself doubt them." The outcome of this protracted effort was that he began to find proof that sense - perception was open to doubt and to grave unreality. He gives two examples: saying that "the most powerful sense is that of sight yet when it looks at the shadow of a stick or on a sundial, the eye sees it still and judges that there is no motion. But even after an hour's observance it is clear that it is moving and moving steadily by infinitely small distances in such away that it is never in a state of rest. Again the eye sees the heavenly bodies and sees the Sun is a small object though the mathematical calculation shows that in size it is greater than the Earth." His reliance on self-perception is destroyed, he turns to Intel­lect but doubts again emerge. He argued with himself. "Perhaps behind the intellectual apprehension there is another Judge who, if He mani­fests himself will show the falsity of intellect in its judging, just as when intellect manifested itself it showed the falsity of sense in its judging." But before the next stage of doubt gets a grip upon him he goes about dissecting the intellectual truths of those who in his days claimed to be the repository of the Infallible Truth.

He classifies the seekers of Truth as forming four different groups: And he lists them in his Al-Munqidh – as

(1)   Mutakallamun (the theologians) who claim that they are expo­nents of thought and intellectual speculation.

(2)   The B'atiniyah - though divided into groups of Taqlidi Shias, the Karmathians, the Ismailis and later the Assassins - generally agreed upon the principle of T’awil (i.e. material interpretation of the Quran and allegorical explanations of the literal text - the inner meaning) and held that the final authoritative instructions deriving Truth from an Infallible Imam, heavenly incarnated in Divine Light was essential. The Natiq Imams gave Divine guidance and their teachings were maintained in the intervals by silent (S'amit) Imams.

 (3)   The philosophers, who were exponents of logic and demonstra­tion and

 (4)   The Sufis who claimed that they alone enter into the presence of God and posses’ vision and intuitive understanding.

Imam Ghazali had a life span of only 53 years (1058-1111 A.D.) he left behind 192 books and most of them were so popular that he was quoted as an authority by most of the teachers. Confining myself to the four subjects which he himself selected for elaborate treatment to con­vince himself of the under-lying truth, the list may be abridged to:

On-I Kalam AI-Igtizad-Fil-ltigad, Isr'ar-i-lttibaa-i-Sunnah, Israr-i-Maam

L’ate-al-Din, Israri-al Anw'ar-i-Ilahiya, Hujjat-ul-Hay, llagigat-ul

Ruh, Tanbihul-Ghalibin, Kimia-i-Saad'at, Kashful-ulum-i-Akhira,

On-II - The Mutazallites and Batiniya, Taliqi-Faroghi-al Madhzab,

Tafaraqi-bainul-Islam-wa-Al-Zindiqa, Khulasai-al-Res'ail-it-ulmuI

Mas'ail-fi-Madhzab, Aqidatul Masbiha, Mustazhri-Fil-Ard-alil‑

Batiniya, Mufadalil-Khalafi-Qaisal-Batinya, On-III - Philosophy and Logic, Maqasid-al-Falasafa, Tahutul-Felasafah, Al-Munqad-ul-Min-aldal'al, Mairai-llm, Mahak-al-Nazr, Mizain-ul-Anial.

On-IV - Sufis and Sufism, Ihya-ul-Ulum, Akhla'gi-al-Abrai, Mishka­wat-al-Anwar, Minhajul Abidin, Mairaji-S'alikin, Hid'ayatul-Hidayah. In addition he was an authority on Fiqh and his famous books are: Wasit, Basit, Biyanul Qaulin-al-Shafai, Taligihi Farogh-i-Madhzab, Khula'asatul Rasol, Shifai-al-Alil, Tahsinul Maahad, Mufassal Khilaf-Fi-Usul-al-Qiyas.


This brief list comes to 35 books.

His "Ihya-ul-Ulum" written when he had left Nizamya and had begun his wandering in search of Truth is in fact quintessence of his learning and personality. It is surprising and astonishing how this book was in circulation in his own life time through out Muslim world as were his books on philosophy. Zain-uddin Iraqi (the Traditionalist) -thought that Ihya-ul-ulum was the finest product of Islamic learning. Abdul Ghafar Farsi - his contemporary and fellow student of Imam al-Harmayin has gone on record "no book like it was ever written ear­lier." Imam Nawi - the commentator of (Sahih Muslim) opined that the book may be regarded as corollary to the Quran. Sheikh Abdullah Idroos - a famous Sufi of his time had committed it to memory.

Let us then go back to his book Al-Munqidh ad-Dalal for enlight­ment on the four Schools he has chosen for discussion: let him speak on the science of Theology: "I read the books of sound theologians and I wrote some books on the subject. I found that its aim was merely to preserve the orthodox creed and defend it against the heretics. Their weapon was systematic and lying bare the confused doctrines invented by heretics at variance with traditional orthodoxy. All credit to them for preserving the purity of the Quran and Sunnah but for the most part their efforts were devoted to exposing the contradictions of the heretics and their logical inconsistencies." This was not enough for him and he says that it was no cure for the malady he complained of.

Allama Shibli has dealt with it at some length and is worth referring to. According to him the majority group amongst the Muslim pub­lic held the view that there are no hidden meanings behind what is stated in Shariah and any attempt to go behind the obvious is not per­missible and those Ulema who attempt to find other explanation in fact deviate from Shariah and should be condemned. Even Imam-ul-Harmayin. the teacher of Imam Ghazali, had to utter in despair "I wish I had the firm beliefs of an old woman." The other group differed on the basis of the Quranic injunctions and the call to think, ponder and find the mysteries as they are for his conquest. But they also held in response to Hazrat Ali's directive quoted in "Sahih Bukhari:" "Explain things which the people can grasp and leave out those which they can not understand." Imam Ghazali belonged to the group that wished to go deeper and satisfy the inner cravings of an intellectual Muslim. In the Preface to "Ihya-ul-Ulum" he has fully discussed these two attitudes and stated that no intelligent person can deny that there are plain and hidden meanings: only those can deny this truth that still cling to the things they learnt in their childhood; such men can not advance to any higher learning. In "Jawaharul-Quran," while discussing existence of God and the Last Day Judgment, he says that one group is satisfied with the plain assertions as part of the ultimate faith but the other group of intellectuals will like to probe deeper and find hidden secrets and their reality but concedes that common man should not be initiated into these mysteries. Ibn Rushd has also confirmed this view and stated that Shariah has both plain and inner meaning and the one who is incapable of understanding the inner should not be given that instruction. Imam Ghazali was well versed and his books cover all-for the common men, for the intelligent ones who wish to study a bit fur­ther and for the Intellectuals who to use his own words, “wish to knock at the door behind which the mysteries are shrouded."

The Theologians were, therefore, disappointing to him, though he does not deny that results of their efforts have been sufficient for others. He pithily remarks that the healing drugs vary with disease. His disease was different.


So he turned to the Philosophers.


As was his ingrained aptitude he made a special study of the Greek philosophy and their Muslim commentators of whom he con­centrated on two: the most prominent ones - Al-Farabi and Ibni Sina (Avicenna) who were still in vogue - Ibni Sina having died only 11 years before Al-Ghazali was born. "I was convinced" he writes, "that a man can not 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 fundamentals and even goes beyond and surpasses them, probing into some of the tangles and profoundities which the very professors of the science have neglec­ted. I, therefore, set out in all earnestness to acquire knowledge of philosophy from books, by private study without the help of a teacher.'


 To the dilligent reader it is obvious that Al-Ghazali had a sneak­ing respect for the Philosophers' learning and their scientific rational approach and exposition of the fundamentals of nature and man's res­ponse, of God, His Attributes and His Creation and he set out to sur­pass them in their own branch of learning. He was then heading the Nizamiya College at Baghdad and the temptation to out-do them was irresistable. It was also an important part of his quest for the ulti­mate Truth. To clarify his own ideas he first wrote "The Aims of the Philosophers." It is an irony that this book became a classic for the West and Al-Ghazali for his clear thinking and clearer exposition was hailed as a great Aristotelian!\

 Having satisfied himself and others that he had fully acquired their knowledge and was competent enough to settle scores with them on their own plane, he wrote: ”The In-Coherence of the Philosopher”). In his introduction of the book he states: "I have observed that there is a class of men who believe in their superiority to others because of their greater intelligence and insight. They have aban­doned all the religious duties Islam enjoins."

"The heretics in our times have heard the awe-inspiring names of people like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They have been deceived by the followers of these philosophers - exaggerations to the effect that these ancient masters possessed extraordinary intellectual powers; that the principles they have discovered are unquestionable, that the mathema­tical, logical, physical and metaphysical sciences developed by them are the most profound, that their excellent intelligence justifies their bold attempts to discover the hidden things by deductive methods." How contemporary he sounds when he laments that "the younger generation of heretics who thought that emulation of the example of the learned philosophers held out to them the promise of an elevated status far above the general level of common men. They refuse to be content with the religion followed by their ancestors. They flatter themselves with the idea that it would do them an honour not to accept even the re­vealed Truth uncritically and actually began to accept falsehood uncri­tically."


He further affirmed that his book was going to demonstrate that the ancient philosophers, whose followers the athiest of his day claim­ed to be, were really untainted with what was imputed to them. But sometime they faltered and went astray and caused others to go astray.


At the same time he was not opposed to demonstrable and prov­able exact sciences-Mathematics and Physics and says in his "Deliverence From Error" - "A grievous crime indeed against religion has been com­mitted by men who are loyal to Islam but ignorant of sciences. Dis­agreement with the philosophers can not be taken to mathematical sciences as there is nothing in these sciences opposed to the truths of the religion. They even reject the theory of the eclipse of the Sun and the Moon saying that it is contrary to revelation. The young, already doubtful of the validity of revelation, hearing of the denial of eclipses etc., condemns the religion as based on ignorance."


