The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times

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Event Name: The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/24/2022 8:32:08 AM
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al-hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen wa

sallahu wa salamu ala Ashraf Allah meeya

l-mursaleen sayyidina muhammad wa ala

alihi wa sahbihi ajma'in

bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim it's my

great honor and pleasure to introduce

our brother Hamza Yusuf whom we all know

and love and we are so fortunate to have

him here with us in Louisville again a

couple of Ramadan's ago he called me

early in the morning he was in tears

because one of his children had come

from school and was learning things that

were really quite incorrect and wrong

and so we said about on a project

together we're working together as a

tuna and fauns be tied to bring out the

entire Illuma Deen from a recent

extraordinary critical Edition and at

the same time do a version we are

working on a version for 12 year olds

and 5 year olds with illustrations and

it's the most amazing project and there

have been people here in the room like

Ambreen Parata who have already helped

us with this and we're working very hard

to make this possible and so that's why

hamsa tonight will speak about the

critical importance of al-ghazali in our


welcome Salam alaikum warahmatullahi

wabarakatu alumna suddenly wa sallim wa

barik ala sayyidina muhammad by the ADI

wasabi will send him to SEMA what I

heard over Apple with Allah and I did

our Deen I was just wondering if ooh is

that your computer because it was your

screensaver a Rastafarian flag

okay that's interesting so because I

thought I saw Rastafarian flag between

those images and I so I'll begin with a

quote by Bob Marley which released Imam

al-ghazali Bob Marley said he said to

free yourselves free your mind from

mental slavery none but ourselves can

free our mind and have no fear of atomic

energy for they cannot stop the time how

long will we stand aside how long will

they kill our prophets as we stand aside

and look but some say that's all a part

of it we have to fulfill the book so I

thought it if you go Bob Marley quote

there the the picture that was chosen

for Imam al-ghazali was it really

troubled me because I think Imam

al-ghazali if he saw it the first thing

he would do is take a sledgehammer and

and literally tear it down because Imam

Malik Hassad II was a great iconoclast

and and unlike the those who destroyed

the idols that are worshipped made of

stone and wood and other things he was

interested in destroying the idols that

our minds generate he was interested in

destroying the idols of the ego and he

actually considered the greatest Idol to

be the idol of the self and so this is

this is his starting point really in

letting us recognize that ship this

concept that is so profound and constant

in the Quran this idea of associating

with God he really felt that the the

great association with God was the idea

that the self had some kind of

independent existence and and that was

the idol that he was engaged in

dismantling and deconstructing and in

that way he will continue to be relevant

for for all time

because he said about really to

articulate as best he could the way that

that could be done and that and that's

his great opus the IO Medine so what I'd

like to do is look at three aspects of

Imam al-ghazali and conclude with why he

remains relevant for us today the first

aspect of his life is that he was born

in an incredible time and place to be

born for somebody of his genius because

there there have been probably countless

geniuses that were born and still are in

places where their genius is never

nurtured or enhanced and I've met some

really brilliant illiterate people that

had they had the opportunity to go to

school and to learn and and to cultivate

their minds in fact I was once in in

Arabia I was in Jeddah and there was

this really unusual Eritrean she was an

Ethiopian girl so we're back to

Rastafarians she was a ezo peon girl and

and she was working as a maid in this

house and she was like a wild

thoroughbred they had such a hard time

with this girl and because she was just

constantly challenging them and

questioning things and finally she

actually lost her job because I would

ask about her when I would go back how

was she doing but she lost her job

because they couldn't handle her and

what was very clear to me was that she

was she felt so wronged by just being in

this economic hardship of having to

leave her country to go to a foreign

country and to be treated in a condition

that really wasn't that humane and so

she was constantly rebelling against

this there are many many stories like

that around the globe

she Imam al Azadi however happened to be

born first of all into an extremely

pious family his father loved scholars

his father was not a scholar but

he loves scholars and he spent his time

serving scholars and his one desire was

that his children would become scholars

and he died early on lefty mama Hasani

and his brother Ahmed orphans but before

he died he left a little bit of money

and put him in the care of a very pious

man and told him to raise them in the

best manner so that they would be pious

