Al-Ghazali letters to Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

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Al-Ghazali letters to Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk
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 Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

Be it known that the flattering titles conferred on men are a devilish invention and as such are improper for a pious Muslim to accept. Our Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: "I, as well as the humble and men in this community who fear Allah hate titles and high-sounding appellations." It is very important, therefore, that one must know the real meaning lying hidden in the title "Amir".

One who has the virtues of a true amir both outwardly and inwardly is an amir even if people do not call him as such, and the one who lacks these qualities is not an amir, even though the entire world may call him an amir. According to the strict letter of Islam, an amir is the one who rules with absolute authority over his lusts and passions. The forces under his command belong to the various categories as stipulated in the Holy Koran: ".... none knows the hosts of your Lord except He. ..." Koran, Chapter 74 verse 31.

There are three chiefs responsible for the discipline and maintenance of these forces:

  • Lust, which misdirects one to unhealthy and immoral activities.
  • Anger, which incites to murder.
  • Greed, involving dishonesty and corruption.

If these chiefs could be presented in material form, the first would assume the form of a pig, the second of a dog and the third that of a devil.

Mankind is divided into two classes. The first consists of those who control these three chiefs and force them to surrender to their will. Such men are kings and amirs though they appear in rags to the naked eye.

The second category consists of those persons who cannot but obey and surrender to the will of these three masters. They are obstinate fools who call the slaves of passions and lust as kings, amir, and viziers. They would mislead you to believe that light is darkness, a thorn a rose and a howling desert a garden. They doubt the integrity of one who holds that this world is a fast fading shadow and that the creation is divided into two categories - the visible and the invisible.

The visible world (Alam-i-Sura) is the world of matter and is subject to the law of evolution to change and growth.

The invisible world (Alamul Malakut) is the spiritual world. The human soul belongs to this world whatever we see in the visible world is not in reality though one perceives its existence.

The case of the spiritual world is different. The senses cannot perceive it to exist whereas it does exist. The believer sees with his spiritual discernment that which the surface investigator cannot see with ocular vision and he understands through his insight that which the superficial observer fails to even catch a glimpse.

Mankind sees the true state of things at the time of death, when the veil is raised and the world looks like something turned upside down. What appeared "to be" a moment ago vanishes in an instant and what does not appear "to be" takes a permanent shape and makes itself felt. Placed in such strange surroundings man would say: "O my Lord, how I marvel at what I see!" A heavenly voice will cry: "'Of this you have been heedless. Therefore, we have now removed your covering. Today your sight is sharp.'" Koran, Chapter 50 verse 22. "They will say: 'Send us back and we will do deeds of righteousness, we are certain.'" Koran, Chapter 32 verse 12, and Allah replies: "'What, did We not make your lives long enough to remember in for whosoever would remember? A warner came to you, so taste now! None shall help the harm-doers.'" Koran, Chapter 35 verse 37.

Again: "As for the unbelievers, their works are like a mirage in the wilderness. The thirsty person thinks it is water, but when he comes near he finds that it is nothing. He finds Allah there, who pays him his account in full." Koran, Chapter 24 verse 39.

Of course it is very difficult for the ignorant and idle of humanity to understand these things properly, therefore, I shall endeavor to make them easy to comprehend by giving them an example.

You have most likely seen the wonderful performance of a tornado which is a mass of air moving rapidly round and round in a cylindrical or tunnel shape until it reaches a great height.

You think that it is the visible particles of dust that have set the tornado in motion. You cannot see the invisible wind which is the real mover and hence you err in forming your opinion. In this example, the wind is being based on not being, and the particles of dust are "not being" based on "being".

A better example culled from man's body and soul would further explain things to the satisfaction of the intelligent reader. The soul is "being" based on "not being", since nobody can exercise control over it, and every body is placed under its control. Obviously, the human body is "not being" based on "being". It is the soul that causes the body to move and act. We can see the thing moving, but not the mover.

The sensible world is a shadow and an imperfect image of the intelligible mind, and worldly virtue and vice are stages in the development of the soul in attaining harmony, entangled as it is in the world. If you care to think more deeply, you will arrive at the conclusion that in all things He had wonder which shows that He is One. Let us go a step further and we find that this very fact can be explained more appropriately by giving the example of the Sustainer of the universe whose presence is reflected in every particle, but He is Invisible.

