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Al-Ghazzali's final word on Kalam.


Al-Ghazzali (1) (d. 505 one of the most famous of all Muslim theologians, authored several Sunni treatises on speculative or 'scholastic' theology ('ilm al-kalam) (2), including al-Risala al-qudsiyya fi qawa'id al-'aqa'id ("The Jerusalem Epistle") (3), al-Arba'in fi usul al-din ("Forty Points on Islamic Orthodoxy") (4), al-Iqtisad fil-i'tiqad ("The Golden Mean in Belief') (5), Faysal al-tafriqa baynal-Islam wal-zandaqa ("The Criterion of Distinction between Islam and Clandestine Unbelief") (6), and al-Maqsad al-asna fi sharh asma' Allah al-husna ("The Brilliant Aim of Explaining Allah's Beautiful Names"). (7) These works generally set forth his pro-Ash'ari (8) viewpoint. His final work on Kalam, entitled Iljam al-'awam 'an 'ilm al-kalam ("Saving Muslims from Scholastic Theology"), (9) however, marks a departure from Ash'arism and arrival at the so-called 'Way of the Salaf (madhhab al-salaf). His eventual embrace of the Salafi theological method, hitherto, has not received the attention that it deserves in the scholarly discourse on kalam. Although noting that kalam still had utility for some people on certain matters, he posited that its method had ultimately failed to pave a clear hermeneutic way to God and His attributes; therefore, he no longer recommended it for the "common folk" (al-'awam). This paper briefly examines al-Ghazzali's Iljam, highlights its key theological constructs and relationship to his earlier kalam treatises, and explores his advocacy of madhhab al-salaf

Authenticity of Iljam

Al-Ghazzali wrote Iljam al-'awam 'an 'ilm al-kalam shortly before he died. The work is cited in several listings of authentic works attributed to him, including Tajuddin al-Subki's (d. 771/1370) Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya al-kubra (in which it is entitled Iljam al-'awam fi (instead of 'an) 'ilm al-kalam), (10) Ibn Qadi Shuhba's (d. 779/1448) Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya, (11) al-Zabidi's (d. 1205/1790) Ithaf al-sadat almuttaqin bi sharh Ihya' 'ulum al-din, (12) and al-Hussayni al-Wasiti's (d. 776/1374) al-Tabaqat al-'ulya. (13) Under the heading "Later Dogmatic Works" in his article "The Authenticity of Works Attributed to Al-Ghazali," W. Montgomery Watt cited the 1309 AH Cairo edition of Iljam. (14) In his Revised Chronology of Ghazali's Writings, George F. Hourani included it with the following note: "Iljam al-'awamm 'an 'ilm al-kalam (Cairo 1309 = 1891/92, Maymuniyya Press). This work is dated precisely by a colophon as having been completed in 'the first days of Jumada II, 505,' i.e., a few days before Ghazali's death on the 14th of that month (December 18, 1111). The colophon is in a very early manuscript, Istanbul: Shehid Ali 1712: 1, which gives its own date of completion as the middle of Sha'ban, 507=113." (15) This citation agrees with Hourani's information on it in an earlier listing of al-Ghazzali's works. (16) Examining Iljam, Frank Griffel opined that "both the early date of the manuscript as well as the notice [i.e. the colophon] about the dating of the text may have been inserted later in order to increase its marked value." (17) This speculation is baseless. (18) In his Arabic listing of al-Ghazzali's writings, Mashhad al-Allaf noted that Iljam is "a book on the Way of the Salaf and is the last book that al-Ghazzali wrote at the beginning of Jamadi al-Akhira, 505 AH, that is, shortly before his death on Monday, Jamadi al-Akhira 14, 505 AH (December 18, 1111) by no more than two weeks." He added: "It is considered a very important work of Imam al-Ghazzali because you can clearly read in it that his method was the same as that of the righteous predecessors (al-salaf al-salih), so much so that Iljam is named in some manuscripts as Risala fi madhhab ahl al-salaf ("A Treatise on the Way of the Salaf") ... in which he emphasized Imam Malik's (d. 179/795) statement (19) as the foundation of his subject [of interpreting Divine Attributes], sticking to it, and repeating it in a number of places...." (20) Under the first section of his Mu'allafat al-Ghazzali, headlined "Works Attributed to al-Ghazzali that are Definitely Authentic," Abdul Rahman Badawi confirmed the aforementioned entries on Iljam, giving additional listings of it in Brockelmann, the British Museum, and several other sources. (21) Iljam has been published several times in Arabic: Istanbul (1278/1861); Cairo (1303/1885; 1309/1891; 1328/1910; 1350/1932; 1351/1932); and Beirut (1406/1985). A Spanish translation of Iljam exists (22) and, more recently, an English translation of it has been published for popular consumption. (23) There is no dispute that Iljam is an authentic work of al-Ghazzali.

Kalam under al-Ghazzali

Kalam, as defined by Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), is "the science that involves arguments with rational proofs in defense of the articles of faith and refutations against heresies opposed to ways of the earlier Muslim generations (madhahib al-salaf) and Sunni orthodoxy (ahl al-sunna)." (24) Al-Ghazzali had viewed Kalam in a similar way, (25) holding it to be a collective duty (fard al-kifaya) upon the Muslim community but not necessarily binding on every individual member (fard al-'ayn). He himself evaluated most of his own writings on Kalam. In Ihya' al-'ulum al-din, for example, he wrote, "We turn now to 'ilm al-kalam and say that it has advantages and disadvantages, usefulness and harm. With regard to its usefulness, whenever it is useful it is lawful, commendable, or obligatory, as the occasion demands. As for its harm, whenever it is harmful it is unlawful; and its harm lies in raising doubts and undermining the articles of faith, removing them from the realms of certitude and decisiveness. These things get lost at first and restoring them by means of proof is dubious and varies among individuals." (26) Thus, a theologian (mutakallim) should act like a physician, adeptly administering strong medicine to the sick in the right dose, at the right time, and at the right place. He urged that his brief statement on the Sunni creed (tarjama 'aqida ahl-sunna), which is found in his Ihya' and "is straightforward and free of arguments," be taught to those who are exposed to one dominant school of theology and rarely encounter heresies. In an environment in which heresies are prevalent, however, he advised that children should be taught his Jerusalem Epistle instead. But "If [the youth] was bright but became aware of a certain question or grew skeptical about something in his mind, then the dreaded disease [of skepticism] has appeared and the malady has become visible. There is no harm, then, to promote [the youth] to reading the equivalent of that which we have included in the book entitled The Golden Mean in Belief, equaling about fifty folios and free of any departure from discussing foundations of the articles of faith to other investigations of the scholastic theologians." (27) If doubt still persists after the foregoing pedagogical measures are taken, he believed that the malady had become chronic--and that Kalam is then useless in actually fostering belief in the fundamental articles of faith. Revisiting the discourse in his al-Munqidh min al-dalal ("Deliverance from Error") (28), al-Ghazzali acknowledged the aim of Kalam but, at the same time, criticized its methodology:
   Theologians performed the task to which God invited them; they
   successfully preserved orthodoxy, defended the creed received from
   the prophetic source, and rectified heretical innovations.
   Nevertheless in so doing they based their arguments on premises
   which they took from their opponents and which they were compelled
   to admit by naive belief (taqlid), or the consensus of the
   community, or bare acceptance of Qur'an and Traditions. For the
   most part their efforts were devoted to making explicit the
   contradictions of their opponents and criticizing them in respect
   of the logical consequences of what they admitted. This was of
   little use in the case of one who admitted nothing at all save
   logically necessary truths. (29)

