Imam Ghazali: Mystic Of The Middle East

The story of Imam Ghazali: mystic, theologian, and lecturer.

Abu Hamid Ghazali was born in 1058 at Tus near Meshed, not far from what is now the Northeast corner of Iran. In the Middle Ages he was known as Algazel, mystic and theologian. He mastered Arabic at a very young age and was fluent in his native Persian tongue as well. His education was far reaching within Islamic learning. He completed his education in theology and law in Nishapur where he also was schooled in Islamic mysticism, also known as Sufism.

At the age of 33, Ghazali was sent to be a professor at the famous Nizamiyya school founded by Vizier Nizam al-Mulk. Lecturing on law and theology, Ghazali become one of the most prominent men of the capital at that time.

While reaching the end of his fourth year as a professor, Ghazali entered a period of skepticism. He was saved by God in a moment of pure enlightenment. Becoming aware of the absolute futility of the life he was living, he began a mental journey to break away from the life he was living to live the life of a hermit in rapt contemplation. He had to be careful so that none of his colleagues or friends would try to stop him so he made it known that he had planned a pilgrimage to Mecca, which satisfied even his closest of allies.

In actuality, he journeyed to Damascus where he spent the majority of two years in solitude and meditation. He went on to Jerusalem and was persuaded by his family to return to his homeland in Tus, where he retired from teaching and lecturing. It was after this that he wrote his most famous text and one of the most widely consulted treatises in all of Islamic literature; "˜The Revival of the Religious Sciences.' Ghazali wrote this book with the thought to restoring spiritual significance to every aspect of Islamic daily life.

Ten years after his pilgrimage, he was influenced to once again return to teaching, which he did so at his original place of lecturing, the Nizamiyya school. He returned knowing that his inner peace had been met and that through his outward appearance and lectures he could further renew the faith and pass the word of the importance of spiritual renewal. His followers in Sufism believed that it was his destiny to be the one to renew their religion, a promise made by the Prophet for the end of the century.

Ghazali has been called one of the greatest Moslems after Mohammed. He may not have held a high seat of prophet hood or royalty, but his scope and breadth of religion and mysticism was immense for the period in which he lived. He saw the need for mysticism to flow freely throughout the whole Islamic land, spreading to the farthest parts and smallest corners. In his books and lectures he repeatedly emphasized the need for spiritual enlightenment, sighting that Sufism is the only true cure for skepticism, as well as the highest way of life.

In spreading the word of Sufism, Ghazali was able to address the highest of society as well as the most uneducated. He could speak the language of the elite and the ghetto without hesitation. He realized how much information could be handled by the masses, seeing that too much is not a good thing. Being able to bridge the gap in the levels of the entire Islamic community allowed him to reach many more people. Sufism became available to everyone, irregardless of the level of education. Ghazali had made mysticism available, understandable and easy to follow.

Ghazali has been termed a moderate mystic, though he believed undeniably that God is the true reality in all that is faced. Uncompromising in his beliefs, he wrote many books on the subject, reaffirming his belief in the following of Sufism and being truly spiritual. The end result of following the mystic path, for Ghazali, was becoming one with God. A good path to follow and one that was rewarding for the mind, body and soul.

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