Abū Ḥāmed Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Ghazālī
Imam al-Ghazzali (RA)
(b.450 AH in Persia -1058CE) - (d.505AH -1111CE)
Was fondly referred to as the "Hujjat-ul-lslam", Proof of Islam, He is honoured as a scholar and a saint by learned men all over the world.
Aqida - Tenets of Belief
Excerpts from al-Ghazali's il-Jam al-awwami an ilm al-kalam
by Ustadh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali
“...I proceed…You have asked me (may Allah give you right guidance) about the reports that give the impression of there being resemblance [between Allah and His creation] to the hooligans (ra_a) and fools among the deviant crpto-anthropomorphists (_ashwiyya)1, whereas they have believed about Allah and His attributes things that He is high beyond and sanctified from having—such as “the form,” the “hand,” the “mouth,” “the foot,” “the descent,” “the transference from place to place,” the “sitting on the Throne and the establishment,” and other things of a like nature that they have adopted from the literal indications of the reports and the physical forms they depict.
[You asked about the fact that] they have claimed that what they believe in this regard is the belief of the Salaf, thus I wanted to explain to you what the belief of the Salaf was, in order to clarify what is compulsory for the general masses of people to believe about the reports. This will remove the veil that is obscuring the truth with respect to it, and distinguish between what must be studied and looked for, and what must be abstained and refrained from indulging in.
For this, I have answered your request, seeking closeness to Allah _, by revealing the unequivocal truth without any flattery, [without] observing a [particular] side [in the debate], and [without] maintaining any partisan bias toward any adherent of a particular madhhab—since the truth is more deserving of observation, and truthfulness and impartiality are more deserving of preservation.
I ask Allah _ for straightness and success----and He is [most] fit for answering he who calls on Him.
Now, I will arrange the book into three chapters:
 a chapter explaining the reality of the madhhab of the Salaf with regard to these reports;
 a chapter concerning the proof indicating that the truth in its regard is the madhhab of the Salaf and that he who acts contrary to them is an innovator; and
 a chapter with respect to [a number of] useful scattered sections related to this matter.
1 This term was applied to some of the Hanbali scholars like those who Ibn al-Jawzi rebutted in his Daf’ Shubah al- Tashbih, like Qadi Abu Ya’la, Ibn Hamid, and Ibn Zaghuni.
It also applies to anyone who adopts a similar creed as those who say that Allah has a hand unlike hands, an eye unlike eyes, and a foot unlike feet. This is just as the blatant Anthropomorphists said, “Allah is a body unlike bodies.”
THE CREED OF THE SALAF REGARDING ALLEGORICAL REPORTS
Know that the unequivocal truth, over which there is no dispute between those possessing inner discernment, is [in] the approach of the Salaf (madhhab al-Salaf)—meaning the approach of the Companions and the Successors. Now, let me illustrate that along with its proofs, I proceed. The reality of the approach of the Salaf—which is the truth in our view—is that any layperson who confronts one of these controversial ambiguous Gadiths is obliged to conform to seven matters:
 Exoneration;  Affirmation;  Acknowledgement of one’s inability;  Silence;  Abstinence;  Restraint; and then  Yielding to the People of Knowledge.
As for exoneration (taqdis), by this I mean [that a person is] to absolve the Lord, Glory and Highness be to Him, from bodily characteristics and the subordinate characters [of a body].
As for affirmation (ta_diq), this is to believe in what he (the Prophet) _ said, that what he mentioned is truth, that he is truthful in whatever he says, and that it is truth in accord with what he said and intended.
As for acknowledging one’s inability (al-i_tiraf bi al-‘ajz), this is for one to acknowledge that knowing his (i.e. the Prophet’s & Allah’s) intent is beyond the scope of one’s capacity, and that such a thing is not any of his business or profession.
As for silence (sukut), this is to not ask about its meaning, not to indulge in it, to know that asking about it is an illicit innovation (bid_a), that by indulging in it one is bringing serious risk to his faith, and that he is on the verge of rejecting faith by indulging in it without knowing.
As for abstinence (al-imsak), this is for him not to alter or replace those expressions with another language, not to add or subtract from it, or by combining or separating [any words]. Rather, one is only to utter that particular expression or word in that particular manner of mention, grammatical classification, declension, and wording.
As for restraint (al-kaff), this is to keep one’s heart from searching and pondering over it.
As for yielding to its specialists (al-taslim li ahlihi), this is for one not to believe that just because such a thing is confusing to him due to his inability, that it was also confusing to Allah’s messenger _, to the prophets, to the truly sincere in faith (_iddiqin), or the friends of God (awliya’). So these are seven protocols that every single one of the Salaf believed to be an obligation of all laypeople—and it should not be thought that the Salaf—disagreed about any part of that.
