Imam Ghazali , the famous scholastic philosopher and thinker of the middle ages, was famous for his impact on Muslim intellectual history. Accordin to Allama Iqba, Islamic civilization saw three stages of development. The first stage was when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was alive and guiding the Muslim nation. This stage is termed as the age of faith, for believers had the source of truth, the prophet himself, with them, and the only thing required from them was to have faith in whatever prophet used to tell them. Thus, Hazrat Abu bakr, was given the title of Siddique , for he attested Prophet’s journey to heavens or Mairaj , without any hesitation or delay. This kind of attitude was required from the believers when prophet (PBUH) was alive. That is why this age is called the age of faith.
The second era started after Prophet (PBUH) was not among the Muslims. During this period Ummah or the Muslim community had to think and decide about the religious matters in the light of the Quran and Sunnah, the deeds of prophet.
As far as the Quran was concerned, there were no doubts that it was completely intact, for according to the Quran; God himself had taken the responsibility to protect the Quran from any kind of additions or deletions. However, in the case of Sunnah and Hadith(sayings of the Prophet), scholars had to decide whether the sayings or deeds reported by different sources actually belonged to the prophet or not. To make sure that no inauthentic hadith or deed is attributed to the prophet (PBUH), Muslim scholars invented the method of hadiths authentication or Sanad. This method was very accurate and comparable in its validity reliability and rigor to any of the modern methods of research. During this same period, there started different intellectual movements in Islamic society, like Asharites and Mutizilites, who tried to rationalize the religion. Mean they tried to justify the articles of faith on the basis of reason. Although Asharites were a not in favor of rationalizing faith, they also used rational and philosophical arguments to tackle their rivals, the Mutazilites. This age was called the age of reason or rationality. In this age people tried to know the ultimate reality through reason, and also tried to understand religion on the basis of reason.
The Age of Ghazali: The Age of Experience
The third stage of Islamic civilization started with Imam Ghazali himself, and this was the stage of experience. The truth of Islam was believed in in the first stage, in the second stage it was understood and rationalized, and in the third stage it was to be experienced. So, in the first stage, people believed that there was a heaven and a hell, and God is going to hold people accountable in the end, on the Day of Judgment. In the second stage people rediscovered this article of faith on the basis of reason. They understood it, and saw it with the eyes of intellect. In the third stage they had to experience this truth, through their real experience. Ghazali , once for all proved that the ultimate reality cannot be known through reason, therefore those who think so are going in a wrong direction.
Criticism on Philosophers
Ghazali's criticism on philosophers of his times, unfortunately became a criticism on philosophy in general after him. However, from what he wrote in tahat-ul-falasfa, depicts that he was not against philosophy in general, neither he was against each and every philosopher. On the other hand, he actually paid tribute to philosophers like Plato and especially Aristotle. Moreover, he was not at against subjects like logic and science , and in fact he exhorted his readers to avoid any kind of confrontation with science, mathematics and logic, for these subjects according to him , were not against the spirit of religion in any sense. So, Ghazali was niether totally opposed to philosophy, nor he was in any sense opposed to sciences and other reason based inquiries.
However, he criticized philosophers for the illegitimate use of reason and presented this most important and influential critique in his famous text Tahafatul Filasapha, or The incoherence of the Philosophers.
Ghazali said that there is no connection between the cause and effect and what we know as cause and effect is only our habit. So, when we say that the Sun rises from the east , it is not on the basis of the knowledge of cause and effect that we say this.Rather than we say this because we see this happening on a daily basis and we are habitual of seeing this. On the other hand the only cause behind whatever happens in this world is due to the will of God. If God wants to bring out the Sun from the east; it will rise in the east. On the other hand if God wants to rise it from the West; it will rise in the West. It is will of God that causes everything to happen and gives existence to everything.
Furthermore, in his tahafat-ul-falasfa, Ghazali criticized philosophers like Ibn-e-Sina for propagating a wrong image of both religion and the great philosophy masters like Plato and Aristotle. He says that the philosopher's belief in the eternity of the world and their notion of God need serious revisions. And in his tahat-ul-falasfa, Ghazali both criticized and revised what he thought was wrong with the philosophers of his times.