In the west, there is no scholarly consensus on al-Ghazzali's final theology. Wolfson observed that "with regard to the Kalam, while he disapproved of its methods, he approved of its views, whereas, with regard to philosophy, quite the opposite--while he disapproved of its views, he approved of its methods. This, on the whole, may also be considered as a characterization of philosophized Ash'arite Kalam." (30) Wensinck remarked that "al-Ghazali did not radically reject Kalam, and so Aristotelianism kept its place side by side with Platonism." (31) On al-Ghazzali's attitude toward Kalam and Sufism, Watt commented that there was no radical change in his theological views when he became a Sufi mystic, only a change in his interests, and that some of his earlier works in the field of dogmatics are quoted with approval in al-Munqidh. (32) Investigating aspects of Kalam in which he believed al-Ghazzali was considered innovative among Ash'aris (e.g. his denial of the theory of optimum, atomism, and the theory of the soul), Nakamura argued that he had stepped out of traditional Ash'arism or did not faithfully adhere to it in every respect. (33) Marmura held that al-Ghazzali's position remained basically Ash'ari, albeit pointing toward gnosis, and that he was generally and, at times, highly critical of the Kalam method. (34) Frank, who investigated his open conflicts with Ash'aris and rejection of their Kalam, opined that "it would be extremely difficult to discern any notable theoretical development or evolution in al-Ghazzali's theology--if any, indeed, there be--from Maqasid to Iljam." (35) Griffel, building on the views of Wensinck and others before him, went so far as to dismiss the notion that al-Ghazzali embraced Traditionalism (i.e. what was claimed as the Way of the Salaf) before he died, (36) but the preponderant evidence in Iljam is against him, as will be discussed shortly.

Iljam contrasts sharply with al-Ghazzali's earlier Kalam works in two significant ways. The first is that it represents his most scathing disapproval of Kalam. In Iljam, he argued that although Kalam-type propositions and arguments constitute an epistemological path to belief in Divinity, it did not reflect the highest or best standard of knowledge on the subject. For faith in God, His attributes, and His works can be "acquired by the speculative proofs of Kalam based on propositions that are acceptable only because of their popularity with leading scholars, the ignominy involved in repudiating them, and the people's aversion to any dissemination of doubt in them. In this manner, the science of Kalam is useful in some theological matters, constituting a justified belief (tasdiq jazim) for the few who do not perceive the possibility of its contradiction." (37) Beyond that, al-Ghazzali saw little or no benefit in Kalam, advocating instead the teaching of Qur'anic proofs to the common folk. (38) The second way is that Iljam distanced itself from the Ash'ari approach to Divine Attributes based on figurative interpretation (ta'wil), thereby aligning with the Traditionalists (like Hanbalis) who strictly prohibited allegorical renditions of divine attributes and who were mainly identified with the 'Salafi' theological method. In al-Ghazzali's own words in Iljam, "I say that it is unlawful (haram) for preachers on the pulpits to answer questions [from the common folk] that delve into ta'wil and elaborateness [on divine attributes]; rather, the preachers' duty is to confine themselves to what we have mentioned here as well as the salaf, strongly emphasizing Allah's sanctity and negating anthropomorphism (tashbih)." (39)

Post-Ash'ari al-Ghazzali

Throughout its long timeline, from the fourth/ninth century to the eighth/ thirteenth century, the Kalam discourse was largely dominated by the dialectics of Ash'aris, Traditionalists, Mu'tazilis, and Shi'is (especially Zaydis and Isma'ilis to some extent). During this contentious period and beyond, many leading Muslim scholars, representing the majority Traditionalist orthodoxy, (40) were adamantly opposed to the ideas of Kalam. Several compilations of their names have been made. Among them were Abu Hanifa (d. 150/769) (41), Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161/778), Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795), Abu Yusuf (d. 182/798), al-Shafi'i (d. 204/819), Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 241/855), al-Balkhi (d. ca. 309/921 or 319/931), Ibn al-Salah (d. 643/1245), al-Qurtubi (d. 671/1272), al-Nawawi (d. 676/1277), Ibn al-Wazir (d. 840/1436), al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834), and many more too numerous to mention here. (42) Specifically on the issue of interpreting divine attributes, Mu'tazilis (43) categorically denied them (ta'til), explaining away these predicates figuratively (ta'wil): God's "hand" symbolizes His power, istiwa' His seizure or occupation of a thing by force, and the like, whereas Ash'aris affirmed God's attributes like "knowledge" ('ilm), "will" (irada), "power" (qudra), "life" (hayat), "hearing" (sam'), "sight" (basar), "speech" (kalam), "face" (wajh), "eyes" (a'yun), and so forth, linking them to the eternal divine essence (dhat) but "without asking how" (bi-la kayf). (44) It is believed by some that al-Ash'ari also opened the door of ta'wil as regards divine attributes, leading them to the opinion that he had a two-faced position, two schools of thought, or followed two middle-of-the-road theological positions. (45) Later Ash'ari scholars like al-Baqillani (d. 403/1012), Ibn Furak, al-Baghdadi, al-Qushayri, and others among the Nishapur Ash'aris are believed to have also permitted and applied ta'wil to divine attributes if deemed necessary. (46) But others have argued that al-Ash'ari, al-Baqillani, et al abandoned ta'wil in the end, falling back on the Traditionalist bi-la kayf. (47) This debate is perennial. Suffice it to say that it is possible that al-Ash'ari and al-Baqillani allowed ta'wil at one time and disavowed it at another time, suggesting evolutionary phases of their theology and not necessarily simultaneous adherence to two schools or positions. In any case, al-Ghazzali undoubtedly had in mind Ash'ari proponents of ta'wil when he wrote, "Another group advocated the middle of the road position and permitted allegorical interpretation in everything which relates to the attributes of God but have taken the things which pertain to the hereafter in a literal sense and forbade their allegorical interpretation. The advocates of this position are the Ash'aris. The Mu'tazilis go further. They explain away the possibility of seeing God and His being possessed of hearing and sight." (48) His repudiation of ta'wil for the common folk comes to the fore in Iljam.