The Fifth Protocol:
Abstaining From Meddling with the Stated Words (al-Imsak)
This is an obligation for the general masses to confine themselves to the words of these reports and to abstain from meddling with them in six different ways:
 By explaining (tafsir);
 By interpreting figuratively (ta’wil);
 By altering (ta_rif);
 By making logical assumptions (tafri_)
 By joining what is separated (jam_), and
 By separating what is joined together (tafriq).
TAFSIR – Offering Explanations
I. The first is tafsir (explaining). What I mean by it is for one to substitute the word of another language for what it is in Arabic or one with the same meaning in Persian or Turkish. In other words, it is only permissible to utter the word found [in Arabic], because there are some Arabic words that do not have an equivalent in Persian. There are others that have a Persian equivalent, but it was not customary for Persians to use [such words] as metaphors in the same fashion that Arabs used them as metaphors. In addition, there are those [words] that are homonyms in Arabic, which may not be homonyms in foreign languages (‘ajamiyya).
A. As for the first, an example of it is [the word] “al-istiwa’.”
Surely Persians do not possess a word that equally conveys—among Persians—the [same] meaning that the word “al-istiwa’” conveys to Arabs, whereas it does not contain any added ambiguity [in Persian]. Its Persian equivalent is “Rast Be-estad”, and these are two different words.
The first (al-istiwa’) informs of a raising and leveling out of something with respect to a thing that is imagined to become curved and crooked.
And the second (i.e. rast be-estad), informs of stillness and firm establishment with respect to a thing that was imagined to have been in motion and restless. Thus the foreign language indicating those meanings is more apparent than they are indicated by the [Arabic] word “al-istiwa’.” So when it happens that they are dissimilar in what they suggest and
indicate, this one is not [considered] equivalent to the first. It is only permitted to substitute a word with one that is equivalent to it in every respect, not with something that is antonymous and differs from it even if in the slightest and most minute fashion.
B. An example of the second is the “finger” (i_ba_) used metaphorically in Arabic to mean “a favor” (ni_ma). It is [sometimes] said [by Arabs], “Fulan has a finger with me.”
That is, [I owe him] “a favor.”
In Persian that translates as “angosht”, but it was not customary for the non-Arab to use such a metaphor.
Arabs [on the other hand] were very liberal in their employment of figurative expressions and metaphor, more so than non-Arabs.
As a matter of fact, there is no comparison between the broad use [of metaphors] amongst the Arabs and the lack of such creativity among the non-Arabs. So if the metaphor employed happens to be pleasant to the Arabs but unattractive to the non-Arab, the heart will have an aversion to what is unattractive and the ear will reject it and not incline to accept it. Likewise, if the two things are dissimilar, then the explanation (tafsir) given will not be a substitution of an equivalent. Rather, it will be [a substitution] with a non-equivalent, but it is only permissible to substitute with something that is equivalent.
C. An example of the third is the [Arabic] word “_ayn.”
For verily those who explain it do so with the most apparent of its meanings. Thus one will say, “It is a material object,” even though it is a homonym in the language of the Arabs [that fluctuates] between [meaning] the “eye”, “a spring”, “gold”, and “the sun.”
A word has no ‘material form’ (jism) when it happens to fluctuate in meaning to such an extent. Similar are the [Arabic] words “janb”, and “wajh,” which are similar to it [in ambiguity].
For this reason, we hold that it is forbidden to substitute words and [compulsory] to restrict one’s self to [using] only the Arab [expressions].
However if it is said, “If you make the claim that this type of disparity exists in all words, it would be incorrect, because there is no difference [in meaning] between [the Arabic word] “khubz” and [the Persian word] “nan” (bread) or between [the Arabic] “la_m” and [the Persian] “gusht” (meat)—and if you acknowledge that [complete congruity exists] in some [words], then forbid substitution when there is disparity [between their meanings], not when there is complete congruity.” [If this is said], then the response would be that this disparity exists in some [words], but not in all.
For perhaps the [Arabic] word “yad” and the [Persian] word “dast” are equivalent in bothlanguages—in their homonymous nature, their metaphorical usage, and in all other respects.
However, [when the meaning chosen] divides into what is possible and what is not possible—and one is unable to distinguish between the two of them or become acquainted with the minute points of dissimilarity with clarity and ease for any of the creation—rather, much confusion occurs in its regard and the point of dissimilarity are not distinguished from the points of similarity, then we either have to close the door out of caution, since there is no need or necessity to substitute [words], or we have to open the door and plunge the general masses of the people into the precipice of peril. How I wish I knew which of the matters is more resolute and more cautious when the thing being meddled with is the essence of God and His attributes! I do not believe that there are any sane religious people who do not believe that this matter is dangerous.
For verily the peril in the Divine attributes must be avoided. How not, when the sacred law has obliged the woman who has had sexual intercourse to undergo a waiting period to insure that her womb is unoccupied by a child and out of caution against the mixing up of one another’s lineages—as a precaution—for maintaining the rulings of guardianship, inheritance, and all else that results from blood ties?
