The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times

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Event Name: The Critical Importance of Al-Ghazali in Our Times
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/24/2022 8:32:08 AM
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the rational tools to fight these

other groups their argument was an

argument of experimental psychology what

he was saying was that they were what

they were arguing is that this is a

science of the self that can dismantle

the self and allow the self to perceive

the reality of the self and he he argues

that it is a science because they argue

that it can be replicated and this is

the essence of science that you can

replicate an experiment if you cannot


it's non falsifiable popper would say

religion is non falsifiable which is the

problem with it only something that's

falsifiable that we can actually test it

empirically that we can actually

establish it as a science what Hasani

says is what these men and women have

argued historically is that if you do

these things with these preconditions

you will have the same journey as

everybody else that has taken this

journey and it will lead to the same

certainty that gave these previous

peoples here's the map he argues that

you need a guide although he himself

it's arguable that he did not take a

guide but he argues that you need a

guide he gives you the map he tells you

what you need for the journey and then

he argues that you have to set out on

the journey he can't help you after that

but what he says and the reason why he's

called the proof of Islam is what he

says is I took this journey and the

destination is real this is not a

fantasy place this is not what whop you

know what whop in the stories of simbad

this magical place somewhere in the east

this is not what wow this is a real

place a place of presence of experience

of ecstasy because the word wedge' that

in Arabic which means defined also means

to enter in

to an ecstatic state and this is what

he's arguing so when he has his crises

he decides to set out now he has prior

to this written some of the most

important books in the history of Islam

people know him for that yeah the

reality of it is his his single most

important book historically has been the

Mustafa which is in 'soul and Eric

Ormsby I think right the argues in his

autobiography of Ghazali that Ghazali

was essentially a no Saudi scholar this

this is his great opus is the Mustafa

and when I asked sheikh abdullah bin bae

a one of the greatest sunni scholars

living if he would this is the question

that i always posed to scholars I asked

him if you're on a desert island you can

only take one book with you

other than the Quran and the hadith

which would it be and share Abdullah

told me on Mustafa by Imam al-ghazali

which is also D text and and he adds

things to our Holy Tradition that Imam

al Joannie who was his teacher began to

develop but Azadi himself took it to the

next level and all of a soul after

gazali is dependent on cazali this is a

fact of our Holy Tradition so we forget

that he was a great Oh Saudi scholar he

was a great moral ethicist he wrote me

zan and Amin is one of his books on

moral ethics he he he wrote that the

book he never left home without although

he memorized it he so carried it in a

physical book was raha Buddhist behind

he'd put it to memory and this was

something that he'd learned on a journey

after he'd come back studying he was on

his way back home and he had all of his

books and on a donkey and the bryggen

who robbed this Caravan robbed took his

books and he begged him to leave his

books and he said why should I leave

them he said that's all my knowledge I

spent three years gathering this

knowledge so please don't deprive me of


and he said that the brigand laughed and

he said what kind of knowledge is it

that a brigand can steal it from me and

is this really knowledge and Ghazali

says in his book that I know that it was

God that made him speak so that I would

learn a lesson and from that day forward

he never learned anything except he put

it to memory so he literally memorized

all of his texts that he studied and

taught and one of them was Rahu despo

Hanna's book on ethics which is one of

the most brilliant in my estimation

books ever written in in moral


it's called makka Daria Edom Academy

Shetty it's actually translated into

English and it was published by his

stack he was heavily indebted to it all

of it is behind in ethics but he wrote

an Aristotelian virtue ethics what we

call virtue ethics today but added to it

a spiritual component that's lacking

clearly in the Nicomachean ethics of

Aristotle very similar to what Aquinas

did and Aquinas we know not only read

Ghazali in Latin but he also attributes

that source in his bibliographies so

Aquinas does mention Ghazali of arrow

ease and even cena who is called evan

sena so imam at a facade ii wrote all

these extraordinary books and then he

sets out on this journey he realizes he

has to thee because these doctors come

and they look at him they take his

paul's they look at his urine they do

all the things that doctors at that time

did and they said that he was suffering

from melancholia and it's very common in

