The First Islamic Reviver
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences
Oxford University Press 2014
New Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network March 21, 2016 Kristian Petersen
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) is one of the most famous Muslim thinkers in history. His autobiographical account, The Deliverer from Error, tells us of his spiritual crisis and transformative experience of journeying, which lead to his subsequent life as a pious recluse. From this experience al-Ghazali wrote his magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, filled with mystical knowledge. At least that is how it has generally been read in the Euro-American tradition. Kenneth Garden, Associate Professor at Tufts University, reexamines al-Ghazali’s work from an historical hermeneutical in The First Islamic Reviver: Abu Hamid al-Ghazali and his Revival of the Religious Sciences (Oxford University Press, 2014). Garden outlines the social and political contexts al-Ghazali’s life demonstrating he was an active participant in Seljuk empire. A close reading of The Revival of the Religious Sciences reveals al-Ghazali’s promotion of a revivalist vision of the tradition, which he called “Science of the Hereafter.” Garden also presents the strategies al-Ghazali utilized to campaign for The Revival of the Religious Sciences, the tactics of his opponents, and the historical context that may force us to rethink the purpose of his autobiography, The Deliverer from Error. In our conversation we discussed al-Ghazali’s social and political life, his relationship to philosophy and mysticism, the connections between his early and later writings, the content of The Revival of the Religious Sciences, accusations against him and his legal trial, and what lead to the widespread popularity and influence of al-Ghazali’s work.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.