The First Islamic Reviver: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences
THE FIRST ISLAMIC REVIVER – Book Sample
Introduction – THE FIRST ISLAMIC REVIVER
This is a book about the life and thought of the great Persian religious thinker Abū Ḥ ā mid al-Ghaz ā l ī (d. 505/1111). As the title suggests, it argues that he was the fi rst Islamic reviver, the fi rst Muslim thinker to so consciously marshal the rhetoric of revival (iḥy āʾ) and renewal (tajd īd ) in the service of his religious agenda. Al-Ghaz ā l ī is the author of scores of books, but the focus here is the major vehicle of his revivalist agenda, his Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥy āʾ ʿulūm al-d īn), and his worldly eff orts to promote this book over the fi nal decade and a half of his life.
Three other books by al-Ghaz ā l ī play prominent roles in this study. His collected letters provide unique insight into this fi nal phase in his life. His early Scale of Action (Mīz ān al- ʿamal) clarifi es the thesis and aims of the Revival as well as the changes and continuities in his thought that the latter book represents. Finally, this study returns on three occasions to the book that has been the cornerstone of the non-revivalist view of al-Ghaz ā l ī that has prevailed among Western scholars for a century and a half and remains prevalent still today: The Deliverer from Error (al-Munqidh min al- ḍal āl ).
Contextualizing the Deliverer, identifying its intentionally misleading elements, explaining why al-Ghaz ā l ī put them there, and showing misreadings of the text by modern scholars is necessary to clear the way for this new understanding of al-Ghaz ā l ī as a reviver.
To understand The Deliverer from Error and the role it has played in Western al-Ghaz ā l ī reception, we must grasp both al-Ghaz ā l ī ’s circumstances when he wrote it in the 12 th century and the circumstances of the Western scholars who interpreted it in the 19 th and 20 th.
The Deliverer did not simply emerge out of a fl ight of introspection in al-Ghaz ā l ī ’s autumn years. In the face of a vicious campaign against him and his Revival in the city of Nishapur, al-Ghaz ā l ī crafted it as an account of his life and thought that aimed to defl ect charges that he was an Ismaili Shiite and a philosopher.
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