UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The spiritual life from the perspectives of Islam and Christianity : the stages of the spiritual life in the teachings of al-Ghazālī and St. Teresa of Ávila Christensen, Linda


In this thesis I attempt to illustrate that there is common ground between Christianity and Islam in the area of spirituality. The procedure taken is one of describing the spiritual path from the perspectives of al-Ghazālī (d. 1111) and St. Teresa of Ávila (d. 1582) in a comparative manner. The three-fold categorization of the spiritual path as consisting of the stages of purgation, illumination, and union, is used to provide the format for this comparison. Chapter one deals with biographical material and historical contexts, noting similarities in their experiences, contexts, and contributions. Chapter two discusses the beginning stage of the spiritual path — purgation — dealing with the requirements of renunciation of the world and of one's self, repentance and the battle of the spirit with and victory over the flesh. The next stage — illumination — comprises chapter three. Here it is seen how the purgation of the self from all vice is a prerequisite to receiving divine manifestations to the soul. The roles of prayer, obedience, and the cultivation of virtues are discussed. Union, the final stage, is dealt with in chapter four. The meaning of union is discussed, including its various degrees, and how the mystic is consequently transformed. The conclusion summarizes the findings of the previous chapters. It is seen that there is a great deal of commonality in the teachings of al-Ghazālī and St. Teresa; but differences also arise marking their spiritualities as being uniquely Muslim and Christian, respectively.

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