About the Book
Imam Ghazzali was a sufi in spirit. He was a philosopher and true adviser of those who were divert from their religious, political and social ways of life. He was a true reformer. He endeavoured to change the motives of those who exploited the people by their absolute powers. In this work all these matters are pointed out by the translator, presented through the letters, addressed to the authorities by Al-Ghazzali.
Imam Al-Ghazzali has related in one of his immortal works entitled Manqidh minad Dalal (Deliverer from Error) all that he endured in seeking to recover the truth from amidst the confusion of sects with diverse ways and paths, till he finally raised himself from the abyss of blind belief in the authority to the height of discernment, where his entranced soul pierced the veil of illusion and stood in the presence of Truth itself and the light fell distinctly on his heart. This book is an arresting collection of the Imam’s letters addressed to the Saljuqi sovereigns, viziers, princes and the learned men of his time including the famous chief minister Hasan b. ‘Ali, the great Nizamul Mulk Tusi (the friend of ‘Umar Khayyam and vizier successively to Sultan Alp Arslan and to his son jalaluddin Malik Shah) who was the most capable administrator, acute statesman, a liberal patron of letters and sincere friend to men of letters. These epistles are being rendered into English for the first time. In them is reflected a complete self-realization of one of the most remarkable reformers of his days who refused to bow before an immoral power. As a young man he rebelled against formal religion yet he was deeply religious. He gave his wise advise to kings, governors and other government officials and brought down heavens of wrath and invective upon exploiters, un-sympathetic rulers and corrupt officials, political, ecclesiastical and others employing improper use of power and position. He discovered that unless he first reformed himself and got rid of certain spiritual ills from which he himself was suffering, he could effectively reform the rulers and common man and teach the basic principles of a universal import, directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis. That is why the hatred of this world and love of the Lord forced him to renounce the pomp and glory of the world, to become a wandering dervish in search of truth, at a time when his worldly prospects were brilliant as a Grand Mufti of the Saljuqi empire and a famous professor of the Nizamiya College. Had he not dedicated his life entirely to the service of the mankind, he could not have been bold enough to rebuke Muinul Mulk, one of the Saljuqi viziers for drinking wine and mis-using the public money and leading a luxurious life.
Of course, the letters are a source of great interest as, these deal with great contemporary events in history. That is why our interest in these letters increases, when we find Al-Ghazzali reprimanding the Saljuqi sovereigns and their ministers against all compromises with corruption, nepotism, favouritism, injustice and bribery which were the main ills of the society in those days.
In one of these letters he speaks of the sad state of affairs of the then existing human society (1120 A.D.) which seem to be appropriate for the modern age.
The cry of all the miserable and the lamentation of the helpers can no longer be heard by those administrating the affairs of the State. Will peace be on earth, while the poor people are working to feed the strong and fill the stomachs of the tyrants? Will studies for historical and mystical information. It has won its place among the Persian readers as a beautiful autograph portrait of Al-Ghazzali who by natural charm of his mysticism is as much alive for us today, as he was to his disciples during his lifetime. His thoughts are universal and he will certainly live on and grow through the centuries, as the impact of his genius increases with the passage of time. There is no doubt that today’s striferidden world, full of deceit, prejudices and hypocrisy badly needs Al-Ghazzali’s message of peace, love, selflessness and universal brotherhood. In the matter of style there is no comparison between him and his contemporaries, who being self-conceited endeavoured to write in a style of turgid verbosity with the deliberate intention of concealing their real feelings and motives. They could not be generally understood, because instead of trying to make difficult things easy of comprehension, they made things, which were easy in themselves difficult, to be comprehended by the manner in which they presented them. The real charm of Al-Ghazzali’s letters is that they are obviously frank and sincere, with nothing to conceal and without verbosity. Like all else he wrote on the subject of mysticism. They are easy and vivid, showing a glowing zeal for the improvement of the condition of the poor and for the welfare of his fellow-men.
It is much to be regretted that in spite of selfless efforts, it has not been found possible either to ascertain the exact dates, when these letters were written or traced out the places from which they were addressed, though presumably several of them seem to have been written from his native town Tus in Khurasan, to which place he had retired. It remains briefly to describe the source from which the present book has been translated. The mass of Al-Ghazzali’s published correspondence is enormous and lies scattered in Arabic and Persian books like Tabaqat-i-Shafi’a. Majma’ul Insha and Aasarul Wuzara’, etc. But the most important collection of his letters is obtainable in a Persian book entitled Faza’ilul Anam Min Rasa’il-i-Hujjatul Islam which ascribe of Al-Ghazzali’s own city and claiming close relationship with him, selected and copied out in his old age. I have throughout translated the full text of every letter as given in the authority from which it has been taken.
As, however, everyone of these twenty-six letters is included in the oldest MS. now in the Constantinople University Library, the reader is assured that the text of the original Persian letters is equally the oldest and, therefore, the most authentic version available.
