Launching a new video series

A new series of ‘quarantine videos’ offers non-specialists a chance to engage with the foundations of Islamic thought in less than ten minutes.

In the first installment of the series, Dr Joshua Ralston, Director and co-founder of the Christian-Muslim Studies Network, introduces the work of one of Islam’s most important reformers and philosophers, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. The video series, an offering to the homes that have become classrooms due to quarantine, makes the widely-quoted scholar’s work accessible to a non-specialist and non-Muslim audience.

In the second video, Dr Ralston offers further reflections on the ‘Book of Knowledge‘, the first book in al-Ghazali’s masterpiece, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, exploring the place and limits of scholarly knowledge. Future videos will also follow on Al-Ghazali’s understanding of the place and limits of law, creed, theology, philosophy, and ritual practice in producing knowledge of God.

‘The Introduction to Al-Ghazali’s The Revival of the Religious Sciences‘ (9:40)

The nine-minute video introduces the significance and common controversies of one of Islam’s most celebrated reformers. Specifically, Dr Ralston walks the viewer through the structure and aims of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s work, The Revival of the Religious Sciences. Dr Ralston places this text, he says, among the most important in the entire theological compendium of the Abrahamic faiths.

The video begins with a brief biography of Al-Ghazali himself, including his historical context, education, career, and spiritual conversion. In introducing viewers to a figure they may not know well, Dr Ralston draws comparisons to Augustine’s Confessions or the work of Thomas Aquinas, which is better known among Western students and scholars.

At the same time, Al-Ghazali did not necessarily set out to create an Islamic Summa Theologica. In structuring his book, the scholar explains in the introduction, he intentionally tried to mimic the format of the large and scholarly tomes that were popular in his day (and in some circles, still are). His aim is quite different from the scholarly work of his contemporaries, Al-Ghazali insists, because his writing seeks to draw readers toward God.

‘He offers a strong critique of jurisprudence and scholars of the day, arguing that instead of seeking religious knowledge, they are simply seeking worldly acclaim’, Dr Ralston explains in the video.

The second video in the series tackles Al-Ghazali’s understanding of the importance and limits of knowledge.