GHAZĀLĪ, ABU ḤAMID MUḤAMMAD IBN MUḤAM-MAD AL-TŪSĪ AL-° (1058–1111), Persian Muslim theologian, jurist, mystic, and religious reformer, who wrote mainly in Arabic.

Al-Ghazālī's best-known work is his Iḥyā' 'Ulūm al-Dīn ("Revival of the Religious Sciences," 1096–7), in which he successfully reconciled orthodox Islam and *Sufism.

In his early career, al-Ghazālī wrote his famous Tahāfutal-Falāsifa ("Incoherence of the Philosophers," 1095) in which he directly confronted the claims of the philosophic systems of al-*Fārābī and *Avicenna. The book is divided into 20 topics, the most important of which is the discussion of the creation of the world. At the end of his work, he offers the legal opinion that the philosophers are guilty of heresy and are liable to the death penalty on three counts: they believe in the eternity of the world, they disbelieve in the omniscience of God, and they do not accept the dogma of bodily resurrection.

Al-Ghazālī had summed up the philosophic system of al-Fārābī and Avicenna in his Maqāṣid al-Falāsifa ("Intentions of the Philosophers," 1094), which was supposed to serve as an introductory volume to his "Incoherence," but was used as a handy, independent compendium of philosophy.

In his Al-Munqidh min al-Ḍalāl ("Deliverance from Error," 1108) he discussed his initial skepticism concerning the possibility of knowledge, and then his search for enlightenment in *Kalām (scholastic theology), philosophy, the doctrine that there exists an authoritative Imām, or religious guide, to absolute knowledge (Ismaʿilism), and finally Sufism, in which he found the solution to his quest for certainty through prophecy.

The four large volumes of al-Ghazālī's Revival of the Religious Sciences constitute one of the major works of Sunni Islam. While the first part deals with knowledge and the requirements of faith imposed on the individual (such as ritual purity, prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage, recitation of the *Koran) and part two concentrates mainly on duties relating to social interrelations (such as practices relating to eating, marriage, earning a living, friendship), parts three and four are dedicated to the inner life of the soul and deepen the perspective of the first two parts. As a result of al-Ghazālī's endeavor, some of the warmth and emotional religious feeling inherent in Islamic mysticism was infused into the legalistic approach of Sunni Islam.

Al-Ghazālī found the strictness of exacting logical tools especially effective for the renovation and revival of the religious sciences. In addition to a systematic description of logic in his introduction to his writing on legal theory entitled al-Mustaṣfā min ' Ilm al-Uṣūl ("The Essentials of Islamic Legal Theory," 1109), he dedicated three other works to Aristotelian logic: Mi'yar al-'Ilm ("The Standard Measure of Knowledge," 1095), Miḥakk al-Naẓar fi al-Manṭiq ("The Touchstone of Proof in Logic," 1095) and al-Qisṭās al-Mustaqīm ("The Just Balance," 1095–96). The first two were written shortly after the Tahāfut in the same momentum of thought, and the third was composed after his retirement.

Along with his magnum opus, Iḥyā ' Ulūm al-Dīn, al-Ghazali's sincere commitment to Sufism yielded a number of distinctive works on Sufism and ethics, such as Mīzān al-'Amal ("The Balance of Action," 1095), Kitāb al-Arba'īn fi Uṣūl al-Dīn ("The Forty Chapters on the Principles of Religion"), which is an abbreviation of the Revival, Mishkāt al-Anwār ("The Niche of the Lights," 1106–7), on the guidance of the inner light to divine intellectualism, and others. In these writings, al-Ghazālī presents his unique perception of man's ultimate goal: an intellectual or spiritual nearness to God instead of the imaginary and metaphorical sensuous pleasures depicted in the Koran and in the Traditions. Al-Ghazālī's conversion to Sufism is not only a move from practical orthodoxy to the internal worship of God, but also a move from a formal conservative form of faith, expressed through practicing the Islamic law, to a learned mode of faith, expressed through an intellectual-mystical progression. In the same token, his revival of the religious sciences on the basis of Sufism, is a move from naïve belief to a learned belief based on semi-philosophical grounding.

Influence on Jewish Philosophy

Al-Ghazālī's influence on Jewish thought falls into two periods: (1) through the 13th century, when he influenced Jewish thinkers who thought and wrote in Arabic, and (2) from the 13th century onward, when a number of his works were translated into Hebrew, some more than once, commented on, and read by the Jewish thinkers of Provence and Spain, who did not know Arabic.