They (i.e. the scholars) said in spite of this that, the waiting period is a duty upon the infertile woman, the post-menopausal, the girl who has still yet to have a menstrual cycle, and in the case of coitus interuptus (‘azl), because when it comes to the interior of the wombs, only the Knower of Indiscernible matters (Allah) is acquainted with them—for verily He knows what is in all wombs. Thus if we had opened the door of reflection to specific detail, we would be riding on the deck of peril, so obliging [the woman] to undergo the waiting period (‘idda) in unrelated cases is easier to deal with than riding on the back of peril [through the discussion of Allah’s being]. So just as obliging [a woman] to undergo the waiting period is a judgment of the Sacred Law, declaring the substitution of words to be forbidden is [also] a judgment of the sacred law that has been established by scholarly endeavor (ijtihad) and by placing more importance on doing what is more appropriate.
Thus it is known that being careful about reports about Allah, about His attributes, and about what He meant by the words of the Qur’an is more important and more appropriate than being careful about the waiting period and all things that the jurists have taken precautions about that are of this kind.
Those Who Attack Imam Ghazali
Today's "Salafis" have revived a particularly bad trait of some naysayers of the past, which consists in attacking Imam Ghazali and belittling those who read his works and cite them to illustrate their opinions.
This concerns especially his major book Ihya'Ulum al-Din, because it is a landmark of tasawwuf whose immense success and readership the enemies of tasawwuf find particularly galling.
Some go so far as to claim that Ghazali was mad when he wrote it, others misconstrue Ghazali's deathbed reading of Imam Bukhari as a renunciation of tasawwuf, others yet bring up the condemnations of the book by a handful of scholars known for their anti-sufi bias.
Yet Allah has allowed the book to tower high above the clamor of its few detractors, and its translations keep increasing in number and quality. The following is intended to provide readers with reliable references concerning his life and works so as to protect ourselves, with Allah's help, against the slurs of ignorance and envy.
Salah al-Din al-Safadi (d. 764), Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi's student, relates in his great biographical dictionary entitled al-Wafi -- which contains over 14,000 biographies:
Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Ahmad, the Proof of Islam, the Ornament of the Faith, Abu Hamid al-Tusi (al-Ghazali), the Shafi`i jurist, was in his later years without rival.
In 488 he gave up the entirety of his worldly estate (and his professorship at the Nizamiyya, where he had taught since 484) and followed the way of renunciation and solitude. He made the Pilgrimage, and, upon his return, directed his steps to Syria, where he abided a while in the city of Damascus, giving instruction in the mosque retreat (zawiyat al-jami`) which now bears his name in the Western quarter. He then voyaged to Jerusalem, exerting himself greatly in worship and in visiting the holy sites and places. Next he travelled to Egypt, remaining for a while at Alexandria...
He returned to his native city of Tus (shortly before 492). Here he compiled a number of valuable books [among them the Ihya'] before returning to Nisabur, where he was obliged to give lessons at the Nizamiyya (499).
He subsequently forsook this and made his way back to his home city, where he assumed the directorship of a retreat (khaniqah) for the Sufis and that of a neighboring college for those occupied with learning. He divided his time among good works such as reciting through the Qur'an and holding lessons for the People of Hearts (the Sufis)...
If all books of Islam were lost except the Ihya', it would suffice for what was lost... They disapproved of him for including in it hadiths which were not established to be authentic, but such inclusion is permitted in works of encouraging good and discouraging evil (al-targhib wa al- tarhib).
The book remains extremely valuable.
Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi used to say: "It was as if Allah gathered all sciences under a dome, and showed them to al-Ghazali," or something to this effect. He passed away... in 505 at Tabaran... the citadel of Tus, where he was interred. (1)
The above clearly refutes the fabrication by some that Ghazali disavowed tasawwuf towards the end of his life. Let us turn to the fabrication of those who try to separate between the Ghazali of usul al- fiqh and the Ghazali of tasawwuf. When they are told that Imam Ghazali's books on the methodology and foundations of Islamic law are considered required reading in the field -- such as his Mustasfa and Mankhul and Shifa' al-ghalil -- they say that he wrote them before his period of seclusion during which he adopted tasawwuf. In reality, the greatest and most comprehensive of the four books he wrote on Usul al-fiqh (Principles of law) was composed in the last period of his life as stated by Dr. Taha al-`Alwani in his book Usul al-fiqh al-islami:
The notice on Ghazali in the Reliance states:
In Damascus he lived in seclusion for some ten years, engaged in spiritual struggle and the remembrance of Allah, at the end of which he emerged to produce his masterpiece Ihya' `Ulum al-Din [Giving Life to the Religious Sciences], a classic among the books of the Muslims about internalizing godfearingness (taqwa) in one's dealings with Allah, illuminating the soul through obedience to Him, and the levels of believers' attainment therein. The work shows how deeply Ghazali personally realized what he wrote about, and his masterly treatment of hundreds of questions dealing with the inner life that no-one had previously discussed or solved is a performance of sustained excellence that shows its author's well- disciplined intellect and profound appreciation of human psychology. He also wrote nearly two hundred other works, on the theory of government, Sacred Law, refutations of philosophers, tenets of faith, Sufism, Koranic exegesis, scholastic theology, and bases of Islamic jurisprudence.(3)
The most vocal, Ibn al- Jawzi -- a detractor of Sufis -- dismisses the Ihya' in four of his works:
I`lam al-ahya' bi aghlat al-Ihya' (Informing the living about the mistakes of the Ihya'), Talbis Iblis, Kitab al-qussas, (4) and his history al-Muntazam fi tarikh al-muluk wal-umam.(5)
His views influenced Ibn Taymiyya and his student Dhahabi. The basis of their position was Ghazali's use of weak hadiths, a list of which is provided by Taj al-Din al-Subki in his Tabaqat.
