Al-Ghazali letter to Qazis of Maghrib-i-Aqsa

Al-Ghazali letter to Qazis of Maghrib-i-Aqsa
by Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī

This letter was translated by, who releases them into the public domain.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, salvation is confined to the believers, and His Wrath strikes down those who are cruel, and I testify that our master Muhammad, praise and peace be upon him and his descendants, is the head and chief of His Messengers.

It is mainly due to the effort of Imam Marwan, a distinguished judge, that a mere acquaintance between myself and the honorable Sardar Mu'tamadul Mulk Amin-ud-Daula has ripened into a deep friendship which is dearer to me than if he were one of my nearest relatives, for he is the greatest mystic in the mystical movement of today and one of the greatest mystics in the history of Islam. I do not remember whether or when I have sent him a written reminder of my affection, but in moments of leisure, it has struck me that there has been a disproportionate silence between us. It is essential, therefore, that we should write to each other frequently.

To promote the friendship which already exists between us, I would like to employ a rich counsel which I offer you as a gift from the learned. I want to let you know that if you want to know the right and avoid ignorance you should cultivate a disposition which gladly accept association with the wise. The Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, was asked: "Who is the best of men." He replied: "The one who is the most pious among them." He was further asked: "Who is the wisest?" He replied: "The one who remembers death and is always prepared for it." It is also reported in a hadith: "He alone is wise who is a master of his self, and the ignorant is he who is a slave to his desire." Surely, he is the most wretched fellow who is not revivified and illumined and it is impossible for him to attain intelligence. The intelligence is a light in the heart, distinguishing between truth and vanity. The intelligent person casts away the love of worldly objects and lives in submission and resignation to His will, whilst on the other hand it does not appeal to the ignorant whether his abode would be in Paradise or Hell.

Allah has clarified the situation in the clearest of words: "Indeed, the righteous shall (dwell) in bliss. But the wicked, indeed, they shall be in the Fiery Furnace." Koran, Chapter 82 verses 13 - 14. Allah also says: "As for whosoever was insolent, preferring the present life, surely, Hell will be their refuge. But, whosoever feared the standing before his Lord and prevented the self from desire, indeed, their refuge shall be Paradise." Koran, Chapter 79 verses 37 - 41. He also says: "We shall pay those who desire the present life and its adornments in full for the work they have done therein, they shall not be defrauded; those are they who in the world to come will have only the Fire. There, their deeds will have failed and their works will be void." Koran, Chapter 11 verses 15 - 16.

The universe is the mirror of the universe. If you wish to know Allah, then know that the heart of man is the mirror of the universe. If you want to know Allah, then you must look into your own heart. The guide that will conduct you to your path is there, it is a still, small voice, that ever bids you to reject evil and choose good. It is the heart that promises freedom from hasty judgment and friendship towards men and obedience to Allah. It will certainly lead you to the goal of eternal bliss.

When you turn to the very innermost, deepest consciousness of your real self you have a perception of indwelling in Allah within you. Now you realize that to turn inward to the light within yourself is to live in the presence of Allah or your divine self. Soon you discover the unreality of objects which used to divert and consume you, and when your self moves the heart in search of an object or an enjoyment of your desire, and that the heart responded to these demands with neither a command from Allah nor His permission, that the result is forgetfulness of Allah and sin. Allah seizes them (the mind and heart) with ignominy, calamity and subjection to people, also with injury, anxiety, pain and disease. Therefore, you should open your eyes and look into the future and find out what good deeds you have done for tomorrow. Remember, none is more sympathetically inclined towards you than your own heart. Think deeply for a minute or two and decide what it is that you run after. Perhaps you are dissatisfied with that which is assigned to you from the universe, and you want to found a city. If so, ponder upon: "How many a town have We laid in ruin!" Koran, Chapter 7 verse 4.

