Revival of Religious Learnings Vol-I
13:20 h Islam
Iḥyā′ ‘Ulūm al-Dīn (transl. The Revival of the Religious Learnings; Arabic: احياء علوم الدين‎) is an 11th-century book written by Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Ghazali. The book was composed in Arabic and was based on personal religious experience. It is regarded as one of his chief works and a classic introduction to the pious muslim's way to God.
Translated by FAZL-UL-KARIM

About the Book

The book is the English version of Imam Ghazzali’s Ihya Ulum-ud-Din. It deals with worship and divine service.

Imam Abu-Hamid al-Ghazzali is unquestionably the greatest theologian of Islam and one of its noblest and most original thinkers. He was born in 1058 A.D. at Tus, where he died in 1111. He reproduced in his religious experience all the spiritual phases developed by Islam.

Starting his religious life as orthodox, Al-Ghazzali soon turned Sufi, and when still under twenty he had broken with all the past. In 1091 he was appointed lecturer at the Nizamiyah in Baghdad, where he became a sceptic. Four year later he returned to Sufism after a terrific spiritual struggle that left him a physical wreck. Intellectualism had failed him. As a dervish he roamed from place to place enjoying peace of soul and acquiescence of mind. After about twelve years of retirement in various places, including two years of retreat in Syria and a holy pilgrimage, he returned to Baghdad to preach and teach. There he composed his masterpiece lhya Ulum-id-Din (the revivification of the sciences of religion).

The mysticism of this work vitalized the law its orthodoxy leavened the doctrine of Islam. In it and such other works of his Fatihat-al-Ulum, Tahafut of Falasifah, Iqtisad fi-al-Itiqad, orthodox speculation reached its culminating point.


Through the unbounded grace of the Almighty God and blessings of the greatest Apostle of God, the English version of the Book of worship of the world renowned Ihyaul Ulum (Revival of religious learning) of Imam Ghazzali, the greatest thinker of the world of Islam, the Proof of Islam, the famous Sufi and devout, has now been published in full. This book Ihya is a sea of knowledge full of reasons and arguments, full of Quranic verses, traditions of the Holy Prophet and of the companions and the famous saints of early ages. Each subject was supported by the Quran, traditions and sayings of the learned sages and wise men and established by reasons and arguments.

As the great Imam belonged originally to the Shafeyi Sunni sect, some of the religious doctrines will be found in line with that sect, but nevertheless its importance is very great. In his advanced age, the Imam was not a blind follower of sects but followed his independent thinking and as such indirectly created a sect of his own. As the world is advancing with ever new ideas and scientific discoveries, so also this work is full of novel and great ideas and scientific discoveries and thereby the Imam revived truly the religious sciences and gave them an impetus never given by his predecessors in such a manner. He saved Islam from the currents and cross currents of devilish thoughts and pagan ideas that imperceptibly entered into Islam and clearly showed their fallacies and misconceptions. For this reason, he was given the title of Hujjatul Islam or the Proof of Islam. His thoughts prevailed upon those savants who came after him. Had not the Almighty blessed him with the necklace of reason and intellect, the true belief of Islam would have been carried away by the strong current of irreligious and misguided thoughts.

True it is that there are many weak traditions in this book, but at the same time it should be remembered that the authors of six authentic traditional books specially Bukhari and Muslim selected some few thousand traditions as most of them were not proved to have been founded by trustworthy narrators from the Holy Prophet down to the narrator or did not meet with all the rules laid down for an authentic tradition. For want of proof, many guilty persons are acquitted. For that, it cannot be said that all acquitted persons are innocent. So in this perspective, the traditions in the Ihya should be regarded. Had Imam Ghazzali not found them trustworthy, he would not have incorporated them in his book.

The present translation is an attempt to bring out a complete translation of Ihya in English in four Books. The first book deals with worship and divine service, the second book with worldly usages, the third book with destructive evils and the fourth book with constructive virtues. Ihya in original is a book in Arabic comprising four parts and its abridged addition in Persian was termed by the author himself as ‘Kimiyae Sa’adat’ or the Touchstone of fortune. Unnecessary arguments of different sects prevalent nearly one thousand years ago, some matters not needed at the present time and some sayings of some sages of less reputation have been omitted in the present English version. The book has been, however, translated into Bengali in full by the author himself without omission.


Imam Ghazzali was born in 450 A.H. (1058 A.D.) in the village Taberan in the district of Taus in Persia and his name is Abu Hamid Muhammad. His title is Hujjatul Islam or Proof of Islam and his dynastic title is Ghazzali. His father was not a famous person but his grand father was one of the leading men of that age. His father died while he was young leaving him under the care of his mother and grand father. Ghazzal is said to be the name of a village in the district of Taus in the province of Khorasan in Persia. According to Maulana Shibli Nomani, his ancestors had the business of weaving. (Ghazzal) and therefore he retained his family title Ghazzali (weaver).