Is their criticism justified or an exaggeration?
Most likely the latter, in view of the fact that both the hafiz al-`Iraqi (d. 806) and the hafiz al-Zabidi (d. 1205) after him documented every single hadith in the Ihya and never questioned its usefulness as a whole.
Rather, they accepted its immense standing among Muslims and contributed to its embellishment and spread as a manual for spiritual progress. As Subki stressed, Ghazali never excelled in the field of hadith. (6)
More importantly, the majority of hadith masters hold it permissible to use weak hadiths in other than the derivation of legal rulings, such as in the encouragement to good and discouragement from evil (al-targhib wa al-tarhib), as countless hadith masters have indicated as well as other scholars, such as al-Safadi himself.(7)
It must be understood that Ghazali incorporated all the material which he judged of use to his didactic purposes on the bases of content rather than origin or chain of transmission; that most of the Ihya consists in quotations from Qur'an, hadith, and the sayings of other than Ghazali, his own prose accounting for less than 35% of the work;(8) and that most of the huge number of hadiths cited are authentic in origin.
In conclusion, we say as al-Safadi that the Ihya' ranks as a work of targhib or ethics, which is the principal business of tasawwuf. Criteria of authenticity for evidence cited in such works are less rigorous than for works of `aqida and fiqh according to the majority of the scholars, as the next section shows.
To hold works of tasawwuf to the criteria of the latter works is to blame apples for not being oranges. Consequently, as al-Safadi correctly indicated, the criticism of Ihya' `ulum al-din by some on the basis of weak hadiths does not stand, nor does similar criticim of like works, for example Dhahabi's criticism of Abu Talik al-Makki's Qut al-qulub and others.
Those who cling to such criticism while ignoring the massive endorsement of tasawwuf and its books by the Muslim scholars cling to their own prejudice rather than sound knowledge.
Our advice to these brethren is: We remind you of al-Dhahabi's advice in his biographical notice on Ibn all-Farid in Mizan al-i`tidal:
"Do not hasten to judge, rather, keep the best opinion of Sufis";(9) of
Imam Ghazali's advice in al-Munqidh min al-dalal:
"Think good thoughts (about Sufis) and do not harbor doubts in your heart";(10)
and of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami's fatwa concerning critics of those who respect tasawwuf and believe in awliya':
"Bad thoughts about them (Sufis) is the death of the heart."(11)
Take the great good that is in each of the works of the Sufis in the proper manner, respect the masters of tasawwuf, the least among whom towers high above you in knowledge, do not search out the disagreements of scholars, and stick to humbleness and respect before those who speak about Allah from Whom comes all success.
(1) Salah al-Din Khalil ibn Aybak al-Safadi, al-Wafi bi al-wafayat (Wiesbaden, 1962-1984) 1:274-277 (#176).
(2) Taha Jaber al-`Alwani, Usul al-fiqh al-islami: Source Methodology in Islamic Jurisprudence, ed. Yusuf Talal DeLorenzo (Herndon, VA: IIIT, 1411/1990) p. 50.
(3) Reliance of the Traveller p. 1048.
(4) Ibn al-Jawzi, Kitab al-qussas wa al-mudhakkirin p. 201.
(5) Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Muntazam 9:169.
(6) Taqi al-Din al-Subki, Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya 4:179-182.
(7) See al-Hakim, al-madkhal li `ilm al-hadith" (beginning), al- Bayhaqi Dala'il al-nubuwwa (introduction), Nawawi, al-Tibyan fi `ulum al-qur'an p. 17. The latter says: "The scholars are in agreement on the legitimacy of using weak hadiths in the realm of virtous works." Al- Sakhawi stated the view of the scholarly consensus on this question in the Epilogue of of his al-Qawl al-badi` fi al-salat `ala al-habib al- shafi` (The admirable doctrine concerning the invocation of blessings upon the beloved intercessor) (Beirut: dar al-kutub al-`ilmiyya, 1407/ 1987) p. 245-246.
(8) T.J. Winter, trans. Ghazali's "Remembrance of Death" (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1989), Introduction, p. xxix n. 63.
