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Islam / Theology /
Arabic: 'abū hamīdi muhammadi l-ghazzālī

(Tus, near Meshed in today's Iran 1058- Tus 1111) One of the greatest thinkers in Islam, and among its foremost theologians.
Ghazzali achieved a great reputation in his own time, and was in 1091 appointed by vizier Nizam al-Mulk by the Seljuq sultan to teach at Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad.
Around 1095 Ghazzali became a total sceptic, both towards religion and, for that matter, any knowledge at all. As an intellectual approach to understanding became useless to him, Ghazzali turned to mysticism, i.e. religious experience, namely Sufism. With this involvement in religious experience, Ghazzali discovered the "terror of mind," specifically with respect to the fear of the Day of Judgement. All this within the year of 1095; later that year he left his position, his family, and became an ascetic.
He visited Jerusalem, Damascus and Mecca, but lived most of the time in his birth town of Tus with a group of disciples. Not until 1105 did he return to teaching, and then at the Nizamiyya madrasa in Naisabur. He stayed in this position for only a very short time, before he returned to Tus, where he was in charge of a madrasa and a khanqa (Sufi monastery).
His principal work is the Deliverance from Error ('al-munqidhu mina d-dalāl) in which his internal struggle, from about 1095, and the outcome of his religious thinking, is presented. In Revival of Religious Sciences (¢ulūmu d-dīn) Ghazzali manages to combine different religious elements, the traditional view, the intellectualist view and mysticism (Sufism). Ghazzali's third famous work, Destruction of the Philosophers (tahāfutu l-falāsifa), in which he opposed many of the sceptic thoughts presented by Muslim philosophers like Avicenna (Ibn Sina), is considered to be the main responsible for the decline of rational thinking in Islam.
Ghazzali is considered as the main thinker in Sufism by many, but this importance should not be overrated. Essentially Ghazzali helped to eradicate many of the distinctions that existed between so-called Orthodox Islam and Sufism.

By Tore Kjeilen