Brooks Barber (Washington)

Poverty in Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din    This lecture examines how al-Ghazali discusses poverty (faqr) in the thirty-fourth book of his compendious Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din. In this relatively short section of text, al-Ghazali defines poverty’s meaning, delineates its levels and degrees, and places it in relationship with other positive character traits, such as renunciation (zuhd) and God-reliance (tawakkul). Following a summary of this book, the lecture places poverty into the context of al-Ghazali’s broader ethical system as it is laid out in the Ihya’; specifically, it delves into al-Ghazali’s mystical interpretation of the role material poverty plays in aiding one’s quest to attain the spiritual “richness” inherent to God. The lecture concludes by reflecting on how an inter-religious comparison of poverty, with special reference to the Christian Franciscan tradition, deepens our reading of al-Ghazali’s understanding of poverty as a spiritual ideal.

Brooks Barber MA
Doctoral candidate in Religion and Culture
The Catholic University of America
School of Theology and religious Studies