Tag Archives: Ghazali

Ramadan Challenge With Imam Ghazali

You might be wondering what challenge has to do with someone who has passed away centuries back. Well, his sadaqatu jariah lives on and one of his blessed works – the Ihya is very much alive with us and I want to take us through how all the forty books in the magnus can help us prepare for Ramadan. Ihya is arguably the most talked-about book in Islam after the Qur’an and the books of hadith. Ihya is praised for capturing every aspect of knowledge an average Muslim needs to live a life of fulfillment and Imam Ghazali has a way of making you feel that you are sitting with him whenever you are reading from the book. I have rated The Magus Opus as the all-time best-selling self-help book. The Ihya ulumudeen is composed of Four Parts or Quarters and each quarter has 10 books hence a total of 40 books on various topics systematically laid out in order of relevance from abstract to essence and from the beginning to the end of life of a human being. And each of these topics has been explained in metaphors that made the lessons more relatable to our core. Ramadan is a month chosen to be special such that human beings are made to sculpt the best out of themselves for both the Ephemeral and after-life. We are encouraged to double our potential for the greater good so, that believer do their best to outdo others eager to learn and unlearn the best ways to achieve maximum rewards in the Holy months. Here are some summarised applications from the 40 chapters – arranged in the order of the book, that hopefully will give a direction on what to seek out for in Ramadan: Knowledge – Seek or review relevant knowledge (shariah) on what is required of you in Ramadan. The significance of Ramadan and some related relevant histories. Most significantly the spiritual significance of the components of Ramadan with your lord. Reaffirm your acceptance of the articles of faith and hold on to the correct beliefs in Allah and his messenger without anchoring any grudge in your submission, no doubt it will prepare you mentally for Ramadan knowing that you are about to journey on the instruction of your Lord. Learn to stay purified both externally and internally – by de-cluttering filthy; words, images, thoughts, and actions unbefitting of a Muslim in your preparation. Raise the bar of your Salah by constantly practising your focus when you have the chance to be one-on-one with Allah. Salah is a gift that makes the believer VIP before their Lord. Give the charity for Allah’s sake, and be kind to your recipients knowing that they are the ones doing you a favour. For those of us unable to give Zakah, let it be known that no one is disqualified from giving sadaqah or charity. So check all the gifts and blessings of Allah upon you and give out of it, even in your smile. Reflect on the metaphorical lesson in the Hajj or pilgrimage on how the whole exercise reflects the human journey from Allah to Allah. Develop friendship with the Qur’an, invocations and supplication and Night vigil activities to get closer to Allah. It is a known tradition that it is through voluntary actions that a slave attains high station and true celebrity status. The theme of the Second quarter is about Norms of Daily life. Manners of eating is the first topic and it is very relevant to Ramadan – the fear of hunger and evening feasting makes us lose our spiritual focus, so beware and be disciplined. Do not – in the name of Ramadan, develop strained relations in your marriage and it should not stop your acquisition and earning of a livelihood. Ramadan is not asking us to pause our mundane but to bring the best out of us while living our normal lives by abiding by lawful and staying away from prohibited acts, strengthening brotherhood in every possible way while avoiding too much or unnecessary socialization to develop your spiritual energy and mental health. Enjoy pleasurable sounds, and the best of them is the recitation of the Quran. Enjoy good, forbid evil, and live the Muhammadan way in your mannerisms. In the third quarter, the theme is about the thing that can lead us to perdition but Imam Ghazali started by explaining the wonders of the heart because that is the centre and the core of humans where the spirit meets the nafs hence, the centre of control. If the core of human beings is understood, such knowledge will help us stay alert and return whenever we are straying from moderation. Watching out the seat of desires; the stomach and the private parts, shunning Rancor and Envy, condemning the world through the realization of its reality, condemning miserliness, love of wealth, status and ostentation, pride, conceit and self-delusion. The final quarter discusses the way to salvation. The things that can help you stay moderate, elevated and return every affair to our Lord, are repentance, patience and thankfulness, having fear and hope in your Creator, through the affirmation of His attributes and essence. Cultivating abstinence, having faith in divine unity and trust in divine providence should lead to intimacy and contentment. Renaming pure in our intention, sincere and trustworthy. Constant self-examination and meditation. And ultimately to constantly remember death and the afterlife to prepare for it. The journey of life is a constant struggle, driving through the storm and fighting to be on the right track. A successful journey requires that one remain focused on the goal of the journey by constantly renewing the intentions and orientating the self to Allah to lead us to the right action and a good ending. Ramadan is a month that encourages us to buckle up and these 40 lessons can help us stay on track in Ramadan and even beyond, such that if Allah blesses us to be successful in them, our […]

