Al-Ghazali letters to Mujir-ud-Deen

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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.

First letter[edit]

To His Excellency Mujir-ud-Deen

Allah says: "But seek, in that which Allah has given you, to attain the Everlasting residence. Do not forget your share in this world. Do good, as Allah has been good to you" Koran, Chapter 28 verse 77 Your Excellency must meditate upon the secrets of the Divine message contained in these verses, each one of which is the pearl of Divine knowledge.

If you are blessed with a spiritual enlightenment, you would be able to cast yourself headlong into this Divine ocean, in order that you yourself may find the pearl that is worth more than all the goods of the earth. You should dig deep for the pearl that was never hidden in any earthly field. He who worships the gods of position and wealth and is overpowered by basic pleasures, is too ignorant to appreciate the true meanings contained in: "But seek, in that which Allah has given you, to attain the Everlasting residence" Koran, Chapter 28 verse 77. Of those who seek the life of this world Allah says: "We shall pay those who desire the present life and its adornments in full for the work they have done therein, they shall not be defrauded" Koran, Chapter 11 verse 15, Allah! How strange is the one whose life expires while he hoards gold. He is poor with all he amassed. It is impossible to impart the meanings contained in this verse: "Do not forget your share in this world" Koran, Chapter 28 verses 77.

The Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, explained man's share in this world saying: "You possess the right of ownership only in the food which you eat and dispose of, but the money you give to the poor in charity can never be spent, because Allah increases (by its giving) manifold to whomsoever He wills." Those who try to receive any recompense and reward for their piety from Allah, the Mighty, the Glorified, in this world or in the Hereafter in the form of Paradise are not true lovers. Those who surrender themselves to Allah have, undoubtedly, nothing to do with Paradise and its comforts. Their only object is nothing but the friends. The only true mystic motive is the love which desires not the gifts of Allah, but Allah Himself and which cannot rest until it is transformed to the Divine thought. Those who desire the gifts of Allah, instead of Allah Himself, fail to understand the meaning lying hidden in: "Do good, as Allah has been good to you" Koran, Chapter 28 verse 77.

The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, was asked by Gabriel to explain the meaning of mercy. He replied: "Worship Allah as if you see Him with your own eyes." It is obligatory on the part of the one favored by the mercy of Allah that he should be grateful to Him. Subject yourself to the verdict of your conscience and think deeply whether you can attain yet a still higher type of Divine Mercy. If so, try by all means to achieve it and do not be satisfied with the portion which has already been given to you. If you are able to receive more through firmness, then you will be among the owners of stations and ranks. Thus you will attain to a higher and even higher stages of Divine mercy, until you are enriched with a wealth after conformably in which there is no poverty.

Hadrat Omar bin Abdul Aziz reached all that he wished for or expected by living up to this ideal of contentment. He was not fond of building houses, nor curious about what he ate, nor about the texture and color of his clothes. All forms of pride were taken away from him and he was fully convinced of that it was possible for a man to live in a palace without guards and embroidered clothes, without torches and other such articles of ostentation.

We have bodies and senses like animals, but we have reason, intelligence and insight which bring one near to Allah. There are three quite diverse types of men. There is the person who has little or no interest in this world, which is a place of voluptuous and sensual enjoyment, for he believes that man should rid himself of the desires of the flesh and cast away his earthly limitations and worldly trappings. Whosoever sets the religious trap of artfulness against the world shall thereby capture hope for being among those who fear Allah. Although this sort of renunciation is not of the superior type, yet people belonging to the category will achieve salvation.

The other type of man has unveiled before him the picture of abstract beauty in which is manifested the splendor of His Name, the Exalted, that is resplendent in all creation through various phenomena. He, therefore abandons the struggle in the narrow straits of the lower regions of this world and rises through his energy to the higher plane. He can never be content with biological existence. That is why he does not respond to the world which his senses report to him, but instead he exclusively confines himself to the other world. As he is more responsive to another realm of Beauty, he seems from the first glance to have come with trailing clouds of glory from Allah, and is aware that he belongs to the father land of the spirit.