Ilm-al-Yaqeen, Ain-al-Yaqeen and Haqq-ul-Yaqeen:Ghazali's Views on Knowledge
Ghazali , does not deny the possibility of spiritual knowledge and the vision of God. However he, in accordance with the Holy Quran, says that knowledge comes to us in three different stages. The initial stage is the stage of faith. He calls this stage ilm-al yaqeen. By ilm-al-yaqeen, he means that if an authentic person tells something to a person, and he believes in the veracity of that news, without confirming it either by senses or by reason, this is ilm-al-yaqee. So, when the prophet gathered the people of Mecca and said to them that if he says that there is an army behind the mountain would they believe it? The people replied, yes, because the Prophet was famed as Amin(Trustworthy) and Sadiq(The truthful), and people did not accept anything less than truth from him. So such a belief is called ilm-al-yaqeen, a blind faith in the veracity of the prophet, and the book.
The second stage is to see through one’s inner eyes or reason, or with one’s senses the truth of what was reported to him. This stage is called Aina-al-yaqeen. Ain-al-Yaqeen means that if somebody has told a person that there is a fire behind the wall, the person after believing him without seeing the fact, finally himself come across the fact and attests through his knowing faculties, the truth of what was reported to him.
The third stage is called the stage of Haqq-ul-Yaqeen. This is the highest stage of knowledge, and this means not only to see the fire, but also to feel it. Haqq-ul-yaqeen is the stage of experience; it is the knowledge through experience.
Ghazali and Mysticism
With Ghazali, an urge to experience the ultimate reality, to know the reality of God as Haqq-ul-Yaqeen, became stronger in the Islamic community and was also institutionalized in the form of Islamic mysticism. Thus Al Ghazali’s mystic experiences and his thought both resulted in developing mysticism in the Islamic civilization.
According to Imam Ghazali, spiritual knowledge comes through the purification of one;’s heart from all externalities and impurities in the form of hellish passions and evil motives. It is the human heart or Qalb, that recives the spiritual knowledge and allows a person to experience the ultimate reality. Thus, it is imperative for a true Muslim to follow the Shariah (The Islamic Way of Life) and to make efforts to purify his heart.
Ghazali was a great psychologist and educationist. Unlike traditional mediaeval psychologies, inspired by Aristotle’s De Anima, Ghazali’s psychology was aimed at defining different states and passions of human beings. Thus, his psychology stands closer to Aristotelian Ethics. He talked about different good and bad passions of human soul, and after defining them with clarity, he also suggested remedies for evil emotions and passions.
Educational Philosophy of Ghazali: Farz-e-Ain and Farz-e-Kifaya
Ghazali also included these ideas of purification of heart and following of Shariya in his educational thought. However, even then his educational philosophy, despite its metaphysical commitments, remains thoroughly practical and realistic. Ghazali divided his curriculum in two parts; Farz-e-Ain and Farz-e-Kifaya.
Farz-e-Ain is the compulsory, or the early or elementary educational curriculum. Farz-e-Ain comprises, Tenets of the Quran, Hygiene, Logic and, reading of the Quran. On the other hand, farz-e-Kifaya included all optional subjects including architect, tafseer, fiqh(Law and Jurisprudence) etc. farz-e-Ain is the early socialization part of education. Farz-e-ain is meant to teach young people how to live their lives in the Islamic society, and how to socialize themselves properly. Farz-e-Kifaya on the other hand is the economic and practical part of education; through acquiring the knowledge of the subjects related to Farz-e-Kifaya, people could earn their living.
Ghazali was very much concerned with the moral development of the society , therefore he has paid much emphasis to this subject, and like Aristotle, Ghazali has also written extensively on the subject of morality in his magnum opus, Kemiya-e-Saadat,The Alchemy of Grace. Imam ghazali has given the details of each and everything thing that a man does in his life from the offering of , eating, clothing to marriage and friendship.
Ghazali was not in favor of enforcing education on the children and like Plato he was also of the view that education should be given only through motivation. He opposed any act from the teacher that could result in creating ill dispositions towards learning in the children.
Although Ghazali was against corporeal punishment and any sort of coersion in education, his views are considered by some traditionalist educators as liscence for giving thrashings to their students. This attitude was never attested or recommended by Ghazali, he had never liked any kind of misbehavior with children.