(9) al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-i`tidal 3:214.
(10) al-Ghazali, al-Munqidh min al-dalal (Damascus 1956) p. 40.
Al-Ghazzali's Ihya 'Ulum al-Din ranks as one of the most widely read books in Islam, having earned the praise of the scholars and the general acceptance of the Community. Among those who praised it:
- Ibn al-Subki: 'It ranks among the books which Muslims must look after and spread far and wide so that many people may be guided by reading them. Seldom has someone looked into this book except he woke up on the spot thanks to it. May Allah grant us insight that shows us the way to truth, and protect us from what stands between us and the truth as a veil.'
- Al-Safadi: 'It is among the noblest and greatest of books, to the extent that it was said, concerning it, that if all books of Islam were lost except the Ihya, it would suffice for what was lost.'
- Fakhr al-Din al-Razi: 'It was as if Allah gathered all sciences under a dome, and showed them to al-Ghazzali.'
The Ihya was also strongly criticized for a variety of reasons, among them the number of weak or forged narrations cited in it, a list of which is provided by Ibn al-Subki, who stressed that al-Ghazzali never excelled in the field of hadith.
Abu 'Abd Allah al-Maziri al-Maliki said in al-Kashf wa al-Inba. 'an Kitab al-Ihya that most of the narrations cited in it were flimsy (wâhin) with regard to authenticity, while the Maliki censor Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Walid al-Turtushi (d. 420) exclaimed in his epistle to Ibn Zafir / Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Atiyya:
'He has crammed his book full with forgeries.'
Ibn al-Subki replied:
"Al-Maziri was a passionate champion of al-Ash'ari's positions ( both the authoritative, the modest, the great, and the small ) declaring an innovator anyone who went beyond them in the least. In addition to this he was a Maliki with a strong bias for his school, which he defended strenuously. On the other hand, al-Juwayni and al-Ghazzali reached a level of expertise and knowledge which every impartial observer can acknowledge as unmatched by anyone after them, and where they may have seen fit to contradict Abu al-Hasan [al-Ash'ari] in questions of kalâm.
Ash'aris, particularly the Moroccans, do not take kindly to this nor allow anyone to contravene Abu al-Hasan in the least. Further complicating matters is al-Juwayni and al-Ghazzali's weakening of Imam Malik's position on certain points, such as rulings inferred from public welfare or the favoring of a certain school over another. As for al-Maziri's saying: 'al-Ghazzali was not a foremost expert (mutabahhir) in the science of kalâm, 'I agree with him on this, but I add: He certainly had a firm foothold in it, even if, in my opinion, it did not match his foothold in other sciences. As for al-Maziri's saying: 'He engaged in philosophy before he became an expert in the science of principles,' this is not the case. He did not look into philosophy except after he had become an expert in the science of usûl, and he indicated this in his book al-Munqidh min al-Dalal, adding that he involved himself in the science of kalâm before turning to philosophy.
As for Ibn Sina, al-Ghazzali declares him a disbeliever, how then could he possibly rely on him? As for his blame of the Ihya for al-Ghazzali's indulgence in some narrations: it is known that the latter did not have skill in the hadith, and that most of the narrations and stories of the Ihya are taken from his predecessors among the Sufis and jurists. The man himself did not provide a single isnad, but one of our companions [Zayn al-Din al-'Iraqi] took care to document the narrations of the Ihya, and only a small amount were declared aberrant or anomalous (shâdhdh). I shall cite them for the sake of benefit ... Nor is al-Ghazzali's phrasing 'the Prophet said' meant as a definitive attribution to him but only as an attribution that appears definite. For if he were not assuming it true, he would not say it. The matter was not as he thought, and that is all. As for al-Turtushi's statement concerning the forgeries found in the Ihya, then ( I ask you ) is al-Ghazzali the one who forged them so that he may be blamed for them? To blame him for them is certainly nothing more than inane fanaticism. It is an attack which no serious examiner can accept. " End of Ibn al-Subki's words from Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra.
Ibn al-Jawzi ( a detractor of Sufis ) similarly dismisses the Ihya in four of his works:
I'lam al-Ahya. bi Aghlat al-Ihya ('Informing the Living of the Mistakes of the Ihya), Talbis Iblis, Kitab al-Qussas, and his history al-Muntazam fi Tarikh al-Muluk wal-Umam.
His views influenced Ibn Taymiyya and others.
The basis of their position was also that al-Ghazzali used too many weak or baseless hadiths.
Other moderate hadith masters documented almost every single hadith in the Ihya without questioning its usefulness as a whole, accepting its immense standing among Muslims and contributing to its embellishment and spread as a manual for spiritual progress. Among these scholars:
- Zayn al-Din al-'Iraqi (d. 806): al-Mughni 'an Haml al-Asfar;
- His student Ibn Hajar: al-Istidrak 'ala Takhrij Ahadith al-Ihya;
- al-Qasim ibn Qatlubagha al-Hanafi: Tuhfa al-Ahya. fi ma Fata Min Takhrij Ahadith al-Ihya;
- Sayyid Murtada al-Zabidi al-Husayni (d. 1205): Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin fi Sharh Asrar
Ihya 'Ulum al-Din in ten massive volumes, each scholar completing the previous scholar's documentation.
