Open letter by Al-Ghazali
To whomsoever it may concern,
Allah has reserved His bounties for those who are pious and turn away from worldly gain and vanities, and avoid forbidden things.
There are only a few men out of thousands who seek knowledge in its truest sense and renounce pleasure, wealth and power which are the general objects of human ambition.
Of the learned there are still fewer who know those things which are based upon the overflow of gifts, not upon constrained research or wearisome struggle for acquisition, and these few people are those possessed of knowledge, they are those who make Allah and their spiritual world ever present realities in the routine of daily life, and whose knowledge reveals to them that all interfering distractions must be removed entirely so that the heart may be purged of all that is not Allah. They are those who have knowledge of religion and act upon it, instructing others and believing that attention given to theory and practice has its proper value and proportion. They are unmistakably the most prominent and exalted religious personalities. "When they were patient, We made from them leaders, guiding with Our Command they were certain of Our verses." Koran, Chapter 32 verse 24. They are not to be included among those of whom it has been said: "Recite to them the news of he to whom We gave Our signs and who turned away from them; how satan overtook him as he was led astray." Koran, Chapter 7 verse 175.
There are very few people who have the aptitude for the acquisition of true knowledge and are endowed with piety. Usually they are overtaken by the devils and the stages of their upward progress are blocked by the mischief of the devils.
Near relatives, friends, money and property are deemed as interfering distractions in addition to rift and enmity which have ruined many a family. If they prevent a scholar from going ahead with his prospect of studies, they can be safely compared to the devils, whose sole aim is to disturb a scholar in his studies.
I believe he has the making of a true scholar in him and is fit enough to be adorned with the best knowledge and enlightenment. It ought to be possible for you to provide him with the necessary facilities to enable him to attain to the height of knowledge and perfection, for which act of kindness you will be liberally rewarded both here and in the Hereafter. But, if every moment you insist that he should return home without completing his course, you will definitely spoil the whole scheme of his studies, and instead of being a patron to him, you would harm him incalculably. If you do not refrain from this, you will be regarded among those who place obstacles in the way of students and prevent them from the acquisition of knowledge. Our Holy Prophet, praise and peace be upon him, said: "Do not help the devils against your brothers."
A student told me quite innocently that going home for a few days would only interfere with his studies. Through bitter experience I have learned that if the link is broken once, it is impossible to resume studies, for the home or the native village is such a store-house of mental worries, and discouragement that the pursuits of studies have to be dispensed with.
I have said these things as one of your well wishers. Every man has been assigned a special duty, and it is easy for one to perform the duty for which he has been created and the blessed is he who has been created to do good deeds and help others in this connection. "To every science its own people; and each man finds easy that for which he has been created, apt."
- Yours sincerely
- Al Ghazali