Al-Ghazali letter to Khwaja Imam Abbasi
To Khwaja Imam Abbasi
Someone asked the Prophet, praise and peace be upon him: "Tell me about Islam so that I may have no need to ask others about it." He replied: "Say, I believe in Allah, after which firmly obey the commands and abandon things which are forbidden."
To believe in Allah means that Allah and the spiritual world are ever present realities in the routine of our daily life. Islam teaches us that in order to devote exclusive attention to fulfilling our duties to Allah and to our fellow beings, we must abandon all vain desires and commit and commend ourselves as well as all things to Allah. It is then that we have reached the state of freedom, because we have lost the fear of pain or hell and the hope of reward or paradise, and are living in pure submission to Allah. We reduce our cognitive faculties to zero, to absolute inaction and in this sacred silence contemplate upon Divine things, by union, not in ourselves but by going out of ourselves entirely and becoming wholly of Allah.
The universe has flowed out from Him. It is a Divine emanation and there is also a cosmic process of "returning" back to the Eternal One. The only possible approach therefore, is the way of negation. The stage of obeying the commands of Allah comes next.
The abandonment of forbidden things consists of three things. One, the heart should be purified of all inner impurities. Two, we should improve our conduct so that other men may be improved. Three, thankfulness for the blessings of comfort in the limbs and organs of the body is to use them in carrying out the commands of Allah and in restraining ourselves from forbidden things and also from evil and sinful acts.
One should always weigh one's words and deeds. Wisdom means the intelligent weighing of both sides of a situation and the finding out of the right middle course between two extremes. It is, therefore, very important that we should subject ourselves to the verdict of a balance and discover whether our scale will rise or fall.
When one's self comes across objects of pleasure, it naturally insists that they should be obtained for the time being and that they would be abandoned next time. The best course left open to us in this condition is that we should ask our self to abstain this time from gaining the objects and that it would be more advisable to obtain them next time. We should take our self no more seriously than it takes us. We have the right to restore to a sort of personal reprisal. In this way we return to the right quarter jest for jest, we play the trick that has been played on us. If we cannot practice this continuously, at least we can make ourselves as familiar with it as possible.
It is the recollection of Allah, the thought of Allah, which in all places and circumstances make us see Him present. Let us commune respectfully and lovingly with Him and fill ourselves with the desire and affection of Him.
Never lose sight of the idea of Allah neither in prosperity, nor in adversity, nor on any occasion, whatever it may be. Do not let the mundane activities of your life absorb you to the extent that you may ignore Allah. Always bear this fact in your mind that Allah sees you, and that you are under His eyes. If you forget Him a thousand times each hour, try to remember Him for two thousand times an hour. If, beneath the weight of over-powering misery or in the intoxication of unwanted prosperity, you should waver for a moment in your belief in Allah, you should atone for your error at once, by a long and earnest course of penitence and prayer.
One usually makes the ideals of life those material things which do not give oneself peace and happiness. If we remember Allah and worship Him, peace and happiness should come by themselves out of necessity, and the mere outcome or natural result of a far higher life permeated with spirituality through and through.
This life is the real seeking of the kingdom of Allah and the desire for His supremacy in our hearts. If we are able to live such a life we would deserve salvation, peace of mind and Divine grace both in this life and in the Hereafter.
- Yours sincerely
- Al Ghazali