A Controversial Orthodoxy: Al-Ghazali’s Revival of the Religious Sciences

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As part of NTT JTSR’s series on Key Texts, the present article discusses the magnum opus of the medieval Muslim scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, Iḥyāʾ ʿUlūm al-Dīn (Revival of the Religious Sciences): its genre, the main aspects of the critique it generated and its relevance to contemporary Muslim debates. This work is still celebrated in Muslim traditionalism as a masterpiece on Islamic spiritual sublimity and self-purification, based on scriptural-traditional references and the mystic experience of the author. The Iḥyāʾ inspired many authors with commentaries, annotations, epitomes and explanations. Yet it stirred no less critique among religious scholars and conservative currents as a work indulging religious novelties as well as spreading inauthentic traditions and unorthodox practices among Muslims. The controversy about this work reflects an intra-Islamic antagonism towards the notion of orthodoxy, and what it entails for the Muslim faith and praxis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-386
Number of pages12
JournalNTT : Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Al-Ghazali, Iḥyāʾ, revivalism, traditionalism, Sufism, mysticism, hadith, orthodoxy


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