(/ɡæˈzɑːli/; Arabic: ابو حامد محمد ابن محمد الغزالي; c. b. 1058 – d. 18 December 1111), shortened as Al-Ghazali and known as
Algazelus or Algazel to the Western medieval world, was a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher, and mystic of Persian descent.
Al-Ghazali has been referred to by some historians as the single most influential Muslim after the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Within Islamic civilization he is considered to be a Mujaddid or renewer of the faith, who, according to tradition, appears once every century to restore the faith of the community. His works were so highly acclaimed by his contemporaries that al-Ghazali was awarded the honorific title “Proof of Islam” (Hujjat al-Islam). Others have cited his opposition to certain strands of Islamic philosophy as a detriment to Islamic scientific progress. Besides his work that successfully changed the course of Islamic philosophy—the early Islamic Neoplatonism that developed on the grounds of Hellenistic philosophy, for example, was so successfully criticised by al-Ghazali that it never recovered—he also brought the orthodox Islam of his time in close contact with Sufism. It became increasingly possible for individuals to combine orthodox theology (kalam) and Sufism, while adherents of both camps developed a sense of mutual appreciation that made sweeping condemnation of one by the other increasingly problematic.:14–16
The traditional date of al-Ghazali’s birth, as given by Ibn al-Jawzi, is 450 AH (March 1058–February 1059 CE), but modern scholars have raised doubts about the accuracy of Ibn al-Jawzi’s information, and have posited a date of 448 AH (1056–1057 CE), on the basis of certain statements in al-Ghazali’s correspondence and autobiography.:23–25 He was born in Tabaran, a town in the district of Tus, which lies within the Khorasan Province of Iran.:25
A posthumous tradition – the authenticity of which has been questioned in recent scholarship – tells that his father died in poverty and left the young al-Ghazali and his brother Ahmad to the care of a Sufi. Al-Ghazali’s contemporary and first biographer, ‘Abd al-Ghafir al-Farisi, records merely that al-Ghazali began to receive instruction in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) from Ahmad al-Radhakani, a local teacher.:26–27