Ghazali's Spiritual Journey

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Ghazali's Spiritual Journey

Post by nomanwaseem »

I've read a bit on Ghazali recently and have found his life's story to be a telling anecdote of modern life in the West, particularly for rational-minded westerners who've lost touch with God. The modern world of course is one that places a socioeconomic premium on high-IQ individuals.

Ghazali was a man gifted with a razor sharp intellect and quickly rose through the ranks of scholars of his time, absorbing all knowledge he came across, including from the Aristotelian rationalists of the Mutazilite school. But he then faced a spiritual crisis which sprung from a gnawing feeling that all this rationality, all his pride in his intellect, all the debates won; it did not make him good; it did not make him a better person than he was yesterday; it did not bring him closer to God.

There's lots that can be unpacked about the direction his life takes moving forward, and certainly lots that can be criticized. But for me it serves as one more timeless story of the limits of rationality, and the tendency of the rational man (or women) to identify himself with his intellect, instead of his divine part, his Nafs. Such people invariably attain false pride in their rationality, causing them to misuse their gift of intellect towards self-deceit and glorification of ego.

It is of course easy to see this preeminence of rationality around the world today, particularly in the West. The ensuing false pride and glorified ego naturally shuns God. And of course, on balance, the obvious contention here would be that it was precisely the hand-in-hand rejection of rationality and Ijtihad that signaled the decline of the Muslim world.

Putting these two extremes opposite each other highlights for me yet another virtue demanding balance; even rationality can taste too sweet and should be relied upon in moderation, lest we risk abusing our rational mind towards self-deceit that pushes us away from God.
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