Similarly with Logic, which he defined as the study of the me­thods of demonstration, laying down premises of proofs and the manner of ordering it, there is "Tasawwur," (the concept) and the "Tasdiq" (assertion or proof). According to him there was nothing therein which was against tenets of religion and this method could with advantage be adopted by the theologians and the speculative thinkers. If it is denied or rejected the only effect upon the logicians is to impair their belief either in the intelligence of the man, making the denial, or in his religion which he may hold to be resting on such absurd denials. Just as it is not a condition of religion to reject Medical Sciences so likewise their rejection is not one of its conditions. Nature in fact is in subjection to God, not acting of itself but serving as an instrument in the hands of the creator. Sun, Moon, Stars, all elements in Heaven and on Earth are in subjection to His Command: Al-Ghazali takes up cudgels with them only when they argue that God having created them let them follow their movement or activity through there own essence, independent of further control.


To him the truth matters, not the man. He disapproves of the ten­dency amongst the majority of educated persons in his own times that where-ever one ascribes a statement to an author of whom they approve they accept it, even although it is false, and when one ascribes it to an author of whom they disapprove, they reject it even though it is true. He commends Hazrat Ali's dictum "Do not know the truth by the men, but know the truth and then you will know who are truthful." He gives a very interesting illustration. A Christian is heard giving a discourse starting with a statement "There is one God and Jesus is the Messenger of God." The man may not be condemned for this, though it may sound unfamiliar, if he stops there and does not continue to argue that others are not. Similarly his other assertions - metaphysical, ethical and logical if correct and true in themselves they have to be accepted.


The attraction of philosophy in Al-Ghazali's time and half a cen­tury preceding it has been compared to that of science at present. But there was one difference. Science in Islamic world was closely associat­ed with the philosophical system. An integrated system required that to be really accomplished one learnt Qur'an, Hadith, Jurisprudence, Ethics, Logic, Mathematics, Physics, Natural Sciences, Astronomy, As­trology and Poetry. Through the chain of Nizamiya Colleges the empha­sis had shifted to theology and the philosophers were dubbed as Greek atheists, a danger to Islamic polity.


That's why Al-Ghazali had to write one full well reasoned and well argued book against the philosophers and their approach to the fundamentals of Shariah. He was of the view that though Aristotle criticised Socrates and his teacher Plato yet he retained a residue of their unbelief and heresy and we must therefore, reckon as unbeliev­ers their followers amongst Islamic philosophers such as Al-Farabi, Ibn-Sina and others.

In his famous book "Tahafut Al Falasifah" "Inconherence of the Philosophers" he gives a list of twenty problems under which he discus­sed them and, as he put it, "exposed the contradictions involved in the philosophers' theories," but of the twenty heads, he reckoned them to be infidels on three counts only and heretics on the remaining seventeen. The three points in which they differed from the orthodox Mus­lims were:

(1)   Their denial of the resurrection of bodies, followed by feelings of pleasure and pain produced by physical causes of these feelings in Paradise and Hell. They asserted that the rewards and punishments were spiritual and not bodily. He says that they certainly speak truth in affirming the spiritual ones since there do they exist as well; but they speak falsely in. denying the bodily ones and in their pronouncements, disbelieve the revelation.

As this controversy has never been finally resolved let us go into it in some detail. The Philosophers believed in the eternity of the soul. After the death of the body, the soul continues to have an everlasting existence: The eternal pleasure is for the pure and perfect souls; the eternal pain is for the imperfect and impure souls; transient pain is for the impure but good souls.


And the soul can attain absolute bliss only by means of perfec­tion and purity. Perfection is derived, from knowledge and purity from virtuous action.


Knowledge is required because the rational faculty derives nour­ishment and pleasure from the recognition of the intelligibles. It is the body, the physical pre-occupations and the physical senses which prevent the rational faculty from discovering the intelligibles. But the soul's pre-occupation with the body makes it forgetful of itself. So if the imperfections of the ignorant soul remain till the severance of the connection with the body it will remain imperfect and impure soul af­ter bodily death. When death puts an end to physical pre-occupations, the souls perfected by knowledge have blissful feeling of liberation.

Virtuous conduct and worship are required in order to purify the soul. If the soul in this life is pre-occupied with carnal desires and plea­surable causes of pleasure, even after the death of the body such a soul would be credibly distressed and in pain. And that is Hell.

Deliverance from such psychic proclivities is not possible unless the soul abstains from carnal desires; turns away from the world and struggles for attainment of knowledge and piety. This will weaken its connection with the world and its connection with the things of the hereafter will grow stronger. So when death comes, the soul will exper­ience the same relief as a prisoner does when he is set free. And then it will find every thing it could have possibly asked for. That is its Paradise.


The utter negation of physical qualities not being possible for all, religion enjoins upon us the choice of the mean between all opposite extremes in morals and actions. One should neither hoard wealth nor squander it away - thus avoiding avarice and being a spend-thrift. One ought to aim at generosity which is the mean between miserliness and extravagance. Reform of the moral character is not possible unless there is regard in conduct for the sacred law.


One who combines moral and intellectual greatness is the devout sage and his reward will be absolute bliss. He who lacks knowledge and virtue is damned. Says Allah, "He is indeed successful who causeth it grow and he is indeed a failure who stunteth it." He who has intellec­tual, but not moral, greatness will be awarded punishment but that will not be everlasting because physical accidents had tainted him with im­purity, this impurity can be effaced in course of time as the causes of impurity will not be renewed. He who has virtue but no knowledge will yet be saved and will experience no pain. But he will not attain perfect bliss. Moreover as soon as one dies, dooms-day begins for him.

The philosophers, according to him, denied the return of the soul to the body, the existence of a physical Paradise and Hell, the "Hoors" with large eyes and lovely arms. These things were described through symbols and as an allegory for man's understanding. In fact he fails to grasp these pleasures and pains.

Imam Ghazali's objections are not so accusing as he sounds. Let us quote him, "Most of these things," he says, "are not opposed to re­ligion. We do not deny that the pleasures in the Hereafter are superior to sensuous pleasures. Nor do we deny the immortality of the soul se­parated from the body. No doubt resurrection will not be comprehensible, if the immortality of the soul is not taken for granted. But what is there to prevent one from assenting to the possibility of the combina­tion of physical and spiritual pains or pleasures? The Qur'anic verses. "No soul knows what lies concealed in store for them" only means that no soul knows all these things. Similarly, from the verses "I have reserv­ed for my virtuous worshippers what no eye ever saw." The existence of things of supreme worth can be inferred; but their negation does not necessarily follow. Rather, the combination of the two will be conducive to greater perfection. And that which has been promised to us is the most perfect thing. Hence it follows that the combination of the two is possible and it is necessary to assent to this possibility in accordance with religion [21]"

His Second serious charge against the philosophers is that they say that the world is ever lasting, without any beginning, it co-existed with God. It is inconceivable that some thing which has a beginning in time should proceed from the Eternal without there being an interme­diate period. If we suppose the eternal was at a stage when the world had not yet originated from Him, then the question is "why did He not originate the world before its origination." It is not possible to say, "Because of His inability to bring the world into existence" nor could one say, "Because of the impossibility of the world's coming into Being." For this would mean that He changed from inability to Power and changed the impossibility into possibility. And both statements are absurd. Then they go to say that the nearest thing to imagine is to say that He had not willed the world's existence before. This means that he became a Willer of its existence after not having been a willer So if the origin of the world is ascribed to God's action, the question remains "Why now, and why not before." Was it due to the absence of means, or power, or purpose, or nature?

The nearest to the truth is that God did have the power, before the creation of the world. His power is infinite and the power and will to create includes the power and the will not to create. He held Himself in patience and did not create it. He had the power but did not exercise it. And He created it when He willed it.


Then the discussion between Al-Ghazali and the Philosophers becomes discursive and logical e.g. Are we to call the period of not creat­ing finite or infinite, the attributes of will, dissimilarity in nature among the parts of the primary round body which is Heaven, planets and stars, Time and beginning of Time, Matter and Time and time of their origins, non-existence or unawareness of intellect and priority when there was no Time, no dimensions and the Divine knowledge existed and so on and on. It runs over 50 pages. He is conscious of the fact and finally he says "If it is said: In all your objections you have tried to meet diffi­culties by raising other difficulties; you have not tried to solve the difficulties which had been raised by the Philosophers; We will answer: after all, this method has exposed the invalidity of the Philosopher's theories and their incoherence. In this book we have undertaken only an attack on their doctrines and a refutation of their arguments. It is not our purpose to support a particular point of view; for the only thing we intended to do was to refute the philosopher's claim that its (the world's) eternity is definitely known and established."


 It would have gladdened the heart of Imam Ghazali that the present day scientific advance has so conclusively disproved the Philoso­phers' claim that the Earth's Eternity was co-equal. It is now asserted and established that the creation was subsequent at a given time and supported the Qur'anic version: [22] "Then He directed Himself to the Heaven and it was a vapour so He said to it and to the Earth (already created vide V.9 & 10) come both willingly or unwillingly. They both said `we come willingly' And the six days [23] mentioned are not the days of Time as counted by us but in space and refer to Six Stages of its development. The first stage is the throwing of the cosmic matter creat­ing Earth, the second stage cooling of its surface, the third making of the mountains, the fourth blessing it with water and making in it rivers, the fifth growth of life at sea shores and the sixth ordaining of foods-plant, life, animal life. The Quranic Time relativity to our day is repea­tedly asserted in the Holy Quran. "Our day is equal to your fifty thousand years." And that too is relative.

It sounds strange and unbelievable but the scientists claim to have now recorded the microwave signals originating from the original cos­mic mass of material that was thrown over 10,000 million years ago. The estimated mass must have weighed 10x46 zero tons. These signals radiated the material of the universe was concerted and poised to fly apart into planets stars and galaxies.

The Director of the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope, Sir Bernard Lovell, told the British Association for the Advancement of Science, London, in Aug: 78 that primeval explosion was found in sounds picked up 10 years ago by the instruments of the Bell laboratories; New Jersey, and since then confirmed by instruments sent aloft more re­cently by rockets and in high flying balloons.

"Apparently we observe today a radiation which is a relic of the high temperature phase of the universe, within a second or so of the beginning." One second after the Beginning came the critical period when the abundance of helium to hydrogen was determined in the universe. By this time (within a millionth of a second) the temperature had fallen to a few thousand million degrees.


