AL-GHAZALI, Abu Hamid Muhammad (450/1058-505/1111), a towering figure in Islam, was born at Tus, near Mashhad in Iran, in the early Seljuq era and studied theology and law at Nishapur. His formidable intellectual abilities soon won him honour and respect at the court of the famous Seljuqi Prime Minister, Nizam al-Mulk, and, while still in his early thirties, he became Professor at Madrasa Nizamiyya in Baghdad and attained great prominence there. But soon he abandoned his professorship for a decade of contemplation and study. He returned for a while to lecture at the Nizamiyya in Nishapur before his death. He wrote a large number of works, which include Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal (a biographical account), Tahafut al-Falasifa; but his magnum opus remains the Ihya’ Ulum al-Din in four volumes, compiled during his period of retirement and contemplation.
MUHTAR HOLLAND, the translator, was born in Durham in the North-East of England in 1935. Whilst still a pupil at the Johnston Grammar School there, he developed a strong interest in foreign languages which led him to later study of Arabic and Turkish at Balliol College, Oxford. Subsequently, during his National Service in the Royal Navy, he also learned Russian. He went on to lecture in Arabic, Turkish, and Near-Eastern History at the University of Toronto, then in Islamic Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He taught Classical Arabic and Greek Philosophy at the Institute of Malay Language, Literature and Culture, of the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. For a time he was a Senior Research Fellow at the Islamic Foundation, Leicester.