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What is real knowledge?

Ghazali born in 1058 in Tus in Iran 1077-85 studied under al-Juwayni (d. 1085),

great theologian and jurist 1085-91 serves at Nizam al-Mulks traveling court 1091-95 teaches at the Nizamiyya in Baghdad 1095-1106 Spiritual Crisis, writing of his magnum opus, Ihya Ulum al-Dn 1106-09 Founds Sufi lodge, writes autobiography, returns to teaching 1111 Dies in Tus

Its difficult (though not impossible!) to imagine drunken Sufis, such as Abu Yazid al-Bistami or Hallaj, interrupting their raptures to delve into questions of the imperative mode and its force in legal injunctions . . .Sufism, for [al-Ghazali], wasnt an exclusive course; rather, it provided a method for integrating all significant knowledge under a single over-riding conception. Neither a visionary nor an abstract theoretician of Sufism, Ghazalis contribution was to demonstrate . . . How a ordinary life might be lived in accord with the highest spiritual principles; indeed, Id put it even more strongly and say, how an ordinary life must be so lived. (Ormsby, Ghazali, 42)

Then I said: My reliance on sense-data has also become untenable. Perhaps, therefore, I can rely only on those rational data which belong to the category of primary truths, such as one asserting that Ten is more than three, and One and the same thing cannot be simultaneously affirmed and denied, . . . Then sensedata spoke up: What assurance have you that your reliance on rational data is not like your reliance on sense-data? Indeed, you used to have confidence in me . . . This malady was mysterious and it lasted for nearly two months. During that time I was a skeptic in fact, but not in utterance and doctrine. At length God Most High cured me of that sickness. (Al-Munqidh, 22-23)

I also considered my activitiesthe best of them being public and private instructionand saw that in them I was applying myself to sciences unimportant and useless in this pilgrimage to the hereafter. Then I reflected on my intention in my public teaching, and I saw that it was not directed purely to God, but rather was instigated and motivated by the quest for fame and wide-spread prestige. So I became certain that I was on the brink of a crumbling bank and already on the verge on falling into the Fire, unless I set about mending my ways. (Al-Munqidh, 53)

He planned his departure well. He distributed his wealth, keeping only enough for his maintenance; he arranged for the support of his family, drawing on a special pious endowment in Iraq, intended for scholars and their dependants . . .What would happen to his wife (or wives) and children, left to the support of public fund, however piously established? . . . (e)ven a millennium later, it smacks of selfishness. There is a ruthlessness at the core of conversion that isnt always noted, and Ghazali displays it . . . In the Ihya, Ghazali would exhort his readers by saying, Your wives and children are enemies to you, so guard against them! (Ormsby, Ghazali, 108-09)

Theology Philosophy

Esoteric Instruction (Talim) Sufism

I found it a science adequate for its own aim, but inadequate for its own aim, but inadequate for mine. For its aim is simply to conserve the creed of the orthodox for the orthodox and to guard it from the confusion introduced by the innovators . . . A group of the mutakallimun did indeed perform the task assigned to them by God . . . Most of their polemic was devoted to bringing out the inconsistencies of their adversaries and criticizing them for the logically absurd consequences of what they conceded . . . So kalam was not sufficient in my case, nor was it a remedy for the malady of which I was complaining. (Munqidh, 26)

It is in the metaphysical sciences that most of the philosophers errors are found . . . The sum of their errors comes down to twenty . . . in three of which they must be taxed with unbelief, and in seventeen with innovation . . . The three questions . . . 1) that mens bodies will not be assembled on the Last Day . . . 2) their declaration: God Most High knows universals, but not particulars. This also is out-and-out unbelief . . . 3) The third question is their maintaining the eternity of the world, past and future. No Muslim has ever professed any of their views on these questions. (Al-Munqidh, 3536)

But our infallible teacher is MuhammadGods blessing and peace be upon him! If they say: He is dead! we say: And your teacher is absent! And when they say: Our teacher has indeed taught his emissaries and scattered them throughout the countries, and he expects them to return to consult him if they disagree on some point or encounter some difficulty, we say: Our teacher has taught his emissaries and scattered them throughout the countries, and he has perfected this teaching, since God Most High said: Today I have perfected for you your religion and have accorded you My full favor (5.5/3). And once the teaching has been perfected, the death of the teacher works no harm, just as his absence works no harm. (Al-Munqidh,, 44)

