Religious Experience as a Journey to Perfection: An Inquiry into the Ideas of Al-Ghazali

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Akgül A.

Bilimname, vol.2019, no.38, pp.813-833, 2019 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 2019 Issue: 38
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.28949/bilimname.462020
  • Journal Name: Bilimname
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.813-833
  • Erciyes University Affiliated: Yes


Religious experience is one of the fundamental problems of the philosophy of religion. Although it has entered the literature as a proof of God; discussions focus on its nature. The basic approaches to the nature of religious experience are: religious experience as a feeling, religious experience as a perception, religious experience as a comment.
The main reason that makes the nature of religious experience controversial is that it consists of two concepts that have a wide range of meaning, such as religion and experience. The meanings that individuals and traditions attach to these two concepts determine the understanding of religious experience. The beginning of religious experience as a term corresponds to the periods of Protestantism. With the emphasis of Enlightenment on the mind, the meanings attributed to religious experience have been reduced and narrowed. In the literature, religious experience is unclear, cannot be transferred to others, instant and extraordinary experiences.
The preliminary acceptance of this article is that the meanings attributed to the term religious experience are narrowed and it is wrong to use the term in the same sense for different traditions. This article assumes that the reader knows the current discussion of the problem. Rather than reacting to the concerns of current debate, it takes a more proactive and pre-opener approach. Rather than reacting to the concerns of the current debate, it takes a more proactive approach to the subject.
This paper will present a different reading of religious experience than the literature as a problem of the Philosophy of Religion. In this context, the concept of God, universe and human being in al-Ghazali will be firstly revealed as the ontological background of religious experience; then a description of the concept of religious experience will be proposed on this ontological basis.
If you mean an experience related to religion, which is within religious boundaries with religious experience; Islam for a Muslim, that all experiences that cater to all aspects of human existence and religious boundaries cannot be the person to enter into any human experience that is experienced throughout the religious life. Certainly, here we can talk about the experiences that religion has ordered and forbidden, or in other words, experiences that religion regards as positive or negative.
If an experience related to God is meant for religious experience, here are two cases: when the truth comes to the essence and attributes of God, the human experience does not reach there and in this sense, a religious experience is not possible. If the acts of God are mentioned; all the experiences that people live in are religious in this sense, because everything outside of their own is a deed of God, and whatever happens in the world of being, takes place within God's deeds. Here, too, whether or not people are aware of it, can be mentioned in other words, from conscious and unconscious religious experiences, which is the deciding factor. Faith, then, can be regarded as the first step of the conscious religious experience.
If you are referring to experiences that seem to be unusual for those who are religious and have no religious experience, it is an extraordinary experience to go on a journey itself, compared to not going on a journey. That is to say, the faith itself, which is to ascend to a journey to perfection, is an extraordinary experience compared to those who are not on this path, that is, those who do not have it. For instance for children, the experiences of the elders are extraordinary, and therefore being ordinary and extraordinary is a relative concept. It is necessary to acknowledge the differences in conscious religious experiences mentioned above in the meaning of intense and deep living in themselves. There is a deeper and more intense experience that expresses progress in a journey that leads to God in the sense of the strengthening of faith. This is the kind of experience that most people have not experienced in this sense that the task of the person who is experienced in his own journey is not to stick to them and continue on their way. So living out of order for a Muslim is seen as a barrier that must be encountered and which should not be lingered on, while experiencing something extraordinary has a distinctive place for religious experience in current debates. The issue is not that they cannot be explained but they are not deliberately explained due to the fear of misunderstanding. This can be regarded as a method of education that older adults use to train minors.
As a result, if we would define a religious experience according to al-Ghazali, we can say that religion is a journey made towards God, and religious experience is the experience of traveling to God. Traveling to him means to get close to Him, but this approach is not in spatial means but in perfection means. So, religious experience is the journey to perfection of the man himself. Man's perfection is to have the attributes of God who have absolute perfection. These attributes are present in man's own essence. What a person must do, is to place an effort to make these virtual adjectives real.
This journey is basically an existential necessity as it provides the happiness that is essential to human existence. In this journey, which can be understood as becoming a human being who was born as a human being. It should also be added that it is not possible to be absolutely perfect and to reach the reality of God himself in this endless journey of perfection.  Therefore, the absolute perfection belongs to God, and it is necessary to understand the concept of perfect human being as a person who has traveled in the journey to perfection.

Din Felsefesinin temel problemlerinden biri olan dinî tecrübe, bir Tanrı kanıtı olarak literatüre girmiş olsa da, mevcut tartışmalar daha çok onun mahiyeti üzerine yoğunlaşmış gözükmektedir. Söz gelimi, onun bir duygu/his tecrübesi, bir algı tecrübesi olduğu ya da aslında yaşanan herhangi bir tecrübenin dinî bir yorumundan ibaret olduğu, öne sürülen belli başlı yaklaşımlardan birkaçıdır.  Dinî tecrübenin mahiyetini tartışmalı kılan temel sebep, din ve tecrübe gibi geniş anlam alanına sahip iki kavramdan oluşmasıdır. Bireylerin ve geleneklerin, bu iki kavrama yükledikleri anlamlar, dinî tecrübe anlayışlarını belirleyicidir. Dinî tecrübenin bir terim olarak kullanılmaya başlanması Protestanlığın ortaya çıktığı dönemlere denk gelir. Aydınlanmanın akıl vurgusuyla birlikte, ilgili terime yüklenen anlamlar indirgenir ve terim; sebebi açıklanamayan, başkalarına aktarılamayan, epistemik değeri tartışmalı, anlık, sıra dışı yaşanmışlıklar olarak literatürdeki yerini alır. Bu makalenin ön kabulü, dinî tecrübe terimine yüklenen anlamların daraltılmış olduğu ve terimin farklı gelenekler için aynı anlamlarda kullanılmasının hatalı olduğudur. Bu makale, okurun probleme ilişkin mevcut tartışmaları bildiğini varsayar ve mevcut tartışmalara cevap yetiştirmek kaygısıyla reaksiyoner bir tavır sergilemek yerine, daha ziyade aksiyoner ve ön açıcı bir yaklaşımla konuyu ele alır. Bu makale, bir Din Felsefesi problemi olarak dinî tecrübenin literatürdekinden farklı bir okumasını sunacaktır. Bu doğrultuda, öncelikle Gazâlî’nin Tanrı, âlem ve insan anlayışı, dinî tecrübenin ontolojik arka planı olarak ortaya konacak; daha sonra, bu ontolojik temel üzerinden dinî tecrübe kavramına ilişkin bir tanım önerilecektir.