HIS EDUCATION: At the time of the death of Ghazzali’s -father, he entrusted the education of his two sons Muhammad and Ahmad to one of his trusted friends. The latter imparted to them primary education and then sent them to a private Maktab. The boys within a short time committed the whole Quran to memory and after that began to learn Arabic.

They were then admitted in a free Madrasa. After sometime, Imam Ghazzali left his native village for higher education for Zarzan and began to study under a great earned man Imam Abu Nasr Ismail. He used to take notes of his lectures but in a certain journey he was robbed of these notes by some dacoits along with his other belongings. He took courage, went to the chief of the robbers and begged of the notes only to be returned to him. It was returned to him at his earnest entreaties.

Then he joined Nizamia Madrasa at Nishapur which was a reputed seat of learning and a great educationist named Imamul Haramain was its principal. He had 400 students of whom three were most noted Harrasi, Ahmad-b-Muhammad and Imam Ghazzali. The latter became so much grieved at his death that he left Nishapur and went to Baghdad, the capital of the Caliphs. He was then a young man of 28 years of age.

At Baghdad, he was appointed principal of Nizamiyah Madrasa by Nizamul Mulk the chief vizier of the Turkish ruler Malek Shah. Being thus appointed at an early age to such a high post, his popularity as a great learned man spread far and wide and the rulers and the chieftains used to consult him in state affairs and theological matters.

LECTURES OF IMAM GHAZZALI: In the lectures of the Imam, hundreds of learned men and dignitaries of the State and even the ruling princes attended. His lectures were full of arguments and reasons and they were mostly recorded by Sayeed-b-Fares and Ibn Lobban. They recorded nearly 183 of his lectures which were completed in a book named Majalesse-Ghazzali.

The great Imam then turned his mind to gain spiritual heights and the circumstances leading to it were recorded by him in his book Munkezum Minaddalal (Deliverance from error). He was a follower of Imam Shafeyi in his early age but in Baghdad he mixed freely with the peoples of all sects and thoughts and ideas. There were then the Shias, the Sunnis, Zindiqs, Magians, Scholastic theologians, Christians, Jews, atheists fire-worshippers and idol worships. There were also the Deists, the Materialists, the Naturalists, the philosophers. They used to meet in mutual wars of argumentations and debates. This had such an effect in the mind of the Imam that his whole life became changed and he began to search for truth with a free mind. His old ideas disappeared and he began to live in doubts. He then became inclined to Sufism but here practical actions were more required than mere belief. Being imbued with such an idea, he gave up his lucrative post at Baghdad, wore Sufi dress and left Baghdad suddenly one night in 488 A.H.

He then went to Damascus and closetted himself in a room of its mosque and began attentively the divine services, meditations and Zikr. Thus he spent here two years in solitude. At the age of 27 years, he was initiated by Pir Abu Ali Farmedi who was the spiritual guide of also the vizier Nizamul Mulk. After two years he went to Jerusalem and visited the birth place of Jesus Christ and in 499 A.H. he visited the holy shrine of Hazrat Abraham and made there three promises: 1) he will not go to the Darbar of any ruler, 2) he will never accept their presentation, 3) he will not join any religious debates. He fulfilled these promises up to his death. Then he went to Mecca for pilgrimage and visited alto Medina and stayed there for a long time. When he returned home, he was requested by the ruler to accept the post of the principal of Nizamia Madrashah and he accepted it. When the ruler was assassinated by an assassin, he gave up the post and went to Tas and closetted himself in a khankah. The new ruler requested the Imam to join his post of the principal but he declined the offer.

He died at his native village Taberan on 14th Jamadis Sani in 505 A.H. corresponding to 19th December 1111 A.D. Ibn Jauzi narrated a story about his death. He said: On Monday early in the morning he got up from his bed, performed his morning prayer and then sent a man to bring his coffin cloth. When it was brought, he lifted it up to his eyes and said: Lord’s command is to be obeyed. Saying this, he prolonged his legs and immediately breathed his last. The Imam left no son, but only daughters.

HIS BOOKS: The Imam lived nearly 55; years and he began to write books from his early age when he was 20 years old. He travelled for nearly 10 to 11 years and spent most of his time in reading, writing and teaching. Besides this, he had to reply to thousand letters which came from far and near for his decision and opinion. He wrote nearly 400 books of which the following are noted.

THEOLOGY: Wasit (Shafeyi jurisprudence), Basit, Waft (Canon Law) (compendium), Bayanul Qaolaine li Shafeyi, Khulasatul Rasail (Quintessence of jurisprudence), Fkhtesarul Mukhtesar, Gayatul Gaur, Mazmatul Fatawah (collection of legal decisions), Risalatul Qudsiyya (canon laws of Prophet).

PRINCIPLES OF THEOLOGY: Tahsinul Muakhej, Shefaye Alil (cure of diseases), Mankhul, Mustastfa jurisprudence.