The third type of man is one who has stripped himself of all property and pleasures, either of this world or the next, for the sake of his Lord. He understands the logic behind. "Allah is Best and Eternal!" He maintains that so long as any desire from among the desires of this world and that of the world beyond continues to disturb his heart in regard to various things such as food, drink, dress, marriage, residence, conveyance, rulership he is certainly not a pious man, because in every one of these things there is a relish and pleasure for the self of man and liking for the urges of the flesh. Animals share some of these desire and it is humiliating for man to be content with what animals possess, because although man has a body and senses like an animal, yet having reason and intelligence, he is superior to animals in all respects. His disinterested love brings him near to Allah. It is not industry that brings him to the goal. It is finally the Mercy of Allah, after he has taken the steps of purgation and preparation which make his life meaningful in the spiritual sense. Then he stands at the beginning where he can catch glimpses of the spiritual world. There, the Divine Kindnesses flow in his veins till he is covered with celestial light until he can sing and rejoice and delight in Allah, as the angels do, as it is revealed : "To Allah belong the Eternal life and the first life" Koran, Chapter 53 verse 25, and "And that the final return is to your Lord." Koran, Chapter 53 verse 42.

May Allah favor you with the rank of the chosen few, who belong to the third type and enable you to meditate upon the meaning, for the secrets lying hidden in this verse have not been disclosed even to those renowned for their learning. I think I should be a little exalted by remembering that there was a time when you were my friend. You do not know how I am filled with gratitude to remember the days when I received your kindness in Baghdad. I never forgot you even when I traveled extensively through Syria, the Hejaz and Iraq, during these periods I always prayed for your long life and prosperity. Now , for the past several years I have preferred a life of seclusion and renounced court-life and correspondence with sultans and amirs.

There are two reasons to justify my violation of this principle by writing to you. First, I wanted to meet you, and since it was not possible for me to do so I thought it were better to contact you through correspondence. The people of Tus join me in extending to you our warn greetings and cordial felicitations on the auspicious occasion of your rising to the office of Prime Minster. You are held by the common folk as a great vizier of whom they entertain high hopes, admiring your talents and giving you credit for your virtuous desires. Secondly, many evils have taken root in this part of the country, which could only be weeded out by your careful attention, and this is the purpose for which I now write to you.

Upon hearing the good news of your new position, so and so, who is personally known to you, made up his mind to attend your court and congratulate you as soon as he was able. Prior to his proposed visit to your good-self, he wished me to advise him if his departure from the city at this stage would be justifiable in view of certain works that required his immediate attention. I replied in the negative, telling him that he should postpone his visit to a later date until he is in receipt of your definite instructions.

As a large number of disciples study under him, I think his absence from Tus would keep them from their usual pursuit of knowledge and the city would wear a deserted look until his return. He has served the State sincerely and honestly as a judge in one of the district courts, but some of his influential enemies in the sultan's court, have raised certain false allegations against him and have been successful in throwing him from service. He has to make his living chiefly by his profession as a judge and I am sorely disturbed to find that he, whom I value as one of my dearest friends, should find himself too poor to support his family. Circumstances have forced him to resort to the profession of religious teacher to earn something to sustain his family, however, I do not see any reason why he should be deprived of his post of judge for long. He is the most capable judge, devout and orthodox Sunni, harsh towards heretics, especially the Shi'ites and Ismailies, a liberal patron of the men of letters, a sincere friend to men of virtues and learning and unremitting in his efforts to secure public peace and justice and to promote religion and education. Since the Government always stands in need of the services to be rendered by such a judge, I hope your Excellency's announcement will give an indication of your next move towards the reinstatement of this official to his former post so that the people of this part of the country may pray for you for the rest of their days.