Summary lessons from the Ihya (5): Mysteries of Zakat (Charity)

One of the reasons why it is difficult for most humans to give up potions of their wealth is the notion of entitlement or a false belief that the wealth they own is due to their hard work. More unfortunate is that most of us perceive the possession of wealth as “the source” of survival and enjoyment; thus, we do our best not to lose it, which leads to hoarding and stinginess.  This attitude is an indication of a poor state of mind, unconsciously placing wealth in God’s position when it is taken as the source of survival. It is mostly a latent disease! When Allah (God) is asking us to give from what He has placed in our care (of possession), people shrug, they do not want to let go, so they reject the command and the offer from God. Their wrecking soul silently adopts a deceptive affirmation; “My wealth is more precious, I rather keep this money than obey you, God” or “Oh, I love you God, but I love the wealth you gave me more”. Some will give so that he does not get excommunicated or rebuked in society for not giving charity.   One of the wisdom of Zakat is to help us renew our relationship with God, undeniably accepting He is our Lord who owns us and owns the things we own, recognizing and submitting to His commands willingly and accepting His dominion while having a good opinion of Him. In that case, whether there is benefit in Zakat for human beings or not should not be the real reason to give Zakat. It should be to submit to the will of God with all reverence.   Lexically, Zakat can be interpreted to mean growth, increase in good, purification, or praise. Zakat in jurisprudence is the name for the minimum amount of property that must be paid to a certain kind of recipient annually. It is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. From these meanings, we can deduce the notion of purity, proximity, and property. If you make a claim to love God, the first way to prove it is how you handle God’s property in your possession. Refusing or delaying to give Sadaqah (the voluntary charity) or Zakat (obligatory charity) only exposes deficiencies in your Love for Allah and thankfulness for His property in your possession.   In our dealings and transactions, we make mistakes; thus, our wealth may have unlawful traits; the job of Zakat is to purify it. To help the reader relate to how Zakat can genuinely be a purification is the idea of blood cupping, a method of letting out a small amount of blood to purify the whole blood. It is a painful process, but the joy and willingness to go through the process override the pain because the result is known. While Zakat has more merit because there is never a loss in a transaction with Allah (God), obedience to God is intrinsically a blessing, not to mention Zakat’s spiritual role in wealth or property. It is prescribed as an obligation on every Muslim – male, female, adult, and child with the property’s minimum amount required. The technicalities of how to give and when to give are detailed in Islamic jurisprudence.   Zakat is paid for;  Zakat recipients are;  Zakat of Eidul Fitr is another type of charity given and it is an obligation on every free Muslim male, female and child provided one has the necessary amount of food which will be 2.036kg of grain or money value on the day of Eidul Fitr (festival for commemorating the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan) for himself and those he is obliged to support.    The inward ambition of Zakat and Sadaqah is a test of character. “Character is a combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person or group from another.” Spending willfully from what they love most distinguishes people who give charity.    Allah (God) said in the Glorious Qur’an: You will not attain piety until you expend what you love; and whatever thing you expend, God knows of it. surat al Im’ran (3 vs. 92)  Be careful of actions that can invalidate your Zakat. The etiquette of giving charity is to give it secretly. Sometimes it is better to make it public if you want to encourage others but you must be careful to avoid showoff from creeping into it. And be careful not to destroy your Zakat by holding yourself in favour over the person you are giving it to; in reality, he was the one doing you a favour. His acceptance of your charity is a purification for you. You have given them a temporary assistant but they have given you a permanent assistant. What some righteous people do is to give it out with their hands beneath the person they are giving it to so that they can recognize the higher hand is better than the lower hand. These are some of the spiritual etiquettes. And you do not humiliate and think less of the person you are giving it to.    The Prophet said: “Three things destroy, and three things save. As for the three things that destroy, they are greediness that is obeyed and desires that are followed, and a person becoming self-conceited (and proud) with himself. As for the three things that save, they are the fear of Allah in secret and public, and moderation in poverty and richness, and fairness in anger and pleasure.” The pronunciation of the shahadah (testament of faith) is a commitment to the oneness of Allah in His action (being the creator of you and what you do), His attributes (e.g the most beneficent, the most merciful), and in His essence (actual existence belongs to Allah). Therefore, there is nothing except Allah is a blueprint. The condition of fulfilling this statement of Shahadah is that it does not remain in the heart of the one who believes in this statement any object of love except for […]