Returning to its form and content, al-Ghazzali opened Iljam's first section with the words "[Know] that the truth with people of insight, in which there is no doubt, is the madhhab al-salaf. By that, I mean the way of the Companions and the Followers (al-tabi'in). I hereby present its explanation and proof...." (49) The word salaf is polysemous, having several meanings in Muslim tradition. Etymologically, salaf denotes "such as have gone before," "preceded," or "preceding generations" as expressed in the Qur'an: And We made them [a people] of the past (salaf) and an example to later ages. (50) In Islamic parlance, at least within the Sunni narrative, salaf refers to the early Muslim generations up to the era of the Followers or the generation after them (i.e. tabi"ut altabi'in); hence madhhab al-salaf, "the tenets of the early Muslim generations." (51) Salafiyyun ("followers of the Salaf' or Salafists) is loosely applied to those who imitate their religious belief and practice, though not in a monolithic fashion. Since the 2nd/8th century, salaf and its derivatives (salafi, salafiyya, etc.) have been appropriated by many thinkers and groups to reclaim in diverse ways an imagined past utopia when Islam was best understood and implemented by pious Muslims. Thus, we find that the Hashwiyya, (52) who were identified with anthropomorphism and apparently were still around in al-Ghazzali's time, claimed to be Salafiyyun (53); among the three major schisms of Imamiyya Shi'ism, one group called themselves al-Salafiyya (the other two were known for their Mu'tazila and Mushabbaha, i.e. tashbih, orientations) (54); in Ibn Taymiyya's works, adherence to the path of al-salaf al-salih is a major theme; more recently, the Salafiyya School in Egypt was pioneered by Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905); and the contemporary Wahhabi-Salafi religious phenomenon, originating in Saudi Arabia, is the latest manifestation of the Salafi trend almost as old as Islam itself. By madhhab al-salaf, al-Ghazzali clarified in Iljam, he meant the following: "The reality of the 'Way of the Salaf, which is correct to us, is that every lay person, who comes across an ambiguous tradition [concerning Divine Attributes], is obliged to do seven things: (i) "sanctification" (taqdis), (ii) "acceptance" (tasdiq), (iii) "confession of inability" (i'tiraf bil-'ajaz), (iv) "silence" (sukut), (v) "restraint" (imsak), (vi) "abstinence" (kaff), and (vii) "deference to the people of gnosis" (al-taslim li-ahl al-ma'rifa).... These are the seven principles that the Salaf collectively believed are incumbent on the common folk. It is improper to think that they believed otherwise." (55)

Why does this particular theological approach, which shuns anthropomorphism (tashbih) and denial (ta'til), constitute the Way of the Salaf and correct understanding of divine attributes in Iljam? To support his claims, al-Ghazzali provided two arguments based respectively on logical and theological proofs. The rational proof is that the Prophet is better acquainted with God and His revelation than anyone else, that he faithfully disclosed the Guidance to the people, and that he never endorsed speculative inquiry into the nature of divine attributes; therefore, his Sunna as regards these matters ought to be followed. As for the theological proof, al-Ghazzali expressed it in syllogistic form:
   The Way of the Salaf is true and is opposite to heresy (bid'a),
   which is blameworthy,

   The common folk's delving into interpretation (ta'wil) of divine
   attributes is a blameworthy bid'a,

   Therefore, opposition to it--abstinence from speculative inquiry
   into Divine Attributes (i.e. Kalam)--is recommended and
   praiseworthy. (56)

Therefore, every time a layperson raises a question on the nature of divine attributes, al-Ghazzali's advice is that Malik's classic response should be given, so as to shut the door on the "strife" (fitna) of theological controversies and fanaticism in society. Recall that when Malik was asked, "What is istiwa'?" he answered, "Istiwa' is known (ma'lum); its modality unknown (majhul); faith in it is obligatory (wajib); and questioning it is heresy (bid'a)." (57) Moreover, al-Ghazzali required laypersons to affirm that istiwa' in the proof-texts does not refer to "sitting" or "settled," "fixity of location," which are attributes of material bodies; rather, they should recognize that the actual meaning of istawa' is unknown to them and they should not feel obliged to inquire into its knowledge, accepting as true the Qur'anic words the Most Gracious (istawa') on the Throne of His almightiness. (58) That, in a nutshell, is al-Ghazzali's explanation of the Way of the Salaf upon which he embarked in Iljam, sailing a middle course between outright denial of divine attributes (ta'til) and ta'wil, on the one hand, and anthropomorphism (tashbih), on the other. Divine Attributes are to be affirmed to the common folk just as they are reported in the Qur'an and Hadith, without filtering them through figurative or literal interpretation. Thus, al-Ghazzali's "Salafi" approach with regard to explaining divine attributes to the common folk (as expressed in Iljam) differed from the Ash'ari position mainly in its retention of bi-la kayf, avoidance of ta'wil, and rejection of Kalam; it differed from the anthropomorphists in its repudiation of tashbih. (59)

The Scope of Iljam

Iljam is a concise treatise. It addresses three major themes interspersed with rhetorical exchanges with an interlocutor. The first theme explains the reality of the Way of the Salaf concerning certain ambiguous "traditions" (i.e., ahadith) on divine attributes. The second theme discusses the proof that the Way of the Salaf is correct and devoid of error and that opposition to it constitutes "heresy" (bid'a). The third theme addresses ancillary issues pertaining to understanding divine attributes within the context of Islamic axial texts, the Qur'an and Hadith. Al-Ghazzali's hermeneutic approach is two-fold, involving (i) the acceptance of textual descriptions of God, His attributes, and His works at face value, and (ii) the application of reason to prune them of anthropomorphic, negating, and figurative readings. According to this rational conceptual framework, wherever God is described in the proof-texts, for example, as having "eyes," "hands," and the like, and a being that "ascends" and "descends," these descriptions ought to be accepted verbatim; at the same time, it should be understood that Divine Attributes neither resemble human attributes in essence or function nor are they metaphors for speculative abstract realities or allegories.

Here is a typical example from Iljam:
   When [the believer] hears the word above in the words of Allah, He
   (Allah) is the Irresistible, [watching] from above fawq) over His
   worshippers, (60) or They all revere their Lord, high above (fawq)
   them, (61) let him know that fawq is multivocal, designating two
   meanings. Firstly, fawq refers to a body's relationship to another,
   such that the one is above and the other below; that is, higher in
   relation to lower. Secondly, fawq also expresses rank, as in the
   statement "the caliph is above (fawq) the sultan, and the sultan is
   above (fawq) the vizier." The former invokes two bodies in
   [spatial] relationship to each other; the latter does not.
   Therefore, let the faithful firmly believe that the first meaning
   is not intended and is inconceivable in respect of Allah, since it
   is a contingency of bodies or accidents of bodies. If a person is
   aware of the negation of this unthinkable reference in relation to
   the Divinity, then nothing more is required of him if he does not
   know why it is expressed in such a manner or what is meant by it.
   Now compare what we have mentioned here with that which we have
   not. (62)

