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Al-Ghazali: a mirror in which others see themselves

A statement on secondary sources on al-Ghazali

Al-Ghazali is one of those personalities that much has been written on. As you will see, one can easily lose the forest for the trees in this. Thereby al-Ghazali becomes a mirror for those who write about him and his life. The reader ends up knowing more about the authors themselves than about al-Ghazali. Each author brings his or her own prejudices to the table, slants on his life in accordance with their social and cultural baggage.

For example if the author had lived fearfully in an oppressive society they will mirror that in their writing on al-Ghazali’s life. Where al-Ghazali is portrayed as an oppressed minority suffering in an oppressive majority state!

If an author has suffered censorship, he will see al-Ghazali as agent of the state, a mouthpiece for the body politic.

If the author was criticized by the conservative religious scholarship he will see al-Ghazali as representative of that religious body against freedom of expression.

Conversely, if the author likes al-Ghazali, he will see him in a different light; a beacon of freedom of thought.

Recent work on al-Ghazali is of the variety mentioned above and it is for that reason that it is recommend to utilize the early source material on al-Ghazali’s life whenever possible.

However, this does not mean that our early authors were completely immune to similar entrapments. With that said at least their prejudices are well known.


Muhammad Hozien



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