Chapter 4: Untidy Texts: Ghazali vs Ghazali
Haifaa G. Khalafallah [+]
Sinai Centre for Islamic Mediterranean Studies
The particulars in this chapter also belong to the book of tension. The information they inscribe does not only indicate how a faqih responded to crises but also how society responded to the rules such a faqih deduced during times of commotion. They show Muhammad al-Ghazali back in Egypt between the years 1992-1993. He is at the centre of yet another public controversy unfolding shortly before his death-- that is at the timeframe where many locate his progressive credentials. When distinguished experts describe Ghazali as a voice of moderate Islam they mostly pass in silence over the events discussed here. Yet, in this incident involving a debate about Muslim system of government and the subsequent assassination of a secular writer, Farag Fawda, Ghazali appears to have reversed his own call about the centrality of temperance and choice to Shari’a. The import of this episode goes beyond the vision of this one Shaykh, making an essential source-base for the study of Islam’s legal universe. It raises crucial questions such as: Is a Muslim state one that imposed faith by force, where the 'ulama, such as Ghazali, had the power of life or death over members of society? Or is Muslim organization of the communal life mirrored people's choices and sought reason and a discerning, yet certain sense of justice--as many, including Ghazali, have often argued? How and who decided such Sharia rules then and now?