Iljam is replete with such examples, which Frank considered to be often redundant and repetitious polemic. (63) Under closer scrutiny, however, such repetitiveness appears not to be woodenly repeated or pointless but is a literary style utilized by al-Ghazzali to underline his concern about grave theological issues, namely, the believer's ascription of wrong or false beliefs to God and the necessity of heightening awareness of the errors of anthropomorphism and denial of divine attributes. Given the oft-repeated condemnations of anthropomorphism in Iljam, Frank suggested that "one could take it that the work is directed, at least in part, against the Karramiyya and the Hanbalites.... It is plain, however, that they lie only marginally within his line of fire. Al-Ghazali's principal aim is to distinguish those to whom it is given to have knowledge of the divine things, so as to understand the metaphorical descriptions of God, such as those who share his higher theology, from those to whom it is not." (64) But it is apparent from the text that the common folk were his prime audience, as is evident from the full title of his work (Iljam al-'awam can 'ilm al-kalam; literally, "Saving the Common Folk from Scholastic Theology"), which brings us to the question: who are they? Curiously, al-Ghazzali regarded the common folk as not only laypersons but also scholars of the exoteric Islamic sciences, including jurists (fuqaha'), theologians (mutakallimun), exegetes (mufassirun), hadith scholars (muhadiththun), grammarians (nuhat), and the like. All of them are in need of rescue from the dangers of Kalam, which encourages speculation, which in turn leads to abominable interpretation or, worse, denial of Divine Attributes contrary to the Way of the Salaf. Because of its probabilistic tendency, given the polysemous nature of descriptions, ta'til is more difficult to treat than tashbih, (65) since the latter can easily be refuted with Qur'anic proofs like nothing is like unto Him (laysa ka-mithlihi shay'). (66) The only class of people that al-Ghazzali exempted from the broad category of "the common folk" are the "skilled divers into gnosis (ma'rifa)" who, by shortening their lives, renouncing the life of the world and passions, and abandoning wealth, glory, and pleasures, learned how to swim in its oceans; they are sincere to God in knowledge and deed, executing the ordinances of Islamic law (shari'a) and etiquette as regards obedience and disobedience, emptying their hearts collectively from everything besides God, and disdaining the worldly life, even the hereafter and the highest abode in Paradise, purely for the sake of God's love; nevertheless, they too are in grave peril in which nine out of ten divers perish, save the one who is happy, having obtained the "hidden pearl" and "treasured secret." (67) For this class of successful people--the skilled divers of gnosis--God has decreed al-husna, or, the "best outcome": And thy Lord knows all that their hearts conceal and all that they reveal. (68)

The preceding passage indicates al-Ghazzali's contention, to wit, that only those favored with the mystical experience, intuition, or union with God can truly apprehend the secrets and mysteries of divine attributes. These special people include of course the prophets, the "veracious ones" (siddiqin), the Salaf (who, as he defined them, were the Prophet's Companions and Followers), the "people of gnosis" (ahl al-ma'rifa), and the "friends" (awliya') of God. As for the scholars (specialists in exoteric Islam) and laypeople who strive to be acquainted with God and His ways, they should avoid the perplexity of Kalam--the abstruse discussion on Divine Attributes, involving philosophical concepts of essence, bodies, accidents, substance, disputation, and its rational framework of speculative theology--applying themselves assiduously to his seven-point guideline based on madhhab al-salaf, lest they go astray, stumbling into esoteric pathways beyond their threshold of comprehension.

Reactions to Iljam and the Way of the Salaf

Al-Ghazzali's late 'Salafi' theological re-orientation and advocacy have long since won the plaudits of Traditionalists in the Sunni world. In his book on the unlawfulness of Kalam, the Hanafi scholar Sirajuddin al-Qazwini (d. 750/1349) mentioned that "al-Ghazzali came around to accepting that (ta'wil) was unlawful after he had praised it." (69) In his Irshad al-fuhul min 'ilm al-'usul, al-Shawkani (d. 1250/1834) recounted Abu 'Amr b. al-Salah's (d. 643/1245) statement that there were three schools of theological thought as regards interpreting divine attributes: one group figuratively explained their apparent meanings; another group anthropomorphized them; and a third group presumed that the Divine Lawgiver would not have expressed them in such a manner unless He deemed its usage permissible and its outward acceptance proper--thus they declared God's sanctification (taqdis), transcendence (tanzih), and exoneration (tabarri) from all limitations, including anthropomorphism. The latter was the way of the first part (sadr) of the Ummah, the Muslims and their leaders, which prominent fuqaha' and muhaddithin later adopted and which none of the great muttakallimin ignored or rejected. (70) Ibn al-Salah further stated, "In several places, al-Ghazzali eloquently articulated fleeing from everything besides this path, and ultimately reined in every scholar and layperson to it with his bridle--i.e., his book Iljam al-'awam 'an 'ilm al-kalam. It is definitely the last book of al-Ghazzali, in which he urged them to adhere to the Way of the Salaf and those who followed them." (71) Al-Shawkani added this comment:
   Al-Dhahabi (d. 748/1374), in his [Siyar] al-nubala', on the
   biographical profile of Fakruddin al-Razi (d. 606/1209), stated
   that "he recognized it (the Way of the Salaf) toward the end of his
   life, saying 'I have reflected on the methods of Kalam and the
   philosophers but did not see them curing the sick or soothing
   grief; but I did see that the nearest path [to it] is that of the
   Qur'an. For I read in it about affirming (ithbat) that the Most
   Gracious, established (istawa') on the throne of His almightiness?
   (72); unto Him ascend all good words. (73) I also read therein
   about negation (nafyi): there is nothing like unto Him. (74)
   Whosoever experiences what I have experienced will know what I have
   learnt [about the ambiguity of Divine Attributes].'" (75) On
   al-Juwayni's (d. 478/1085) biographical profile, al-Dhahabi wrote
   that he explained [in his al-Risala al-nimmiyya fi al-arkan
   al-islamiyya ("The Nizamite Treatise on the Islamic Pillars") (76)]
   that "the learned among the Salaf rigidly abstained from figurative
   interpretation (ta'wil), accepting the apparent sense of the texts,
   and committing the meanings to the Lord, May He be exalted! (i.e.,
   they declined the mortal responsibility of interpreting them). As
   for the opinion that satisfies us and by which we are devoted to
   Allah as a duty, it is emulation of the Salaf of this Umma." That
   is how the author of al-Nubal' reported it, (77) adding that
   al-Juwayni also wrote "you must bear witness that I have turned
   away from every statement that contradicts the Salaf." (78) These
   three scholars--I mean, al-Juwayni, al-Ghazzali, and al-Razi, who
   greatly extended the discourse on ta'wil--ultimately returned to
   the Way of the Salaf, as you have learnt herein. (79)

According to Makdisi, "Baqillani and Juwaini, insofar as they adopted the way of the Ancestors (salaf), would appear to be against Kalam. And this attitude against Kalam carries itself further down the line to a student of Juwaini, Ghazzali, whose fame surpassed that of the master." (80)