More importantly, the majority of hadith masters hold it permissible to use weak hadiths in other than the derivation of legal rulings, such as in the encouragement to good and discouragement from evil (al-targhûb wa al-tarhûb), as countless hadith masters have indicated as well as other scholars, such as Imam al-Safadi. It must be understood that al-Ghazzali incorporated all the material which he judged of use to his didactic purposes on the bases of content rather than origin or chain of transmission; that most of the Ihya consists in quotations from Quran, hadith, and the sayings of other than Ghazali, his own prose accounting for less than 35% of the work; and that three quarters of the huge number of hadiths cited are authentic in origin.
The Hanafi hadith master Murtada al-Zabidi began his great commentary on the Ihya with an explanation that al-Ghazzali's method of hadith citation by conveying the general meaning without ascertaining the exact wording, had a basis in the practice of the Companions and Salaf:
'The verification of the wording of narrations was not an obligation for al-Ghazzali ( may Allah have mercy on him!) He would convey the general meaning, conscious of the different significations of the words and their mutual conflict with one another avoiding what would constitute interpolation or arbitrary rendering of one term with another.
'A number of the Companions have permitted the conveyance of Prophetic hadiths in their meanings rather than their wordings. Among them: 'Ali, Ibn 'Abbas, Anas ibn Malik, Abu al-Darda., Wathila ibn al-Asqa', and Abu Hurayra ( may Allah be wellpleased with them! ) Also, a greater number of the Successors, among them: the Imam of imams al-Hasan al-Basri, al-Sha'bi, 'Amr ibn Dinar, Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, Mujahid, and 'Ikrima.
Ibn Sirin said: 'I would hear a hadith from ten different people, the meaning remaining one but the wordings differing.' Similarly, the Companions' wordings in their narrations from the Prophet have differed one from another. Some of them, for example, will narrate a complete version; others will narrate the gist of the meaning; others will narrate an abridged version; others yet replace certain words with their synonyms, deeming that they have considerable leeway as long as they do not contradict the original meaning. None of them intends a lie, and all of them aim for truthfulness and the report of what he has heard: that is why they had leeway. They used to say: 'Mendacity is only when one deliberately intends to lie.'
''Imran ibn Muslim [al-Qasir] narrated that a man said to al-Hasan [al-Basri]: 'O Abu Sa'id! When you narrate a hadith you put it in better and more eloquent terms than when one of us narrates it.' He replied: 'There is no harm in that as long as you have fully expressed its meaning.'
Al-Nadr ibn Shumayl (d. 208) said: 'Hushaym (d. 183) used to make a lot of mistakes in Arabic, so I adorned his narrations for you with a fine garment' ( meaning, he arabized it, since al-Nadr was a philologist (nahwû)).
Sufyan [al-Thawri] used to say: 'When you see a man show strictness in the wordings of hadith, know that he is advertising himself.' He narrated that a certain man began to question Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Qattan (d. 198) about a specific wording inside a hadith.
Yahya said to him: 'O So-and-so! There is not in the whole world anything more sublime than Allah's Book, yet He has permitted that its words be recited in seven different dialects. So do not be so strict!'
'In the hadith master al-Suyuti's commentary on [al-Nawawi's] al-Taqrib, in the fourth part of the twenty-sixth heading, the gist of what he said is as follows:
'If a narrator is not an expert in the wordings and in what shifts their meanings to something else, there is no permission for him to narrate what he has heard in terms of meaning only. There is no disagreement concerning this. He must relate the exact wording he has heard.
If he is an expert in the matter, [opinions have differed:] a large group of the experts of hadith, fiqh, and usûl said that it is not permitted for him to narrate in other than the exact same words.
This is the position of Ibn Sirin, Tha'lab, and Abu Bakr al-Razi the Hanafi scholar. It is also narrated as Ibn 'Umar's position. But the vast majority of the Salaf and Khalaf from the various groups, among them the Four Imams, permit narration in terms of meaning in all the above cases provided one adduces the meaning. This dispensation is witnessed to by the practice of the Companions and Salaf, and shown by their narrating a single report in different wordings.
'There is a hadith of the Prophet(s) relevant to the issue narrated by Ibn Mandah in Ma'rifa al-Sahaba and al-Tabarani in al-Kabir from 'Abd Allah ibn Sulayman ibn Aktham al-Laythi [= 'Abd Allah ibn Sulaym ibn Ukayma] who said: 'I said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Verily, when I hear a hadith from you I am unable to narrate it again just as I heard it from you..' That is, he adds or omits something.
