Sunday, January 1, 2012

HAVE HOPE. BECAUSE DESPAIR IS FORBIDDEN - Imam Ghazali and the Alchemy of Hope

I was breezing through Martin Lings's book 'The Meaning of Sufism' when I came across his reference to the late great Imam Ghazali, a man who stands in the same nightscape of celestial knowledge, a starlight of the Faith, together with the likes of Rumi and Shaykh Abdul Qader Geylani (among others!). Lings was referencing Imam Ghazali’s opus entitled Ihya Ulum-id-din. So I too started opening up my translated version of the book, 5 volumes in all (translated by Maulana Fazlul Karim). I bought it in 2003, 9 long years ago.


In volume 4, chapter III, Imam Ghazali spoke of Fear and Hope. This was what he said of Hope...

“Love is made strong by hope... God says: Don’t be despaired of God’s Mercy – 39:53 of the Holy Quran. So he made hopelessness unlawful.”

So mankind are forbidden to despair. To sink into a state of helplessness and hopelessness. What is despair? Despair begets despair. It is already bad that if we despair we sink into a state of inaction. But perhaps even worse is when we permit despair to motivate our action. Why? Simply because inaction caused by despair has no good coming out of it. But action motivated by despair often begets great evil. We need only open the newspapers today to read the fruit of mankind's despair - terrorism, war, poverty, iniquity, hatred, racism, bigotry and hubris. So our Beloved God decides to strike an injunction at the very root, and to quote His Words in verse 39:53 in whole...

Say: "O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (translation by Yusuf Ali)

Imam Ghazali extends his elaboration about keeping hope in God alone, and to not despair out of fear of any thing else, be it a tiger in the forest, or the malice of jealous siblings...

“The story runs thus of Prophet Eakub (Jacob) that God revealed to him : Did you know why I made separation between you and Eusuf (Joseph)? The reason is that you uttered; I fear lest a tiger may eat him when you remain unmindful of him. Why did you entertain fear of (the) tiger and not hoped in Me? Why did you look to the neglect of brother(s) and did not look to Me?”

And again he refers to another icon, Saidina Ali (cousin and fourth Rightly Guided Caliph of Islam)..

“Hazrat Ali saw a man very much despaired on account of his many sins. He said: O brother, you despair of God’s mercy is a greater sin that your sins.”

That is a good point. It is a point of observation placed on the peak of saintly reflection. You cannot give up. You cannot lose hope. You cannot, because simply, God loves you. And He has thus commanded us - do not despair of His Mercy and Salvation. However you have hurt your own self by your sins and misdeeds, do not ever give up on Him.

In this little posting, to which I owe everything to my ancestors and teachers, to the Great Reviver, Imam Ghazali, Jewel of Divine Contemplation, who was learned, became lost, and was found by God in the wilderness of his own despair, Who gently guided him back to true knowledge, above the sciences of religion, into the science of Love, enduring and mighty above all other human conjecture - in this little posting, let Imam Ghazali himself give the conclusion -

“The Prophet said: Let nobody die without having a good idea of God. He said: God says; I work (am) according as my servant thinks of Me. Let him entertain any idea about Me.”

So think good thoughts of God, sunshine. This is an exercise not only of spiritual contemplation, but simple good manners - You can wrap all of Creation in a beautiful bow, but nothing will compare to the goodness and love of God, who continues to think good thoughts of us, despite our folly and forgetfulness. I am not lying here. I am telling the truth.  Reciprocate His Love...

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

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