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Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks) [Paperback]

by Ebrahim Moosa
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 8, 2005 0807856126 978-0807856123
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, 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 Ghazali'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 Ghazali 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, Ghazali's work epitomizes the idea that the answers to life's complex realities do not reside in a single culture or intellectual tradition. Ghazali'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.

Frequently Bought Together

Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks) + Al-Ghazali's Path to Sufism: His Deliverance from Error (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal) and Five Key Texts
Price for both: $36.89

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Editorial Reviews


"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

"Illuminating. . . . One of the most original and provocative stud[ies] of al-Ghazali yet to have been produced by a Muslim."
-The Muslim News

"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

"Interesting, informative, and a great read."
-Theological Studies

From the Inside Flap

In this examination of the work of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali--a prominent Muslim theologian known for his writing in philosophy, ethics, law, and mysticism--Moosa argues that Ghazali's work has lasting relevance as an model for cosmopolitan intellectual renewal among Muslims.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina Press (June 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807856126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807856123
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,743,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ebrahim E.I. Moosa is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology. Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion's Best First Book in the History of Religions (2006) and editor of the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman, Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries of South Asia. Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India's foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London. Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town's Department of Religious Studies in South Africa till 1998 and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain, and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs. Currently he is completing a book titled Muslim Self Revived: Ethics, Rights and Technology after Empire. He is also working on another book, titled Between Right and Wrong: Debating Muslim Ethics . In these writings Moosa explores some of the major challenges that confront a tradition-in-the making like Islam , in a rapidly changing world. Moosa examines the way religious traditions encounter modernity and in the process generating new conceptions of history, culture and ethics. Dr. Moosa serves on several distinguished international advisory boards and is associated with some of the foremost thinkers, activists and role-players in the Muslim world and beyond. He advised the first independent South African government after apartheid on Islamic affairs and serves on committees of the Organization of Islamic Conference in addition to others. He also has extensive experience in human rights activities. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation to research contemporary Muslim ethics and issues of philanthropy in the Muslim world. For further details and access to research materials please visit Dr Moosa's website.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but Rewarding December 22, 2008
This was one of the most challenging books I've read. He uses an uncannily obscure lexicon and dense language, yet his idea of examining al-Ghazali on a figurative and metaphysical "threshold" is a very unique experience. If you can endure difficult academic language, you will find the book rewarding in the end.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eloquent Tour de Force August 28, 2005
By 7up
Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination is an eloquent tour de force that argues for the contemporary engagement and revitalization of the Islamic tradition through the reconciliatory hermeneutical strategy of al-Ghazali. Professor Moosa's extensive training in traditional Islamic scholarship as well as his fluency in the Western intellectual tradition allows him to address many challenges currently confronting the intellectual and spiritual interpretation of Islam with an original and powerful voice. As such, Ghazali is a quest for an emancipatory knowledge that is equally weighted by both esoteric and exoteric epistemologies. Highlighting al-Ghazali's liminal discursivity, Professor Moosa skillfully argues for a Muslim subjectivity that allows for multiple perspectives in order to embrace new paradigms that are simultaneously loyal to tradition and temporally appropriate. Far from apologetic, Ghazali is a dynamic and creative attempt to critically engage traditional Islam in the contemporary language of the Western academy. Although Moosa often offers provocations aimed at the entrenched forms of the tradition, he never loses sight of either its ethical imperative or its revelatory authenticity. In this sense Ghazali is far more than a rhetorical analysis; it is a continuation of the intellectual tradition of al-Ghazali and an interpretation of his rhetorical strategy of Islamic revitalization in the Technical Age.
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