the humoral theory which was a theory

very dominant in the Muslim world as

well as the greco-roman world and is

still used in in Catholicism they still

actually believed in the humoral theory

of temperaments but the argument most

scholars are choleric by nature in fact

it's the choleric temperament that

enables a scholar to study as much but

if a scholar studies too much and is to


in his output he falls into melancholia

which is the so Dowie personality so he

goes from the Sahrawi to the so Dowie so

what they argued was that he has

exhausted himself he has there's so much

output that he has exhausted himself

what Alfa's ali realized and this is

part of his genius was the reason he had

exhausted himself is because he was

relying on himself for all that he had

done prior to that that his entire

corpus to that point was based on his

reliance on his self it was all from his

self that he was just putting out from

his self and that's why his self was

exhausted because he couldn't do anymore

and at that point he couldn't talk and

so the very thing that had elevated him

and made him the most extraordinary

scholar in the Muslim world had also

ended up ending his career it was the

tongue and we forget the power of the

tongue the pen is mightier the tongue is

mightier because of his tongue and his

eloquence and his brilliance and his

abilities he was able to rise from a

cobbler son a Weaver's son to the

highest academic position in the Muslim

world and yet he'd realized not only was

he a complete phony but he could no

longer play this game with himself

anymore and he said it was God that did

this to me and he thanked God for that

gift and then he decides to set out on

this journey and for the next 12 years

he takes a journey and this journey will

take him all over that part of the

Muslim world at the time he spends two

years sweeping the Mosque in Damascus

now you can imagine this is this is like

somebody whose stature is so great

intellectually in our culture this would

be like the head of Harvard becoming

becoming a janitor in the National

Cathedral and telling nobody to abase


and then he goes to Jerusalem he writes

and he's writing during this time but

he's he said practice was always

difficult for him it was always easier

to open a book than to practice and what

he does during this time is what he

calls hurry over which is the spiritual

disciplining of the soul and that's why

he writes considerably about Ryoga

towards the end of this period he writes

his opus Magnus which is the anima Dean

he gives it the title reviving or the

revived ocation of the sciences in the

in the pre-modern sense of that word not

like we use it today but in in the Latin

meaning of it of knowledge ciencia then

the sciences of the religion and he

begins with a book called kita burn in

this is the book of knowledge and what

he argues in there is that the people

that are known as the mutasa moon he

calls them formulas the people that stop

at the letter of the word that they

spend their lives discussing words he's

he argues that these people have

destroyed Islam and he really challenges

them if you read that yeah what you will

find is that it's constantly for

scholars it's one of the hardest books

to read because he is constantly calling

you a hypocrite and and and the reason

he's capable of doing that is because he

was the best of the best and and he

knows the heart of the scholar he knows

the place of stature in the scholars

world of the applause and the love of


he knows exactly what that means the

accolades that one gets for their

cleverness for their production for

their brilliance he was he was the the

cleverest of them all and and this is

what he argues in that first book he

said you're all fooling yourselves and I

know because I was one of you and then

he says he basically argues that real


is not all of these words it's something

much deeper than that the words are

necessary but they are only a necessary

they are not a sufficient cause for the

purpose of this and then he will argue

that the real purpose of this religion

is to know God

it is about Mary feh it's about

realization of God but he says but I'm

not going to write about what he calls

McKay Shafa about the unveilings that

will occur to people that take this

religion seriously what he says is I'm

going to write about more Amida I'm

going to write about how you can achieve

this state and here's my book and I

divided into four sections cortos the

first section is going to be about the

secrets of why we do all these things he

what he says is don't be content with

simply doing whew there are Muslims now

when they go into the the bathroom they

just it's just this quick thing and they

see it is something they have to do

before they do we'll do my own teacher

mother Hajj in the Sahara I used to do

will do next to him and he on average

would take about ten minutes to do will

do it was really quite extraordinary to

watch him do will do and I realized from

his will do that for him it was an act

act of ebody

he was not simply doing a ritual he was

actually experiencing because we know

that the prophet sal i said i'm said

when you rinse your mouth the sins of

your tongue flow out with the water in

the shaft meth-lab the water of will do

