The Niche of Lights, or Mishkat al-anwar, is an accessible and richly rewarding text by one of the most fascinating and important thinkers in the history of Islam. Born in the eastern Iranian city of Tus in 450 A.H. (1058 C.E.), Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali also died there, relatively young, in 505 A.H. (1111 C.E.).
Between those two dates, however, he established himself as a pivotal figure throughout the Islamic world. By his early thirties he was a pre-eminent legal scholar and teacher in Baghdad.
But then, overcome by skepticism and finding no other satisfactory way to combat his doubts, he abandoned his academic position to devote himself to reattaining religious certainty through the practice of Sufi mysticism.
By his own account, he succeeded. After somewhat more than a decade of travel and ascetic contemplation, and a the instance of the sultan at that time, he emerged again into public life and teaching during his final years.
In the Niche of Lights, al-Ghazali maintains that one who truly desires to understand the relationship between God and the world must recognize not only His distance and absolute transcendence, as emphasized in Islamic theology and jurisprudence, but also His proximity to His creation-His inherent presence.