LIFE OF AL-GHAZALI
Al-Ghazali's full name is Abu Hamid Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad al-Tusi al-Ghazali (450-505 A.H./1058-1111 A.D.). In Latin his name was Algazel. He was known as the proof and ornament of Islam. He was an encyclopedic author, polymath, a great jurist, theorist, philosopher, theologian, moralist, critic, comparative religionist; above all he was a religious reformer and spiritual revivalist who sacrificed himself completely to his belief and ideal.
He was born in Tus near Mashad, Persia (now Iran). Having gained an excellent reputation as a scholar, he was appointed in 484 A.H. (1091 A.D.) by the Seljuk minister Nizam al-Mulk to teach at Nizamiyya Academy which was founded by him in Baghdad. At this great city al-Ghazali's followers grew in number until they outnumbered even the retinues of the emirs and magnates (al-Safadi, al-Wafi, bi al-Wafayat, ed. H. Ritter et al. [Wisbaden, 1962], pp. 274-277). Al-Ghazali proved a great and influential lecturer in that institute. But in the month of Dhu'l Qa'da in the year 488 A.H. (1095 A.D.) after enduring a personal crisis he gave up the entirety of his worldly position and led the way of renunciation and solitude. He performed the pilgrimage, and, upon his return visited Syria and lived there for sometime in the city of Damascus. Thereafter he visited Jerusalem passing his time in worship, learning contemplation and writing. After a life filled with great intellectual and spiritual achievements al-Ghazali died on Monday, the fourteenth of Jumada al-Akhira in the year 505 (1111) at Tabaran, the citadel (qasba) of Tus, where he was interred.
Al-Ghazali's writings, whether biographical or of general academic content, hold a faithful mirror to the society of his time and to his own person. From his writings we may glean not only details of his life, but also valuable information about his psychology and character.
Al-Ghazali is not a merely theoretical writer. He illustrates his arguments with real examples, and his advice is based on his own experience. He was writing to people who were known to him and whose needs he knew very well. He was one of the greatest Imams in the field of reformation, and as such he suffered from what we may call the sickness of his society and paid for it.
Great reformers have their sicknesses and sorrows, not because of their own state of health, but because the state of their nation drags them down and makes them feel ill. Their illnesses come from the social, moral and behavioral sicknesses of their society, from the sickbed of the nation, when it strays from the right path.
Great people have suffered more from this kind of illness than from their own physical symptoms. Any physical sicknesses they had were slight compared with the sickness that came to them from contemplating their society.
The great man is a gift from God to his society, and a gift from God may be accepted or denied. Al-Ghazali was both son and father to his society. He gave to it more than he took out. He continued his struggle against evil forces, ill-thinking, and false assumptions which traded in the name of Islam until death forced him to stop. He was not defeated by the persecution which his efforts brought upon him. He did not buckle under criticism; rather, it gave him added strength to stand his ground and to make his voice heard in all places and at all times.
If moralists had not been able to rouse themselves, they would not have been able to defend the higher ground of their convictions. The system of morals would have collapsed; virtue would have been buried alive; civilization would have become bankrupt.
Al-Ghazali was "sick" from the people of his time. They were a trial to him. He was not a politician but he suffered the bad symptoms that afflict those who deal in politics. He was attacked by the germs of hypocrisy which surrounded his fellow scholars. He suffered because of the unhealthy differences which existed between Muslim sects, between Sunni and Shiite which had reached a dangerous zenith in his day, and because of the corruption among the adherents of Sufism and the theologians.
In his time, the sects that claimed to be part of Islam were at war among themselves. Shia, Sunna, Mutazilite, Ismaili, theologians, the patrons of the Brothers of Purity, and the natural philosophers, all these, for their differences, were ranged on one side, and al-Ghazali on the other.
Knowing that al-Ghazali suffered all his life from these major symptoms and maladies of his society, his own personal maladies seem to us slight in comparison. The great Imam was well aware of the link between his own poor health and the sickness of the society which besieged him.
As a child and as a young man before the age of twenty, he was recklessly ambitious and daring. He says that he thirsted after comprehension of things as they really are. This was his obsession from an early age; it was instinctive, part of his Godgiven nature, a matter of temperament not of choice or contriving. But the more he progressed into the fields of academic and religious thinking of his society, the more he suffered, to the point that at a time of his greatest success, when he occupied the highest academic chair in al-Nizamiyya University in Baghdad, teaching 300 students, he lost all desire to continue.
As has been mentioned before, al-Ghazali writes about himself, his society, his religion and his sufi experience. His writings shed light on each aspect of his time and display even the trivial details of history and the social disparities of his time. In his voluminous encyclopedic work "The Revival of the Religious Sciences" he wrote about the religious branches of knowledge and the religious communities of his time. We have translated the Book of Knowledge, which is the first book of this work and provided it with an introduction.
Al Munqidh min al-Dalal "The Deliverance from Confusion" may be categorized as autobiographical in nature. In this book, al-Ghazali profiles some highly important information about himself as a man and as a thinker, and about his evaluation of contemporary religious thinking and trends. For this reason the book is of prime importance. We shall have the opportunity to discuss it later.
In his book Bidayat al hidaya (The Beginning of Guidance) also, al-Ghazali includes information about himself and the academic community of his time. Al-Ghazali observed how people received his book, Ihya, and replied to criticism of it. He wrote a book about the different kinds of boasters, dividing them into groups, discussing and analyzing each in his own way. He wrote Mi'yaral Ilm (The Yardstick of Knowledge) to help confused students and academics perceive what knowledge is false, what genuine: what should be accepted, what should be rejected. This led the Imam on to write Mizan Al-'amal (The Yardstick of Action) and Tahafut al Falasifa (Contradictions among the Philosophers).
We have listed these titles not in orders to show how many books al-Ghazali wrote, but rather to show how each volume was intended to deal with a problem and with problem-makers of his time.
Although Imam Ghazali lived in difficult times we should not overlook the fact that this gave rise to his greatness. If his time was one of political upheaval and internal dispute in religion and sectarian factions, it was also a time of great scholars, and a time when knowledge was honored and learned men were respected and well paid. It was a time when a few chosen scholars could silence the hypocritical masses and purveyors of falsehood.
Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal reflects al-Ghazali's life and his own spiritual experience and development. There is no doubt at all about its authorship, but some critics have argued against its value as a historical document, as we shall see later.
