Muslim Intellectual: A Study of Al-Ghazali

By W. Montgomery Watt | Go to book overview

EXCURSUS
Ghazālī or Ghazzālī

THE, spelling of the nisba of the great theologian has been for centuries a matter of dispute among scholars, and it is unlikely that we can now reach more than a probable conclusion on the matter. Yet it is worth while looking once again at the material.1

What may be called the standard view -- Ibn Khallikān speaks of it as the mash'hūr-- is that this nisba is derived from ghazzāl, a spinner, or a vendor of spun yarn. In support of this derivation it is noted that the practice of deriving a nisba from a word of this form indicating an occupation is common in Jurjān and Khwarizm. A later writer like as-Subkī adds that the theologian's father was a spinner of wool, which he sold in his little shop.

The alternative view is that the correct spelling is Ghazālī and that it is derived from Ghazala, a village near Ṭūs. This is found in the earliest source, as-Sam'ānī, who died only half a century after the theologian. Unfortunately there appears to be no mention of the village except in discussions of the nisba. It is doubtless this fact that caused later scholars to be puzzled by the question. The lexicographically-minded Ibn-al-Athīr seems to have been the first to advocate the spelling Ghazzālī. The keenest interest in the question was in the middle of the fourteenth century. Al-Fay- yūmī, who had made a special study of al-Ghazālī and compiled a lexicon of the less usual words in his writings, alleged that a descendant in the eighth generation (through the theologian's daughter) had told him that the family tradition was that the nisba was Ghazālī from the village. About the same time the polymath aṣ-Ṣafadī, besides quoting this point, said that the form Ghazālī was used by the theologian himself. As-Subkī (d. 1379) does not discuss the matter directly, but opposes these views by his allegation that the father of the theologian was a ghazzāl. The continuing problem of this nisba is shown by as-Sayyid al-Murtaḍā's

-181-

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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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