The Niche of Lights

The Niche of Lights

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Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
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Author: Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali; David Buchman (translator) 
Publisher: Brigham Young University Press (February 1999) 
Pages: 300 Binding: Hardcover 

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazalis philosophical explorations covered nearly the entire spectrum of twelfth-century beliefs. Beginning his career as a skeptic, he ended it as a scholar of mysticism and orthodoxy. The Niche of Lights, written near the end of his illustrious career, advances the philosophically important idea that reason can serve as a connection between the devout and God. Al-Ghazali argues that abstracting God from the world, as he believed theologians did, was not sufficient for understanding. Exploring the boundary between philosophy and theology, The Niche of Lights seeks to understand the role of reality in the perception of the spiritual.

The Niche of Lights, or Mishkat al-anwar, is an accessible and richly rewarding text by one of the most fascinating and important thinkers in the history of Islam. Born in the eastern Iranian city of Tus in 450 A.H. (1058 C.E.), Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali also died there, relatively young, in 505 A.H. (1111 C.E.). Between those two dates, however, he established himself as a pivotal figure throughout the Islamic world. In The Niche of Lights, al-Ghazali maintains that one who truly desires to understand the relationship between God and the world must recognize not only His distance and absolute transcendence, as emphasized in Islamic theology and jurisprudence, but also His proximity to His creation - His inherent presence. The "symbolism" of the Quran, suggests al-Ghazali, should not be thought of primarily as literary imagery, as mere similes and metaphors. On the contrary, God employs the language that He does in order to clarify the actual nature of reality. An understanding of the structure of the cosmos and of the human soul depends upon how accurately one perceives that reality.

Table of Contents 
Foreword to the Series 
Translators Introduction 
[Authors Introduction] 
The First Chapter 
Clarifying that the real light is God and that the name "light" for everything else is sheer metaphor, without reality 
A fine point 
A fine point 
A fine point 
A supplement to this fine point 
A fine point that goes back to the reality of light 
A fine point 
A fine point 
A fine point 
A reality 
A reality 
The Reality of realities 
An allusion 
Some encour agement 
The Second Chapter 
Clarifying the similitude of the niche, the lamp, the glass, the tree, the olive, and the fire 
The first pole: Concerning the mystery and method of using similitudes 
Conclusion and apology 
A fine point 
The second pole: Clarifying the levels of the luminous human spirits; for, through knowing them,you will come to know the similitudes of the Quran 
A clarification of the similitudes of this verse 
A conclusion 
The Third Chapter 
Conce rning the meaning of the Prophets words: "God has seventy veils of light and darkness; were He to lift them, the august glories of His Face would burn up everyone whose eyesight perceived Him" 
The first kind 
The second kind 
The third kind 
Notes to the English Text 
Index of Quranic Verses 
Index of Hadiths and Sayings 
Index of Names and Terms