He was born about the year A. Although educated by Mohammedan parents, he avows that during a considerable period of his life he was a prey to doubts about the truth, and that at times he was an absolute sceptic. While yet comparatively young, his learning and genius recommended him to the renowned sovereign Nizam ul Mulk, who gave him a professorship in the college which he had founded at Bagdad. His speculative mind still harassing him with doubts, in his enthusiasm to arrive at a solid foundation for knowledge, he resigned his position, visited Mecca and Jerusalem, and finally returned to Khorasan, where he led a life of both monastic study and devotion, and consecrated his pen to writing the results of his meditations. Still his writings were less known than either of the two others.
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Indeed, his monumental Revival of the Religious Sciences, which runs over pages and 4 volumes, was reprised as a shorter text in Persian, labeled the Alchemy of Happiness.
In this we see some of his core ideas: that happiness consists in the transformation of the self, and that this transformation consists in the realization that one is primarily a spiritual being.
He was appointed Professor of Theology at the University of Baghdad at the tender age of thirty-three. He finally concluded that there was no rational way to refute skeptical doubt, but that there was another way to discover truth, one hinted at by the prophet Muhammad and the sages within the Sufi tradition, the mystical side of Islam. This way was that of immediate experience, an inward discovery that depends not on logic but on intuition and imagination. The prophets of all times are the ones who have experienced this reality based on transforming themselves away from a self-centered to a God-centered existence.
Armed with this new insight, al-Ghazali left Baghdad and all of his material possessions except some books which were later stolen by thieves, a sign that he had to also leave those behind , as well as his cozy position at the University. Then he went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, where he became convinced that he had been appointed to be the next great reformer of the faith. His task was to transform Islam, away from the mere adherence to rules, to the inward mystery of a live encounter with God.
This would prove the key secret to happiness, one that would satisfy the very purpose for which Man is created. Indeed, al-Ghazali emphasizes that only a few people have attained this supreme happiness, which is the ecstasy of union with the divine. These people are the prophets, which appear in all times and places, as messengers to remind mankind of their true purpose and their ultimate goal.
The prophets are those who have succeeded in cleansing their inner mirrors of all the rust and dirt accumulated by bodily desires and comparisons with others. As a result, they can see in their waking moments what other people only see haphazardly in their dreams, and they receive an insight into the nature of things through an immediate flash of intuition rather than through laborious learning.
The most striking claim that al-Ghazali makes about the prophets is that they are the happiest people, for they have achieved the ultimate goal of human existence. The tragic condition of Man is that our eyes have been so distracted by physical things and pleasure, that we have lost the ability to see the unseen. This is why people are so unhappy: they are trying to relieve this pain in the soul by recourse to physical pleasure.
But physical pleasure cannot relieve a pain that is essentially spiritual. The only answer to our condition is a pleasure which comes not from the body but from self-knowledge. This self-knowledge is not to be attained by mere thinking or philosophy, however. Indeed, as a practicing member of Sufism, al-Ghazali refers to two ways of achieving the ultimate state of happiness: through dance the whirling dervishes and music Qawalli, as represented in modern times by the songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, for example.
One of the basic dances of the Sufi dervish consists in simply spinning around a large nail placed between the first two toes of the left foot.
This symbolizes the idea that everything revolves around God, that He is the center as well as the circumference of every activity. As one spins, the boundaries of the self begin to fade away, and one becomes completely absorbed in pure love.
Euphoria is achieved when we lose consciousness of the self and become focused on something we are completely and ultimately related to. In the process of arguing for this conclusion, al-Ghazali makes many other interesting observations about the nature of happiness.
He points out that there are different faculties within the soul, and that a corresponding happiness is connected with each faculty. Each part of the soul delights in that for which it has been created.
But the highest function of the soul is the perception of truth; hence it is the greatest happiness one can obtain. Al-Ghazali uses an analogy to describe this; one would be much happier to meet the King of a country than its Prime Minister. Similarly, one should be much happier to discover the Ultimate Reality than some conditional lesser truth. He maintains that everyone perceives, even in that bewildering state, that something is amiss, that we are living an inauthentic life that needs correction.
This nagging feeling is the source of our greatest joy, for once we become conscious of it we can be led in the opposite direction, towards the life of meaning and self-transcendence. Al-Ghazali loved to tell the following parable as one that illustrates the secret to genuine happiness. Bayazid told him that even with three-hundred years of ascetic devotion he would still find no happiness.
The man pleaded to be taught the way to overcome his selfishness. Of course, the man went away disappointed, for he was unable to carry out this suggestion. But Bayazid knew there was no other way. We cannot imagine how to be happy, but such wild imagination is the secret to happiness.
Conclusion Al-Ghazali teaches us the following about achieving true happiness: Happiness comes from Self-Knowledge, the knowledge that we have a heart or spirit that is originally perfect but has become obscured by passions and desires.
Sources Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. The Alchemy of Happiness. And ed. Claud Field and Elton I. London: M. Sharpe, A Brief Introduction to Islamic Philosophy. Blackwell: Nasr, Seyyid Hossein. Living Sufism. London: Mandala Books, Recommended Reading:.
AL GHAZALI ALCHEMY OF HAPPINESS PDF
Nele Online Library of Liberty Now the faithful, truthful and experienced in religion, who are mindful that the soul is treacherous, deceptive, perfidious, malicious and false, always watch carefully over their own souls, lest they should do something that transcends the commands of the law, or that is contrary to alcheym. We need to somehow lift the curtain of de This is a book that ap easily be unappreciated. They are devils and deserve judicial death. When inadvertently any of the prophets fell into sin, even a little and venial sin, they would spend years in mourning and lamentation over it, and occupied themselves in endeavors to obliterate Edition: It must take reason for its vizier, desire for its standard bearer, anger to be the superintendent of the city, and la the senses of reason as its spies, it must make each one of them responsible in its sphere. And he engaged with earnestness now truthfully, and now erroneously, in refuting these men. The dignity of any thing depends upon what it is in itself.
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