History of Muhammad al-Ghazali

Muhammad al-Ghazali has been acknowledged in this world as one of the elite scholars in the history of Islam. His whole life was devoted to philosophy and his work has inspired many. His theory and study on jurisprudence, theology and mysticism has been his benchmark. Al Ghazali was educated in his hometown in Tus with his brother Ahmad who later became a famous preacher and Sufi scholar (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/al-ghazali/). He was inspired by the work of falasifa and in return he wrote his book on the Incoherence of the Philosophers. His attack against the philosophy of the great Aristotle was his best work. Al Ghazali described his work in the Incoherence of Philosophers as a big movement against all the other philosophers. He does this by showing “demonstrative proof” being superior to theological knowledge. Further in this his work against the teaching of falasifa were criticized in twenty steps.

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Basically Neoplatonism is a term introduced by the great Plotinus. This term was introduced based on plato’s teaching also. Here the neoplatonists makes many interpretations of plato’s work and tried to disagree with him. Plotinus was the introducer of a spiritual philosophical tradition(http://www.kheper.net/topics/Neoplatonism/Plotinus.htm). Basically there are two distinctions between Platonism and Neo-Platonism. A philosopher who agrees with Plato and his theory are named platonists. Neoplatonist on the other hand had no basic school. Neoplatonism basically in a whole talks about religious philosophy. In philosophical terms it is the idealistic monism. To name a few some of the neo Platonists in the history were Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus and Emperor Julian. Platonus inspired many religions. Among them was Islam. He claimed to say that there is ONE supreme power, with no multiplicity and distinction. This “One” he described as not an existing being nor sum of all things.

Now talking about the Islamic philosophy behind the Plotinus theory, this is claimed to be said was found accidental. His work named Theology of Aristotle gave rise to Islamic philosophical theories. The time he wrote this title, was one of the medieval times where Aristotle was regarded very highly. Since them many philosophers moved towards Islamic philosophy and one of the works was Frithj of Schun, which was inspired my Sufism and mysticism and had many similarities to Plotinan’s metaphysics.

Muslims before the time of Al Ghazali were in the bewilderneess of Islamic philosophy of different philosophers. Many researchers had to be performed and ultimately it was found that Plato’s teaching were inconsistent with what Islam had to say. In order to show the light Al Ghazali wrote many documents to prove the inconsistency of the earlier philosophers and documented it in the name of Incoherence of philosophers. Basically he has proved some philosophy from for example Aristotle and Plato to be wrong and against Islamic studies.

Plato being a student of Socrates believed the concept of all material thing in the world to be not existing. On the other hand platonic theory says that he who sees with his eyes is blind. Then came the platonic theory of Neoplatonism which believes that there is only One supreame God or power. This symbolizes the all mighty Allah in Islam. He explains it to be all knowing, all powerful, existing but with no existence etc. all these characteristics falls in Islam.

Ibn Sina who was also known as Avicenna, was one of the Islamic philosopher of old times. He his famous work was of an philosophical work he did writing mainly on Al Ghazali’s philosophy influencing Islam. (http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/sina/). His work were criticized to be following the pattern of Aristotle and Neoplatonism as he combined both teachings. His works can be regarded as of those who mislead the real meaning of Islam. Muslims in those times of 10th century were confused by many theories relating to God or the supreme “One”.

Al Ghazali was a firm believer of Islam and the Quranic theory of God. He was a sunni Muslim and he brought forward the truth. The words of Quran soon proved to be right and slowly trashed the other Greek Islamic philosopher’s theories. His theory of experiencing god was from the power of God and angels called mysticism. Analyzing Al Ghazali’s works in his book called Introduction to the Incoherence of philosophers shows many encounters he made to protect Islam against other philosophers. Al Ghazali encountered many natural facts such as about the world to become extinct. Others philosophers argued that the world would stay as it is forever. Al Ghazali on the other hand counters with scientific reasons saying that the sun had burst once and made this world, and then this world could also be disrupted once.

