The Belief in God (Aqeedah) by Imam Ghazzali

>> Friday, October 10, 2008

We have now finished Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of the Ihya Ulum-Id-Din which was entitled Knowledge. We now come to Chapter 2 of Volume 1 which is Foundation of Belief. Imam Ghazzali starts of this chapter talking about the belief in god and over here we see his Aqeedah. Now keep in mind this is Imam Ghazzali's Aqeedah and I will neither defend nor attack him for it. It is our choice to agree or disagree with his views on this subject. Furthermore for the sake of being unbiased in this blog I will not tell which school of Theology I follow. However I will say traditionally out of the 4 schools of Theology Mu'tazili, Ash'ari, Maturidi and Athari (better known as salafiyyah/Wahabiyyah today) three were considered to be under the sunnah, while one was considered off the sunnah. That one which was off the Sunnah was Mu'tazili. Now no one E-mail me arguing with me because I will nto argue who is right or wrong I just wish to show what Imam Ghazzali believed in his own words. Most of you only know what he believed in the words of Yasir Qadhi or some other Al-Maghrib instructor who dislike the Imam or in the words of Imam G.F. Haddad or someother supporter of Imam Ghazzali. I am here allowing the dead to speak for themselves. Furthermore if you take a second to look past the differences in aqeedah and see the applications of aqeedah (which can be applied to any school of theology) and excellence of belief (which can also be applied to any school of theology) you will inshAllah benefit from this post.

In the Words of Imam Ghazzali

Praise be to God, the Creator, the First, the Last, the Doer of whatever He wills, who guides His servants towards the true path, who makes Himself known to men that He exists by Himself without any partner, He is single without any associate, the Eternal without any before Him and without any beginning, the Everlasting without any end. He is the First, the Last, the External and the Internal, the All-knowing. The following beliefs about God are necessary

(1) To believe in His Transcendence. He is without body and form, free of restriction, limitation and resemblance, not divisible. Nothing is like Him and He is not like anything. He is not limited by measure, space and time. He is free from diligence, rest and change. Everything is in His grasp. He is above Arsh, above heaven and above everything. He is nevertheless below the deepest depth, yet He is near, very close to a thing, nearer to the jugular vein of a man. He is not in anything and nothing is in Him. Ile is beyond space and beyond time. His is now as He was before. He expresses Himself through His creatures and not by existence. He is free from change, increase or decrease.

(2) To believe in His power and existence. He is Ever-living, All-powerful, Almighty, the great Destroyer. He is free from faults and failures, slumber, sleep, disease, death. He is the Lord of the entire universe, angels and everything. The heavens are rolled in his hands. He is unique in creation and unrivalled in ever new creations. He fixed the provision and death of created beings and nothing can escape from His power. His power and might are above counting.

(3) To believe in His knowledge. His knowledge is without limit and He knows everything. Whatever happens between the deepest abyss of the earth to the highest heaven is within His knowledge. The smallest atom in the earth or in heaven is not outside His knowledge. He knows the creeping of an ant on a solid stone in intense dark night or in the movement of a mote in the air. Everything open and secret is within His knowledge. Every thought in mind, every contrivance of the devil and every thought good or bad is within His knowledge. His knowledge is eternal and unlimited without any increase or decrease and without any defect.

(4) To believe in His will. Nothing comes into being small or great, good or evil, benefiting or not benefiting, faith or infidelity, known or unknown, profit or loss, sin or virtue without His order, power and will. What He wills comes into being. What He does not will comes not into being. Not a glance of the eye, not a stray sudden thought in mind is outside His will. He does what He wills. There is none to rescind His command, there is no obstacle to it. There is no refuge of one who is disobedient to him. There is none to follow His command without His will. If mankind, jinn, angels and devil want to remove an atom from its proper place, they won't be able to do it without His will. His will lies naturally in His attributes which are unlimited. There is no precedence or subsequence of any event from its appointed time.

(5) To believe in His hearing and sight. He hears and sees. His hearing and sight are all pervading. Nothing however scanty can escape His hearing and nothing however subtle can go from His sight. Distance is no bar to His hearing and seeing, rather distance and nearness are all equal to Him. Darkness can not obstruct His sight. He sees without eye, catches without hands and creates without instrument. His attributes are not like those of the created beings, His being is not like that of the created.

(6) To believe in His words. God speaks without sound. It is eternal, ancient and self-existing unlike the talks of the created. His talk is without sound. It has got no connection with circulation of air. It does not take the help of words and language through the movement of lips. The Quran, the Bible, the Gospel and Psalms are His created books to His Prophets. The Quran is recited by tongue, written on papers and preserved in heart, nevertheless it is eternal existing with the eternity of God. Hazrat Moses heard His words without sound and language and the righteous will see Him in the hereafter without body and space.