As all separate intelligence, so all individual souls are embraced by the universal soul. They are all the same, because all are offshoots of the same universal soul, yet distinct in individuals.

Bodies are formed by nature, the world-spirit which through energy is the direct cause of shape, bulk quantity and quality of matter. Nature is the sum-total of all energies in the world and assumes various forms made active by the reflection of the Real. The soul is not in the body but the body is in the soul. Man's real ego is pure, without motion or consciousness of the worldly objects, never separated from its higher self and remains a faded form of the universal Soul. The Supreme Being, formless, attributeless, above goodness, above life, above thought, motionless, nether increasing nor decreasing is yet the true source of all existence. He shines everywhere and every thing is the reflection of Him. The distinction is caused by the successive stages of reflection and every lower state is comparatively a weak reflection turning to its higher for illumination.

There is a divine ground in the human soul through which there can be a birth into newness of life and a direct partaking of eternity. The spiritual goal of life is the feeling of the indwelling of Allah in man, in the unseen depths of his spirit, where he sinks himself into the Divine Abyss. When Allah finds a person simply and nakedly turned toward Him, He bends down in the depths of the pure soul and draws him/her up into His own uncreated essence so that the spirit becomes one with Him who is above vision and knowledge. It is an inner living love which brings the soul back to its true source and into union with Allah, who Himself is love. Such things as the theory of emanation, ascetic life contemplation, ecstasy, devotion, vanity of all earthly pleasures are meant for men of pure habits, possessed of a religious and speculative turn of mind, but they could not make themselves understood by the illiterate masses.

Men of pure habits know their own true worth and reason is their light and their beacon of truth, so that by its light they do not only worship Allah but also see themselves in their weakness and strength.

Blessed are they upon whom He has conferred the blessings of reason. A number of nations have perished because He did not give them knowledge and they were involved in throat-cutting competition which eventually led them to their destruction.

Mankind are classified into:

  1. Those who are ignorant and have no freedom of thought and speech, such are chained by customs and traditions and do not know how to follow the light of their own minds or the dictates of their own soul. These people will attain eternal salvation, though their rank will not be high.
  2. Those who are wise, above the material world and are called virtuous. There are but a few and live in every age. They are saved by faith and are guided by ever helping mercy.
  3. Those who do not know the truth but pretend to possess it, those who have the truth much upon their tongues, but deny it with their acts. They want to secure a high place in this world with the pretence of piety and holiness. Such wretched people are those who follow the dictates of worldly pleasures. They will eventually perish and seal their doom in the next world. An example will explain my point. Suppose a patient is suffering from a serious disease and his health hangs upon the choice of an expert doctor, but instead of a specialist, he turns for his cure to a physician who neither understands the nature of his disorder nor knows how to prescribe a suitable prescription, though apparently he professes to be an authority on medicine. Do you think that such a doctor would not kill his patient? People belonging to the third category can be safely compared to such doctors who are devils in disguise. Armed with pretension and hypocrisy they kill the innocent person. The devil himself was one such doctor, who declared on the authority of a little knowledge which he possessed: "I am better than he (Adam), he replied, 'You created me of fire and You created him of clay.'" Koran, Chapter 7 verse 12.

Those who are lost in the passions and lusts of the worldly life and rebel against the will of Allah are the disciples of and successors to the devil. Allah says in the Holy Koran: "'Over My worshipers, you (satan) shall have no authority, except the perverse that follow you.'" Koran, Chapter 15 verse 42.

Those who indulge in the variety of amusements that the world makes available and waste their life by doing sinful acts are the disciples of and successors of the devil. Allah says: "People, the promise of Allah is true, so do not let this present life delude you, and do not let the deluder (satan) delude you about Allah. satan is indeed your enemy; therefore take him for an enemy. He calls his followers so that they may be the companions of the Blaze." Koran, Chapter 35 verses 5-6.

I most humbly beseech you, sir, to put your best efforts in following the dictates of Almighty Allah and severing your relations with men who are given to worldly lusts and vanities, for perfect detachment from gods involves perfect attachment to Allah; in mystical language it implies union with Allah through love. This is the doctrine that inspires all religious and ethical Islamic sufiism. If you tread the path of sufiism, it will give a new turn to your whole life and lead you to the regions of eternal happiness. By spiritual contemplation you will be elevated to eternal bliss until you will forget your limited self and see the ideal Beauty in higher self.

