Imam Al-Ghazali a Short Biography
Abu Ḥamid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazali al-Tusi famous in the world of learning as al-Ghazali. .The Imam major Shafi‘i jurist, heresiographer and debater, expert in the principles of doctrine and those of jurisprudence.
He was born in 450 AH (1058 A.D). in Tus (modern Mash'had in NE Persia). He attended the village madressa and as a young man went to the Nizamia Madressa, which was a very famous educational institution in Nishapur. He was a clever and keen student who took interest in all subjects.
His cleverness as a student was commented upon in court circles in Persia and the Grand Vizier took special interest in his progress and encouraged him to devote himself to the pursuit of knowledge.
Al-Ghazzali justified the confidence shown in him by his patron and graduated from the Nizamia Madressa at Nishapur, with distinction.
Later he was appointed as a Professor at the Nizamia a famous University in Baghdad, where he proved very successful in imparting knowledge to the scholars under his care. This valuable gift of sustaining interest of his pupils and passing on his knowledge to them made him so famous that students from all parts of the country flocked to study under him.
Among his teachers in law, debate, and principles are Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Râdhakâni in Tus, Abu Nasr al-Isma‘ili in Jurjan, and Imam al-Haramayn Abu al,-Ma‘ali al-Juwayni in Naysabur, from where he departed to Baghdad after the latter’s death. Ibn ‘Asakir also mentions that during the last days of his life al-Ghazzali addressed himself wholeheartedly to the study of the traditions and studied Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Al- Muslim.
Al-Ghazzali came to Baghdad in 484 and began a prestigious career of teaching, giving fatwa, and authoring books in nearly all the Islamic sciences of his day. His skill in refuting opponents was unparalleled except by his superlative godwariness, which led him to abandon his teaching position at the Nizamiyya school four years later, deputizing his brother Ahmad, famous for his preaching, to replace him. Upon completion of pilgrimage to Makkah al-Ghazzali headed for Damascus, then al-Qudus, then Damascus again where he remained for several years, taking up the ascetic life with the words: "We sought after knowledge for other than Allah’s sake, but He refused that it be for anything other than Him.
In his autobiography, al-Munqidh min al-dalal (The Deliverer from Error), written late in his life. It was his habit from an early age, he says, to search for the true reality of things. In the process he came to doubt the senses and even reason itself as the means to ‘certain knowledge’, and fell into a deep scepticism. However, he was eventually delivered from this with the aid of the divine light, and thus recovered his trust in reason. Using reason, he then set out to examine the teachings of ‘the seekers after truth’: the theologians, philosophers, Batinites and concluded 'There remained, then, only what was attainable, not by hearing and studying, but by fruitional experience and actually engaging in the way' As a result of these studies, he came to the realisation that there was no way to certain knowledge except through Mysticism. In order to reach this ultimate truth of the Sufis, however, it is first necessary to renounce the world and to devote oneself to mystical practice. Al-Ghazali came to this realization through an agonising process.
It was in Damascus, Syria, that al-Ghazzali began writing books on religious philosophy which later made him famous throughout the world. He was a prolific writer and he wrote nearly 400 books on a variety of subjects which covered several volumes.
He came out of seclusion in 499 and travelled to Cairo, Iskandariyya and other places, finally returning to Baghdad where he taught his magnum opus Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din until his death in nearby Tus, occupying the remainder of his time with devotions, Qur’an recitations, prayer and fasting, and the company of Sufis.
Al-Ghazali died at Tabran in Jamadi al Ukhra 505 AH at the age of 55 years. Ibn al-Jawzee narrated in al-Thabat ‘Inda al-Mamat ("Firmness at the Time of Death") from al-Ghazzali’s brother Ahmad: "On Monday [14 Jumada al-Akhira] at the time of the dawn prayer my brother Abu Hamid made his ablution, prayed, then said: ‘Bring me my shroud.’ He took it, kissed it and put it on his eyes, saying: ‘We hear and obey in readiness to enter the King’s presence.’ Then he stretched his legs, facing the Qibla, and died before sunrise – may Allah sanctify his soul!"
Imam al-Ghazzali was fondly referred to as the "Hujjat-ul-lslam", Proof of Islam, He is honoured as a scholar and a saint by learned men all over the world.
Al-Ghazzalli taught his followers to love and serve Allah, trust in Him and to do good. He enjoined them to realise that man can do nothing without the help of Allah ; but that should not be made an excuse to be lazy and indolent. Man possesses the freedom of choice as far as good and evil actions are concerned, but this freedom does not extend beyond certain limitations.
Imam al-Ghazzali's life was spent in self-sacrificing service of God and his fellowmen. He left behind him a fine example for all men to follow.
'The intelligent man, on the contrary, follows the advice of the master of the intelligent, Ali-God be pleased with him where he says, "do not know the truth by men but rather know the truth, and you will know its of adherents'. (Al Munqidh min al-Dalal al-Ghazali's Path to SufismHis Deliverance from Error)
'Al-Ghazali held the religious doctors, the Ulema, responsible for the all round religious and moral degeneration of the Muslim peoples. To him, religious doctors were the salt of the earth; if they went astray, nothing could keep the people right' (Saviours Of Islamic Spirit by Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi Vol1)
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