Sayings of Imam Al Ghazzali

Posted: October 28, 2012 by kashmirsufis in Sayings

If the first inward thought is not warded off, it will generate a desire,
then the desire will generate a wish, and the wish will generate an intention,
and the intention will generate the action, andthe action will result in ruin and divine wrath.
So evil must be cut off at its root, which is when it is simply a thought that crosses the mind,
from which all the other things follow on.
– Imam abu Hamid al-Ghazzali ♥
Each of your breaths is a priceless jewel, since each of them is irreplaceable and, once gone, can never be retrieved. Do not be like the deceived fools who are joyous because each day their wealth increases while their lifeshortens. What good is an increase in wealth when life grows ever shorter? Therefore be joyous only for an increase in knowledge or in good works, for they are your two companions who will accompany you in your grave when your family, wealth, children and friends stay behind. [Imam Ghazali ]
Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul and Breaking the two Desires, Books XXII and XXIII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences.
Page 69.
A man once summed up the signs of good character by saying:
“It is to be abundantly modest, to avoid harming others, to be righteous, truthful in speech, and of little discourse; it is to do many things and slip up infrequently, to avoid excess, to be loyal, friendly, dignified, patient, grateful, satisfied, forbearing, charitable, chaste and pitying; and not to curse or to insult people, or to backbite or to slander them, and to avoid hastiness, hatred, meanness, and jealousy; to be cheerful and kind, to love [good] and hate [evil] for the sake of God, to be well-pleased with Him andto be angry for His sake. Such is the man of good character.”Ayyuha ’l-Walad al-Muhibb
Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111) wrote a small book of advice on written request by one of his close disciples [1] and although it is nearly a thousand years old, it has a rich trove of advice for the current youth in our times who are trying to navigate around the complex experiences and challenges that make up the modern life in order to change from a heedless and neglectful state to a altered state or condition. Below are just a few snippets of examples from this wonderful book and their relevance and applicability for the youth in their contexts:
Advice 1 :
Imam al-Ghazali states: “Even if a person reads and teaches a hundred thousand bookson intellectual and knowledgeable issues but does not act on any of it, then it will not benefit him at all…” [2] – فكذا لو قرأ رجل مائة ألف مسألة علمية و تعلمها و لم يعمل بها لا تفيده إلا بالعمل
Some of the young Muslims – especially thosewho read Islamic books or even academic material – only love debating, arguing and talking about Islamic topics and issues (especially in ` aqidah and fiqh ) but they do not act on what they know. Their knowledge isalmost academic and non-practical. Imam al-Ghazali is advising that this is wholly inconsistent and a big failing. It is inconsistent because a person ought to practice what they know and teach it to others and it is a failing and weakness because their knowledge should make them act but it does not and this is the most unfortunate kind of knowledge.
Advice 2 :
Imam al-Ghazali states: “…O beloved disciple, knowledge without action is madness and action without knowledge can’t be!” [3] – أيها الولد العلم بلا عمل جنون والعمل بغير علم لا يكون
The advice here is extremely important in that a person needs both knowledge and action. If he does not have the required knowledge then he may not know whether he is performing his actions correctly and acceptably according to the rules of the Shari`ah (e.g. he may be praying incorrectly, fasting incorrectly, buying and selling incorrectly, justifying disobedience to Allah without knowing, etc.). However, if one has knowledge but it does not cause them to move and act then this knowledge is not beneficial and in effect makes it pointless and this is the most unfortunate kind of knowledge. Thus, both knowledge and actionshave to be combined for a person to have a consistent Islamic personality ( shakhsiyyah ). Both the mentality (outlook, ideas and concepts) as well as one’s behaviour (actions, morals and disposition) must be consistently based on one standard and belief – the Islamic standard and belief.
Advice 3 :
Imam Abu ’l-Qasim al-Junayd al-Baghdadi (d. 298/910) remarks: “…we only benefitted from the small units of Prayer we did late at night.” [4] – و ما نفعنا إلا ركيعات ركعناها في جوف الليل
Some youth love partying and socialising, some only focus on studying while others on playing consoles like Playstation, Xbox, Wii and yet others spend most of their time in sports. Imam al-Ghazali is warning us with this quote from al-Junayd that all this is not beneficial if it means our acts of worship and devotion (` ibadah ) decrease or become non-existence. In a society that directs our attention to mainly entertainment and pleasure, this should be looked at as a distraction from our important obligations which is to worship Allah, come to have knowledge of Him, carry da`wah (‘the Islamiccall, invitation to Islam’) as well as to prioritise what He and His beloved Messenger (saw) have prioritised. This does not mean young Muslims should not enjoy themselves with games, sports and relaxing with each other; they should as these are all mubah (‘allowed’). What it means is that learning Islamic knowledge, praying, da`wah and any other fard (‘obligation’) must not be neglected for something merely allowed. Priorities should not be confused.
Some of the youth sometimes see spirituality and personal devotion as something uncomfortable, uncool; something only for those who have boring lives and those who are out of touch or even something the parents and grandparents and their generation do. This is incorrect. Individual extra Prayers, dhikr (remembrance of Allah), durud , du`as (‘supplications’) and recitation of the Qur’an must be continual acts in order to keep a person connected with Allah and habituated on good actions. This is what Islam teaches.
Advice 4 :
Imam al-Ghazali states: “…Know that true obedience to Allah and true worship of Him involves following the commands and prohibitions of Shari`ah in both word and acts…” [5] – أعلم أن الطاعة و العبادة متابعة الشارع في الأوامر و النواهي بالقول و الفعلImam al-Ghazali unequivocally advises that true obedience to Allah and true worship is only possible if it agrees with the rulings and commands of the Noble Shari`ah. No other criterion is acceptable. However, our youth today whether knowingly or unknowingly have taken either, culture, friends, society, their own ego ( nafs ) or their own minds and other philosophies as their criterion of deciding whether or not something is right, wrong or acceptable and unacceptable. This isnot correct. The criterion of the Shari`ah is what a Muslim must hold for their actions.
If true worship is only achieved through the Shari`ah and if we look to our lives today, we know and can see that the Shari`ah is absent in our lives and because of this absence, Muslims are politically disunited, weak, economically impoverished, oppressed, attacked, exploited and occupied as a global Ummah. This should make our youth think about this serious situation and how to reverseit.
Advice 5 :
Sayyiduna `Umar Ibn al-Khattab (ra): “Account yourself before you are brought to account and measure your actions before they are measured…” [6] – حاسبوا أنفسكم قبل أن تحاسبوا وزنوا أعمالكم قبل أن توزنوا
All Muslims, whether young or old, must prepare themselves for the Hereafter ( akhira ). They must be ready for when Allah will account everyone for everything they did in this world. Imam al-Ghazali through this quoteis alerting and advising that before Allah accounts you, you should account yourself and prepare yourself for that Day by preparing now through learning about Islam and its subjects, practicing it, delivering it to others, sharing it and keeping firmly on it.
Action plan :
What is it then that the youth can do? Something that will help them when nothing else can or something that will be with them when nothing else will: righteous actions ) a`mal saliha ). Imam al-Ghazali quotes Shaqiqal-Balkhi (d. 194/810) as follows:
إني نظرت الى الخلق فرأيت لكل منهم محبوبا ومعشوقا يحبه ويعشقه، وبعض ذلك المحبوب يصاحبه إلى مرض الموت وبعضه يصاحبه إلى شفير القبر، ثم يرجع كله، ويتركه فريداً وحيداً، ولا يدخل معه في قبره منهم أحد فتفكرت وقلت: أفضل محبوب المرء ما يدخل معه في قبره، ويؤنسه فيه، فما وجدته غير الأعمال الصالحة، فأخذتها محبوبة لي؛ لتكون لي سراجاً في قبري، وتؤنسني فيه، ولا تتركني فريداً .
“When I observed people I saw them loving others dearly and being attached to them. Some of these people they loved and were attached to will be with them when they’re ill or when they’re being lowered in the grave. However, all of these beloveds will return andwill go back and leave them, desert them all alone. They will not be able to enter with themin the grave and help them. So I contemplatedlong and hard and came to the conclusion that: the best thing for a person or the most beloved and dear thing to a person should bewhat can enter with him into the grave and be close to him there. What i found that to be wasnothing more than righteous actions or good deeds. So I took it as something dear and beloved to me so it can be a radiant lamp for me in the grave, be close to me and not leave me…” [7]
What can some of this a’mal saliha (‘good and righteous actions’) be for the youth to practically do?
1. Learn Islamic knowledge.
2. Ponder over our actions by linking it to the Hereafter and its consequences.
3. Carrying da`wah .
4. Keeping good company.
5. Valuing your youth and time.
S. Z. C .
And with Allah is all Success.
[1] al-Ghazali, Ayyuha ’l-Walad , p.18.
[2] Ibid, p.21.
[3] Ibid, p.25.
[4] Ibid, p.20.
[5] Ibid, p.29.
[6] Ibid, p.23.
[7] Ibid, p.32.6 states conducive to perfecting the prayer
• Awareness
• Understanding
• Reverence
• Awe
• Hope
• Shame
~ Imam al-Ghazālī“The harm inflicted on religion by those who defend it in a way not proper to it is greater than the harm caused by those who attack it inthe way proper to it. As it has been said: A rational foe is better than an ignorant friend.”
― Imam al Ghazali (rahimahullah), the Incoherence of the Philosophers“ Worshipful service is the fruit of knowledge, the benefit of life, the income of strong servants, the stock-in-trade of the saints [awliya’], the path of the truly devout, the allotted portion of the mighty, the goal of those endowed with aspiration, the emblem ofthe noble, the vocation of real men, and the choice of those with faculties of vision. It is the way of good fortune and the path [minhaj] of the Garden of Paradise. ”
— Imam Al-Ghazali’s The Path of the worshipful servants (Minhaj al-‘Abidin ila jannati rabbi’ l’-alamin)“ The Prophet(may God bless him and grant him peace) has said, ‘Death is a precious gift tothe believer’. This he said because ‘the world is the believer’s prison,’ in which he is incessantly in difficult circumstances due to suffering[the passions] of his soul, and because of the struggle with his desires and the repulse of his devil. Death for him is a release from this torment, and for him this release is a precious gift. ”
— Imam Al-Ghazali’s Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife (kitab dhikr al-mawt wa-ma’ ma’dahu).“ For instance, if a man ceases to take any concern in worldly matters, conceives a distaste for common pleaures, and appears sunk in depression, the doctor will say, “This isa case of melancholy, and requires such and such prescription. The physicist will say, “This is a dryness of the brain caused by hot weather and cannot be relieved till the air becomes moist.” The astrologer will attribute it to some particular conjunction or opposition of plantes. “Thus far their wisdom reaches,” says the Koran. It does not occur to them that what has really happened is this: that the Almighty has a concern for the welfare of thatman, and has therefore commanded His servants, the planets or the elements, to produce such a condition in him that he may turn away from the world to his Maker.The knowledge of this fact is a lustrous pearl from the ocean of inspirational knowledge, to whichall other forms of knowldge are as islands in the sea. ”
— The Alchemy of Happiness, Imam Al-Ghazali“ The life of the heart is knowledge; so preserve it,
The death of the heart is ignorance; so avoid it. Your best provision is true devotion; so provide it.
This advice of mine is enough for you; so heed it. ”
— Imam Al-Ghazali‎”He who knows not his heart, to watch over it and be mindful of it, and to observe what shines on it and in it of the treasures of the world of spirits, he is one of those whom God, the Exalted, has said, ‘those who forget God; and He made them to forget their own souls. Such are the rebellious transgressors.’ ”
— Imam Al Ghazali – Marvels of the Heart“soft words soften the hearts that are harder that rock, harsh words harden hears that are softer than silk”
— Imam Ghazali Rahimahullah
“Knowledge exists potentially in the human soul like the seed in the soil; by learning the potential becomes actual.” — Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
“…a man should say to his soul every morning, “God has given thee twenty-four treasures; take heed lest thou lose anyone of them, for thou wilt not be able to endure the regret that will follow such loss.”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali , The Alchemy Of Happiness
“The happiness of the drop is to die in the river.”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
“Know, O beloved, that man was not created in jest or at random, but marvellously made and for some great end. Although he is not form everlasting, yet he lives for ever; and though his body is mean and earthly, yet his spirit is lofty and divine”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
“Praise be to God; whose compassion is all-embracing and Whose mercy is universal; Who rewards His servants fortheir remembrance [dhikr] [of Him] withHis remembrance [of them] – verily God (Exalted is He!) has said, ‘Remember Me,and I will remember you’ – Opening lines from Kitab al-Adhkar wa’l Da’awatof the Ihya ulum ad-Din”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali
“Men have such a good opinion of themselves, of their mental superiority and intellectual depth; they believe themselves so skilled in discerning the true from the false, the path of safety from those of error, that they should beforbidden as much as possible the perusal of philosophic writings.”
― Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

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