Imam Ghazzali on the 4 imams Part 1

>> Monday, August 25, 2008

In the Ihya Ulum-Id-Din Imam Ghazzali writes about the 4 imams. He does not write about their legal ruling but rather about their character. Very rarely do we see writings on the character of the 4 imams. The 1st Imam Al-Ghazzali writes about is Abu Hanifa. This post will have a general introduction that Ghazzali writes about all the Imams then talks specifically of Abu Hanifa.

In The Words of Imam Ghazzali

Among the learned men of practical sciences, those who are God- fearing keep attached to the learned men of secret sciences. As a student sits in school, so Imam Shafeyi used to sit near Shaiban Ray and ask him: How shall I do this work? The people asked Imam Shafeyi: Are you asking questions to a Beduin? He said: This man has learnt what we have not learnt. Imam Ahmad-b­Hanbal and Ihya-b-Mayen could not agree on a certain ;matter and they therefore went to Maruf Karkhi who was not equal to them in the science of practical religion. They said to him: The Prophet said: What will you do when you will not find a matter in the Quran and Sunnah? He said: Ask the pious men among you and consult them in this matter. We have come to you for this.

Someone said: The learned men of exoteric knowledge are the ornaments of the world and the state but the learned men of esoteric knowledge are the ornaments of kingdoms and angels. Hazrat Junaid said: My spiritual guide said to me once: With whom do you keep company when you leave my house? I said: I keep company with Mohasabi. He said: Yes, follow his knowledge and manners but avoid the subtleties of his scholastic theology and return it to him. When I left him, I heard him say: May God make You first a Muhaddis (traditionist) and then an ascetic, but not first an ascetic and then a traditionist. Its meaning is that he should acquire first the science of tradition and learning and then become an ascetic and he will then get salvation, but he who becomes an ascetic before acquisition of knowledge throws himself into faults.

Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malek, Imam Shafeyi, Imam Ahmad-b­Hanbal, and Imam Sufiyan Saori. Everyone of them was an ascetic, devout, learned in the science of the hereafter, law giver for the people, seeker of God's pleasure through the help of Fiqh. Everyone of them possessed five qualities, but the modern Faqihs accepted only one of these qualities. That is research into the minutest details of Fiqh. The four other qualities relate to the good of the hereafter and only one relate to the good of this world. They are followed only in respect of one quality and not the other four.

Imam Abu Hanifa

He was a great Imam and a great ascetic and God-fearing man. He sought God's pleasure by his knowledge. Ibn Mubarak said that Imam Abu Hanifa had good character and conduct and observed prayer and fasted too much. Hammad-b.Sulaiman said that he was in the habit of praying the whole night, and in another narration half the night. Once Abu Hanifa was walking in a street when the people hinted at him saying: This man spends the whole night in prayer. He said: I am ashamed before God that I am described by something which I don't possess. Regarding his asceticism, Rabia-b-Asem said: Caliph Yezid sent me once to Abu Hanifa and he wanted to appoint him as cashier of the state treasury. On his refusal to accept the post, he was given twenty stripes. Now see how he fled away from a prize post and as a result he received punishment. Hakim-b-Hashim said: I heard about Abu Hanifa at Syria that he was the most trusted man for which the Caliph wanted him to be appointed as a Treasurer of the state treasury and threatened him with punishment if he would not accept it. He preferred King's punishment to that of God.

Ibnul Mubarak narrated about Abu Hanifa: Do you say of that man who was given the treasures of the world but who fled away from them? Muhammad-b-Shuja narrated: Caliph Al Mansur ordered 10,000 dirhams to be given to the Imam but he declined the offer. On the day when the wealth would be delivered to him, he covered his body with a cloth after prayer and did not talk with anybody. The man of the Caliph went to him with Dirhams but the Imam did not talk with him. One of the people present said: This is his habit. Put it in a corner of his room. This was done. Thereafter Abu Hanifa left death instruction with regard to this wealth and said to his son: When I die and you finish my burial, take this purse to the Caliph and tell him: This is your trust which you have deposited with Abu Hanifa. His son said: I did accordingly. The Caliph said: May God have mercy on your father. It is narrated that he was once offered the post of the chief justice of the state, but he said: I am not fit for this post. When he was asked about the reason, he said: If I have told the truth, it is good for the post: and if I have told a lie, I am unfit for that post as I am a liar. Abu Hanifa's knowledge of the things of the hereafter and his concern over the important matters of religion are proved by the following narrations. lbn Jury said: I was informed that Abu Hanifa was a great God-fearing man. Sharik said: Abu Hanifa used to spend long time in silence and meditation and converse little with the people. These actions prove his exoteric knowledge. He who has been given silence and asceticism has been given all knowledge.


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