Adventures in Bookland: A Treasury of Ghazali by Mustafa Abu Sway
The problem with the thought of Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (to give him his full name) is that it is too deep and too broad for our shallow times. In the age of Twitter, the work of the greatest thinker in Islamic history is almost unknown outside the small band of scholars devoted to him: many Muslims have never even heard of him. But Al-Ghazali lived at a time when the Muslim world faced challenges which bear comparison with the problems the Muslim world face today: it was a fractured world, the early Muslim unity having shattered into a small number of competing power centres, and Islamic culture was struggling to respond to and assimilate the products of Greek learning that its military expansion had brought into its orbit. It was Ghazali, through his life and thought, who formulated the Muslim response to Greek learning, and helped to establish the social solidarity in the face of rulers of varying degrees of worthiness that went on to characterise Muslim populations throughout the world. And yet, ask an ordinary Muslim about him, and most will respond with blank faces.
So Kube’s new book is a welcome attempt to redress this situation. Accepting that Ghazali’s vast corpus of work is too much for most people to engage with, they have published a lovingly presented, slim volume of Ghazali’s thought, taking short extracts from his work ranging from raising children in a faith to the encounter with God, with explanatory commentary by Professor Abu Sway of Al-Quds University. The real meat, though, are in these limpid extracts from Ghazali: there is more in a sentence by him than in most books published today about Islam. So, it is to be hoped that this little book will help provoke a revival in the knowledge and study of Al-Ghazali among today’s Muslims, for his wisdom is required today more than ever.