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GHAZALI, MUHAMMAD AL- (b. 1917), Egyptian religious scholar and former leading member of alIkhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood). Born in Buhayra Province, he graduated from al-Azhar in 1941 and has occupied influential positions in his own country and in other Arab states. In Egypt, he was director of the Mosques Department, director general of Islamic Call (da’wah), and under secretary of the Ministry of Awqaf. He has also taught at the Universities of alAzhar (Egypt), King `Abd al -`Aziz and Umm al-Qura (Saudi Arabia), and Qatar and was the academic director of Amir `Abd al-Qadir’s Islamic University in Algeria.

Al-Ghazali was dismissed from his position in the hay’ah ta’ sisiyah (constituent body) of the Ikhwan in December 1953, reportedly after attempting, with two other prominent members, to unseat the organization’s leader, Hasan al-Hudaybi (with the approval, some Muslim Brothers suspected, of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers). Many feel that he still remains an Ikhwani in all but name, and he certainly favors the formation of an Islamic party in Egypt today.

Active in publishing, al-Ghazali has written approximately forty titles including such important works as Moral Character of the Muslim, Islam and Economic Affairs, Islam and Political Despotism, A Constitution for Cultural Unity, and Prejudice and Tolerance in Christianity and Islam. He has established a reputation for being a reasonable, well-balanced, and independent scholar. He is a rigorous jurist, although by no means a traditionalist, and his positions on various issues are taken seriously by the mainstream of the Islamic movement.

Substantively, al-Ghazali submits the important thesis that contemporary Muslims have paid excessively detailed jurisprudential attention to matters of cleanliness, prayers, pilgrimage, and rituals while lagging far behind the West with regard to matters of government, the economy, and finance.

Al-Ghazali is strongly supportive of an extensively defined concept of shura (political consultation), and he is regarded as somewhat modernist in social and technological matters, condemning the austere, simplistic orientation of what he terms al -fiqh al-badawi (“nomadic jurisprudence”), and he does not preclude the experience of other (non-Muslim) societies as a source of inspiration for Muslim societies. For example, he cites both historical Islamic as well as contemporary non-Islamic examples to support the case that a woman may legitimately assume any high post in society.

Methodologically, al-Ghazali’s main, and rather daring, contribution has been his attempt to reduce what he regards as an excessive reliance on the hadith in contemporary jurisprudence. He admits only the hadiths that have a Qur’anic credibility and excludes ahadith al-ahad (“single sayings”), if they appear odd or ill reasoned. He maintains that “a little reading of the blessed Qur’an and a lot of reading of the ahadith does not give an accurate picture of Islam.” In his view, it is this lopsided methodology in approaching Islam that partly explains what he regards as the “infantile” attitude of militant Islamists; they are obsessed with power but poorly trained.

Al-Ghazali’s strict scrutiny of the hadith thus enables him to criticize simultaneously both the Muslim social reactionaries, who use hadiths on the flimsiest grounds to justify such practices as beating and sodomizing wives, and the Islamist political radicals, who have used similar hadiths to justify forcing their own views and authority on society at large.

[See also Egypt; Fundamentalism; Modernism; Muslim Brotherhood, article on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ghazali, Muhammad al-. Humun da’iyah. Cairo, 1983. Useful collection illustrating al-Ghazali’s position on several religious and social issues.

Ghazali, Muhammad al-. Al-sunnah al-nabawiyah bayna ahl al-fiqh waahl al-hadith. Cairo, 1991. Tenth edition in two years of a book in which al-Ghazali illustrates how his methodology of jurisprudence may be applied to the analysis of various religious and social issues. Hasanah, `Umar. Fiqhh al-da’wah. Qatar, 1988. Contains an interview in which al-Ghazali clarifies his views on several contemporary issues. See chapter 7, “Hiwar ma’a al-Shaykh Muhammad alGhazali.”

NAZIH N. AYUBI

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/ghazali-muhammad-al/
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  • writerPosted On: June 8, 2013
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