"It was an astonishing reflection," said Sir Bernard, "that if the force of attraction between protons had been only a few percent stron­ger, "then all the hydrogen in the primeval condensate would have turn­ed into helium in that stage of expansion and there would have been no galaxies, no stars, no life would have emerged." The Qur'an says that He said "Kun" and it became (Faya Kun) [24] Sir Bernard said that our universe, our Earth in fact the entire creation was created in "a mil­lionth of a second." It was also in these seconds that the conditions were set which paved the way for the Earth to be formed and for life to appear in it.


So the world was created and it was not in eternity and shall not remain eternal either. Sir Bernard also observed that it was possible that some day outward momentum, already slowing down, would stop and the universe would collapse in on itself to become a single mass again. This again is confirmation of the end of the Earth and Heaven - when the heavens would be rolled up, mountains collapse into dust, sun would suck in the Moon and the Stars would be without light so vividly repeated several times in the Qur'an. He alone is Eternal.


The third and the last point on which Al-Ghazali reckons philo­sophers to be K'afir (non-Muslim) is that they say God knows universal but not particulars Al-Ghazali's exposition is as follows:


Like the Mutazallites, the philosophers agree in rejecting as im­possible the affirmation of knowledge, power and will of-The Firs Principle. They assert that these names have been used in sacred texts and their application is etymologically defensible. Nevertheless they mean the same thing i.e. The One Essence (God). It is not right to affirm attributes which are additional to Divine Essence, as our knowledge or Power is additional to our own essence. For if it were so, such a thing necessitates plurality. And He is one and the Perfect. He does not need anything. The attributes of Perfection and Power can not be separated from the Essence of the Perfect one. He who needs - even the attribute of perfection - is essentially imperfect. This, according to Philosophers, would be "Kufr."


The position that God knows what is other than Himself was adopted by Ibn Sina, (Avicenna) while others said that He knows Himself only. He said that God knows all the things in a universal manner which does not fall under Time. But he also argued that knowledge of particulars means change in the essence of the knower. Then in his Soc­ratic style Al-Ghazali poses the Question and answers it himself. The question is God's knowledge of all the species and genera whose num­ber is unlimited, identical with His Self-knowledge or not and answers `If you say it is not identical, you will break the rule by admitting plurality: But if you say that it is identical why should you not have yourself classed with one who claims that man's knowledge of what is other than himself is identical with his self-knowledge and with his Essence: And passes judgment; "And He who makes this statement must be a fool!"


The real fact is that the question at issue between him and the Philosophers is whether the Being - the Essence; the First Principle, the God - is more adequately described by human analogy or by analogy from natural forces. The conception of God as pure, purest Essence - fits in well with the analogy of a natural force. He describes himself in Surah Noor as Light upon Light. Those of the rationalist turn of mind denied that such attributes as knowing, hearing, seeing, speaking; willing had any distinct existence within God's Essence. They don't deny them; they do not accept them as distinct, separate entity. It is just like what is in '0, Allah who hears with his Essence of hear­ing and hearing of all is due to this Essence of hearing, 0 who hears all (the prayers)." And this is what Al-Ghazali means by all his arguments and it was the religious experience of ordinary men that eventually triumphed.


To give away a secret, I have a sneaking feeling that Al-Ghazali's all chagrin against Ibn Sina was due to the fact, also admitted by him in his Testament, that he took wine. Ibn Sina says that "he swore to God that he would do various things, and in particular that he would prac­tise what the sacred Law prescribed, that he would not be lax in taking part in the public worship of God, and that he would not drink for pleasure but only as a tonic or medicine."


Al-Ghazali sarcastically remarks that such is the faith of these philosophers who profess religious faith; and thus the net result of Ibn Sina's purity of faith and observance of the obligations of worship was that "he made an exception of drinking wine for medical purposes." The rest, to my mind, is an intellectual exercise to meet the philoso­phers on their own ground and beat them down with their own arguments.

It may be mentioned in passing that his aim in writing this book was not to build up a new system but only to destroy the viewpoints on the main 20 points listed by him and criticise the two leading luminar­ies Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina - "For this reason," he says, "we have called this book "The Destruction of the Philosophers," not, "An introduc­tion to Truth" and therefore, "we are not bound to reply to your objections which you raise now."


On the remaining seventeen points he is of the opinion that their denial of the attributes of God, their doctrine that God knows by his Essence and not by a knowledge which is over and above. His Essence, and the like - their position approximates to that of the Mutazallites and the Mutazallites, must not be accounted infidels because of such matters.


In distant Spain fifteen years after the death of Imam Ghazali was born Ibn Rushd who was destined to keep alight the torch lit by Al-Kindi and Farabi - and dominate thinking" in awakening Europe. Imam Ghazali's fame had spread even to the distant Spain and Ibn Rushd felt honour bound to defend Philosophy and its Masters and refute Ghazali's "Incoherence of Philosophers" with "Incoherence of the incoherent."

Ibn Rushd met Ghazali on his own ground - the Revelation. While Ghazali condemned the Philosophers on several counts as either not fully understanding the revealed word, going against the injunc­tions and postulates of Qur'an and Sunnah, Ibn Rushd refuted the alle­gation that the Philosophers were irreligious merely because they tried to find hidden logical meanings behind some parts of the Qur'an and explain and prove them by demonstrative, dialectical, logical arguments. He took the position on the various Qur'anic texts where the wise, the learned are enjoined to think deeply and discover the truth. The objec­tive of religion as defined by him is to attain the truth - The True Theory and True Practice (Al-llm-al-Haqq w'alaamat al Haqq). He went over Ghazali's twenty points one by one and asserted that "the dif­ferent degrees of assent and conviction attained by the assertions in “Incoherence of Philosophers” have not reached the degree of evidence and of truth." He claimed that the "Divine ordinance itself requires us to look into the books of the ancients" and added that any man forbidding the study of the books to any one properly qualified to look into them debars mankind from the very door whereby divine ordinance calls men to get to know God - the door of speculation leading to the true knowledge of Him”


However that may be, so the orthodoxy backed by the political power of the Seljuks, was in the ascendance and could not allow Ibn Sina or lbn Rushd to have the last word.

Having satisfied him that even philosophic reason had not the satisfying truth within it, his (Ghazali) quest was sharpened. "From the sciences I had laboured at," he says "and the paths I had traversed in my investigation of revelational and rational sciences, there had come to me a sure faith in God Most High, in Prophethood and in the Last Day. These three cardinal principles were firmly rooted in my being; but the truth was dawning on me that I had no hope of bliss in this world or thereafter."


As usual he is as unsparing of himself as of the philosophers and writes "I considered the circumstances of my life and realized that I was caught in veritable thicket of attachments. I considered my activi­ties of which the best was my teaching and lecturing, and realized that in them I was dealing with sciences that were unimportant and contri­buted nothing to the attainment of eternal life."


He continues his own dissection - "After that I examined my motive in my work of teaching and realized that it was not a pure desire for the things of God, but that the impulse moving me was the desire fir an influential position and public recognition. I saw for certain that I was on the brink of a crumbling bank of sand and in imminent danger of hell fire unless I set out to mend my ways."


This was the beginning of a new awakening to a new path - S'uf­ism-which he had so far left unexplored. The inner struggle was acute and severance of all worldly attachment and complete self-abnegation was no easy matter. He was then only 37 years old in the prime of his life, at the height of his acute and supple intellectual attainment, occu­pying the exalted office of the Head of the Nizamiah College at Bagh­dad, the Centre of all that was Muslim: its culture, its learning, its attainments.


For nearly six months he says, "I was continuously tossed about between the attractions of worldly desires and the impulses towards eternal life."

The inner struggle was so great that the anxiety complex affect­ed his speech. "One particular day I would make an effort to lecture in order to gratify the hearts of my following, but my tongue would not utter a word." He became bed ridden and the Hakims told him that "the only method of treatment is that the anxiety complex should be allayed." So, as he puts it, "the matter ceased to be one of choice and became one of compulsion." And he took the plunge and took to the road - the road to S'ufism, salvation, solitude, and silent repose.


 In his own times, and since then, the question has been asked "why did he do so?" He himself notes that "much confusion came into people's minds as they tried to account for my conduct. Those at a dis­tance from Iraq supposed that it was due to some apprehension I had of action by the Government. On the other hand those who were close to the governing circle knew that there was no such thing and opined - this is a supernatural affair; it must be an evil influence which has befallen the people of Islam."

Two new theories have been put forward by the present day orientalists. Early this century Dunce Black MacDonald in his "Life of Ghazali" offered the explanation that the withdrawal from teaching might have some thing to do with the displeasure of Sultan Barkiyaruq due to Al-Ghazali's implication in recognition of his rival Tutush as Sultan in 1094 A.D. But this he himself discounted. MacDonald later has called it as a secondary cause, the chief being his genuine "conver­sion" to mystic life. Recently his French biographer, Farid Jabre, has argued that the dominant motive was fear of being assassinated by the B'atinis - Ismailis. Here too it is only a conjecture. His chief patron Nizamulmulk Tusi was assassinated in 1092 and Ghazali stayed on till Nov: 1095 in Baghdad and when he was persuaded to return to Bagh­dad in 1106 both by the Caliph and Vazier Fakhrul Mulk, who was son of Nizamuhnulk, the Ismaili assassination spree was at height so much so that even Fakhrul Mulk was assassinated within two months of Al-Ghazali's arrival. As to the fear of assassination Ibn Asir, the main original source of information about the period - does not give even a hint of such a threat. Such a threat could be met in other ways too by making himself inconspicuous outside Baghdad. And there is no doubt that he was a popular teacher and his decision to renounce the world and the worldly honours did surprise and shock his students, the Court circles and the scholars of the day.


Decisions of the kind, which Al-Ghazali took, had, to my mind, a beginning in his quest for certainty in his beliefs, which he tried to achieve through hard labour of scholarship. His extra-ordinary supple mind urged by a high degree of sincerity had learnt all there was to learn of religious philosophical movements of the time and they left him dissatisfied and cold. There was only one more movement left to be explored. That was the Sufi way. His own worldly success and inner disquiet forced the need for a switch over to greater emphasis on the inner life and channelling of efforts in Sufi's direction. The spiritual vision which had so far guided him was itself pointing to greater con­centration on the Inner Life.


