‘…one must go on Jihad at least once a year… One may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire on them and/or drown them.’
– Sufi Imam al-Ghazzali,
the second greatest scholar of Islam after Muhammad
Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (Arabic: ابو حامد محمد ابن محمد الغزالي; c. 1058 – 18 December 1111), shortened as Al-Ghazali and known as Algazelus or Algazel to the Western medieval world, was a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Persian descent.
The traditional date of al-Ghazali’s birth, as given by Ibn al-Jawzi, is 450 AH (March 1058–February 1059 CE), but modern scholars have raised doubts about the accuracy of Ibn al-Jawzi’s information, and have posited a date of 448 AH (1056–1057 CE), on the basis of certain statements in al-Ghazali’s correspondence and autobiography. He was born in Tabaran, a town in the district of Tus, which lies within the Khorasan Province of Iran.
A posthumous tradition – the authenticity of which has been questioned in recent scholarship – tells that his father died in poverty and left the young al-Ghazali and his brother Ahmad to the care of a Sufi. Al-Ghazali’s contemporary and first biographer, ‘Abd al-Ghafir al-Farisi, records merely that al-Ghazali began to receive instruction in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Ahmad al-Radhakani, a local teacher.
He later studied under al-Juwayni, the distinguished jurist and theologian and “the most outstanding Muslim scholar of his time”, in Nishapur, perhaps after a period of study in Gurgan. After al-Juwayni’s death in 1085, al-Ghazali departed from Nishapur and joined the court of Nizam al-Mulk, the powerful vizier of the Seljuq sultans, which was likely centered in Isfahan. After bestowing upon him the titles of “Brilliance of the Religion” and “Eminence among the Religious Leaders”, Nizam al-Mulk advanced al-Ghazali in July 1091 to the “most prestigious and most challenging” professoriate at the time, in the Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad.
He underwent a spiritual crisis in 1095, and consequently abandoned his career and left Baghdad on the pretext of going on pilgrimage to Mecca. Making arrangements for his family, he disposed of his wealth and adopted an ascetic lifestyle. According to biographer, Duncan B. Macdonald, the purpose of abstaining from scholastic work was to confront the spiritual experience and more ordinary understanding of “the Word and the Traditions”. After some time in Damascus and Jerusalem, with a visit to Medina and Mecca in 1096, he returned to Tus to spend the next several years in ‘uzla (seclusion). This seclusion consisted in abstaining from teaching at state-sponsored institutions, though he continued to publish, to receive visitors, and to teach in the zawiya (private madrasa) and khanqah (Sufi monastery) that he had built.
Al-Ghazali has been referred to by some historians as the single most influential Muslim after the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Within Islamic civilization he is considered to be a Mujaddid or renewer of the faith, who, according to tradition, appears once every century to restore the faith of the community.
Al-Ghazali wrote more than 70 books on the sciences, Islamic philosophy and Sufism.
His works were so highly acclaimed by his contemporaries that al-Ghazali was awarded the honorific title “Proof of Islam” (Hujjat al-Islam).
Besides his work that successfully changed the course of Islamic philosophy—the early Islamic Neoplatonism that developed on the grounds of Hellenistic philosophy, for example, was so successfully criticised by al-Ghazali that it never recovered—he also brought the orthodox Islam of his time in close contact with Sufism. It became increasingly possible for individuals to combine orthodox theology (kalam) and Sufism, while adherents of both camps developed a sense of mutual appreciation that made sweeping condemnation of one by the other increasingly problematic.
Al-Ghazali contributed significantly to the development of a systematic view of Sufism and to its integration and acceptance in mainstream Islam. As a scholar of orthodox Islam, he belonged to the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence and to the Asharite school of theology. Al-Ghazali received many titles such as Sharaf-ul-Aʾimma (شرف الأئمة), Zayn-ud-dīn (زين الدين), Ḥujjat-ul-Islām (حجة الإسلام).
He is viewed in the Islamic world as the key member of the influential Asharite school of early Muslim philosophy and as the most important refuter of Mutazilites.
Sufi Poet Rumi of Byzantine Roman Origin?
Note: It’s noteworthy that much of the travels of Sufi Al-Ghazali is similar to the professed, but not historically proven early life of Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (“the Roman”). Rumi did not belong to the Sufi order while he was alive. This attribution was added to his group of followers many years after his death.
Al-Ghazali was born in Iran and spent time in Baghdad, Damascus, Medina, Mecca. Rumi is claimed to have been born in Iran and lived in the same locations before ending up in Konya in Turkey, under the Sultanate of Rum – after “fleeing” Muslim progression into the regions and forced to reloacte again and again. Why would a Muslim keep fleeing one Muslim ruler after another progressing into the countries to establish Sharia?
We believe that Rūmī (Rumi, ‘the Roman’) was not called ‘the Roman’ for no reason and that he originated from a Byzantine Christian background and lived under a form of Devşirme (blood tax) system. Roman influence had been removed under Suleiman ibn Qutulmish of Anatolia two hundred years before Rumi was even born. If Rumi was born in Iran, why was he’s name given a reference to the Byzantine Christians and not to Iraq?
Throughout history whenever Muslims came to admire the architecture, inventions, and works of non-Muslim slaves under their rulership they converted their names, religion and works into “islamic” origin. Even Jesus is converted into an Islamic prophet. Although Rumi was educated into a theologian scholar on Islamic law, an accomplished teacher and jurist of great rank, he complained in his poetry that he was ridiculed, scorned and treated badly. Why would a Muslim scholar of high rank be treated badly?