Muslim Intellectual: A Study of Al-Ghazali

By W. Montgomery Watt | Go to book overview

II
THE WORLD OF AL-GHAZĀLĪ

1
THE POLITICAL BACKGROUND

IN a sense the background of the life of any individual is the whole previous history of his civilization. For an understanding of al-Ghazālϊ it will be sufficient to glance briefly at the history of the Islamic empire or caliphate from the death of Muḥammad in 632 to the birth of al-Ghazālϊ in 1058. In these four centuries four main phases may be distinguished, which may be labelled: conquests; conversion; disintegration; reconstitution. These phases follow one another chronologically, but overlap to some extent.

(1) The Conquests . As Muḥammad lay on his deathbed in Medina an expedition was being assembled on the outskirts of the town whose task was in fact to open the way for the conquest of Syria. For the next two years, however, the Muslim leaders were busy suppressing revolts in Arabia, but in the following ten years the small state with its centre at Medina wrested the rich provinces of Syria and Egypt from the Byzantine empire and that of Iraq from the Persian empire, besides sending the latter reeling to destruction. A hundred years after Muḥammad's death the sway of his successor extended from north of the Pyrenees, through North Africa and the Fertile Crescent to Central Asia (Transoxiana) and the Punjab.

The effective control of these vast territories after the amazingly rapid conquest was made possible by the simplicity of the central organization. The Arabs constituted themselves into a vast army. At the extremities of their domains they had the help of auxiliaries from

-7-

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Muslim Intellectual: A Study of Al-Ghazali
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - The Function of The Intellectual 1
  • II - The World of Al-GhazĀlĪ 7
  • III - The Encounter With Philosophy 25
  • IV - Truth from the Charismatic Leader 73
  • V - The Reappraisal of Theology 87
  • VI - The Bitterness of Worldly Success 127
  • VII - The Intellectual Basis of The "Revived" Community 155
  • VIII - The Achievement 171
  • Excursus - Ghazālī or Ghazzālī 181
  • Notes 187
  • Chronological Table 201
  • Bibliography 203
  • Index 207
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