I therefore, exhort you to live the ascetic life and fear Allah, and set aside a store of good works against the Day of Reckoning. If you experience any difficulty in understanding mysticism, read my book Kimiya-i-Sa'adat which will direct you to the right path and give you at least a fair chance of making use of the talents with which Allah has endowed you. Besides, you should also learn the rules of discipline and devotion from a spiritual guide whose guidance you should accept ungrudgingly and seek refuge with Allah who will certainly save you from the evil of the devil.

Your Excellency's humble servant,

Al-Ghazali

Second letter[edit]

To His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

May Allah keep you alive and make it possible for you to free yourself from your own worldly entanglement.

Allah has said: "Do not forget your share in this world." Koran, Chapter 28 verse 77. This means that you should set aside a store of good works against the Day of Reckoning, because all men are travelers who have to perform their journey through a valley where they stagger and slip, and where at every step lie so many dangers. How I marvel at those pilgrims en route to the Ka'ba staying at Baghdad and amusing themselves with wine and sinful objects of extravagance. This will not take them to Ka'ba, where they want to go, but instead of that, lead to endless suffering and misery. The fear of Allah is the least store that one should lay up against the Day of Reckoning, and it is based upon the following:

  1. Respecting and following the dictates of Allah
  2. Being kind to humanity

Grave consequences would not follow if a king entrusts the office of a minister or that of an executive officer to an inefficient person, but it would be disastrous if he appoints an undesirable man to a post relating to judiciary, since an executive job or ministership is intended to run the affairs of worldly institutions, while on the contrary judiciary is expected to perform the duties delegated by our Prophet Muhammad, praise and peace be upon him. Judges are required to arrive at their decisions in accordance with the commands of Allah.

He should judge, according to the justice of Allah sent down in the Holy Koran. If you do not want to depart from that affection and the true respect that you should ever bear to the Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, and wish to serve Muslims with a sincere heart, you will raise only such person to the rank of a judge, who is famous for his sense of responsibility, integrity and piety.

As we know, the prophetic way of approaching things is quite different from that of the executive that does not mean much for mankind at large in the next world. One of the main duties of a judge is to look after the property of orphans. If he is unjust and does not fear Allah he would entrust their property to the custody of dishonest and wicked persons with fatal consequences. Allah says: "Those who eat the wealth of orphans wrongfully, only consume fire in their bellies, and they shall roast in the Blaze." Koran, Chapter 4 verse 10.

If a judge does not perform his duties honestly in respect of orphans, how could he be expected to administer justice properly in respect of others. The case is quite different with honest and pious judges who through their sound decisions, console the down hearted and shelter the poor and oppressed who are being crushed under the injustices and evils of state officials.

I must not forget that I have a favor to ask. A poor, old friend of mine who is also known to you and for whom I have a very high regard has fallen upon very hard times. I would like to convey to you the estimation in which the people of Jurjan hold him for his distinguished talents and usefulness and the importance of his learning, and piety. These days he is dreadfully distressed and is too poor to support his large family. It is my wish to secure for him that trifling assistance which may enable him to earn his livelihood, and save him from all the sorrow that can be avoided. How this is to be managed, your Excellency best knows. The future is in the hands of Allah.

Your Excellency's humble servant,
Al Ghazali

Third letter[edit]

To His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

I have already told you in a previous letter, that according to the saying of the Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, flattering titles are hated by pious Muslims: "I, as well as the humble and those in my community who fear Allah have nothing to do with pomp or power." Some people give the name of title to their lusts and all senseless customs as love and regard.

Those who cling fanatically to the titles rapidly lose touch with the inner spirit and life which make religion a reality. When a man reaches the height of his splendor, it is immaterial whether you praise him or not. If someone called Imam Shaf'i as Khawaja Imam Shafi'i, or Imam Abu Hanifa as Khawaja Imam Abu Hanifa, he can be safely accused of trying to advertise those who do not stand in need of advertisement. It is sufficient for all practical purposes to call the sun, the sun, without prefixing the word "shining" which is superfluous. Similarly, in worldly affairs your Excellency is so exalted that the greatest praise can affect you little.

Now let me turn to the affairs of religion which are certainly more important than those connected with this world. You do not think of religion or the next world, which is indeed a pity. I am afraid that you would be condemned to endless misery in the Hereafter, while my wish is that you were in a better world where peace is permanent and there is neither change, nor evil. Allah says: "The Reckoning for mankind is drawing near, yet they are heedless and turn away." Koran Chapter 21 verse 1.