Al-Ghazzali is a figure of such towering importance that some detailed account of his life, doctrine and works must be inserted in a book like this which professes to be a collection of his selected letters:
Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad, Al-Ghazzali, the Shafi’ite and Ash’arite, was born at Tus in Khurasan in 450 A.H. (1072 A.D.) about the time of Sultan Alp Arslan’s accession to the Seljuq’s throne, and died at the age of fifty-five in the year 1127 A.D. at Tabaran, a village near Tus. The latter was in ancient times one of the famous cities in Khurasan. It is today little more than a village, but is well known for its association with the famous poet Firdausi who died there in 1020 A.D. Al-Ghazzali’s father himself was an illiterate person, but appears to have been remarkably careful of his son’s education. He used to spin wool and sell it in his shop. That is why the family of Al-Ghazzali, is known as such, since its members were the spinners of wool.
The father of Al-Chazzali entrusted his two sons Al- Ghazzali himself and his brother Ahmad to the care of a pious sufi who taught them writing and educated them till the money left by him was spent up. They were taught and brought up in quite poor and humble conditions and it became impossible for them to continue their studies.
Then says Al-Ghazzali,· “Our teacher with whom we had lived before, turned us out of his doors and we did not like to be a source of burden to him, so we left his house. Disappointed and disheartened we had to leave our hearth and home and went to a college to learn jurisprudence so that we might gain our livelihood.”
After staying m the college for some time Al-Ghazzali made for Jurjan where he learnt the fundamentals of the current subjects at the feet of Nasr Al-Isma’ili. While coming back from Jurjan something happened that made life-long impact on Al-Ghazzali. In these days, the life of a scholar was beset with hardships and difficulties. Many students had set out, as a matter of course, on a journey of a thousand mile or more in quest of a teacher. Vast journeys from Spain to Mecca and from Baghdad to Morocco were undertaken by young man who left their homes practically penniless to sit at the feet of a chosen master.
R.R. Nicholson says in his learned work ‘A Literary History of the Arabs’ that “it seemed as if all the world from the Caliph down to the humblest citizen suddenly became students or at least patrons of literature. In quest of knowledge men travelled over three continents and returned home, like bees laden with honey, to impart the precious stores which they accumulated to crowds of eager disciples and to compile with incredible industry. Those works of encyclopaedic range and erudition from which modern science, in the widest sense of the word had derived far more than is generally supposed” (pp. 21, 22). As he was coming back from Jurjan, his caravan was waylaid by robbers and in the loot he lost his very precious note-book. The young scholar got so much agitated at the loss of his only “treasure” that he follows them to crave the return of his lecture-notes, “for which” said he “I left my home and which contain my knowledge”. Thereat, the chief robber laughed and said, “How does thou pretend to have acquired the know ledge contained in them which we have snatched from thee, thou art robbed of thy knowledge and left knowledgeless?”
And thereafter, Al-Ghazzali, having recovered his note- book did not rest, till all their contents had been learnt and fully assimilated. His memory had become so prodigious now that he could repeat from his memory whatever he learnt in the books without making any mistake. Sometimes he could reproduce ten or eleven pages of a prose work over which had cast one hasty glance, so that as he said, “should I again be robbed, I should not be deprived of my knowledge.”
Thereafter he went to Nishapur to become a disciple of ‘Abdul Malik Juraini widely known as ‘Abdul Malik Ma’ali Imamul Haramain, who was appointed as a Vice Chancellor of the well- known Nizamiya University in Baghdad. He was the man who had a big say in the Government of the day. After teaching Al-Ghazzali for some time he left the country in consequences of Alp Arslan’s vizier Imadul Mulk at Kunduri’s having obtained the permission of his master to have curses pronounced against the Ash’arites (to which sect both Al- Ghazzali and Imamul Haramain belonged) from the pulpits of Khurasan. To escape the curses Imamul Haramain went to Mecca and Medina, where he was held in the highest esteem as a great Imam who appeared on ceremonial occasions, attended by a numerous train of admiring disciples. He wielded a tremendous spiritual influence over the people.
A letter to His Majesty Sultan Sanjar Seljuqi
A letter to His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk
A letter to His Excellency Nizamuddin Fakhrul Mulk
A letter to His Excellency Nizarnuddin Ahmed bin Ishaq bin ‘Ali Ibn Ishaq
A letter to His Excellency Shihab-ul-Islam
A letter to His Excellency Mujir-ud-Deen
A letter to His Excellency Mu’inul Mulk
A letter to His Excellency Sa’adat Khan
A letter to one of the” Amirs
A letter to the Administrative Heads of All Government Departments
A letter to Qazis of Maghrib-i-Aqsa
A letter to Khwaja Imam ‘Abbasi
A letter to Abul Hasan Mas’ud bin Muhammad bin Ghanam
A letter to All the Prominent Theologians
A letter to Khwaja ‘Abbas Khwarzam
A letter to Ibn-ul-’Amil
A letter to whomsoever it may concern
A letter to Qadi Imam Sa’eed ‘Imadud-din Muhammad Al-Wazzam
A letter to all those who want to live a peaceful and pious life
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