If you want to dig wells or canals, think how many of them have already fallen into ruin over the course of time. If you intend to build a grand house, remember how quickly magnificent buildings disappeared, and should you wish to lay out a beautiful garden then remember: "How many gardens and fountains did they leave behind, and plantations, fine siting places and good things in which they took delight. Thus (it was). And We made other people inherit them. Neither heaven nor earth shed tears for them; nor were they respited." Koran, Chapter 44 verses 25 - 29. Again: "What do you think? If We gave them enjoyment for many years, and then what they were promised comes to them, what avail will their past enjoyments be to them?" Koran, Chapter 26 verses 205 - 207.

May Allah forbid, if you want to serve the king, you should read this hadith: "On the Day of Resurrection the kings and viziers will rise like ants from the earth and the common folk would tread them roughly under their feet." If you are still not convinced by this read what Allah has said in this connection: "There is an oppressor for every proud man". The Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, also said: "Let people mourn for him (in his lifetime) he who indulges in pride and cherishes a desire to become a chief among men." He also said: "Two wolves cannot harm a herd of sheep as much as wealth and ambition cause havoc among Muslims."

If this is not sufficient to convince you, refer to a saying of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him: " O my friends, wealth is the source of worldly happiness and the cause of endless suffering in the next world. By Allah, I say that the rich will not enter the heavenly kingdom."

Prophet Muhammad, praise and peace be upon him, said: "On the Day of Resurrection, the rich will rise in groups. The first will constitute those who earned money legally and spent it lawfully. Allah will say to His angels: "Ask them if they spent their wealth on forbidden objects which were against My command, or whether they disturbed the order in which they ought to have worshipped Me by making mistakes in the performance of ablution and prostrating before Me correctly. It is also possible that they did not pay enough attention to voluntary charity, pilgrimage or the obligatory charity which are to be performed with the appropriate attention to detail, and utmost solemnity and decorum." Then, addressing the angel they would explain: "We amassed wealth through honest means, and the performance of our obligatory duties, we spent in the Name of Allah and did not misappropriate a single penny." Then they will be asked: "Did you show mercy to the poor among mankind, and did you give your neighbor their due?" Meanwhile, a crowd of people will appear from the opposite direction prostrating and crying: "Our Lord, they were the richest men among us and You had forced us to stand in need of their financial help, and yet they did not care to help us." And so, they will be chained, dragged and thrown into Hell. This is the fate of those who earn money legally and did not spend it on the welfare of His worshippers.

Allah alone knows what will happen to those whose lifetime expires while they hoard gold for their personal benefit. There are people who will be punished and incur the wrath of Allah, being lost in the desire of the flesh they are never shaken awake: "The multiplication (of possessions and its boasting) occupied you (from worshipping and obeying) until you visit the graves. But no, indeed, you shall soon know." Koran, Chapter 102 verses 1 - 3.

There are false hopes and base desires which subdue human hearts that are trapped by devils. If a disease takes root in one's heart, it can only be treated by one who is an enemy towards his self. Intellectual cure is more important than physical treatment. They alone are immune from spiritual ailments who are possessed of pure hearts.

There are two kinds of medicines suggested for the treatment of the heart. The first consists in remembering death and meditating upon it always, taking into account the dreadful end of fallen kings, and the worshippers of wealth -- how they amassed immense riches, built magnificent palaces and wasted their lives in pride and hypocrisy until death walked silently towards them turning their palaces into graveyards, obliterating all trace of the pomp and grandeur which was once theirs. "Is it not a guidance to them, how many generations We destroyed before them in whose dwelling places they walk? Surely, in this there are signs for those of reason." Koran, Chapter 20 verse 128.

Their palaces and houses which now lie in ruins tell their story, and again there are others who have disappeared even from fables.

