Imam Al-Ghazali’s “Ihya Ulum al-Din” (The Act of Worship) stands as a timeless masterpiece, a beacon guiding readers through the intricacies of Islamic spirituality, morality, and the path to a fulfilling life. The first book in the series The Book of Knowledge, presents its readers with wisdom and virtues that one must possess before one embarks towards their journey to become a seeker of Ilm or the student of knowledge.
“The Book of Knowledge” doesn’t merely delve into theoretical discourse; it invites readers to embark on a practical & transformative expedition. The integration of real-life examples & practical applications ensures that the knowledge imparted is not confined to the pages of the book but becomes a living, breathing guide for daily life. Imam Ghazali cites examples of several Prophets, prominent scholars, all four Imams as well as other learned men of different centuries to make the reader understand the meaning of living on acquired knowledge.
The reader is sure to question his intention of why he/she is acquiring the knowledge that they are currently engaged in, whether it is the science of this world or the Hereafter. The most compelling part of the book is where he reiterates his point about getting diverted from the right path while believing you are upright.
“ A person would always interpret all that he would hear according to the light which dominates his heart”
The laid-out virtues of all the types of knowledge followed by the duty of a teacher, and student as well as identifying false teachers are an essential element that needs to be revised again and reintroduced in the minds of our young scholars and are all present in this first book of the series.
To make this point more clear the author gives an example of important advice that was imparted to his student by Imam Shafi when he was asked “When will man become learned?” to which he replied, “When he would concentrate on one science until he masters it and at the same time addresses himself to other sciences and surveys what he doesn’t know, then he would become learned”.
As “The Book of Knowledge” progresses, it transcends the boundaries of mere intellectual pursuit. It becomes a call to spiritual awakening, encouraging readers to seek not only knowledge but also a deeper connection with the Divine. The narrative weaves together the intellectual and the spiritual, creating a seamless tapestry of understanding that resonates with the heart as much as the mind.
The wisdom of the book is in light of all the revelations, with the Quran as its epicentre. The book will eventually prepare you to become a better teacher.
But he also warns against the false teachers, the ones who teach it for the gain of popularity and favours of the governors. As warned by Prophet Muhammad, Shaitan may bait you with knowledge. By the end of the book, the reader will come across the most common quality of all the learned men, which, as per Ghazali, was silence and their quality of refraining from giving opinions due to fear of Allah. The traditions of the Prophet Muhammad used in the book further strengthen the argument made by the writer:
“Of the danger which threatens my people, I fear nothing except the error of the learned man and a hypocrite discussing the Quran”
In conclusion, it is an indispensable resource for those seeking not only knowledge but also a transformative experience on the path of Islamic enlightenment. The book will leave us with one question at the end “Are there any real teachers left?”