In the first period al-Ghazālī influenced *Judah Halevi, who followed al-Ghazālī's Incoherence in attacking the Aristotelian philosophy then current in Spain. One of Judah Halevi's main arguments refers to the difference of opinion among philosophers, except in matters of mathematics and logic, to which al-Ghazālī had already referred. However, in a more general and profound sense, al-Ghazālī made apparent the great danger of philosophy for revealed religion, and it is in this sense that Judah Halevi, and later on Ḥasdai *Crescas, were true disciples of their great Islamic predecessor. Judah Halevi also quotes textually from an early work of al-Ghazālī that sums up the dogmatic bases of the belief of a religious person. This early work of al-Ghazālī was later incorporated into his Revival (D. Baneth, Knesset, 7 [1942], p. 317 [Hebrew]). Unlike Halevi, who was mostly influenced by the anti-philosophical tone of al-Ghazālī, Ibn Da'ud who wrote his Emunah Ramah ("The Exalted Faith") in 1160 was mainly influenced by al-Ghazālī's reliable account of philosophy in his concise reworking of the Aristotelian-Avicennian definitions in his Intentions.

Although it cannot be demonstrated conclusively, most probably *Maimonides had read al-Ghazālī's Incoherence and was influenced by it in formulating the contrasting conceptions of a God of religion, who exercises free will, and a God of philosophy, who is restricted by the immutability of the order of nature (Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, ed. by S. Pines [1963], cxxvii). The parallel between al-Ghazālī, who attempted to reconcile Islam and Sufism in his Revival, and *Maimonides, who attempted to reconcile the law of Judaism with philosophy in his Guide, is instructive, and Maimonides' idea of an all-inclusive legal work including non-legal aspects may have been influenced by al-Ghazālī's Revival as well. S. Harvey has pointed to particular similarities between al-Ghazālī's "Book of Knowledge," the first book of the Revival of the Religious Sciences and Maimonides' Book of Knowledge, the first book of the Mishneh Torah. This scholar and others have shown that Maimonides was also influenced by al-Ghazālī's supreme way to approach God, such as his concepts of divine love, spiritual pleasures, and the world to come.

The number of works of al-Ghazālī translated into Hebrew during the 13th century indicates his popularity during the preceding period, in which they had become well known and were considered worth translating. His Intentions of the Philosophers was translated into Hebrew three times. The first Hebrew translation of al-Ghazālī's Maqāṣid was made by Isaac *Albalag (1292). Yet, this translation, known as Sefer Tikkun ha-De'ot (or De'ot ha-Filosofim) includes only two parts of the original; namely, logic and metaphysics. The third part of this Hebrew version was completed in 1307 by Isaac Pulgar. Albalag, who advocated the philosophy of Averroes, chose al-Ghazālī's compendium of the Avicennian-oriented Aristotelianism out of pedagogical considerations and used it as a point of departure for his own views, which he expressed in excursuses appended to his translation.

The second translation is that of Judah ben Solomon Nathan, who translated the work twice, under the title Kawwanot ha-Filosofim sometime between 1330 and 1340; and the third one is an anonymous translation composed at the first half of the 14th century, to which *Moses of Narbonne composed a full commentary (c. 1349). In his commentary on the Maqāṣid, Narboni insists that al-Ghazālī wrote a small work entitled Maqāṣid al-Maqāṣid (Kawwanot ha-Kawwanot), where he confronts the metaphysical issues he challenged in the Maqāṣid. In some Hebrew manuscripts, the Tahāfut is followed by a small treatise, in which al-Ghāzalī answers the objections which he himself had raised. Narboni's commentary was the object of further comments and commentaries, from the 14th century to the beginning of the 16th century, such as the 14th-century encyclopedia Ahavah ba-Taʿnugim by *Moses ben Judah Nogah (1353–56). Even a poetical, rhymed, and abridged version based on selected passages from Judah ben Solomon Nathan's translation was composed in the second half of the 14th century (1367) by *Abraham ben Meshulam Avigdor, under the title Segullat Melakhim. Al-Ghazālī's Intentions of the Philosophers became a very popular and frequently quoted text in the 15th and 16th centuries and over 50 manuscripts of the Hebrew translations from these centuries are extant. Partial commentaries were written by Moses Rieti (1388–1460), Isaac ben Shem-Ṭob (metaphysics), and (probably) by Elijah Habillo (metaphysics and physics), and there is evidence that the Maqāṣid was studied at the schools of Judah Messer Leon and Abraham Bibago and even among the learned Jews of Bohemia and Poland. In addition, there are about 11 anonymous commentaries on the Maqāṣid in various European libraries. David ben Judah Messer Leon in his Ein ha-Kore' says that Maimonides drew his Peripatetic theories from the Maqāṣid (Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. ii. 86). Moses Almosnino cites a commentary by Elijah Mizraḥi which is no longer extant. The last commentary on the Maqāṣid al-Falasifah was by the Karaite Abraham Bali (1510). In his criticism of Aristotelian philosophy, Ḥasdai Crescas preferred to use al-Ghazālī's Intentions rather then his Incoherence in order to refute the Averroistic-Aristotelian argumentation. Following Ibn Da'ud's historical exemplar, he treated the Intentions as a dependable sourcebook for philosophical definitions and suppositions.