The reactions of Ash'aris to al-Ghazzali's apparent adoption of the Way of the Salaf varied: they either belittled his knowledge of Kalam or persisted in typecasting him as a proponent of Ash'ari thought. The latter is obvious in the works of Ibn 'Asakir (d. 1176), al-Subki (d. 1370), and Ibn Khaldun (d. 808/1406), to name a few--an apologist trend that continues today, as found in Hussayn Athay's Mawqif al-Ghazzali min 'ilm al-kalam, Sa'id Abdul Latif Fuda's Mawqif al-imam al-Ghazzali min 'ilm al-kalam, and others. "Ghazzali's hostile attitude toward Kalam is well known," Makdisi wrote. "His work entitled Iljam al-'awamm 'an 'ilm al-kalam (The Reining of the common people from the science of kalam) was a source of embarrassment to the Ash'arite propagandists who reacted to it in various ways... the Ash'arite apologists (in general) do not mention Ghazzali's Iljam itself, though their concern about it and his reference to Shafi'i in the Ihya' as prohibiting Kalam is evident...." (81) The Maliki scholar al-Mazari (d. 530/1136), for example, when asked about al-Ghazzali's theology, said "As for 'ilm al-kalam, which constitutes the foundations of the religion (usul-al-din), (82) al-Ghazzali also wrote on it but did not expatiate it or attain mastery (mustabhir) of it. I investigated the reason, discovering that it was due to his study of philosophy (falsafa) before achieving mastery in usul al-din; consequently, his reading of falsafa caused him to take an audacious approach on semantics but was lax toward realities. That is because falsafa proceeds on its own thoughts ungoverned by rulings of shari'a or without fear of contradicting the leaders who follow it." (83) This critique of al-Ghazzali was robustly deflected by al-Subki: "I concur with al-Mazari's statement that he was not proficient (mustabhir) in Kalam, but I argue that his feet were firmly rooted in it, though not to the same extent as they were in the other sciences; so his opinion is speculative. As for his statement that al-Ghazzali was preoccupied with falsafa before he engaged usul al-din, it is not so; rather, he did not study falsafa until after he had delved into usul al-din, as he himself clearly explained in al-Munqidh min al-dalala ("Deliverance from Error"). (84) Furthermore, al-Mazari's claim that al-Ghazzali read falsafa before becoming proficient (mustabhir) in usul al-din, which comes after his previous statement that he was not proficient (mustabhir) in usul al-din, is contradictory." (85) Indeed, despite being widely acknowledged as one of the greatest scholars of Islam (kibar al-'ulama'), al-Ghazzali had his fair share of critics among Shi'is, Mu'tazilis, Zanadiqa (86), and Sunnis, such as al-Mazari, al-Tartushi (d. 520/1127), Ibn Salah (d. 643/1245), Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1327), Ibn Qayyim (d. 751/1350), and others who differed with him on a wide range of issues, including Arabic grammar, philosophy, Sufism (tasawwuf), Hadith, and Kalam.

In the western scholarly discourse on Muslim theology, the post-Ash'ari 'Salafi' phase of al-Ghazzali's reflection on Kalam is often overlooked. Wolfson did not refer to it or the Iljam in The Philosophy of the Kalam. Wensinck omitted it in The Muslim Creed. Nagel, in his History of Islamic Theology, presented al-Ghazzali as an innovative "Ash'arite theologian" (87) and did not detect any paradigm shift in his theology. Marmura, apart from a lone footnote on Iljam in his Ghazali and Ash'arism Revisited, was preoccupied with the pre-Iljam works. The list goes on. Al-Allaf took umbrage at this seemingly glaring omission by Wolfson et al, suspecting it as part and parcel of an Orientalist agenda: "This book (Iljam) is one of the most authentic books attributed to [al-Ghazzali], yet Orientalists eschewed it because of its commitment to the Sunna, maxims, and lessons pertaining to the unification of Muslim ranks and their guidance to the straight path. Orientalists tried to disregard it and misdirect students of knowledge away from it." (88) Al-Allaf is right regarding the oversight of al-Ghazzali's Salafi position in Iljam on the part of some non-Muslim scholars (as on the part of many Muslim scholars), but he misreads their reasons. First, some Islamicists' information on Iljam might have been secondhand or they may not have inquired into it in the first place. Second, it is also possible that al-Ghazzali's discussion of the 'Way of the Salaf has simply been overshadowed by the long established conventional image of him as an Ash'ari thinker, causing many not to notice his late theological emphasis or underestimate it. Third, several scholars in the west have discussed Iljam, holding conflicting assessments of its thesis. Take Watt, for instance, who acknowledged that Iljam is al-Ghazzali's final work, insisting that he remained an Ash'ari. "A few days before his death he completed a short work (roughly within the field of jurisprudence (89)) in which he maintained that it was wrong to communicate the subtleties of Kalam to ordinary people. From these facts it seems certain that al-Ghazali remained a Shafi'ite and Ash'arite to the end of his life, though he was using philosophical methods to defend Ash'arite doctrine." (90) Watt later revised his opinion: "It has now received powerful confirmation from the discovery by Bouyges of a date for the Ilcam (Iljam) which makes it the latest of all al-Ghazali's works; for the Iljam is concerned with problems of tasbih (anthropomorphism) which are essentially within the universe of discourse on scholastic theology." (91) Griffel had first-hand information on Iljam, even examining one of its manuscripts in order to determine its authenticity, as noted earlier, but he was primarily interested in traces of changes in al-Ghazzali's cosmology in Iljam. (92) Frank treated Iljam in his Al-Ghazali and the Ash'arite School substantively, observing that "al-Ghazali's break with the school tradition--his isolation from scholars in the tradition in which he had been formed--seems to have preoccupied him, for Iljam, written at the very end of his life, appears to be another response, albeit from a somewhat different angle." (93) As for Nakamura, he argued that because "his official theological viewpoint in a work from his final years, the Iljam, is no different from his early one [as expressed in Ihya' and Mizan, for example], we may conclude that Ghazali had two standpoints since a fairly early period: one was the official view of Ash'arism and the other was the teachings of the elite." (94)

In the final analysis, al-Ghazzali's gravitation to the 'Way of the Salaf' was not sudden or erratic, far less "unintellectual" (95) or "child-like." (96) Indeed, he left us clues to this position scattered throughout his Kalam treatises, some of which were examined here. To buttress this point, we find al-Ghazzali, in his Faysal al-tafriqa bayna-l Islam wal-zandiqa ("The Criterion of Distinction between Islam and Clandestine Unbelief"), outlining the 'Salafi' method (in much the same way that his teacher Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni had done in his "The Nizami Treatise on the Islamic Pillars" (97)) as follows:
   For the Common Folk, the truth [concerning ta'wil] lies in
   following the Way of the Salaf and their refrain from changing the
   text's apparent [meaning], innovating interpretations (ta'wilat)
   that did not issue from the Companions, questioning [these
   ambiguities], delving into Kalam, and examining ambiguities in the
   Qur'an and the Sunnah.... As for those thinkers who are troubled by
   their inherited beliefs, their investigation of these issues should
   only be carried out as a necessity and their leaving aside the
   apparent [meaning of the text] by definite proof.... Some people
   have hastened to ta'wilat out of speculation, not certainty.... If
   the issues are unconnected with fundamental articles of faith, such
   people should not be judged unbelievers or blameworthy innovators
   in the religion.... Nevertheless, were the door [of ta'wilat]
   opened and its articulation permitted, it would confuse the minds
   of the common folk, causing them to commit innovation in all that
   has been related from the Salaf.... But if the ta'wilat are
   connected with fundamental articles of faith, then it is mandatory
   to declare them unbelievers who have changed the apparent meaning
   [of a proof-text] without any decisive evidence--such as their
   denial of the resurrection of bodies and physical punishments in
   the Hereafter based on sheer speculation and conjecture, since
   there is no proof that the return of souls to bodies is an
   impossibility ... (98)

