Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology

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The Muslim thinker al-Ghazali (d. 1111) was one of the most influential theologians and philosophers of Islam and has been considered an authority in both Western and Islamic philosophical traditions. Born in northeastern Iran, he held the most prestigious academic post in Islamic theology in Baghdad, only to renounce the position and teach at small schools in the provinces for no money. His contributions to Islamic scholarship range from responding to the challenges of Aristotelian philosophy to creating a new type of Islamic mysticism and integrating both these traditions-falsafa and Sufism-into the Sunni mainstream. This book offers a comprehensive study of al-Ghazali's life and his understanding of cosmology-how God creates things and events in the world, how human acts relate to God's power, and how the universe is structured. Frank Griffel presents a serious revision of traditional views on al-Ghazali, showing that his most important achievement was the creation of a new rationalist theology in which he transformed the Aristotelian views of thinkers such as Avicenna to accord with intellectual currents that were well-established within Muslim theological discourse. Using the most authoritative sources, including reports from al-Ghazali's students, his contemporaries, and his own letters, Griffel reconstructs every stage in a turbulent career. The al-Ghazali that emerges offers many surprises, particularly on his motives for leaving Baghdad and the nature of his "seclusion" afterwards. Griffel demonstrates that al-Ghazali intended to create a new cosmology that moved away from concerns held earlier by Muslim theologians and Arab philosophers. This new theology aimed to provide a framework for the pursuit of the natural sciences and a basis for Islamic science and philosophy to flourish beyond the 12th century. Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology is the most thorough examination to date of this important thinker.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This work of historical theology is essential reading for those wanting to understand with new depth and clarity the life and teachings of al-Ghazali."—American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

"This work is a detailed examination of Al-Ghazali's position with respect to Greek science and philosophy as it was presented to the Muslim world in the works of Avicenna. In making this examination the author has been able to correct certain misconceptions about Al-Ghazali which have long been held by some Western scholars."
—Nicholas Heer, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, University of Washington, Seattle

"This book is a major contribution to the field of Islamic Studies. Professor Griffel deserves our sincere gratitude and warm congratulations!" —Bucherbesprechugen

"A highly useful introduction to the life and thought of one of the most important theologians, not only of the Islamic world, but of the world as a whole. Al-Ghazali is an outstanding thinker by any stretch of the imagination, and as the author points out, we still do not know enough about his life. This is an excellent work of scholarship on an important and fascinating philosopher."
—Oliver Leaman, Professor of Philosophy, University of Kentucky

"Frank Griffel's new book is a lucid synthesis of the latest scholarship on al-Ghaz=al=i's life and legacy, his interpretive method and his ideas about the world's creation and about divine, human and natural causality. Griffel succeeds in presenting a coherent and nuanced picture of the cosmology of this complex thinker, who was both a scholar of jurisprudence and a mystic, both a critic of philosophy and a philosophical theologian."
—Robert Wisnovsky, Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

"One of the most extensive and insightful studies of al-Ghazali ever undertaken... Griffel's book is a veritable tour de force that will remain a benchmark in Ghazalian studies for a long time to come." —Theological Review

"Fascinating. . . Griffel's book is provocative, comprehensive, and valuable."—Review of Middle East Studies

"Masterly...I strongly recommend this book to every student of Arabic intellectual history."—Journal of the American Oriental Society

"This work of historical theology is essential reading for those wanting to understand with new depth and clarity the life and teaching of al-Ghazali"—Martin Whittingham, Regent's Park College

"Griffel's new book on the great Arabic theologian al-Ghazali is a substantial contribution to te field of Arabic intellectual history and to Ghazalian studies in particular...The book is a very well written and enhanced by didactic images...masterly study, and I strongly recommend this book to every student of Arabic intellectual history."—Damien Janos, Georg-August Universitat

"In this fascinating study, Frank Giffel brings to life 'the proof of Islam' Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, providing us with an updated biography and good reason to rethink his cosmology...Griffel's book is provocative, comprehensive, and valuable."—Review of Middle Eastern Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195331622
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Griffel is Professor of Islamic Studies at Yale University and has published widely in the fields of Islamic theology, Arab and Islamic philosophy, Islamic law, and Muslim intellectual history.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: A Life Between Public and Private Instruction: Al-Ghazali's Biography The Main Sources for Ghazali's Biography
Chapter Two: Al-Ghazali's Most Influential Students and Followers
Chapter Three: Al-Ghazali On the Role of falsafa in Islam
Chapter Four: The Reconciliation of Reason and Revelation Through the ''Rule of Interpretation''
Chapter Five: Cosmology in Early Islam-Developments that Led to al-Ghazali's Incoherence of the Philosophers
Chapter Six: The Seventeenth Discussion of the Incoherence of the Philosophers
Chapter Seven: Knowledge of Causal Connections is Necessary
Chapter Eight: Causes and Effects in the Revival of the Religious Sciences
Chapter Nine: Cosmology in Works Written After the Revival
General Index
Index of Works by al-Ghazali
Index of Manuscripts
Index of Verses in the Qur'an

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