Al-Ghazali - The Muslim Intellectual,
[A5] Paperback - 220 pages,
by W. Montgomery Watt,
by ABC Publishers.
Description from the publisher:
This book arises out of a concern felt by many intellectuals in the present world predicament. If we accept that the course of history is to a large extent determined by economic and material factors, what role is left for the intellectual, whose concern is with ideas? By studying the struggle and achievement of one of the greatest of Muslim intellectuals, the author attempts to provide an answer.
The difficulty of writing about al-Ghazali, may Allah be pleased with him, is well illustrated by the various comments and criticisms that have been made of the works by Julius Obermann, A. J. Wensinck, Margaret Smith and Farid Jabre. The difficulty is due to the great volume of his writings, to the fact that books were ascribed to him that were definitely not by him, and to the changes in his outlook which occurred during the course of his life. When the growth and development of his outlook is combined with the lack of complete agreement about which works are unauthentic, scholars are presented with some peculiarly intractable problems before they can properly begin the study of al-Ghazali's thought. Yet the subject is one that is well worth attempting. Imam al-Ghazali has been acclaimed (by some) as the greatest Muslim after Prophet Muh?ammad, May Allah bless him and grant him peace, and is certainly one of the greatest. His outlook, too, is closer than that of many Muslims to the outlook of modern Europe and America, so that he is more easily comprehensible to us. Thus there is here a great challenge to scholarship.
The present study of the struggle and achievement of al-Ghazali does not attempt to take up that challenge in its entirety, but only to look at his life and thought as a whole within the context of the times in which he lived. I have tried to write in such a way that the book could be read by general sociologists as well as by students of Islam, but this means that Islamists will find an undue neglect of detail. In defence I would make the plea that it is necessary to look at the picture as a whole before we can see at what points further detailed study is needed.
The general standpoint from which I write is that of the sociology of knowledge -- a discipline which, though still in its infancy, is characteristic of our age and an expression of its spirit. Since practically nothing has been written about the Islamic world from this standpoint, I have found it necessary to re-examine and reassess much of the previous history of Islamic thought.
This re-assessment had largely been made, and the relevant sections of this book written, before I began Islamic Philosophy and Theology. ---W Montgomery Watt.
About the Author: W. Montgomery Watt, now retired, is a scholar who has himself done detailed work at various points in the field and thereby gains a certain authority and is likely to be widely quoted by students of Islam.
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