In short, it appears that al-Ghazzali's eventual turn to the 'Way of the Salaf' was the culmination of a gradual realization, to wit, that the recondite method of Kalam was essentially speculative, confusing, and did not promote intimate knowledge of God and His divine attributes. Kalam did not expand consciousness of God in the hearts or minds of common believers or cause them to imbibe--far less inculcate--divine attributes; therefore, his ruling is that they should abandon it in terms of seeking to know God, His Attributes, and His works.

Is Sunni Theology Ash'ari or 'Salafi'?

Iljam is not a mystical or Sufistic but a theological work, slightly intimating at the path to gnosis. Al-Ghazzali's treatment of divine attributes through the conceptual framework of the 'Salafi' method makes his perennially popular Ash'ari label a dubious distinction. Whatever was the trigger for this radically modified view on Kalam, he seemed to have realized that its disadvantages definitely outweighed its advantages for those he called the common folk. Iljam was his last-ditch effort to establish a hermeneutic approach to Divine Attributes on a didactic foundation, substituting the cliched 'ilm al-kalam with the 'Way of the Salaf'. The gravitation of so many leading Muslim scholars in the past to the Salafi method corroborates the findings of Makdisi and others that Ash'arism was never the mainstream, far less the dominant orthodoxy of Sunni Islam. Thus, one can hardly speak of a universally agreed upon Sunni Muslim orthodoxy. As far as al-Ghazzali is concerned, his ultimate theology is nuanced: he had some things in common with Traditionalists that he did not share with Ash'aris; in the same way, he had some things in common with both Ash'aris and Traditionalists that he did not share with Mu'tazilis (see fig. 1). NB: The Ash'ariyya circle can be further elaborated with many other differences that al-Ghazzali had with Ash'aris scholars and which Makdisi, Frank, Nakamura, et al have discussed in their works, such as gnosis, atomism, denial of the theory of the optimum, theory of the soul, etc., but which were beyond the scope of this paper.


In the final analysis, being the towering intellectual figure that he is in Muslim history, it is apparent that different schools of religious thought, sects, scholars, believers and unbelievers alike--indeed, students of al-Ghazzali in general--tend to make him over into their own images. Thus, he remains an adept mystic to Sufis, a mutakallim to Ash'aris, a Muslim philosopher (faylasuf) to those interested in Islam's relationship with Neo-Platonic philosophy, an usuli (legal theorist) to proponents of usul al-fiqh, a Shafi'i faqih (legist) to adherents of al-Shafi'i's (d. 205/820) school of law, and a salafi to Traditionalists insofar as usul al-din or Sunni orthodoxy is concerned. He was probably all of that and more. His complex theology is perhaps best understood by mapping its trajectories found in his own writings, as I have attempted to do here. Nevertheless, like many luminaries of Islam, al-Ghazzali journeyed through several stages of intellectual inquiry and maturation, continually revising and refining his thoughts and ideas right up to his death. His last moments were reportedly spent poring over the Sahih hadith collections of al-Bukhari and al-Muslim. (99)

My final suggestion here is that it is likely that master scholars such as al-Juwayni, al-Ghazzali, al-Razi, et al, while being fully cognizant of the 'Way of the Salaf' as is plain in their writings, embraced the Kalam method temporarily, infusing it with a philosophical outlook, (100) largely for polemic reasons. Their opponents the Mu'tazilis propagated their theology principally through Kalam and were joined in that by the Ash'aris, practically challenging their detractors to 'use the master's tools to destroy his house'; for no sooner were these scholars satisfied and confident that they had repudiated the dogmatic positions of Mu'tazilis, anthropomorphists, and others, meeting the dialectic aim of Kalam, which is to preserve the faith and protect it against heresies, than they began to expose its shortcomings and frown upon it as a valid hermeneutic approach to knowing God--as if to acknowledge that the time had come to move on with the more important task of instructing believers to become acquainted with Divinity through the simple albeit correct 'Way of the Salaf', as they espoused it. Iljam is the primary and best documentary evidence that we have of al-Ghazzali's switch in theological method from Ash'arism to 'Salafism' in respect of understanding divine attributes. Today the question or challenge to us is whether his ultimate theological orientation is to be evaluated on the basis of his earlier works or his final word on Kalam.

(1.) Scholars have long differed on the proper pronunciation and writing of his name: al-Ghazzali, al-Ghazali, al-Gazel, etc. I adhere to the first, that is, al-Ghazzali, based on the majority opinion of Muslim historians and genealogists who follow Ibn al-Athir's rendition. See Murtada al-Zabidi, Ithaf al-sadat al-muttaqin bi shark Ihya' 'ulum al-din (Beirut: Mu'assasa al-Tarikh al-'Arabi, 1994), vol. 1, 18.

(2.) I translate 'ilm al-kalam, or simply Kalam, here as 'scholastic' theology reservedly, since scholasticism proper developed as an intellectual method and system in an entirely different cultural context; namely, within the western church, particularly Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, Muslim Kalam and Christian scholastic theology share a hermeneutic approach in common, seeking to understand religious faith through rational proofs while integrating theology and philosophy. As for the origins of the term 'ilm al-kalam, according to Ibn Khaldun, there are two theories: (i) it arose from the argumentation over heresies, which is a type of speech exchange (kalam sarf) and does not rebound upon action, or (ii) it stemmed from the dispute of theologians over affirmation of al-kalam al-nafsi ("speech of the soul or self"). See Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima (Cairo: Dar al-Fajr, 2004), 559.

(3.) Translated by Nabih Faris and published as The Foundations of the Articles of Faith (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1999).

(4.) Available in Arabic print.

(5.) A partial translation was done by A. Abu Zayd and published as Al-Ghazali on Divine Predicates (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1970).

(6.) Translated by Sherman A. Jackson and published as On the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's Faysal al-Tafriqa (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2002).

(7.) Translated by David Burrell and Nazih Daher and published as Al-Ghazali on the Ninety-nine Beautiful Names of God (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1992).

(8.) The Ash'ari theological school of thought is named after its founder Abul Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 334/945) who was a former Mu'tazili. He is one of the original founders of Sunni Kalam in opposition to Mu'tazili Kalam. His works include the well known Maqalat al-islamiyyin, Risala fi ihtisan al-khawd fi 'ilm al-kalam, and al-Ibana 'an usul al-diyana which are available in Arabic print; the second work was translated and published as A Vindication of the Science of Kalam in Richard J. McCarthy, The Theology of Al-Ash'ari (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1953).

