Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

Persian Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic

Al-Ghazali (/ˈɡɑːzɑːli/; full name Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazālī أبو حامد محمد بن محمد الغزالي; latinized Algazelus or Algazel, c. 1058 – 19 December 1111) was one of the most prominent and influential philosophers, theologians, jurists, and mystics of Sunni Islam. He was of Persian origin.


  • A grievous crime indeed against religion has been committed by the man who imagines that Islam is defended by the denial of the mathematical sciences.
  • To get what you love, you must first be patient with what you hate.
  • Those who look for seashells will find seashells; those who open them will find pearls.
  • The tongue is very small and light but it can take you to the greatest heights and it can put you in the lowest depths.
  • All of a man’s happiness is in his being the master of his ego, while all his suffering is in his ego being his master.
  • We attest that He is the Willer of all things that are, the ruler of all originated phenomena; there does not come into the visible or invisible world anything meager or plenteous, small or great, good or evil, or any advantage or disadvantage, belief or unbelief, knowledge or ignorance, success or failure, increase or decrease, obedience or disobedience, except by His will. What He wills is, and what He does not, will not; there is not a glance of the eye, nor a stray thought of the heart that is not subject to His will. He is the Creator, the Restorer, the Doer of whatsoever He wills. There is none that rescinds His command, none that supplements His decrees, none that dissuades a servant from disobeying Him, except by His help and mercy, and none has power to obey Him except by His will.
    • (2005) Ihyaa ‘Ulum al-Deen. Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, p. 107.
  • As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good; I was actually being redirected to something better. You must convince your heart that whatever God has decreed is most appropriate and most beneficial to you.
  • Live as long as you want, but you must die; love whatever you want, but you will become separated from it; and do what you want, but you will be repaid for it.
  • How can even the lowest mind, if he reflects at all the marvels of this earth and sky, the brilliant fashioning of plants and animals, remain blind to the fact that this wonderful world with its settled order must have a maker to design, determine and direct it?
    • Tibawi, A.L. (ed. and tr.). (1965) Al-Risala al-Qudsiyya (The Jerusalem Epistle) “Al-Ghazali's Tract on Dogmatic Theology”. In: The Islamic Quarterly, 9:3–4 (1965), 3-4.
  • Soft words soften the hearts that are harder than rock, harsh words harden hearts that are softer than silk.
  • Desire makes slaves out of kings, and patience makes kings out of slaves.
  • Adopt a gentle tone when speaking, for verily the tone at times, has a greater impact than the speech.
  • The reward of patience in the face of misfortune is more than what has been lost.
  • Whosoever complains of the bad character of another man has revealed the badness of his own character.
  • Teach what you know to him who does not know, and learn from him who knows what you do not know. If you would do this you would learn what you have not known and would retain what you have already known.
  • For those endowed with insight there is in reality no object of love but God, nor does anyone but He deserve love
    • (2011) Al-Ghazali on Love, Longing, Intimacy & Contentment. Translated with an introduction and notes by Eric Ormsby. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, p. 23.
  • There is no denying existence itself. Something must exist and anyone who says nothing exists at all makes a mockery of sense and necessity. The proposition that there is no denying being itself, then, is a necessary premise. Now this Being which has been admitted in principle is either necessary or contingent… What this means is that a being must be self-sufficient or dependent… From here we argue: If the being the existence of which is conceded be necessary, then the existence of a necessary Being is established. If, on the other hand, its existence is contingent, every contingent being depends on a necessary Being; for the meaning of its contingency is that its existence and non-existence are equally possible. Whatever has such a characteristic cannot have its existence selected for without a determining or selecting agent. This too is necessary. So from these necessary premises the existence of a necessary Being is established.
    • (1964) Fada’ih al-Batiniyya. Edited by Abdurahman Badawi. Kuwait: Muasassa Dar al-Kutub al-Thiqafa, p. 82.
  • Neglect not your time, nor use it haphazardly; on the contrary, you should bring yourself to account. Structure your litanies and other practices during each day and night. This is how to bring about spiritual blessing in each period. If each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, be not like the deceived fools who are joyous because of each day their wealth increases while their life grows ever shorter.
  • An honorable person won’t tell people how great they are, people will experience their greatness just by being with them.
  • The way to Paradise is an uphill climb, whereas Hell is downhill. Hence, there is a struggle to Paradise and not to Hell.
  • Purifying the soul is serious: the hereafter is ahead, the world is behind, death is near, the journey is far and the provisions are light.
  • Knowledge without action is wastefulness and action without knowledge is foolishness.
