Combatting the soul in al-Muhasibi and Isaac of Nineveh

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Monday I presented at the Australian Early Medieval Association's annual conference. The abstract:
When al-Ghazali wrote his works on purification of the soul he drew especially on the 3rd/9th century works of al-Muhasibi. Al-Muhasibi developed a rich terminology of inner spiritual battle and soul purification which he considered was 90% of jihad. Smith, Schoonover, Renard and Picken have described his works but not analysed the metaphors and concepts involved. This paper analyses key aspects of al-Muhasibi’s approach to combatting the soul, and briefly compares this with Isaac of Nineveh’s roughly contemporary writings, demonstrating significant similarities and differences between them. This analysis informs the current debate over the meaning and methods of jihad.


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