The Prophet replied: 'As long as you do not make licit the illicit or make illicit the licit, and as long as you adduce the meaning, there is no harm in that.' When this was mentioned to al-Hasan he said: 'Were it not for this, we would never narrate anything.'
'Al-Shafi'i adduced as his proof [for the same position] the hadith 'The Quran was revealed in seven dialects.'
'Al-Bayhaqi narrated from Makhul that he and Abu al-Azhar went to see Wathila [or Wa.ila] ibn al-Asqa' and said to him: 'Narrate to us a hadith of the Prophet in which there is no omission, no addition, and nothing forgotten.' He replied: 'Has any of you recited anything from the Quran?' (*) They said: 'Yes, but we have not memorized it very well. We sometimes add 'and' or the letter alif, or omit something.' He said: 'If you cannot memorize the Quran which is written down before you, adding and omitting something from it, then how about narrations which we heard from the Prophet , some of them only once? Suffice yourself, whenever we narrate them to you, with the general meaning!'
He narrated something similar from Jabir ibn 'Abd Allah in al-Madkhal:
'Hudhayfa said to us: 'We are Beduin Arabs, we may cite a saying without its proper order..' He also narrated from Shu'ayb ibn al-Hajjab: 'I visited al-Hasan together with 'Abdan. We said to him: 'O Abu Sa'id! Someone may narrate a hadith in which he adds or from which he omits something.. He replied: 'Lying is only when someone deliberately intends this..' [He also narrated something similar from Ibrahim al-Nakha'i, al-Sha'bi, al-Zuhri, Sufyan, 'Amr ibn Dinar, and Waki'.] ' End of al-Suyuti's words from Tadrib al-Rawi as quoted by al-Zabidi, and end of al-Zabidi's excerpt from Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin.
(*) In al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi's version in Nawadir al-Usul (p. 389) Makhul asks: 'Has any of you stood in prayer at length at night?'
The Imams of hadith are unanimous in accepting the narration in meaning only on condition that the narrator has mastered the Arabic language and his narration does not constitute an aberration or anomaly (shudhûdh), among other conditions. Al-Zabidi's documentation of the majority position that it is permissible to narrate the hadiths of the Prophet in their meanings rather than their wordings is also the position of Ibn al-Salah in his Muqaddima, but the latter avers that the dispensation no longer applies at a time when the hadiths are available to all in published books.
Shaykh Nur al-Din 'Itr adopts this latter position: 'The last word on this subject is to prohibit hadith narration in the sense of meaning only, because the narrations have all been compiled in the manuals of hadith, eliminating the need for such a dispensation.'
A generation after al-Ghazzali's death, the Ihya was burnt in Andalus upon the recommendation of the qadi Ibn Hamdayn who was named Commander of the Believers in Qurtuba in 539 then fled to Malaga where he died in 548.
Shortly thereafter, the Moroccans rehabilitated the book as stated by Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki ( in a long poem that begins with the words 'Abu Hamid! You are truly the one that deserves praise.)
Ibn al-Subki narrated with his chain from Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili that
Ibn Hirzahm, one of the Moroccan shaykhs who had intended the burning of the book, saw the Prophet in his dream commending the book before al-Ghazzali and ordering that Ibn Hirzahm be lashed for slander. After five lashes he was pardoned and woke up in pain, bearing the traces of the lashing. After this he took to praising the book from cover to cover.
Another rallying cry of the critics of the Ihya is that it contains no exhortation towards jihad and that its author remained in seclusion between the years 488-499, at a time when the Crusaders ravaged the Antioch and al-Qudus, killing Muslims by the tens of thousands.
Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi replied to these insinuations with the following words:
The great Imam's excuse may be that his most pressing engagement was the reform of his own self first, and that it is one's personal corruption which paves the way for external invasions, as indicated by the beginning of Sura al-Isra. The Israelites, whenever they became corrupt and spread corruption in the earth, were subjected to the domination of their enemies. But whenever they did good and reformed themselves and others, they again held sway over their enemies. He directed his greatest concern toward the reform of the individual, who constitutes the core of the society. The reform of the individual can be effected only through the reform of his heart and thought. Only through such reform can his works and behavior be improved, and his entire life. This is the basis of societal change to which the Quran directs us by saying 'Lo! Allah changes not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts' (13:11).
Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din al-Subki said about the detractors of the Ihya:
I consider them similar to a group of pious and devoted men who saw a great knight issue from the ranks of the Muslims and enter the fray of their enemies, striking and battling until he subdued them and unnerved them, breaking their ranks and routing them. Then he emerged covered with their blood, went to wash himself, and entered the place of prayer with the Muslims. But that group thought that he still had some of their blood on his person, and they criticized him for it.
Among the most famous commentaries of the Ihya:
- The hadith master Murtada al-Zabidi's ten-volume Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin Sharh Ihya 'Ulum al-Din ('The Lavish Gift of the Godwary Masters: Commentary on al-Ghazzali's 'Giving Life to the Religious Sciences.') which contains the most comprehensive documentation of the hadith narrations cited by al-Ghazzali.