Tus is a rich, secure city and the peaceful haunt of scholars and learned men. Their prayers serve as a shield against wrong, but the age in which we live is one of the most critical in Islamic history. Party feelings run high and they have led people into narrow and separate views and suspicions. Some of the prominent men and the so-called theologians of Tus are head strong, violent and perilously disposed to justify whatever they may wish to say. These theologians are objects of envy and jealousy and victims of their selfish desires. I have never been so perturbed in political events as at this present time in Tus. Party squabbles and the Governments ineffectiveness have opened the door to a wave of social violence which has drained the country. The judge whom I referred to, if re-instated, would report to you the underground activities of the mischief-mongers as he is a most reliable person and his knowledge covers everything that happens in the country.

Now I would like to request you to grant him that trifling assistance, which may enable him to earn his livelihood in reward of which the country would be saved from calamities and people would prayer for you.

May Allah accept the prayers of Muslims in respect of the Mujir-ud-Deen.

Your Excellency's humble servant
Al Ghazali

Second letter[edit]

To His Excellency Mujir-ud-Deen

Allah says: "Respond to your Lord before that Day arrives which cannot be turned back, for on that Day there shall be neither shelter, nor denial.. But if they turn away, We have not sent you (Prophet Muhammad) to be their guardian." Koran Chapter 42 verses 47- 48.

That which cannot be avoided is death which, every moment, hangs over ones head. When it comes one will be sorry, but ones sorrow will not be of benefit, and one will make excuses, but no excuse will be accepted and one will cry for help, but no help with be forthcoming.

The wise man, par excellence, is one who by renouncing desires of the flesh does not fall into evil, and remains prepared for death every moment and collects goods that will accompany him on his last journey, and one cannot collect goods for ones last journey unless one retires into oneself. For nowhere with more quietness or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when one has within oneself such thoughts that by looking into them one is immediately in perfect tranquility and tranquility is nothing other than the good ordering of the mind. When one lays aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason and all hypocrisy and self love, one becomes strong enough to serve the sufferings of humanity.

Every town and city in the country has turned into a battlefield where the strong wrestle the weak and the rich exploit and tyrannize the poor. The title in Paradise of whosoever helps the poor will be Mujirud - Daulah. Titles come down from heaven. As Prophet Jesus once said: "In truth, he to whom Allah has granted knowledge of religion and who acts thereon himself, instructing others will attain a high station in the Hereafter."

To be just to one's own soul means to be purified of all inner impurities including low desires, anger, lust, hatred, greed, pride, revenge and so on. Take pity on your soul and be kind to it and bring into use all the instruments for the service of your Lord and surrender whatever is to Him. You should show an almost insane hostility to yourself, and ride on your animal self and after disciplining it, traverse on its back the paths of safety. The moment you do this you will feel the first Divine illumination and you will acquire the immediate knowledge of Allah which is the highest thing man can attain. The Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: "Had the devils not misled man, the latter would have held sway over the kingdom of heaven." One who clearing away through the senses, rises past his own mind to the wisdom of Allah, deserves to be honored in heaven with the title of Mujirud Daulah. Since you are the wisest of all the viziers that have now passed away, I feel sure, you would remember that the attention given to every thing has its proper value and proportion. Do not forget this then that the day is not far off when this little compound of yourself will be dissolved or removed, and placed elsewhere. You should fear death and learn to live according to nature. Take pity on your subjects and be kind to them, for I have reliably learned that there is no limit to the tyranny exercised by the strong over the weak. A year ago when I saw people who were wasted away by deep anxiety and whose limbs trembled, I could not bear the agonizing sight and consequently left Tus. However, when urgent, private affairs forced me to return to Tus I found that the same forces of darkness were still on the rise and that the people had become even more impoverished and even greater oppressed, but no body cared to save them from the clutches of the tyrants.

Refrain from torturing the innocent masses or else you will be disgraced by Allah. If you want to escape His punishment, fight the forces of cruelty and injustice like a pious person and do not yield to their behest, for if you purge yourself of selfness and help the cause of Allah by opposing the enemies of His worshipers, you will develop friendship towards men and obedience to Allah which will lead you to the highest rank beyond the reach of kings of this wicked world. If you want to serve suffering humanity, you will have to realize that it is possible for a man to live without the rich or embroidered robes which are the mark of pride. Can a common man by wearing the garments of a woman become a female? If that is not possible, how can you, by wearing women's garments, become like them? He who offends through precious dress, seems to be in a manner more intemperate and more womanish in his offences. Nothing is more wretched than a man who tries to look like a woman.