In times of emergency every state seeks protection in its impregnable fortresses from the attack of the enemy. Some politicians are of the opinion that magnificent horses, beautiful carriages and glittering coffers of gold can overpower the aggressors and that the land forces, adequately armed with swords and guns are the best defending forces, while others hold that only states with material resources that have built expensive and majestic fortresses can successfully meet foreign aggression.

The third group maintain that it is only through devout prayer that a nation can escape disaster. And, there is no doubt that the belief of the third group is the most sound because we know that true safety lies in a deep sense of religious devotion and that Allah does not withhold protection from men if they steadfastly trust in His Mercy and pray for His Mercy.

Others might fall into the harsh crisis but the fakirs with their prayers must not fall. If they work perfectly in accordance with the Planning Will of the All Powerful Lord, they would acquire immense power. It may sound absurd to those who suppose that strength and power are to be found only in great armies and equipment, or in scientific achievements, or in the vastness of economic resources, but as Islamic history reveals their fakirs, who did almost nothing other than making their souls stainless mirrors for Allah, yearning upward in fellowship with Him, made the most effective contribution to the defense of their country against foreign aggression. It is not the might of the armed forces that save a nation from destruction, it is the humble and ardent devotion of a pure heart that can completely liquidate the forces of darkness of all forms and build a new independent and prospering Islamic state.

You should take warning from the tragic fall of the Amir of Tus. It must have been made plain to you that the expensive robes and glittering coffers of gold and silver could not avoid the doom that overshadowed them. Instead the material contact of his soul was not a gain but a loss, not a rise but a fall. This has been explained in the following verses of the Holy Koran: "Woe to every backbiter, slanderer, who amasses wealth and counts it, thinking his wealth will render him immortal! On the contrary! He shall be flung to the Crusher. What shall teach you what the Crusher is? (It is) the kindled Fire of Allah, which shall oversee the hearts, closed around them in extended columns." Koran, Chapter 104.

Allah also speaks of the hoards of wealth on the Day of Resurrection: "His wealth will not suffice him, neither what he has gained." Koran Chapter 111 verse 2.

If you would take into account the suffering to which the Amir of Khurasan was subjected you would be forced to the conclusion that a bowl containing soup and a loaf of bread in the possession of a dervish can work a miracle which cannot be performed by millions of gold coins or trained soldiers, adequately equipped with deadly weapons, for Allah is a fortress and castle for all who seek His help. The prayer of a dervish nullifies the effects of swords and guns, and unveils the truth that the best fighting forces can safely be recruited from among the people who observe the prayers, fast and night vigils, and who weep during their prayers with the fervor of their emotions. The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him said: "Prayers rid mankind of its suffering."

He also said: "Prayer and calamity struggle with each other." I have a written document at my disposal to convince me that your illustrious father, being given to understand that the king of Kirman bore a reputation for charitable giving and for his feeding the poor, was downhearted and deeply grieved, not because he disliked giving charity, but because he wished that no man upon earth should equal or exceed him in good works. You are able to comprehend the powers of your father's mind and you have for it all that veneration which is both natural and proper that you should feel. Jealousy is forbidden except in religious matters. The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: "If envy were proper, two kinds of people would be the most deserving objects for it. One would be a man to whom Allah has given riches and appointed to give charity, the other to whom Allah granted religious knowledge and acted upon it, instructing others." Let me tell you that this city was a howling wilderness due to the famine and cruelty meted out to the inhabitants by all government officials.

Law and order were not disturbed as long as you personally looked after the welfare of the residents of Asfrain and Wamighan. The farmers disposed of their surplus grain and cruel officials threatened the oppressed, in case they lodged a complaint with you against them, but the moment you left these two cities, the security of people and their property disappeared.

The farmers have again resorted to hoarding grain. If someone twists these fact and misinterprets the actual situation to you, believe me, he is your enemy and not a friend. Look after your subjects properly. Allah has given you knowledge so that by its light you may not only worship Him, but also see yourself in your weakness and strength.

Each day look into your conscience and mend your faults; if you fail in this duty, you will be untrue to the Knowledge and Reason that are within you. Keep a watchful eye on yourself, as if you were your own enemy; for you cannot learn to govern others unless you first learn to govern your own passions and obey the dictates of your conscience.

