Saturday, 4 February 2012

Salvator from Deviation: Imam al-Ghazali Rahimahullah

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah

 Why I Make this Post?

I read this book titled "Salvator from Deviation". I found it in parents' old house in Sungai Petani while cleaning the house. Quite dusty but I think it is very interesting since it is about Imam al-Ghazali and he is quite a name. It is surprising to me because some of Imam al-Ghazali's experience which was told in the book resemble to mine. I believe many people also facing almost similar experience but it is the matter whether we notice it or not.

We listened to many arguments and quarrels among brethren. Who is right and who is wrong. Everybody claims that they are rightful whether they are in the Sunnah side or Shi'a side. In Sunnah ourselves we could see quarrels among movements such as of Indian subcontinent like the Barelwis with the Deobandis. In Shi'a side we could also see quarrels and it does not count what happened among Sunnah brothers and Shi'a brothers in Iraq and Pakistan or among different faiths such as among Muslim and Christians and etc.

I feel very sad and disgusted each time I see blood was shed because of this. I can't cry in front of people but that is what I feel when I see the news or listening about it. Every time I watch, listen or reading about bloodshed I would feel uneasy and trying to turn off everything that I listen, watch or read with regard to this. So, let us at least pray to the God to enlight us with His revelation which is the noble Quran and the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Beside we began to read from basic to whatever we are capable to accept with our limited and different level of thinking, ok?


Imam al-Ghazali name is Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali. He was born in Tus of Persian empire in 450 H (1058). His dad passed away since he was a little child. He and his younger brother, Ahmad was sent to study in Tus then to Jurjan. Later he was sent to Naisabur to study under the supervision of al-Juwayni. Al-Juwayni was also one of al-Haramayn imams.

Al-Juwayni passed away in 478 H (1085). After this teacher passed away, al-Ghazali was called by Nizam al-Mulk who was a minister in the court of Seljuq. The Seljuq's at that time were controlling the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. The minister was impressed with al-Ghazali talent so he was appointed as a professor in Nizamiyya University in Baghdad. he achieved the highest academic position in the university when he was 33 years old. When he reached 36 years old, he feels something is happening in his self. He feels something wrong inside him. His physical body is healthy but due to the sudden impact crushing his soul, he fell ill. He can't eat, drink, or even working as a teacher. This impact is referred to the feeling that he was holding the post due to worldly necessity but not for the hereafter.  

Following this conflict within himself, he suddenly resigned from his post in Zulqa'idah 488 (1095). He left Baghdad and turned to be a traveler but in the pretext of a pilgrim to the Holy Land (Mecca). He donated most of his possession and only taking some which is sufficient for his family maintenance and to support his travel. He stayed in Damascus, Jerusalem and traveling to perform pilgrimage in Mecca. Later he went to Medinah al-Munawwarah for a visit. Later he went back to Tus and observing the path with his disciples.

In 499 H (110), he felt the need to return to Naisabur and returning to his teaching profession in Nizamiyya University. He felt himself as a reformer and and his decision to return to his profession is apart of a reformation. Before, he taught only for his worldly needs but after returning from his travels he only teaches for the sake of the God. He serves the institution until 504 H (110) and after that returned to Tus. He passed away in 505 H (18th Dec 111).


He wrote about 400 books but only 50 survives and those are what we received today. His books are not so perfect because he is only an ordinary human-being:

1) He was not so good in Arabic grammar like Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. However his statements are quite firm and strong in which they couldn't easily being beaten and challenged by any linguists or scholars.

2) He employed many Persian influenced words since it was his mother tongue and first language. It could be found in his book for example, Kimiya-e-Sa'adat and some explanations in other books.

3) He strongly emphasized the studies of prophetic sunnah especially of Sahih Bukhari and Muslim before he passed away. Only in a short time perhaps, he would be a scholar of hadiths but His calling came earlier so he left the world without accomplishing his studies. It is due to this that we could see weak hadiths in his literature.

4) Other scholars such as Ibnu Taimiyyah of Hanbali school of jurisprudence expressed his regret with Imam al-Ghazali works due to that he still employs the ideas from philosophies though Imam al-Ghazali detests the idea of philosophies. Such philosophies could be seen in his works like in Ihyaa Ulumuddin, Kimiya-e-Sa'adat, Mishkat al-Anwar, Jawaher al-Quran and etc.           

About the Book: Salvator from Deviation  

This book had already being translated into few languages. It's Arabic title sounds like al-Munqidh min ad-Dhalal. I just rephrase it again as simple as I can for the introduction part for those who could not have the access to this book. This book could be a source for everyone to get to know about Imam al-Ghazali so we don't only listen from others but we could also judge it with ourselves and consideration. This book is not an autobiography but it is close to an autobiography.