is considered polluted you can't

actually use it you have to dump it

water plants with it but you can't drink

it or use it because it it's it's

polluted by the sins that have been

washed away and so imam al-ghazali is

arguing that there are secrets to

purification and he says that when the

prophet said of the whore Shepherd early

men purification is half of this

religion he said do not think that he is

talking about this water ritual

we do he is talking about purifying the

heart this is this is what he's talking

about and this is only symbolic of that

purification and and he talked about a

man the prophets Eliza dam said what you

say about a man who lives beside a river

and Bay's in the river five times a day

will you see any filth on him and they

said certainly not yellow so a lot and

he said this is like the man who washes

himself and then prays five times a day

this is what he is doing in other words

what the outward washing is to the body

the inward reality is to the soul and

and then he argues about prayer and what

the purpose of prayer is he says prayer

is entering into the presence and the

reason that you say Allahu Akbar is you

are pushing this world away from you and

putting it behind you and you are

entering into a state of presence with

your Lord and then he says you begin

ahem - ddoddo putana mean praise be to

the lord of the world the merciful the

compassionate al Rahman al Rahim medical

me Dean the sovereign of the day of

judgment or the master of the Day of

Judgment and then you speak directly

this is in Arabic called empty fat where

you move from a third-person tense what

they call a kebab Aloha to Bob and how

them where you move from speaking to

somebody who's absent - speaking of

somebody who's present Yakka na budu -

you alone we worship ya kinda starting

to you alone we seek help that this is

he says this is what the fatiha is it's

to enter into the presence of your Lord

it's not just to go through these

motions this perfunctory act that you

have to do five times a day that this is

about coming to intimate discourse with

your Lord and then you speak to your

prophet directly assalamu alayka a you

had Nephi peace be upon you

that's not Saddam ye assalamu alayka

because you understand that there is a

spiritual presence there's a spirit

presents the prophet sallallaahu Sam

said to ro Dalia a miracle I see your

actions this is Asahi a hadith and

Alba's are I see your actions in the

grain by either was it to hire and

hammett Allah were you the widget to

Sharan a stock for Telecom if I see good

I praise God that these are my people

that I taught them to do good and

they're doing good and if I see you

doing wrong I ask forgiveness he doesn't

curse us he doesn't say why aren't they

doing good

he asks forgiveness for us so imam

al-ghazali then talks about fasting and

zakat these what are the meanings and

Hajj the real meanings behind these

these things that we do and take for

granted and then he moves to the second

which is the second quarter of this area

and the architecture of the area is

quite extraordinary if if you examine it

he moves to the second quarter and he

shows that you have daily things that

you do we were talking today about

sacred monotony this idea of doing these

things that we do every day and they

become our practice like the the master

Archer who goes out every day and

practices until it becomes effortless

it's no longer he is no longer present

the beginner's mind is a wonderful mind

they say because the beginner's mind is

really the mind that has arrived

because the beginner is always present

they because they're so worried about

getting it right if you watch a beginner

driver I love when I Drive by these

schools you know these driving schools I

love watching these people learning how

to drive they're using about 16 and

they're in there and they're just

they're so present because they have the

beginner's mind you see after a while

they they like everybody else they're

falling asleep at the wheel right they

go from one place to another and they

don't know how they got there but

they've done that trip so many times

because they're asleep at the wheel the

lights are on but nobody's home

this is most people were somnambula were

sleepwalking through life

we're not present we're not present in

our meetings when we meet each other we

go through the motions we shake the

hands we don't really hear the names

when I lived with the Bedouin in

Mauritania one of the things that really

floored me about some of the Saudi Atene

amongst them one lady and and a very

dear lady to me she was the wife of my

teacher and she died a few years ago

Maryam bint weibo and I wrote a piece

about her called another mother of the

believers Miriam asked me when I first

arrived there in 1984 she asked me if I had family and I and I said yeah and she said what are their names.  and I said well I've got my mother's name is Elizabeth and my father's name is David and my brother's name I have two

brothers one's name is John and the others Troy and then I have four sisters I have Kathleen Patricia Elizabeth who's now called Nabila and Mariah.  I didn't think anything of it I left after I left that period there were 10 years before I went back.

