View Book

The al-Ghazali Enigma and why Shari'a is not Islamic Law

ID: 2177 - View Book Page - Edit In OJS

This book offers a long-overdue intellectual biography of the late Egyptian Shaykh Mohammed al-Ghazali (d.1996). But its main purpose is to shed light on Shari’a, a highly politicized concern of our times. Instead of the standard accounts of Islam emphasizing ‘extremists,’ ‘traditionalists,’ ‘moderates,’ or ‘modernists,’ the book introduces a multi-layered approach to understanding the contours of Shari’a rulemaking. It highlights the technical and historical trajectory of this rulemaking process, thereby challenging the prevailing academic narrative as well as popular Muslim narratives. In using this contemporary influential Muslim scholar as a reference, the book assesses what so many Sunni Muslims see in Shari’a, at least in this Egyptian context, and how such devotion could hinder or promote genuine reform.

Published: Apr 5, 2017

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Haifaa Khalafallah
Studying Shari’a and al-Ghazali Haifaa Khalafallah
Part One: Portraits from a Muslim Journey into the Twentieth Century
Chapter 1: The Contexts: Al-Ghazali and His Worlds (1917–1996) Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 2: The Texts: On the Shelves Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 3: Elusive Texts: The Book of Tension Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 4: Untidy Texts: Ghazali vs Ghazali Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 5: Textualising Context: The Case of Women Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 6: The Contents: Scripture—The Almighty and Women’s Leadership Haifaa Khalafallah
Part Two: The Rulemaking Trajectory of Shari'a
Chapter 7: Shari’a: Dynamic Method or Fixed Law? Does it Matter? Haifaa Khalafallah
Chapter 8: Shari'a and the Telling of the Muslim Story Haifaa Khalafallah
What is in a Historical Narrative? Haifaa Khalafallah
End Matter
Appendix 1: Portrait of a Seminar: How Senior Fuqaha Saw Shari’a in the Late Twentieth Century Haifaa Khalafallah
Appendix 2: Shaykh Abd Allah al-Mashad’s Fatwa on the Rejection of Hadith Reports Haifaa Khalafallah
Appendix 3: Shaykh Abd al-Latif Mushtahiri’s Letter Regarding Sunna and Hadith Haifaa Khalafallah
Selected Bibliography Haifaa Khalafallah
Index Haifaa Khalafallah


Muhammad al-Ghazali is certainly one of the most celebrated Muslim thinkers of the twentieth century yet Khalafallah’s monograph is the first English publication to deal with his life and thought in a comprehensive manner.
The strength of this book lies in Khalafallah’s in-depth analysis of al-Ghazali’s writings, which reveals the highly reflexive ways in which his ideas evolved throughout his life.
Khalafallah succeeds in presenting a highly nuanced yet holistic picture of al-Ghazali’s intellectual profile. She combines newspaper articles and interviews with his disciples and family members to situate al-Ghazali’s text in the socio-political contexts of the publication.
Journal of Islamic Studies