Recalling the surprisingly modern story of a medieval Muslim


by Dan Peterson

Bill Hamblin and I wrote this column for the 19 October 2013 issue of the Deseret News:

In late 1997, Brigham Young University Press published a new translation (with the original Arabic text on the facing page) of a volume by the 11th-12th century Islamic thinker al-Ghazali. Titled “The Incoherence of the Philosophers,” it ranks among the most important books ever written in the Islamic world.

Many of his faith consider al-Ghazali the second greatest Muslim after the Prophet Muhammad himself. His story is an interesting one with a distinctly modern ring to it.

Al-Ghazali was born within the borders of today’s Iran but spent much of his life in Baghdad, the great capital of the far-flung Islamic empire. Superbly educated, he established himself at a young age among the keenest minds of his time and as a phenomenally popular lecturer on law and theology at the university in Baghdad, the Nizamiyya. What is more, he had the personal interest and patronage of Nizam al-Mulk, the remarkable prime minister of his day, after whom the school had been named.

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