Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī
By Abu Tariq Hijazi
22 February 2013
Imam Al-Ghazali is one of the greatest Islamic Jurists, theologians, entitled as Hujjatul Islam, (Ornament of the Faith)," Sharaful A'emma (Honor of the Scholar), Zainuddin "Great Siddîq," absolute Mujtahid, a major, a debater and expert in the principles of doctrine and jurisprudence.
Historians regard him as the most influential scholar of the fifth century. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the renowned scholar of our time, states that, like ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and Imam al-Shafi‘i for their respective times, al-Ghazali is unanimously considered as the Renewer (Mujaddid) of the Fifth Islamic Century.
Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad, Abu Hamid al-Tusi al-Ghazali was born in 450AH/1058 in Tus, a city in Khorasan province of Persia (Iran). His father, a trader of wool yarn (so he was named as Ghazali) died when he and his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazali, were still young. In 1070, when Ghazali was 12, he went to Jurjan and joined madrassah and studied Holy Quran, Hadith and fiqh. He returned to Tus after 7 years.
Among his teachers in law, debate, and principles were Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Râdhakâni in Tus, and Abu Nasr al-Isma‘ili in Jurjan. Later he visited Nishapur in 1080 and joined Academy of the famous scholar Imam al Haramain Abu'l Ma'ali Al Juwayni upto his death in 1085. During this period he acquired great knowledge and led many discourses. Nizamul Mulk Tusi, the powerful vizier of the Seljuq sultans invited him to his court.
The vizier was so impressed by scholarship of Ghazali that he appointed him as the head of the Nizamiyah College at Baghdad in AH 484/AD 1091. Al Ghazali rose to new heights and his discussions made him renowned throughout the Muslim world. After four years when he was at the pinnacle of fame he realized that this verbatim knowledge has no value until it is imbibed into the character of a Muslim scholar. Al-Ghazali fell into a serious spiritual crisis and finally left Baghdad, renouncing the world and his career. He said: "We sought after knowledge for other than Allah’s sake, but Almighty Allah refused that it be for anything other than Him."
Making arrangements for his family, he disposed all of his wealth and adopted the life of a Saint. After performing Haj at Makkah Mukarramah and a visit to Madina Munawwarah in 1106, he spent some time in Damascus and Jerusalem. He finally settled in Tus where he was engaged in writing, teaching his disciples until his death. He ended his seclusion for a short period lecturing at the Nizamiyah College of Nishapur. Later he returned to Tus where he remained engaged in his scholarly pursuits until his death in December, 1111. He left a son named Abdu'l Rahman Allam. The mausoleum of Al-Ghazali is expected to be situated at Haruniyah (named after Harun al-Rashid) in Tus, Iran,
The eventful life of al-Ghazali can be divided into three major periods. The first period of 17 years was for learning from his childhood to 1085. Second of four years upto 488 (1095) was for teaching at Nizamiyah College Baghdad as a Doctor of Jurisprudence. This period was short but significant.
Third phase of 17 years 488-505 (1095-1111) was of his renouncing the world, seclusion, meditation, scholarship and teaching his disciples until his death. And this was the cream of his life.
Imam Ghazali was from Ahl Sunnah following Shafe’i maslak and strongly refuting the Mutazilites.
Imam Ghazali was of Persian origin. His first language was Persian but he wrote his famous and classic books in Arabic. It is recorded that he wrote more than 70 books on Islamic sciences, Philosophy and mysticism. However, there are more than 400 books attributed to him today. In philosophy he bitterly denounced Aristotle, Socrates and other Greek writers as non-believers and discouraged the use of their references in Islamic literature.
His major works in Arabic
1. Ghazali's major work is Ihya' Ulum al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences). It covers almost all fields of Islamic sciences. It is said that "If all Islamic sciences were disappeared, they could be taken back from Ihya'u Ulumiddin."
2. Kitab al-arba‘in fi usul al-din (The Forty Chapters on the Principles of Religion),
3. Hujjat al-Haq (Proof of the Truth)
4. Mishkat al-anwar (The Niche of the Lights)
5. Jawahir al-Qur'an wa duraruh (Jewels of the Qur'an and its Pearls)
6. Fayasl al-tafriqa bayn al-Islam wa-l-zandaqa (The Criterion of Distinction between Islam and Clandestine Unbelief)
7. Munqidh min al-dalal; (The Deliverer From Error). His autobiography which he wrote towards the end of his life, a work of major importance.
8. Faza'ilul al-anam min rasa'ili hujjat al-Islam. Arabic translation of his Persian letters he wrote in response to the kings, ministers, jurists and some of his friends. The collection was made by one of his grandchildren after his death.
His major works in Persian
1. Kimyayé Sa'adat (The Alchemy of Happiness). His most important work in Persian . It is Al-Ghazali's own Persian version of Ihya'ul ulumuddin. It is regarded as one of the outstanding works of 11th-century in Persian literature. It has been translated into English, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and other languages.
2. Nasihatul Muluk (The Counseling Kings), It is another most celebrated of his works is written most probably for Sultan Ahmad Sanjar ibn Malekshah. It was translated into Arabic under the title al-Tibr al-masbuk fi nasihat al-muluk (The Forged Sword in Counseling Kings).
3. Zad-e Akherat (Provision for the Hereafter) is an important book of Ghazali. The greater part of it consists of the translation of his Arabic book, Bedayat al-Hedaya (Beginning of Guidance).
4. Pand-nama (Book of Counsel) is another good book of advice and probably attributed to Sultan Sanjar. .
5. Ay Farzand (O son!) is a short book of counsel that Ghazali wrote for one of his students. The book was translated into Arabic entitled ayyuhal walad.
Sufism was quite prevalent during the time of Imam Ghazali, but neither had it any code of ethics nor it was acknowledged by Muslim Ulama. He knew that Sufism played vital role in changing the life of thousands people and also in spreading Islam to the distant corners of the world. He studied it and practiced it personally. Finding it effective he integrated the concepts of Sufism well with the Shariah laws.
He was the First to present a formal ethics of Sufism in his works. Thus he reformed the Sufism and got it affiliated with Shariah. This is the pattern followed by the Sufism upto present times. He received great praise for his acts and works but he also received some criticism from scholars like Ibn Taymiya, and Ibn Qayyem who were also criticized for their opinions.
Ibn al-Jawzi narrated in al-Thabat ‘Inda al-Mamat ("Firmness at the Time of Death") from al-Ghazzali’s brother Ahmad: "On Monday [14 Jumada al-Akhira] at the time of the dawn prayer my brother Abu Hamid Al Ghazali made his ablution, prayed, then said: ‘Bring me my Kafan (shroud).’ He took it, kissed it and put it on his eyes, saying: ‘We hear and obey in readiness to enter the King’s presence.’ Then he stretched his legs, facing the Qibla, and died before sunrise – may Allah sanctify his soul!" And grant him great reward from the Islamic Ummah. Amen.
It is related that Abul Hasan Ali al-Shadhili saw a dream in which the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) pointed out al-Ghazali to Prophet Musa and Prophet Isa asking them: "Is there such a wise scholar in your communities?" to which they replied “NO”. Subhan Allah