Al-Ghazali took issue with the scholars of the Batinyya sect, criticizing their principles and doctrines. He wrote several books about them and refers to some of them in the book translated here. This should add to his credibility as a sign of his courage in facing up to such dangerous opponents. We should keep this in mind when we turn to al-Ghazali's political stance, which some critics have not taken into account. Defence of religion means defense of the state and of society as a whole.
From the title and introduction we can draw further insights. Al-Ghazali was familiar with the causes of the confusion and error that had befallen the nation. He says that most of the mistakes of the thinkers of his day came from believing what they had heard and were familiar with from childhood, having received it from their fathers, teachers and people regarded as virtuous. Al-Ghazali had come to doubt what he had been told, and he urges others to doubt, as the reader of the present work will find.
Moreover, al-Ghazali says that "anyone who does not doubt will not investigate, and anyone who does not investigate cannot see, and anyone who does not see will remain in blindness and error." Al-Ghazali, here as elsewhere, considers skepticism as a source of knowledge and discovery because anybody who blindly accepts is not investigating or fathoming what he accepts. As a matter of fact, the Qur'an urged people to doubt their father's beliefs, traditions and customs. Many verses of the Qur'an say that Allah, referring to Himself, asks people if they have any doubts about His creations. This means that Allah expects people to doubt. Doubt can lead to a firmer belief, unless it is a symptom of a mental illness or spiritual disturbance. Faith in Allah can be deep-seated in the heart, but the heart still requires psychological reassurance, as in the case of Abraham when he asked Allah how he could give life to the dead. Allah told him, "Don't you believe?" "Yes indeed, but my heart needs to be at peace." This Gnostic method featured later in the work of Descartes, in fact is central to Descartes's philosophy.
Al-Ghazali occupies a unique position among Islamic philosophers in recommending doubt within the boundary of faith. He was original and pioneering.
As we have already said, some critics have argued about the historical value of the Deliverance from Error. Some went as far as to say that it was intended as novel, with himself as the central figure of the novel, a Bildungsroman (a development novel) as the Germans call this genre. These critics regard the book not as a true record of his real life and development, but as a fictional account written when he had finished developing. For example, Abd Al-Daim al-Baqari says that al-Munqidh is neither an Apologia pro vita sua nor an autobiography, but a novel with a message, a sort of roman a thése, with al-Ghazali himself as the hero. He was trying to "leave to posterity a fictional image of his personality and give an interpretation of his life which would give him an unrivaled place in all the domains of thought and of the life of the Muslims of his time, including especially the knowledge and practice of Tasawwuf (Sophism). With a dosage of avowals insinuations which without being totally false would not correspond to historical reality." The crux of this argument is that al-Ghazali himself said that his actions were not directed towards Allah, but towards his own quest for fame and prestige.
Al-Baqari makes these avowals the explicative principle of the whole life of al-Ghazali, his actions, movements, reposes and intentions, not only before his withdrawal, but even after." (Itirafat al-Ghazali, Cairo, 1943; McCarthy, p. xxvi). This, in our view, is an untenable criticism. It stretches the text too far from it's context and the author's psychology and career.
Al-Ghazali's confession should add to his reputation, rather than detract from it. Great people are never self-satisfied. Prophets look at their own work critically, unless it is revelation from God.
Once a phrenologist looked at a bust of Socrates and said, "This man is controlled by lust and imperfection." People responded vehemently that "this was the most virtuous man on earth." But Socrates said, "No, it is true. What he said is true about my nature, but I have striven to overcome the imperfections."
If al-Ghazali told us about something in his inner self we should not take it as a means to attack him or to doubt what he says. In this case, we should look at the man's actions and his efforts to improve himself, not at his confession and hold it against him.
To doubt the reliability and historical value of al-Ghazali's books, moreover, entails saying that al-Ghazali was attempting in fictional form to prove the inferiority of the mind and the evidence of the sense compared with the illuminating light which Allah reveals to worthy men. This cannot be true when one sees al-Ghazali's sincerity and devotion. The book itself cannot support this interpretation. In no way does it give the impression of being affectation. This is one reason, perhaps a psychological reason.
Secondly, all al-Ghazali's other books and recorded conversations support what he says in this book, e.g., his conversation with the contemporary historian Abd Al-Ghafir al-Farisi preserved by Ibn-Asakir in his book Tabyeen kadhib al-Muftari as referred to in my introduction to the Arabic text.
Indeed, as a writer, the art of writing may cause one to shift emphases in the presentation. But the book holds a faithful mirror to the natural development of al-Ghazali's character and knowledge.
Here we may refer to two poems written by al-Ghazali himself at the time of his
spiritual and intellectual doubts.
With light the face of Your Majesty was revealed.
And I wondered
And in You all-manifest, lay my confusion.
O You are the nearest of things.
You have revealed Yourself, filling my view.
With Your manifestation of light, but becoming hidden
in a way which nearly left me without faith.
When You hid Yourself You threw between mind
and senses a difference that brooks no compromise.
If mind claims to know Your Presence and denies the
sense, who called it impossible.
The senses say to the mind stop here.
This is because the senses deny You O God as a
picture to be seen and the mind sees You through abstract evidence
. . .
Indeed I am so busy with the cultivation of my soul
and my business helps me to control myself.
The doubt of transitory things has been cast away from me
By a witness that comes like a beacon to me.
By it I have seen the Godly light very clear
from behind delicate screens that cover things,
then I became certain about the things.
That previously I doubted.
And I have seen what was secret and hidden [to me]
And I have known the aim of my creation, the reason for my existence.
My death and my resurrection
By the mirror of the soul in whose bright surface there appeared
this world and the hereafter, the whole truth, the every aspect of the truth.
I know that no shade of doubt remained with me about the things
that make some people very doubtful.
The soul took its travelling staff and became sure that my light had
shone on the right road for me . . .
My light had shone over the face of my resting place as
evidence of what I have said there is the state of sleep,
when the senses slip away while you rest, and the tablet of the unseen faces the soul like two bright
mirrors, and what the tablet contains is reflected into the soul.
Then my soul takes its knowledge from there,
and the knowledge that I have is a copy of what is there.
This example can of course be multiplied. Al-Ghazali was quite aware of his greatness, and we cannot take this as false self-importance.
He did show sings of arrogance and boastfulness, especially in his youth. Here and there he mentions something concerning his personality and experiences, not only in writing but also in conversation as referred to above. Moreover the earliest of his biographers, Abd Al-Ghafir al-Farisi (d. 529 A.H./1134 A.D.) wrote the following eighteen years after al-Ghazali's death.
