Revival of Religious Learnings Vol-III
15:17 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


The Book of Destructive Evils is the third book of Imam Gazzali’s world renowned master piece Ihya Ulum-id-Din or the Revival of Religious learning. This work is an attempt to translate the third part of the Ihya not too literally but in substance. This book deals with soul and its attributes, conduct, greed and passion, benefits and harms of tongue, anger and envy, attachment for the world, love for wealth and harms of miserliness, power, show, pride and erroneous beliefs.

A literal translation is avoided in order to omit some unnecessary things which were prevalent in the then society, such as arguments of sects and sub-sects and also to omit the sayings of personages and sages of less importance but it should be noted that no verse of the Quran and saying of the Prophet has been omitted in this work.

Translations of the other three books of the Ihya have by the grace of God already come out of press, namely the Book of worship, the Book of worldly usages and the Book of constructive virtues.

I pray to the Almighty Allah that He may guide the people of the world in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah and the spirit in which the Ihya was written by Hujjatul Islam (proof of Islam), a title received by Imam Gazzali and about which it has been said “If all the books of Islam were destroyed, it would be but a slight loss if only the Ihya of Gazzali were preserved.”



It is by means of soul that man is the Lord of creation as it is by means of soul that man acquires the knowledge of God and His attributes and by no other organs of the body. It is by means of soul that man can go to the nearness of God and make efforts to realise Him. So soul is the king of the body and its different organs are its servants to carry out its orders and commands. It is accepted by God when it remains free from things other than God. When it is attached to things other than God, it drifts away from God. It is the soul which will be asked and rebuked. It becomes fortunate if it is purified and cleaned, and it becomes fortunate if it is kept impure. It is the knowledge of soul which is the root of the knowledge of God. When man does not know himself he does not know God. Majority of men are ignorant of soul and its attributes as screen is cast between soul and baser self. God says: God moves between a man and his soul and controls it and its attributes. It is between the two fingers of the Merciful. It sometimes reaches the last limit of the devil and sometimes rises so high as to the throne of the Almighty. He who does not enquire about his soul is included among those persons of whom God says in the following verse: They forgot God and so He made their souls forgetful 19:67. They are the transgressors. It is therefore essential to know soul and its attributes which is the root of religion.

What has been said in the earlier pages of this book relates to the outward organs and bodily limbs. Now we shall narrate the attributes and evils of soul which are the subject matter of secret knowledge.


(1) QALB has got two meanings. It means first a piece of flesh in the left breast called heart which is hollow in the interior, which is filled up with black blood and which is again a source of Ruh or life. Heart is the centre or mine for circulation of blood. The detailed description of heart is to be found in Anatomy. It exists in breasts and lower animals and appertains to the material world. We shall not refer to it in our book. The second meaning of Qalb is soul with which we are concerned here. It is an immaterial thing or formless Latifa or basic subtle element which has got connection with the material heart. It is just like unseen electricity. It is the principal thing in a man. It catches knowledge of God and spiritual world. It is punished and rewarded. The connection of soul with heart is the connection of attributes with the bodily limbs, or a machine with the machine man, or a house with its inmates. This connection is of two kinds. One kind of connection is with Ulume Mokashafa or spiritual knowledge. But in this look, our object is to narrate Ulume Muamalah or knowledge of worldly usages. Its second connection requires the knowledge of the secrets of soul. The Prophet did not throw light on this object and so we should refrain from it. We shall translate the word Qalb in this book as soul or an immaterial thing Latifa with its attributes.

(2) RUH: It has got also two meanings. It means first a material thing within the heart which vibrates the whole body like the current of electricity and which runs through the veins of the body. It is called ‘life.’ It has got the power of touch, hearing, sight, smell and the power of the other limbs of the body. It is just like radiation of light of a lighted lamp pitched in a corner of the house. It is a subtle gas or steam which creates the heat of the heart. Our object is not that. The second meaning of Ruh is an immaterial subtle thing which is called soul and not life. God says: They ask you about Ruh. Say: It is a command from my Lord. 17:85.