This theory gets corroboration from him. He writes in "Deli­verance from Error," "when I had finished with these sciences, I next turned with set purpose to the method of Sufism I knew that the com­plete mystic way includes both intellectual belief and practical acti­vity…The intellectual belief was easier to me and I began to acquaint myself with their belief by reading their books." This strikes the familiar tune when he set out to study the Mutakallimun, the Ba'ti­niyah, Z'ahiri'as, Falasafiya, and only the S'ufis were left. He studied the works of Al-Hails Ibn-Asad Al-Mutasibi (died 857 A.D.) of Abu Talib - Al-Makki and the various details about Junaid, Shibli and Abu Yazid Bastami and other discourses of leading Sufis. His own famous teacher at Nishapur - Al-Juwayni, Imamul Haramayn, was sympathetic to S'ufism; another teacher of his at Nishapur was Al-Farmadhi, who was a pupil of Al-Qushayri who was a well recognised Sufi in Tus and Nishapur and highly respected by Nizamulmulk Tusi. They must have planted the seed which remained unfertilized because he went to other fields and pastures new. Through thorough study he grasped the funda­mentals of their teachings. But it became clear to him that "what is most distinctive of mysticism is something which can not be appre­hended by study, but only by immediate experience, by ecstasy and a complete moral change." And "what remained for me," he says, "was not to be attained by oral instructions and study but only by immediate experience and by walking into the mystic way."


He took to the mystic road deliberately and cools calculatedly. He made provision for the children and this was not difficult as in addi­tion to what he left in trust, the "wealth of Iraq was available for good works and nowhere in the world had he seen better financial arrange­ments to assist a scholar to provide for his children." He also took the worldly wise precaution to announce that he was going to Mecca, though privately he made all the arrangements to go to Damascus.


He slipped into Damascus and remained there for nearly two years. He would go to the top of the minaret of the Umayyad mosque of Damascus for the whole day shut himself in to have absolute solitude and to have no other aim than "cultivation of retirement and soli­tude, together with religious and ascetic exercises as I busied myself with, purifying my soul, improving my character and cleansing my heart from the constant recollection of God Most High, as I had learnt from my study of mysticism."

He had imbibed the truth that `the Kingdom of Heaven is within you' and "seek and ye shall find;" "Knock and it shall be opened unto you."

He knocked and it opened - though at first slightly and as he says he experienced pure ecstasy only occasionally.


His presence in Damascus got known and his solitude was disturbed. He began to make public appearance and took to writing too. The mistake dawned on him and he fled and fled to the scene of Mair'aj - Jerusalem. He sought nearness of Abraham and proceeded to Al-Khalil (Hebron) and shut himself in the rock where Abraham and other prophets Isaac and Jacob are buried. As he was still worried about his family and his own survival he took three oaths there making Abraham the witness that "he would never again take part in public dis­cussions about the various sects and their beliefs, will never appear in Court again, keep temptations of a worldly life - full of honour and prestige - at arms length and thirdly shall never receive any remunera­tion and shall, therefore, never accept any office or any official patronage." From 'Al-Khalil' (Hebron) he proceeded to Mecca and



Before long the entreaties of his children and various concerns, which he does not care to explain, but may be "the necessities of my liveli­hood" which he hints to at one place - drew him back. He returned to his native place Tus and not to Baghdad.

He was a voracious reader and an indefatigable writer. Even the mystic path and the solitude exercises could not completely wean him away from either of them. His greatest work  "The Revival of Religious Learning," was, according to Ibnul-Asir, written during this period. It consists of four big volumes, divided into ten books each, and is full of quotations from the Holy Quran and Hadith and, therefore, some scholars have questioned the period of its com­position during his travels.

Allama Shibli has mentioned that Allama As-Subki (d.1379 A.D.) in his `Tabaq'at-As-Shafi'ya-al-Kubra" has dwelt at length that (***) is based on "Risalaa-Qushayria" of the famous mystic Abul Qasim Al-Qushayri (d.1072 A.D.) and "Tehzibul Akhla'q" of Ibn Miskawayah (d.1030 A.D.) and has given some verbatum quotations to show that some passages have been literally lifted from the earlier works. He must have read those works and with his stupendous reten­tive memory must have retained them. Al-Qushairi's famous "Epistle on Sufism" called Risala by Shibli covers only a part of the second half of the (***) and it does not discuss other matters dealt with Al-Ghazali. As to Miskawayah, Montgomery Watt has a remark that some of Al-Ghazali's arguments on nature of knowledge and cer­tainty bear a close resemblance to those used by Miskawayah, it merely shows that such points were being generally discussed by philosophers, Sufis and intellectuals in the Islamic world in his lifetime and were the current topics of importance and discussion.


No book of his contemporaries, or in succeeding generations, had the tenets of orthodoxy of Sunni majority treated at greater length, grea­ter rationality, greater explanation based on both Q'uran and Hadith and philosophical reasoning, greater lucidity and greater appeal to rea­son, orthodox authority and simple reasoning drawing on simple folk lore, lavened with popular sayings and stories of saints and Sufis. His appeal is therefore, to the learned steeped in knowledge and to the common man who is also swept away with its readability and simpli­city of language and arguments to explain his stand. He removed the obscurity of philosophers and their abstruse reasoning and explained even their stand in easily understandable language without any distor­tion and without giving any impression of labouring under strain. Hence the immediate acclaim it received and the popular acceptance that has been given to it since through the centuries. Though he made the reli­gion his firm base, he consistently took a reasonable stand on what is beneficial for the whole Muslim community even though it may be an innovation. For him the only rule against adoption of innovation should be that it is forbidden definitely in the Q'uran, Shariah (or to a certain extent frowned upon by the closest Sahaba or opposed in actual practice by the Khulafai-Rashidin).


Two simple examples of behaviour may be illustrative of his approach. In the second Book of "Ihyanul alum" he deals with worldly usages and behaviour of a Muslim in social life. He dilates upon (1) rules of beating and drinking, (2) secrets of marriage-benefits and harms, di­vorce, duties of husband and wife, (3) earning a livelihood - trade and commerce, (4) duties to Muslims generally and to relatives, neighbours, servants and slaves, (5) benefits and harms of Hal'al and Har'am and of seclusion and society, (6) music and ecstacy, (7) love and brotherhood, (8) rules of journey.

Let us pick up the every day method and manner of eating. He maintains that the basic thing is what you eat should be lawful and not forbidden. Wash your hands before eating. The Holy Prophet used to do so and enjoined it on others. The reason is that food should not be contaminated with germs you carry. The food should be spread out on a piece of cloth on the ground. He has quoted a Hadith of Hazrat Uns that such was the custom of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) and then he quotes sayings of the old to the effect that four things are "Bidat which came into use after Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)-the Dining Table, Soap and eating with relish to the full. Now note how in simple language and homely reason he explains his view point. Eating while sitting on the ground is good but to put the food on a table to raise it above the ground cannot be (***) forbidden as there is no such direct prohibition. The fact that these things came into use after the Prophet's time does not make them ipso facto Bidat. Bidat is what contradicts a Sunnah or any definite prohibition; innocent innova­tions in keeping with the times may be claimed as pleasant departures. Eating with food spread on the table is easier and more comfortable and so should not be objected to. Similarly soap was not available in Prophet's time and the grass Ashnan from which soap was extracted also came to be known later. Now what's wrong with its use? Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) joined cleansing of hands both before and after meals. Ashnan and later soap make the hands cleaner and purer and so should be welcomed, and then he dilates upon harms of eating to the full or over-eating from health point of view and advocates the middle course between over-eating and going hungry.


The manners which he details approvingly are what prevail today in the West and are forgotten by the Muslims. The Holy Prophet said "He who joins a feast without invitation is a transgressor." Invitation should not be accepted if you are not sure whether you can find time to join. Don't accept invitation where you know wine or unlawful food would be served, gold and silver plate used and dinner will be followed with lewd singing and dancing; He advises the host to receive and see off his guests at the door with a smile and thanks.


Further his advice is that food should be served on a white cloth and not coloured. Don't try to sit in the most conspicuous place or near the service door. Sit in the allotted seat or as the host requests. Dif­ferent courses should be served at intervals. The first may be soup and the main dish should come next; after the meal serve sweets or fresh fruit and of his Seljuk times mentions that the courses to be served are written down and presented to the guests. [25] This is to help the guests in eating modestly. He also suggests that during the course of the Meal you should also talk to the one who is sitting next to you; not to do so are bad manners and might indicate pride. The guests should never leave without saying good-bye to the host and thanking him for the hospitality.

So the west borrowed these customs and manners from the Mus­lims and wove them in their own social fabric so much so that if we follow them now we are accused of aping the west and going against Islamic simplicity!


He has the same rational and reasonable approach even to sports and singing; he holds sports to be an integral part of the children's edu­cation and physical exercise making coordination of mind and body better, making for a healthy society. Similarly he is in favour of rela­xation even for the hermits. Those who go in for Nafal (optional prolonged prayers at night) are advised also to rest for a while so that a tired body may not dim the consciousness of prayer. His whole approach to social life is pragmatic and practical and if it leads to greater well-being and welfare and to better social relations and refinement, and do not encourage and create social distinctions, are not taboo.