He related to us on certain nights what his circumstances had been from the time he first openly followed the path of godliness and the mystical experience overcame him after he delved deeply into the various branches of knowledge and that he had behaved arrogantly to everybody, when he spoke boasting of how God's favor had singled him out, enabling him to master many kinds of knowledge and research them.
He continued in this way until he felt disgust with the Arabic sciences which were not concerned with the hereafter and final goal, and what benefits and helps in the hereafter.
He had begun his asceticism under the guidance and companionship of al Farmadhi. From him he learned how to open up the gates to Sophism -- Tariqa -- and followed his instructions about the performance of the duties of worship, of extra might-prayers, and of continual invocation of God's name.
He continued in this way until he had overcome all these obstacles. He took on these burdens, but he did not achieve what he wanted. Then he related that he had studied every branch of knowledge and delved deeply into all aspects of learning and experience, and had again put all his strength and made every effort to study every complicated part of the sciences.
He proceeded to the interpretation of these works and continued to do so until he had unlocked the doors to every branch of knowledge.
He also told us that he became for a certain time busy with the counterbalancing of the proofs Takafu' al Adilla and the minute details of the problems. Then he told us that a door of the fear of God opened before him and took all his attention, forcing him to abandon everything else, until it became easy for him to accept the other way of religious practice and he then became perfectly disciplined and the reality of things became clear to him, and he turned into what we expected of him, behaving well with a good character, exact insight. This was the sign of the happiness which God had allocated to him before time began.
Then we asked him about how he had wished to leave his home and return to resume what was required of him in Nishabour (to teach in al-Nizamiyyah Academy). He said apologetically, "There was no way that my religion would permit me to refuse a request to spread God's message for the benefit of students, and indeed it was my duty to reveal the truth and speak about it and call others to it."
Later he abandoned teaching and returned to his home. He built a school beside his house where he could receive seekers after knowledge and provide a hostel for Sufis. Thereafter he divided his time according to those who would come to him, sometimes reciting the Qur'an, sometimes sitting with the Sufis, sometimes teaching, so he did not waste a single moment of his time nor of the other people's time.
In his late years al-Ghazali occupied himself with the study of Hadith, especially Al Bukhari's and Muslim's Sahihs, and shortly before his death, al-Ghazali was reading in Sahih al-Bukhari, and it was reported that he died while the book was still in his hand. Al-Farisi, adding to the statement above, mentioned that, "had al-Ghazali lived longer he would even have ranked higher than most eminent in the [Muslim] tradition. Here we shall assemble some of Abd Al-Ghafir's statements about al-Ghazali, not necessarily in the order in which they occur: "He is a proof that Islam works as a system . . . the tongue of Islam . . . the Imam of the Imams of religion . . . eyes have never seen another like him in his ability to speak, his eloquence, expression, quick understanding and natural command." (Ibn Asakir, Tabin Kadhib al-Muftari [Beirut, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, 1979], pp. 291ff.)
In Nishabour al-Ghazali attended Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni's lectures and studied hard and graduated in a short time. He outstripped his fellows. He committed the Qur'an to memory while still young and became the most able debater of his time and outstanding among the students of Imam al-Haramayn. His fellow students benefitted from his teaching and guidance, and he never stopped learning. He began to write books. Imam al-Haramayn, despite his high rank and his ability to talk fluently, did not regard al-Ghazali with favor when they were alone together. This was because al-Ghazali was quick to understand and his teacher was not happy that his student had started to compose books so early, although as his teacher it would reflect credit on him.
This is human nature, though the teacher appeared proud of al-Ghazali in public and encouraged his success, but in his heart he nursed jealousy.
This situation persisted until Imam al-Haramayn died in 478 A.H. (1085 A.D.). And then al-Ghazali went to Nishabour and attended the assembly of the minister Nizam al-Mulk. The minister welcomed him because he ranked high as a scholar among the scholars and great Imams who gathered at the minister's court.
Al-Ghazali, no doubt, had benefited from this great assembly of rival scholars. His name rose over the horizon. Later al-Ghazali moved to Baghdad to teach again in the academy during the ministry of Fakhr al-Mulk. Everybody there admired his teaching and skill in debating, and he did not find anyone his equal. After he had been the Imam of Khurasan he became by then the Imam of Iraq. In this time al-Ghazali wrote excellent books about Fiqh, Islamic Jurisprudence and its methodology. His fame now ranked higher in Baghdad so that it even outranked that of princes and official of the caliphate administration.
But suddenly everything turned. He abandoned it all and gave up everything he suffered to attain in life and occupied himself wholly with religious duties and activities directed to the hereafter. He went to perform pilgrimage; then he went to Syria and remained there for ten years. While there he wrote such well-known and original writings as Ihya Ulum al-Din, the revival of religious knowledge.
He strove against his soul and his own behavior in order to perfect his own character and to cultivate his manner. Every bad quality in al-Ghazali turned into a good one. He turned away from seeking fame and material gain and clothed himself in the garments of the righteous.
He scaled down his hopes in this world and devoted his time to guiding people to do what would benefit them in the hereafter, to make this world abhorrent to them, and to make them prepare for the long journey to the everlasting abode.
When he went back home, he busied himself with contemplation. He was visited by many people. He was a treasure supplying people's hearts with piety and guidance. His writings and books were widely disseminated and there was no contradiction between what he taught and how he lived.
No one objected to his teachings, and when Fakhr al-Mulk became a minister and heard of al-Ghazali and admired his extensive knowledge, virtuous character, pure faith, and sociability, he sought blessings from him, attended his classes and listened to his lectures. Then he asked him to return to teaching in the academy, so that his precious knowledge and fruitful learning should not be locked away without benefitting anyone. He begged him to accept his request and al-Ghazali finally fulfilled his wishes and went to Nishabour to teach in al-Nizamiyyah.
This statement is a very important one which has not been given enough attention by al-Ghazali's biographers and critics. It is unfortunate that we cannot put a precise date between al-Ghazali and Abd Al-Ghafir. However it is possible to say that it occurred before al-Ghazali finally withdrew from public life, and it is clear that no reference is made in this statement to al-Ghazali's book al-Munqidh either as already written, nor did he mention any intention of writing it.
This is a definite indication that the book dates from later in al-Ghazali's life. Even more importantly Abd Al-Ghafir asked him why he left his post in Baghdad and stopped teaching in al-Nizamiyya. This is the precise question that appears at the beginning of al-Munqidh, and the whole conversation is more or less reproduced in the introduction of the book.
