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Dispute of Averroes and Ghazali is it relevant in the modern world?

Reader comment on item: [American Muslim Group for Policy Planning;] Another "Moderate" Muslim Group
in response to reader comment: Averroes' "The Incoherence of the Incoherence" -- A key to understanding the world today?

Submitted by LK (Lithuania), Jan 10, 2005 at 02:19

My comment responds to commenter GWK on Averroes and Ghazali, rather than to the article of Mr. D.Pipes.

1)It is absolutely false that "the origins of Salafism run through the writings of al-Ghazali". Al-Ghazali can be considered one of the stalwarts of the traditional Sunnism and Sunni-Sufism, yet it would be mistake to consider him a forerunner of Salafism. Salafis are inspired by Ibn Taimiyya, a cleric who lived in XIII-XIV century, not by al-Ghazali.

2)From the two, Averroes and al-Ghazali, it is perhaps Averroes who resembles more a Salafi. He rejected all the forms of traditional islam prevalent in his day and all philosophical schools, either Sufism or Maliki traditionalism or Hanbali "anthropomorphism" or Asharism or Avicennism, except his own. And what is salafism if not the rejection of tradition, attempt to make a new beginning in an empty place and the belief thar only one's own opinion is right? Averroes' some writings probably had even made much influence on Ibn Taimiyya. Of course, let make no mistake, Averroes and Ibn Taimiyya were very different. Yet some overtones of Salafism can be found in Averroes' work.

3)The work of Ghazali subjected to the criticism mostly the school of Avicenna, yet by doing that he pretended to criticise all the hellenic style philosophy, claiming that the thesises of Avicenna are valid for all Greek philosophy. Averroes tried to show that it is not so, and that Avicenna has corrupted the "true" philosophyof Aristotle. In fact he criticised the Avicennan thesises as scathingly as the Asharite-style thesises of al-Ghazali.

4)Comparing the two thinkers, it appears that it was Ghazali who had much more critical thinking, his concepts maybe were traditional but the organic whole in which he united them was truly novel and made big impact on the development of islam. While Ibn Rushd, at least in philosophical field, mostly parroted Aristotle. In more theological field, however, he was not deprived of original ideas, yet the quality of this "originality" is somewhat doubtful, given that the theology is traditional by its nature.

5)One has not to forget that Averroes was associated with the fundamentalist Almohad regime which tortured Maliki scholars making them by force to accept the pseudo-rationalist credo of Almohad regime. Scholars who were unable to cite from memory "rational" proofs of God's existence designed by the regime's founder Ibn Toumart, were subject to flogging and sometimes to execution(it would remind Talibans, isn't it?). By supporting the regime, Averroes made himself hateful to Maliki circles from which he issued himself. As he further alienated Sufis, Ghazalians, Asharites, Avicennans and almost every other islamic school, not surprising that he fell into disgrace, as Almohad kings changed their course and rapproached with more traditional sectors, and that his work was almost forgotten in the islamic world.

6) Which regards the Avicennan philosophy, despite the criticism of al-Ghazali, it was not forgotten in the Muslim world, even among Sunnis. The Avicennan-Aristotelian logic was adopted by Ghazali himself, while in the subsequent period it made a considerable impact on the late Kalam school. While the Shia adopted the Avecennism wholeheartedly. Avicennan philosophy was among the main subjects which were studied by young Khomeini in howzeh(Shiite spiritual school). Does it means that Khomeini turned very rational from it?

7) There was a Moroccan scholar Al-Jabri who wrote 4 volume book "Critical Analysis of the Arab thought"(naqd al-aql al-arabi) where he tries to revive the Averroan ideas, the book is really interesting, gives many insights to the history of Arab thought, analyses most of religious and philosophical schools. Yet there is also much of deplorable hostility to the Sufi thought within this book, as one could expect from a disciple of Averroes.
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