(9.) Al-Ghazzali, Iljam al-'awam 'an 'ilm al-kalam, ed. M. al-Mu'tasim bi-Llah al-Baghdadi (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Arabi, 1985). This edition was translated by the present author under the supervision of Michael Morony (UCLA), but has not yet been published.

(10.) Al-Subki, al-Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya al-kubra, 5th ed. (Cairo: Dar Ihya' al-Kutub al-'Arabi), vol. 6, 225.

(11.) Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya (Hyderabad: Da'ira Ma'arif al-'Uthmaniyya, 1978), vol. 1, 328.

(12.) Al-Zabidi, Ithaf, vol. 1, 41.

(13.) See the biography of al-Ghazzali in al-Wasiti's al-Tabaqat al-'uliyya in Abdul al-Amir al-A'sam, al-Faylasuf al-Ghazzali, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Andalus, 1981), 181.

(14.) W. Montgomery Watt, "The Authenticity of Works Attributed to Al-Ghazali," JRAS (1952): 44.

(15.) George F. Hourani, "A Revised Chronology of Ghazali's Writings, "Journal of the American Oriental Society 104, no. 2 (1984): 302.

(16.) George F. Hourani, "The Chronology of Ghazali's Writings," Journal of the American Oriental Society 79, no. 4 (October-December 1959): 233.

(17.) Frank Griffel, Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 266.

(18.) Cf. W. Montgomery Watt, "The Study of al-Ghazali," Oriens 13/14 (1960/1961): 124 n. 1.

(19.) It is reported that Malik b. Anas was once asked, "What is istiwa'?" He replied: "Al-istiwa' is known; its modality is unknown; faith in it is obligatory; and questioning it is heresy." The word is found in the Qur'an in several places, such as [He] has applied His design (istawa) to the heaven (Q 2:29). Istawa is polysemic, having several meanings in Arabic, such as "seeking symmetry, evenness, or equality in things," "to own," and the like. See discussion of this below. See al-Ghazzali, Ihya' 'ulum al-din (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1992), 123-24; al-Baydawi, al-Tafsir (Beirut: Dar Ihya' al-Turath al-'Arabi), vol. 1, 66.

(20.) Mashhad al-Allaf, Kutub al-imam al-Ghazzali al-thabit minha wal-manhul (2002),

(21.) Abdur Rahman Badawi, Mu'allafat al-Ghazzali, 2nd ed. (Kuwait: Wikala al-Matbu'at, 1977), 231-33.

(22.) El justo medio en la creencia, trans. Miguel Asin Palacios (Madrid: Compendio de teleologia dogmatic, 1929); see Badawi, Mu'allafat al-Ghazzali, 139.

(23.) Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, A Return to Purity of Creed (Philadelphia: Lamppost Publications, 2008). Ali is of the view that al-Ghazzali did not repudiate any opinion that he held about the Ash'ari school or the science of Kalam. I discuss the various ways in which Iljam has been received in the section below entitled "Reactions to Iljam and the Way of the Salaf' of this paper.

(24.) Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqaddima, 551. Cf. al-Qinawwji, Abjad al-'ulum (Damascus: Wizarat al-Thaqafa wal-Irshad al-Qawmi, 1978), vol. 2, 440-53; Louis Gardet, "'Ilm al-Kalam" in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971), vol. 3.

(25.) See W. Montgomery Watt, The Faith and Practice of Al-Ghazali (London: George Allen & Udwin Ltd., 1952), 27.

(26.) Ihya', vol. 1, 116.

(27.) Ibid.; cf. Arent J. Wensinck, The Muslim Creed: Its Genesis and Historical Development (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc, 1965), 95-101.

(28.) Translated as Watt, Faith and Practice.

(29.) Ibid., 28.

(30.) Harry A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1976), 42.

(31.) Wensinck, The Muslim Creed, 83-84.

(32.) Watt, Faith and Practice, 12.

(33.) Kojiro Nakamura, "Was Ghazali an Ash'arite?" The Memoirs of the Research Department of Toyo Bunko 51 (1993): 4-5.

(34.) Michael E. Marmura, "Ghazali and Ash'arism Revisited," Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 12 (2002): 92-94.

(35.) R.M. Frank, Al-Ghazali and the Ash'arite School (London: Duke University Press, 1994), 91.

(36.) Griffel, Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology, 266.

(37.) Iljam, 112.

(38.) Ibid., 115-16.

(39.) Ibid., 64.

(40.) George Makdisi, "Ash'ari and the Ash'arites in Islamic Religious History I," Studia Islamica 17 (1962): 49.

(41.) The evidence is indirect in respect of Abu Hanifa, since there is no record of him, as far as I know, specifically condemning Kalam, unlike many of his Traditionalist contemporaries; rather, his opposition to it has been deduced from his reported dislike for disputation, far less sophistry, to promote religious truths. See al-Qari, Minah al-rawd al-azhar (known as Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar) (Beirut: Dar al-Basha'ir al-Islamiyya, 1998), 32-33.

(42.) For more on Traditionalists opposed to Kalam, see Ihya', vol. 1, 114; Faris, Foundations of the Articles of Faith, 16-20; al-Dhahabi, Mukhtasar al-'ulw li 'ali al-ghaffar, ed. al-Albani (Damascus: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1981), 135-286; Ibn al-Wazir, Tarjih asalib al-Qur'an 'ala al-asalib al-yunani (Cairo edition, 1930), 24-27; al-Suyuti, Itmam ad-diraya li qurra' al-naqaya (Calcutta: Mazhar al-'Aja'ib, 1864), 2-3; al-Qari, Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar, 29-42; Siddiq H. Khan al-Qinnawji, Qasd al-sabil ila dhamm al-kalam wal-ta'wil (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2000), 46-56.

(43.) Muslim heresiographers list the Mu'tazilis as a Muslim sect known by other names like al-Qadariyya and al-'Adaliyya. Mu'tazilis, however, called themselves Ashab al-'adl wal-tawhid ("The People of Justice and Islamic Monotheism"). One of their founders was Wasil b. 'Ata (d. 131/748). He differed with al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728) on a number of issues and separated (i'tazala) from him; hence the label Mu'tazilis. Their opponents associated Mu'tazilitism with a five article creed: i) tawhid ("Islamic Monotheism," which espoused creation of the Qur'an, negation of Divine Attributes through figurative interpretations, etc.); ii) 'adl ("Justice"); iii) inqadh al-wa'id ("Salvation through Fulfillment of God's Promise"); iv) bayna l-manzilattayn ("Between Two Positions"); and v) al-amr bil-ma'ruf wa nahy 'anil-munkar ("Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil"). Mu'tazilis were not a monolithic group, splintering into some 20 schisms over time. See al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wal-nihal, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa, 1993), vol. 1, 56-63; Mawsu'a kashshaf istilahat al-funun wal-'ulum, ed. Rafic al-Ajam (Beirut: Librairie du Liban Publishers, 1996), vol. 2, 1574-75.