If you think for a while, you will know that nobody bothers about you. Should men befriend you it would only be to serve their own ends. Many people adore you because as Prime Minister you are the god of position and wealth. They who are praising you now will blame you and praise another as soon as you quit your position and someone else is appointed in your place.

When you behold a man who welcomes praise, know that he is in truth a liar, and a potent danger to you. You should provide for the smallest without display and immediately check popular applause and all flattery. The seekers of false prestige among men is a cheat. He shall not be able to impress men and instead he would incur the wrath of his Master. The words which were formally familiar are now antiquated, and such are the names of those who were well known in the past . For all things soon pass away and become a mere tale and are thereafter cast into oblivion. And I say this of those who were well-known to the world. As for the rest, as soon as they have breathed their last breath, they are gone and no man speaks to them.

The frailest of ties is the one based on deceit and pride, it is like writing on water or choosing to go away against the tide: "The likeness of those who have taken protectors, other than Allah, is as the likeness of the spider that takes to itself a house; surely the spider's house is the weakest house if they but knew." Koran, Chapter 28 verse 41.

Let there be movement and action terminating in social justice. As means of living in conformity to nature, we must develop wisdom or the knowledge of good and evil which is one of the chief virtues; each one having its proper sphere. He indeed is the wisest who hates the things which constitute the worldly life, and he loves the things which contribute to his life in the Hereafter where he is going to remain for ever and so receives composure of mind and satisfaction. If all the kings of the world wanted to serve him, he would decline to accept their offer. Those who accept kings in their service are still the servants of their desires and their happiness and sorrow depend upon others.

The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said to Imam Ali: "If other people seek salvation through good deeds seek entering into union with them through your knowledge of good and evil." He said this as he knew that the seekers of Allah are like those possessed of knowledge of Kimia - a precious metal upon the mere touch of which solid things turn into gold - and those who seek Allah through good deeds are like the people who have some money to support them for a few days. It may be explained that with enlightenment and knowledge, men seek to illumine their surrounds with the light proceeding from All in the midst of the darkness of destiny, and hold fast to the injunctions and prohibitions of Allah and traverse under the direction provided by the Koran and Sunnah, the path towards their Lord. They renounce pleasure, wealth and power all of which are the general objects of human ambition that entail suffering. One of their ambitions is to make their souls a stainless mirror for Allah and to crucify every thing that hinders the incoming of Divine illumination.

It is the peculiar office of national and intelligent motion to circumscribe itself and never to be overpowered either by the motion of the senses or of the appetites for both are animal, but the intelligent motion claims superiority and does not permit itself to be overpowered by others. When man is free from the bondage of desires relating to this world and the next he would see Allah with his own eyes and so be connected with Him. Those who love Allah for the sake of Paradise are not among his friends or the auliya, for they worship Him not for the sake of pure love, but for His bounty, like people who worship kings and viziers for the sake of their favors.

As Allah has blessed you with knowledge and enlightenment I beseech you to seek your Lord through the two channels of Koran and Sunnah, so that you may attain the position of the wisest. Meanwhile, I must warn you again against falling into the trap of the mirage of life, where your thirsty soul would find nothing and you would suffer a great deal. Those who respond to the world with their senses report to them and seem to care little about intrinsic values or have little or no interest in things beyond the world of sense are unconscious of the ascendant realities because they are careless and ignorant and their lust over-powers them to seek an extent that they have no time to meditate upon transcendent Realities.

There are two reasons for their refraining from traversing the path towards the good of life. They are, firstly, that they are slaves to their passions and cannot part with the wealth and fame which they have earned. The best remedy to cure this disorder is that they should love Allah simply and constantly, and accept piety and renunciation as their ultimate goal. The enlightened understand this secret. This world is the abode of misery and suffering and the moment we get rid of our personal relationship with it, Allah makes the end to shine for us in the light of His Mercy, that even while on earth, we feel as if we sit in heavenly places.