Al-Ghazali tells us in the very first line that he wrote his book in response to a brother in the faith who had requested him to do so. We feel quite justified in saying that this brother in the faith was a real person not a fiction, or a literary device as McCarthy suggests, and not al-Ghazali himself as Abd al-Jalil al-Baqari assumed. We may even venture to assert that the brother in faith was Abd al-Ghafir al Farisi himself or at least one of the people who attended the same meeting.
Another line of criticism which is leveled against al-Ghazali is that he did not take an active part in the wars between the crusaders and Muslims in his time. The army of the crusaders entered Antioch in Syria in 491 A.H. (1097 A.D.) 100,000 Muslims were killed in 495 A.H. (1101 A.D.). The Western forces captured Jerusalem and remained in control there for eleven years, but there is no mention of this in the writings of al-Ghazali. This is strange when one bears in mind that he did mention dates close to these when speaking of his own career. He did speak about eminent figures such as Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyya, who were prominent in the struggle against political decay and corruption among the caliphs. I do not personally agree with the critics who accuse al-Ghazali of ignoring political events. He did care about the Muslim nation, it's religious stand and political supremacy. It is absurd to say that al-Ghazali welcomed the invasion of Syria or felt happy about the mass killing of Muslims; it would be naive to think this.
A great personality can be perfect in one or more areas of life or of knowledge. This is true of al-Ghazali's personality when it is examined closely. His character blossomed in the fields of scholarship, religion and social reform, particularly education. He was effective in restating the intellectual and spiritual basis of his time. He stood firm against the eminent representatives of the various sects and the authorities of his time (specially the Batinites, who threatened the lives of their opponents with violence and assassination). In support of this point it is useful to refer to Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi (d.429 A.H./1037 A.D.) who said that in his time the Batinites presented the most evil force and dangerous threat to Islam and Muslims (Usul al-Din, p. 329-331).
Al-Ghazali was uncompromising in his attitude toward them. He wrote several books attacking the Batinites. In turn, they must have attacked him and even threatened his life -- his constant move from place to place may lend support to this. Bearing this in mind, such a man cannot be accused of cowardice or opting-out. Al-Ghazali took issue with the scholars of his time, especially the corrupt ones, emphasizing the importance of a good education for children since they are the basis and the new force of society. A society can be made strong through its children. Neglect of their education leads to a hypocritical, careless, faithless and loose generation of adults, corrupt rulers and cowardly army officers.
The author under review seems to have concentrated his attention on the source of corruption and decay in society, rather than upon the symptoms.
Al-Ghazali had a good relationship with the rulers of his time but did not hesitate to advise them when he saw fit. It should be noted, however, that as a Sufi he criticized the scholars for consorting with rulers, but cannot be criticized for doing this very thing due to his integrity and drawing no advantage from their company. He lived a hard life until his death and never accepted the gifts of money that were offered. Rulers have to be supported, advised and corrected. They must not be left without scholarly and religious guidance, lest their views become narrow and they be surrounded by hypocrites and faithless opportunitists. Reforming the society, correcting the rulers and defending the people's human rights is the responsibility of the scholars and learned men. (See al-Subki, Tabaqat, vol. 4, p. 110. Also F.R.C. Bagley al-Ghazali's Book of Council for Kings [London, 1964].)
Another trend of criticism leveled at al-Ghazali is that he retreated from public life for eleven years, leaving his people without the benefit of his advice.
He should not be blamed for this, for he was preparing himself for a greater role later. Prophets and scholars of higher repute withdrew from society for long periods. It is obvious that our great Imam was inclined by nature to keep his distance. He perceived that mixing with people brings trouble. In his book Ihya he wrote about the privileges of seclusion.
According to al-Manawi, al-Ghazali says in a poem, "In mixing with people there is no benefit,
and ignorance about the reality of things is not like a scholar. You who ignorantly criticize me for
keeping away from people, my reason [for doing this] is engraved on my ring." When they read
the inscription on his ring they found this verse, "For the most of them we did not find any
commitment to principle. We find that most of them are faithless" (Qur'an 7: 102).
Following the intellectual climate vividly referred to by al-Ghazali, one is much impressed to see that al-Ghazali became a meteor in the galaxy of the greatest scholars and divines of his time.
To cite but a few examples of al-Ghazali's great contemporaries: Imam Al-Haramayn, Abu al-Ma=ali Abd al-Malik Al-Juwayni (d. 478 A.H./1085 A.D.), the mentor who discovered the young genius in al-Ghazali and is rightly his moral and scholarly patron, as well as of the Nishapur Academy, established also by Nizam al-Mulk, in addition to heading many other institutions of teaching.
Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi (418 A.H./1027 A.D.) who also headed Nazamia academy at Baghdad.
Abd al-Salam Ibn Yusuf of Nishapur, Ibn Yusuf al-Qazwini (d. 482 A.H./1089 A.D.), the head of the Mu=tazilite school, who wrote a commentary on the Qur=an in seven hundred volumes.
Abu Turab, the head and the Mofti of Asharite in Nishapur (d. 492 A.H./1098 A.D.).
Abu Muhammad al-Misri (d. 486 A.H./1093 A.D.).
Abu Ali Ibn Ahmad al-Waqidi (d. 468 A.H./1075 A.D.).
Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi (d. 458 A.H./1065 A.D.).
Abu Ali al-Husayn Ibn Abd Allah, Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, the greatest of Muslim philosophers, (370-428 A.H./980-1037 A.D.), and his disciple Abu Abd Allah al-Masumi about whom Ibn Sina says, "Al-Masumi is to me what Aristotle is to Plato" (ibid., p. 230).
Omar al-Khayyam, the Persian Astronomer and poet already mentioned in the introduction.
On the Sufi side, al-Ghazali was a contemporary and quite aware of the following great figures:
Abu Ali al-Daqqaq (d. 415 A.H./1024 A.D.).
Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami the Sufi Qur=an interpreter, historian and chronicler.
Abu al-Abbas al-Qassar.
Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, the writer of the celebrated Risala (Epistle) on Sufism and the sufis. It is worth noting that the author of al-Munqidh made reference to only two of the most eminent Muslim philosophers: Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 339 A.H./950 A.D.), usually called the second teacher, after Aristotle, and al-Muallim al-Thani, known in the West as Averroes and as an interpreter of Aristotle.
Ibn Sina deserves special attention here, since he is al-Ghazali's contemporary, and was singled out by him as a specimen for moral criticism when he pinpointed the will in which Ibn Sina recorded his confession of drinking alcohol and his pledge that he would never take the draught unless as medicine.