  • From my early youth, since I attained the age of puberty before I was twenty, until the present time when I am over fifty, I have ever recklessly launched out into the midst of these ocean depths, I have ever bravely embarked on this open sea, throwing aside all craven caution; I have poked into every dark recess, I have made an assault on every problem, I have plunged into every abyss, I have scrutinized the creed of every sect, I have tried to lay bare the inmost doctrines of every community. All this have I done that I might 68 distinguish between true and false, between sound tradition and heretical innovation. Whenever I meet one of the Batiniyah, I like to study his creed; whenever I meet one of the Zahiriyah, I want to know the essentials of his belief. If it is a philosopher, I try to become acquainted with the essence of his philosophy; if a scholastic theologian I busy myself in examining his theological reasoning; if a Sufi, I yearn to fathom the secret of his mysticism; if an ascetic (muta'ahhid) , I investigate the basis of his ascetic practices; if one ofthe Zanadiqah or Mu'attilah, I look beneath the surface to discover the reasons for his bold adoption of such a creed.
  • The biggest barrier between you and God is you.
  • Do not know the truth by the men, but know the truth, and then you will know who are truthful.
  • There is no way to reach the end without mastering the beginning.
  • The lowest degree of education is to distinguish oneself from the ignorant ordinary man. The educated man does not loathe honey even if he finds it in the surgeon's cupping-glass; he realizes that the cupping glass does not essentially alter the honey. The natural aversion from it in such a case rests on popular ignorance, arising from the fact that the cupping-glass is made only for impure blood. Men imagine that the blood is impure because it is in the cupping-glass, and are not aware that the impurity is due to a property.
  • We are creatures that love to blame the external, not realizing that the problem is usually internal.
  • Know that thankfulness is from the highest of stations, and it is higher than patience, fear, and detachment of the world.
  • if man’s love for himself be necessary, then his love for Him through whom, first his coming-to-be, and second, his continuance in his essential being with all his inward and outward traits, his substance and his accidents, occur must also be necessary. Whoever is so besotted by his fleshy appetites as to lack this love neglects his Lord and Creator. He possesses no authentic knowledge of Him; his gaze is limited to his cravings and to things of sense.
    • (2011) Al-Ghazali on Love, Longing, Intimacy & Contentment. Translated with an introduction and notes by Eric Ormsby. Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, p. 25.
  • The highest drink is water, and it is the least of things in the world.
  • The highest food is the vomit of bees, we know it as honey.
  • The highest cloth is made from the excrement of worms, which is silk.
  • The highest fragrance, the scent of musk, is taken from the mucus of a gazelle.
  • The greatest physical pleasure in the world is the meeting of the two urinary tracts.
  • There is the world for you. Beauty, true beauty, is intangible. It is in the eye of the beholder. Something that we can lose at any moment, and the more you examine it, the more illusive it becomes. True happiness is virtue, and virtue is predicated on knowledge and righteous conduct.
  • knowledge that is not Infallible is not certain knowledge.
  • The proximity between the counterfeit and the good coin does not make the good coin counterfeit nor the counterfeit good. In the same way the proximity between truth and falsehood does not make truth falsehood nor falsehood truth.
  • Indeed, the drunken man while in that condition does not know the definition of drunkenness nor the scientific account of it; he has not the very least scientific knowledge of it. The sober man, on the other hand, knows the definition of drunkenness and its basis, yet he is not drunk in the very least. Again the doctor, when he is himself ill, knows the definition and causes of health and the remedies which restore it, and yet is lacking in health. Similarly there is a difference between knowing the true nature and causes and conditions of the ascetic life and actually leading such a life and forsaking the world.
  • If you believe in the future life and, instead of preparing for it, sell it in order to buy this world, then that is folly! You do not normally sell two things for one; how can you give up an endless life for a limited number of days.
  • The man who makes his religion a means to the gaining of this world, will lose both worlds alike; whereas the man who gives up this world for the sake of religion, will get both worlds alike.

Quotes about al-GhazaliEdit

  • Islam is now Wrestling with Western thought as it once wrestled with Greek philosophy, and is as much in need as it was then of a 'revival of the religious sciences'. Deep study of al-Ghazali may suggest to Muslims steps to be taken if they are to deal successfully with the contemporary situation. Christians, too, now that the world is in a cultural melting-pot, must be prepared to learn from Islam, and are unlikely to find a more sympathetic guide than al-Ghazali.
  • AI-Ghazali has sometimes been acclaimed in both East and West as the greatest Muslim after Muhammad.
  • Yet perhaps the greatest thing about al-Ghazali was his personality, and it may yet again be a source of inspiration.
  • If an orthodox author like al-Ghazzali wrote a treatise against the Batinis, he was attacking their theological and propaedeutic doctrines but not all of their sciences

See AlsoEdit