These were godly men who applied themselves assiduously to invoking God, resisting passion, and following the way leading to God Most High by shunning worldly pleasures. In the course of their spiritual combat the good habits of the soul and its shortcomings had been disclosed to them and also the defects that vitiate its actions. (Al-Munqidh, 37)

Theory was easier for me than practice. Therefore I began to learn their lore from the perusal of their books . . . Al-Makki . . . Al Muhasibi . . .Junayd . . .Shibli . . .al-Bistami . . . I learned all that could be learned of their way by study and learning. Then it became clear to me that their most distinctive characteristic is something that can be attained, not by study, but rather by fruitional experience and the state of ecstasy and the exchange of qualities. How great a difference there is between your knowing the definitions and causes of health and satiety and your being healthy and sated! (AlMunqidh, 51-52)

Were a small boy or an impotent person to say to us: what is the way to know the pleasure of sexual intercourse, and to perceive its essential reality? We would say: there are two ways here: one of them is for us to describe it to you, so that you can know it: the other is to wait patiently until you experience the natural instinct of passion in yourself, and then for you to engage in intercourse so that you experience the pleasure of intercourse yourself. This second way is the authentic way, leading to the reality of knowledge. (quoted in Ormsby, Ghazali, 58)

Beyond the stage of intellect there is another stage. In this another eye is opened, by which man sees the hidden, and what will take place in the future, and other things, from which the intellect is as far removed as the power of discernment is from the perception of intelligibles and the power of sensation is from things perceived by discernment . . . The proof of its possibility is its existence. And the proof of its existence is the existence in the world of knowledge which could not conceivably be obtained by the intellect alone . . . The properties of prophecy beyond those just mentioned can be perceived only by fruitional experience as a result of following the way of sufism. (Al-Munqidh, 60-62)

Unlike the clueless boy, who can wait for maturity to know sexual intercourse, we can never come to experience the reality of God. With respect to Him, we are like the blind, who have no comprehension of sight, or the deaf, who cannot appreciate the force of hearing. What then is the point of all our knowledge? It is to bring us to the realization that we are unable fundamentally and intrinsically unable to know God. Recognition of our essential ignorance is exactly the point; that too is knowledge, perhaps the most crucial form of knowledge. (Ormsby, Ghazali, 60)

There is no contradiction between Law

and Sufism, and those Sufis who say they are beyond the Law are misguided But the Law cannot be seen as just actions that one does or doesnt do The intention has to be correct, the orientation of the heart has to be toward God Prophets are doctors of the heart

I know well that, even though I have returned to teaching, I have not really returned. For returning is coming back to what was. Formerly I used to impart the knowledge by which glory is gained for glorys sake, and to invite men to it by my words and deeds, and that was my aim and my intention. But now I invite men to knowledge by which glory is renounced and its lowly rank recognized . . . I now earnestly desire to reform myself and others . . . I ask Him, then, to reform me first, then to use me as an instrument of reform . . . To show me the false as false, and to grant me the grace to eschew it! (Al-Munqidh, 72)

The impulse to renew propels The Revival from beginning to end. It is a tendentious masterpiece; seductive, hectoring, cajoling, caustic, rhapsodic, and densely, even obsessively, argued. But neither eloquence, subtlety of reasoning, nor profundity of insight accounts for the books greatness. Without the remarkable organizational skill needed to marshal such varied material into a cogent whole, the work might easily have failed its purpose. The Ihya displays an architecture both rigorous and transparent . . .Ghazali begins with proof-texts: first, verses from the Quran; second, pertinent sayings, from Sacred Tradition; third, sayings of the Sufi masters, accompanied by edifying anecdotes. Only after he has described these does he launch into the fourth part, the discussion proper. In this way, he sets up a triple layer of authority before embarking on argument and exhortation. (Ormsby, Ghazali, 114-15)

The object of our striving must be to realize a love that is not self-interested. Through knowledge and practise of the virtues we may come to this realization, but the way is complicated, not only by our own faults, hesitations, and failures but by the very nature of love. In several daring chapters, Ghazali describes the lovers courtship of the beloved, who is God Himself, in erotic and amatory terms. As in human love, love of God causes fierce longing, intervals of despair, wheedling, coquetry, complaint, heartbreak, and self-deception, until finally, in rare instants, some indescribable intimacy may be achieved. (Ormsby, Ghazali, 138)