From WikiIslam, the online resource on Islam
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Under construction icon-yellow.svg

This article or section is being renovated.

Lead = 2 / 4
Structure = 2 / 4
Content = 2 / 4
Language = 2 / 4
References = 1 / 4
2 / 4
2 / 4
2 / 4
2 / 4
1 / 4

Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad aṭ-Ṭūsī al-Ġaz(z)ālī
Born c. 1058
Tus, Greater Khorasan, Seljuq Empire
Died 1111
Tus, Greater Khorasan, Seljuq Empire
Employer Nizam al-Mulk; Nizamiyyah Madrassa, Baghdad
Occupation philosopher, theologian, jurist, mystic
Religious belief Sunni
Notable works Revival of the Religious Sciences
Incoherence of the Philosophers
Deliverance from Error
The Alchemy of Happiness
Disciplining the Soul
The Eternity of the World
The Decisive Criterion for Distinguishing Islam from Clandestine Unbelief

al-Ghazali (ٱلْغَزَّالِيُّ) was a Persian Islamic scholar who was, among other things, one of the most prominent philosophers, Ash'arite theologians, Shafi'i jurists, and mystics of Sunni Islam. He is widely considered a Mujaddid (one of the centennial revivers of Islam predicted by Muhammad, and enjoys immense authority in the Sunni Islamic tradition. His magnum opus was the Iḥyā’ ‘ulūm ad-dīn ("The Revival of the Religious Sciences"), through which he advanced the "spiritual sciences" as central to Islam. He is equally well known for his Tahāfut al-Falāsifa ("Incoherence of the Philosophers"), through which he critiqued Aristotelianism in particular, and philosophy more generally, ushering, many would argue, the decline of philosophical enterprise in the Muslim world.[1]


Ghazali famously studied with al-Juwayni, considered the greatest scholar of his time[2], in Nishapur and went on to join the court of Nizam al-Mulk, who was a vizier of the Seljuk sultans, in 1085. His success in this profession and resulting prominence led to his appointment at the prestigious Nizamiyya madrasa in Baghdad in 1091.

After four years at the Madrassa, Ghazali, experiencing spiritual crisis (and verging on atheism), abandoned his madrasa post and adopted an ascetic lifestyle, while telling his family and employers that he was "going on Hajj". Having made financial arrangements for his family, however, Ghazali would disappear indefinitely.

During this period of his life, starting in 1095, Ghazali focused on spiritual development exclusively and abstained from scholarly work for at least a year. By 1096, however, Ghazali was publishing once again, though he continued to avoid working as a teacher at state-funded schools.

Pressure from the grand vizier would, however, bring him back to work at the Nizamiyya by 1106. He died in the year 1111.[3]

Al-Ghazali's views on women

He wrote the following rules about women:

  • She should stay at home and get on with her spinning
  • She can go out only in emergencies.
  • She must not be well-informed nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary.
  • She should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything.
  • She must not leave her house without his permission and if given his permission she must leave secretly.
  • She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice, her footsteps, smell her or recognize her.
  • She must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need.
  • Her sole worry should be her “al bud” (reproductive organs) her home as well as her prayers and her fast.
  • If a friend of her husband calls when her husband is absent she must not open the door nor reply to him in order to safeguard her “al bud”.
  • She should accept what her husband gives her as sufficient sexual needs at any moment.
  • She should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs at any moment.[4]

He also wrote, “It is a fact that all the trials, misfortunes and woes which befall men come from women."

He mentioned the following sufferings for women due to the fruit that Eve ate, “When Eve ate the fruit which Allah had forbidden to her from the tree in Paradise, the Lord, be He praised, cursed women with eighteen punishments:

  • Menstruation
  • Childbirth
  • Separation from mother and father and marriage to a stranger
  • Pregnancy
  • not having control over her own person
  • a lesser share in inheritance
  • her liability to be divorced and inability to divorce
  • its being lawful for men to have four wives, but for a woman to have only one husband
  • the fact that she must stay secluded in the house
  • the fact that she must keep her head covered inside the house
  • the fact that two women’s testimony has to be set against the testimony of one man
  • the fact that she must not go out of the house unless accompanied by a near relative
  • the fact that men take part in Friday and feast day prayers and funerals while women do not
  • disqualification for leadership and judgeship
  • the fact that merit has one thousand components, only one of which is attributable to women while 999 are attributable to men
  • the fact that if women are profligate, they will be given twice as much torment as the rest of the community at the Resurrection Day
  • the fact that if their husbands die, they must observe a waiting period of four months and ten days before remarrying[5]
  • the fact that if their husbands divorce them, they must observe a waiting period of three months or three menstrual periods before remarrying

The following quotes are representative of his views on women:

Marriage is a form of slavery. The woman is man’s slave and her duty therefore is absolute obedience to the husband in all that he asks of her person. A woman, who at the moment of death enjoys the full approval of her husband, will find her place in Paradise.
Do not add evil to unhappiness. (Muhammad and Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab commanded you to) Prevent women from learning to write, adopt positions opposite those of women. There is great virtue in such opposition
If you relax the woman’s leash a tiny bit, she will take you and bolt wildly. Their deception is awesome and their wickedness is contagious; bad character and feeble mind are their predominant traits.


  2. Griffel, Frank (2009). Al-Ghazālī's Philosophical Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195331622.
  3. Ibid.
  4. The Revival of the Religious Sciences Al Ghazzali
  5. Counsel for Kings. Al Ghazzali.