Summary lessons from the Ihya (4): Mysteries of Worship

The religion establishes the relationship between the creation and the Creator, and the Salat (Islamic worship/prayer – whose root word means to connect) is the connection to establishing the relationship. Therefore, the adhan (call to worship) is the call to connect to Allah.  The call is pronounced five times daily as a reminder that Allah (God) calls us to connect after the disconnect and distractions of life. Getting to answer Allah’s (God) call is undoubtedly the most honourable thing to do. Internalising what Allah (God) means to every creature in their past, present, and future, answering the call to worship and performing it duly, is an act of gratefulness. The opposite of this is a sign of ungratefulness. Amongst the acts of worship, salat has the highest rank, perhaps being the one that is meant to place one in remembrance entirely and connects one to Allah (God).  One of the unique things Imam al Ghazali did in Ihya is the description of spiritual realities in jurisprudence language by synchronising both outward and inward together such that everyone can relate. For instance, Kushoo (being in a state of reverence, presence, and mindfulness before Allah) is something that can genuinely be determined inwardly-it is a state of mind we cannot see physically, so it cannot be an abiding condition in jurisprudence, but Imam al Ghazali boldly states it as a condition of prayer (for someone who wants a meaningful salat). When you are standing to establish the prayer, it is to be present with the one you are praying to (Allah). Being in a state of remembrance in prayer is a command and being mindless contradicts and nullifies remembrance. It is said by the Prophet, “Verily, the worst thieves among people are those who steal from their prayers.” Stealing here means the prayer is not given its due or not correctly performed.  The road to performing prayer is to know the conditions of the validity of the prayer. Some of them are;  Remembrance of Allah (God) is from the soul. The body needs healthy food, but the soul needs the remembrance of Allah. The prayer consists of Allah’s remembrance in the Quran’s recitation, prostration, and bowing and sitting. And every single position of prayer has a spiritual reality. The goal behind all of these positions is to have the utmost reverence of the heart (not of the body) before Allah (God). The most honoured part of a human being is the face, and we let it face the ground in order to humble it before the Most High while acknowledging our lowliness. And this is why in Islamic Law, it is forbidden to perform prostration to anyone other than Allah.  To attain the internal reality, one should have;  There are two primary reasons people are distracted in prayer;  Outward distraction is easy to avoid by observing a few technics or removing objects of distraction or going to a secluded place.   Inward distraction is more intense. They take a person to have all of these concerns and thoughts from one thing to another.  According to Imam al Ghazali, the best way to avoid this is that a person prepares himself before entering the salat, having the intention to solely pray to Allah and ignore every other matter. Takbir’s saying (raising the hand while mentioning the opening declaration – Allah is great) reminds one God is greater than what one intends. The person standing for prayer should remind himself (or renew the remembrance) of the hereafter and the severity of the outcome of that day in standing before Allah for judgement.  Bowing and Prostrating It is accompanied by a renewed affirmation of the supreme greatness of God. Prostration is the highest form of submission as you are putting the noblest thing to a man on the ground.  “The hardest test I ever faced in my life was praying. You understand. But bending my knees to pray — that act — well, that took me a week … I had to force myself to bend my knees. And waves of shame and embarrassment would force me back up. For evil to bend its knees, admitting its guilt, and to implore God’s forgiveness is the hardest thing in the world. It’s easy for me to see and to say that now. But then, when I was the personification of evil, I was going through it. Again, I would force myself back down into the praying-to-Allah posture. When finally, I was able to make myself stay down — I didn’t know what to say to Allah.” (The Autobiography of Malcolm X).  So, Imam Ghazali advises that before you pray, you should take care of those things that can lead to distraction and free yourself of every responsibility (so that it does not lead you to rush). Imam Ghazali gives an analogy of you standing before a great King and how focused you will be in his presence so that nothing can cause you to be distracted from him. In that case, nothing is comparable to Allah; all glory belongs to Him.  May He establish us in the reality of our connection to Him. And free us from all distractions from Him and make the salat the coolness of our heart. Ameen

