The incoherence of Ghazali

I wrote a brief piece for eteraz.org about my feeling of alienation from the discussion of the meaning of Ashura elsewhere in the Islamsphere. In a nutshell, I think that well-meaning Sunnis who try to frame the sacrifice of Imam Husain as a struggle against tyranny and injustice are vastly understating its importance. It's akin to appreciating the Qur'an solely for being a book of eloquent poetry, with a nice fancy cover.

In the discussion that ensued, someone took issue with my contention that there is concensus on the evil of Yazid (LA), quoting extensively from the reknowned Islamic philosopher Al-Ghazali:

"How should it be allowable to curse a Muslim," [Ghazali] asks, "when it is not permitted to curse the beasts of the field, and we have been prohibited from doing so ? . . . Now, it is certain that Yazid was a Muslim, but it is not certain that he slew Husayn or that he ordered or consented to, his death, and as long as these circumstances remain uncertain, it is not allowable to believe that he acted so. Besides, it is forbidden to think ill of a Muslim, since God has said: 'Be not ready to entertain suspicions of another, for it may be that these suspicions are a sin.'

Emphases mine. I find it somewhat ironic that the above was invoked as an example of Ghazali's famed tolerance, even though Ghazali's logic might well be applied to Osama bin Laden. I am in fact partly grateful to Daniel Haar for finding and transcribing the quotation above, for it cements my utter distaste for Ghazali, who was an enemy of the Mu'tazili and on the wrong side of philosophy from Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).

Let us be unafraid to label a thinker "wrong" for our convictions are no lesser than theirs. I respect Ghazali for his achievements but do not respect his conclusions and will not hesitate to label them as wrongly conceived and reasoned. Since he was an enemy of Reason, and preferred the Will of Allah alone as the prime mover of events in the world, his wrongness is hardly a surprise.

Ghazali's contention that the "circumstances remain uncertain" surrounding the culpability of Yazid (LA) in ordering the death of Imam Husain (AS) is simply risible. As for Ghazali's incredibly disingenous interpretation of Qur'an 49:12 that "it is forbidden to think ill of a Muslim" (in fact, the ayat is a general discussion of backbiting or qiyas, and does not single out muslims in any way for applicability. Ghazali's sheer gall in equating an honest historical narrative of Yazid's treachery with "backbiting" is simply obscene).

The taint of Ghazali's apologism still pervades the muslim world and hinders a clear condemnation of evil in the name of Islam - far too many people who would not hesitate to condemn OBL were he a Jew are instead agnostic to his crimes. All in the name of a false muslim solidarity - ironic indeed, given that the victims of Al Qaeda are overwhelmingly muslim themselves!

My views on Ghazali are of course informed by my sectarian identity and theologic education in that context. Others rise to Ghazali's defense, but I don't see any reason to inject false balance when I have my conviction and faith already tipping the scale.

1 comment:

UmmAli said...

As salaamu alaykum,

I appreciate your thoughtful comments both here and at Eteraz. As a Shi'a in the very Sunni blogsphere I share many of your feelings.

I also think your point about Ghazali, OBL and "the taint of apologism" can be extended to much reaction toward Saddam's execution as well. I saw in this that many Salafi bloggers expressed sympathy for or even respect for Saddam for dying with a kibr they seemed to mistake for dignity. He could be excused because his executioners were Shi'a and he "one of their own."