Al-Ghazali letter to an Emir

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Al-Ghazali letter to Mujir-ud-Deen
by Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī
This letter was translated by Allah.com, who releases them into the public domain.

To one of the Amirs,

The disorders of the human organism which is the most intricate and complex structure in the world, and the exact means of putting them right are the most difficult and complex study, and in being so they yield a large scope for fallacies of observation and inference.

Therefore, there are many false theories and many monstrous remedies for them. So many and great errors and evils have flowed from wrong observation and reasoning therefore it is only natural for me to be full of worry. The physicians who try to cure these diseases, as if they proceed from natural causes, are ignorant people who know nothing of medicine. The truth of the matter is that the One who creates diseases is the One who knows how to cure them, but common people believe that medicine should be bought from a pharmacist, according to the prescription of a physician, and then used as directed. This is the most serious error.

It is through the mercy and guidance of Allah, the Almighty, that the patient selects the most suitable doctor for his treatment and again it is through Divine Revelation that the physician prescribes the best remedy, taking into account the suitable quantity and quality of medicine which is to be used with due regard to time and interval, for if a doctor ignores these important factors, he is of no use to the patient who will ultimately abandon his treatment as useless or pernicious. The best and most reliable medicines are not obtained from shops or pharmacies, because the key to them lies in the treasure of the angels who are the agents responsible for the administration of the affairs of the kingdom of heaven. By the command of Allah, men are provided with the most useful guidance by the angels under whose control heavenly treasures are placed, as established in the Holy Koran: "It does not belong to any human that Allah should speak to him except by Revelation, or from behind a veil, or that He sent a Messenger to reveal whatsoever He will by His Permission. He is the High, the Wise." Koran, Chapter 42 verse 51

If the best cure is to be sincerely sought, it is always to be found in the prayers of the pious and it is through the agency of angels that the afflicted person feels the heavenly drop upon their soul: "And there is not a thing but with Us are its treasuries, and We do not send it down except in a known measure." Koran, Chapter 15 verse 21.

You cannot avail yourself of the devotional spirit of the pious unless you benefit them by charity and kindness. Charity brings relief both for the doctor and his patient and provides the patient with the most effective remedy borrowed from the treasures placed in the custody of the angels as mentioned in the Prophetic saying: "Get rid of your diseases through charity." What then is that about which we ought to employ our serious thoughts. This one thing, that there is no god except Allah whose goodness overflows all things and whose inner power animates the innermost hearts which hence become wider than the heaven and earth. Eternal Allah is found at a point within ourselves, which as the mystics hold, is equally Allah's central reality and ours, where spirit with spirit meet. "They question you about the Spirit. Say: 'The Spirit is of the command of my Lord.'" Koran, Chapter 17 verse 85.

These things are too difficult to understand and Allah has forbidden that it, the mysteries of the human soul, should be disclosed. It is not wise to waste one's time on what man cannot understand. However, it is sufficient for us to know that the spirit and spiritualism are inseparable and proportionate to each other, since the time that this planet was first created, no research scholar in any age, or of any country has been able to discover this closely-guarded secret on the basis of this vast knowledge and experiments with truth. In short, care depends upon charity which is linked with prayers that bring health and healing to the body and produces a rare clarity of mind and enhances moral and spiritual power, therefore, it is said that prayers keep away all sorts of suffering and troubles.

A hadith mentions: "Prayers and disorder struggle with each other." Prayers are like assembled armies that invade and wipe out all sources of evil and mischief. Prayers for rain and congregational worship in mosques explain this point, and we have seen on many occasions in response to the prayers of the pious, refreshing and life giving showers falling on the parched ground and the desert is made to blossom as a rose.

