(Last Updated on : 09/01/2009)
Mohamed El-Ghazali is considered to be one of the most famous and prominent Sufi philosophers in the twelfth century. He has written a number of books, while following the path of interpretation for spreading his message to the common men. The book named "Book of Knowledge" is among the most famous of them, where he said, "To the sick man, sweet water tastes bitter in the mouth". In fact, this was the main motto of Ghazali's philosophy and he actually pointed out (often in engaging parables, sometimes in remarkably 'modern' words) the problem of conditioning.
The works of Mohamed El-Ghazali not only pre-dates, but also exceeds the contemporary knowledge of a number of matters. Ghazali pointed out that what people call belief is likely to be a state of obsession and he also clearly stated that it is not inescapable, in accordance with Sufi principles. He further insisted that it is essential for people to be able to identify it. Mohamed El-Ghazali regarded the distinction between opinion and knowledge as something that can easily be lost.
The academics of all kinds have widely appreciated the scientific and psychological discoveries of Mohamed El-Ghazali. Ghazali attained his knowledge through his upbringing in Sufism, among the Sufis and also through a form of direct perception of the truth that has nothing to do with mechanical intellection. Mohamed El-Ghazali's influence on the Western thought is admitted on all hands to be enormous. However, this influence itself shows the working of conditioning and the philosophers of medieval Christendom did adopt many of his ideas.
Mohamed El-Ghazali made an attempt to bring to a wider audience through his way of thought, something that is a final distinction between belief and obsession. He actually stressed the role of upbringing in the indoctrination of religious beliefs and he also invited his readers for observing the mechanism involved. He affirmed that, in addition to having information and being able to reproduce it, there is knowledge, something that happens to be a higher form of human thought.
Mohamed El-Ghazali also regarded the habit of confusing opinion with knowledge, as an epidemic disease. He did acquire his own knowledge in a Sufic manner. He also realized that higher understanding was only possible to those people, who could see and avoid the phenomena that he was describing.
Mohamed El-Ghazali has disseminated a number of messages through his numerous books and manuscripts. Ghazali has discussed on the path of attaining knowledge quite elaborately and said that a human being is not a human being, while his tendencies include self-indulgence, covetousness, temper and attacking other people. According to him, a person must regard his teacher like a doctor who knows the cure of the patient. He should serve his teacher. While talking about the Difference between Social and Initiatory Activity, Ghazali insisted upon the connection. He also insisted upon the difference between the social or diversionary contact of people, and the higher contact.
According to Mohamed El-Ghazali, the Perfected Man of the Sufis has three forms of relationship with people. He said that the forms usually vary with the condition of the people. Ghazali said that the three manners are mainly exercised According to 1) the form of belief which surrounds the Sufi; 2) the capacity of students, who are taught in accordance with their ability to understand; and 3) a special circle of people who will share an understanding of the knowledge that has derived from direct inner experience. Ghazali said that the question of divine knowledge is so deep that it is really known only to those who have it. He stated that a child does not have any real knowledge of the attainments of an adult and at the same time, an ordinary adult cannot understand the attainments of a learned man. He further elaborated that in the same way, an educated man cannot yet understand the experiences of enlightened saints or Sufis, as well.
Mohamed El-Ghazali has discussed about love and self-interest in his articles and books as well and said that if one loves someone because it gives pleasure then he should not be regarded as loving that person at all. According to him, in reality, though this is not perceived, the love is directed towards the pleasure. He said that the source of the pleasure is in fact the secondary object of attention. Ghazali asked the people to be prepared for the transition in which there will be none of the things to which they have accustomed themselves. According to him, the identity of oneself after death will have to respond to any event of which he/she has a chance to get a foretaste here. Ghazali also said that if anybody remains attached to the few things with which he/she is familiar, it will only make things miserable for the person.
Mohamed El-Ghazali also discussed about the ceremonies of music and movement. He said that such meetings must be held according to the requirements of time and place and the onlookers whose motives are not worthy, shall be excluded. Ghazali felt that the audience must sit silently and not look at each other, during the ceremonies of music and movement. Ghazali said that a quality must have a vehicle, as speed that becomes a virtue when it is found in a horse. Ghazali suggested the people to study the lives of the Sufis, if they cannot find in a man an appropriate example of dedication.
Mohamed El-Ghazali said that the knowledge is to be given only to those who can keep it and not lose it. He clearly mentioned that this knowledge must be the Sufi knowledge. It is not referred to the knowledge of book, something that can be written down or preserved in factual form. According to Ghazali, the main reason behind this is that such material would not be diminished by exposing it to someone who might fail to benefit from it. About possessions, Ghazali said that one can possess only something will not be lost in a shipwreck. The thoughts and lessons of Mohamed El-Ghazali influenced the thinkers of all philosophies of his period quite deeply and his contribution to human thought and the relevance of his ideas are still unquestioned.