There is still a controversy amongst the Sunnis whether Salam in Mil'adi-Nabi should be recited or not or whether one should stand up when it is recited. I only recently discovered it when attending a pri­vate Mil'ad-Nabi function. Here too Imam Ghazali has a fair-minded answer. He says: "To stand up for any one out of respect was not a prevalent Arab custom and so sometimes Sahaba did not get up when the Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) entered the gathering as stated by Hazrat Uns. But there is no direction against so getting up and honouring a guest. In countries where such is done it should be main­tained as the intention is to show respect and is therefore Praiseworthy Give up only what is particularly contradicted. His book "revival of Re­ligious Sciences’ is a treasure of worldly and other-worldly wisdom. He was equally dissatisfied with what he saw around him. He was a parti­cipant in the Court- Life and moved in the highest circle, being a confi­dent and companion of the great Nizamul-Mulk Tusi, the all powerful Prime Minister; as one of the most famous literary figures of his times, he came in contact with the keenest intellectuals and watched their behaviour; as a teacher he came in contact with the higher middle class and saw the springs of their public life; as a resident in the great metro­polis of Baghdad he saw how the whole structure was rotten from inside and he took it to be his duty to record, analyse, dissect and pres­cribe the cure for the ills in simple, straightforward language spiced with Hadith, sayings of the saints, anecdotes of their lives. He explains the mainsprings of defects with arguments easy to grasp and draws conclusions - which appeal and sound so reasonable as to awaken the dormant instinct to reform and turn a new leaf.


His favourite prescription is the "golden mean in belief and conduct" and took the Qur'anic verse for Muslims as guide "And we have created you the middle nation."

For him Man has the body and the soul and both have to be nourished. As the body of each man has its own form and shape so does the soul. A man is called handsome if his body is well proportioned and pleasing to the eye. Similarly his soul has an inner shape of its own and according to its perfection or imperfection man is called noble, well meaning, well behaved near to God or derided as ignoble, haughty or coward, spend-thrift or miserly.


In his third book of "Ihyaul-Ulum" besides dealing with soul and its attributes -and how Ibadat and Riazat make for good conduct in the ways of Allah, he devotes no less than seven chapters on harms of greed and sexual passion, evils of loose talk, the evils of anger, hatred, envy, of wealth, power and show and of pride and self praise; and his panacea is "the golden mean."


He is worth quoting on the point as illustrative of his reasoning approach to drive home the point he wishes to make and which can be grasped by every one with even an average intelligence.

"Body has been given to house the soul and is himself the house of knowledge. Divine knowledge is the human goal and its inspiration. A mule and a horse have similar body to carry loads, but the horse is superior as he is bodily more attractive and has the superior quality of running faster. Now take the man - if he uses his intelligence, his thoughts and actions to please God he becomes like an angel and the people begin to say he is like an angel in purity of his thought and ac­tion. But when he looks after his worldly comforts only he comes down to the level of an animal. He tries to be healthy like an ox, becomes greedy like a pig, biting like a dog, drinks like a fish, eats like a camel, revengeful like a leopard, cunning like a jackal and sinks to the level of the devil - the embodiment of all evils?


According to him there are four natures of man - Passion, animal nature, devilish nature and the angelic.

If he gives free rein to his sexual passions he acquires the evils of impurity, meanness, selfishness and shamelessness.


Anger is the sign of beastly nature. If he obeys the dictates of anger he acquires the odious conduct such as haughtiness, pride, cruelty and love of power and self-praise. If the devilish nature gets the upper hand he becomes prone to lowly traits of deceit, deception, treachery, fraud etc., when he controls these evil tendencies and cultivates and nourishes his angelic qualities he is endowed with divine qualities such as wisdom, knowledge, faith and love for humanity.


Soul is like a mirror in which the evils and virtues mentioned are reflected. The virtues make the soul shining and the evils make it dark.


Man's will and intellect give him the choice. Man's good fortune lies in having God's vision as the ultimate goal, this world as a tempo­rary abode, the next one as permanent, using body as carrier of his pure soul and the limbs as obedient servants so as to live in this world but above the world.


In the fourth volume consisting of 10 different books each dealing with a separate distinct subject, he propounds his views on repentence, patience and gratefulness, fear and hope, poverty and renunciation, tauhid and tawakkul, love and attachment, will and inten­tion, meditation and introspection, truths behind God's creations, death and meaning of life and death, resurrection, Paradise and Hell and vision of God and God's Mercy.


It is impossible to summarise and even deal briefly with his vast canvas of pronouncements running into forty books. It deserves to be studied in detail when men are baffled by modern inconsistencies "Ihya-ul-ulum" popularity and its acceptance was phenomenal in his own time and subsequent centuries. The commentaries written on it within half a century of Imam Ghazali's death number about seventy. Other commentaries on his four books on Fiqah, Basit, Wasit, Wajiz, Bryan-iI-Quolain As Shafai run into hundreds. Imam Abul Malqan Shafai's commentary on Hadith mentioned in Basit run into seven volumes though the one of Imam Fakhruddin Razi' who took Imam Ghazali's teaching a step further towards orthodox Sunni tenets, is the most famous.


 To make Ihya-ul-ulum more easily accessible its summaries were compiled, the one by his own brother, Ahmad Ghazali, known as "Summary of Ihya" gained immediate currency and several others under, the name of "Abridged Ihya" were compiled by well-known scholars like Sheikh Abu-Zakarya-Yahya, Sheikh Abul-Abbas Ahmad­bin-Musa of Mosul and Ha'fiz Jalaluddin-Suyuti and have survived.


The movements which he thought struck at the root of the reveal­ed religion and its commonly accepted interpreted beliefs were the Mutazallites and he made short shrift of them, the Ismailies who had become even a political threat through the Karmathian principalities of Yemen, Najd, Bahrain extending up to Multan;.the dynasty of Fati­mides in Egypt and the Maghrib and then nearer home "Alamut" head­ed by Hassan-bin-Sabbah; the philosophical dominance of Greek Imams whose brilliant exponent and interpreter Ibn Sina had died just a few years earlier than his own birth. He went through the illuminative pro­cess of mysticism whose luminaries Bayazid Bistami (d.874), Junaid Baghdadi (d: 910) Shibli (d.945), the great Husain-Ibn Mansur Hallaj (d.922) had been alive only half a century or so earlier than him and how the memory of that great mystic of the same line Abu said Abul Khayr (d.1049) must have been so fresh as he died only 9 years before the birth of Ghazali. He had extracted the essence of the truths from each one of them.

So "Ihya-ul-ulum" is what he studied, what he thought was the Truth and the True way. His Faith in God, in Mohammad's (Peace Be upon Him) Prophet-hood, the Last Day and the Resurrection was steadfast and unhesitant, unapologetic, strident and firm. He borrowed their own tools from those who were challenging and undermining the simple faith of the simple people. As an Asharia he used the Mutazallites logic to disprove what they held as proved - like the createdness of the Qur'an, from Hannabilitis he fully accepted the superiority and assu­redness of Revelation over Reason but unlike them - used the tool of reason to demolish opposition, from philosophers he learnt their philo­sophy and never discarded the philosophical approach where it suited him to further balance and support the Revelation, from the B'atinis or the Ismailis he took up the fundamental concept of an infallible Imam and gave that central position to the most infallible Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and from the mystic he took the inner illumination and mirrored it into perfect - "Tauhid" when God was alone and "Nurun Ala Nur" "The Essence of the First Absolute Light, God, gives constant illumination, whereby it is manifested and it brings all things into existence, giving life to them by His rays. Every-thing in the world is derived from the Light of His essence and all beauty and perfection are the gift of His bounty and to attain fully to this illumination is salvation." So said Shihabuddin Shuhrawardi, "Maqtul," born 42 years after Ghazali and executed at the age of 33 in 1191 A.D., by Al-Malik-Az-Zahir, the son and successor of the famous Salahuddin Ayyubi. His "Awazi Pari-Jibril" is echoed by Iqbal in his "Bali-Jibrail." But the starting point was Al-Ghazali's "Mishkat-al-Anwar" - "The Niche for Lights" taken from Surah Nur. He became the "Nur" - the guiding Light for Muslims - the greater part of the Muslim Ummah - and his seal of perfection is still unbroken.

But he had a supple mind which enabled him grasp the essentials quickly and absorbs the fundamentals easily. He had a highly developed analytical mind and so had to dissect the fundamentals before accept­ing them: His fast roving mind coupled with erudition, his wide ranging scholarship and a sensitive soul could not accept anything on face-value.

When he looked around at the society he saw it beset with all sorts of evils. He looked at the markets and found that shop keepers told lies to the customers, concealed the defects of the articles for sale, reduced the weights and measures, asked for prices at their own whim; on the way to the markets he found encroachment on pathways by construction of shops or extensions of verandahs, to tie animals or sacrifice them, throw refuse and let water run from the houses to the street. Amongst the rich he found ostentatious living, huge houses, extravagance in living and entertainment. You will find all the details in Book of "Ihya-ul-ulum." He pondered over them and came to the conc­lusion that the society had come to this state because of faulty system of education and the wrong policies of the Sultans as checks on them had crumbled and the Ulema, who could check them under enjoining good and forbidding evil: the upholders of the Holy Quran, themselves becoming corrupt and yielding, because of the temptations of power and wealth. The root cause of the loosening of the moral fibre he lays at the door of the Ulema. This lament runs throughout the "Ihya-ul-Ulum" and in the chapters he devoted to "Pride, Deceit, and Love of office and Honour" he reserved his most scathing language for them. For the Muftis he says that this is the group which suffers from arrogance, is jealous of each other, is grasping in worldly wealth and back-bite, every-one is in this race for being near the seat of power, and lauding every action of the Sultan. They were not at all worried about improving con­ditions and gave no thought to it. A section of the religious group was ever busy in discussion of trivial religious issues and challenged each other to open discussions and insulting others was their pastime; the third learned set was of Mutakallamin whose main occupation was showing their opponents ill-informed, not well-versed in the finer points of law and fiqah and always on the look out to point their deficiencies and where they went wrong.


Imam Ghazali's verdict on them is that they created unnecessary splits in the religious fold and the Shahaba and the ancients always frowned upon and discouraged such discussions. Then there were the preachers who spent their energies on lecturing others on moral virtues of prayer, abstinence contentment, dedications and devotion to faith but themselves were bereft of them. They were good orators, but were themselves misled, misleading others. He says that "there may be a few solitary individuals who are otherwise, but it has not been my good fortune to have come across them."

