Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination

By Ebrahim Moosa

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 map, 1 timeline, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5612-3
    Published: June 2005
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7645-9
    Published: March 2006
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7923-3
    Published: March 2006

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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Awards & distinctions

2006 Award for Best First Book in the History of Religions, American Academy of Religion

A 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

A New Statesman Book of the Year, 2005

Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī, a Muslim jurist-theologian and polymath who lived from the mid-eleventh to the early twelfth century in present-day Iran, is a figure equivalent in stature to Maimonides in Judaism and Thomas Aquinas in Christianity. He is best known for his work in philosophy, ethics, law, and mysticism. In an engaged re-reading of the ideas of this preeminent Muslim thinker, Ebrahim Moosa argues that Ghazālī's work has lasting relevance today as a model for a critical encounter with the Muslim intellectual tradition in a modern and postmodern context.

Moosa employs the theme of the threshold, or dihliz, the space from which Ghazālī himself engaged the different currents of thought in his day, and proposes that contemporary Muslims who wish to place their own traditions in conversation with modern traditions consider the same vantage point. Moosa argues that by incorporating elements of Islamic theology, neoplatonic mysticism, and Aristotelian philosophy, Ghazālī's work epitomizes the idea that the answers to life's complex realities do not reside in a single culture or intellectual tradition. Ghazālī's emphasis on poiesis--creativity, imagination, and freedom of thought--provides a sorely needed model for a cosmopolitan intellectual renewal among Muslims, Moosa argues. Such a creative and critical inheritance, he concludes, ought to be heeded by those who seek to cultivate Muslim intellectual traditions in today's tumultuous world.

About the Author

Ebrahim Moosa is Mirza Family Professor in Islamic Thought and Muslim Societies at the University of Notre Dame.
For more information about Ebrahim Moosa, visit the Author Page.


"An exciting and ambitious work. It is also deeply textual and traditional. . . . Has much to offer and is an exemplar of the work of a committed and engaged Muslim intellectual."--Journal of the American Oriental Society

"The novel, and indeed groundbreaking, character of this work . . . assures that the readers not only discover Ghazali as an interlocutor, but overhear centuries of exchange as well."--Modern Theology

"Makes us encounter fresh ways of thinking of and listening to Ghazali's texts."--JRAS

"Moosa demonstrates the contemporary relevance of one of the greatest thinkers in Islam. . . . Spellbinding."--New Statesman

"Moosa's study breathes of an intellectual spirit that is rare in modern Muslim thinking. Creativity, imagination, philosophical sophistication, intellectual perspicacity and ideational fecundity are all found aplenty here."--Muslim World Book Review

"[Moosa's] nuanced understanding of Ghazali's world allows us to enter the dihiliz ('a passage way') into the intellectual/spiritual edifice that Ghazali built. . . . Interesting, informative, and a great read."--Theological Studies