Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Imam al-Ghazali on true knowledge

I just finished reading Imam al-Ghazali's "Deliverance from Error" (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal) for the first time - this is a powerful and important book to read!

This is a quote from the very end on true knowledge:

"The third remedy, and this is the real one, is that the true man of learning commits a sin only by way of a slip, but will in no wise stubbornly persist in his sins. For true learning is that which leads to the knowledge that sin is a deadly poison and that the afterlife is better than this life. And anyone who knows that will not barter the better for something inferior. This knowledge is not the fruit of the various types of knowledge with which most men busy themselves. Hence the knowledge they acquire only makes them bolder in disobeying God Most High. True knowledge, on the other hand, increases it possessor's reverence, fear, and hope, and this stands between him and the commission of sins, save for those slips from which, in moments of weakness, no man is free. But this is not a sign of weak faith, for the believer is trued but continually repentant, and he is far from stubborn impenitence." - pg. 98

This is from the tranlation by R.J. McCarthy which has been recommended by many including T.J. Winter (Abdal-Hakim Murad) who has a blurb in the back of the Fons Vitae edition.

(There's another translation by W. Montgomery Watt)


  1. Mashaa Allah, this is so encouraging and heartclenching at the same time.
    do you know what the arabic words Imam AlGhazali used for 'true learning'

  2. It's Ilm al-Haqiqi. Below is the Arabic for the passage I quoted:

    الثالث: وهو الحقيقة ، أن العالم الحقيقي ، لا يقارف معصية إلا على سبيل الهفوة ، ولا يكون مصراً على المعاصي أصلاً. إذ العلم الحقيقي ما يعرّف أن المعصية سمٌ مهلك ، وأن الآخرة خير من الدنيا. ومن عرَف ذلك ، لا يبيع الخير بما هو أدنى [ منه ].

    وهذا العلم لا يحصل بأنواع العلوم التي يشتغل بـها أكثر الناس. فلذلك لا يزيدهم ذلك العلم إلا جرأة على معصية الله تعالى. وأما العلم الحقيقي ، فيزيد صاحبه خشية وخوفاً [ ورجاءً ] ، وذلك يحول بينه وبين المعاصي إلا الهفوات التي لا ينفك عنها البشر في الفترات ، وذلك لا يدل على ضعف الإيمان. فالمؤمن مفتنٌ توّابٌ ، وهو بعيدٌ عن الإصرار والإكباب