Deliverance from Error by Al-Ghazali serves as a major source of the little we can gather about his life. The author went through a series of mystical transformations which made him live a life of solitude in which he focused on contemplation along with writing and reflections. Due to this, this book serves as a source of intellectual analysis of Al-Ghazali’s spiritual growth and presents arguments that defend his view of a higher human apprehension as compared to rational apprehension. In other words, this is the apprehension of the prophet when the truth is revealed to him by God.
The central idea of this book is how he solves the problem of knowledge and to ultimately be in the divine presence having degree of comprehension that leaves the heart no room for doubt. It is a journey of his life that begins with him as a teacher at a prestigious academic institution at the age of thirty-three, continues through his ascetic wanderings, and completes with his return to his teaching career but now as a complete God-orientated man, rather than a person “on the plain of native and second-hand belief”.
Al-Ghazali acknowledged his self-doubt. He said that his actions were not focused purely towards god but towards his own quest for fame and prestige. For a man to understand and leave no room for doubt in his heart he must get over his quest for attaining satisfaction in understanding knowledge.
He sets a standard for ‘what knowledge really is’. He argues that true knowledge must be sure in such a way that there are no room for doubts or any possibilities of error to an extend that even the mind cannot have an illusion of being wrong. With this he makes a conclusion that any knowledge that he cannot be traced in this mode of certainty is not reliable and dependable knowledge.
In second place is self-doubting, according to Al-Ghazali none of the knowledge he had, could pass the standard of certainty that he had set-up earlier except in the case of sense-perception and necessary truth. However, he could no longer trust sense-perception either. He goes ahead to argue that even the most powerful sense which is sight can make a wrong judgement. For example, he compares the size of the sun and says when one sees it, it looks small like the size of a coin, but the geometrical calculation shows that it is bigger than the size of earth.
Our intellect shows that our sense-perception could not be trusted by its own judgement. Our intellectual apprehension in seeking the truth has the ability to falsify our intellect in its judging. To realize the likelihood of such an intellectual apprehension, Imam Al-Ghazal gives an example of people in the state of dream. When we are asleep, we believe things that happen in our dream as real as it really happens in the real world and so long as we are in the dream-condition, we do not really doubt about them. Until when we awake and then we realize that all we have imagined, believed and experienced is not real and incompetent.
Al-Ghazali mention in his book for almost 2 months he was baffled with this uncertainty without any satisfying answer. When God healed his madness, it gave him the intellect for a certain acceptance which gave him confidence in the certain and trustworthy standard. He went ahead to explain that this confidence did not come by methodical demonstration, but by a light which God most high cast into his heart as what God mentioned in the Holy Quran.
With this outlook he starts to question the different types of knowledge around him. He covers sciences like; theology, authoritative instruction, philosophy and mysticism, all of which still continue to play significant roles today.
Al-Ghazali claims there are different kinds of seekers after truth divided into three; they include scholastic theologians, who profess to follow theory and assumption, their main aim is to preserve the purity of traditional beliefs from all unorthodox modernization. The author, however, admitted that it had a more acceptable result for others which was by introducing the principle of authority in matters which were not self-evident.
Second, the philosophers, who professed to rely upon recognized logic. In order to discover where the professors of any branch of knowledge have gone wrong, one must make a deep study of that science; must equal, or surpass, those who know most of it, so as to get an understanding. This is the only way of getting complete answers, however, he could not find any trace of this in the theologians of Islam. They did not believe in god control over the world, they denied bodily resurrection, and finally they did not agree or conform to eternity of the world. He considers the conflict between religion and philosophy as one of the greatest problems in the world today. In his findings, al-Ghazali conforms that, god chose one particular time for the world to come into existence; this was god’s choice, and the most precise one. This choice of god cannot be explained in any of the available ways in the world according to him. He acknowledges that if philosophers had not attempted to understand the nature of divine will combined with mans will, they would have found the truth. This is because God’s will is not like mans will. With all these revelations, he came to the conclusion that god knows all.
Lastly the Sufis, identified themselves as chosen by god. This is known as the way of the heart, which leads to a greater level of consciousness. It is based beyond thinking, it awakens the soul, to realization. It is a journey of belief that goes deeper and deeper with belief. The author does not refer to a specific group of people who identify with Sufism, but to those who practice self-purification the perfection of the human being sincerely.
The author, does not just accept the truth but narrates it in this book and through finding the truth, he did not just want to follow but pursue knowledge in order to find the ultimate truth. This truth is not only in the author but in every individual, but it manifests itself in different ways and the author bring the more important aspect of a seeker through his path and his journey which relates to all.
In conclusion, Al-Ghazali came to his conclusion after his convictions as a person that Sufis was the way after critiquing the philosophers and theologians of his time. Today if one seeks god with a lot of devotion, he will definitely be guided and shown more things of devein origin than if the person lived a casual life of the world. This points to the fact that god exists and is able to work in mysterious ways. ‘Deliverance of Error’ proves to be a guide and an answer to those who desire the truth and do not want to follow blindly and want. this book is a journey, a path that will take it readers to experience reality for themselves from concept, from theory, idea, information towards the ultimate truth.