Al-Ghazali letter to Abdul Hassan Mas'ud bin Muhammad bin Ghanam
To Abdul Hassan Mas'ud bin Muhammad, bin Ghanam
I have received your letter which is full of knowledge and the experience of mystics which is vitally incorporated in your personality.
The time between our last communication had been so long that I had begun to feel a degree of uneasiness at your silence as I thought so much of your letters, however, now that I have received your letter I am gratified and my heart is warmed. At the very moment your letter was delivered I was in fact thinking about you, but this is not such an extraordinary coincidence as it might seem, for you have been in my thoughts every day during my extensive travels.
I think that the one thing which impressed me most is learning the fact that you have acquired such sterling qualities of character, such as those of humility, modesty, truthfulness, wisdom to which the practical ability of a very high order is joined with these virtues.
I am glad to know that you have devoted your entire life to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge, for which you put your best effort like all sane and vigorous people traveling the Path of Righteousness, performing good deeds through his leaning and gathering the fruit of one's labor before death and who will not regret the passing away of his days.
You should always bear in mind that the beginning of the performance of good deeds involves a steady obedience to the will of Allah, who keeps you mind at ease and your thoughts upon an even course at the end. I am deeply interested to find that you are well versed in literature and religious laws. Do not be satisfied with what you have already gained, for it would be unwise to think that being a finite human, you have comprehended the whole range of knowledge which is infinite. "The knowledge the wisest men have shared of Your great power and You is less when compared to Yourself, than one drop of water in an ocean."
It is not until you renounce worldly desires and exchange unimportant business for positive knowledge and humility for honor, that you will be fit to be called enlightened. Intellect, working by itself, is incapable of realizing the eternal value of man. The value lies in the spiritual serenity which you must always try to realize and attain. Your righteous action is your return to the real nature of man, for when you have completed your upward progress and reach this you are in Paradise and in the presence of your Lord.
The best knowledge is the science of religion which is most beneficial to mankind, and your object should therefore be to learn it and preach it among your fellow men so that the human soul may be strengthened and purified by renunciation and contemplation, until it reflects the true light, which is the spirit of humanity.
Love and regard for the oppressed enable one to receive from Allah, the Almighty, the reward of many years of prayers. One fourth of worship consists in the administration of justice, for example, giving everyone their due. Many people trapped in ambition and worldly gain are divided and have degenerated to such an extent that many of their acts and deeds are not only repulsive and repugnant to Islam, but are indeed in flagrant violation of its basic tenets. Something must be done before the Wrath of Allah seizes them.
Though the knowledge of laws relating to the administration of justice among men is indispensable, it is quite insignificant when compared to the knowledge of Divinity which illumines our way to Paradise and revives our spirit by its rich fragrance.
True knowledge leads us to a stage where we can remove the cobwebs of alien philosophers from the real Islamic thought and separate truth from falsehood in order to save Muslims from doubt and deviation.
The duty of acquiring true knowledge can easily be performed by one who is a specialist in the interpretation of spiritual realities. If he commits and error in the interpretation in spite of his utmost endeavor, he is rewarded for his sincerity and if he does not commit any mistake in the process, he is rewarded two-fold.
The knowledge which enables the possessor to distinguish right from wrong is not so precious as the knowledge which provides man with eternal salvation. Spiritual remedies are only known to spiritual healers who observe that cause as well as effect are subservient to His will. We find sufficient evidence to convince us that proper reform in mental attitude would relieve many a sufferer of ills that ordinary physicians cannot touch and the faithful adherence to a true philosopher of life will not keep many a man well, but would also enable him to finish his upward progress and reach Paradise. In just the degree that we come into a conscious realization of our oneness with the Infinite life and open ourselves to this divine inflow, do we actualize in ourselves the qualities and powers of the Infinite life, do we make ourselves channels through which the Infinite intelligence and power can work! This sort of life is almost unrecognizable unless we actually live it into ourselves, but what can we say to those who do not understand? This, at least, we can say is that a life whose experiences are proved real to their possessor, because they remain with him when brought closely into contact with objective realities of life. "The bird which does not know what pure and sweet water is frequently dips its beak into salty water."
I have faith in the development of your philosophical thought and rely on your great mystical knowledge which is a genuine key to unlock the treasure house of the world to you, which you can use practically. That is why, as a well-wisher, I have contributed these few lines towards your welfare, in my own human way.
- Yours sincerely,
- Al Ghazali