Summary lessons from the Ihya (3): Mysteries of Purity

Whenever the word purification is mentioned, the concept that comes to most minds is the cleanliness of an object, so cleansing for rituals is automatically associated with purification of the body from filth. Imam al-Ghazali redirects our attention to the reality of purity. Purification is an integral part of worship but is not limited to cleaning some body parts.  The transaction between us and Allah (God) is built upon purity, and the religion is of three levels; Islam (associated with the five pillars of worship), Eeman (the beliefs in the oneness of God), and Ihsan (the state of Excellence with God while perfecting Islam and Eeman). These are synonymous with; body (outward), mind (inward), and the soul (inward of the inward). Purity has four stages: Stage I – to be clean outwardly from filth. Stage II – purification of the limbs (eyes, ears, tongue, stomach, private parts, hands, and feet) from crimes and sins. Stage III- purification of the heart from blameworthy traits and reprehensible vices. Stage IV – purification of the innermost core of our being from everything other than Allah (God), and this is the purification of the prophets and saints (most trustworthy in their actions and speech). Explaining our journey to purity and returning to fitra (clean state, innate nature, or natural disposition to the oneness of God): In the creation of human beings,  Allah (God) said; When I have shaped him and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!’ Suratul Saad (38) vs 72 “When the soul is breathed into the body, the body is animated; at that point, the relationship between the ruh (spirit) and the body is called the nafs (spirit uniting with the body). But that nafs, because of its new relationship with the body and the material world, has some difficulty. Generally, or unless it is from the Prophets of God who have the Tranquil soul, the nafs call to evil. If Allah (God) enlightens (shines a light on) the heart, it realizes the intrinsic desire to return to the permanent abode (paradise). Still, then it is overcome and remembers the immediacy of the world, then inclines towards it and continues to oscillate in this manner (being attracted to evil or good) depending on how much light Allah (God) causes to shine on it.” Purification from actual and ritual impurities: The science of Jurisprudence gives a detailed explanation of this type of purity. Purification from real and ritual impurities is generally with water and stone and water substitution with the earth’s dust when water is not available. Ritual impurities can also be referred to as cleaning impurities; we cannot see when it is done for the sake of Allah (God) and places or lifts a person from the state of impurity.  Performing ritual impurities: Major impurities – the performance of ritual bath (Ghusl) – to lift major impurities (e.g., after sexual intercourse) by intention and ensuring water touches all the body·  Minor Ritual impurities – by ablution to enable the performance of prayer – Ablution has six integrals. They are; washing the face, washing both hands up to and including the elbow, wiping the head, washing the two feet up to the ankle, and performing the actions in the right order.·  Tayammum (dry ablution) – It is a substitute when water is not available, or a person is unable to use water due to illness. It is a sort of blessing from God to enable people to go on with worship when water cannot be used. Its demonstration is also detailed in the Jurisprudence. It is not something to do anytime or any place. It is nullified by the things that nullify ablution, and the presence of water negates it.  All outward things are a reflection of inner realities. In ablution, we purify places where human beings can see. However, a person should feel a sense of shame if he is before Allah without a purified heart. He (God) is aware of your inner state (the rancour, anger, jealousy, negative assumptions, preoccupation with the love of material things, etc.). Those who possess insight know that the heart’s purification is the most critical type of purity with these external indications. This is so because it is unlikely that when it is said, “Purity is half of faith,” it means the purification of the outer part of the body to leave the inward (heart) part. Otherwise, where does faith lie? In the heart!  We see the obsessiveness of people with outward purity, just as it was a concern in the era of Imam Al-Ghazali, so it is in our generation, and it is even more prevalent. Furthermore, since faith is an internal conviction, it also means purification is half of what you cannot see. And it should include decorating the heart with praiseworthy attributes and ridding oneself of blameworthy traits. Cleansing and adorning then become the two activities for the purification of the heart. Cleansing precedes adornment just as we have in outward purity. So, when you approach Allah (God), ensure the heart is as clean as the body.  Taking care of your purification is very essential as it is the key to salat (prayer) established in the Islamic Tradition. Salat comes from the root word to connect, meaning the key to connecting to Allah lies in purity. Make it a habit to scrutinize the subtleties of hypocrisy and injustice and every other sickness inside you. From the early believers’ stories, we read narrations of how inward purity was paramount; the Prophet’s companion, notably Umar (ra), accuses himself of hypocrisy. These show their utmost concern is the inward purity, and a slight stain on the heart makes them lose sleep. We must reflect purity inwardly and outwardly and not single out either of the two.