Thursday, May 26, 2016

Al-Ghazali and I




Imam Muhammad ibn Muhammad Al-Ghazali (d.505/1111) was perhaps one of my greatest influences in my early years as a student. Understanding his influence is too great for small narrow-minded people to fathom. 


During my early period as a student, of Arabic language in the setting of a western university, I was looking for something that I had been missing. The religious industry is one of the most off-putting things you can ever see. People are more interested in making money and twisting things to fit their desires, rather than tell the truth, was the background of my environment. It was as stale as sandwiches left out in the sun for a year. Often I found 'religious' people doing 'unreligious' things. This was often used as a cop out. People would not want to be like 'religious' people who were doing evil things. You can understand this point of view but we need to be concerned with our own graves rather than those of others. 


In western Islamic academia, Imam Al-Ghazali is frequently quoted and referenced. This intrigued me and made me think about reading one of his books. However, at the time I was, busy reading anything anyone told me not to read. I found many Muslims disagreeing and arguing. This put me off from learning anything from them. If there were on the path, they would be learning and not wasting their time. I found most groups wasting their time and this confirmed to me that they themselves were a waste of time! 


I had an interest in philosophy and reading books. I read Imam Al-Ghazali's work on the incoherence of the philosophers. This lead to reading the way of Imam Al-Ghazali (Munqidh min Al-Dalaal), in which he explains his own journey. He being one of the greatest scholars of his age, were even scholars would attend his lessons. He was well paid and he had no worldly need but something was missing. He lost his voice one day, had to retreat, and heeded the voice of the road. Claiming to be going to hajj, he went on a ten-year sojourn travelling from place to place, incognito. People did not know who he was and would clean masjids and so forth to get by. He met and began to frequent the Sufis. It was here he found was he was looking for. Rather than understanding Islam has as laws that needed to be followed, he saw the spirit of the law had been taken. What was being present was a dry form of Islam. Here are the rules so follow them. It needed to be re-invigorated and re-instilled and most of all it need to be revived. Imam Al-Ghazali re-invigorated would write a book that almost a thousand years later, still resonates. It retains its relevance even now. It was called Ihya Ulum Al-Din/Revival of the religion or revival of the religious sciences of knowledge's. I would say it has more relevance now than ever. We ignore it at our peril. 


We live in a time were people are more dry and stale than ever. Read Ihya Ulum Al-Din and learn things that you should already know. The most important chapter is the chapter of knowledge and it's the first part of the forty-part book. The book is separated into four sections each containing ten chapters. The first part is on acts of worship, the second part is habits, the third is destructive vices and the last is traits that bring forth salvation. If you have read this blog then you will know that I have recommended to you several times. It is as if it was written yesterday, read it and find out. 


Though complete translations do exist the quality can vary, the best are printed by Islamic text society. These are typically single or double chapters from each part. There are also recordings of book done by Mishkat media as part of the Cambridge masjid project. So click on the links if you are interested but it is better to pick up the single parts of Ihya if possible. There are American translations due of the whole Ihya but if these are translated through the perennialism philosophy then they are unwelcome.


There is a famous saying 'Ba'i layhiy wastari Ihya'/ sell your beard and purchase the Ihya.  

The books of Imam Al-Ghazali taught me moderation, analysing things and looking deeply into matters to find the truth. Whilst many of my peers fell into takfir, being bogged down and not achieving their potential. I remained focused on knowledge and made progress than they. 


None of the groups of the Muslims has the entire truth. I mean the deobandis, wahabis, Ikhwanis, Shia and so forth. Each one has its virtues but none of them is the complete way. You can give me your good actions by slandering me across websites as much as you want. I have stayed neutral in the past but those people who want to give me their good actions or take my sins are welcome. 


Of the many achievements of Imam Al-Ghazali was defeating the misguided philosophers who were ignoring proof texts in favour of misapplied logic. He defeated and silenced all their dissenting voices. He refuted the Shia when they were at their ascendency in the 11th century and took the wind out of their sails. He placed Islamic law and spiritually as part of the same teaching. Nowhere in the world is this more exemplified that in the valley of Hadaramaut in Yemen. Their method is the method of Imam Al-Ghazali although transferring this method elsewhere could be elusive. 


We find ourselves in an important juncture in history were revival is needed. Most 'speakers' are heedless and asleep, so how can they wake anyone up. Who of them are actually teaching knowledge? Most are opening books without understanding the words they contain. 


Most of the speakers lack basic knowledge in simple sciences. They lie and cheat people to retain their sheep and their lies written on their faces. Like the words disbeliever is written on the face of the imposter/the Dajjal.


After the time of Imam Al-Ghazali did the great paths of the Sufism emerge into the Islamic conscience. The paths of the masters such as Abdul Qadir Al-Kalani/Al-Jaylani, Imam Rifai, Naqasbandi, Imam Shadhali and so forth. Imam Al-Ghazali paved the way for them. Imam Al-Shadhali used to teach the Ihya Ulum Al-Din to his students. 


Many groups are stale, as I once was and this is way out. Islam is not a stale set of laws rather there are deep wisdoms to things. 


There is no worse than a liar than he who uses religion to get what he wants from people. Whoever cheats Islam will pay a hefty price on the day of judgement. Be he scholar or otherwise.


I thank and pray that Allah show mercy to Imam Al-Ghazali and give him a goodly reward for his works. I found his honesty refreshing and re-invigorating. I have not found the like of which in other works. It is strange how people praise famous 'scholars' and you read his books and their littered with takfir, disrespect and incorrect opinions. Then you see the same people with darkness in their faces and yet they think that slander is the correct path! 


As much as I regard Imam Al-Ghazali's opinion on things, I do not reject other opinions. I do not follow one scholar in everything because that is misguidance. Why? Because one scholar is not Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Jammah! Ahl Al-Sunnah wa Jammah is the majority of scholars from the beginning to the end of time. Not one scholar in isolation. Anyone who follows one scholar in isolation becomes misguided. Often there are things in books than are unreliable and so forth. Not everyone can spot them, so they cannot guard themselves from them. Often Imam Al-Ghazali's way is to uproot the tree and not trim it. Therefore, he took the toughest opinions on many matters. 


We ignore Imam Al-Ghazali at our peril and if we are to return to moderation then we need to read and teach these books. Its importance cannot be underlined enough. Why do you think I keep going on about the same thing? Without knowledge you do not have religion, it is that simple. 


Start with Munqidh min Al-Dalaal it has many translations, so pick one and use the excellent translations of Abdul Hakim Winters, the book of death and breaking the two desires. Translations of the chapters from the book. If you can read Arabic then go for them.

They say the distinction between scholars of the afterlife and scholars of the world is the Ihya. If they love the Ihya then it is a good sign that they are scholar of the afterlife. You will be surprised how many ignore and disregard the Ihya for books of their own group.