Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali. “Manners to Be Observed by Teachers and Students.” In Austin, Michael, Reading the World: Ideas That Matter, 2nd Edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Pp 24-31. Print.
The Near Eastern world in the 11th century experienced an explosion of intellectualism fueled by the infusion of foreign ideas. Though the Near East had seen extensive interaction with the West in antiquity – namely with the Greek world, Koine Greek becoming the lingua franca and multiple Hellenistic states arising, - the advent of Islam & Christianity and the incorporation of religious divisions separated the two regions. In the 11th century, the spread of Islam to these regions (not exclusively the West), i.e. southern Spain or India, allowed trade & immigration to again flow between these areas. Al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was born into this new multicultural, “Golden Age.”
Al-Ghazali was a Seljuk intellectual who was trained in the school of neoclassical thought. Like many of his contemporaries, his initial work primarily dealt with the philosophies of Aristotle. As one of Islam’s most widely respected scholars, he was appointed head of Nizamiyyah College in Baghdad. Yet despite such success, al-Ghazali resigned his post at the college in 1095 in the wake of a spiritual upset wherein he found it impossible to marry the ideas of a Greek pagan with his religious principles. In 1096-7, he authored the seminal The Revival of Religious Learning, of which Manners to Be Observed by Teachers and Students is a section. A highly influential treatise, al-Ghazali’s work remains the second-most read text in Islam behind the Quran itself.
Proposing that religion is necessary for both learning and teaching, al-Ghazali’s work is divided into two major sections: one regarding students and one regarding teachers. The first section contains ten tenets which students should follow, the second section contains eight tenets which teachers should follow. Underlying effectually all of the tenets is Sufism – an Islamic notion that the purpose of living is to grow nearer to God daily. As such, the duties of the student and teach are often similar in their intent and seek a mutual effort between the two. Take the first through third duties of the student: free yourself from, “impure habits” and keep aloof from the world while submitting to your teacher. Simultaneously, the teacher must dissuade students from worldly things by caring for them as though they were his children, setting an example for human purity. Students must aspire to all branches of knowledge rather than being narrow in their educational scope, though seeking out the, “important” branches first. Teachers must thus never berate any subject before their pupils, instead helping them to better understand various sciences and to seek God.
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