It is evident that Ibn Sina was fond of banquets, luxury and being entertained. He used to deliver his lectures at night time and at the end of his lectures ordered a banquet to be laid and music to be played for the pleasure of his guests and pupils. He used to drink to excess until his health began to deteriorate. As a cure he took a powerful medicine which broke down his health. When he felt that his death was eminent, he stopped drinking and repented and asked God's forgiveness. Like al-Ghazali Ibn Sina died in his middle years. Yet it should not be overlooked that he was brought within the precincts of the Islamic tradition. He memorized the Qur=an when he was ten years of age. He mastered Islamic and Arabic literature by the time he reached sixteen and became well-known in the whole of the Islamic world both as a physician and as a philosopher.
It is to the credit of Ibn Sina that he did not succumb to adverse sectarian influences. And he himself said that his father often read the epistle of the brotheren of purity, Rasail Ikhwan al-Safa, yet was not influenced by them in any notable way. This in itself was a great sign of the independent mind and free-thinking he envisaged at an early stage of his life. In the same way as al-Ghazali, Ibn Sina was noted for his consistency from the beginning to the end of his life. The weight and style of his books in old age C say in his fifties C are as powerful and effective as those he wrote in youth.
The first topic that appears immediately after
al-Ghazali's introduction to the al-Munqidh is sophistry: which is more or less a system of learning that misleads pupils or
followers C on narrow scales. In this section:
- 1st, al-Ghazali, in his search after certitude was ushered into false views.
- 2nd, When he resorted to reason, he discovered no distinction between his experience and the dream world.
- 3rd, He reverted to the guidelines of reason.
Al-Ghazali began his career with the study of theology, but theology failed to satisfy him. Its objectives were the protection of the sunnah, tradition, and its defense against the deviations of the heretics; it did not serve his purpose, which was the search for truth.
But it is striking that he placed the speculative theologians, Mutakalimun, at the top of his list. The reason, as far as we can understand, is that this group of thinkers predominated over the rest and attracted people's attention. As they exercised immense influence upon the illusioned society, it was al-Ghazali's role to disillusion them from their own sophist illusionment.
The eminent Sunnite scholars attacked the speculative theology of al-Kalam and strongly warned Muslims against preoccupation with it as an undesirable innovation. Al-Ghazali himself wrote in more detail about the Kalam in his book al-Ihyya. As an illustration, he says, "Tawhid" the oneness of God is the term which has changed its meaning. It now means the craft of theology, knowledge of methods of arguing and confronting adversaries, boasting, multiplying questions, and casting doubts on matters, showing down opponents. This is true to the point that some practitioners, i.e, Mu'tazilites, called themselves the people of justice and pure monotheism.
In his search for truth, Imam al-Ghazali turned to philosophy, including the natural sciences, which gave him a penetrating insight into the marvels of creation. In the view of al-Ghazali no one who had studied anatomy could fail to notice the perfection of human and animal organs and to recognize in them evidence of the creator's master hand. He found himself unable to go along with the natural scientists, in particular he emphatically rejected their denial of resurrection and sensual pleasure. But it should be noted that he does not reject philosophy and science altogether, he still believed that there was much truth in Aristotle, whom like Plato and Socrates was regarded as a Atheist@. The Imam sums up his view of the philosophers and scientists by pointing out that they served neither to prove nor disprove the existence of God. Al-Ghazali urged that the majority of people should be protected from potentially harmful ideas: he refers to the Epistles of the Ikhawan al-Safa and then says in warning, "Just as the poor swimmer must be kept from the slippery banks, so must mankind be kept from reading these books" and by analogy all similar books that can mislead and harm the average Muslims. After examining philosophy al-Ghazali stepped out of it and continued his search for truth.
True knowledge is derived from divine inspiration (from faith, rather than from the
dictates of dry logic). Out of this combination of guiding reason and inspiring and unflickering
Faith in the Divine, al-Ghazali emerged. From this station he became the triumphant exponent of the
religion of Islam, and thus was fittingly called Hujjat ul Islam, the proof of Islam.
TRANSLATIONS AND EDITIONS OF AL-MUNQIDH
The text of al-Munqidh was rediscovered in 1842 A.D. by the scholar, Augste Schmolders, who found the text, translated it into French and published it for the first time in Paris. Sixty-seven years later in 1909, the text appeared in English, translated by Claude Field under the title, The Confessions of al-Ghazali. This translation reads well for the most part, but could be more faithful and precise. Professor Watt's translation tried to improve on Field's version. It was published under the title, The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1953). We have already said something about this version. The third and most recent translation into English is by Richard Joseph McCarthy S.J. and bears the title, Freedom and Fulfillment (Boston, 1980).
The volume also includes related texts by al-Ghazali translated by McCarthy. His translation reads well and is painstakingly clear and accurate. He benefited from previous translations and scholarly works on al-Ghazali, drawing heavily on the studies by Boggs and Jabre. In his lengthy introduction of sixty pages (the text of the translation is fifty-three pages) and plentiful footnotes, McCarthy emphasizes the uniqueness of al-Ghazali and the importance of studying his thought.
McCarthy based his translation not only on the well-known edition, but also on a new manuscript given to him by Father Boggy dated 509 A.H (1036 A.D), i.e. five years after al-Ghazali's death and about ten years after al-Munqidh was composed. This is the covert form, for McCarthy is fully aware that there is no serious difference between this early manuscript and the one used by Salibah and Ayyad, Jabre and Watt. In editing our Arabic text we have checked other manuscripts and several other editions of al-Munqidh.
McCarthy read the previous translations and decided that there was still a need for his new one. He tells us that his translation was written while he was reading al-Munqidh to his students at Oxford. He came up with some ideas that he thought worth publishing. McCarthy believes that his translation reads better and gives a more fair reflection of al-Ghazali's life than do previous versions.
Reading that translation and the footnotes, we may say that the translation is good, but still not perfect; it has not deterred us from our decision to make yet another translation. Beyond doubt, McCarthy has done justice to the text, illuminating it's meaning and making it available to speakers of English. His footnotes, in general, serve the text well and enable us to understand al-Ghazali's statements.
Nevertheless, on some occasions the footnotes are too bulky, incorporating irrelevant material, and addressing the general reader rather than the specialist. He refers to secondary sources and does not refer the Hadiths back to their respective authorities; in several cases he failed to identify al-Ghazali's sources. McCarthy's translation of the Hadith about the division of the Muslim nation into sects is incomplete and incorrect. Occasionally he confuses his reader when he refers to the authority of a certain Hadith.