Above was one of the things he refuted against other philosophers. In total he had twenty points proving that there is only one God and the possibility of having two God is impossible. The following will explain all the remaining twenty explanations of Al Ghazali interpretation against other philosophers. Firstly other philosophers thought that world is eternal. This was proved wrong by him as its Allah’s will to keep this world and if there was a beginning to this world. Secondly he proved that the world is created by God, which other philosophers disagreed by saying that the world is eternal. Al Ghazali proved them wrong by saying that the world is a product of God. Just like these the following are the explanation of Al Ghazali counter attacking other philosophers. Ghazali also attacked the concept of multiple gods of the greek philosophers saying that if one was necessary then it could not be dependent on another for its own necessity. Old philosophers have a contradicting theory that the world is eternal and at the same time there is a creator. Ghazali attacks this as if there is a creator, the world would have a beginning and an end. Denial of Divine Attributes: Old Philosophers deny that there can be many attributes to God. Ghazali attacks their argument saying that a single power of God can have a number of attributes. Divine cannot be divided: Old Philosophers believe that the Supreme Being can be divided into multiple powers, in the form of angels, in the form of humans on earth etc. Ghazali attacks them saying that the Divine power of God cannot be divided.

Another instance where the old philosophers claimed that the First is a simple unqualified being : Ghazali attacks the philosophers saying that accusing God of being an unqualified being is not a self evident fact and does not have strong theoretical evidence to prove it. Then was the inability to show that the First is not body: A body is subject to change over time, claimed by him. Affirmation of eternity of the world, but deny the Creator: other philosophers say that eternal bodies in the world have a cause but Ghazal attacks that by saying it has a cause in this world also has a Creator. Then was the Inability to maintain that the first knows anyone but Himself: Here Ghazali attacks the belief of the philosophers that the First knows about all but himself. The universe is known to him as it has been created upon his will. Then the Inability to maintain that he knows himself: Old philosophers say that God is alive and also say that he who does not know himself is dead. Here Al Ghazali says that if God does not know himself then how can he be considered alive?

Other philosophers claim that first does not know particulars. On this Al Ghazal attacks the argument that God does not know particulars by describing the details of the eclipse and other happenings in space and how God knows it all. Then they also claim that heaven is a living being whose movements are voluntary: The philosophers say that the Heaven is alive as it moves and Ghazal attacks the argument saying that such movement is not a sign of spiritual life and the heaven does not have a soul of its own. Next, the purpose of heavens movement was misunderstand, the movement of heaven to have something to do with it having a life of its own, but Ghazali attacks that the movement of heaven is a sign of the numerous attributes of God.

Furthermore Al Ghazali opposed to the souls of the heavens knows all particulars: The philosophers say that the angels know all about the particulars and they know about the pen and the tablet. Ghazali attacks them by saying whether they can prove any of it? He says that it can be proven that such details and particulars can be revealed to a prophet in the form of a dream. Just like these the destruction of human soul was questioned. The philosophers believe in the concept that the souls will be destroyed when the body is destroyed. Ghazali attacks that by saying that the souls are eternal and the body is not part of the actual soul.

Lastly but not the least the resurrection of the bodies was questioned by the old philosophers. They did not believe in the resurrection of bodies, infact they believed only the soul would be resurrected. Al Ghazali claimed by the help of the Quaran that the bodies will either be resurrected to heaven or hell. According to the prophet he said, “I have reserved for my virtuous worshippers what no eye ever saw, what no ear ever heard, and which never occurred to the heart of man.”

Above were his interpretations against the other philosophers and he proved that they were all wrong and were trying to make non Islamic values look like Islam. Thus Al Ghazali was a big influence to many Islamic philosophers and Islamic religion. He showed the true path of Islam through his work.

al-Ghazali (1058-1111) Tahafut al-falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), ed. M. Bouyges and M. Fakhry, Beirut: Dar al-Mashreq, 4th edn, 1990; trans. S.A. Kamali, Tahafut al-falasifah (Incoherence of the Philosophers), Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1963. (Al-Ghazali’s attack on the philosophers.)