When I first saw Miriam after 10 years she said to me Keifa (how is) David, Keifa Elizabeth, keifa John, Keifa Troy, keifa Mariah, keifa Patricia.  and she named all of my family

It just it just really it was such a dagger to the heart because I realized she wasn't just asking to chat she wanted to know their names and she internalized their names and ten years later she could recall names that she'd never heard in her life.

because they're not Arabic names and she

only knew Arabic and I I was just so

stunned but she was a present human

being she did dhikr

all the time that was her life she spent

her life serving the students of that

place she knew every name of every

student that ever came to that and gray

eyes ahmet met her and and and remembers

her you know she she was present and and

this was from practice this was from

just the monotony of everyday working on

your presence with God because when

you're present with God you're present

with the creation of God you start

noticing things like the wind in the

trees you start noticing the subtleties

of everything that's around us it

becomes real and and this is this is

what Imam al-ghazali is arguing the end

and so he has the book of he begins it

with eating and drinking we eat with no

presence anymore people used to take

time before they ate and said grace even

in this country people would stop before

they ate and they would thank their Lord

for the gifts which they were about to

receive this was common practice being

present with food people used to be

present when they cooked food they

cooked food with love

One of my teachers, Omer Hilajee, his wife would cook her food doing prayer on the Prophet the entire time.  With Nyah (Intention) for Shifa (healing); That God would make that food a healing for the people that ate it and make the energy that they derive from it, used for worshiping Allah.

They would only buy from grocers in Medina that they knew prayed five times in the prayer in the Masjid. 

They would go out and pick their own animals and sacrifice them, because they didn't want to buy meat from these butchers that they didn't know how they were treating the animals.

This is a real family that I have visited over the years.  It is a fact and I guarantee many people have experienced this.  If you go and have eaten a full meal, and you go there, and they serve you food in the house of Omer Milahjee, you will not get indigestion by eating a second meal immediately after at his house.  Many people have testified to this because they will force you to eat.

They will say "Kul! (eat) Kul! (eat) Kul! (eat) <arabic text>", meaning  "eat like men and drink like camels"

That food was made with presence.

We forget people don't have energy anymore how is your food being manufactured how is it being grown how is it being cooked because this is where energy come from it comes from that's the sub up for the inner the energy that we live on is caloric its heat derived from these means that God has given us so he talked about being present when you eat chewing your food being grateful not putting another morsel in until you've finished chewing the morsel that's in your mouth because he says this is from gluttony -



