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IN DEFENCE OF SUNNISM: AL-GHAZĀLĪ AND THE SELJUQS

Massimo Campanini

in The Seljuqs

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780748639946
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653294 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748639946.003.0012
IN DEFENCE OF SUNNISM: AL-GHAZĀLĪ AND THE SELJUQS

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This chapter attempts to place al-Ghazālī's political thought in the context of the Seljuq sultanate and the late Abbasid caliphate, based on the two premises: that al-Ghazālī's political thought is as important as his theological thought; and that it is understandable only in the light of the political developments of his time. The chapter begins by formulating an answer to the issue of whether the Seljuqs revitalised Islam. It is argued that the Seljuqs somehow brought a measure of order to the chaotic Muslim world; however, in doing so, they sacrificed the prestige and the role of the caliphate. It has been debated whether the Seljuqs were the defenders or the enemies of the caliphate. In a sense, they defended the caliphate as they have allowed it to endure for a few centuries but from another point of view, they were enemies of the caliphate as they imposed a secular image of power against the religious legitimisation of the caliphal power. In other words, while the Seljuqs protected the caliphate institution from enemies and adversaries, they however made it evident that the management of power in Islam was no longer a question of the Islamic state but rather of an Islamic mode of the state. These contentions are examined closely in this chapter.

Keywords: al-Ghazālī; Seljuq sultanate; Abbasid caliphate; caliphate; religious legitimisation; power in Islam

Chapter.  5374 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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