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Ghazali - Confessions or Deliverance From Error

Ghazali - Confessions or Deliverance From Error

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Published by Qazim Ali Sumar

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Published by: Qazim Ali Sumar on Aug 29, 2010
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07/21/2013

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1
Confessions,
or
 Deliverance from Error
 
Munkidhmin al-Dalal
 
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111CE)
c. 1100 CE
 
2
Introduction
 [Corrected from the somewhat inaccurate account at
 Abu Hamid  Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al-Tusi al-Shafi'i
 al-Ghazali
 [
Ghazali
in Persian,
Al-Ghazali
in Arabic) was born in 450/41 AH/1058 A.D. in Tus in Khorasan, (a region of Iran). His father died while he was still very young but he had the opportunity of getting education in the prevalent curriculum at Nishapur and  Baghdad. Soon he acquired a high standard of scholarship inreligion and philosophy and was honoured by his appointment as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, whichwas recognised as one of the most reputed institutions of learning in the golden era of Muslim history. After a few years,however, he gave up his academic pursuits and worldly interestsand became a wandering ascetic. This was a process (period) of  personal mystical transformation. Later, he resumed histeaching duties, but again left these. An era of solitary life,devoted to contemplation and writing then ensued, which led tothe author- ship of a number of everlasting books. He died in505 AH/1111 A.D. at Tus.
 
 Al-Ghazali's major contribution lies in religion, philosophy and Sufism. A number of Muslim philosophers had been followingand developing several viewpoints of Greek philosophy,including the Neoplatonic philosophy, and had lead to conflict with several Islamic teachings. On the other hand, themovement of sufism was assuming such excessive proportions asto avoid observance of obligatory prayers and duties of Islam. Based on his unquestionable scholarship and personal mysticalexperience, Ghazali sought to rectify these trends, both in philosophy and sufism.
 
 In philosophy, Ghazali upheld the approach of mathematics and exact sciences as essentially correct. However, he adopted thetechniques of Aristotelian logic and the Neoplatonic proceduresand employed these very tools to lay bare the flaws and lacunas
 
3
of the then prevalent Neoplatonic philosophy and to diminishthe negative influences of Aristotelianism and excessiverationalism. In contrast to some of the Muslim philosophers,e.g., al-Farabi, he portrayed the inability of reason tocomprehend the absolute and the infinite. Reason could not transcend the finite and was limited to the observa- tion of therelative. Also, several Muslim philosophers had held that theuniverse was finite in space but infinite in time. Ghazali argued that an infinite time was related to an infinite space. In religion, particularly mysticism, he cleansed the approach of sufism of its excesses and reestablished the authority of theorthodox (i.e. Sunni) religion. Yet, he stressed the importance of genuine sufism, which he maintained was the path to attain theabsolute truth.
 
 He was a prolific writer. His books include
Tahafut al-Falasifa
 (The Incoherence of the Philosophers),
Ihya al-'Ulum al-Islamia
 (The Rivival of the Religious Sciences), "The Beginning of Guidance and his Autobiography", "Deliverance from Error".Some of his works were translated into Latin in the Middle Ages,where he was known as Algazel and via the translation of atruncated work, the
Maqasid al-Falasifa
[The Intentions of thePhilosophers.]
 
 Al-Ghazali's influence was deep and everlasting. He is one of the greatest theologians of Islam and his influence penetrated  Europe, influenced Jewish and Christian Scholasticism, and several of his arguments seem to have been adopted by Thomas Aquinas in order to similarly reestablish the authority of orthodox Christian religion in the West.
 
The
 Deliverance from Error
 
The
Munkidh min al-Dalal
(Deliverance from Error 
),
is a sort of intellectual autobiography. A more modern translation can be found in W. Montgomery Watt,
The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali
 , (London: 1951).
 

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