Imam Al-Ghazali رحمه اللهand the Signs of the ‘Ulama – 7-8

By Moulana Zakariyya Kandhalawi رحمه الله  


The Seventh distinguishing characteristic of the ‘ulama al-akhirah is that they are seriously interested in the esoteric science, in other words Suluk. They strive greatly in purifying their inner selves and hearts, as this is a means of progressing in the exoteric knowledge. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Whosoever acts upon what he knows, Allah Most High will grant him knowledge of that which he has not acquired.”

It occurs in the scriptures of previous prophets (peace be upon them)“O children of Israel, say not, knowledge lies in the skies above; who can make it descend upon us? Nor should you say, knowledge lies in the bowels of the earth, too deep for us to dig out. Nor say, knowledge lies across the seas too far away for us to reach it. Knowledge lies within your own hearts. Remain in My presence, observing proper etiquette in the manner of great spiritual beings and cultivate the pious manners of the siddiqin; I shall cause knowledge to spring forth from your hearts, so much so that you will be overwhelmed by knowledge.” Experience shows that the pious beings who have attained nearness to Allah Most High are granted access to such knowledge and insight which cannot be found in books.

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that Allah Most High said, “No means whereby My servant seeks My Favour are more pleasing to Me than the observance of the fard actions (such as Salah, Zakah, Sawm, Hajj etc.). My servant keeps coming closer to Me with nafl actions, until I make him My favourite, and when I make him My favourite, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds, and his feet with which he walks. If he asks Me for something, I fulfil his desire, or if he seeks refuge against anything, I grant him refuge.” (Al-Bukhari)

Meaning, his walking, seeing, hearing and all actions conform to the pleasure of Allah Most High. Some other versions of the hadith add: “Whosoever despises or bears enmity against any one of my friends has declared war against me.”

Since the thoughts and contemplation of the walis of Allah are connected to Him, the subtle knowledge of the Holy Qur’an are revealed to them, and its secrets are made clear to them; this is especially the case with those who remain constantly engaged in the dhikr and meditation of Allah Most High. And each individual receives from this, with tawfiq from Allah Most High, an amount that is equivalent to his concern for good actions and efforts.

In a lengthy hadith — quoted by Hafiz Ibn Qayyim (may Allah mercy him) in his book, Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah and by Abu Nu’aym (may Allah mercy him) in his book Al-Hilyah — Sayyiduna ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is reported to have mentioned the qualities of the ‘ulama al-akhirah. Sayyiduna ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said hearts are like vessels and the best hearts are those that preserve good as much as possible. He also said that gathering knowledge is better than accumulating wealth for knowledge gives you protection while wealth needs your protection, and knowledge increases through use while wealth decreases when spent. The benefits of wealth do not remain after it has been spent, but the benefits of learning are eternal.

He then heaved a deep sigh and said, within my bosom, there is much knowledge. I wish I could find people who would be capable of receiving this knowledge. However, I find those who employ religious pursuits to amass wealth; or I find people who indulge in sensual pleasures, bound by the shackles of following their desires; or involved in amassing worldly wealth.

Anyway, this is a long passage and I (Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi) have only quoted a portion of it here.

The eighth distinguishing characteristic is that their faith and belief in Allah Most High is ever increasing and they are always concerned about this — firm belief is [a believer’s] capital. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Firm belief (yaqin) is iman in its entirety.” He also said, “Learn how to believe truly.” The meaning of this hadith is that one should diligently sit with those who possess strong belief and follow their example so that, by virtue of their blessed companionship, one can attain perfect faith.

He should have perfect belief in the absolute power and attributes of Allah Most High just like his belief in the existence of the sun and the moon. He should have perfect belief that Allah Most High alone is the doer of all things, all the various material means are under His sole control and He employs these means as He wills. This is like a stick in the hands of a person who beats someone with it, but nobody holds the stick responsible for it. When this belief becomes firmly rooted in the heart, it will become easy for him to cultivate the qualities of tawakkul (trusting in Allah alone), rida (willing acceptance of what has been decreed by Allah Most Highand taslim (submission to the supreme will of Allah Most High).

He should also have perfect belief that Allah Most High is the sole individual responsible for providing sustenance (rizq), and that He has taken the responsibility for the rizq of every individual as has been predetermined; he will, under all circumstances, receive it. That which has not been predetermined will not reach him under any circumstance. When this belief becomes firm, one will exercise moderation in the struggle to earn one’s livelihood. Such belief checks greed and avarice and one will not feel grieved if one fails to achieve something.

He should also have firm belief that Allah Most High is watching all deeds, good or bad, at all times; that even an iota small good or bad deed is in the knowledge of Allah Most High; and that reward or punishment will certainly reach him. He should strongly believe that all virtues are rewarded just as he believes that eating bread satisfies one’s hunger. Similarly, he should believe that evil has certain consequences, just like the bite of a snake (in short, he should be attracted by good deeds, as a hungry person is by food; and should feel afraid of sins, as he is scared of a snake or a scorpion). When he is firm in this, then he will have complete yearning to perform every type of good deed and total care to refrain from every type of evil deed.