194. Thoughts of Al-Ghazali. Part three
We were discussing Sufism ( mysticism)
He knew that piety and restraint from passion is necessary, but it was also required to devote with total ardor to God. This could only be achieved by avoiding fame and fortune and fleeing from attachments. He reflected on his intentions on his public teachings, and saw that it was not directed purely to God, but more towards fame and prestige. He realized that he had to give up his post and leave Bagdad.
An intense period of vacillation ensued. One day he would firmly resolve to leave Bagdad and next day cancel his decision. Worldly desires and path towards God were pulling him in opposite directions. This lasted for six months
A lock was put on his tongue. He could not speak a single world. He also became sad. His appetite and digestion went away. There was great weakening of his powers.
‘In powerlessness I had recourse to God. I was answered by Him’
‘He made it easy for my heart to turn away from fame, family, children and associates’. He announced that he was leaving for Mecca (for Hajj?). Although in actuality he was going to Syria. This was a precaution from schemes of trouble makers.
“I departed from Bagdad after I had distributed what wealth I had, laying by only the amount needed for my support and the sustenance of my children…… I resided in Damascus for nearly two years. My only occupation was seclusion, spiritual exercise to purify my soul…..cleansing my heart for the remembrance of God, in the way I had learned from the writing of sufis…..mounting to the minaret of a mosque for the whole day and shutting myself in……Then I travelled from Damascus to Jerusalem, where I would go daily into the Dome of the Rock and shut myself in.”
An inner urge guided him to go to Mecca and Medina and perform Hajj. Which he did.
He had to come back to his native land for certain important matters. But he maintained solitude. He tried to keep his heart empty for remembrance of God. But worldly concerns and needs made it impossible to fully achieve this state. He had blessed ecstasy only intermittently. He remained in this condition for ten years.
Things impossible to enumerate were disclosed to him.
Many Islamic mystics like Shahab ( blog 32,94. Also see note 4 below) have considered mysticism inferior to Shariat. But not Ghazali:
“ this much I shall mention, that profit may be derived from it: I know with certainty that the sufis are those that uniquely follow the way to God, their mode of life is the best of all, their way the most direct of ways , and their ethics the purest.”
“…….all their (sufis) motions are learned from the light of the niche of prophecy. And beyond the light of prophecy there is no light on earth from which illumination can be obtained.”
“From the very beginning of the Way revelations and visions start…. so that , even when awake, the sufis see the angels and the spirits of the prophets and hear voices coming from them……eventually to states beyond the narrow range of words”
He wanted to come out of seclusion to reform others. He had found out that the faith of some men was weak. He wanted to guide them aright and to deliver them from peril.
He was on the horns of a dilemma: seclusion and devote all the time to God or to come out of religious retirement and guide others by lectures and books.
Sultan ordered him to return to Nishapur and face the threat of this tepidity in Muslims. Thus the decision was taken out of his hands. In addition to that, certain Godly men had many recurrent dreams attesting that this move of his would be a source of good and a right procedure, and it had been decreed by God ……
He was uniquely qualified for this task due to his encyclopedic knowledge of Islam, and philosophy and being an authentic sufi. He wrote many books.
Avicenna (Ibn Sina, born 980 A.D.) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd, born 1126 A.D.) are the two most famous Muslim Philosophers of Middle Ages. In philosophy, they both followed Aristotle (Pupil of Plato, born in 384 B.C.), and not Plato. Ghazali exposed, what he thought, were the weaknesses in the arguments of both of them, and also that of Al Farabi (born 870? A.D.). He wrote a book called Destruction of the philosophers. Averroes replied by a book Destruction of the Destruction.
He followed Shariat and his mysticism was traditional Islamic mysticism. He advocated orthodox religious views. He did not bring anything new.
This mote considers him a great man, because when the time for sacrifice came he rose to the occasion and sacrificed, by quitting the world, for God. He realized God without any teacher. Books were his teacher. This mote also has no guide; books have been my guide. But I did not realize God, because I did not possess the courage to leave world.
(1) ‘AL-Ghazali’s path to Sufism, his deliverance from error’. “Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal”. Translated from the Arabic by Mccarthy. Prefaced by Burrell. Introduction by Graham
(2) ‘Kashaful- Mehjoob’ by Daata Gunj Bakhash
(3) My source in writings about Descartes and Plato is the book, “A history of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell
(1) From my blog 94:“I am simply amazed that how Mr. Shahab considered it inferior to shariat. The bliss of God’s touch on one’s face is ineffable. Words cannot describe it. One touch is greater than thousand ritualistic prostrations. All great saints, like St Teresa of Avilla, and Sri Ramakrishna have said the same thing.”