eat quickly to eat with gratitude never

mention death at the table he says death

is not an appropriate because he said if

your heart is alive and people

mentioned death at eating you should

lose your appetite and if you don't it's

a sign that your heart is dead

Wendell Barry the other night talked

about people now reading about massacres

or watching them on television while

they're eating their dinners and it has

no effect on them this is from deadened

hearts we're no longer feeling and and

then he he moves into he ends this

chapter he begins the next section with

the section on the wonders of the heart

and this is the section where he deals

with what he calls the money cut those

things that are destructive to us and

the money cut in his understanding are

the vices that will kill the heart and

he ends he talks about pride and

arrogance and he distinguishes between


and arrogance he says vanity all you

need is a mirror but arrogance always

requires another person so the vain

person simply needs a mirror to admire

himself but the arrogant person needs

another being to oppress and and he

talks about the roots of these and much

of it is related to death the fact that

people have forgotten that they're going

to die and then he ends this section

with the book of delusion or what we

would call illusion this the internal

state where we completely miss read

ourselves we don't know who we are the

Arabic word the the Roman word for

personality persona means mask in Arabic

it's called Shazia which comes from a

word that means a shadow so the

personality is is is a shadow it's an

illusion who you think you are is not

who you really are who you are is is

related to your historical narrative

where you were born where you grow up

you speak if you speak here like a

Kentuckian you have a certain way of

speaking but if you grow up in New York

you would be speaking like a New Yorker

these things have nothing to do with

your personality they're simply the the

circumstances you find yourself in and

and he says that to get out of this

delusional state is is is the beginning

of the path to want to get out of this

state to recognize that you're in it and

that's why the next book which is the

last ten books the book of salvation the

first chapter is about repentance

Metanoia changing your mind turning back

realizing that the destination that

you're on is one to your own debt and he

ends this he has fear and hope and trust

in God and he puts trust and tawheed in

the same chapter which is very

interesting because to him till he is

not a theoretical construct which it is

to most Muslims this I did God is one no

to him God is doing everything at every

instant that is toe he'd and gazali is

arguing that if you really understand

this you will have utter trust in God

you will put all your trust in God

because it's all God God is doing

everything in every instant and this is

why if you're not content with your

circumstances he argues you're not

content with God because it's God that

put you into those circumstances but

what God is asking you to do is respond

to them appropriately that's the

challenge it's not the circumstances the

challenge is the power that God has

given you in your will your yadah to

actually take your circumstances and

respond appropriately and there are only

four circumstances and four requisite

responses you're in tribulation and he

says the response to that is patience

you're in a situation of blessing and

you have to respond to that with

gratitude and that will increase you and

if you don't do those things what he

says if you're in a state of gratitude

and you respond by he

the blessings will be taken away from

you not as a punishment but as a

reminder to pull you back one of the

things he says if God he said there's

only two types of people from a hadith

people in tribulation and people in good

situations he said if you're in a good

situation God will send the people of

tribulation to you and if you reject

them and close the door on them

he will make you the people of

tribulation he'll take away your

blessings because your blessings are to

serve the people in tribulation these

are the awakenings that he's trying to

instill and inculcate and this is why as

you read this book a transformation

should occur if it doesn't you haven't

read the book but the book is not to be

read once in the Haggadah me tradition

the 40 books were read one book a day

for the rest of your life and this is

what the Habad EEMA did every 40 days

they would do a hutton of the iya and

start over again and I was fortunate to

be in one of those gatherings with Holly

Bell foggy a Hitomi scholar and he

literally could finish the sentences by

rote of the area because he knew it so

well and when we would read it on

Thursday nights we would go to his house

and we would read it and he would

literally correct all he was blind he

couldn't see and he would correct the

with the readers when they would read if

they made a mistake he would correct

them it was really quite an

extraordinary experience for me to see

somebody who had completely internalized

this all the people that I have met that

have been part of this tradition all

really some of the most extraordinary

human being that I've ever met

teacher mama has spent several a large

period of his life reading nothing but

the eeeh in a graveyard outside of the

Bedouin encampment where he was from and

the prophets let him visit the graves

and this is why Imam al-ghazali ends his

great book that yeah with the book of

death because he knows Ali argues this

door is right in front of you you are

knocking on this door right now you

don't know when it's going to be open

but you come into this world and you are

knocking on the door of death and that

door is a door that opens through

infinity and he said you are here for

this finite period of time and it's it's

such a great gift to be alive to be a

human being it's a great gift to be a

rock as opposed to not existing at all

it's a greater gift to be a flower it's

a greater gift to be a tree and it's a

greater gift to be an eagle but what a

gift to be a human being to be a

conscious human being created on the

doors of eternity literally created on

the doors of eternity and this is what

he is constantly reminding us and he's

saying you're on this journey and you're

