Heart or Rational Soul

Al-Ghazālī’s Early Insights 
into the Reasons of the Heart 

By M. Coetsee

Despite the importance of al-Ghazālī’s work for the Sufi tradition of heart-knowledge, though, al-Ghazālī’s own talk about the heart is often taken by academics to be little more than a façon de parler for talk about the “rational soul,” a concept he is said to have inherited from his famous philosophical predecessor, Avicenna. Al-Ghazālī used talk of the heart, it is suggested, to make his work more palatable to the religious scholars of his day, rather than because he was genuinely concerned to innovate on Avicenna’s ideas about how religious evaluative knowledge is psychologically rooted. Below I discuss the limitations of this interpretation of al-Ghazālī and suggest that in talking about heart-knowledge, he may have meant to point us towards a distinct and important kind of knowledge that is rooted in emotional experience. READ MORE

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