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

What Some Awliya And Saleheen Say

It is best to begin by quoting what some of the awliya (saints) and the saleheen (pious) say about Ihya' 'Ulum al-Deen (The Revival of the Religious Sciences) by Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, Naf'anAllahu bih (450-505 A.H/1058-1111 C.E). To quote al-Habib 'AbdAllah bin 'Alawi bin Hasan al-'Attas Naf'anAllahu bih in his book The Way of Bani 'Alawi, (p. 17), translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi.

"""Our master 'Abdallah bin 'Alawi al-Haddad has said:

"Al-Ghazali is a graceful favour bestowed by Allah upon this nation (ummah). He has investigated the sciences and weaved them. No 'alim can have his rank".

And: "The books of al-Ghazali quench thirst for they are a cure of the heart's sicknesses".

And: "To love al-Ghazali is an incomparable gift, and you will see this in akhira. Only the believer whose heart is enlightened and who deals justly with his self loves the books of al-Ghazali, he has guided us with his books and the barakat of his secrets.

And: "Never have the people of truth agreed about the perfection of anyone as they have about that of Imam al-Ghazali. A traveller's journey is not complete until he has read the books of al-Ghazali, for they help him in his journey and protect him from the evil of his self".

And: "The one who engages in reading the Ihya' is gaining firmly established knowledge, for the reading of it may suffice as a teacher and a shaykh. Nothing is more beneficial to the people of this time than to read the Ihya', for it is life and happiness in akhira".

And: "The Ihya' is a miracle""".

Another important reference is the sharh (appreciative explanation) of the Ihya' titled Ta'reef i'l Ihya' bi Fadhaail i'l Ihya' (Introducing "The Revival" with the Grace of "The Revival") by al-Habib 'AbdulQadir bin Shaykh Abubakr bin Shaykh 'Abdallah al-'Aydaroos, Naf'anAllahu bihim. (This is given as an annex to the Ihya' in Arabic) He narrates that according to his forefather, Shaykh ul-Akbar 'Abdallah al-'Aydaroos (passed away 865 A.H/1461 C.E), the Ihya' is a sharh (explanation) of the Holy Qur'an Kareem and the blessed Hadith Shareef, and the reading of it brings you maghfira (forgiveness of Allah Ta'ala). May Allah Ta'ala give us this maghfira, Aameen Yaa Rabbal 'Aalameen.


According to Shaykh 'Abdallah al-'Aydaroos, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala Himself is pleased with the Ihya'! He calls it the bahral muhit (the encircling ocean) and a'jubatuz-zamaan (the marvel of the times). He advises that if anyone acts on it, he will get the love of Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala, the love of Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, the love of the angels, the love of all the Prophets 'alayhimussalam; and the love of the awliyaAllah (friends of Allah), Naf'anAllahu bihim.

Indeed Shaykh 'Abdallah al-'Aydaroos and his son, the equally illustrious Shaykh Abubakr al-'Aydaroos Naf'anAllahu bih (passed away 914 A.H/1508 C.E) popularised the books of Imam al-Ghazali so much that several editions of the Ihya' were produced in their time. Dars (lessons) used to be given from the Ihya' and in the time of Shaykh Abubakr al-'Aydaroos, the reading of the Ihya' from the first page to the last, all the more than 1800 pages of it, was completed 25 times. Allahu Akbar! This tradition continues to this day among the 'ulama, Al-Hamdu Lillah!

In his sharh (explanation), al-Habib 'AbdulQadir al-'Aydaroos Naf'anAllahu bih gives a neat little summary about the contents of the Ihya'. According to him,

  • the first volume on 'Ibaadaat (worship) is about Huququllah (rights of Allah),
  • the second volume on 'Aadaat (the proprieties of daily life) is about huquq u'l 'ibaad (the rights of Allah's servants on you),
  • the third volume on Muhlikaat (the ways to perdition) is about tazkiyat u'l qalb min sifat i'l madhmumah (purification of the heart of condemnable qualities), while
  • the fourth volume on Munjiyaat (the ways to salvation) is about tahliyatul qalb min sifaat i'l mahmudah (the embellishment of the heart with praiseworthy qualities).

He also quotes the views of many other mashaayikh (spiritual masters) about the Ihya'. Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Kaazruni said, for example, that if all the books were to perish, the Ihya' would be sufficient to replace them all.

Shaykh 'Ali bin Abubakr bin Shaykh 'AbdulRahman al-Saqqaf said that if a non-believer opened the Ihya', he would become a Muslim because it is a hidden secret and a magnet for the heart.

Al-Faqih ul 'Allamah Isma'il bin Muhammad al-Hadhramy calls Imam al-Ghazali "Sayyidul Musannifeen" (the leader of all the authors).

