In Islamic theology and Islamic philosophy, the scholar Al-Ghazali (1058–1111) is considered a pioneer of methodic doubt and skepticism. His 11th century book titled The Incoherence of the Philosophers marks a major turn in Islamic epistemology, as Ghazali effectively discovered a methodic form of philosophical skepticism that would not be commonly seen in the West until René Descartes, George Berkeley and David Hume. The encounter with skepticism led Ghazali to embrace a form of theological occasionalism, or the belief that all causal events and interactions are not the product of material conjunctions but rather the immediate and present will of God. While he himself was a critic of the philosophers, Ghazali was a master in the art of philosophy and had immensely studied the field. After such a long education in philosophy, as well as a long process of reflection, he had criticized the philosophical method.
The autobiography Ghazali wrote towards the end of his life, The Deliverance From Error (Al-munqidh min al-ḍalāl; several English translations) is considered a work of major importance. In it, Ghazali recounts how, once a crisis of epistemological skepticism was resolved by "a light which God Most High cast into my breast...the key to most knowledge," he studied and mastered the arguments of Kalam, Islamic philosophy and Ismailism. Though appreciating what was valid in the first two of these, at least, he determined that all three approaches were inadequate and found ultimate value only in the mystical experience and spiritual insight (Spiritual intuitive thought – Firasa and Nur) he attained as a result of following Sufi practices. William James, in Varieties of Religious Experience, considered the autobiography an important document for "the purely literary student who would like to become acquainted with the inwardness of religions other than the Christian", comparing it to recorded personal religious confessions and autobiographical literature in the Christian tradition.
Scholars have noted the similarities between Descartes' Discourse on Method and Ghazali's work and the writer George Henry Lewes went even further by claiming that "had any translation of it in the days of Descartes existed, everyone would have cried out against the plagiarism."
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Famous quotes containing the word islam:
“Sooner or later we must absorb Islam if our own culture is not to die of anemia.”
—Basil Bunting (19001985)
“During the first formative centuries of its existence, Christianity was separated from and indeed antagonistic to the state, with which it only later became involved. From the lifetime of its founder, Islam was the state, and the identity of religion and government is indelibly stamped on the memories and awareness of the faithful from their own sacred writings, history, and experience.”
—Bernard Lewis, U.S. Middle Eastern specialist. Islam and the West, ch. 8, Oxford University Press (1993)
“The exact objectives of Islam Inc. are obscure. Needless to say everyone involved has a different angle, and they all intend to cross each other up somewhere along the line.”
—William Burroughs (b. 1914)