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

The Ihya' is Comprehensive

Imam al-Ghazali earned for himself the title Hujjatul Islam (The Proof of Islam). As we read the Ihya', it begins to dawn on us why he is held in such high esteem. He appears to be a master of all branches of learning and it seems he has codified all knowledge of Islam existing upto his time in the Ihya'.

1. His teaching is rooted in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. These have been the original sources of the 'ulama (the learned) who came before him as well as those who followed him. He backs up his themes throughout the Ihya' with verses from the Qur'an and gives tafsir (explanation) of the verses.

2. He is a master of the Hadith Shareef of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. The Ihya' is full of ahaadith from the Sihah Sitta as well as many other well-known compilations of hadith.

3. As a master of history (seerah), he documents in great detail, in the chapters titled Athar (Narratives), the life history of our Holy Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam; of many anbiya (prophets), 'alayhimussalam, of the Ahl ul Bayt (the blessed Household of our beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam), of the sahaba (his companions), of the taabi'een (the Followers, who followed the sahaba), the awliya (saints) and saleheen (the pious). Thus each Islamic injunction is supported by Qur'an, hadith and real-life examples of 'amal (action) on these from seerah (history). More than a hundred sahaba are mentioned in the Ihya' as well as a hundred or more awliya (saints). In this way, Imam al-Ghazali has preserved for posterity the history of achievements in piety. This further nurtured and sustained the love of scholarship among Muslims.

4. He is an 'aabid (worshipper) of Allah Ta'ala par excellence who exhorts you to engage in worship and do zikr (remember Allah). He is referred to as siraaj u'l mutahajjideen (the lamp for those who perform tahajjud). Besides the fardh, sunnah and nawafil salah, he talks about the supererogatory prayers for each day of the week, and gives the azkaar and awraad (regular voluntary invocations) for each day of the week and the dua (supplications) of the beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam, the anbiya, 'alayhimussalam, the Ahl ul Bayt, the sahaba, and the awliya, may Allah be pleased with them. He devotes two whole books to invocations and supplications, that is, Vol I, Book 9 and Book 10.

5. He is the literary giant who uses analogy, rhetoric, rhyming prose, simile and metaphor and intersperses his discourse with gems of qasaaid (eulogies) from spiritual masters to emphasise, illustrate or illuminate his point. The Ihya' contains verses composed by Sayyidina 'Ali, Sayyidatina 'Aisha and Hadrat Abu Darda' Rady Allahu 'Anhum; as well as by Imams and sufi saints such as Hadrat Hasan al-Basri, Malik bin Dinar, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibrahim ibn Ad'ham, 'Abdallah ibn al-Mubarak, Imam al-Shafi'i, Dhul Nun al-Misri, Al-Sari al-Saqati, Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz and Junaid al-Baghdadi, among others, may Allah Ta'ala shower them with His Mercy. And he cites Hadith Shareef on Hadrat Hassaan bin Thabit Rady Allahu 'Anhu which establish him as the poet of the Prophet, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam.

6. He expounds on Aqidatul Islam (The Islamic Creed), in Vol I, Book 2, as explained by Imam Abu'l Hasan al-Ash'ari before him. Those who love the Asma-ul-Husna will take this book Qawaaid u'l 'Aqaaid (Foundations of the Articles of Faith) to heart. He explains the Arkan al-Islam (the pillars of Islam), the Arkan al-Iman (the pillars of Faith), and ihsan (spiritual excellence). The uniqueness here is that he explains both the zahiri (manifest) as well as the sirri (hidden spiritual) aspects of each of the teachings of Islam. His teaching is rooted in the Ahl us Sunnah tradition. He explains that the rightful successors to our beloved Prophet Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam in chronological order are Sayyidina Abubakr, Sayyidina 'Umar, Sayyidina 'Uthman and Sayyidina 'Ali, Rady Allahu 'Anhum ajma'een.

7. The Ihya' is rooted in shari'ah (sacred Muslim law). Himself a Shafi'i, Imam al-Ghazali shows great respect for the Imams of all the four Ahl us Sunnah madhaa-hib who codified Muslim law, that is, Imam ul A'zam Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi'i, Imam Malik, and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He gives life histories of each of these Imams in Vol. I, Book 1. He goes to great lengths to explain that what appeals to him about these Imams is not so much that they were fuqaha (jurists) but that they were sufis as well, who practiced tasawwuf.

8. He is ad-Daa'ee al-Kaamil (Accomplished Preacher), propagating Islam as taught and lived by the Holy Prophet, Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam. As an 'alim, he towered above all and was in a position to refute the teachings of sectists of his time, like the Mu'tazila, the Baatiniyyah and the philosophers.

9. He is a sufi saint who talks of wajd (spiritual ecstacy), kashf (unveiling of spiritual secrets) and ilham (inspirations), which are various spiritual states. He is the spiritual master who has tasted of ma'rifa (direct illuminative knowledge) and haqiqa (spiritual realities).

10. He is Hujjat ul Islam who wants to lead us to paradise under the banner of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Mustafa Sallallahu 'alaihi wa Sallam by making us live totally according to his life-style, taking him as our model of character and conduct, as Allah Sub'hanahu wa Ta'ala says in the Holy Qur'an:

Wa Innaka La'ala Khuluqin 'Azeem
And undoubledly, you have the most exalted character. (68:4)

The rest of this article expounds on some of these major themes.

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

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