You should show mercy to your subjects and Allah will be merciful to you. Do not forget that the residents of Tus are widely known for the miraculous powers of their prayers - the ones whom they love are blessed, but the ones whom they curse are ruined.

I undertook to counsel the Amir of Khurasan several times, however he was head-strong, violent and perilously disposed to justify whatever he wished to do with the result that his life has become pages of history for others to learn from.

You should know that Islam does not allow capital to accumulate in the hands of an individual. Those who agree to part with or spend their wealth expose themselves to a torture which is of three kinds.

The first consists in giving away the entire wealth to the needy and the oppressed. Those who do this are blessed by Allah, for though it causes them suffering to part with their wealth it contributes to the general welfare of society.

The second class of men are those who spend money in order to defend themselves against vice. These two classes of men attain salvation.

The third group of men that live a vicious life and think of nothing else but than how to secure a high position in society are the most wretched people, because they do not think that wealth has always deserted those who fall madly in love with it. They engross themselves in pleasures, vices and sins until death walks silently and slowly towards them, takes their hand, removes their reality and gives it to the angels for the heavy task of correction. This is the most dreadful of all conceivable punishments. The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him said: "By suffering in this world man is exempt from punishment in the next."

I have renounced all pomp and worldly pleasures and have severed my relationship with kings, viziers and amirs. That is why to the best of my power I have enforced good opinions on all occasions upon those subjects which are most important to mankind. You should learn how to value my advice and act upon it, no matter how painful it sometimes may be.

There are certain men who hate me and try to discredit me with the public. It is easy for them to twist or misrepresent the nature of my writings, but I am fully devoted to the great cause for which I stand, and though my enemies were to scorn and neglect me I should bear their contempt with calmness.

In the Name of the Almighty Allah, and your illustrious father, I earnestly beseech you, sir, to leave your bed at midnight when all mankind are asleep, wear clean clothes, perform ablution and offer the following prayer, weeping with the fervor of your emotions:

"O Lord,
I supplicate You to protect me
against the vice which You know.
Creator of all,
All Wise, Sovereign, the Mighty,
assist me in remembering You
and being devoutly grateful to You,
for what I am and what I hope to be.
Sovereign of the earth,
whose kingdom is everlasting and
whose sovereignty is abiding,
be merciful to the king
whose kingdom is upon the brink of the most dreadful
of all conceivable doom.
Wake him from the sleep of heedlessness
and enable him to work honestly and with zeal
for the common man,
both morally and economically.
My years are darkened by anxieties
as to the future of the Seljuk Empire.
You are the Helper of the afflicted,
the Reliever of all distress.
Relieve me of my anxieties.
If You do not extend Your mercy to the sincere like myself,
there would be no other support for a broken spirit;
no other balm for a wounded heart."

Meditate on the possibilities for an hour or two and think deeply upon the poor, whose blood and sweat is being consumed by government officials. A few moments later you will see how the secrets of Allah will be opened to you and your prayers will be heard and answered.

Your Excellency's humble servant,
Al Ghazali

Fourth letter[edit]

To His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

May Allah drive out from your soul and body its infirmities and languor, and raise you to sublime heights never reached before so that He may give you what you desire, a clear spiritual perception of His Mercy and beauty, as explained in the Holy Koran: "Is he whose chest Allah has expanded to Islam, so that he walks upon a light from his Lord (as those whose heart is sealed)?" Koran, Chapter 39 verse 22.

When a man is blessed with such an inspiration and illumination, he finds that the people of the world run after material objects and are caught up in a dense and baffling jungle of wild passions, and low desires, and aspirations of the animal-self. He takes to renunciation and has nothing to long for. He has no worldly ambitions for he believes that so long as there are desires in the heart, it cannot be cleaned and purified. When all things other than Allah are effaced and removed from the heart, then alone, the objective is achieved. Begin to search and dig for your own field for this pearl of spiritual glory that lies hidden in it. It cannot cost you too much, nor can you buy it to dear, and when you have found it, you will know that all which you have sold or given away for it is a mere nothing, as a bubble upon the water.

People consign their dead parents to the grave and yet they do not take lesson from the incidents and feel as if they are immortal. They indulge in unlawful things and escape from the law and join a company of the devils who are the enemies of Allah. So, if death overtakes them before repentance, they would be certainly among the losers.

