Imam Abu Hamid Al Ghazzal
Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali was born in Tus in north-east Persia in 1058, three years after the Seljuks had taken over the rulership in Baghdad. He followed the traditional course of theological studies based on the study of Qur’an, the recorded actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and Islamic Law according to the school of Imam Shafi’i. In the course of time, he was appointed as a professor at the Nizamiyya religious school in Baghdad, where he taught theology and Islamic Law.
In 1095, Imam al-Ghazzali went through a severe inner breakdown, a spiritual crisis, and so, having ensured that his family was well provided for, he left his teaching position to enter the spiritual life. He encountered many Sufis during his travels and underwent several spiritual disciplines. Later on, he returned to his home town, now a completely transformed man, and resumed his teaching up until his death in 1111.
Imam al-Ghazzali’s book Revival of the Religious Sciences is considered to be his greatest work. It is the fruit of his religious scholarship combined with his inner spiritual experience. His teaching and preaching after his inner awakening consisted of the transmission of the inner sciences and the integration of Sufi practices with strict adherence to the outer Islamic Law. This made him one of the most influential theologians in the Muslim world, as well as making the orthodox religious scholars take Sufi movements seriously.
One of his famous sayings is, "Those which are learned about, for example, the laws of divorce, can tell you nothing about the simpler aspects of spiritual life, such as the meaning of sincerity towards God or trust in Him."