either conscious of it or you're not

once you become conscious of it you have

to become an active Wayfarer not

sleeping on the bus but driving the bus

making sure that it didn't take a detour

down the wrong road because all the

roads lead to death but only one of them

leads to a good death and and that's the

road of a Sun of being a beautifier

being somebody that makes the world a

better place than you found it that when

you leave the world the world was better

for having you in it and this is the

ultimate criterion of a human being

whether they lived a worthwhile life or

whether they squandered their life

in frivolity vacuity and stupidity and

he uses the word stupid many many times

many times he doesn't shy away from that

word because all of us know that we have

elements of stupidity in our lives

nobody's free of this but to not

squander do not do not squander this

life is the essence of intelligence

whether you're a street sweeper or a

professor a doctor a judge a lawyer

whatever you're doing if you're doing it

with purpose intentionality purity of

end and means then you're doing the

right thing it doesn't matter what

you're doing I would argue that we're in

one of the greatest crises that we've

ever been in as a community the Muslims

and I'll conclude just by saying a few

words about this and why Imam al-ghazali

is so relevant for us today Imam

al-ghazali hated sectarianism because he

felt that the sectarian mind was a

provincial mind it was a mind that was

incapable of seeing universals that it

was trapped in the in the realm of

particulars and he also recognized the

concept of the Wayfarer and my father

who taught philosophy and humanities at

the university level spent a good deal

of time with Aquinas and a lot a lot of

time more time with Plato probably but

he knows the Western Canon very well he

spent his life reading and rereading it

he saw a film about him out of Azadi and

he asked me is this man in translation I

said yes he said could you get me the

book so I gave him several books of the

amount of Isaiah including the alchemy

of happiness the two volume version and

he devoured those books and when he

finished he told me two things he said I

know my tradition reasonably well and he

said and I can honestly say to you I

don't think

the West has ever produced a Ghazali and

the scent coming from him for me that

was quite a statement the second thing

he said if you spend the rest of your

life just reading this man it won't be a

life wasted an intellectual waste of a

life but the purpose that all Ghazali

makes very clear is it's not about

reading me it's about taking what I've

written and writing your own story with

your life being these meanings embodying

these meanings and that's why he's heard

jetted Islam he is the proof of Islam

and in in this age that we're living in

when men of religion and women of

religion are so few throughout the

Muslim world I can honestly attest to

the fact that I met many very devout

Muslims but it's rare that I've met

these types of people that are

transformative by being in their

presence that the work that they've done

and put into themselves and I've met

women and men of this caliber and

stature in the Muslim world and and they

have always had the same effect on me

and and these are the people that Imam

al-ghazali is calling us to be because

we need more people like this

the imbalance on this planet is from the

lack of people of stillness of people of

presence the Quran says that when the

Hamidah jellia

this zealousness and fanaticism of the

jati people riled them up Allah says

that he sent down his Sakinah his

tranquility on the believers on the

Prophet and on the believers that the

response to fanaticism and gsella tree

is Sakina it's not more fanaticism and

more gsella tree but Sakina is not

something it's something that god will

descend upon hearts that are open to it

if the hearts aren't open to it they

won't receive it they'll miss it in

their own agitate

and so imam al-ghazali is really to me

an antidote to so much of what we're

seeing out there all this madness I

think they would be shocked at at the

type of Islam and the lack of community

we've got a lot of good Muslims

everybody in this room

you're good people but our community our

Ummah when we saw what was done to

Gaddafi when he was captured that that

brought shame on our community as a

community it brought shame and if it

didn't bring shame on you then shame on

you because our prophets Elijah when he

came into Mecca he came in with his head

bowed when he had the power to crush the

people that had crushed his people for

13 for 20 20 years when he had them in

his power and they said what are you

going to do with us

and he said that's a three Balika

million he said what Joseph said there's

no blame today this is not a day of

blame hind' who had bitten into the

liver of his own uncle his beloved uncle

he sat with her and spoke with her and

it was painful when he met why she he

asked him to tell the story of his

killing his uncle and when he got to the

point where he pierced him he said

kohanga has polka it's enough and tears

were flowing down his eyes and this was

the necessary confessional that they did

in South Africa where they made these

criminals come before the South Africans

and tell them their crimes speak their

crimes because this is how we purge

these things from ourselves by admitting

these things it's not about public

humiliation it's about people taking

responsibility for their actions and a

great opportunity was squandered but

this is the crises that we're in and we

have an immense amount of work I want to

thank a few people in here dr. Parata

for coming he's a dear friend and

really wanted one of the pillars of our

national community

I also gray Henry Aisha gray Henry is a

friend of now many years and I'll just

briefly say the first time I met her was

in Cambridge Massachusetts I was a very

young student of Arabic and I didn't

have enough money to buy it but I just

wanted to see lanes legendary two-volume

masterful dictionary of the Arabic

language and so I I went to her shop in

Cambridge the Islamic Tex society and

she actually had the two volumes on the

desk and and I told her I just want to

look at this book I I'd love to buy it

but I can't afford it and she said how