We therefore intend to introduce our own translation, feeling that it is needed and will prove useful. I will not try to justify this decision, beyond saying that Allah directed me to produce this translation which is directed wholly and sincerely to Him.
Our translation takes into consideration the other translations in English, particularly M. Watt and McCarthy, and also the fragments of al-Munqidh that are in circulation in the writings of the orientalists.
We have noted some differences in understanding the text and we have differed also from Farid Jabri's French translation (Beirut, 1969), which appears in the bibliography. We have sought to give the most lucid rendering -- one that we consider much closer to al-Ghazali's text and trend of thought.
We have read and checked the available outstanding Arabic editions of this remarkable text. Two rare manuscripts: first, Shahid Ali Pasha, no. 1712, Istanbul, which is complete and well-written, and which dates from 509 A.H.-510 A.H. (1115 A.D.-1116 A.D.), five years after the death of the author. This manuscript was dedicated directly to al-Ghazali. The second one is Talat, Cairo, Dar al-kutub, no. 637, which is important yet incomplete.
Two outstanding Arabic editions deserve special comment: The Arabic text first published in Damascus (1956) by Jamil Salibah and Shukry Ayyad is good in the main; it is not the first edition of al-Munqidh from the chronological point of view, but to a great extent it is the most readable and tolerable version. The authors based their edition on the available extant Arabic versions. As they remarked, it was only by chance that they struck upon a single manuscript which lends authenticity to the Arabic version on which we are working. It should be noted, however, that the manuscript they had in hand was recently copied from an unknown and unverified version.
But luckily enough the difference between the printed, published version, on the one hand, and the extant available manuscript, on the other hand, is not serious in many cases. Hence, our work and painstaking effort is to bring out a better, more critical and perfectly readable text. This can be seen from our Arabic version, appended here, if read against other versions in circulation.
The second version to attract our critical attention is the version of al-Munqidh by his Eminence Sheikh Abdul Halim Mahmoud (Cairo, Dar-al Maarif, 1988). Sheikh Abdul Halim is a leading exponent of Sophism in modern times, and was known among his followers as the Ghazali of Egypt. He was an eminent scholar, well respected in Egypt and worldwide. I am proud to have had him as my mentor and to have received his special attention while still an undergraduate at Al-Azhar University.
Notwithstanding his erudition and practical Sophism, when he took upon himself to publish a new version of the al-Munqidh he concentrated his attention on a long introduction explaining the theory of Sophism, rather than focusing on the textual evaluation of the prototype version. His introduction covers almost 320 pages in comparison to al-Ghazali's original book which has only 80 pages, excluding the space given to the footnotes.
Al-Ghazali's name did not appear on the cover and title pages. Its first mention is on p. 138, in the context of his AFatwa@ quoted in full by the editor. The second is on p. 214 in the context of his challenge to the principles of knowledge.
After the Sheikh's exhaustive explication of Sophism from its original sources to its modern time, he devoted the fifth section of his introduction to al-Ghazali and his milieu, pages 269-323. The information given about al-Ghazali is based almost entirely on quotations and soon digresses from al-Munqidh to Ihyya Ulum al-Din by the same author as an independent subtitle occupying 33 pages. Nothing is said about the al-Munqidh.
It must be noted that there are editorial mistakes in Sheikh Abdul
Halim's version, which
still appear in its third edition (Cairo, Dar al-Maarif, 1988). Some editions of al-Munqidh have not escaped editorial mistakes/errata, yet are tolerably acceptable. To save time and energy, however, it is
expedient to turn to the main point of the present work.
CONTENT AND VALUE OF
AL-MUNQIDH MIN AL-DALAL
Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal is not only the greatest, but the crown of all al-Ghazali's work. It is small in size, but as a document is great in scholarly and historical value. It sheds light on al-Ghazali's personality and provides unique details about his life, milieu and other related issues.
Al-Munqidh does not limit itself to one approach to its subject. It starts from one point and aims toward one goal, but explores many roads to this end. This book may be loosely categorized as autobiographical, although it was not intended to be an autobiography in the strict sense. Islamic literature did not include such a category in the way that it developed in the West. This may be because Islam forbids anyone to boast of his own achievements or to talk about himself. Some early biographical information is implied in the philosophical and literary writings of Muslim scholars as indicated elsewhere in this introduction, but there is no class of autobiography as such. This may be the reason why al-Ghazali did not give more information about himself in the book under focus. If he had not been bound by the conventions of his time, what fascinating details he could have given us.
The facts that he does give about his own life are impressive and phrased in a masterly fashion and highly developed spiritualism. They are scattered in many of his works. If assembled in one place they would be enjoyable and rewarding. For example, in al-Munqidh he spoke of sophism as his last permanent home, and gave the reasons for preferring it above other systems. In other writings he describes how he virtually became a Sufi himself and took the Sufi way and developed his experience of sophism.
Al-Munqidh has three major dimensions; first, the autobiographical dimension which is indispensable in understanding al-Ghazali's works and milieu; secondly, the psychological and intellectual graph which records al-Ghazali's inner experience, intellectual endurance and response to the power of the moment; and thirdly, investigating the religious and intellectual trends of the time and milieu, analyzing and rectifying them from his position as a philosopher and religious reformer.
Al-Ghazali wrote al-Munqidh min al-Dalal at the age of fifty. The precise date of this book is not written, but it is not impossible to identify. He wrote it between 499 A.H./1105 A.D.) and 500 A.H./1106 A.D., about five or six years before his death. This in itself indicates that al-Ghazali was very active up to the very end of his life.
So far as is known to scholarship, it is the last of his long life's work. It is therefore not surprising that it encapsules all aspects of his spiritual and intellectual experience and output. Therefore, it is full of re-capitulatory references epitomizing his major works. In essence, it is the flower and fruit of his journey in his short life span.
In 1842 al-Munqidh was discovered and translated into French for the first time by Augste Schmolders. The book itself bears two titles. The first is Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal wa al-Mufsih an al-Ahwal. (The Deliverance from Error and the Revealer of the Mystical States of the Soul). The second is Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal wal Muwassil ila Dhil Izza wal Jalal (The Deliverance from Error and the Deliverer to the Possessor of Power and Glory).
There is good reason to believe that these titles were concurrent. In his book, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (Cairo, Subayh, 1978, p. 9), Ibn Tufayl (d. 581 A.H./1185 A.D.) refers to al-Munqidh under the first of the two long titles with an insignificant variant of the preposition -- using bi in place of ann. The two different forms of the title both start with ADeliverance from Error@, showing that al-Ghazali himself had experienced the confusion of being wrong, or rather had been part of a society in error. He was exploring the way to set his foot on the right path, looking for the kind of character which would choose the right path. We may ask why al-Ghazali chose to call his book "Deliverance from Error". The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says, "I have left two things for you. If you take hold of them you will never go astray. They are the book of Allah and my sunnah (i.e. my example)."
