He returns to teaching for a few years, and then he retires to a little zowayah, at the age of 54. 11/11 – 504 hijrah, or December 11, he gets his kafan out (the sheets used to wrap around the bodies of the dead) and he makes ghusul, and he writes a poem for his brother Ahmed (who had also become an admirable judge and poet). He wears his kafan and writes, “don’t weep if you see this body because this is a cage that the bird of my soul has occupied for a short time and now it is free.”
He is hujjatal Islam because his life is the proof of transformative power of this spiritual teaching and all of that outward knowledge, to imam ghazali meant nothing in the end, in the light of marifa or closeness/knowledge of Allah.
Again and again, he is saying that your death is right there, don’t waste your life, don’t waste your time, even if you don’t arrive, just setting out is arriving, the knocking at the door.
That is what he is telling us. The truths that he speaks are as relevant as they were when he wrote them. His autobiography is read by non-muslims; he is read by Thomas Acquinas, for example, and he had an impact on Western civilization that it hasn’t recognized
We are here just to honour him in this 900th anniversary by the solar calendar of his death and the teachings that he left behind. For me it is difficult to read him, I always feel horrible after reading him. He doesn’t let up the way that coaches don’t let up on the people they love the most. He wants us to recognize that this life is an incredible opportunity to draw nearer to Allah.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be viewing on-demand videos of the Rihla for the coming weeks & months, and posting summaries here once a week insha’Allah so please subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already, and keep reading and sending along your feedback.
– In peace, digital daytripper
p.s. if you have access to on-demand video, too, and would like to share your thoughts, I can also grant you access to this blog so you can post here as well.
So the second lecture of Sheikh Hamza focuses more deeply on Imam Al-Ghazali’s life. He divides it into three parts:
1st part — Education -when he and his brother Ahmed were orphaned and he is taught by imminent scholars,ending with Imam Al Juwaiini. Later beocmes lecturer and then head lecturer at nitham ul mulk / nidhamaya (university) in Baghdad (akin to being a senior lecturer at Yale or Oxford)
2nd part – seclusion – writing of Ihya uloom al Din (the Revival of the Religious Sciences) – (considered his Magnum Opus, ie. Greatest work).
3rd part – After the seclusion
– Imam Al-Ghazali was rare in that he was knowledgeable in many areas.
– He began writing early on, while he was still a student. His books in the first period, can be divided in four groups:
1 – Logic – Ibn Taymiyyah didn’t agree with Imam Ghazali’s position that Logic is fard kafayah. . . Al-Ghazali argued that the Quran uses a lot of reasoning. He wrote a book called the Upright Standard,which teaches the logic in the Quran (which he considers is a Quranic science).
2- Usool & Fiqh – He follows the Shafi’ school of Fiqh, becoming an imminent scholar, though he has his own ijtihadad or way of coming to conclusions. Some criticisms of him include that he was too far out on some matters.
3 – Refutations against the esoterists – known as the bataniyah, and at the time the predominant group was the Ismailis.
4- Philosophy – He wrote a book that would be considered similar to “Philosophy for dummies”, as well as other books. One predominant Christian Arab blamed Imam Al-Ghazali for the fall of Islam, claiming he was the cause of the destruction of a philosophical tradition. But this isn’t fair because he actually is a philosopher. What the imam tries to do is to convince religious people to become more philosophical and philosophical people to become more religious. Sheikh Hamza’s own teacher says that there is so much confusion because of the loss of philosophical training and in civilization, you have to have philosophers.
The area that is central to his teaching and becomes his predominant obsession after the crisis.
In the second phase, he abandons the world and begins writing the Ihya. What is important about the Ihya is that he wrote it with intention of giving the ummah a book that could only be compared to writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. He wanted to give a book that would, after the Quran, be enough for a Muslim to be soundly educated in the religious sciences.
And there are scholars that have argued that Ihya is all you need as a book for your journey back to God.
It is a phenomenal book, though not everyone always thought so. It was burned in Cordoba in Andulusia. Another scholar burned it, but then repented after seeing the Prophet, may peace be upon him, in a dream. In the dream, the Prophet made Al-Ghazali whip him.
The reason for the controversies is around a few things he wrote about the nature of the soul, and in his book on Tawheed (the oneness of God).
There were also some issues about the Hadith because not all of them are proven to be sound transmissions. Though Ibn Kathir, the great scholar of the Quran called the Ihya a great book. Ibn Kathir, who was a student of Ibn Taymiyyah says you will find some hadith that are unsubstantiated but that this is not a big deal in books of this ilk – books of tarbiyyah or character-building as the hadith aim to inspire. So long as the unproven hadiths are not in the books of fiqh or rulings (same is true in the biographical books of the Prophet).