Imam Abu'l Hasan al-Shadhili once saw Rasulullah Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam in a dream pointing to Imam al-Ghazali and asking Sayyidina Musa 'Alayhissalam and Sayyidina 'Isa 'Alayhissalam whether they had seen such a hibr (most knowledgeable scholar) in their ummah (community). They responded "No".

Another great work on the Ihya' is by Shaykh Hafiz al-Iraqi (725-806 A.H), a Hafiz of Hadith Shareef who knew more than 300,000 ahaadith by heart. His book is titled Takhreej Maa Fi'l Ihya' Minal Akhbaar (Identification of the Hadith in "The Revival") In it he identifies the verses of the Qur'an Kareem referenced in the Ihya' as well as the sources of Hadith Shareef. He identifies the Hadith Shareef in three categories:

  1. those that are in the Sahihayn of Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim;
  2. those that are in the rest of the Sihah Sitta (the six authentic books of hadith), that is, in the Jami' of Tirmidhi, Sunan of Abu Dawud, Sunan of An-Nasaai, and Sunan of Ibn Majah; and
  3. those that are in the rest of hadith compilations, such as the al-Muwatta (The Well-Trodden Path) of Imam Malik, Shu'ab al-Iman (Branch of the Faith) and Dalaail un Nubuwwah (Proofs of Prophethood) of Imam al-Bayhaqi, and the Musnad collections of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Daylami, al-Bazzar, and Abu Ya'la, among others.

This monumental piece of scholarship forms the footnotes to the Ihya' in the original Arabic, such is the stature of the Ihya'!

According to Shaykh Hafiz al-Iraqi,

  • the first volume of the Ihya' on 'Ibaadaat (worship) is a must for those dedicated to aakhirah (the afterlife),
  • the second volume on 'Aadaat (the proprieties of daily life) is a must for those who want to live according to the religion of Islam,
  • the third volume on Muhlikaat (the ways to perdition) is a must for those who want to achieve tazkiyatun nafs (purification of the ego/self), and tat'hirul qalb (purification of the heart) while
  • the fourth volume on Munjiyaat (the ways to salvation) is a must for those who want to be among the muqarrabeen (those drawn near to Allah) and siddiqeen (the sincerely truthful).

According to him, the Ihya' is medicine for the heart, medicine for the soul and a means to achieve everlasting bliss in paradise.

In the Muqaddimah (Introduction) to the Ihya' in Arabic, Vol.I, we learn that according to Imam Muhammad bin Yahya, Imam al-Ghazali is the second Imam Shafi'i, Naf'anAllahu bihim.

Imam Abu'l 'Abbas al-Mursi said that Imam al-Ghazali achieved the status of Siddiqiyyah 'uzma (the greatest station among the siddiqeen, the truthful). We learn of this in the "Introduction" to the Gujarati translation of Minhajjul 'Aabideen (The Path of the Worshippers), another of Imam al-Ghazali's books, translated by Janab Shabbir 'Ali Patel Razvi.

According to al-Habib 'Abdallah al-'Attas in The Way of Bani 'Alawi, the Ihya' is totally concerned about the realisation of 'ubudiyyah (worship of Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala). He quotes Shaykh 'Abdallah bin Ahmad Baa-Sudan Naf'anAllahu bih from his kitab Al-Futuhaat al-'Arshiyyah (The Openings of the Divine Throne): "Swim in the sea of the Ihya' and you shall be counted among the living".

Among other mashaayikh who have written on Imam al-Ghazali are:

  • Imam Hafiz ibn 'Asakir
  • Imam Abu'l Faraj ibn al-Jawzi
  • Shaykh 'Afifuddin 'Abdallah bin As'ad al-Yafi'i al-Yamani
  • Imam Taj al-Deen al-Subki
  • Al-Sayyid Muhammad al-Murtada al-Husaini al-Zabidi

My master, the majestic Shaykh al-Habib Ahmad Mash-hur bin Taha al-Haddad Naf'anAllahu bih mentions the Ihya' among "Valuable Books - Milestones For Seekers" in his Miftahul Jannah (The Key To Paradise, p.99).

Sayyidunal Imam 'AbdAllah bin 'Alawi al-Haddad Naf'anAllahu bih (henceforth referred to as al-Habib Mawlana al-Haddad) explains in Ad-Da'wat u't Taammah (The All-Out Call) that the 'ulama are agreed that Imam al-Ghazali was the mujaddid (renewer) of the fifth century. He calls him Hujjat ul Islam (The Proof of Islam) as do one and all.

Naf'anAllahu bihim, may Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala make us benefit from them all, Aameen Yaa Rabbal 'Aalameen.

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

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