Imam Al-Ghazali’s Contribution to Sufism in Sunni Islam

Subject: Religion
Type: Evaluation Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 1904
Topics: Islam, Biography, Theology

Al-Ghazali is a Sunni Imam, theologian, author, and scholar. The theologian played a major role in the development of the history of Islam and Sufism, and who lived between in (1058-1111) BC (Ghazz & McCarthy, 2011). The Imam’s contribution to Sufism was manifest in his ability to interpret the Quran subject to his rare wisdom and knowledge of Sunni Islam. The imam has made many contributions to Sufism including the reconciliation of Sufism with Islam. Additionally, the legend has authored many books on Sufism based on the knowledge acquired from thorough reading of the Sufis authors. The Imam has also aligned the normal activities of the Muslims with Sufism. The abandonment of college to pursue Sufism is also a manifestation of the devotion to the course for the benefit of the Sunni Muslims. The authoring of an encyclopedia earned the Imam reverence in the Islamic world because it was a crucial source for teaching and practicing Sufism in the Islamic world.     

The Imam has contributed to Sufism in Islam through his various spiritual investigations on the hidden wisdom of the Quran. This enabled him to have inspirational and insight on several issues pertaining to Islam. Consequently, he was able to teach the Quran in the Muslim world and many faithful were able to understand their role in the practice of Islam. According to Ghazz and McCarthy (2011), Al-Ghazali’s role as an interpreter of the Quran was indisputably a boost in his introduction of Sufism in Islam. In fact, the Imam’s insight on the various aspects of the Quran led to his reconciliation of the Quran with his insight subject to Vedantic, Greek and Buddhist ideologies. Additionally, he reconciled the Quran teachings with the Neo-Platonic philosophies because he was a great philosopher of all time among the Sunnis. In fact, the Imam’s contribution to Sufism was manifest in his utilization of mysticism in explaining Islam to the Muslim faithful. 

The Alchemy of Happiness (Keemie-e-Sa’adat) is one of the manifestations of the Sunni Imam’s contribution to Sufism. The book explores various aspects of Sufism and Islam, hence inspiring millions of Muslims on the subject to Sufism. The piece also enhances better understanding of Islam given that a large a majority of Muslims still have difficulty in understanding some aspect of the religion. The other contribution of the Imam to Sufism is the fact that he incorporated rationalism to Sufism. The Imam was also involved in the spiritual evaluation of the Quran, which provided him with revelations and reason pertaining to the purpose of the Muslims pertaining to the Quran interpretation. Additionally, the Imam’s book, The Revival of the Spiritual Sciences (Ihya-ul-Uloom-ud-Din) contains adequate Sufism principles and ideologies common in all practices of Sufism in Islam world (Schwartz, 2014). Their practice is also one of the most famous manifestations of Al-Ghazali’s contribution to Sufism in Sunni Islam. The book also contained various attributes of Sufism. 

The Imam established the need to combine hypothesis and empiricism to understand Sufism. According to Al-Ghazali, the purpose of Sufism is to guarantee soul freedom from the yoke of passion. Additionally, the practice of Sufism is intended to expose the specific evil inclinations and instincts. This ensures that the Soul is inspired by Allah and his invocations. This is an indication that the Imam played a pivotal role in enhancing Sufism in Islam. The fact that he delved into deeper aspects of the Quran and the spirit of Allah means that he was committed and determined to boost the Islam faith among Islam believers, especially the Sunnis. The theologian’s exhaustive study of the books of Sufism is an indication that the Imam taught facts on Sufism. In fact, the Imam ensured that he professed adequate knowledge on Sufism before he could communicate the knowledge to his subjects.

According to Shihab, Brown and Rumtini (2011), Al-Ghazali exhaustively studied books like The Nourishment of the Hearts and The Works of Harethel Muhasibi. Additionally, the Imam went further and studied books by various Sufism scholars such as Junaid, Shibli, and Abu Yazid Bustami. The great theologian learned many aspects of the various books including teaching methods. In this regard, the Imam was able to successfully teach Sufism among the Sunni Muslims. The Imam was visionary pertaining to his Sufism discourse in the Sunni land. The theologian embarked on transport, ecstasy, and morality as avenues of spreading Sufism among the Sunni Muslims. The incorporation of all the strategies in the course of spreading Sufism led to the Imam’s success in his discourse of Sufism. The Imam’s contribution to Sufism was substantial because he embarked on the practice of the ideology after understanding the meaning and significance of Sufism in Islam. The other aspect of the contribution of the Imam is that he established that Sufism was manifest upon its practice rather than mere awareness and knowledge of it. 

Griffel (2013) asserts that Al-Ghazali’s self-evaluation was a great contribution to the teachings of Sufism in Islam because it fostered a culture of self-evaluation with regard to the Muslims’ moral standing in Islam. The culture was aimed at boosting Sufism practice among the Muslims in Sunni region because he was a Sunni. The purpose of life is to seek knowledge and the Imam fulfilled the purpose to an extent that he evaluated the cost-benefit analysis of his learning journey. In fact, the contribution of Al-Ghazali in Sufism is immense because his professorial studies enabled him to present correct interpretation of the Quran. The other contribution of the Imam is that he creates a foundation of Sufism in Islam. The fact that he explored the deep meaning of various verses of the Quran means that he made an immense contribution to Sufism in Islam. The other contribution is that he confirmed that the Sufis teachings were relevant to the Islamic teachings. In fact, the reconciliation of Sufism and Islam is one of the greatest achievements of Al-Ghazali.