As usual with him he gives their version also who cited the ins­tances of stipends to men of their ilk in the times of the first four revered Caliphs and the practice became more common during the Umayyad, He opines that the fact of stipend, is correct as the stipends were given to every Arab citizen according to his needs by the Khulafai Rashidin initiated by Hazrat Umar. They were not in return for their service as they were competent to give their own ruling on matter of religious issues and in matters of "Fiqh", they themselves were compe­tent to give final rulings. The Ummayyads sought the help of the learn­ed in discharge of their duties and needed rulings on interpretations of Sunnah. Those who accepted anything from them did a favour to them and they were openly grateful to them. The learned men retained their independence and openly rebuked the Sultans in open court and the rebuked ones respected them more for the rebuke. But the times had changed and like every other courtier they had to show their loyalty and ever readiness to be of help to them, praise them for their conduct of affairs of State. He pithily remarks that the Sultans would not dole them even a Dirham if they were remiss in the slightest degree in their respect to them, though in learning they might be equal to Imam Sha'fai.


His all pervasive, keen intellect does not ignore the role the edu­cation system plays in moulding the character and life of the young generation. After quoting the Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) that "To seek learning is binding on every Muslim" and another "Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China." He did not say learn Alif, Lam Min, but he said to learn the sciences of action. As good ac­tions become compulsory on a Muslim, to acquire knowledge about these duties become gradually compulsory on him. The duties are divided into two categories - those connected with religion and those not so connected and amongst the latter are some which can even be termed as Farz-i-Kefayah or binding on the community to sustain it as a whole - like agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, weaving and other Industries, consumer and metallurgical industries, medicine and mathematics, architecture, administration. He also prefers study of arithmetic, geometry, logic which is the science of reason - it states proof, cause and effect and deduction and result. Philosophy he regards as essential to theology to the understanding of God, His attributes, the cosmos, science of biology and astronomy and holds it essential even to Sufism - which is to reach the ultimate reality. To him even physics could not be totally ignored.


 And he was emphatic that such composite courses of studies made a man learned and religious. He favoured a change in the curri­culum and bemoans exclusion of Sciences, Logic, Medicine and Arts and Crafts from the school curriculum. Lowering of the morals, he also ascribed to non-study of subjects which mould character and should form part of religious instructions. After all Islam prescribed religious affirmations and five pillars of duties. But a learned Muslim should, through knowledge, understand the Eternal and Perfect attributes of God, His Works and Wisdom in the creation of the world to which he repeatedly calls for in the Holy Quran, the meanings of the Prophet-hood, the angels, the devils, the meaning of life after death, the punish­ment and reward, hell and heaven, the accountability and the balanced judgment.


"Some say that these things are mere examples but God says that "He has reserved for the pious what no eye has seen, nor ear has heard and no heart has conceived." Some say that man knows nothing of the paradise except its attributes and names. Others hold that some are mere patterns and some hold them to be identical with the reali­ties which these names signify. Likewise, others hold that limit to the knowledge of God is one's inability to reach it. The object of knowledge is to remove the covers of doubt over these things from mind and the appearance of such light therein, which clears everything like the day light. This can not be attained without discipline and effort. This discipline and effort produce praiseworthy qualities such as patience, gratitude, hope, contentment, generosity, sincerity, truthfulness, God's fear and thanks for giving you good faith and good conduct.


The blame-worthy evils which follow ill-education are envy, hatred, hypocracy; flattery, greed, pride, anger and enmity, self con­ceit, honouring the rich and looking down upon the poor, vanity and boasting: outward show of friendship, deceit, breach of trust, loss of shame and lack of kindness."


As for the upbringing and education of children he stressed the importance of games along with study and teaching of manners by pre­cept and example by the parents, he opposed corporal punishment and recommended suitable commendation of conduct and prizes for good performance at studies. But the base of the learning should be religion and its allied subjects, the rest should follow. Some of the Western Orientalists even ascribe his throwing away his post at Nizamayah and College to his dissatisfaction with the curriculae adopted and his inner dissatisfaction and his utter inability to reform it. I don't subs­cribe to this view; his flight to Sufism was a genuine urge to know the hidden secrets which others claimed to have found open. But he was dissatisfied with how the State was run. Though he must have encourag­ed Nizamul Mulk Tusi to write his famous book "Siyasat Namah" - "The Book of Government or Rules for Kings" he must have been dissatisfied with the resulting book.


The political thought at the end of the eleventh Century, and the principles of Government are still available in two Books written by those who ran the administration. The one is "The Nasi'hat-Nama"-Known as "Qabus-Nama" of Kai-Qabus. It was written in 1082 A.D. by Qabus one of the Z'ahirid Princes who, though Semi-independent, recognised the suzerainty of the Seljuks. Ten years later in 1092 A.D. Nizamul Mulk wrote his more famous "Siyasat Nama." After having served as Prime Minister for thirty years to two Sultans - Alap Arsalan and his son and successor Malik Shah. The Seljuk Turks had the zeal of recent converts and the political conditions of the realm being such that they vigorously defended Sunni orthodoxy against other sects. So both the author's strong championship of Sunni Islam accounts for the emphasis they place on the religious and ethical duties which the Ruler must perform for his own salvation and for the welfare of the State.


Being a ruling Prince Qabus naturally affirmed that "the welfare of the Kingdom lies in the effectiveness of the King's authority, but the exhortation is that "it is through the people that the country is made prosperous, for the revenues are earned from the people, who remain settled and prosperous if given what is rightfully theirs. While caution­ing the Kings, against a too powerful Vazier, he counsels the Vazier "Urge your Master, the King, to be well disposed towards the army and the people, the King's continuance is dependent on his forces and the prosperity of the peasantry. Make it your constant endeavour to improve cultivation and to govern well; The truth of the matter is that; good government is secured by armed troops, armed troops are main­tained with gold, gold is acquired through cultivation and cultivation is sustained through payment of what is due to the peasantry, by just dealing and fairness. Let therefore, be no place for extortion in your heart; the dynasty of Kings, who recognise rights of the people, endures long and becomes old, but the dynasty of extortionists swiftly perishes."


Nizamul-Mulk writes as the Chief Executive with thirty years experience in actual government and the whole book is permeated with the Islamic principles of good government. He is strongly opposed to B'atiniya sect, like Ghazali, and is against their employment in government service even in lower capacities. The sovereign has to be just as to him "Justice is the might of the world and power of sovereignty in which the well-being of the common people as well as the elect con­sists." He must devote all his attention and efforts to the good of reli­gion so that God Almighty may grant him the necessary ability to conduct temporal and spiritual affairs of the State. In the temporal affairs, Nizamul Mulk singled out for special attention - Army and Finance and Taxation, of spiritual ones, the sovereign’s duty is to defend pure Sunni Islam and give personal example of life of piety and devotion. It is good advice in keeping with his times. The restraints on absolute monarchy could only be what are enjoined by Shariah. He re­peatedly emphasised the accountability of the ruler before God and affirmed that if he scrupulously followed the Shariah the despot would be transformed into a good just Muslim monarch.


This was all very well but Imam Ghazali wanted to go further and provide checks to arbitrary rule and unwarranted behaviour. While he could not force a Majlisi-Shura on the King as enjoined by the Quran and utilised by "Khulafai-Rashidin" [26] as an instrument for policy and decision making as he explained in detail in "Ihyaul Ulum," how the duty of keeping the monarch and others on Islamic rails developed on Ulema through performing the Amr Bil Maroof and, Anihali Munkar. " [27] Then he went a step further and enjoined this duty on every Muslim. He himself set about doing exactly the same thing and took upon himself the duty which he was preaching to others. In Ihya-ul-Ulum he had come to the conclusion that the main reason for loss of courage, fail­ure to speak out against inequities, was their nearness to and depen­dence for sustenance on the Court. So he gave up his worldly position and possessions and took an oath at the tomb of Hazrat Ibrahim never to go near the Court or accept any financial help from them and he stuck to it for nearly 12 years. In addition to what he wrote in Ihya­ul-Ulum he started writing letters to those who mattered, including the Vaziers, who succeeded Nizamul Mulk and they were son and grandson of Nizamul Mulk-Fakhrul Mulk and Sadar Din Mohammad admonish­ed and advised them to run the country on correct Islamic lines. His Book "Advice to the Kings" - was in fact a letter of advice to the reigning monarch, Mohammad Shah-bin-Malik Shah, which in its length became almost a book and could very briefly be summarised as follows:


(1)   The duties of every Muslim are two fold - one towards God and one to His creatures. God may forgive the first one but not the second one.

 (2)   The King must realise the great responsibility that rests on him. The Holy Prophet has said that on the Last Day the tyrant ruler would be punished most severely. Hazrat Umar feared that if even an animal went without nourishment he would be answerable to God and he upbraided, them saying "you are so indifferent to the condition of he people you rule." Then he uses strong language and says "if you are fond of food you are like a beast, if fond of silk and embroidered dress you are like a woman."

(3)   The King was like any other man and the kingdom belonged to God to whom every one was answerable. Do unto others what you would like done to you.

(4)   Behave in the world within the Sunnah so you see prosperity around you and have a good abode in the hereafter.


This had the desired effect and Ibn-Asir writes that "Mohammad Shah removed octroi duties, reduced taxes, and abolished compulsory un­paid labour and travel visas. The remissions given were displayed on boards in market places," and ends by saying, "that as the King was just, merciful and vigilant, the other functionaries also reformed themselves and prosperity returned to the realm."

This was what Imam Ghazali had striven for.