people and what happens is Imam

al-ghazali both he and his brother were

actually very very intelligent and

displayed their their brilliance very

early on in the madrasa and they learned

what could be learned in booths at the

time as he entered into his early youth

where he would be ready to move to the

next level he was sent to a place he's

born literally in fact he's born at the

head of the 6th century Islamic era and

he he goes to this school and it just so

happens that probably the most brilliant

scholar in the Muslim world was there at

the time and we underestimate the impact

that this has because just to give you

an example there there the the ping pong

champion of Great Britain wrote a book

called ping and in that book he says

he's going to answer the question of why

he became the ping pong champion of

Great Britain a lot of people don't know

that after China Great Britain is the

second most important ping pong country

in the world

British people don't really do too many

outdoor sports so they're really good at

ping pong but this man said I would like

to argue that I was just this really

talented genius ping pong player but

that would be a lie and so I'm going to

tell you why I really am the great ping

pong champion of Great Britain it's

because when I was 8 years old my father

brought bought for some reason a proper

tournament sized ping pong table a very

good quality and put it in the garage

and I haven't had a ten-year-old brother

who loved to play

ping pong and so we played ping pong all

day long and so what he says is he was

sent to a school because his house was

one house away in the zoning and he

happened to go to the school with the

best ping-pong instructor in Great

Britain and because he had mastered this

thing as a child he was prepared to have

this great teacher and he ended up being

apprentice if taking a this teacher took

him as an apprentice and he literally

learned all of these things that he

would not have learned in another place

and so we forget this is the element of

other and we forget about this that that

we would like to take credit for a lot

of what we do and who we are but so much

of it involves other things that have

nothing to do with us it's pure

circumstance one of the things robert

frost's said in a beautiful poem if you

should rise from somewhere up to nowhere

from being somebody up to being some

from being nobody up to being somebody

be sure to repeat to yourself you owe it

to an arbitrary God whose mercy to you

rather than to others won't bear to

critical examination stay unassuming if

for lack of license to wear the uniform

of who you are you should be tempted to

make up for it in a subordinating look

or tone beware of coming too much to the

surface and using for apparel what was

meant to be the curtain of the inmost

soul Imam al-ghazali was a nobody who

became a somebody he was from nowhere

and became from somewhere but he forgot

to stay unassuming so he had the best

teacher in the Muslim world Imam and


and he was his best student in fact imam

al Joannie said about him he's an ocean

that you can drown in which some people

say was a kind of double-edged

compliment imam al-ghazali at a very

early age mastered all of the sciences

at that time and and that was a place

where they were learning all of these

intellectual tools he mastered logic and


the Asian one of his first books was a

book on logic he mastered grammar he

mastered rhetoric he was a rhetorician

in both Persian and in Arabic he wrote

his poetry is not that extensive but he

was an excellent poet he's one of the

finest literary stylists in the Arabic

language and this is something notable

because many of the scholars who write

in Tufts here while they write in good

in good Arabic they're not known for

their literary style whereas he

constantly uses extraordinary metaphors

stunning turns of phrases and and tropes

and figures and so he's a delight to

read simply as a literary piece of

literature but what was happening team

America's ally is he was learning very

quickly that to be clever and brilliant

was something that impressed other

people and in that culture which took

education very seriously it was a way of

advancing yourself and he became very

obsessed with this he could pretty much

win and he did he won every argument he

ever got into and he became according to

his own statement he became intolerable

as a person and at a certain point he

latches on to the coterie of the one of

the rulers at that time a minister after

finishing with imam and Joannie he comes

to him and enters into his court and

becomes one of the court scholars and

this was a way of career advancement

what we would today call scholars for

dollars so he was in this environment

and this minister who nizam al-mulk

is one of the most extraordinary

characters in in islamic political

history he himself was a scholar of his

own weight but he recognized that Allah

has Ali's genius could be used to

forward his he had an agenda and that

agenda was to establish a certain type

of SUNY normative Islam a sunni

orthodoxy because he was living at a

time where you had it's my early

botanist these were Issa Terrace who

wanted to e cetera sized Islam to where

the outward meanings were really not

important but it was the inner message

of the of the tradition and so he goes

