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Ghazali | Kube Publishing

Posts Tagged ‘Ghazali’

Al-Ghazali on Listening to Music in Islam

Written by R on . Posted in From Kube Shelves, Uncategorized

Listening to Music 

Listening [to songs] can be absolutely prohibited, permitted, reprehensible or praiseworthy. As for that which is prohibited, it is for most young men who are overwhelmed with the lust of this world; for listening will stir up in them nothing but the reviled attributes prevalent in their hearts. As for that which is reprehensible, it is for those who do not project what they listen to into the image of human beings, but take listening as a habit for most of the time, for entertainment. As for that which is permitted, it is for those whose share of listening is restricted to enjoying beautiful voices. As for that which is praiseworthy, it is for the one who is captivated by the love of Allah Most High, and listening will only stir in him his
praiseworthy attributes.


Centuries ago one had to go to special places and gatherings to listen to songs, which were not available all
the time. When Muslim scholars discussed and ruled over listening to music and songs, they could not
imagine a time in the future when literally millions of recorded songs would be stored in a virtual reality
that are readily available all the time. But what are they listening to?


Imam al-Ghazali’s first concern was about the content which might lead youngsters to psychological
projection and fantasising about sexuality. They colour what they hear through their own lustful desires. Once the content in itself is problematic, it becomes prohibited. The degree of prohibition of this type of songs may have been more severe had the scholars of old known about some of the explicit lewd content of many songs today. And while there are songs today that may be considered positive, because they motivate people to overcome challenges and do something good, there are dark-themed songs that entertain suicide and encourage wrong behaviour.

Once the song is devoid of problematic content according to Islamic universal norms, and the listener does not project any ill thoughts, but only listens by way of habit for extended periods, then listening is reprehensible. Al-Ghazali is concerned here with wasting time, as with any type of extended activity that does not generate personal or public good, material or spiritual. Listening here is a distraction from a purposeful life. It is interesting that the synonyms of ‘entertainment’ include diversion and distraction.


The third category is when listening to songs is simply permitted. Here the listener enjoys the beautiful
voice and the melody. There is no transgression in content and it is done only occasionally.

The fourth category is when listening becomes commendable. It is for those whom the love of Allah occupies their whole time, emotions and actions. They are the opposite of the first category, for once they hear a song about the beloved, they think of Allah. The song, in their case, becomes a tool that helps in bringing forth the best in their souls and character.

This excerpt is from ‘A Treasury of Ghazali: A Companion for the Untethered Soul’

You can find out more information about the book here. To read a sample of the book click here.

Al-Ghazali on Travelling

Written by R on . Posted in From Kube Shelves, Uncategorized

Travelling

The benefits that motivate travelling are either running away from something or seeking out something, for the traveller is either bothered about something where he is staying, without which he would not aim to travel, or he has an objective and purpose in doing so.

Running away takes place because of worldly issues that have adverse effects on him, such as the plague and epidemics when they appear in a country, or out of fear because of sedition, a dispute or a hike in prices. The reasons for travelling are either general, as mentioned, or particular such as being targeted with personal harm in a town so that one runs away.

The reason for travelling may also be for matters detrimental to one’s religion such as being tried with prominence, money and a host of other material causes that prevent one from dedicating one’s time for the sake of Allah, thus preferring the life of an unknown person or a stranger to avoid wealth and status. And it may be that one is coerced to subscribe to a blameworthy innovation in religion or invited to take a public office which is unlawful to assume, and hence one flees from it.



Al-Ghazali captures [in the above passage] the essence of travel. One travels to avoid danger or discomfort, to
look for better conditions for one’s final destination, or simply to seek some other good. There is nothing
more iconic than the image of refugees coming from different religious, ethnic and national backgrounds,
trying to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats. They ran away from war and poverty. Their plight does not end simply by reaching their new destination. If they survive the waves of the sea, the tide of xenophobia is awaiting them.

The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم sent two waves of early Muslims to Abyssinia to seek refuge because Muslims
were persecuted in Makkah. The Makkan idol worshippers were the first known Islamophobes. They tried unsuccessfully to poison the air between these Muslim refugees and the Negus of Ethiopia, their host.