However, it is worth emphasizing that, though it would be wrong to index him as the product of his times, we must take into considera­tion the time and circumstances in which he lived when we examine his position on matters of the State. The main source of danger for the State, as represented by the Seljuks, and in Nizamul-Mulk and in Al-Ghazali's view, was the Ismaili movement called by them B'atiniya or Ta'limiyia, represented by the Fatimids, and later during Al-Ghazali's lifetime, by Hassan bin Sabbah, who broke away from the Fatimidh and established in 1094 his seat - Alamut nearer home. The main doctrine of an infallible Imam seemed to Al-Ghazali to be particularly dangerous to the Sunni creed. Major portion of his literary activity was devoted to demolishing this main thesis of theirs. On the religious side he sin­cerely preached that after the Holy Prophet (Peace Be upon Him) there was no need for any Imam's guidance. One of his famous books on this theme was 'Al-Qist'-as-al-Mustaqim" which only last year became available in English translation as "The Just Balance" Tr: by D.P. Brewester of University of Canterbury, Christ Church, New Zealand. On the poli­tical side he deals with the office of the Khalifa or Imam as Head of the Muslim Community, symbolising its political unity and sovereignty of the Muslim State. In "Al-Iqti'sad-fil-ltiqad" he discussed the nature and purpose of the Khalifat or Imamat from the classical orthodox point of view. In "Al-Mustazhiri," a commissioned work by the reigning Caliph "Al-Mustazhir," he had to face the political realism of a nominal Ca­liph reigning and a powerful Seljuk Sultan actually ruling the realm. A compromise had to be made and in it the Khalifs was to delegate au­thority to one Sultan who gave allegiance to him. The Sultan was the man in control of affairs but owed allegiance to the Imam-Khalifa and honoured his prerogatives of the Friday Khutba and of the coinage in his name. He thus accepted "the Law of Necessity," as we call it today, subject to the main condition that the sovereignty of the Khalifa was not impinged which, in most of the countries at present, would be the written constitution, representing the will of the people. Its sanctity and supremacy has to be preserved and the powers of the Head of the State have to be as prescribed, exercised through instruments as ruled.

In religion, he upheld the pristine purity of Sunni-Islam and vigo­rously enjoined full acceptance and honest practice of the tenets of Islam in letter and spirit and his whole life was devoted to explain the spirit behind the letter.


The significance and importance of Imam Ghazali lies in the ra­tional base that he provided for the orthodox Sunni theology. He mas­tered the Mutazallites, the B'atinites and turned the tables on them. There was extreme reaction amongst the orthodox against extreme rationalistic attitude of the Mutazallites, further aggravated by Al-Mamun’s [28] attempt to make the Mutazallite doctrine of "Createdness" of the Quran as test of Faith and, what has been termed as the Inquisi­tion (Minna) followed. Strong reaction of Imam Ahmad bin-Hanbal and his followers swung the pendulum to the other extreme. Any question­ing of dogmatic belief or raising the question of how and why was not permitted. Imam Ghazali personified in himself this reaction but restor­ed the balance. The movement started by Al-Ashari found in Imam Ghazali its most profound and most vocal exponent, but miles ahead of him and of his own teacher the Imam-ul-Harmayn. The title he earned in his life time - Hujjatul Islam - he has retained to this day. I think the earliest mention of him as Hujjatul Islam is in the letter that the Chief Minister Sadruddin Mohammad-bin-Fakhrul-hulk-bin-Nizamul-Mulk Tusi wrote on behalf of Sultan Sanjar and on behalf Khalifa Mus­tazhir-Billah persuading Imam Ghazali to give up his retirement from the world and return to Baghdad and take over the Nizamayah Col­lege once again. In the letter he was addressed as Ziauddin, Hujjatul Islam, and Reformer of his times. The letter was signed by the Caliph the Prime Minister, and all the Ministers and dignatories of the Court. The impact of Greek Philosophy never left him and affected all he after-wards did and the Aristotalian method, logic, reasoning were always with him in whatever he wrote. As Al-Ashari by combining Mutazallite method with Hanbali doctrines defused the first wave of much too free thinking in religious matter, Imam Ghazali rendered the greater service by bringing together philosophy and theology and blowing out the flame of pure philosophical theorising culminating in Ibn Sina though in reality Al-Ghazali could never free himself from the influence of Ibn Sina who dominated his age. His contribution was making the philoso­phical thinking available in easily understood language to general run of theologians and the intellectuals of the ordinary run for whom the books of Farabi and Ibn Sina were technically too difficult to understand. The intellectual acclaim that he received for his efforts, led to a genuine revival of religion and he demonstrated how the theological formulations should be linked with the deepest life of a true Muslim.


Now let us turn to his speculations about the nature of mystical experience linked with a new vista in the field of Sufis and their ex­perience. It should not be forgotten that Ghazali was in the prime of his life - 37 years old - when he gave up the world and the worldly position, possessions and honours to satisfy the other instinct of other worldliness. Having mastered all that was there to master in the intellec­tual movements of his times, his turning to mysticism was too natural as this was the only field left unexplored. He approached the mystical path also from the intellectual side. As he says in his autobiographical sketch "The Deliverance from Error" he, like philosophy, studied all that was there to study. But he knew that "the complete mystic way includes both intellectual belief and practical activity." "I apprehended clearly that the mystics were men who had real experiences, not men of words and that I had already progressed as far as was possible by way of intellectual apprehension. What remained for me was not to be attained by oral instructions and study but only by immediate experience and by walking in the mystic way."


"It had become clear to me that I had no hope of the bliss of the world to come save through a God-fearing life and the withdrawal of myself from vain desires. It was clear to me too that the key to all this was to sever the attachment of the heart to worldly things by leaving the mansion of deception and returning to that of eternity and to ad­vance towards God Most High with all earnestness. It was also clear that this was only to be achieved by turning away from wealth and position and fleeing from all time consuming entanglements," And he fled.


It is wrong to say that he wandered in wilderness for 11 long years. He went to only - Damascus, Jerusalem and its nearby "Al-Khalil" (Hebron of the Bible) and Mecca and Medina. This in my view did not take more than four years. Because as he says, "Before long various concerns together with entreaties of my children drew me back to my home country (Tus and not the far off Nishapur). Here too I sought retirement, still longing for solitude and the purification of the heart. The events of the interval, the anxieties about my family, the necessities of my livehood altered the aspect of my purpose and impair­ed the quality my solitude, for I experienced pure ecstasy only occa­sionally although I did not cease to hope for that; obstacles would hold me back, yet I always returned to it.

"I continued at this stage for years, and during these periods of solitude there were revealed to me things innumerable and unfathomable”

The fulfilment was there: as "I learned with certainty that it is above all the mystics, who walk on the road of God; their life is the best life, their method the soundest method, their character the purest character. Indeed, were the intellects of the intellectuals, the learning of the learned, the scholarship of the scholars brought together and an attempt to improve upon the life and character of the Sufis were made, they would find no way of doing so; for, to the mystics all movement and all rest brings illumination from the lamp of Prophetic revelation, and behind the light of prophetic revelation there is no other light on the face of the Earth from which illumination may be received."


"In general what the Sufis manage to achieve is nearness to God, some, however, would conceive of this as "Hulul" (Inherence), some as "Ittihad" (Union) and some as "Wasul" (connection or return)." Hal­laj cries out "Anal-Haq" and Bayazid Bistami proclaims "Subhani, Ma Azamat Shahani" (Glory be to Me, How great is My Majesty). And Imam Ghazali ends with the statement that "he who has attained the mystic state need no more than say: "Of the things I do not remember; what was, think it good; do not ask an account of it." And it evokes the Quranic version of "Mairaj" "And He saw what he saw."

Prior to Ghazali's times Sufis were considered a queer set for people outside the pale of Sunni thought and practice. Some thought them to be a secret sect and a secret plague. Their non-observance of prescribed outward ritualism made them targets of abuse and avoidance. Al-Ghazali's experience and jump into Sufism was from the well grounded Faith and Belief in God, Prophethood and the Last day, already referred to above. His main achievement was to bring Sufism in harmony with the orthodox dogma insisting on performance of the common religious duties, through his own personal example he brought the accepted beliefs in harmony with Sufism. He made it possible for the orthodox to accept Sufism as the higher form of orthodox spiri­tualism and perhaps made the mystics more careful to remain within the bounds of orthodoxy. By his retirement he resolved his own prob­lems and gave to others access to the same inner salvation.

It is interesting to note the reason which he records in his autobiography, for teaching again, after withdrawal from it, was consulta­tion with the other Sufis who advised him to abandon his retirement.


He had such visions, which he hints at that he inclined to believe hi-self to be the Mujjadid of the next 6th Century Hijra/12th Century AD. only a six months away.

This was destined for another person, already born 19 years after him and at the time of his (Ghazali's) death was a mature man of 34 years. He was Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani (1077-1166 A.D.) who gave absolutely new turn by initiating and founding new mystical fraternity; the Tariqa and since then there has been no turning back.

Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani started his preaching in 1127 A.D. 16 years after the death of Imam Ghazali and so must have studied his works which were so well-known. Imam Ghazali's influence on him can be traced to what every body acknowledges was his final achievement. After having demolished all the disputative and disruptive forces with, Islam, Al-Ghazali added the weight of his authority to the movement by accepting the mystic part of personal spiritual experience as a valid, and in some ways greater, proof of the existence of God, making revelation superior to reason in quest of inner truth and the final essence and asserted by personal experience that "0, you who inhabit the world of reason, mistake not that there exists another plane in which appear things that do not appear in reason." The grip of reason was "however, so strong on him that here too he argued that "the knowledge of in­telligible is attained by learning and study and also by divine inspira­tion - the personal striving is essential for both - though the modes and methods differ. Divine intuition and inspiration supervene either swiftly or slowly as there is difference between the ranks of scientists, philosophers, saints and prophets in respect of it." And it is in accor­dance with the Quranic verse. "And Man can have nothing but what he strives for" (The Quran: Surah-5: V. 39).


The furtherest reach of acquisition is the degree of the Prophet, to whom all or most realities are revealed without conscious acquisi­tion or effort, by Divine Revelation in the swiftest possible time." In his "Ihya-ul-Ulum" written after his mystical experience, in the book on "Things Leading to Salvation" he shows the "Tariqa" - "different station and states of the way-farer like Renunciation and Poverty, Pe­nance, Love and Longing."

But it was left to Sh: Abdul Qadir Jilani to systemise this "Tari­qa " and make it a way of the life for the masses and the elect. What effect it had on Muslim thought and on acquisition of knowledge is written into Islamic history.


