Chapter Two (The Spirit and The Soul )

The Soul According to Al-Ghazali

Al-Ghazali in his study of the soul introduces two kinds of psyche or essences: one deals with the animal and humane forces of the soul (the incentive and the perceptive). In this type of psychology, Al-Ghazali imitates Al-Farabi and Ibn-Sina, especially the latter, from whom he cites most of his opinions and beliefs. This is noticed when comparing his opinions in his book Maarej Al-Quods fi Madarej Merefat Al-Nafs , with those found in Ibn-Sina’s books Al-Najah and Ahwal Al-Nas.
In the second kind of psyche, however, Al-Gazali deals with the exercise of the soul, the discipline of morals, and the cure of bad manners. In this respect, Al-Gzali is totally creative and inventive, hardly imitating any of his preceding philosophers. In this area, he introduced new effective means to modify human behavior and rectify its defects, thus preceding modern psychologists and behavioral therapists in this respect. Al-Gazali was deeply concerned with studying the soul where he thought that knowing one’s self leads to knowing Allah which is mentioned in his book Maarej Al-Quods fi Madarej Al-Nafs . He states that he who knows himself knows his God, his characteristics and deeds, in addition to knowing the world, the angels, success and failure, the divine message and prophet hood, pain and happiness in the after world life, and finally the utmost joy which is meeting Allah, the Almighty.
The above mentioned regarding Al-Gazali’s approach denotes his concern with the study of psychology which is different from the Greek studies which considered it one of the fields of knowledge. He studied psychology with a religious motive which leads to the knowledge of Allah and the secrets of the universe.
First we start by reviewing Al-Gazali’s traditional opinions in the human and animal forces of the soul in which he follows previous philosophers like Ibn-Sina. He closely follows the approaches of Ibn-Sina, Al-Farabi, and Aristotle in their claim that there are three souls: the vegetarian, the animal, and the humane. Al-Gazali defines the vegetarian soul as: ”The foremost perfection of a normal mechanical body needed for feeding, growing and reproduction”. The animal soul, however, is: ”The foremost perfection of a normal mechanical body which realizes the particles and moves with the will”. The humane soul is: ”The foremost perfection of a normal mechanical body in the deeds done with mental choice and deduction, and in conceiving matters in general”. It is noticed that Al-Gazali definitions of the soul is similar to those of Al-Farabi and Ibn-Sina who were also influenced with Aristotle. He claims that the soul is ”the foremost perfection” i.e. not by means of, or through, other perfection. With ”normal body” he means not artificial; ”mechanical”, however, denotes that it has tools needed for the second and third perfection. Al-Gazali’s terminology, however, indicates his influence by Ibn-Sina who uses the same words in his own definitions.