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Sheikh Mohammed al-Ghazali al-Saqqa (1917–1996) was an Islamic scholar whose writings "have influenced generations of Egyptians". The author of 94 books, he attracted a broad following with works that sought to interpret Islam and its holy book, the Qur'an, in a modern light. He is widely credited with contributing to a revival of Islamic faith in Egypt in recent times.[4] Another sources have called him "one of the most revered sheikhs in the Muslim world"[5] and a "prominent spokesman for moderate Islamic revivalism in Egypt".[6]

Early life

Al-Ghazali was born in 1917 in the small town of Nikla al-'Inab  southeast of the coastal port of Alexandria, in the Beheira Governorate. He graduated from Al Azhar University in 1941. He taught at the University of Umm al-Qura in Makkah, the University of Qatar, and at al-Amir 'Abd al-Qadir University for Islamic Sciences in Algeria.


Works, beliefs, views

Sheikh al-Ghazali held the post of chairman of the Academic Council of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Cairo. Sheikh al-Ghazali authored more than sixty books, many of which have been translated into various languages, and was also the recipient of many awards, including the First Order of the Republic (Egypt) (1988), the King Faisal Award (1989) and the Excellence Award from Pakistan.

Al-Ghazali was known in the western world for testifying on behalf of the assassins of secularist author Farag Foda (who had spoken out against making sharia the law of Egypt), telling the Egyptian court that "anyone who openly resisted the full imposition of Islamic law was an apostate who should be killed either by the government or by devout individuals." His position as the "preeminent" faculty member at Egypt's preeminent Islamic institution—Al Azhar University—allegedly put the government on the defensive in its struggle against Egypt's "growing tide of Islamic fundamentalism" and occurred "at the height" of a violent campaign by militants against Egypt's secular Government.[7] He also called on the government to appoint a committee to measure the faith of the population and give wayward Egyptian Muslims time to repent. "Those who did not should be killed," he said.[4] According to Ana B. Soage during the assassination trial of Faraj Fawda, while al-Ghazali stated that punishment of those who opposed sharia should ideally be carried out by the state, "when the state fails to punish apostates, somebody else has to do it."[8]

In the Muslim world, however, Al-Ghazali "was not closely identified with the militant cause". He "often appeared on state-run television and held a place in the pulpit of one of Cairo's largest mosques",[4] After Egyptian Islamic Jihad attempted to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a visit to Ethiopia June 1995, "Sheik Ghazali was among the prominent Islamic scholars who traveled to the presidential palace to congratulate Mr. Mubarak on his safe return."[4]

Personal life and death

He was married to Lady Amina Kouta and had seven children including two boys, and five girls and was buried in MedinaSaudi Arabia.[4] He was a very popular Sheikh in Egypt and remained so even after his death

Al-Ghazali's work The Prophetic Sunna, was "an immediate focus of attention and controversy" when it was published in 1989. It became a best seller, with five impressions made by the publisher in its first five months and a second enlarged edition within a year. Within two years "at least seven monographs were published in response to the book." al-Ahram newspaper compared it to Perestroika restructuring going on in the Soviet Union at that time.[6]

In addition to practical concerns of revivalists—sharia position on economics and taxation, criminal law, the veiling of women, and their place in society and the economy—Al-Ghazli wrote of how to "purify sunna of adulterations". Rather than upending the science of hadith criticism, he sought to redress imbalances in scholars' understanding of it.[6]

Nonetheless, the book's "severe" criticism of what Al-Ghazali believed to be the "literalism, and anti-interpretive approach to Islamic texts" of the Ahl al-Hadith (partisans of hadith) prompted sharp attacks from Islamists even more conservative than Al-Ghazali. "Several major conferences ... in Egypt and Saudi Arabia" criticizing the book, long articles in response in the Saudi-owned London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, and assorted writings of others condemning al-Ghazali and questioning "his motives and competence."[11] According to one of his students — Khaled Abou El Fadl — Al-Ghazali was stunned and disheartened by what he thought was a smear campaign against him and by the silence of his old students