Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Lecture on group thought and Imam Ghazali's work on the heart and knowledge

Transcript on the Jumuah Lecture by Sheigh Seraj Hendricks

Some of the problems found and some which needs to be avoided regarding group thought:

Do not go into a party with the niyya of domination and imposing of your views on others. Be neutral and give the members the opportunity to explore for themselves. Allow members to discuss in openness and freedom.

There are two types of ijma (consensus) in our shari’ah:

  1. Ijma sarih – here all the ulama of a particular time showed their agreement on a particular matter.
  2. Ijma sukuti – here there was also an agreement on a topic but some remained silent. This silence was always seen as being neutral. This silence meant that the topic was left open for new ijtihad of ulama to follow up on and give their views and opinion on the matter.

A Muslims life is to think and learn. Learning is very important. Once you feel you know it all then the doors of learning closes for you. So learning is what is important and not knowing.

Ijama (consensus) never took place within organizations but rather within schools and amongst the scholars.

The problem with certain group thought is:

They try to discredit others and think that they alone have the truth and the rest are living in darkness.

With this thought they cause rifts within the community.

There views that only they are correct comes with the reducing of any others who disagree with them.

They make members conform to their view. They tend to preasure people by ‘you are either with us or against us’.

They withhold alternative and different views while a Muslim should be open-minded and diverse.

A problem is that members who are afraid to speak out and remain silent are thought to agree with them and it looks to those outside that they are unanimous in there view on a particular topic.

Imam Ghazali says:

The Soul is like a mirror in which evils and virtues are reflected.

The Soul is a container of knowledge.

As a mirror has got connection with figure and form, so also a soul has got connection with objects of knowledge

In other words, picture, or figure can be seen if placed in front of a mirror

So also different objects of knowledge are reflected in soul.

A mirror assumes the colour of a figure placed before it.

فيها الصورة لخمسة أمور


Here are five obstacles or hurdles which prevent real pictures in a mirror. With the heart as the recipient of what the mirror reflects


نقصان صورتها كجوهر الحديد قبل أن يدور ويشكل ويصقل

A picture cannot be seen in a mirror if the thing with which the mirror is made is spoiled. This mirror is ill formed, you can see in it but its not been cleaned and polished.

والثاني لخنثه وصدئه وكدورته وإن كان تام الشكل

or if impurities fall in the mirror, like rust or the mirror is wobbly and the result is that ou cannot get a good image. It is complete in form and shape but not yet finished to see yet

والثالث لكونه معدولا به عن جهة الصورة إلى غيرها كما إذا كانت الصورة وراء المرآة

or if the mirror is not directed towards the picture, meaning that you are standing behind the mirror so how can you see it?

والرابع لحجاب مرسل بين المرآة والصورة

or there is something between the mirror and the picture, like a curtain or veil or hijab.

والخامس للجهل بالجهة التي فيها الصورة المطلوبة

Jahl: you don’t know where the mirror is.

Similar is the case with human soul.

It has got five obstacles. Human soul has got the fitness to receive true pictures of everything, but if it cannot do its function, it will be understood that knowledge cannot come owing to the five

لهذه الأسباب الخمسة

أولها نقصان في ذاته كقلب الصبي فإنه لا ينجلي له المعلومات لنقصانه

1. The first obstacle is a natural defect of soul as the souls of boys. He compares (you can see in it but its not been cleaned and polished) to a child who is too tong to understand or who is just to raw and needs to still be matured.


والثاني لكدورة المعاصي والخبث الذي يتراكم على وجه القلب من كثرة الشهوات

Part of the ‘ilm of the heart is dependent on our lifestyle and how we live. Do we contribute to praiseworthy qualities in our lives like mercy and generosity etc. These are God like qualities. Or do we go the other way, Riya (showing off), hasad (being envious and jealous etc).

It is these qualities which build up the rust on the mirror and for this reason we cannot see into the mirror and similarly the heart cannot see as rust has built up.

If you come with hasanat then these good works removes the rust and these works are like sabr, mercy, shafqah etc… the opposite would be haste which is from the Shaytan.

فإن ذلك يمنع صفاء القلب وجلاءه فيمتنع ظهور الحق فيه لظلمته وتراكمه وإليه الإشارة

If the impurities of sins are not removed just like the impurities in a mirror, truth is not reflected in it.

بقوله صلى الله عليه وسلم من قارف ذنبا فارقه عقل لا يعود إليه أبدا[1]

The Prophet therefore said: The intellect of a man who is accustomed to commit sins goes away. It never comes back to him.

أي حصل في قلبه كدورة لا يزول أثرها

In other words, rust falls in his soul unless it is removed by a good deed and repentance.