What is an autobiography? It is a history of a person's life and he writes it on it own. However, this book consists al-Ghazali analyzing thoughts on creed and his spiritual reckoning. He emphasizes on the premises which supporting the theories on the existence of "revelation" which descends on noble prophets. It is at a higher stage from rationality. He didn't write this book according to time chronology but he began it with the questions of knowledge source as what had been done by Descartes (1596-1650).

Imam al-Ghazali rejects taqlid or blind-following, senses source and reasons. But finally he was enlightened by the light and he returns to believe the role of senses and reason. Starting from here, he divided the streams of the Truth seeker into four divisions. They are:

1. Kalam

It is already developed and acts as a science that defend the creed of the Ahlussunnah wal Jama'ah as what had been stated in the al-Irshad. Al-Irshad was written by al-Juwaini (1028-1085). Al-Juwaini was a member of Shafi'ie school of jurisprudence who adheres to al-Ash'ari creed in Kalam. Imam al-Ghazali respects this scholar of Kalam ideas as he is his teacher but he feels that the science does not satisfy him as a Sufi. For him, Kalam is not sufficient when it comes to metaphysical matters and the goal of Kalam is not to explain metaphysical matters. There is no evidence that Imam al-Ghazali has changed his evaluation on this science but it is just the matter that his interest changed. He never reject this science and he also include the details about this science in this book.     

2. Philosophies

Philosophies were divided into three branches. They are known as Dahriyyun (Materialists), Ilahiyyun (Theists), and Tabi'iyyun (Naturalist). He emphasizes more on the Materialists due to that al-Farabi and Ibnu Sina were among these people. Why? Because both of these guys tried to modify the Greek and Neoplatonism philosophy and bringing it within Islamic Tawheed Creed. Their Creed would be established on what they understood based on their logical reasons though there are evidences proving that what they reasoned are wrong. As for example, some philosophers believe that the universe is already in existence and later they employ a creator for the universe. I guess, this is what makes me not excel well in reasons and logics during my schooling time because I can't accept this thinking and I hate those show off talking about proving the existence of the God with universe. I don't really read Harun Yahya but I would rather open up Quran and Hadiths as both of them teach us humility, hehehehe.

How could he detect this? Only by mastering and understanding the philosophy as a whole. His book known as the "Goal of Philosophies" clearly shows that he had mastered this science. Later only, he criticizes the philosophy. Some of them according to him never contradict the religion, some had been labeled as innovation and could bring a person into deviation, and he highlighted three questions that bring a person into infidelity. According to him, al-Farabi and Ibnu Sina were labeled as infidels because they were involved in these three questions. The questions are:

i. The universe is in existence without being created (it has the nature resembling the God's)
ii. The God knows not juz'iyya (particulars)
iii. Human-being will be resurrected without physical     

These are mentioned in his book known as Tahafut al-Falasifah. However, majority of Muslim (which includes me) has no courage to assume them as infidels though Imam al-Ghazali and Ibnu Taimiyyah reasons are not easy to be put aside. Not all of the works of Ibnu Sina and al-Farabi arrived to us and most of those arrived to us are quite impressive especially to those excels in "science and mathematics". Many writers who defend these figures especially Ibnu Sina would present problems and statements through technical jargon so only certain people would understand this. This is what I don't like about academicians regardless fields. I could not help to have negative thinking like, "such a boast!!!" when I was engaged in their talks. Both al-Farabi and Ibnu Sina were Nezari Isma'ili Shi'a Muslims.

3. Ta'alimiyya or Batiniyya

Most of people in our country knows about Imam al-Ghazali especially many have the access to his book, Ihyaa' Ulumuddin. But not many realize that he was actually an opponent to Batiniyya ideology. He wrote books on the polemics of Batiniyya ideology such as the Argument of Truth, the Chapters of Errors, the Stairs, the Answers for Four Questions, and etc.

Other name of Ta'limiyya or Batiniyya is a specific Qarmatian Isma'iliyya. Isma'iliyya in general is the Seventh Imaam Shi'a. These people claim that they get the knowledge from an infallible imam. Imam Ali k.w also being mentioned in this book when Imam al-Ghazali discusses about this issue. In the beginning of Shi'a development, it has nothing to do with Batiniyya. But nowadays, it is generally related to the Isma'ili Shi'a. 

According to the book, Shi'a began since the period of transition between prophethood and companions. But Batiniyya began to develop in the period of al-Ma'mun in the second hegira. After the noble prophet Muhammad s.a.w passed away, the quarrels happened on the legitimate successor of caliphate. Some people siding with Ali k.w and they were known as Shi'a Ali. This political problem became more severe and it brings disaster and sadness where many beloved companions and brothers died. In term of usool, some Shi'a Muslim resemble the Mu'tazilah, some resemble the Sunnah, and some resemble the Mushabbihah. About these highlighted terms, try checking them with major teachers. Please don't only rely with sources from the net. There must be face-to-face discussion and interaction to understand matters and this is for all brothers and sisters own good.