Al-Ghazālī's Tahāfut al-Falāsifah was translated by Zerahyah ha-Levi in 1411 under the title Happalat ha-Filosofim. Isaac ben Nathan of Cordova translated in the 14th century a small treatise by Al-Ghazālī under the title Ma'amar bi-Teshuvot She'elot Nish'al Mehem, in which he answers philosophical questions (published by H. Malter, Frankfurt-on-the-Main, 1897). Jacob ben Makhir (d. 1308) translated, under the title Moznei ha-Iyyunim, a work in which al-Ghazālī refuted the philosophical arguments contradicting simple religious faith. Simon Duran (d. 1444) cites a passage from Moznei ha-Iyyunim in his Keshet u-Magen. Al-Ghazālī's Mishkāt al-Anwār fi Riyāḍ al-Azhar was translated by Isaac ben Joseph Alfasi under the title Maskit ha-Orot be-Pardes ha-Niẓẓanim. Moses ibn Ḥabib quotes the Mishkat in his commentary on Beḥinat Olam, where he makes the sun a metaphor to the Law. Johanan Alemanno compares the hierarchy of lights in al-Ghazālī's paradigm to the symbolic system of the Kabbalah in his Ḥeshek Shelomoh.

Al-Ghazālī's ethical teachings were studied by Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages. Mīzān al-'Amal (Moznei Ẓedek) was translated by Abraham ibn Ḥasdai ben Samuel ha-Levi of Barcelona, who replaced the Koranic quotations with parallel Biblical and Talmudic verses. The Mīzān served as a source for Abraham Ibn Da'ud's parable of the pilgrim in his Emunah Ramah, used originally by Al-Ghazālī to illustrate the importance of different scientific disciplines.

Altogether, at least six works ascribed to al-Ghazālī were translated into Hebrew during the Middle Ages. Transliterations into Hebrew letters of al-Ghazālī's Intentions, Incoherence, and Deliverance are extant, which is another indication of al-Ghazālī's popularity among the Jewish intellectuals who knew Arabic.

It is interesting to note that on the flyleaf of a manuscript containing some of his works in Arabic letters, the contents are described in Hebrew letters as being by "Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, the memory of the righteous be blessed," the usual designation for a pious Jew. This illustrates how congenial his general outlook was felt to be by Jewish medieval thinkers and is a striking example of Jewish-Islamic medieval symbiosis. Al-Ghazālī greatly influenced distinguished Jewish thinkers who wrote in Arabic and Hebrew. His case presents an example of Jewish assimilation of Islamic thought during the Middle Ages.