If dust falls on a mirror, it can be removed by a duster.

Soul becomes bright if it does not follow low desires and urge of passion.

وقال صلى الله عليه وسلم من عمل بما علم ورثه الله علم ما لم يعلم

The Prophet said: God grants such wisdom to one who acts up to his learning which he did not know before.


(3) Third obstacle of soul.

That you are not facing the mirror.

As nothing can be seen if a mirror is not directed towards a figure or picture,

so real picture of a thing does not fall or disappear in the soul if it is misguided from the real object of research and enquiry.

Brightness of truth is not reflected in soul owing to the object of enquiry not being directed towards soul although it is clean and pure.

Meaning that even if your heart is filled with you might not be facing the mirror and the truth cannot reflect in your heart.

The picture of an object about which a man thinks falls in his soul.

He who confines his thoughts and efforts to the different modes of health gains. health.

So he who engages his whole attention and energy to the attainment of Divine love can acquire it.

But he whose attention is diverted only to worldly pursuits gets them no doubt but is not blessed with divine love and grace.

A reason the Sh gives for not getting to the truth and reality and facing of the mirror is because you have become obessed with technicalities of fiqh like the acts of salah, livelihood, economy and you are always worried.

You have excessive concirns with the acts of ibada…

you always worry if your took wudhu properly, did I miss a spot, should I do it over etc.

Imam Ghazali says that these things can distract us from the higher purpose.

And if Ibada can become a distraction, then what about one who is immersed in the Dunay?

(4) Fourth obstacle of soul.

If there is something between a mirror

So also if there is screen between a human soul and. a thing desired, its true picture cannot be reflected in soul.

Truth cannot come out from a screened soul.

Following passions and low desires, screen falls in his soul.

Also, the beliefs which take root in early years of life from the surrounding environments paint the future of a man and create obstacles in finding out the truth of a thing.

What you were taught in your younger days could be a barrier from connecting to the truth (so be open-minded).

وهذا أيضا حجاب عظيم به حجب أكثر المتكلمين والمتعصبين للمذاهب

This is a huge barrier standing between those who are fanatical about madhabs. Ghazali was a master of fiqh, tauhid, etc

بل أكثر الصالحين المتفكر

In fact more than the above, most of the people of taffakur and the salihin, even they are victoms and have been veiled because of beliefs they follow which they heard of or seen without go seek out proper ‘ilm.


(5) Fifth obstacle of soul is ignorance.

You don’t know where the mirror is

This mirror cannot be found unless find out what ilm is required to get you to the mirror.

The true ulama and those dedicated put in efforts to find ‘ilm and they see the nur in it by serving the ‘ilm.

Abu Hanifa spent all his earnings on the ulama…he clothed them and made sure they were taken care of. When he was thanked he replied,’ don’t thank me, this is Allahs bounty to them for their efforts’

This type of ilm you go out and search for it…

Beyond this, be aware of the subtleties (find your mirror) and what is more important is that you might think you got your mirror.

You get one mirror but with it you want to see the nape of your neck, you place it infront of you but you cannot see it, you end up seeing your face,

Then you place the mirror behind you and now its worse, you cannot see anything.

What do you do? You need to get a second mirror so that you can get a better angel and this is Imam Ghazali’s point

You need to explore all the ilm and angles and points you possibly can and to do this you might need more than one mirror.

As Muslims, we need to submit to ilm.

We don’t have to be violent and angry with other people to show that we are the true religion… we need to do things in the spirit of love.

Ghazali’s point – he refers to surah ahzab 72

إِنَّا عَرَضْنَا الاٌّمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأبَيْنَ أَن يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا الإِنْسَـنُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُوماً جَهُولاً

72. Truly, We did offer the Amanah to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains, but they declined to bear it and were afraid of it. But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust and ignorant.

What distinguishes us from the mala’ika is the above, that we accepted this amana of ‘ilm and this is Ghazali’s point… we can reach heights higher than the angels or sink lower than the low. Ilm is a sacred trust from Allh, so be careful of using it tomake things hard for people or to put fear in peoples hearts or for personal agenda’s.

Imam Ghazali links this amana to us as individuals who with the above can become a mercy and benefit to the people by upholding this amana.

This amana is a duty bound one where we as bearers of it have certain duties and they include:

That we be tolerant

That we respect that people have freedom of belief

That we act with adala

That we be loyal to our promises we make

That we do unto others that what we wud love have done to ourselves

That we spread muwaddah (love)

That we appose fasad corruption

And none of these can be achieved if the individual is not given the opportunity to decide through his opinion and choice.

No comments: