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Imam Al-Ghazali's Ihya' 'Ulum Al-Deen

He Adopted The Sufi Path

In Ta'reef i'l Ihya' bi Fadhaail i'l Ihya (Introducing "The Revival" with the Grace of "The Revival") of al-Habib 'AbdulQadir al-'Aydaroos, we get the biography of Imam al-Ghazali. He was born in Tus, Iran in 450 A.H/1058 C.E. His father was a dervesh who advised his friend to spend his wealth on the education of his sons Muhammad and Ahmad after he passed away. This his friend did after the demise of Imam al-Ghazali's father in 465 A.H. He studied under the Imam al-Haramayn, Abu'l Ma'ali al-Juwayni in Nishapur until 478 A.H when he moved to Baghdad. There he proved his brilliance and in 484 A.H was appointed professor at the Madrasatun Nizamiyyah, the highest scholarly position and the most coveted honour at that time.

He explains in another of his books titled Al-Munqidh Min al-Dhalaal (Deliverance from Error) that he had mastered all the zahiri (manifest) knowledge like shari'a (sacred law) and fiqh (jurisprudence) as well as what the philosophers had to say, but he yearned to achieve yaqin (certitude). To acquire this, he decided in Dhul Qa'da 488 A.H to entirely give up his position, status and fame and to adopt the life of a dervesh. He had realised that achieving personal religious experience was the only way to gain certitude (yaqin). He supplicated to Allah to make it easy for him to renounce the world (dunya) and Allah accepted his dua. He went for Hajj and Ziyara to Makkah and Madina as well as to Bayt ul Maqaddas and to Damascus where he went into khalwa (spiritual retreat) in the zawiya (khaniqa or spiritual lodge) of the Jami Mosque. Since then, the zawiya has been named after him.

He writes that he obtained many benefits in khalwa (spiritual seclusion) but the one thing he would like to convey to people for their benefit is his realisation that the only true path to Allah is the path of the sufis, their spiritual journey is the best journey, and their character is the purest character. He says that if all the intelligence of the thinkers and the wisdom of all the wise people and the knowledge of all the 'ulama who know the secrets of shari'ah were to be put together, they would not be worth exchanging for the Sufi path because the Sufi path is lit with the Nur-i Mishkaat-un-Nubuwwah (light from the niche of Prophethood). He set himself the task of cleaning his heart of everything except Allah. We say Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great) to begin salah. A sufi begins by saying Allah Akbar to clean his heart of everything except Allah for his whole life. Once he says Allahu Akbar, he gives up his ikhtiyaar (choice) and surrenders himself completely to Allah in worshipful service, to achieve the stage of fana fillah, all the while following the perfect example of our beloved, blessed and noble Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam.

The Ihya' and some of his most well-known kutub (books) were written after he adopted the sufi path. Allah had obviously accepted his father's dua (supplication) to give his sons 'ilm un nafi' (useful knowledge).

Once in a while, he talks of spiritual experiences in the Ihya'. For example, in Vol. III, p.20, Ajaib al-Qalb, Bayan al-farq bayn al-ilham wa'l ta'allum ("The Wonders of the Heart: An Exposition of the Difference Between Inspiration and Learning"), he writes:

"If his aspiration is true, his ambition pure and his concentration good, so that his appetites do not pull at him, and he is not distracted by the hadith an-nafs (discourse of the soul meaning egotism of the soul) towards the attachments of the world, the gleams of the Truth will shine in his heart. At the outset, this will resemble a brief, inconstant shaft of lightening, which then returns, perhaps after a delay. If it returns, it may be fleeting or firm; and if it is firm (thabit), it may or may not endure for some time. States such as these may come upon each other in succession, or only one type may be present. In this regard, the stages of God's saints (awliya) are as innumerable as their outer attributes and qualities". (Translation by Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad, in Al-Ghazali on Disciplining The Soul, p. lxvii-lxviii).

Who else can give you such detailed insights?

He passed away on 14 Jamadil Akhir 505 A.H/1111 C.E. 'Allamah ibn al-Jawzi narrates in his book 'Abdul Mamaat (The Servants of Allah Who Passed Away) that on Monday early in the morning, Imam al-Ghazali got up from his bed, performed the morning prayer, and then sent a man to bring him his kafan (burial shroud). When it was brought, he lifted it upto his eyes and said: "Lord's Command is to be obeyed". Saying this, he lied facing the qibla and breathed his last.

Naf'anAllahu bih, May Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala make us benefit from him, Aameen.

It is reported in the Sharh of al-Habib 'AbdulQadir al-'Aydaroos that after Imam al-Ghazali passed away, Shaykh Shihab ud-Deen Ahmad az-Zabidi, saw one day while he was sitting, that the gates of heaven opened and some malaika (angels) descended. A certain grave opened and a person came out whom they clothed in a green robe, and they ascended with him on a conveyance, passed the seven heavens and beyond sixty veils till they were lost out of sight. When he asked who he was, he was answered: "This is the Imam al-Ghazali".

Naf'anAllahu bih, May Allah make us benefit from him, Aameen.

Hasbunallahu wa ni'mal Wakeel
Allah is Sufficient for us and (He is) the most excellent Trustee (3:173)

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