Thursday, September 15, 2011

Concept of Education of Imam Ghazali

by Sultan

The great educator of Islam, imam Ghazali was born in a time, when doubts were raised from various sides about Islam.

Imam Ghazali was born in 1059 AD near Tus in Khurasan, a part of the then Persia. These were the times, when Muslims were dominating Europe, Asia and Africa, due to the effect of new culture of these countries they were deviating from the true teachings of Islam. Imam Ghazali came to the rescue them. We can say that, in one way he was responsible for the revival of Islam. He is also known as Hujjatul Islam.

Imam Ghazali mentions in his book Al-munqudeen –al- dalal, that he spent 38 years in the search of truth from place to place and studied different schools of thoughts of that time.

Because of his knowledge and study, he was offered the post of head of Nizamia School in Baghdad. This school was the center of attraction for scholars all over the world. But due to his curiosity and quest for knowledge, he resigned from this post after four years. He became the critic of that time Islam and he saw no difference between Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Imam Ghazali ’s skepticism continues from another ten years, in which he wondered in many palaces including, Makkah, Yathrab and Syria. He also performed several pilgrimages to Makkah and once took an oath, while standing beside the stone of Abraham (Maqam-e-Ibrahim) in the Khana Kaaba. He swear that;

I will not go to the court of any king
I will not get any money from rulers
I will not indulge in any type of discussion with scholars.

Imam Ghazali died in 1111 Ad. He has written number of books including the  “Revival of Islamic knowledge” (Ahya-e-uloom Islam) and “Incoherence of philosophy “ (Tahafat-ul-filasafa)

He provided rational basis for the Islamic beliefs and integrated Sufism and individual beliefs, to give a holistic picture of Islam in helping to reunite Muslims of the world. People criticize him for the lack of use of reason in Islam.

As an educator, he is the greatest and most influential educators of Islam and has great influence on the modern educational thoughts.

His educational philosophy based on his personal experience. the philosophy, which he formulated over a period of 10 years, resembles to the Philosophy of Plato. He used his personal experience and concluded the reasons, which he calls sixth sense, which can lead us to truth. Divine revelation (Ilham) is superior to reason but is endowed to only selected individuals called prophets (paighamber). The reason given to human beings also has limitations and can not acquire the absolute truth. Hence, it is obligatory for all human beings to obey the commandments send to us through [prophets from time to time.

It is very much clear that the educational ideas of Ghazali are deeply affected by his religious philosophy and research. He thinks that human mind is like a clean slate and the teacher can transform it with the passage of time. Plato and Aristotle also held similar views.

The importance of Knowledge:

According to Ghazali, knowledge can bring us closer to God as well as enhance worldly respect and position. Knowledge, according to him is not relative but has an entity in itself. It can raise the status of the individual, create self respect and take him to the highest position.

According to Ghazali, there are four categories of Knowledge;


1.    Prophetic:
Prophets convey the message of God regardless of any discrimination and help to purify the inner self.

They use their authority, legislation and rules to train and guide the society.

Their knowledge benefits only selected individuals but for benefiting masses.

They are meant to fulfill the religious needs of the society and train outer and inner self. Their job is to promote knowledge, improve the life of people, and help them to acquire desirable ethics through education.

Ghazali divides knowledge into two types; eg

Useful or desirable knowledge
Useless or undesirable knowledge

1.  Useful knowledge:
     It is further divided into two

Farz-i-Ain:     (Compulsory)
This knowledge is obligatory for all and contains the knowledge of Islam

Farz-i-Kafaya:  (Optional)
This knowledge is optional and depends on the will of the individual. It is further divided into two;

Worldly knowledge
Religious knowledge

2.   Useless Knowledge:
Although no knowledge is useless, it is not desirable if it can create an undesirable effect such as

If it harms somebody like magic etc
If the chance factor is involved like astrology etc
If it leads to thinking about God. Ghazali says that these matters should be left only to prophets and saints.

Aims of Education:
Ghazali based his aims of education on Islamic ideology. According to him, the major aim of education is that it is useful. The knowledge gained as a result of education should be useful both for individual and the society. It means that the aim of education is character building of individual so that it could differentiate between good and evil and avoids following the evil path.

