Islam and Rationality: The Impact of al-Ghazālī

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Ohio State University. Mershon Center for International Security Studies

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Abu Hāmid al-Ghazālī (1058-1111) is a central figure in the history of Islamic theology, jurisprudence, philosophy and Sufism. Of Persian origin, he lived and worked in Baghdad and in other intellectual centers of the Muslim world of the 11th and 12th century. Besides his teaching activity in Baghdad and Tus (in Iran), al-Ghazālī wrote in Arabic and Persian on an enormous variety of subjects, which primarily include theology, Islamic law, logic, philosophy, mysticism, and epistemology. A major concern in his works involves the development of an approach to God which is both Islamic and rational; he also strove to integrate religious rationality in the worship of God and in spiritual life. His eminent works on this topic have been widely influential. Indeed, in general, the discourse on rationality, as accepted by orthodox Islam, was largely established, articulated, and solidified by al-Ghazālī. Al-Ghazālī's influence was so widespread that he earned, in the medieval period, the unique title "The Proof of Islam" (Hujjat al-Islām); this honorific, merited by his preeminent scholarship, acknowledged the illustrious way in which he combined logic and ethics, knowledge and action, rationality and spirituality, orthodoxy and renewal of religious thought. To commemorate the 900 year-long legacy of al-Ghazālī, an international and interdisciplinary conference will take place on November 10-12, 2011. Leading scholars in intellectual history, philosophy, Islamic law and theology, and medieval Christian and Jewish thought will convene to discuss vital aspects of al-Ghazālī's work. Dealing with the increasingly important topic of Islam and rationality, and raising relevant questions related to the inter-religious exchange of ideas, the conference will aim to invigorate discourses between philosophy, religious studies, cultural history, and Islamic studies. The goals of this dialogue are to enhance research of and initiate new studies into the impact of al-Ghazālī's vast work and to create continuing forums for international conversation between scholars and the public on the topics of Islam, reason, and cross-cultural exchange.


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Islam, rationality, al-Ghazālī