Al-Ghalizi was on a quest for what knowledge really was, finding sense perception and intellect to fill him with paradoxal doubt. Al-Ghalizi discounts Materialists and Naturalists as they were not relevant to his discussion of Religion, as such the argument against Philosophy takes form against the “Theists”, or what was considered modern Aristotelian philosophy.
Al-Ghalizi starts by deconstructing Logic through an analysis of the universal affirmation proposal, viewing it to be flawed in the eyes of religion as a denial made by a religious man can only be trusted based on hearsay of the man’s religious wisdom. Similarly, he states that religious questions that are attempted to be answered by the universal affirmation proposal (via demonstration) are extremely lacking in their standards of proof and thus can not have true extrapolatable answers as determined by logic’s own principals.
Furthermore, Al-Ghalizi criticizes Aristotelian Ethics in its application to the Muslim religion as it would counter the Muslim notion of there being both a bodily and spiritual spirit, which culminate in the process of reserecction. Additionally Al-Ghalizi disagrees with the notion of God knowing universal truths but not particulars, as modern philosophy had stated that had an overarching knowledge, but one that was not the same as human knowledge. Al-Ghalizi disagreed with this as he stated that there was not a single atom in the heavens or the earth that God was not aware of.
Above all else Al-Ghalizi believed in experience over demonstration, aligning with the Mystics as being the most close to god. With philosophy falling mostly in demonstration and intellect, Al-Ghalizi finds the intellectual search for knowledge through demonstration to be far from god.
(a) They say that for bodies there is no resurrection; it is bare spirits which are rewarded or punished; and the rewards and punishments are spiritual, not bodily. They certainly speak truth in affirming the spiritual ones, since these do exist as well; but they speak falsely in denying the bodily ones and in their pronouncements disbelieve the Divine law. (b) They say that God knows universals but not particulars. This too is plain unbelief. The truth is that `there does not escape Him the weight of an atom in the heavens or in the earth’ (Q. 34, 3). (c) They say that the world is everlasting, without beginning or end. But no Muslim has adopted any such view on this question.
I learnt with certainty that it is above all the mystics who walk on the road of God; their life is the best life, their method the soundest method, their character the purest character; indeed, were the intellect of the intellectuals and the learning of the learned and the scholarship of the scholars, who are versed in the profundities of revealed truth, brought together in the attempt to improve the life and character of the mystics, they would find no way of doing so; for to the mystics all movement and all rest, whether external or internal, brings illumination from the light of the lamp of prophetic revelation; and behind the light of prophetic revelation there is no other light on the face of the earth from which illumination may be received.
Question: Why does al-Ghazali think that philosophy is inadequate to his quest for truth?
I therefore said within myself: `To begin with, what, I am looking for is knowledge of what things really are, so I must undoubtedly try to find what knowledge really is’. It was plain to me that sure and certain knowledge is that knowledge in which the object is disclosed in such a fashion that no doubt remains along with it, that no possibility of error or illusion accompanies it, and that the mind cannot even entertain such a supposition.
Is my reliance on sense-perception and my trust in the soundness of necessary truths of the same kind as my previous trust in the beliefs I had merely taken over from others and as the trust most men have in the results of thinking? Or is it a justified trust that is in no danger of being betrayed or destroyed’?
for the Messenger of God (God bless and preserve him) says: `The people are dreaming; when they die, they become awake’. So perhaps life in this world is a dream by comparison with the world to come; and when a man dies, things come to appear differently to him from what he now beholds, and at the same time the words are addressed to him: `We have taken off thee thy covering, and thy sight today is sharp’ (
Moreover, there is a type of mistake into which students of logic are liable to fall. They draw up a list of the conditions to be fulfilled by demonstration, which are known without fail to produce certainty. When, however, they 11 come at length to treat ‘of religious questions, not merely are they unable to satisfy these conditions, but they admit an extreme degree of relaxation (sc. of their standards of proof). Frequently, too, the student who admires logic and sees its clarity, imagines that the infidel doctrines attributed to the philosophers are supported by similar demonstrations, and hastens into unbelief before reaching the theological (or metaphysical) sciences. Thus this drawback too leads to unbelief.