First there are some points to raise about the title which appears in two forms. One is Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal wa al-Mufsih an al-Ahwal (What Saves from Error and Displays the States [of the Soul]). The other is Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal wa al-Muwassil ila Dhi al-Izza wa al-Jalal (What Saves from Error and Unites with the Possessor of Power and Glory).
The two different forms of the title both start with "Deliverance from Error", showing that al-Ghazali himself had experienced the confusion of being wrong, or rather had been part of a society in error. He was exploring the way to set his foot on the right path, looking for the kind of character which would choose the right. We may ask why al-Ghazali chose to call his book "Deliverance from Error". The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says, "I have left two things for you. If you take hold of them you will never go astray. They are the book of Allah and my example."
There is no doubt that al-Ghazali knew this Hadith and had strong faith in the Qur'an and the sunnah. Eminent scholars such as Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and Abu al-Hassan al-Ashari had guided people along this path and had formulated the Muslim articles of faith. The phrase "deliverance from error" might be applied to their teaching; how, then, did al-Ghazali choose it for his own book? Al-Ghazali certainly did not propose his book as a substitute for the Qur'an and Sunnah. Close reading of his book reveals that there is no true guidance outside the book of Allah and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). But we should read his book in the context of the society of his time. Corruption was rampant, as were secular claims and theories, sectarian arguments, underground movements and false ideas dressed in Islamic clothing. Al-Ghazali prepared to attack all these elements by approaching them in their own way, using their own methods. His aim was to set up a model and criteria for testing other theories. Titles of other books by him reflect this approach -- they included "The criteria . . .", "The way to measure . . .", "The straight path . . ." and so on.
From al-Ghazali's title and introduction here we note that first, he emphasizes that he lived in a time of error, his society was going astray, especially those who claimed to be scholars eminent in religious studies; his age was in urgent need of a savior to deliver them from error. This was perhaps the reason why al-Ghazali wrote his book, to emphasize two points at one and the same time: his credibility as a person to lead the people from destruction to a pure life and a strong faith, and at the same time to show the method of deliverance. Secondly, we note that al-Ghazali explained spiritual and intellectual corruption and psychological maladies as resulting from ignorance and blind conformity. Thirdly, Muslim society at the time of al-Ghazali was divided into many sects. The most persistent and damaging was the Batinyya teaching, which presented a threat to the Muslim Caliph and his officials. They aimed not merely to spread their doctrine, but to assassinate the major figures among their opponents. Nizam al-Mulk and Fakhr al-Mulk, the ministers who were al-Ghazali's patrons, were assassinated by them.
The book comprises an introduction and eight main topics. The addressee in al-Ghazali's customary khutba, introduction, is not directly mentioned and some scholars think that it is properly a generic salutation. But close reading of data at our disposal gives the strong impression, if not a real clue or a clear allusion, that the addressees were either Abd al-Farisi his biographer (al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafiiyya, Cairo, vol. 3, p. 137), or Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi (d. 543 A.H./1148 A.D.), who evidently had met al-Ghazali shortly before he embarked on the writing of al-Munqidh (al-Awasim min al-qawasim, Algeria, vol. 1, p. 30). A little-known fact about al-Munqidh is that al-Ghazali states in his introduction that he wrote the work at the request of a brother in faith who asked him to reveal the sciences, the evil, and the depths of the schools of thought. What prevails with most scholars is that it was meant for a type of reader, and not for a particular individual. This vast majority, beating around the bush, have come nearer to the point but have fallen short of grasping it.
In brief, we can summarize al-Ghazali's meaningful introduction in two cardinal
points. First and foremost, from the earliest stage of his life, al-Ghazali had been known as a
fearless, sagacious, uncompromising seeker after truth. Secondly, al-Ghazali's time was an epoch
of vigorous intellectual activity and spiritual fecundity, so much so that for the average Muslim
layman the controversies and sectarian cerebral confrontations resulted in little more than a
welter of confusion and perplexities. For this very reason, al-Munqidh offered itself as means of
provoking intellectual impetus and kindling spiritual intuition, to the end of pronouncing
sentence on faulty sects.
Through Western translations and scholarship on al-Munqidh, al-Ghazali is well-known to the scholars and reformers as a magnanimous, indefatigable and inexhaustible source of inspiration and impetus in exploring the higher realm of learning and scholarship. Some of al-Ghazali's works were translated into Latin, e.g., his book al-Iqtisad fil Itiqad in the Middle Ages and later into several modern European languages. Hardly do we find a book on Islamic civilization without reference to al-Ghazali. A good number of orientalists have produced several works of outstanding value on his life and milieu. Many others have dealt with al-Ghazali within the scope of their writings and research. The output of the crop of orientalist writings on al-Ghazali is so voluminous as to defy classification in our present work. Baron Caradivo, e.g., wrote a book on al-Ghazali, (tran. into. Arabic by A. Ziatar [Cairo: al-Halabi, 1950]) in which he explored the real position of the author of al-Munqidh in Sufi literature and practices. He noted that "al-Munqidh is a great psychological document of al-Ghazali's time . . . ."
D.B. Macdonald summed up the significance of al-Ghazali and the pioneering role he played in Muslim thinking in four main points. First, he discarded empty abstract scholastics and dogmas, and substituted them with direct contact with the Qur=an and Sunnah (tradition). Secondly, he laid emphasis on the fear of Allah by urging moral rectitude and to avoid the punishment of hell. Thirdly, it was he more than any other that established Islam on a firm and assured ground. Fourthly, he brought philosophy and theology within the grasp of the ordinary mind. (See Aspects of Islam [New York Books for Libraries Press, 1971], pp. 36, 139, 194, 196-201; also The Life of al-Ghazali, JAOS 20 , pp. 70-133.) This statement sounds scholarly but cannot pass without comment. Regarding the first point, it is absolutely correct that al-Ghazali brought the message of the Qur=an and Sunnah to ordinary life in clearer insight and practicality, i.e., from the ivory tower of scholasticism to the tangible and palpable reality of religion. To establish this al-Ghazali had to wrestle with exponents of sectarian thinking and speculative theologians and jurists.