Johnn Herbart proposed the same ideas about 700 year after the demise of Ghazali.

Psychological concepts of Ghazali:
Ghazali raises the basic question whether the human instinct is based on good or evil. He has presented his ideas in the light of Quran and Hadith. According to him good or evil are not physical and is not instinctual. Humans can be transformed by education and training. Rousseau expressed similar idea in 18th century.

Ghazali seems impressed by the Greek philosophers. According to Aristotle there are two types of creations in the world. i.e.

Perfect creation: These are perfected like moon , sun etc
Imperfect creations like seed of tree, which is imperfect in the sense that it has the ability to become a tree.

According to Ghazali, human beings are imperfect creatures and are similar to the seed. They have the ability and capacity to become perfect, only the suitable conditions are required. According to him, good character means good deeds.

Ghazali has given the following four ways in which deficiencies can be identified and removed.

Perfect teacher
Such teachers that have spiritual insight and knowledge and has the ability to analyze deficiencies of others

Close fiends:
We can identify our deficiencies with the help of our close friends

We can know more about our deficiencies from our foes.

Self analysis:
Ghazali also stresses on self-analysis from time to time.

Ghazali strongly criticizes the curriculum of his time. He raises the basic question of criteria for selection of subject matter for curriculum. He studied the various curriculum's in his times and reached the following conclusions:

More time is spent on religious education and worldly education is completely ignores
Worldly education is equally important
While teaching religious education , a great number of differences arise among the teachers, which result in mud slinging on each other
There is no. Prioritization and it is only left to the interest and opinions of the teachers to concentrate on certain subjects, while ignore others.

No place for character building in curriculum

Ghazali recommended that curriculum should be composed of obligatory (    ) And optional (               ) knowledge. It should be a combination of religion and worldly education.

Ghazali included industrial education, textile, agriculture, tailoring and hair cutting in the curriculum

This indicates that Ghazali ’s educational ideas are progressive.

Ghazali also stresses the acquisition of philosophy and logic

Methods of Teaching and Techniques:

Ghazali has recommended the following teaching methods and techniques, which are based on psychological principles. These methods and techniques are widely used and educators all over the world agrees with their usefulness.

Teaching  lessons to be based on previous knowledge and experience of the students.

This helps to know the ability, knowledge and aptitude of the learner and helps to motivate students towards the lesson which is very important for the educational process. Johnn Herbart and Pestollozi recommended the same principle about 700 year after Ghazali

Simplifying the lesson:
Teachers should simplify the difficult concepts by stories, tales etc other wise his teaching will not be effective

Move from simple to complex.
This is a very important principle. Some teachers try to teach everything in the very start. This is very dangerous and can create very dull students.

Ghazali stresses that teachers should first teach simpler concepts and when the students are motivated towards lesson, then he can introduce complex concepts.

Western educators have also mentioned this principle.

Proper planning
Ghazali stresses the importance of planning and advises that teachers should do his preparation before teaching , for effective teaching.

The teachers should avoid the use of force . He should be like a father to his students and should use love and affection instead of corporal punishment. Use of force can lead to bad habits among students

Teacher and students should also have good social relationship

avoid double standards:
Teacher is like a guide to students. He should not be a hypocrite and should breed good qualities like, honesty, good etiquette, good moral character etc

abilities of students:
Ghazali stresses that while teaching the abilities of students should be kept in mind. Concepts, which are above the mental level of the students will not make the teaching effective.

Female education:
Ghazali ’s ideas about female education are different from modern day. He is only in favor of elementary education for women so that they could play their due role in society. He is not in favor of higher education for females. Rousseau has similar ideas.

Ghazali also stresses acquisition of home-related knowledge for women.

Physical education:
Ghazali has greatly stressed the physical education for children. He believes in old Greek axiom “ sound mind in sound body”

He suggests proper clothing for children so that they could develop and grow properly. He suggests avoid tight and fit clothing.

He also stresses the importance of good and simple, diet for good physical growth.

In short we can say that the contribution of Ghazali to education, what he said later reflected by western educators. That was actually originated in the times of Ghazali.


  1. salam sir,

    i have read this article , outstanding article really, covering all aspects of Imam Ghazli.

    really marvellous one!


    Ammar Hassan Chishti
    M.Phil Linguistics

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