A specialist in metaphysics can question my knowledge in their regard and argue that the diseases caused by fever require cool medicines for their treatment. There is no reason why charity could not be affective in such disorders. Doctors have made mistakes before. Is it not possible that they might be wrong now? They fail to realize that the human organism which is a fabric of such complicated correlation of parts and functions that the more the mechanism is known, the more the wonder grows that it ever keeps itself in working order so well and for so long as it does. This is not due to one's efforts for keeping good health. It is all due to the Grace of the Merciful Allah. A metaphysician, being misled by faulty observation arrives at the conclusion that a variety of external influences have caused the ailment of his shortsightedness is responsible for his arrival at the wrong conclusion. His eyes fail to see the depths and the summit of the human soul in which there is a principle untouched by external influences, which flows from the spirit, remaining in the spirit itself, altogether spiritual in its content.

In this principle is Allah, ever verdant, flowering in all the joy and glory of His actual Self and no man can in anyway behold it. An example will explain this. Suppose an ant walking along a piece of paper beholds that a line is caused by a pen. It can see neither the heart of the writer where the idea of writing has taken place, nor the writer's hand which is the real mover of the pen. In this example human nature is a pen, the angels are the fingers holding the pen and Allah the Almighty, to whom all the angels bow in obedience, is like the hand and the possessor of it. It was the pen of Allah which at His command wrote down the simple nature of things and in the twinkling of an eye intelligence, souls, elements and nature, as well as the heavens and stars became into being. These then took up the task and obeyed the second mandate by writing down the compound bodies and straightway the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms sprang into existence. These are the scribble of Allah and the words they write are the compound bodies of nature. Since man is finite he cannot see the Infinite or His work. He can only see the pen, but it is not the pen that writes but the holder of it. Man does not fully understand that His Knowledge, Will and Power comprehend and pervade the whole range of natural causes and effect. He fails to observe that cause as well as effect yield and are subservient to His Will and attribute every event to the action of some natural law.

"The hearts of believers lie between the two fingers of the Merciful." "He who knows his own self, knows Allah."

The mind of the writer, his hand and fingers are above the pen and his body lies below. He alone is the wisest who rises stage by stage from the lowest level to the highest spiritual stage.

"Indeed, We created the human with the fairest stature and We shall return him to (a state) lower than the young." Koran, Chapter 95 verses 4 - 5. It is a pity that some people believe in the miraculous cures by a doctor. A policy of total reliance on medical aid would be disastrous. When we are ill, the best course left open to us is that we should surrender ourselves entirely, taking refuge with Allah, as men in sore affliction, who have no other resources or supporters left. If one is pious and learned, his prayer can easily reach the Malakute world of self which is the highest of the high. This height is not to be reached with an astronomic ladder to the stars or with the wings of an angel. Perception or intelligence can never lead to this conviction or reveal this glorious mystery, that is the province of the Divine Light alone. Wealth and dignity have caused many to stray from the right path, they are the gods people worship. Renunciation is the practice of those who know Allah and the characteristic mark of the wise, if one has expelled the love of this from one's heart you may be sure that you will arrive at your destination. The guide which will conduct him on his path assumes the form of good works. "Good deeds would elevate him to the contemplation of spiritual things through the medium of his impressionable feelings."

One cannot attain to the good of life by distributing bread and meat among those who do not pray, for it would only add to the greed of the needy and their desires. Such charity should be confined exclusively to the pious and those who fear Allah. Now there is no mercy better than to devote one's self to the perfection and improvement of others both by percept and example. It is essential that charity should be strictly and confidentially confined to those faqirs who are pure in spirit and in their lives, and who, in spite of their best effort are too poor to support their families. If they are benefited both temporally and spiritually, they would surely pray for the well being of their benefactors and thus the services of a specialist who knows how to treat the physical and spiritual diseases by heavenly guidance would be readily available.

There is no approach from unaided sense to the cure of the mind or body. It is unwise to depend upon the treatment by those who do not know what medicine is. Every doctor fancies that he alone possesses the knowledge of medicine but this is an attribute of the mind and unless one is possessed of this knowledge, one cannot say for certain whether he is or is not an expert physician.

Sincerely
Al Ghazali
This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.
Original:
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
 
Translation:
This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.