The second medicine prescribed for healing the human heart is to meditate deeply upon the contents of the Holy Koran which contains the best cure and Divine blessings. On his death-bed the Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, advised us to keep in touch with two advisors, he said: "I have left two advisors among you, who sometimes speak to you, while on other occasions prefer silence. One is the Koran and the other the Laws of His Messenger." And: "You will not stray as long as you hold fast." People may look alive, yet in reality they are dead, for they have lost interest in the Book of Allah. They read the Koran with their tongues, no doubt, but actually they are dumb. They also hear it being recited to them, but in actual practice they are dead. They see it wrapped up in an expensive silk cloth, and placed in an almirah, yet they are blind to its meanings and mysteries. They explain the meaning of the Book of Allah in their commentaries, yet they themselves are quite ignorant as they do not follow the teachings of the Holy Koran. They know that satan is their enemy, but they do not deal with him as such. I warn you against falling into deception by joining the company of such men as have gone astray from the Right Path and do not perform their obligatory duties. Low desires and passions of the baser self overpower them and they are cut off from the help of Allah. So, if death overtakes them before repentance they become among those who perish. There is a verse in the Holy Koran which provides the enlightened with a true light and guidance: "Believers, do not let either your possessions or your children divert you from the Remembrance of Allah. Those who do that shall be the losers." Koran, Chapter 63 verse 9.

Beware lest you indulge in the accumulation of wealth for this kind of happiness will create inner discord which will interfere with the absorption of consciousness in spiritual things, and force you to forget the Day of Resurrection. The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: 'Such terrible doom will befall those who look at the wealth of others with eyes full of greed." It is beyond human power to imagine what endless suffering lies in store for those who hoard wealth and waste their lives in open rebellion against the command of Allah.

So far as the great Qadi Imam Marwan is concerned, I pray to Allah to save and preserve him for he is an eminent sufi, extremely devout and highly pious. He is possessed of both extraordinary intellectual power and fear of Allah, and these virtues will develop into a definite and permanent form only when his father helps him and contributes towards a better understanding of his son, who, being one of the most prominent philosophers and mystics of Iran, is an organ for bringing peace and prosperity for his father both here and in the Hereafter.

With uplifted hands and eyes he should pray for his son, who being a spiritual seer, call for a new epoch of faith, life, and power, and from whose great soul our Islamic faith can and will be reborn. He is not a "rebel or a willful heretic". He is a spiritual seer and has brought out of his store house things both new and old. He is essentially loyal to Islam, but speaks in a new tongue which sounds strange to the guardians of the old heritage.

The goal of life can only be attained when we are constant and firm in love and accept with delight and without any grudge all troubles and pains received from the friend, contrary to the practice of the evil doers who sell the next world for the sake of money. You cannot expect salvation unless you sever all ties with the Sultans and Amirs. One of the traditions says that the learned are the trustees of Allah. As long as they have nothing to do with the affairs of the world, you should bear in mind that they are far away from religion and that you renounce their worldly ambitions.

Allah has opened to you the knowledge of these things which are not difficult to achieve. It is therefore your sacred duty to be on amiable terms with your son, so that you may be benefited by his prayers. Remember, the humble prayers which escape from the heart of one's soul are the key to the contemplative life and the source of great relief in respect of parents, both in this world and in the next.

You should act upon your son's advice, so far as it is concerned, with the renunciation of basic desires and the alluring temptations of the self, because though a son is like a branch, yet through good deeds he can be likened to a mature tree. That is what Hadrat Abraham, peace be upon him, said: "Father, knowledge has come to me which has not come to you, therefore, follow me. I will guide you to a Level Path." Koran, Chapter 18 verse 43. You should treat your son with kindness. He should be as dear to you as your own soul. When the people of this world are raised in the life of the Hereafter, they would earnestly desire that someone should recommend them to Allah.

Allah says: "Today he shall have no loyal friend here." Koran, Chapter 69 verse 35. I pray that Allah, the Almighty may make this world appear a contemptible thing in your eyes as it is to Him and delight you with the realm of the spiritual and Real which is to be desired. May we sever all bonds of convention and follow the will of Allah and the Path which leads to eternal life in Paradise.

Your sincerely
Al Ghazali

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This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.