On the other hand, a good man believes that death hangs above his head every moment, and so he lives such a pious life that he is always ready for death and departs contentedly as he is summoned by Allah, perfectly reconciling himself to his lot. He thinks of those whom he has himself known distracting themselves about idle things, neglecting to do what was in accordance with their proper constitution. All of them have passed away and complete oblivion has buried them. He remembers continually how many tyrants who have used their power over men's lives with terrible insolence, became lifeless packs of decaying elements. What kind of people are those whom men wish to please and for what purpose, and by what kind of acts?

How soon will time cover all things and how many has it covered already? How many, after being celebrate by fame, have been given up to oblivion, and how many who have celebrate the fame of others, have died? Short lived are both the praiser and the praised, and the remembered are described in the Koran: "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 205-207.

Read the table of your heart and remember what happened to viziers such as Nizamul Mulk and Tahul Mulk, who are now in the next world. These viziers saw with their own eyes the dreadful fall of their predecessors and yet they did not take warning. They knew that death must overtake them, but they made no preparations for it. They did not think over the transitoriness of the world and want of judgment in those who pretended to give praise and the narrowness of the space within which it was circumscribed and now, where are they? Nowhere - Allah says: "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. "Did We not destroy the ancients and cause others to follow them?" Koran, Chapter 77 verses 16-17.

Why then do you choose to act in the same way as these viziers and why do you not leave those agitations, which are foreign to your constitution? Look within. Within is a fountain of good and it will ever bubble up if you dig. Remember, if Allah makes the end to shine for you in the light of His Mercy, you will abandon yourself utterly to Allah and devote your entire energy to His worship but adhere to the principles of justice and equity.

The observance of "Equity" means to dedicate oneself to religion in order to become an enlightened worshiper of Allah, guided endowed, illuminated and sent forth as a guide to others whereas justice means to be just to all the worshipers of Allah. A state that cannot make progress, would indeed be subject to disintegration - unless internally administered among all persons. Islam provides a system by which injustice might be detailed and judged, whether perpetrated by rich or poor, high or low.

When you are required to administer justice on behalf of the Sultan, think as if you are an ordinary citizen and have been oppressed by some one and want the Sultan to redress your grievances and give what is due to you. Consider yourself no more than any other citizen. In every thing which happens hold fast to the ruling principles of justice and equity, and always keep before your eyes three things - objective thinking, acts conducive to social welfare and truthfulness. Do not forget that one who acts unjustly acts impiously. Be ever watchful over the things which are necessary for the administration of the empire. Every moment think steadily as a believer to do what you have in hand with perfect, simple dignity and feeling of affection and justice. Free your mind from all other thoughts. A man's true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life founded on a just estimate of himself and every thing else, on frequent self-examination and steady obedience to the will of Allah. The viziers who have already passed away did not have a readiness to listen to those who had anything to propose for the common people and did not care to give every man. They relied on life, health and riches, and sought to build their houses upon the waves hoping to find and foundation for them there. Now all traces of these viziers have been obliterated: "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.

The day is not far off when you will be ashes or a skeleton and either a name, or not even a name. And there is nothing more precious in the world than seclusion. I have carefully avoided the pleasant visits to my friends and correspondence with them.

You do not know with what pleasure I have heard the news of your assumption of the office of the Prime Minister of the Seljuk Empire. That is why I have written these few lines by way of congratulating you and warning you against the life of this world which is fraught with hypocrisy, deceitfulness and debased morality.

After offering prayers of the state, it is the sacred duty of the dervishes to advise the kings, sultans and viziers and I am glad to think that by writing this letter I have fulfilled my duty as a theologian and as dervish.

A long time has passed since the city of Jurjan was deprived of a learned man with true knowledge of religion and ability to act upon these himself, and instruct others. I am gratified to know that Ibrahim Mubarak, a highly learned and enlightened man has come to reside permanently in Jurjan.

Possessor of Divine knowledge, he is the center of powerful, religious revival and has left an indelible impression on society. It is because of the fresh testimony of his own experience to the depth of the soul and the pathway to Allah, his extra-ordinary power as a preacher and his rare gift of interpreting the deepest truth of life and religion that he is held in the highest esteem by the popular audience of learned persons.