Secondly, they look upon the next world with suspicion and refuse to believe that it really exists. It should be made plain to them that even in the belief of Allah all men do not agree, though their lives furnish an opportunity to seek peace of mind through Allah. The most reliable cure for this is that the patients should retreat into themselves, for it is in their power to do so. This retirement into themselves will send them back to Allah and free them from all ideas of pantheism. This type of man, however is not completely devoid of spiritual capacity but are composed entirely of material stuff. Their unconcern for Allah or the life Hereafter is due more to the influences of nature and social pressure than to an original inclination of the mind. They should be told that the soul has an eye, just as the body has, by which we may know the sovereign truth and learn to love the sovereign goodness which is Allah. This type of truth can be attained from mystics who have been liberally educated in the science of Allah. "Question the people of the Remembrance, of which you do not know." Koran, Chapter 16 verse 43.

Just as a physician knows through his reasoning faculty and experience that man lives up to a certain age and that he eats different foods to keep him healthy. He also knows that poison brings death to a man. Similarly, we know that man is destined to live an eternal life which death cannot take away and that his salvation lies in forgetting all earthly things, even himself, so that in the enveloping light he may see marvelous things and be filled with Divine joy.

Salvation is one thing and to be blessed with Divine Grace is quite another. No amount of poetical imagination or religious institution of a very high order could attain to these truths, which cannot be picked up out of books, for the soul may see more in an instant than can be written in the voluminous references. The words are all coined to express things which belong to the realm of space and time, and obviously they do not even fit a reality which stands in eternity. We see, feel and know imperfectly very few things in the short period of time that we live and all the knowledge and experience of all the human race is positive ignorance of the whole which is infinite.

The development of the soul is not something that comes from nature, it derives from the Mercy of Allah, without which all works that man can possibly do up until the end of the world are an absolute nothing. The mind's eye of the mediator perceives the vision of the beauty of the presence which, at one glance, fills his mind to the exclusion of all other objects. This is tauhid. In view of these spiritual truths I request you to keep a watchful eye over your self each day, and find out the causes which have led you astray, and then repair your faults so that if you cannot administer justice in respect of your poor subjects, you may at least learn to govern yourself properly and obey the dictates of your conscience.

Your Excellency's humble servant,
Al Ghazali

Third letter[edit]

To His Excellency Mujirud-Deen,

The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: " Whosoever is kind to you, reward him with a superior kindness." Truth is always bitter and the one who patiently bears bitter things being said against him, does not fail in valid spiritual achievement, for he is possessed of an extra-ordinary self control.

Due to this reason you deserve my whole-hearted prayers and I sincerely hope that Allah, the Almighty, will enable you to appreciate the value of true blessings which He would set aside for you alone.

You should know that the blessed is the one who carefully follows the advice of others. This involves a steady and searching discipline. The first man who was deprived of this blessing was Tajul Mulk. He saw the tragic end of Nizamul Mulk's reign with his own eyes, yet he did not take any warning but instead, being led astray by false hopes of himself said to himself: "Nizamul Mulk was too old to administer things efficiently, and I am a handsome young man." Soon, thereafter he died and was reduced to ashes. Majidul Mulk ought to have taken a lesson from Tajul Mulk's life, but he too failed as the glamour of fame cheated him and he said to himself: "The well wishers of Nizamul Mulk turned enemies to him and accused him of serious charges including corruption. Nobody can find fault with me, and I have every right to govern the people as I will. His life too is gone. He indeed has not been remembered, not even for a short time. On his death-bed the angel of death delivered to him the following message from Allah: "What, did We not make your lives long enough to remember in for whosoever would remember? A warner came to you." Koran, Chapter 35 verse 37. Then came the turn of Muyid-ul-Mulk. He too was unshaken, though he had already seen many who after mutual enmity, suspicion, hatred and fighting died along time ago. Like others he also recalled to mind this conclusion: "The viziers who have already passed away sought power for men ends, therefore, all hearts were hardened against them and they were deprived of all their desires. I do not belong to the category of such viziers. I will use my country for my own benefit, as I deserve it, being a legal heir to the premiership." Soon after he was removed to another sort of life.

