Community of One: Al-Ghazali’s Ethical Theory Revisited

Mohd Khair Eiadat


It is more than eight hundred years since Al-Ghazali’s death (1111 AD). Yet his writings are still controversial and a source of contention between those who loath what Al-Ghazali represented (Mohammed al-Jabiri), and those who are more sympathetic and positive towards his writings (for example Ormsby). Yet neither his critiques nor admirers have been able to offer a meaningful and systematic ethical theory based on al-Ghazali’s writings. Using analytical and synthetic method of analysis or what is known as deconstruction and reconstruction in critical theory, we were able to identify two ethical frames in Al-Ghazali’s writings. First, puritarian ethical model or what Al-Ghazali himself called community of one. This model is constructed around two notions, first, faith and certainty and the other is purification and experiencing God. The other ethical model, which was totally ignored by his critiques and underused and under developed by his admirers, is that of community of common believers’ ethical model. This later model is very much society includes the following elements: wealth and public goods; avoiding harm and introducing compassion; burden of injustice. This demonstrates that, Al-Ghazali had a highly developed sense of what it meant for an individual to be ethical and moral, and also a notion of ethical and moral society in which injustice is the worst of all evil. By doing that we were also able to bridge what seemed to be contradictory ethical models in Al-Ghazali’s writings


Al-Ghazali, Ethical Model, Justice; Community; Public Good, Deliberative Politics, Overlapping Consensus, Translating Ethics, Critical Theory, Religion and Politics, Arab-Islamic Thought

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