Al-Ghazali letter to Shihab-ul-Islam
To His Excellency Shihab-ul-Islam
May Allah bestow His mercy upon you and enable you to surrender yourself in every thing so that you may be His instrument.
When it is a blessing, His worshipers devoted themselves to thanksgiving , and when it is a calamity they either show patience or try to cultivate patience and alliance with Allah endeavoring to earn His pleasure, so that their lives may become harmonious to His Planning Will.
There are two kinds of achievements. One is the virtue of truth, and the other falsehood. Whosoever raises himself upon Him attains truth whilst the other, who values worldly objects more than Him, achieves nothing but falsehood.
Allah says in the Holy Koran: "So remember Me, I will remember you. Give thanks to Me and do not be ungrateful towards Me." Koran, Chapter 2 verse 152, and, "When you see them, you see bliss, and a great Kingdom." Koran, Chapter 76 verse 20 but He also warns: "To whosoever blinds himself from the Remembrance of the Merciful, We shall give him satan as his companion." Koran, Chapter 43 verse 36
Those who prefer the friendship of others to that of the Almighty Allah are mentioned in the following verses: "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. Allah is Swift in reckoning." Koran, Chapter 24 verse 39
As this world is a means for reaching the next, a wise and enlightened person does not make the means and end in itself. Whosoever sells this world for the next stands condemned.
The Caliph, Omar bin Abdul Aziz was a practical moralist. Even before he was elected caliph, he would say when a piece of very expensive cloth was brought to him: "Alas, it is too coarse for me to wear". However, after his election when an inexpensive robe was brought for him, he would say: "Alas, it is too fine for me to wear. You do not know how much I wish that my robe was made from coarse sack-cloth so that by its touch the skin of my hand would be scratched." Upon hearing this he was asked what was the meaning of the two opposite attitudes of his mind. He replied: "Before my election my self had such a refined taste that it could not be satisfied with what it had and strove after better, however, since my election, I have been following a rigorous discipline and now live the simple, austere life of the poorest fakir. My want is but little and I always have a little of what I want. It was in this way that when external causes came he was free from being perturbed and there was justice in the things done by the virtues of the internal cause. He ceased to be held by either pain or pleasures, which are as much inferior as that which is to be served by them is superior, for the former are loose and corrupt and the latter is intelligence and piety.
Man is given a limited will, it depends upon him. Either he identifies his being with his selfness and its interests, or throws aside his selfness and thereby identifies himself exclusively with the Divine within and without. This is the path of enlightenment.
Allah has raised you to the high rank of the premiership of the Seljuq empire. The time has now come when you should wish for a rank higher than this. When you reach it and feel satisfied with it, it is then that you will be transferred from this stage to another which is higher than this. It is then that you will be turned towards a rank which is more honorable and rewarded with a feeling of self- sufficiency at which time the doors of salvation will be opened to you as explained in the sayings of the Prophet, praise and peace be upon him.
I have written this letter to you for a specific reason and that is to introduce you to one of my old friends. Both his inspiration to his disciples and his dedication to a noble life are due to signs from beyond which seems to him to be the domain of his own self. He is the father of religious society, a mystical society. He is an elderly man and too weak to earn a livelihood. He has faced not only hardship but arduous labor, and ill treatment, all of which have contributed to his ill-health. Besides, Abu Bakr Abdullah, who is so favored that the hidden things of Paradise are shown to him, has asked me to introduce him to you with a request that you may help ease his financial difficulties.
I pray to Almighty Allah to open the doors of His everlasting kingdom to your soul so that it may behold all that happens on this earth and may He enable you to renounce your own worldly advancement for the sake of the Divine which is better.
Your Excellency's humble servant,