The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



or Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazzali. Born 1058 or 1059 in Khurasan, Iran; died there 1111. Muslim theologian and philosopher.

Although he was Iranian by birth, Ghazzali wrote mainly in Arabic. He was educated in Neyshabur (Eastern Iran) and Baghdad and became a teacher of Muslim law. In his philosophical studies, Ghazzali reached the conclusion that faith, as an irrational concept, is fundamentally incompatible with philosophy, which is a product of rationalistic constructions. This caused a deep psychological crisis for him in 1095. After leaving his post of mudaris (professor), he spent 11 years as a wandering dervish and then as a hermit.

Ghazzali’s main work was the huge compendium Ihya Ulum al-Din (The Revival of Religious Sciences, vols. 1-4, 1872), in which he developed the idea that god cannot be known rationally because he is the highest truth; however, Ghazzali did not deny the authenticity of the sciences, which are based on rational foundations and lead to a knowledge of the phenomena of the external world. According to Ghazzali, god can be known only by ecstatic emotion that emerges from an inner experience in each individual. The highest experience is the intuitive comprehension of the resemblance of the human soul to god. The soul, like god, is extraspatial; the world is the result of a free divine act of will. Ghazzali sharply criticized the philosophical systems with which he was acquainted, especially eastern Aristotelianism (al-Farabi and Avicenna). The Arab thinker Averroes disagreed with the mystical theism of Ghazzali, whose system was in many respects a philosophical and theological formulation of monotheistic Sufism. In combining Sufism with moderate orthodox Islam, Ghazzali actually reformed it.

Ghazzali’s ideas influenced the development of Muslim philosophy, medieval Hebrew philosophy (for example, the work of Maimonides and Bahya Ben Joseph ibn Pakuda), and European mystical doctrines (such as those of Ramón Lull and J. Eckhart).


Tahafut al-Falasifa. Beirut, 1927.
In Russian translation:
Otvety na voprosy, predlozhennye emu. In S. N. Gritor’ian, Iz istorii filosofii Srednei Azii i Irana 7-12 vv. Moscow, 1960.
Izbavliaiushchii ot zabluzhdeniia. Ibid.


Petrushevskii, I. P. Islam v Irane v 7-15 vv. Leningrad, 1966.
Wensinck, A. J. La pensee de Ghazzali. Paris, 1940.
Smith, M. M. Al-Ghazali: the Mystic …. London, 1945.
Abu Bakr Abd al-Razzak. Maa muallifat al-Ghazzali, vols. 1-3. Cairo, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Comme disait Ghazzali, le but n'est pas de former des cohortes de theologiens mais d'associer la religion aux valeurs et comportements.