But one point may be mentioned here that Ghazali in making Prophet the Chief and the main pivot separated S'ufis from Inherence/ Union to which the orthodox had always objected and turned them to "the Perfect Prophet" and Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani took up this thread and wove it into a new pattern to which he introduced the world of Islam. Later Pirs converted it into "Obedience to Shaikh" making: Sh: Abdul Qadir Gilani, Shuhrawardis, Chishtis the Ideal Shaikh. Since Ghazali's times the Prophet Mohammad's (Peace Be upon Him) Shariah and his own perfection became the binding force for the Umma. It was Ghazali's finest present to Sufi and through them to Islam. The unity he forged in the Muslim beliefs and interpre­tation of dogma he gave is his ever-lasting contribution.


 Through his own experience he convinced himself and through his vigorous writings he convinced his generation that in the final ana­lysis it was the mystic element and its illumination which made religious life a reality through a dreamy dream.

He had already gone on record: "In dreams you imagine things and you believe that they are real and genuine, so long as you are in the dream state; but when you wake up you realise that these dreams have no basis in reality.


Philosophy in the Muslim East died with Avicenna and in the Western Islam the last was Ibn Rushd who did give battle to Ghazali. The flowering ushered in by Al-Kindi and Farabi, nourished by Al-Razi and Ibn Sina, last watered by Ibn Rushd withered with Ibn Taimiyyia after having been ploughed in by Ar-Ghazali. Their tools were Greek but the field was Islam. Farabi and Ibn Sina achieved as well as any man could - a reconciliation between Philosophy and revealed religion. Ibn Sins never wished to undermine the foundations of the revealed reli­gion or destroy religion for the sake of Philosophy unlike Al-Ghazali, who with a hatchet, made from the same old Greek tools, gleefully set about multilating philosophy and uproot it in favour of religion. But I do not wholly subscribe to the view, as Arberry and others do, that "if Avicenna's interpretation of personal immortality had prevailed, the subsequent history of Muslim thought would have been different and that it is possible that the Greek philosophy would have continued upon its vitalising course." All the modern Western Orientalists hold that the fatal blow to philosophy in Islam was given by Ghazali and Wil­lie Durant laments that the Philosophy in the East died with Avicenna. But a very basic fact is ignored by them that the Greek learning had itself exhausted its vitalising force and Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd had absorbed what was there to be absorbed. The intellectual ferment had to find a new firmament and the speculative thought had to move in another new direction. Ghazali did not put a closure on speculative thought as no one man, even one as gifted, as scholarly and as divinely inspired as the great Ghazali, can deprive a civilizations of thinking pro­cess. What did Ghazali do was to give a new direction and divert the turbulent Sufism into a placid stream. And the succeeding centuries of Islamic thought delved deep into this stream and produced intellects of a different mould. This is well illustrated by the true story of Abu Said ibn Abul Khayr, who was contemporary and friend of Ibn Sina, and said of him "What I see he knows," to which the Philosopher replied, "What I know he sees." The aim was the same to know the truth, the process and the channels and the seas were different. And Ghazali stands in that midstream. At their peak, philosophy and reli­gion meet in the sense and contemplation of universal unity and where science and philosophy fail and reason falters, faith restores the balance. This balance was achieved by Ghazali and there in lies his significance to the modern Muslim world as well.

It is true as has been said that the modern sciences and the achie­vements in physical science and the marvels of the technology again pose a threat to the Islamic world as faced by the giants of the Abba­side and subsequent periods. They laboured, they studied, they absorb­ed and made it their own and gave it back to the succeeding generations in an improved form. Our present generation has to do the same and not just sit, stare and marvel. Ghazali mastered all that was there to master in his time. (He was also a poet both in Arabic and Persian) and put it to his generation what is to be accepted and what's to be rejected. And it was mathematical and physical Sciences that he accepted as essential studies, from philosophy he repudiated only what in its inter­pretation it contradicted revelation and accepted its keen analytical approach. He adopted rationalism as his own even in interpretation of orthodox Sunni dogma. His works are permeated with it.


To him belong the great merit and the great credit to have made personal spiritual Sufistic experience not only a valid but superior part of an enlightened religious man. But here too he insists that "though the validity of Sufi method is indisputable and undoubtedly it brings those who practice it to their goal, which is the sublime state enjoyed by Saints and Prophets," it must be rooted in and remain under the control of trained reason and his advice is that "the best course for a man is first to follow the path of Scientific study and to acquire by la­bourers learning as much of the demonstrative sciences as human power can compass... And after that there is no harm in his electing to withdraw from the world and to devote himself entirely to God in an expec­tant mood." He gives an explicit warning that "if the soul has not been exercised in the sciences that deal with fact and demonstration, it will acquire mental phantoms that it will suppose to be truths descending upon it." According to him "many a Sufis has continued for years in one such fancy before escaping from it, whereas if he had a sound scientific education he would have been delivered out of it at once" (Mizan-al-Amal)...


"The greatest thing," it has been said by a recent [29] writer and translator of one of his books, "about Al-Ghazali was his personality and it may again be a source of inspiration. "Islam is now wrestling with Western thought as it once wrestled with Greek Philosophy and is as much in need as it was then of a "Revival of Religious Sciences." Deep study of Al-Ghazali may suggest steps to be taken by Muslims if they are to deal successfully with the contemporary situation. Christian World too is in a cultural melting pot and must be prepared to learn from Islam and is unlikely to find a more sympathetic guide than AI-Ghazali."


The steps to be taken need not be spelt out here. But I would repeat what I have been saying for years that one can not develop an illiterate nation either materially or spiritually.


We have no right to keep 80% of our children ignorant of the Quran, its teachings and its great Preacher through whom God Almi­ghty chose to reveal it to a sick humanity. His final message. How many Ghazali's are still born without being awakened? Imam Ghazali too was born of poor parents. Both he and his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazali who, in his own right was a greater Sufi and a better known poet, rece­ived education at the Government subsidised institution and helped to receive the light which is still undimmed. The Muslims led the intellec­tual world because there was no illiteracy and. the literate was helped to become learned. The West received the light from both Eastern and Western Islam but the intellectual flowering in Europe took place only when education became common and learning appreciated. The present day examples are before us and we don't learn the lesson. The socialist countries in Eastern Europe and China in Asia gained final control in 1948 and 49, a year or two years after Pakistan. The first priority was removal of illiteracy a political necessity as they wanted the new generation uncontaminated with the capitalist lore, and taking in hand the first generation of children, who were 5-7 years old, they ushered in the enlightened period within ten years. They did not let one generation remain unlettered. The rest followed and see the material results.


Along with this new education movement, which will be a reversal of Sir Syed's educational policy which we are following in Pakistan, though the times, the need, the requirements have changed, we will have to follow Ghazali in his quest of learning, his emphasis on mastery of physical and mathematical sciences and retaining the questioning mind. His "Revival of the Religious Sciences" is a must study for the present generation. Though both he and his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazali, made and issued a summarised version I suggest inclusion as text book in different stages the first part at the High. School stage, the second II year, the third year and the Fourth in the final. Arabic medium schools should be started to produce subsequently Arabic scholars to open the vast treasures of Arabic scholarship.


Thousands of Arabic manuscripts in Sciences, Literature and Philosophy lie hidden in the libraries of the Muslim World, in Istanbul alone there are no less than forty to forty five Museum and Mosque Libraries with uncatalogued manuscripts. The same is the case with Cairo, Iran, Iraq and this sub-continent and even Spain. Through RCD I sponsored the scheme of cataloguing them, Iran made substantial progress and published 5 volumes but Pakistan lagged behind most. It is worth quoting Willie Durant who says "what we know of Muslim thought up to 12th Century is a fragment of what survives, what survives is a fragment of what was produced; what appears in Press is a morsel of a fraction of a fragment. When scholarship has surveyed more thoroughly this half forgotten legacy, we shall probably rank the tenth and 11th Century) in Islam as one of the golden ages in the history of the mind. Our mind is imprisoned in the skin of the Western Orientalism. To see and appreciate faith and culture from its own point of view is a diffi­cult task and while a conscious attempt is made to be impartial, the un­conscious prejudice does come to surface."


Against Al-Ghazali this prejudice appears in the verdict that he snuffed the light of enquiry and ushered in a decadence which led to three dark centuries after him. The statement has influenced our Mus­lim scholars who have begun to come to prominence because of their scholarship and I was pained to see it repeated in Pakistan that Muslims followed Ghazali in Faith and lost the leadership and the West followed Avicenna and snatched the torch from the Muslim hands.


Already in the 12th century the Arabic Philosophers were inf­luencing Christian thought through Spain. Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd entered Latin Europe. Such an invasion by alien thought was a mental shock of the first order and at first met with an attempt at repression by the Church. In 1210 a Church Council at Paris forbade the reading of Aristotle's "Metaphysics and Natural Philosophy" or Averroe's (Ibn Rushd) commentaries thereon. In 1263 Thomas Aquinas assured Pope Urban IV that Aristotle could be "steri­lised." What he feared more was the "Averroeism grounded in an alien faith."


The thirteenth century in Latin Europe did not suddenly see the acceptance of new ideas. It was in fact the battle ground for free thinkers trying to absorb the Arab scholarship, the materialists denying resurrection - "since the soul perishes with the body," the pantheists of the Greek variety and the atheists of the secular society all contested with the Church for the possession of the European mind. Averroeism became a fashion with the educated classes in France and Southern Italy. Thousands accepted what they thought were the true meaning of Averroes thought that the natural Law rules the world without inter­ference by God that there is only one immortal soul, the Active Intellect. The Church condemned as heresies what Muslims philosophers had taught (which Ghazali combated) "That there is only one Active intel­lect; that the world is eternal, That the soul is corrupted with the corruption of the body; That God does not know individual events, That human actions are not ruled by divine Providence." All this sounds familiar. The urbanization, industrialization, contact with the Muslim world through the Crusades further added fuel to the fire of unbelief. And they Started on a path that led to division of Churches, division of Europe into warring nations and to the present moral bankruptcy and inner emptiness because they didn't have a Ghazali to restore the balance between Philosophy and faith and resolve the conflict between Revelation and Reason and illumine the path of reason with a ray of the Divine Light.

This is the tragedy of the West and the greatness of Al-Ghazali.