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Abu Hamad Ghazali was a Persian muslim thelogist who lived in 1058-1111 A.C.
He was a deep thinker with an open mind and by his ability to combine philosophy and theology in a very approachable way he became very popular. Students and scientists followed his work with great interest and this lead to Ghazali’s position as a professor at the college of Nizamyya in Bagdad 1091.
Ghazali’s popularity among the Europeans depended on his way of writing, that his theological argumentation was related to European theology of the time.
The Arabic historian Ibn Khalden meant that Ghazali was the first who wrote like modern theologists.
In time Ghazali became a sufist, he felt the restraints in theology and philosophy.
Ghazali meant that the human mind can’t lead us closer to God, only mysticism can.
He proclaimed that the only way for a human being to come closer to God is by following the duties that are described in the Shari’a. If we follow these established duties whole-heartedly we will reach a higher position and come closer to God.
I find it very interesting to read about different philosophers and theologists, I might not share all their opinions or conclusions but they open my mind for new ways of thinking .
People have in all times tried to find answers for who we are, why we are here and who has created us? Religion is a process, both a mental process and a process in which we live either we want it or not. The ways of worshipping has evolved just as humanity has evolved, we still believe in the same God but the rituals for worshipping has changed.
Once upon a time people believed that it was a good idea to sacrifice humans to please the gods, but fortunately that is not common anymore. We celebrate Tobaski to the memory of Ibrahim who was going to sacrifice his son, to please God, but at the last moment God told him to spare the boy’s life. Why did God demand Ibrahim to do such an awful sacrifice? Ibrahim must have questioned this, but as a pious man he followed the will of his Lord. It can’t have been easy for Ibrahim to tell his son to follow him. The steps must have been so heavy because he loved his son and didn’t want to lose him. At the last moment, when Ibrahim had raised his knife to slaughter his son, God told him to stop.
Why? Was is because God couldn’t make up his mind, or what? No, it was because God was making a statement. From this day no children should be slaughtered anymore as a sacrifice to any god whatsoever. God tried Ibrahim’s faith by demanding this sacrifice but he also showed both Ibrahim and the whole humanity that we don’t need to please God through sacrifizing humans. It was common in these times when Ibrahim and his family lived that people sacrificed their children to please the gods. Allah found this custom barbaric and made a statement through Ibrahim. It must have been a hard lesson for Ibrahim and his family, but as the saying goes: ”God is giving his hardest battles to his toughest soldiers.”
People knew that Ibrahim was a pieous man and they must have followed his actions thoroughly. People lived close to each other and it was impossible to do anything in secret. The statement became so much larger because it was a man like Ibrahim who went through it. At the last moment Ishmael’s life was saved and Ibrahim was offered a ram to sacrifice instead.
Religion is evolving as well as our ways of worshipping God. Depending on which religion we feel is closest to our hearts we have different kinds of celebration.
What we need to consider is WHY are we celebrating as we do, and WHAT are we celebrating? The last part, the WHAT might in a way be easier to answer , or is it? Have we lost the true reason for the celebration by focusing on wrong things? In December last year I asked my pupils, who were about 9 years old , why we celebrate Christmas. No one had any answer on this easy question, all the kids were quiet. I was stunned but joked a little and said: ” Ah, I know! We celebrate Christmas because that was the day when Santa Claus was born!”
Several kids agreed with me and said that that must be the reason! At first I didn’t know what to say, but then I had to tell them that it was only a joke.
I continued by giving them a short version of the story of Christmas, it is against the law here to implicate religion in the teaching because religion is private.
So – how do we celebrate Tobaski and why? Is it because we want to spend a huge amount of money on new clothes, new shoes , make-up and jewelry for the ladies, toys for the kids and plenty of good food? There is nothing wrong in this, but what has all of it to do with the actual reason for the celebration? Christmas has become a tradition that is more about the gifts than the celebration of the prophet Jesus. It has become like Tobaski, with a focuse on the wrong things and with a panic to not have enough money to spend. Kids compare what kind of gifts they have got and what nice clothes they wear. The ladies take a stroll with their husbands to show their new dresses. What are we doing ? We sacrifice what means most for us, our money, to please whom? Is God more pleased with us if we come to worship him in expensive attire?