Concerning MacDonald's second point it is worth noting that al-Ghazali, through emphasizing the importance and effect of the fear of Allah, also emphasized, on the other hand, the importance of hope in salvation. In his own simile, AHope and fear are like two ways by which one can fly and attain the divine satisfaction and solace. They are like two mounts on which every steep ascent of the paths of the next world is traversed.@
A deeper insight of al-Ghazali's literature on fear is that the fear of the creator leads to an even greater hope in Him; and hope alone, without fear, cannot lead to bliss and paradise. Fear is a natural propensity without which, man cannot attain his equilibrium.
Indeed, it is true that al-Ghazali's analysis of fear is more elaborate than that of hope, and that he devoted a great deal of his book to it. This is partly because of his belief that fear has the greater relevance in the contemporary situation, but it is also accounted for by its place in al-Ghazali's Gnostic or mystical themes, and its importance for his theology of which predestination is the cornerstone. To our Imam fear is well connected with the knowledge of God: when knowledge of God is perfected, the majesty of fear and the conflagration of the heart are produced. Then the trace of conflagration rushes from the heart to the body and behavior (ibid., p. 27). It is perhaps because of this mode of writing that Malise Ruthven sees in al-Ghazali's writings a sense of sadness and seriousness; he says, AGhazali's work lays down the role of an earnest, somewhat joyless religiosity, pregnant with gravitas and unleavened by humor@ (Islam in the World [London: Penguin Books, 1991], p. 241). To illustrate this, he refers to the following hadith cited by al-Ghazali in his book al-Ihyaa, AThe man who speaks a word to make his friends laugh is thereby hurled into the pit of hell for seventy years.@
In his book, Islam p. 94, H.A.R. Gibb, says that al-Ghazali, Ais a man who stands on a level with Augustine and Luther in religious insight and intellectual vigor.@ Yet in our view, he stands head and shoulders above them since he is more universal than restricting himself to one creed.
To Ignaz Goldzihir al-Ghazali, Ais one of the most epoch-making personalities.@
In his contribution to Religion in the Middle East: Sufism, Martin Lings holds al-Ghazali as the most famous among those Sufis who had bridged the chasm between Sufism and the rest of the Islamic community. Lings says, AAl-Ghazali . . . the great Shafi=i canonist and theologian who devoted his latter years to mystic paths and who wrote an autobiographical treatise, The Savior from Error (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal) in praise of Sufism as the only sure antidote to skepticism and as the highest way to life@ (vol. II, p. 264).
To Montogomery Watt who has translated al-Munqidh together with Bidayat al-Hidaya into English, AAl-Ghazali is one of the Muslim thinkers, though, perhaps over-esteemed in the West.@ The reason in Watt's statement that the Westerners find it easier to be sympathetic with him requires more explanation. Certainly, al-Ghazali deserves to be loved and appeals to all who have noble and fair minds. Watt himself nuanced his statement as appears in his article on al-Ghazali in the new edition of the Islamic Encyclopedia.
Referring to the appeal of al-Munqidh, Watt stated there that Athis again is largely due to the charm of his apologia pro vita sua, entitled Deliverance from Error, which he completed two or three years before his death in December 1111. To fill out our understanding of the Islamic world up to 1100 it is well worth looking more closely at al-Ghazali." In his work the Deliverance from Error, al-Ghazali relates how, after a period of skepticism, he resolved to make an active research for ultimate (religious) truth among the rational theologians, the philosophers, the Batinites (i.e., Ismailites) and the Sufis or mystics (The Majesty That Was Islam [London: Sidwhich and Jackson, 1974], p. 252f).
Richard Joseph McCarthy who brought out another translation of al-Munqidh holds al-Munqidh as unique in whole classical Arabic and Islamic literature. But McCarthy doubts whether this outstanding book is the first of its kind. Al-Ghazali's originality in al-Munqidh is in the great tradition of Muslim autobiography or quasi-biographical literature. It is true that before al-Ghazali, Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi wrote his Ring of the Dove, Tuq al-Hamama and al-Akhlaq wa Siyar, in which he provided much autobiographical information. This can be taken in one way or another as internal evidence that al-Ghazali was influenced by Ibn Hazm in this field. Ibn Sina, and al-Farabi before al-Ghazali both had written a large amount of autobiographical material. (Ibn Abi Usibi'a Vyunal-Anba, vol. 3, pp. 3-29 and 223-233.) It is to be noted that autobiography is not an independent Islamic genre or branch of knowledge.
The rhetoric and genre of al-Ghazali in al-Munqidh was favorably compared with that of the English academic theologian and activist, John Henry Newman, of the nineteenth century Oxford movement. Though Frick more cautiously refers to it as an apologia pro doctrina sua, McCarthy still thinks that al-Munqidh possesses its own uniqueness for reasons which are self-evident and self-proclaimed.
As to McCarthy's own translation, it is accompanied by a long and useful introduction about al-Ghazali and al-Munqidh, and with appendices and annotations. The introduction is sixty pages, the translation fifty-three pages, the annotations of twenty-eight pages, and the indispensable appendices stretch from p. 145 to p. 297 of the book containing a translation of other works by al-Ghazali mentioned in the book.
McCarthy's annotations are useful for lay readers and non-academics. They introduce some biographical information about the personalities mentioned in al-Munqidh. In some instances McCarthy overburdens the text with comments which are merely superficial. Most of the time he refers the reader to secondary sources. McCarthy attempts to refer the hadith to their original source, but often fails, e.g., he misinterpreted the hadith concerning the Muslim sects in a way that contradicts the original. Sometimes the notes complicate, rather than elucidate.
McCarthy worked intensively on Jabri and Burgi's translation (e.g., vide p. xxlx) and utilized to a certain extent the available translations of al-Munqidh, including those in Dutch and Turkish. He specifically mentioned Field's and Watt's translations.
He based his translation on the Arabic text printed by Jamil Salibah and Kamel Ayyad, which was used also for Jabrie's French translation and Watt's translation. Notwithstanding all this, he perused the Shahid Ali Basha's manuscript dated 509 A.H. (1115-1116 A.D.) i.e. five years after al-Ghazali's
death, which we have also used in our translation together with another good, yet incomplete manuscript (Taymur, Bash, Egypt-National Library).
For the first time, I am introducing my edition of al-Munqidh in its Arabic original; the translation here is based on my own edition.
This translation, though not the first one, certainly is the first by a Muslim who stands
very close to al-Ghazali's personality and spirit. The translation, it is hoped, reads smoothly
and carries much of al-Ghazali's style, warmth and stamina in the sphere of learning and truth.
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