Regarding The
Detractors Of The Ihya *

by Sh. G. F. Haddad

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 ﷺ Allah bless and greet him -- 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 Qur' an 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' ʿUlum al-Din ("The Lavish Gift of the Godwary Masters: Commentary on al-Ghazzali's ʿGiving Life to the Religious Sciences'") which contains the most comprehensive documentation of the hadith narrations cited by al-Ghazzali.

- ʿAbd al-Qadir ibn ʿAbd Allah al-ʿAydarus Ba ʿAlawi's Taʿrif al-Ahya bi Fada'il al-Ihya ("The Appraisal of the Living of the Immense Merits of the Ihya").

- Mulla ʿAli al-Qari's Sharh ʿAyn al-ʿIlm 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' ʿUlum 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 fol-lowing and their service, for I rely on my love for them and content myself with my longing for them."


    see the pdf-file which is an expanded version of the above older text :
     < "Defending the Ihya from those Devoid of Shame" >

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latest update: Wed, 7 Jan 2009


* living Islam – Islamic Tradition *