Al Ghazali on Poverty & Abstinence

One of the most influential books I have ever read on the implementation of spiritual thought into the believer’s everyday life has to be Imam Al-Ghazali’s “Ihya Ilum id Din” (The Revival of Religious Knowledge). Written in the 11th century in Arabic, The Ihya was regarded as one of Ghazali’s chief works and a classic introduction to the pious muslim’s way to God. While it may have been written for Muslim audiences in mind. This classic work is a must read for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of their personal walk with God.

Before we began to examine some of this book, we have to first clear up some misconceptions on the form of poverty that will come up. While most of you reading this will automatically think of abject poverty, while it’s an important subject Ghazali covers at some length the main form of poverty (that he couples with Abstinence) is one that is in a manner of speaking a journey that takes the traveler on a quest to seek a closeness to God by developing a balanced indifference to wealth and other forms of wealth we are accustomed to in today’s society.

For example, when we think of one need few of us can do without… a car.  Most people are wishing to have the newest edition 2021 -2022 models with all the amenities, and whether you can afford one or not the question that Al Ghazali raises is, is that purchase good for your spiritual health or a distraction that takes you further away from remembering God.

 

After all we as human beings are forgetful to the core, from Adam and Eve putting God’s warnings of that single tree they couldn’t touch on the back burner, to us forgetting that in reality it’s God (Mighty and Majestic) that sees to our everyday needs as we go about our lives unaware of His Grace and Blessings. An aspect of our relationship with wealth (or lack of it) is our personal perspective of it in our relationship to God (Mighty and Majestic). In Arabic the term Adabwhich refers to the way a person perceives and acts in regards to the world around him or her is important. A rich person then can either be money hungry and stingy, or he can be generous to others simply for God’s sake and giving for the pleasure of God. The highest point any given person can attain is to be indifferent to the wealth he or she has, regardless of how much he or she has it doesn’t affect the state of their heart. Even a poor person if willing to give their heart and mind to higher things can attain this state of indifference even in the depths of poverty, neither hoarding the money he or she receives, nor being too consumed in earning that it takes them away from God’s grace.

The Qur’an (and the Bible) affirm this indifference to wealth:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 

1 Timothy 6:17-18 (Holy Bible)

 

“But those who before them, had homes (in Medina) and had adopted the Faith,- show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the (latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their (own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls,- they are the ones that achieve prosperity.”

Al-Hashr, 59:9 (Holy Qur’an)

 

We would love to give you’ll, our Writing Elite family an opportunity to read these wonderful series of books, regardless of your own spiritual faith. As we said earlier, it’s one where everyone can take valuable insights that will aid them on their personal spiritual journey to a deeper relationship with God. We’d love to hear your feed back, so drop some knowledge in the comments below!