The other contribution of the Imam is that he ensured that Muslims devoted their time to meditation on Allah and the spirit of Allah. This is crucial because he presents the knowledge and the need to worship Allah at all times. The Imam also took the initiative of bringing the ascetic Sufis to the training on emotions subject to Sama, Quwwali. The contribution of Imam pertaining to the submission to Allah is manifest in his statement just before his demise. Al-Ghazali renounced his wealth, children, and society, and exclaimed ‘To Allah we belong and to him we return’ (Lillahi-wa-Inna Alaihi Raaji’un) (Ghazz & McCarthy, 2011). In fact, such a declaration meant that all that mattered to him was Allah, and the rest of his property was secondary. In essence, this is the commitment the Muslims should have to Allah to ensure that they have peace of mind as Al-Ghazali had in his last moments of life. The other contribution he made pertaining to Sufism in Islam is that he has a firm belief in life after death and demonstrated as much. The affirmation meant that the Imam set a good precedence for all Sunni Muslims on life after death. Additionally, the fear associated with death is no longer a concern for Muslims because they do not fear death, just like Al-Ghazali. 

The Imam’s synthesis and interpretation of his pieces of literature to millions of Muslims is part of the contributions he made towards Sufism. Additionally, the introduction of the concept of mysticisms forms part of the Imam’s contribution to Islam. Schwartz (2014) asserts that the exploration of metaphysical aspects in the course of teaching Sufism to Sunnis is a great contribution on the part of the theologians. In fact, the legend undertook many practical exercises pertaining to Sufism before embarking on theory and subsequent authoring of various pieces of literature of Sufism. The Imam served as a model of the Sunni Muslims in the practice of Sufism. For this reason, he is still relived in many Muslims’ lives in the Islamic dicta. The fact that he spent more than 10 years in experimentation of various practices pertaining to Sufism is a great inspiration for many Muslims who are faithful to the Islamic religion. The practice made him proficient pertaining to a spiritual connection with Allah. In fact, the spiritual inspiration enhanced his authoring of the various literature of his time. 

The Imam was so learned that he established that Sufism was not an end in itself but a means to an end in fidelity to the Quran and absolute faithfulness to Allah. Al-Ghazali I also renowned for his veritable encyclopedia in Islam, which is considered to be the greatest book, composed by any Muslim who ever lived. According to Ghazz and McCarthy (2011), Al-Ghazali’s encyclopedia was a great contribution to Sufism given that it enhanced the understanding of the doctrines of Islam and Sufism. The encyclopedia was a compound in lhya-ul-Uloom. The other major aspect of Al-Ghazali is that he converted to Sufism after plunging into spiritual crisis. This meant that he was committed to Sufism and was a better-placed to each Sunni Muslims Sufism. The level of determination of the Imam in Sufism is manifest in his abandonment of college for 14 years to devote his time to Sufism (Schwartz, 2014). This meant that he was responding to a call to serve in the misty of Sufism rather than being compelled by circumstance to undertake the mission. 

The spread of Sufism in the Islamic region was a manifestation of the number of Muslims who were versed with Sufism by the 19th century. The Imam’s successful incorporation of Sufism in each Muslim’s daily life was a great contribution. In fact, all religious persons of the Muslim religion are Sufis, which is a manifestation of the success of Al-Ghazali in the introduction of Sufism in Islam. In fact, the theologian made Sufism respectable among the Muslim, which was not a mean feat. Al-Ghazali succeeded in aligning Sufism with Sharia-law, which is a major aspect of the Islamic religion (Shihab, Brown, & Rumtini, 2011). Moreover, the introduction of the revival of religious knowledge (Ihya Ulum Al-Din) was a crucial contribution to the Sufism. The practice was aimed at the spiritualizing of every aspect of the Muslims to enhance Sufism spread. The Imam embarked on the interpretation of the primary manifestations of the eating, drinking, and death subject to spirituality. This practice enhanced the imam’s contribution to the ideology because all Muslims were attracted and drawn to the concept. 

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In conclusion, Al-Ghazali is a great Imam who has made an immense contribution to Sufism in Islam, Sunni. The contributions include the reconciliation of Sufism with Islam, and the evaluation of the livelihood of Muslims subject to Sufism. The books of Al-Ghazali including, The Revival of the Spiritual Sciences is a major contribution to Sufism. The introduction of the encyclopedia in Islam also enhanced Sufism, and it was a phenomenon contribution of the Imam to Sufism besides incorporation of Vedantic, Greek and Buddhist philosophies Sharia law.

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  1. Ghazz and McCarthy, R. J. (2011). Al-Ghaz’s Path to Sufism and his Deliverance from error: An annotated translation of al-Munqidh min al Dalal. Louisville, KY Fons Vitae.
  2. Griffel, F. (2013). Al-Ghazālī’s philosophical theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. Schwartz, S. (2014). The other Islam: Sufism and the road to global harmony. New York: Doubleday.
  4. Shihab, A., Brown, R. B., & Rumtini. (2011). Examining Islam in the West: Addressing accusations and correcting misconceptions. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.
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