The general rule is that if hadith goes against the religion that it is rejected. But hadith basically can be ranked, with the strongest being those found in Bukhari (like an A+ hadith), and the weaker ones, lesser in grades. So even if there isn’t a specific source for a hadith, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. We should simply say “I haven’t found the evidence”, not that it isn’t there at all.
Imam Al-Zuhri was a huge source of hadith, for example, and once he was told a hadith and he wasn’t sure about it. The person relating the hadith asked him if he know 100 per cent of all hadiths and the scholar said just about half. So the person replied that this hadith may be from the half he doesn’t know.
Imam Malik also said that because the companions went all over, people practice what they have learned so that it is important not to supplant that knowledge with other knowledge that may also be sound but that may be difficult for the people to adopt. Sheikh Hamza notes that a lot of modern Muslims don’t understand that just because there is something you don’t know, doesn’t mean it isn’t a way that it can’t be done.
Sidi Ahmed Zurooq said one of the most important things for Muslims to know is the difference between opposition and differing opinions.
Differences are a mercy according to a hadith. Differences of opinion are very valuable. One way to do something is very difficult on people…maliki madhab, if people are following something that you have some stronger proof, then you just leave them on what they are doing.
For example, people argue about getting up for people, but in certain cultures, not standing up to greet someone is a cultural affront. So there are people who are very stubborn and they won’t stand up.
Don’t hate one another, don’t turn away from each other, don’t cut away from each other.
Some people were upset at a scholar for standing up for a christian and the scholar explained this person has power over muslims and I have to show respect. (in other words, be wise in your dealings and do not cling to orthodoxy mindlessly).
His books include : Kitab Al Arbaeen..he writes summaries of things…Ayuha Al Walad, Letter to a young man – which is a tiny little book. So a man asks for something he can hold on to – al walad – spiritually immature person…at a certain point, ilm rijal – is men and women. He writes the ihya, it has an immense impact.
Let’s look at architecture of the Ihya – it is in four sections…He basically puts in each section 10 books. So forty is a sacred number. There is sacred numerology but know too that there is a type of madness assoc. with numerology (gambling is a lot about numbers). Undeniably 7 is a sacred number – all numbers are sacred as they are part of revelation, arithmetic is part of God’s intentions, as well as a lot of negative effects of focusing too much on that.
Prophet Musa (AS) is told he will meet God, he gets 40 days. Rabat – to defend the land of the Muslims, there is a hadith that you need to be out there for 40 days to be a Murabit. That is where you get the idea of khuruj for forty days. if you live with a people forty days you will become like them. He tells them in the introduction, he is writing the Ihya to rectify what he says as the death of the Islamic sciences.
He will do something throughout the Ihya – he weaves these hints in the ocean of the Ihya (a big white whale) like he will give instructions to do something, and then leaves it at “if you do what i tell you, you will see what I have seen”, or “I could say more but let’s leave it at that.” There is a secret narrative in the Ihya which if you study long enough, will emerge. Similarly the Quran doesn’t reveal itself without great effort, people with be intimate with the Quran, you cannot experience this book without being purified, if you are willing to do this work.
This book is like the stars (quran) the places of the constellations, – you know how many constellations there are ? – 88 official constellations, 85th surah, first ayah is three words . The quran swears by the maqawah al nujoom, the heavans out there is for outward journey — we use the stars to be guided.
I was on a British Airways flight to England and I met with the pilot and asked him what would happen if all the navigation shut down. He said, we always have the stars. At the end, that is how we find our coordinates..it’s celestial. Mawaqoh al najoom, so the internal journey, verses and knowledge are the lights in the darkness..these verses are the things that guide you.
It needs constant observation. When you first look at it , it looks so jumbled. That is their response to their Quran. But the more you penetrate the Quran, the more it becomes clearer.
Second aspect of it, ilm ul muamala, book of behaviour.If you practice it, you will begin to taste the muqashafa.
Inward and outward aspects of muamalah – the ibadat and al ilaat or customary practices and devotional practices.
Kitub ilm – Book of Knowledge is the first book – it is the utmost imporance…..
Muamalat – thahir and batin – outward and inward aspects.
20 books in total here. On the outward – has the ibadat and ataat…
Devotional practices – prayer zakat,
Habitual practices – marriage life, friends, eating and drinking
Kitub ilm – we have a crisis in knowledge because words don’t have the same meanings when we received from prophet and Quran. Fiqh has been reduced to buying and selling and menstrual cycles but it is not the understanding of the sahaba, they were fuqaha of the religion. Whoever he wants good for, he gives him fiqh of the religion. The sahaba were all faqih, but they weren’t experts in sharia, so there is a deeper meaning of the term fiqh.
Muqashafat–you have made fiqh dry, says Al-Ghazali. I was one of you; I was the best of you. It was all the completely wrong path. It is so focused on the outer. Ihya is all about moving inward.
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