Quasem, Muhammed Abul
Al-Ghazali, who lived in the eleventh century of the Christian era, was one of the greatest Muslim thinkers. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge and wrote a great number of "books on many subjectsj ethics, Islamic jurisprudence, theology, metaphysics and logic. Ethics occupied a central position in his thought. He set forth his ethical views in many books according to the need and interest of various categories of his readers. Since his thought developed through several stages, the books he wrote including those on ethics are usually divided in accordance with these stages. They have been arranged chronologically by such scholars as Maurice Boyges, W. Montgomery Watt, George F. Hourani, ^Abd-ar-Rahman Badawl and Farid Jabre. The creative part of al-GhazalPs life may broadly be divided into two phases, the early period and the later period which began from his conversion to Islamic mysticism (sufism). His ethical works belonged to both periods and are coloured with their characteristics. There is disagreement on the authenticity of some of the works attributed to al-Ghazali, Some ethical works ascribed to him as of the later period of his life are of doubtful authenticity in their entirety, while some ethical works of both periods are shown to be spurious only in part. Some ideas in an ethical work of a moderate size of the earliest period or, more accurately, of the transitional period, are regarded as superseded by those set forth in his later works. In view of these established facts regarding al-Ghazall's works on morals, any study of them which does not take these facts into consideration may not "be regarded as revealing the truth about him in its entirety. Such a study misleads readers and scholars with regard to al-Ghazall and engenders various theories of his life. Unfortunately, all of the very few studies hitherto made on his ethics are partly based upon the unauthentic books, unauthentic parts of books and the books containing the superseded ideas, as they are also based upon the authentic books. Besides thtis mixing the non- Ghazalian or superseded Ghazalian ideas with the genuine Ghazalian teachings, they often failed to investigate the basic moral principles which are explicit or implicit in his teaching and also to give as complete a description of it as possible in the length of a book. They are unsatisfactory on various other accounts also. Therefore, there is a need for a study of his ethics which is based only upon those ethical works which all the scholars have accepted as authentic and which have not been superseded by others. Such a study should give readers a true knowledge and understanding of this great man and of his thought concerning moral problems. The present work is an effort to meet this need. It is a new approach to the study of al-Ghazsli's ethical theory for it seeks to present this theory in a reasonably complete form "by drawing only upon materials from Ms genuine works or genuine parts of works which have not "been superseded. Among the works of the earlier period, therefore, Mizan al-rAmal (Criterion o f Action) is discarded altogether; (reference to it is made in a few places only for the sake of comparison). Out of the large number of the ethical works of the later period whose authenticity has "been generally accepted, almost a score is selected to constitute the basis of the present study, since to make use of all Ms works would be impossible in a limited period of time. Efforts are also made in tMs work to bring to light the principles of al-Ghazalis ethics. Sometimes it has been found necessary to enquire into the sources of his inspiration and ideas. This study, however, does not seek, except very rarely, to determine the influence of al-Ghazali's ethics upon the subsequent development of ethical thought in Islam or in Christianity - a task which may form the subject-matter of a separate study.