- 'Abd al-Qadir ibn 'Abd Allah al-'Aydarus Ba 'Alawi's Ta'rif al-Ahya bi Fada.il al-Ihya ('The Appraisal of the Living of the Immense Merits of the Ihya').
- Mulla 'Ali al-Qari's Sharh 'Ayn al-'Ilm wa Zayn al-Hilm ('The Spring of Knowledge and the Adornment of Understanding') on the abridged version.
Al-Qari begins it by stating:
"I wrote this commentary on the abridgment of Ihya 'Ulum al-Din by the Proof of Islam and the Confirmation of Creatures hoping to receive some of the outpouring of blessings from the words of the most pure knowers of Allah, and to benefit from the gifts that exude from the pages of the Shaykhs and the Saints, so that I may be mentioned in their number and raised in their throng, even if I fell short in their following and their service, for I rely on my love for them and content myself with my longing for them."
“Al-Hakim said, I heard Hassan bin Muhammed say, We were in the gathering of Ibn Surayj in the year 303 hijri, a scholar from the people of knowledge stood up, and said, “gald tidings O Qadi (Ibn Surayj), for Allah ta’ala raises one who revives the matter of the religion in every century, and Allah ta’ala raised in the 1st century ‘Umar bin ‘AbdilAziz, in the 2nd century Muhammed bin Idris as-Shafi’, and has raised you in the 3rd century, then he began to say two of them have gone…
I (al-Dhahabi) say, “in the 4th century was Shaykh Abu Hamid al-Isfarayini, in the 5th century Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, in the 6th century al-Hafidh ‘Abdul Ghani, and in the 7th century our Shaykh Abul Fath Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id”. (Imam Dhahabi in Siyar, Vol: 3, page, 470 under Ibn Surayj)
 In regards to the statement of Ibn Surayj saying, “we don’t uphold or believe in the ta’wil of Mu’tazili, al-As’ari, al-Jahimiya…”
Then it should be known that the report is broken due to the gap of 74 years between the two narrators (Ibn Surayj who died in 306 Hijri and Az-Zanjani who died in the year 380 Hijri).
 Imam Dhahabi after quoting Imam Ghazali’s aqidah points writes,
“These beliefs, most of them are correct, and some of them I don’t understand, and some of them there is different between the people of madhab. It’s is sufficient for a Muslim to believe in Allah ta’ala, His angels, His books, His prophets, destiny the good and bad, resurrection, and there is nothing like Allah ta’ala, and what has been mentioned regarding the divine attributes is true, and is passed as it has come. And the Quran is the speech of Allah ta’ala and what has been revealed, and it is not created and other (points of belief) which has consensus of the Ummah, the one who has deviated isn’t taken into consideration. So if the Ummah disagrees in a matter which is from the difficult Usul of the Din (Aqidah), it is necessary that we stay silent and to relegate it to Allah ta’ala and say, “Allah and His Prophet know best” So Allah ta’ala have mercy on Imam Abu Hamid, for where is someone who is like him in knowledge and virtue but we do not claim for him being free of mistakes, and there is no Taqlid in Usul.” (Imam Dhahabi in Siyar, vol: 4, page, 566)
 The Shafi’,Maliki Ashari’ Faqih. Ibn Hajar quotes Imam Dhahabi saying in the bio of Sa’d ud Din al-Harithi,
“Ibn al-Daqiq al-‘Id would flee from him because of him affirming jiha (direction) and would say, “he’s a caller to it” he would prohibit mixing with him. And it is said, that he’s (al-Harithi) the one who wanted to remove or destroy the published work ‘al-Imam’ of Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id after he finished it, so nothing remained except for that which was printed in the author’s time.
Ihya'ul ulum al-din
"Revival of Religious Sciences"
Imam Al-Ghazali said that Allah exists without place and He does not depend on time
In his famous book:
"Ihya'ou Ouloumi d-Din" in the rules of belief
(Volume 1 page 108 of this edition)
Imam Al-Ghazali said:
"أنه لا يحل في شئ, ولا يحل فيه شئ, تعالي عن أن يحويه مكان كما تقدس عن أن يحويه زمان, بل كان قبل أن يخلق الزمان والمكان وهو الآن علي ما عليه كان"
- Here he confirms the belief of Ahlus-Sunnah s,
the fact that Allah exists without a place,
and He does not depend on time.
He also explained that Allah is free of the incarnation.
the fact that Allah exists without a place,
and He does not depend on time.
He also explained that Allah is free of the incarnation.
- Read more quotes from Imam Al-Ghazali: here
Ihya'ul ulum al-din, "Revival of Religious Sciences"
Imam al Ghazali said:
“The Salaf of the Ummah of Sayyiduna Muhammad
agreed to condemn people with deviant ideas, and to abandon them ,and to cut relations with them, and be hard in rebuking them, but to be mild in disagreements of juristic details”
(Mustasfa ,Pg 350)