Why the Professor Stopped Teaching

By: Kenneth DiMaggio  

Like many great religious figures, a significant crisis of belief initiates or interrupts their spiritual journey. St. Augustine is one such figure. His autobiography The Confessions details his path towards Christianity. This text is also considered to be one of the great literary classics. Less known (in the West at least) is the Deliverance from Error by the Persian medieval religious scholar, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. He is often compared to great religious thinkers and writers of the same depth and caliber such as the Jewish scholar Moses ben-Maimonides and the Catholic saint and theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas. Like St. Augustine, however, Al-Ghazali left a text detailing a spiritual crisis. Less than a hundred pages, the Deliverance from Error examines this crisis. One unique element of it is Al-Ghazali's role as a teacher. With the onset of his spiritual breakdown, Al-Ghazali (who taught in Baghdad) had to abandon his profession as well. "I reflected on my intention in my public teaching, and I saw that it was not directed purely to God" he writes in his text. From this perspective then, this autobiography of a major religious figure's crisis of faith can also be read as a crisis of a teacher, and the role that the teacher plays in conveying faith.

Al-Ghazali, Deliverance from Error
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Kenneth DiMaggio

Professor of Humanities, Humanities, Capital Community College