He is a man enveloped in a radiant Divine light, obedient to his heavenly vision and possessed of that inspiring trait of personality which makes his life count for much more than his words. He does not teach out of books, but out of his own heart's experience and makes it a little easier for ordinary people through his help to live a good life. He has accompanied me for nearly twenty years during my extensive travels through Tus, Nishapur, Baghdad, Syria and the Hejaz, where I taught more than one thousand disciples. I have learned more from his conversation than any other man ever taught me. His facile tongue has illuminated the whole world and his life conforms perfectly with the truths which he preaches. I believe, if there were only one true friend of Allah in a country, or among a people as Ibrahim Mubarak is, that the entire country, or nation, if it followed the counsels of such a man would be preserved from the calamities that are to smite the world. Meantime his own boldness of thought and speech have brought him under suspicion on the part of some of the guardians of orthodoxy and charges of heretical teachings have been leveled against him, but, it is only because of his nobility and piety. Some of the influential, but ignorant Mullahs, of course, have turned against him and he is scorned and hated. Consequently he has withdrawn into a quiet retreat to heal the wounds which the world has inflicted upon him.

I earnestly entreat and humbly pray that you should take good care of him and draw him near to yourself and lavish your bounties on him, as it is your practice to do with holy men, for it is out of the mercy of the rich that He favors the poor with bounties.

May Allah protect your kingdom against disturbance and decline, and bestow upon you the mysterious gift of mystic perception, not for your own glory alone, but for the sake of the whole world as well.

Your Excellency's humble servant,
Al Ghazali

Fifth letter[edit]

To His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk

The Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said that there are some enlightened worshippers of Allah whom He has blessed with beneficent favors. They are brothers to all the worshippers of Allah and have nothing to do with the wicked world and whatever they have they distribute for the love of Allah amongst the poor and needy. If they perform their duties honestly and diligently, Almighty Allah uses them as instruments for bringing relief to suffering humanity and they become the transmitting centers of Divine Light. There are no words to describe the way in which such persons are made to imbibe some of the qualities of the Divine Being.

It is also true that Allah has favored some bad people with some of His bounties, but the main purpose behind this generosity is that He wants them to cultivate within themselves a profound sense of remorse for their past and a deep regret that their will has been left free to go wrong. This has been explained in the Holy Koran in the following words: "As for those who belie Our verses, We will draw them on little by little, from where they cannot tell; and I respite them, My stratagem is firm." Koran, Chapter 7 verses 182-183.

The wealthy are of two types: "Indeed, We have guided him to the path, he is either grateful or ungrateful." Koran, Chapter 76 verse 3. The least of His Mercy in the worldly kingdom which He bestows upon His worshippers, and the best gratitude which could be offered on this account is to support the truth, administer justice, eliminate cruelty and oppression, and to be kind and also merciful to those subjects who are humble and poor. Allah alludes to this in the following verses: "(We said): 'David, We have made you a caliph in the earth, Judge with justice among people and do not yield to your own preference in case it should lead you from the Path of Allah....'" Koran, Chapter 38 verse 26.

Those whom He strikes with His punishment and anger are those who, as they attain higher and even higher stages of fame, wealth and power, pursue pleasure as good and are very cruel men. It is laid down in the Holy Koran: "Did We not destroy the ancients and cause others to follow them? Thus shall We deal with the sinners." Koran, Chapter 77 verses 16-18.

They are like those whose building is on the edge of a bank undermined by the eroding torrent of indifference to their fellow-men and ungratefulness to their Creator which eventually forces them to declare: "I do not think that this will ever perish!" Koran, Chapter 18 verse 35.

Those who are finally guided hold their wealth in trust and use it for the service of mankind. They have complete and undivided love towards all men. They neither severe themselves from this spirit of universal love nor fail to miss the overflow of Divine love which fills their vessels to the brim as Allah bestows the treasure of merciful wisdom in the hearts of His good worshippers. Thus removing the thick veils of obscurity and thereby brightens them with the light of understanding His Holiness. The result is they show an almost insane hostility to the forces of darkness, and feel compelled to engage in a ceaseless warfare with their enemies until no trace of them is left. Through their good deeds they rise to the highest plane, and they experience in the new world what neither eye has seen nor ear has heard, that which has not occurred to any human mind, which surpasses understanding and for which no explanation can suffice.

I am sure, your Excellency will spare no pains to attain such proximity in the high station and lofty standing in loyalty as I know you have the makings of these virtues in yourself.

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:
This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.