(44.) Al-Baqillani, al-Insaf fi ma yajib i'tiqadahu wa la yajuz al-jahl bih, 2nd ed. (Cairo: al-Makataba al-Azhariyya lil-Turath, 2000), 25.

(45.) Al-Sharastani, al-Milal wal-nihal, vol. 1, 106; al-Subki, al-Tabaqat al shafi'iyya al-kubra, vol. 4, 33; Makdisi, "Ash'ari and the Ash'arites I," 42-44.

(46.) W. Montgomery Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology: An Extended Survey (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1985), 79-84; Nakamura, Was Ghazali an Ash'arite? 5.

(47.) Al-Dhahabi, Mukhtasar al-'ulw li 'ali al-ghaffar, 258-59; Ibn Darbas, "Risala fil-Dhabb 'an Abi al-Hasan al-Ash'ari" in al-Arba'in fi dala'il al-tawhid, ed. 'Ali b. Nasir (KSA: Islamic University of Madina, 1984), 95-132; Abdul Rahman al-Mahmud, Mawqif ibn Taymiyya min al-asha'ir (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Rushd, 1995), 538-40.

(48.) Ihya, vol. 1, 123; Faris, Foundations of the Articles of Faith, 51; cf. al-Ghazzali, al-Maqsad al-asna fi sharh ma'ani asma' Allah al-husna, ed. Fadlou A. Shehadi (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1971), 192.

(49.) Iljam, 53.

(50.) Q 43:56 (Y. Ali translation). See also Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'Arab (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, n.d.), vol. 3, 2069-70.

(51.) Edward Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (London: Williams & Norgate, 1863), 1408.

(52.) Here al-Ghazzali uses Hashwiyya pejoratively for anthropomorphists in general. For further information on the term, see the article "Hashwiyya (Hashawiyya, Hushwiyya, or Ahl al-Hashw)" in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E.J. Brill).

(53.) Iljam, 51-52.

(54.) Muhammad 'Ali Tahanawi, Mawsu'a kashshaf istilahat al-funun wal-'ulum (Beirut: Dar Sader, 1996), vol. 1, 968-69.

(55.) Iljam, 51.

(56.) Ibid., 87-95.

(57.) Ihya', vol. 1, 123-24.

(58.) Q 20:5 (M. Asad translation). Altogether, the verbal form of istawa' in the third person singular is mentioned in the same context in twelve places in the Qur'an: 2:29; 7:54; 10:3; 13:2; 20:5; 25:59; 28:14; 32:4; 41:11; 48:29; 53:6; and 57:4.

(59.) See fig. 1 at the end of the paper.

(60.) Q 6:18 (Y. Ali translation).

(61.) Q 16:50 (Y. Ali translation).

(62.) Iljam, 58-59.

(63.) Frank, Al-Ghazali and the Ash'arite School, 83.

(64.) Ibid., 83.

(65.) Iljam, 100, 103-04.

(66.) Q 42:11.

(67.) Iljam, 67-68.

(68.) Q 28:69 (Y. Ali translation).

(69.) Al-Qari, Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar, 30.

(70.) Cf. Ibn Khaldun, al-Muqadimma, 557-58.

(71.) Al-Shawkani, Irshad al-fuhul (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1999), vol. 2, 47.

(72.) Q 20:5 (M. Asad translation).

(73.) Q 35:10 (M. Asad translation).

(74.) Q 42:11 (M. Asad translation).

(75.) Al-Dhahabi, Siyar a'lam al-nubula', eds. al-Arna'ut and al-'Arqaswi, 11th ed. (Beirut: al-Resalah Publishing House, 1996), vol. 21, 501.

(76.) See al-Juwayni, al-'Aqida al-nizamiyya fi al-arkan al-islamiyya, ed. Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari (Cairo: al-Maktaba al-Azhari lil-Turath, 1992), 32-34.

(77.) Al-Dhahabi, Siyar, vol. 18, 472-74.

(78.) Ibid., vol. 18, 473.

(79.) Al-Shawkani, Irshad al-fuhul, vol. 2, 48; al-Qinawwji, Qasd al-sabil, 65.

(80.) George Makdisi, "Ash'ari and the Ash'arites in Islamic Religious History II," Studia Islamica 18 (1963): 32.

(81.) Makdisi, "Ash'ari and the Ash'arites II," 32-33.

(82.) Usul al-din (like 'ilm al-kalam or al-'aqa'id (sing. 'aqida) is another term for Muslim theology.

(83.) Al-Subki, al-Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya, vol. 6, 240-41.

(84.) Al-Ghazzali, al-Munqidh minal-dalala, ed. Mahmud Biju, 2nd ed. (Amman: Dar al-Fath, 1992), 37-40; Watt, Faith and Practice, 27-29.

(85.) Al-Subki, al-Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya, vol. 6, 247; al-Zabidi, Ithaf, 29.

(86.) Zanadiqa (sing. zindiq) is Arabized from the Persian, meaning Manichaean; originally, it referred to a follower of Mazdek, a Zoroastrian high priest, who preached that women and wealth are to be enjoyed and shared, and in whose time appeared the book Zend--hence zandi or the Arabized zindiq (pl. zanadaqa). The term was broadly applied to a person without religion, one who believes in the eternity of time, a disbeliever in the Hereafter, or simply non-Muslim heretics. See al-Khwarizmi, Mafatih al-'ulum, 2nd ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, 1989), 56; Ibn Manzur, Lisan al-'arab (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif), vol. 3, 1871; Edward W. Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon, 1258; F.C. de Blois, "Zindi" in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed. (Leiden: E.J. Brill).

(87.) Tilman Nagel, History of Islamic Theology from Muhammad to the Present (Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006), 195.

(88.) Al-Allaf, Kutub al-imam al-Ghazzali; see note 19 above.

(89.) Watt mischaracterized Iljam as a work of jurisprudence. Unmistakably, Iljam is a work on Muslim theology.

(90.) Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, 92.

(91.) Watt, "The Study of al-Ghazali," 124-25.

(92.) Griffel, Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology, 266.

(93.) Frank, Al-Ghazali and the Ash'arite School, 80.

(94.) Nakamura, "Was Ghazali an Ash'arite?" 16.

(95.) Nagel, History of Islamic Theology, 195.

(96.) Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, 83.

(97.) Al-Juwayni, al-'Aqida al-nizamiyya, 32.

(98.) Al-Ghazzali, Faysal al-tafriqa bayna al-islam wal-zandiqa, ed. M. Bejou (Damascus: 1993), 48-49, 53, 55-56; al-Qinawwji, Qasd al-sabil, 66-67.

(99.) Al-Subki, al-Tabaqat al-shafi'iyya, vol. 6, 210.

(100.) Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam, 41-43.

Fiazuddin Shu'ayb is PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies, UCLA. Email:
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