(3) NAFS: It has got also two meanings for our purpose. The first meanings is passion or baser and lower self. Passion is a comprehensive word consisting of greed, anger and other evil attributes. The Prophet said: Your greatest enemy is your passion lying by your two sides. The second meaning of Nafs is soul as described above. When Nafs assumes calmness and has removed passion, it is then termed Nafs Mutmainna or satisfied soul as God says: O satisfied soul, return to your Lord satisfied and satisfying him 89:27. In the first meaning, Nafs is with the, party of devil. When the calm nature of Nafs does not become perfect, it is called Nafs Lawwamah or self-accusing soul, as such a soul rebukes one for neglecting divine duties. If soul gives up protests and surrenders itself to the devil, it is called Nafs Ammarah or passion addicted to evils. The Quran refers to this in verse 12:53?

(4) AQL: It has got many meanings two of which we shall narrate here. The first meaning of Aql is intellect with which true nature of things of this material world is known and its seat is in soul. The second meaning of Aql is power to understand the secrets of different learnings. It is a subtle essence called knowledge which is an attribute. Attribute and the thing which contains it are two different things. Intellect is the name of both. This is supported by the following Hadis. The first thing which God created is intellect. The attribute of intellect is an immaterial thing but the attribute cannot stand without a material thing. So the place of intellect should be created first or along with it. Knowledge is the content of intellect and so it was created first.

ARMY OF SOUL: God says in years 71: 31 None except He knows the army of your Lord. There are armed soldiers in soul. Their real nature is not known and nobody knows their number except He. Soul has got two armies. One army can be seen by the external eye and another army cannot be seen except by the internal eye. These two armies are necessary for upkeep of the dominion of this king. Courtiers, servants, helpers, etc. are the armies of the king which can bee seen by the external eyes. Similarly, hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue and other outward and inward organs are the armies of soul. They are all servants of soul which rules over them. They have been created to obey them. They cannot go against soul. When the soul orders the eyes to open, they open. When it orders the feet to walk, they walk. Their submission is like that of angels of God. The angels have been created to obey God and they cannot go against Him. These armies are necessary for soul for its journey to God, as conveyance and food are necessary for body. It has to cross many stations to meet Him for which it has been created. God says: I have not created Jinn and man but that they should worship Me 51:56. Body is the conveyance or carrier of soul and its food is knowledge. In order that it can acquire its food, the ingredients which are necessary are goods deeds. To reach God is impossible till the body does not remain sound.

This world is the seed ground for the next and a station of guidance. It is called Duniya or near planet as it is the closest station out of many stations. So to acquire food in the world is necessary.

TWO ARMIES OF HEALTH: To take food which keeps the health of body is necessary and to avoid that which is harmful to it is to be avoided. So it is necessary to approach two armies, the hidden army of greed for food and drink and the open army of bodily organs. So greed for food and drink have been created in soul as they are necessary for the upkeep of the body, and the other organs are the arms of greed. Two armies are also necessary to remove the outer enemies who are destructive evils, such as anger etc. with which these evils are removed.

ARMIES OF SOUL ARE THREE: (1) One army does benefit to soul, the army of greed. It can be termed Will also. (2) The second army is anger which moves the bodily organs to give the object of greed power and strength. (3) The third army works like secret emissaries powers of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. These defined powers are entrusted to different organs. For those armies, there are open arms fingers to catch, eyes to see etc. The third army is divided into two. One army lives openly, such as attributes of five organs hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. Another army lives secretly in the horizon of brain. They are five (1) power of idea (2) power of thought (3) power of memory, (4) power of retention (5) and power of consolidating them together. These five powers are in brain and they secretly stay therein.

These are the armies of soul. A man of weak intellect will feel difficult to understand them but the wise get benefit from these discussions. We shall try to make those who are weak, in understanding these things by illustrations.


