Al-Ghazâlî’s Classifications of the Sciences and Descriptions of the Highest Theoretical Science

The present study offers a comprehensive survey of al-Ghazali’s classifications of the sciences and descriptions of the highest theoretical science, called the “science of unveiling” in the Re-vival of the Religious Sciences and the “science of the cognition of God” in the Jewels of the Qur’an. The study shows that this theoretical science includes four major components, dealing with (1) God, (2) cosmology, (3) prophetology, angelology, and religious psychology, and (4) eschatology (with a fifth component, principles of Qur’anic exegesis, sometimes added to the list). Al-Ghazali’s “science of unveiling” is, therefore, primarily a theological discipline. It is, however, superior to kalam in that it does not result from ratiocination, but is revealed through Divine Illumination to prophets and “saints” (awliya’) who have purified their hearts with as-cetic practice. Another key difference between the science of unveiling and kalam, according to al-Ghazali, is that the former operates on the level of True Knowledge, whereas the latter only defends the common folk’s beliefs from the onslaught of heresies, without providing ac-cess to True Knowledge. Since the science of unveiling has a pronounced Avicennian compo-nent (more fully documented in the author’s other studies), it is a kind of Avicennian-based esoteric theology. Finally, al-Ghazali’s classifications of the sciences offer a number of inter-esting insights into the general structure of al-Ghazali’s thought, also discussed in the present study. Alexander TREIGER
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