Al-Ghazali’s The Alchemy of Happiness Great Books Course
Originally written in Persian for a popular audience ca. 499 AH/1105 CE, The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya-yi Sa’ādat) is a summary by al-Ghazālī of his own Summa, The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥyāʾʿulūm al-dīn), a book second only to the Qurʾān in importance in the Islamic tradition, and a few of his other theological writings. Al-Ghazālī himself is second in importance only to the Prophet Muḥammad in the Islamic tradition and is the sole bearer of the honorific, “proof of Islam” (hujjat al-Islām) in the Sunni Islamic tradition. St. Thomas Aquinas acknowledged al-Ghazālī influence in the Summa Theologica. The text for this class is the 1910 abridged translation of The Alchemy of Happiness by Claude Field. It is summarized in its introduction:
God has sent on Earth a hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets to teach men the prescription of this alchemy, and how to purify their hearts from baser qualities in the crucible of abstinence. This alchemy may be briefly described as turning away from the world, and its constituents are four:
- The knowledge of self.
- The knowledge of God.
- The knowledge of this world as it really is.
- The knowledge of the next world as it really is.