JURISPRUDENCE: Khulasatul Fiqh (quintessence of jurisprudence) Wajiz, Igtisad-fil-I’tiqad (exposition of faith), Al-Qaestas Mustaqim.

LOGIC: Mizanul Amal, Mihakhul Nazar fil Monteq (whetstone of reflection on Logic), Mayarul Ilm (weighing scale of science), AI-Ma’arif (Discourse on Logic). Mayarul Ilm fi Fannil Manteq (the weighing scale of the science of logic).

PHILOSOPHY: Maqasidul Falasifah (aim of the Philosophers), Munqezum Minaddalal (Deliverence from error), an autobiographical statement of his spiritual progress) Kitabul Arbayin (abridgement of Ihya), Resalatul Laduniyya (Ilham and wahi).

SCHOLASTIC THEOLOGY: Tahafatul falasifah (destruction of the philosophers), Iqtisad, Mustajhari (guide of novices), Iljamal Awam (vilification of peoples), Faysatul Zindiq (refutation of atheists), Fikhrot wal lbrah (Meditation and contemplation), Al Hikmat (wisdom of God), Haqiqatur Ruh (realities of soul).

SPIRITUAL AND MORAL: Ihyao Ulumiddin (Revival of religious learnings), Kimiyae Sa’adat (Touch stone of fortune), Akhlaklul Abrar (conduct of the pious), Jawaharul Quran (jewels of Quran), Minhajul Abedin (path of the devout), Mirajus Saleqin (steps for the sojourners), Bidayataul Hidayah (beginning of guidance), Mishkatul Anwar (Niche of lights).

TAFSIR: Yeakutut-Ta’wil (a commentary of the Quran in 40 volumes now lost).

Of the 400 books he compiled, some only have been preserved in many libraries of Europe, while the Muslims did not accept them as they should have been accepted. Besides, they went so far as to burn some of his books which were lost forever to the world.

IHYA, ULUMIDDIN: Revival of Religious sciences is a master piece of Imam Ghazzali. Abul Gafer Fersi was a contemporary of Imam Ghazzali. He said that a book like Ihya was never compiled before. Imam Nodi said: Ihya is near the Quran. Shaikh Abu Muhammad said: If all the lights of knowledge of the world are extinguished they can be revived from Ihya. Shaikh Abdullah Idrees was a great saint. He committed to memory the whole book Ihya. Shaikh Ali read it 25 times from first to last and at the end of each reading gave a feast to the students and the poor. Many students of the Imam committed it to memory. Many saints regarded the book as a result of Ilham or inspiration. The great saint Kutub Shaji one day held the book in his hand and said to the people: Do you know which book is in my hand? Immediately he showed them the signs of lashes on his back and said: I was not a supporter of the book. Last night, Imam Ghazzali took me in presence of the Holy Prophet and inflicted on me these lashes on my back for my disregard of the book. These are the signs of lashes on my back.

IMAM GHAZZALI AND EUROPE: The books of Imam Ghazzali was so much accepted and honoured in Europe that they preserved them in many libraries. But they did not receive so much attention in Muslim countries. Some Muslim learned men even did not open their eyes to see them, but rather prohibited the people to read them. For this reason, his books are rarely found in the libraries of Muslim countries. Mankhul is a book compiled by the Imam at his early age. Therein he wrote with completely free and independent mind and was not a blind follower of Mazhabs or sects. This book fell into disregard in Muslim countries only for this fault. Mankhul and Ihya were ordered to be burnt and it was translated into action. Europe accepted them with honour and preserved them from destruction. The book ‘Maqasedul Falasefa’ is not found in Muslim countries but it is preserved in the libraries of Spain, Europe also accepted his other books.

GHAZZALI’S INFLUENCE: It is no exaggeration to say that the modern opinion about religion is much due to the influence of the Imam’s thoughts. The many books that were written after his death reflect greatly the thoughts of the great Imam. His views on Sufism were accepted by the latter Sufis. After him Maulana Rumi, Ibne Rushd, Shah Waliullah and such other noted learn men wrote many books which resound with the opinions of Imam Ghazzali. In short, his thoughts reigned supreme in their minds. His influence on Persian literature was also great. He himself wrote Kimiyae Saadat in Persian which influenced to a great extent the minds of Maulana Rural Shaikh Sa’di, Farid Uddin Attar, Shiraaji, Hafez and other poets and Sufis. The works of such a learned man held in high esteem by all should be widely read and circulated. Mr. Watt says: Ghazzali has sometimes been acclaimed in both east and west as the greatest Muslim thinker after Muhammad and he is by no means unworthy of that great dignity.

Take whatever the Apostle gave you and keep away from whatever he forbade you - 59:7 Quran.

Firstly, I begin with the praise of God though our praise is guide insufficient and meager in relation to His real glory. Secondly, I invoke His blessings on all the prophets and specially on His last and greatest Prophet Muhammad (peace be on them all). Thirdly, I pray for His help and grace that there should remain in me firm will and incentive