Doesn’t he listen to our prayers if our kids haven’t got more toys than the neighbour’s kids have? Is God cheering of joy when he sees that the salesmen have raised the prices of almost everything because they know people will buy it anyway? Is this how we worship God?
The story about Ibrahim and his sacrifice can be placed in other contexts, now adays we don’t sacrifice our sons or daughters but we are willing to sacrifice other things. What lesson does God wish to give us now? Does he still have something to tell us or do we only repeat old stories, like parrots? The Holy Qour’an tells us to question our beliefs, we must even question our parents or Imams if we feel that what they tell us feels wrong. It doesn’t sound respectful at first, but it is actually wise. The Holy Qour’an is telling us to come to our own conclusions, to use our brains and not only listen to others and repeat what they tell us as parrots. There is so much wisdom to find in the Holy Qour’an but if you don’t search for it you will not find it.
The Persian theologist Ghazil lived for more than a thousand years ago but still he has a message for us.
As the topic for this article I gave you the beginning of one of Ghazil’s famous quotes and here it comes as a whole:
”Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see – egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering.
If you can master and destroy them, then you will be ready to fight the enemy you can see.”
The word jihad is Interpreted incorrectly in the Western world, they ( or should I say we as I still live here ) interpret it as a Holy war which is wrong. Jihad means to strive or struggle against all kind of evil and it is considered as a holy duty for all muslims.
In islam jihad means introspection and a struggle against temptation and everything that is haram.
A muslim shall strive to be as righteous as possible and to follow islam, islam means peace – as you all know – so the only fighting we are supposed to do is against what is evil.
So what about the thirteen enemies Ghazali counted for us; are we aware of them and are we doing our best to fight them? If I speak for myself I know I stumble and fall, but with awareness and the grace of God I try my best to keep up the good fight.
Some of the enemies are stronger and others are possible to handle, but the fight keeps on and we must never rest.
It doesn’t help to pray five times a day and act like a bad person in between. It doesn’t make anyone of us better if we hit each other with qoutes from the Holy Qour’an when someone has expressed an opinion we don’t like. It doesn’t make us better muslims by calling others bad. Next time you read something on Facebook and you feel the urge to write a reply full of insults; consider the thirteen enemies and if you find that none of them has anything to do with your reply – then you can post it. Sometimes it can help to write the upset reply on a piece of paper, leave it for a while and read it again. If you still feel that it is okay to post it on social media then go ahead and face the consequences.
Yesterday I read an article in our local newspaper that inspired me to write my own. The article was about egoism, how it spreads as a disease around in every community. I Googled the word egoism and in my search for quotes about that topic I found these wise words of the theologist and philosoper Abu Hamed Ghazali. It is often like that, I begin with an idea and in my search for inspiration I find new and interesting thoughts and facts. I had never heard about Ghazali before but now I feel that I want to learn more about him and his writing. Authors who writes novels often say that the characters in their books overtake the story. It is like they become alive and lead the story in a direction the author hadn’t anticipated. It is the same for me when I write my articles, I have an idea and then the journey begins. Sometimes I get stuck but when I leave the writing for a while and do sometimes else I will find the right track again. I never know where the article will end because there are so many interesting things to write about. I stop and read for myself in between so I can check that I haven’t got lost completely.
Maybe that is something we should do in life too; stop, look back to see what we have accomplished so far and decide where to go from here? If we feel satisfied with our lives we just need to continue as we are, but if we feel that something has gone wrong we must try to find the right path. What needs to be changed is individual, but every action has its consequences so every changed needs to be considered before we take them in action . That is something I have been struggling with a lot, I am rather impatient and impulsive so some of my decisions haven’t been thought through thoroughly. We learn from our mistakes, hopefully, but we can also learn from others mistakes so we don’t need to do all of them ourselves.
I will end this article with another quote by Ghazali:
”Desires make slaves out of kings and patience makes kings out of slaves.”
Wise words to consider, food for thought for us all.
Considering which path our society is following today we need to stop and consider this ancient wisdom.
Are we fighting our enemies or have they become our allies?