Abu H&dotbelow;amid al-Ġazali (d. 505/1111) is one of the most influential Muslim theologians of all times. Yet, his vast literary output composed for varying audiences and with different goals in mind makes accurate interpretation of his thought extremely complicated. Did he have a coherent and consistent position on major theological issues and if so, how is this position to be determined from ambiguous and often seemingly contradictory evidence, or was he—as famously claimed by Averroes—"an Aš'arite with the Aš'arites, a S&dotbelow;uf i with the S&dotbelow;ufis, and a philosopher with the philosophers"? There is still no scholarly consensus on this important question.
The crux of the issue lies in Ġazal i's ambiguous attitude to the philosophical tradition ( falsafa), in particular to the philosophy of Avicenna (Ibn S ina, d. 428/1037). On one hand, in his Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa), Ġazal i undertakes to refute twenty of the philosophers' positions and proclaims the philosophers to be unbelievers on account of three of them: their denial of the world's createdness in time, of God's knowledge of the particulars, and of bodily resurrection in the afterlife. On the other hand, his own thought is thoroughly imbued with philosophical notions, including, strikingly, some of the notions that he had criticized in the Incoherence !
My dissertation tackles this conundrum by offering a comprehensive presentation and analysis of major aspects of Ġazal i's theology in comparison to Avicenna. This is done in three parts. Following a methodological introduction (Chapter 1), in the first part (Chapters 2–3), I analyze Ġazali's classifications of the sciences and descriptions of the highest theoretical science, called the "science of divine disclosure" ('ilm al-muk aaˇfa) in his magnum opus The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ih&dotbelow;ya' 'ul um al-din). I show that the science of divine disclosure is closely related, from the point of view of both its content and structure, to philosophical metaphysics as understood by Avicenna, more specifically to the theological part of metaphysics dealing with God and the ultimate causes of the universe.
The second part (Chapters 4–5) focuses on Ġazal i's theory of the intellect and his understanding of higher modes of cognition, including divine inspiration (ilhām) and prophecy. The third part (Chapter 6) focuses on the pinnacle of the science of divine disclosure: Ġazali's radical monistic interpretation of the doctrine of God's oneness ( tawh&dotbelow;id), a major article of Muslim faith.
Taking into account all of his major treatises, both in Arabic and Persian, and drawing on recent studies, by Richard M. Frank, Michael Marmura, and Jules Janssens among others, I offer a systematic analysis of Ġaz ali's position on these issues. The evidence allows a re-assessment of Ġazali's place in the history of Islam, showing that far from being merely a critic of the philosophical tradition, as the Incoherence and the polemical remarks in his other works suggest, he was deeply indebted to that tradition and was consciously shaping it into a new Islamic theology. The science of divine disclosure, modeled after Avicenna's metaphysics, constitutes the crowning piece of Ġazali's theological system.