then and begins to write polemical

writings against the botanist and

against others and at the same time he's

writing books in a really large spectrum

of interest he had a vast encyclopedic

mind and was capable of grasping very

very difficult concepts so he goes and

in the eighth in the the five 90s

Islamic era he in a period of about four

years he has this immense output he

writes a critique first he writes a book

on what are called aims and purposes of

the Philosopher's Mufasa then

philosopher and then he refused those

aims and purposes in another book which

is called Tibetan philosophy which a

hundred years later leads to the

refutation of a very Weiser even Russia

called Tabata to have wood which is the

in coherence of the incoherence because

he called it the in coherence of the

philosophers also the deconstruction of

the philosophers so at this time he's

got this incredible output he's made in

his 30s he becomes the head of the knee

la mía ahead professor at the nizamiah

and Baghdad and this would be like being

appointed to the head of Harvard one of

the chairs of Harvard at a very early

age and in the Muslim world this was

really unprecedented

so his classes would bring literally

thousands of people these were done in

very large masjid in baghdad and not

just students could come but other

people a time of incredible intellectual

activities so all these people are

coming and imam Azadi gives dazzling

speeches he gives incredible

classes very eloquent on everything at

his hands literally all the tools of

knowledge he pretty much knows

everything there is to know and this was

said in the pre-modern world this was

something that was quite possible you

could literally master what was known at

the time I mean we forget that the

Encyclopedia Britannica of the first

edition I think it's in in 1734 has

three volumes it was it was quite small

because there the this explosion of

information that occurs in the

nineteenth and twentieth century prior

to that somebody like Goethe could

literally be a master of what was

capable of mastering in terms of outward

Sciences during his life this is what

Imam al-ghazali did but he himself was

struggling he would he was profoundly

troubled by his own state and he wrote

his autobiography moped monopod which is

the savior from error and what he does

is he categorized four types of

knowledge he argues that there is the

knowledge of the Philosopher's which is

a rational knowledge the knowledge of

the theologians which is a knowledge

with that has rational component and a

component of Revelation and then the

knowledge of the esotericist and he

would philosophers at that time would

also be what we would call today

scientists because they understood that

natural philosophy was actually a branch

of philosophy so they considered

scientist to be natural philosophers so

he would mean by today he would

categorize the scientists under that

category people like Dawkins and and and

those who expound a materialistic view

of the world the abaya on the who were

called the naturalist or the

materialists or de dion is another term

that was used so what he does is he he

basically he writes this incredibly

revealing autobiography about his own

crises and he tells us what happens to

him and basically what happens is he

goes to the to the Masjid to give his

lecture and there's all the students

and he is incapable of speaking he can't

speak and he said that for the year

prior to that he had wavered whether to

set out on this path or not - and what

he meant by it was the path of

realization because the the third the

third category of knowledge that he

argues were called the ISA terraces they

were people that claimed that there were

certain people that had special

knowledge that were inaccessible to

other people and we just had to follow

these people and then finally he said

the last claim was to the people of

tasseled who argued that knowledge was

the knowledge of experience of taste and

that real faith came from experience and

not from a set of logical propositions

that you memorized in a in a textbook

and so he studied each of the previous

ones all all three and he mastered each

of them and what's interesting about


is he he did not suffer fools lightly

but the reason for that is because he

had really taken all of these arguments

to their logical conclusions and he

argued that sectarianism is based on

people not taking their arguments to

their logical conclusions he felt that

the sectarian mind was a superficial

mind because they were trapped in an

inability to exhaust their own thought

and realize that their own thought if

they exhausted it was actually a dead

end and because he went to the end of

each of these positions and realized

that they were dead ends and in that way

there's a postmodern element of Hazael

II which is very interesting what he's

arguing is these narratives these grand

narratives that these these these groups

erect and then really become idols that

they put up can actually be dismantled

if you if you use the right tools to

dismantle them and this is what he does

with each group he dismantles their

arguments the only group that he said

that he could not dismantle was these

people of tussle

because what he said was their argument

was not a rational argument and he had