al-Ghazālī Criticism - Essay

Journal of the American Oriental Society (essay date 1899)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Life of al-Ghazzālī, with Special Reference to His Religious Experiences and Opinions.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 20 (1899): 71-132.

[In the following essay, the critic examines aspects of al-Ghazālī's life, travels, and studies which readily influenced his theological positions.]

In the history of the development of Muslim theology two names stand out conspicuously, each marking a great point of departure. They are those of al-Ash‘arī1 and al-Ghazzālī. The former was the principal founder of scholastic theology in Islām; it was under the hands of the latter that that theology took its final form, and the Church of...

(The entire section is 29261 words.)

George F. Hourani (essay date 1958)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hourani, George F. “The Dialogue between al-Ghazālī and the Philosophers on the Origin of the World.” Muslim World 48, nos. 3/4 (July/October 1958): 183-91, 308-14.

[In the following essay, Hourani examines al-Ghazālī's arguments against the proofs of the eternity of the world as advanced by Islamic philosophers.]


Few writings in the history of philosophy reflect such an impression of exciting intellectual combat as the celebrated debate of the two Tahāfuts on whether the world is eternal in the past or originated.1 It is also one of the central texts of Islamic philosophy. But the argument follows a...

(The entire section is 7644 words.)

M. Umaruddin (essay date 1962)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Umaruddin, M. “The Freedom of the Will.” In The Ethical Philosophy of Al-Ghazzālī, pp. 69-81. Aligarh, India: The Aligarh Muslim University Press, 1962.

[In the following excerpt, Umaruddin explains al-Ghazālī's views on divine will, human freedom, and causation.]

The problem of the freedom of the will, because of its great ethical significance, received the close attention of al-Ghazzālī. There are three aspects of this problem. Al-Ghazzālī believes that the efficacy of will in changing and improving character is a necessary postulate of ethics. Secondly, he considers that will is determined by knowledge. This he tries to prove by a penetrating...

(The entire section is 6243 words.)

W. Montgomery Watt (essay date 1963)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Watt, W. Montgomery. “The World of al-Ghazālī.” In Muslim Intellectual: A Study of al-Ghazali, pp. 7-24. Edinburgh: The Edinburgh University Press, 1963.

[In the following excerpt, Watt provides political, religious, and intellectual background to the education of al-Ghazālī.]


In a sense the background of the life of any individual is the whole previous history of his civilization. For an understanding of al-Ghazālī it will be sufficient to glance briefly at the history of the Islamic empire or caliphate from the death of Muḥammad in 632 to the birth of al-Ghazālī in 1058. In these four centuries...

(The entire section is 5770 words.)

A. L. Tibawi (essay date 1965)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Tibawi, A. L. “Al-Ghazāli's Sojourn in Damascus and Jerusalem.” Islamic Quarterly 9, nos. 1/2 (January/June 1965): 65-77.

[In the following essay, Tibawi discusses evidence that al-Ghazālī spent years in Syria under the instruction of scholar Shaikh Nasr and also considers how the Risalah was influenced by al-Ghazālā's residency in Jerusalem.]


The comparatively numerous studies on al-Ghazāli1 have left an important period of his life as obscure as it has always been. His decision to relinquish the post of chief mudarris at the Nizāmiyyah in Baghdad, his subsequent sojourn in Syria, and his...

(The entire section is 6958 words.)

George F. Hourani (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hourani, George F. “Ghazālī on the Ethics of Action.” In Reason and Tradition in Islamic Ethics, pp. 135-66. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

[In the following excerpt, Hourani analyzes al-Ghazālī's theory that rules for action derive from revelation and cannot be learned through reasoning independently.]


With all the breadth of his interests as a theologian, jurist, logician, educator, Sūfī, critic of philosophy and foe of Isma‘ilism, Ghazālī's central concern throughout his life (a.d. 1058-1111) may fairly be described as an ethical one: right conduct and the purification of the soul by the...

(The entire section is 15607 words.)

Elton L. Daniel (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Daniel, Elton L. Preface to The Alchemy of Happiness, by Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzâlî, pp. xi-xxxix. Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991.

[In the following excerpt, Daniel explains why al-Ghazālī embraced Sufism and compares and contrasts The Alchemy of Happiness with The Revivification of the Religious Sciences.]

In studying the history of world civilizations, few if any concepts are more difficult for people of modern times to comprehend than the intense religiosity which characterized so many civilizations—medieval European, Byzantine, Islamic, Indian, East Asian—during the period from the fall of the classical empires to the...

(The entire section is 9307 words.)

Majid Fakhry (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Fakhry, Majid. “The Synthesis: al-Ghazālī (D. 1111).” In Ethical Theories in Islam, pp. 193-206. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991.

[In the following excerpt, Fakhry explores al-Ghazālī's beliefs concerning the soul, happiness, and the seeking of God.]


We have in al-Ghazālī's thought, both speculative and practical, the most articulate synthesis of the fundamental currents in Islamic thought, the philosophical, the religious and the mystical. His ethical theory is contained in his only extant ethical treatise, Mīzān al-‘Amal (Criterion of Action), and...

(The entire section is 5766 words.)

Michael E. Marmura (essay date 1997)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Marmura, Michael E. Translator's introduction to The Incoherence of the Philosophers, by Al-Ghazālī, translated by Michael E. Marmura, pp. xv-xxvii. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Marmura assesses the importance of al-Ghazālī's Tahāfut al-falāsifa, explains its purpose and chief arguments, and examines some of the critical responses it generated.]


Al-Ghazālī's Tahāfut al-falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) marks a turning point in the intellectual and religious history of medieval Islam. It brought to a head a conflict between Islamic speculative...

(The entire section is 5823 words.)