Batiniyya were a group of Zoroastrians who initially has nothing to do with any group of Muslim. It infiltrates into Muslim groups in the period of al-Ma'mun. The organizer of this teaching is known as Abdullah bin Maimun al-Qaddah. The source about this is from the book "Opening the Secret of Batiniyya" written by Muhammad Ibnu Malik al-Hammadi al-Yamami (1939) page 16-17.

According to al-Shahrastani, Shi'a is divided into five groups whom are Kaisaniyya, Zaidiyya, Imamiyya, Isma'iliyya, and Ghullah. Each one of them has their own off-shoots with different names. I put some of the link in this side so Sunnah brothers and sisters could also learn about them and not only listen about them or reading from fliers. The Ismai'ili Shi'a in Iraq was the one known as Batiniyya or Qaramita and Mazdakiyya. In Khurasan, their name changed to Ta'alimiyya and Mulhidah. Imam al-Ghazali refers them with their name in Khurasan as he went there to bring down this teaching. Specifically it refers to Qarmatian Isma'ili Shi'a.

There is also the fact that some Shi'a Muslim also againts Batiniyya Shi'a group. One of them for example is Thabit bin Aslam an-Nahwi. He exposed the evil-doing of these people and as the result he was kidnapped and brought to Egypt. He was killed there. This event happened around 1067 (460 H) while Imam al-Ghazali was still a young man perhaps 19 or 20 years old.

There are efforts by scholars to eliminate the difference between Muslims regardless Sunnah or Shi'a. For example, Jamaluddin al-Afghani (1838-1897) had already tried to unify brothers of the sides. People who adhere to Batiniyya are not Muslim according to al-Afghani. They are grouped into Atheists but taking the pretext as Muslims.

Imam al-Ghazali also mentioned that he saw the movement of the drug addicts Batiniyya followers who kill people who oppose them while they were high. From this people we've got the word assasination in English. It slips into European vocabulary during the period of Christians' Holy War in the East to get the Holy Land.

In 1093 (483 H), before Imam al-Ghazali denounce his position as a professor in the university as a traveler to find out his self, the Nizam al-Mulk was killed by a young man from Qarmatian-Batiniyya movement and the chief of the movement was Hassan as-Sabah. In 1109 (503 H) before Imam al-Ghazali passed away, there were three murders happened which involved the great Muslim figures in Isfahan, Hamadan, and Jami' 'Amal. These people had tainted the name of Ismai'li Shi'a Muslims of other streams where now people began to generalize or associate Isma'ili Shi'a Muslims with the Qarmatians.

Ibnu Arabi too rejects Batiniyya. In his book, "the Opening of Mecca" he mentioned that Batiniyya is the ideology of infidels. He used the reference of Imam al-Ghazali when he talked about this issue of Batiniyya. He mentions:

"And there risen third deviated group who take all the law and turning them into esotericism and nothing left for exoteric of the law. These people are known as the Batiniyya group. They're of various streams. Imam Abu Hamid (al-Ghazali) rejects their view in his book al-Mustazhiri and explaining the errors and flaws of their view in it. Happiness will reach those who practice both the exoteric and esoteric of the law. They are the ulamas protected by the God (in their creed and practices) and pondering upon the law from the revelation."

Everywhere around the world, there would be this teaching of Batiniyya slipping inside the society in the pretext of religion and confusing people. Sometimes it taints the tasawwuf science though it has nothing to do with it for example the panentheism or wahdat al-wujud.       

4. Tasawwuf

Regarding this matter or science, Imam al-Ghazali rejects the usage of terms such as hulul, ittihad (union), and wusul (reaching) when talking about human connection with the God. It is wrong! This is explained in his book known as al-Maqsad al-Asna. So, this is different to al-Hallaj word which is also founded in Saivaite Hinduism. I watched this Tamil movie and it employs exactly the same word used by al-Hallaj. The movie is known as Naan Kadavul in Tamil and also in Sanskrit as Aham Brahmaasmi. It is also a teaching which was popular particularly in Java Island in Indonesia if brothers and sisters are reading Indonesian history because I read their history from honorable Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah notes and books while I was in solitary. I read Hindus and Buddhists stuffs that I'd got from temples too while I was a confused young boy. So, it's not a torment to my head anymore. It just making me more silent when people around me cause I am afraid that people would misunderstood me : )

Most of all from this book written by Imam al-Ghazali based from his travel to find his self, he founds that there is the need for a person to do practices with knowledge. A person needs to equip him self with the knowledge of tawheed for faith toward Allah, jurisprudence for acts of worship, and ihsan to be sincere to Allah in which it will prevent us from social misconduct and harming the society. Though not all people agree with his view but he is still among scholars who tried hard to be sincere to Allah without leaving behind the needs of worshiping Allah in the prescribed manner in both revelation and sunnah.

As for me, it is enough to be a lay man Muslim. I love it this way and I would love to learn both Quran and Sunnah. Wish I finish this political studies quickly and I could also find my Lord through His Mercy and Love, amin....

Sealed with prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!         

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