Al-Ghazali letter to Sultan Sanjar Seljuki
To His Majesty, Sultan Sanjar Seljuki
May Allah bless you with the dominion and grant you a kingdom in paradise before which the kingdoms of the whole world stand insignificant.
The borders of this earthly kingdom cannot extend beyond the East and West. Generally speaking, the average life of a man on this planet rarely exceeds the age of a hundred years. In comparison to the kingdom of heaven, which is so vast, the whole world appears to be but a dust particle.
May it please your most excellent Majesty and I realize that for an ambitious man it is very hard to lead a pious life but as I find you very honest and careful, I would have you do this out of wisdom and kindness to yourself.
Our Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him said: "A day spent administering justice by a monarch who fears Allah is equal to sixty years spent by a pious man in devotion and prayers." If you would ponder over the nature of this world, it would appear dreadfully contemptible. Some mystics have said: "If this world could be likened to a picture which is unstable and frail, and the next world could be compared to a pitcher which is unbreakable and durable, wise men would certainly prefer the latter to the former.
As a matter of fact, the reality of this quote otherwise. This world is a pitcher made of earth, while the next is a pitcher of gold. Wouldn't you condemn the folly in a man who holds the former to be superior to the latter. If you like a good life and fix your dearest hopes on Paradise, a day of your life would be worth sixty years spent by others in worship, and Allah would certainly open to you sources of happiness to which you are a stranger.
You should know that by now I am fifty-three years old. Forty years of my life have been spent in the various peaceful haunts of famous scholars and learned men under whom I studied until I was raised to such a rank that people began to know me and understand the change in my ideas. For twenty years I lived in the rein of your royal father who did all that he could to make both Isfahan and Baghdad the most flourishing cities of the world. On several occasions I served, on behalf of your father, as ambassador to the court of the Abbasid Caliph Muktadar Billah and did all that was possible to remove certain misconceptions between the Seljuk empire and the Abbasid Caliphate.
I authored seventy books. For several years I lived and preached in Mecca and Jerusalem, and when I visited the tomb of Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, in Jerusalem and offered Al Fatihah, at this mazar, I solemnly pledged that:
- I shall neither attend the court of a king, nor receive anything of the nature of emolument from the governments in any shape or form whatsoever, since such circumstances would lesson the worth of any service to the people.
- I will not entangle myself in anything that provokes religious controversy.
For the last twelve years I have been solemnly faithful to the pledge I made at the tomb of Hadrat Abraham. Now I have received an urgent message from your Majesty asking me to attend your court. In compliance with your orders, therefore, I have journeyed to Mashhad Rada, en route to the capital, but as an after-thought and in view of the aforesaid religious pledge to which I have bound myself, I have made up my mind to cancel the proposed visit.
I beseech your Majesty to consider the right I have in fulfilling a religious pledge and that I may not suffer just because of my honesty.
If I may undertake to counsel, I think you would do well to refrain from forcing me to attend your court, nor would you like it in me if I attended in violation of the pledge. It would make me unworthy of your esteem. And now in my last words I humbly beseech your Majesty to be pleased to allow me to return to my native town Tus, for which act of extreme kindness Allah will reward you with inexhaustible bounties both here and in the Hereafter, and raise you in the next world to the rank of Sulaiman the Great who was a famous king.