'Imam al-Ghazali: A Concise Life'

By 
Wided Khadraoui
A fictional portrait of Abi Hamad al-Ghazali.


Imam al-Ghazali: A Concise Life
By Edoardo Albert
Kube Publishing Ltd, 2013

“Imam al-Ghazali: A Concise Life” by Edoardo Albert delivers a succinct biography of one of Islam’s influential figures. The book has a straightforward style accompanied by illustrations, context boxes, and a glossary to help convey the exceptional journey undertaken by al-Ghazali.

The book covers Imam al-Ghazali’s humble beginnings at a madrasah, his rise as influential scholar and principal at the al-Nizamiyyah College in Baghdad, and his complete renunciation of his position and Sufi conversion. Using modest language, the book attempts to unravel why al-Ghazali left behind his celebrity status to live as a recluse so he could find spiritual peace.

Outlining the life of the 11th century scholar is an ambitious undertaking. Al-Ghazali’s life was complex and full of subtleties as his teaching became more nuanced with his experience. Cultural and historical context were carefully considered in Albert’s account of al-Ghazali, which help explain al-Ghazali’s abandonment of his scholarly career and turn to Sufism.

Albert’s biography carries a great amount of truth. Al-Ghazali’s complex life is plainly described, and the simple approach is perfect for those initially delving into Islamic history. At the very least the book whets the appetite for something more substantial about al-Ghazali and his transformation.

This article appeared in Al Jadid Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 66, 2012-'13.

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