PRIMARY SOURCES: Iḥyā' 'Ulūm al-Dīn (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) (1937–38), 5 vols; partial translations can be found in E.E. Calverley, Worship in Islam: al-Ghazali's Book of the Ihya' on the Worship (1957); N.A. Faris, The Book of Knowledge, Being a Translation with Notes of the Kitab al-ilm of al-Ghazzali's Ihya' ' Ulum al-Din (1962); idem, The Foundation of the Articles of Faith: Being a Translation with Notes of the Kitab Qaw'id al-'Aqa'id of al-Ghazzali's Ihya' ' Ulum al-Din (1963); L. Zolondek, Book XX of al-Ghazali's Ihya' ' Ulum al-Din (1963); T.J. Winter, The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife: Book XL of the Revival of Religious Sciences (1989); K. Nakamura, Invocations and Supplications: Book IX of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (1990); M. Bousquet, Ihya' ' ouloum ed-din ou vivification de la foi, analyse et index (1951); I.A. Qubukçu and H. Atay (eds.), Al-Iqtisad fi'l-'tiqad (The Middle Path in Theology) (1962); partial trans. A.R. Abu Zayd, Al-Ghazali on Divine Predicates and Their Properties (1970); M.A. Palacios, El justo medio en la creencia (1929); S. Dunya (ed.), Maqasid al falasifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers) (1961); S. Dunya (ed.), Mizan al-'amal (The Balance of Action) (1964); H. Hachem (tr.), Ghazali: Critere de l'action (1945); S. Dunya (ed.), Mi'yar al-'ilm (The Standard Measure of Knowledge) (1961); M. al-Nu'mani (ed.), Mihakk al-nazar fi'l-mantiq (The Touchstone of Proof in Logic) (1966); V. Chelhot (ed.), Al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Just Balance) (1959); V. Chelhot (tr.), "Al-Qistas al-Mustaqim et la connaissance rationnelle chez Ghazali," in: Bulletin d'Etudes Orientales, 15 (1955–57), 7–98; D.P. Brewster (tr.), Al-Ghazali: The Just Balance (1978); A.L. Tibawi (ed. and tr.), Al-Risala al-Qudsiyya (The Jerusalem Epistle) "Al-Ghazali's Tract on Dogmatic Theology," in: The Islamic Quarterly, 9:3–4 (1965), 62–122; A. Afifi (ed.), Mishkat al-anwar (The Niche of the Lights) (1964); W.H.T Gairdner (tr.), Al-Ghazzali's Mishkat al-Anwar (1924; repr. 1952); R. Deladriere, Le Tabernacle des lumierès (1981); A.E. Elschazli, Die Nische der Lichter (1987); J. Saliba and K. Ayyad (eds.), Al-Munqidh min al-Ḍalāl (The Deliverer from Error) (1934); W.M. Watt (tr.), The Faith and Practice of al-Ghazali (1982); R.J. McCarthy (trans.), Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of al-Ghazali's al-Munqidh min al-Dalal and Other Relevant Works of al-Ghazali (1980); M. Bouyges (ed.), Tahāfut al falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) (1927); S.A. Kamali (trans.), Al-Ghazali's Tahafut al-Falasifah (1963); second English translation by M.E. Marmura, The Incoherence of the Philosophers: Tahafut al-falasifah: A Parallel English-Arabic Text (1997). SECONDARY SOURCES: B. Abrahamov, Divine Love in Islamic Mysticism, the Teachings of al-Ghazali and al-Dabbagh (2003); M.E. Marmura, "Al-Ghazalī," in: P. Adamson and R.C. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (2005), 137–54. INFLUENCE ON JEWISH THOUGHT: M. Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen (1893, [1956]), 296–348. CIRCULATION OF THE "INTENTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS": "Issac Albalag," in: Sefer Tiqqun ha-Deʿot, ed. Georges Vajda (1973); S. Harvey, "Why Did Fourteenth-Century Jews Turn to Al-Ghazali's Account of Natural Science?" in: JQR, 91:3–4 (January–April 2001), 359–76. INFLUENCE OF THE "INCOHERENCE": B.S. Kogan, "Al-Ghazali and Halevi on Philosophy and the Philosophers," in: Medieval Philosophy and the Classical Tradition (2002), 64–80; H. Malter, Die Abhandlungen des Abu Hamid al-Gazzali Antworten auf Fragen, die an ihn gerichtet wurden (1894); J. Wolfsohn, Der Einfluss Gazālī's auf Chisdai Crescas (1905). ETHICAL WRITINGS: Abraham ibn Ḥasdai ben Samuel ha-Levi, Moznei Ẓedeḳ, ed. J. Goldenthal (1839). POSSIBLE INFLUENCE ON MAIMONIDES: A. Eran, "Al-Ghazali and Maimonides on the World to Come and Spiritual Pleasures," in: Jewish Studies Quarterly, 8 (2001), 137–66; H.A. Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy (1987), 196–203; S. Harvey, "Alghazali and Maimonides and their Books of Knowledge," in: J.M. Harris (ed.), Be'erot Yitzhak – Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky (2005), 99–117; S. Pines, "The Philosophic Sources of the Guide of Perplexed," in his translation of Maimonides' Guide of Perplexed, 1 (1963), cxxvi–cxxxi.

[Amira Eran (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.