Travelling, al-Ghazali adds, is sought either for worldly gains or for religious purposes. The latter can be divided into seeking knowledge or action. Knowledge covers personal practical ethics that can be acquired through travelling, but also the knowledge of geography which reflects the marvels of the earth.

As for action, it can be divided into acts of worship such as the formal Pilgrimage or the visitation of Makkah, Madinah and Jerusalem.

Today, People flock to Makkah and Madinah without hesitation, but not to Jerusalem because it is still under occupation. There is a strong scholarly argument encouraging Muslims to visit al-Aqsa Mosque because it is spiritually meritorious to do so. Imam Al-Shaf’i, founder of the legal school to which al-Ghazali belonged, said in one of his poems, extolling the merits of travelling: Travel, you will find recompense for what you leave behind And strive, for the pleasure of life is in working hard.

I have seen water stagnating when left still, Refreshing when flowing, if not it doesn’t taste well. Travelling may take place to avoid tribulations and unwanted personal roles that defy Allah’s plan for humanity. Al-Ghazali travelled to seek knowledge, but once he became the most famous scholar in the Muslim world, he left Baghdad in order to purify his heart from egotistic residues resulting from fame, money and power.

Something to ponder about if you are preparing a journey to Hajj, making Hijrah or if you are travelling abroad.

This excerpt is from our title ‘A Treasury of Ghazali – A Companion for the Untethered Soul

Read a sample of the book here!

Al-Ghazali on Seeking True Happiness

Written by R on . Posted in From Kube Shelves

Seek Felicity

The otherworldly felicity we are concerned with is
subsistence without end, pleasure without toil, happiness
without sadness, richness without impoverishment, perfection
without blemish and glory without humiliation.

In sum, it is everything that can [at the same time] be
conceived of as sought and seeking, desired and desirous,
eternally and forever, such that it is undiminished by the
passage of time and successions of generations.

Indeed, if the whole world was full of gems and a bird was to
pilfer one of them every one thousand years, then the
gems will be exhausted but everlasting eternity
would not be diminished a bit.


No matter how plentiful they are, the good and enjoyable things in this world are finite. In fact, even the bad things are finite. Worldly pleasures, often conflated with happiness, are dependable on finite components. Even when they are wholesome and there is nothing controversial about them, or about how they are acquired, they are always incomplete and lacking. Material fulfilment is temporary in its very nature and the physical pleasures cannot be maintained, even when wealth and good health are at one’s disposal. One cannot eat continuously, for example, because food is plentiful and tasty, even if one does not care about health issues. Eating continuously is not sustainable. Everything that one builds will inevitably wither away in time, and all those beloved to one will either leave one or one will leave them, just as every accumulated wealth, big or small, will one day be left behind.

  

 

It is foolish to prefer what is finite and perishable to everlasting life, perpetual happiness and infinite rewards, where no effort is required. An abode where there is no striving or toil, where all joys are eternal, without any negative associations as in this worldly life. It is important not to confuse wealth with the state of happiness. Material wealth does not translate necessarily into happiness, for there are many people who are comfortable financially yet lead a miserable life. Many of them end up committing suicide due to a lack of meaning in their lives. Yet, material wealth does not necessarily preclude happiness, nor could it be automatically considered antithetical to a fulfilling spiritual life. It all depends on what is going on in one’s heart, and not on what is available in one’s bank account. The heart may be obsessed with material wealth to the extent that this prevents one from tending to one’s spiritual needs.

Muslims are, for instance, enjoined to perform the Pilgrimage to Makkah and circumambulate the Kabah, the first house established for the worship of Allah. This pillar of Islam is required once in a Muslim’s lifetime if he or she is capable financially and physically. Yet, many choose to
circumambulate the malls and the marketplaces time and again, often buying unnecessary things, or simply walking around as if time is not the most precious ‘commodity’. What is life if not the sum of these moments, whether utilised properly or not. But leading a purposeless life is not about time, it is about the path one charters.

Not using time properly is an act of ingratitude towards Allah who has gifted one with life. Is death not an end to time in this life? Is wasting time not a kind of death of the wasted months and years? Why, then, does one lament and feel a deep sense of sorrow for the former form of death but not lament or feel a deep sense of sorrow for the latter form?

This excerpt is from our title ‘A Treasury of Ghazali – A Companion for the Untethered Soul

Read a sample of the here!

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