note on Al-Ghazalis Views on Earthly Life (Dunyia)
the one that I am going to focus on is the Sufi. The reason for this is that
when one speaks about al-Ghazali in particular I believe one should specify
which facet that we mean. This is not a new concept, scholars such as Ibn Sina
(Avicenna), that general category that is
sometimes referred to as renaissance men who wrote on more than one field. For
example, Avicenna is famous for medicine, philosophy and Sufism to a lesser
degree. In Al-Ghazalis case, he excelled as a Jurist, a Theologian and as a
Sufi to name just a few of them.
that said Al-Ghazali is generally lumped with Sufis who have low opinions of
the earthly life who discouraged followers from being involved in it. This has
generally filtered down in studies of al-Ghazalis writings.
example one scholar takes issue with al-Ghazali with a scathing character
attack by remarking that: when the Muslim world was under attack by the
crusaders while al-Ghazali lingered about in Sufi lodges. He should have been
rallying the troops against this grave danger. (al-akhlaq
anda al-Ghazali, Zaki Mubarak).
did not help his case any as he made use of quotation attributed to Jesus. The
Muslim version of Jesus in his works becomes another Sufi figure to quote.
late Margaret Smith also did a study of this facet of al-Ghazali, she states:
purpose of the Sufi path is to enable the soul to free itself from the veils
which hinder it from seeing God.
She goes on to state:
purification of the heart
is accomplished by ascetism and renunciation, so
that the heart shall be freed of the ties which attach it to this world.
is this understanding that I want to address here namely the renunciation of
the ties to this world.
before we can do so allow me one more quote on the role that al-Ghazali played
and his place in history of Sufism. She says:
is that of a great theologian
and an original thinker who
desired to reconcile orthodox Islam with the
Sufial ideas of Sufism which were widely prevalent in his day. (p. 230)
renunciation of this world by Sufis was legendary and infamous at the same
time. There are many examples and we need not go into details or at length,
suffice to say that for some renunciation was not only wealth, but food, and
for some even clothing. This is not to mention others who would be seen by the
general public as a character flaw that would lead them to be outcasts while
others would be executed for seemingly heretical pronouncements. (né al-Hallaj)
did al-Ghazali call for? Or to be specific what sort of renunciation and
spiritual exercises did he advocate? Was it a total rejection of the world and
its pleasures? How far did he veer away from mainstream Islam (I know this
term is loaded and troublesome) of his day? Was his project (or methods) a
veiled heresy in orthodox trappings?
this is a preliminary work that is a research in progress I will limit my
comments to one work by al-Ghazali and that is al-Ihya.
The work is virtually encyclopedic in scope and breadth of the subject matter
that it covers it is also the book in which this controversy centers.
It is by far al-Ghazalis largest work in 4 volumes totaling some
1500 large pages in length, in English translation that would be around 2
It is divided into 4 parts, two of
which deal with external practice and two which deal of internal life. Each of
the 4 parts is further subdivided into 10 chapters giving us 40 chapters in
In each of the 40 chapters al-Ghazali is
concerned with proper practice, appropriate internal attitude, coupled with
knowledge and an understanding of the mysterious workings of the practice or
In this work, you have the interplay
of both the secular and spiritual. The material effects the spiritual and vice
versa. This unity of being in the combination of the body and soul is where
secular actions that lead one to the path of either spiritual growth or
degradation. There is this holistic action throughout the work that with
correct external practice, and appropriate inner attitude, understanding of
the deeper reasons of the external practice as a means of getting nearer to
God as a preparation for the next (and permanent) life.
From this encyclopedic work, or more aptly his
project to reform Sufism, we get a sense of al-Ghazalis ideas on the
earthly life, as a gateway to the hereafter. And that actions and attitudes in
this life affect true happiness in this life and the attainment of bliss in
everlasting life in paradise in the next. In essence, this gateway to the
final abode becomes the nexus to higher (elevated) status in the next or
becomes a trap door leading to the pit of eternal pain, suffering and misery.
of contents of the Ihya
I: Book of knowledge
II: Foundations of Belief
III: Mysteries of Purity.
IV: Mysteries of Worship.
V: Mysteries of Zakat (Charity).
VI: Mysteries of Fasting.
VII: Mysteries of Pilgrimage.
VIII: Etiquettes of Qur'anic Recitation.
IX: On Invocations and Supplications.
X: On the Arrangements of Litanies and Divisions of the Night Vigil.
XI: On the Manners Relating to Eating.
XII: On the Etiquettes of Marriage.
XIII: On the Etiquettes of Acquisition and Earning a livelihood.
XIV: The lawful and prohibited
On the Duties of brotherhood.
XVI: On the Etiquettes of Seclusion.
XVII: On the Etiquettes of Travel
XVIII: On Music and
XIX: On Enjoying good and forbidding evil.
XX: Etiquettes of living and the Prophetic Mannerism
III: Destructive Behavior.
XXI: The Marvels of the Heart.
XXII: On Disciplining the Soul.
XXIII: On Breaking the Two Desires.
XXIV: Defects of the Tongue
XXV: Condemnation of Rancor and Envy
XXVI: Condemnation of the World
XXVII: Condemnation of Miserliness and Condemnation of the Love of wealth.
XXVIII: Condemnation of Status and Ostentation.
XXIX: Condemnation of Pride and Conceit.
XXX: Condemnation of Self-Delusion.
IV: Actions leading to Salvation
XXXI: On Repentance.
XXXII: On Patience and Thankfulness.
XXXIII: On Fear & Hope.
XXXIV: On Poverty and Abstinence.
XXXV: Faith in Divine Unity and Trust in Divine Providence.
XXXVI: On Love, Longing, Intimacy and Contentment.
XXXVII: On Intention, Sincerity and Truth.
XXXVIII: On Holding Vigil and Self-Examination.
XXXIX: On Meditation.
XL: On the Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife.
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