Now it is the turn of Mujir-ud-Din or Mujirud Daulah, and an affectionate Divine voice addresses him thus: "Is it not a guidance to them, how many generations We destroyed before them in whose dwelling places they walk? Surely, in this there are signs for those of reason." Koran, Chapter 20 verse 128

The message meant for you in this verse is: "O vizier, do not deprive yourself and your family of the good wishes of the wise and enlightened. The other viziers who are now in the next world had erroneously separated themselves from the devoted prayers of the pious with the inevitable result that a dreadful doom overtook them." "How many gardens and fountains did they leave behind, and plantations, fine sitting places, and good things in which they took delight. Thus (it was) and We made other people inherit them. Neither heaven nor earth shed tears for them; nor were they respited." Koran, Chapter 44 verse 25 - 29. Look into yourself and if you spend your life like the others, what explanation will you offer: "What do you think? If We gave them enjoyment for many years, and then what they were promised comes to them, what avail will their past enjoyments be to them?" Koran, Chapter 26 verses 205 - 206.

I must draw to your attention that none of the viziers of days gone by were as notorious for his bad deeds as you are. The mass of wretchedness and ruin which your administration has occasioned is beyond all calculation and yet you do not feel pity towards the inhabitants of Tus who have already suffered heavily. Though you would dislike these things being said against you, but the Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him said in his Prophetic Hadiths that on the Day of Judgement the guilty alone would not be held responsible for their crimes, but also their relatives would be subjected to a humiliating punishment.

You must realize that no one is concerned or worried about you, therefore, you should feel pity towards yourself. Avoid excessive social contact with men and dedicate yourself to good deeds so that you may earn peace of mind in this world as well as in the next.

To attain the Divine Grace that is the ultimate hope for man's salvation, you should make your memory a tablet on which the actions of deceased viziers such as Nizamul Mulk, Tajul Mulk, Muheerul Mulk and Muyudul Mulk are inscribed. Read these inscriptions carefully and then you will be able to turn away from worldly traps and vanities. As you cannot rid yourself of these vanities, it is too late to do so now, then collect good deeds for the journey to the next world and no good is superior than your effort to eliminate the poverty and cruelty meted out by hands to the suffering of the poor.

As soon as possible and so far as it lies within your power you should spare no pain to ensure that corruption, nepotism, injustice, bribery, cruelty and other ills are completely wiped out. The people are the glory of our kingdom and the source of its wealth. You do not know the present state of their finance. You can have no idea of the anarchy that exists in this part of the country. The corrupt revenue officials exploit the ignorant masses for their own profit and do not credit the amount of taxes and other Government dues into the Government treasury. Think of your subjects, broken in body, groaning under poverty and hunger. Their limbs tremble under them. Long anxiety has reduced them to skeletons, while you lead a life of luxury and indifference. If any thing can ruin Khurasan and Iraq as well, it will be because of such ministers who have been put in charge of affairs.

Do not let any feeling of pride withhold you from acknowledging to yourself just how grievously and fatally you have erred. There is not one statesman amongst us who has either wisdom or virtue to set things right. It is useless to look behind for the redress of the grievances. Many people have died of starvation and it is impossible to restore them to life, but, there is still a ray of hope left for those who are dying. The kindness and sympathetic treatment at the hands of Mujirud Daulah can save them from starvation.

I therefore beseech you to do everything possible to ensure that in future people will not be exploited so unmercifully. In the interest of the common folk, whose prayers have saved your premiership from destruction, I pray that a Government circular letter be soon issued to put a stop to such irregularities on the part of Government officials.

May Allah help you and open for you the doors of worldly and heavenly bliss and enlightenment of which you are not aware.

Your Excellency's humble servant,
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 published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.
 
Translation:
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