(7) To believe in His actions. There is no creator of actions except He and nobody is outside His judgment. He created everything in its best of make and form and no other form is better than it. He is wise in His actions and just in His judgments. His justice is not comparable to that of men. Whatever exits in the world, men, jinn, angels, devils, heaven, earth, animals, plants, inanimate things comes out of nothing but by His power. He existed in eternity by Himself and there was nothing along with Him. Thereafter He originated creations not because of His necessity. He has got no fatigue or languor. Whatever He does is from a sense of justice, not of oppression or injustice. Obedience to Him is binding on all His creatures and He expressed it through His Prophets. He gave them miracles and conveyed His injunctions and prohibitions through them.

(8) To believe in other world. It is to attest to the prophethood of Muhammad. God sent the unlettered Quraishite Prophet Muhammad as an apostle to all the Arabs and non-Arabs, to the jinn and men and by his law he abrogated all other laws. He gave him superiority to all other Prophets and made him leader of mankind and did not make complete any faith with the words of Tauhid till it was followed by the attestation that Muhammad is His servant and apostle. He made compulsory to believe whatever he said about this world and the next world. He does not accept the faith of a man unless he believes in these articles of faith along with the following.

(a) To believe in Munkar and Nakir. They are two terrible angels. They will make the dead one sit up with his soul and body and ask him about his religion and his Prophet. This is the first examination after death. (b) To believe in the punishment of grave as true. (c) To believe in the Balance with two scales and a tongue the magnitude of which is like the stages of heaven and earth. Therewith the actions of men will be weighed. The weight would be like a mote or mustard seed to establish exact justice. (d) To believe in the Bridge. It is a bridge stretched over Hell, sharper than the edge of the sword and thinner than a hair. The feet of the unbelievers will slip and they will fall down into Hell. The feet of the believers will be firm upon it by the grace of God and so they will cross it to Paradise. (e) To believe in the Fountain. It is a fountain of the Prophet. The believers will take drink from it and enter Paradise after crossing the bridge. Whoever will drink therefrom once will never be thirsty. Its water will be whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. There will be so many pitchers around like so many stars in firmament. (f) To believe in the judgment. Some will render little account, some great and some will enter Paradise without account. They will be in the neighbourhood of God. Those who believe in Tauhid will come out of Hell after their due punishment in Hell. (g) To believe in the intercession of the Prophets, then the learned, then the martyrs, then the rest of the believers. They will have the right of intercession in proportion to their ranks to God. (h) To believe in the goodness of the companions, first of Abu Bakr, then of Umar, then of Osman and then of Ali. You will have good idea about them and praise them as God and His Apostle praised them.

Excellence of Belief

What has been said above about belief is applicable to a boy in his early years in order that he may commit them to memory. Its meaning will be gradually unfolded to him. The first duty of a boy is to commit them to memory, then to understand them and then to believe them and then to know them as certain and sure. It comes to his mind as a matter of course without proof. The root of faith of the ordinary people is Taqlid or blind belief in authority. True it is that the belief which is based on authority is not free from some weakness, but when it is certain and sure, it becomes perfect. To achieve this end, one should not resort to scholastic theology but to reading the Quran, Tafsir and Hadis and to understand their meaning, because in that case the light of divine service appears in him, and the advices of the pious, their company, their character and conduct, their God-fear and their asceticism spread effect in his mind. Instruction to the boy is like the sowing of seed in his heart. The above actions are like the serving of water and tending to seed. It grows, becomes strong and thrives to a tree and its root becomes strong and firm and its branches rise high. The boy should also be guarded against argumen tation and speculation as their harms are greater than their benefits. To make faith strong by argumentation is like striking a tree with an iron matter. To teach by proof is one thing and to see proof by eyes is another thing. If the boy wants to be included within the travellers of the hereafter with Taufiq or God's grace as his friend, the doors of guidance are opened up for him till he remains engaged in actions attached to Godfear and restrains himself from passions and lusts making efforts in discipline and self-mortification. Owing to these efforts, a light from God falls in his heart as God says: Whoso strives for Us, We shall guide them in our paths, for God is assuredly with those who do right- 29: 69. That is the most valuable jewel and the ultimate goal of the saints and favour ites of God. That is the secret matter which rested in the breast of Hazrat Abu Bakr and for which he was superior to all others. The expression of this secrecy has got different stages.

It will be open to one in proportion to one's efforts and striving and the more one makes his soul clean and pure. It is like the learning of the mysteries of medicines, jurisprudence and other sciences. They differ in proportion to the differences of intellect and knowledge. As there is no limit to these stages, there is also no limit to the degrees of secrets.