ABSTRACT

In the last chapter we saw how Ghazālī presents three major themes: the first relates to public life and order that require an active government, Sulṭān; the second is an emphasis on the affairs of the common good, matters outside the scope of government that bear upon the quality of common life, such as knitting, farming, and the medical profession; the third points to the place of fiqh and the fuqahā' as that which gives society its identity grounded in its source of existence, and its purpose in life, but not in a Church-like form. In this way, Ghazālī is defining the foundation of the community as it relates to the different roles in society, which cannot be achieved without a defined political structure. But his concern to action engages with the structures of revelation when it has nothing to do with personal preferences. Therefore, the gift of revealed law and wisdom helps human beings find the true meaning of their individual as well as collective life as a source of questioning, not personal preferences. In these different roles, as in Finnis’ theory, the limits of Ghazālī’s overarching legal and political truth are perceivable as we engage in the hard work of spelling out the vocation, hopes, and possibilities of human beings, showing that the place and vitality of the law in Muslim terms must be grasped in the light of another pattern: what it means to be human. In other words, relating to law cannot be abstracted from thinking about the actions and ends of human life, and therefore, thinking about ethics, in as much as ethics is a ‘reflective expression’ of what it means to materialise the ‘end’ of human life in action now, i.e. about ‘practical reasonableness’. 1 How does Ghazālī speak of actions that are ‘practically reasonable’? This question is the first subject matter of the present chapter. It is about the criterion of authoritative judgement in ethics, law, and politics.