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

A Literary Masterpiece

The Ihya' is a sublime piece of writing. The opening paragraph of each of its forty books begins as a gorge from the mountain top with water gushing from underground springs. It has hamd (praise of Allah), salaat alar-Rasul (invocation of blessings on our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), one or more verses of Qur'an Kareem, one or more allusions to hadith, all in rhyming prose.

The pace is exhilarating and as you try to catch your breath, Imam al-Ghazali lands you safely in a vast river that is fast and smooth-flowing with Qur'an and Hadith. The river flows into the bahral muhit (encircling ocean) that has more Qur'an, more ahaadith, aqeeda (creed), naseeha (religious advice), tanbeeh (exhortation), zikrullah (remembrance of Allah), munaajaat (hymns), madeeh (eulogy), history of achievements in piety, spiced with simile, metaphor, ..... you name it, its all there.

Another remarkable feature of the Ihya' is that it is ordered, systematic and sequential. The first paragraph of each book introduces the topic. Each subject is supported first with verses from the Qur'an, followed by Hadith Shareef and Athar (later traditions). Each book is divided into various baab (chapters) and each baab is sub-divided into bayan (expositions). Alternative points of view are put forward, debated where necessary with solid reasoning in neat, ordered sequences to draw broad generalisations which are repeated for positive reinforcement, retention and effective learning. For example, hunger has ten benefits.

1. It purifies the faculties of spiritual perception

2. It softens the heart and renders it more receptive to divine grace

3. It is a form of humbling the ego

4. It reminds the novice of the sufferings of the poor and the punishments of hell

5. It weakens the passions and enables one to control the sex drive more easily

6. It causes the seeker to need less sleep

7. It reduces the time wasted in preparing and eating food

8. It is good for health

9. It saves money

10. It enables one to comply with Allah's command to help the poor.

Each book begins and ends with salaat on our beloved Prophet Sayyidina wa Mawlana Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam.

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

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