(1) Soul is a king over body as a king over an empire. In the empire of soul, hands, feet and other organs are like different business men and industrialists in town. Greed is a collector of revenue in that town, anger is its police, intellect is it minister and soul is its king. The collector greed is like one who collects food and anger is like a police who keeps guard over it. The collector greed is a downright liar and a deceiver. It ostensibly wishes good but there is destructive poison in it. The reign of soul over the region of body is similar. It goes on well if all organs and attributes are under the rule of soul. When soul takes the help of its minister intellect, it rules over greed keeping anger in control. In order to bring anger under control, sometimes it seeks the help of greed and then its character and conduct become good. He who goes away from this path, becomes like one about whom God speaks in the following verse: Have you looked towards one who takes his passion as deity 25:43? God says: He who follows his greed is like a dog. If you attack it, it will prolong its tongue. If you give it up, it will also prolong its tongue 7:176. God speaks in another verse about the person who controlled his passion: As for such men as entertained the fear of standing before their Lord and controlled their souls from low desires, their abode will be Paradise 79:41.

(2) Second illustration of secret army of soul. Know, O dear readers, that the body is a town and intellect or conscience rules over that town like a king. Its armies are its external and internal senses and its subject are its organs. Sexual passion and anger are the enemies of the region of body and soul is its guard. If it fights against its enemies and defeats them and compels them to do what soul likes, its actions become commendable and it returns to the Almighty. God says that He gives superiority to those who fight with their lives and properties over those who worship sitting 9:20Q. If the soul acts as guard like the frontier guards and neglects the organs of the body, it is punished. On the Resurrection Day, it will be asked: O dishonest guard, you have eaten food and drunk milk, but you have not inquired into lost animal and have not arranged for treatment of diseased animals. To-day I will take retaliation on you for this. In the Hadis below, such a Mujahid or fighter has been praised: You have returned from the little fight to the greatest fight.

(3) Third illustration of secret army of soul. Intellect is like a rider, greed is like a horse and anger is like his hunting dog. When the rider is expert and his horse and dog are trained, success can be obtained in hunting. When the rider is inexperienced, horse disobedient and dog biting, then the horse does not obey the rider and the dog does not run obeying him. Similarly, when intellect is mature and greed and anger are submissive to intellect, success in sure, but if intellect is immature and greed and anger are not under control, there is surely ruin.

KNOWLEDGE AND WILL: The attributes for which man’s soul becomes fit to approach God and honoured are knowledge and will. Knowledge means knowledge of the material and spiritual world and reality of intellect. Then matters lie behind the knowledge gained by the senses. Lower animals have got no share in it. Regarding will, when a man can understand by his intellect the result of any action and know what will bring good, then there grows in his mind will to obtain that good and to do that action. It is not the will of greed or the instinct of the lower animals. It is opposed to greed. Intellect wills what will be its good in future and spends for it. There is greed of taking delicious food in illness but intellect prohibits its eating. A wise man refrains from eating it. So soul of man is endowed with knowledge and will and not the lower animals. Even little children are void of these attributes. There are two stages of acquiring knowledge on the part of a boy. The first stage is his learning of all preliminary necessary things and to know lawful and unlawful things. He cannot gain expert knowledge at this stage but becomes close to it. The second stage is his acquisition of knowledge by learning and thinking. He becomes then like an expert writer.

THREE MODES OF GAINING SOUL-POWER: (1) Mode of Ilham or inspiration. God’s inspiration comes on some souls “unknowingly and for that they gain spiritual knowledge.” (2) Some souls acquire spiritual power by learning and efforts. (3) Some souls acquire spiritual power quickly and some late. There are degrees of these acquisitions in the case of Prophets, friends of God, wise and learned men. This advance is unlimited. There is no limit of knowledge about God. The rank of a Prophet in this regard is highest. All secrets are disclosed to him without his efforts. A child in its mother’s womb does not know the condition of a boy. A boy does not know the condition of a grown-up-man. A grown-up man does not know the condition of an intelligent man and his acquired learning. Similarly, an intelligent man does not know the blessings, mercy and gifts showered by God on the Prophets. These blessings are also cast upon those souls which remain prepared and become fit to receive them. The Prophet said: “There is your Lord’s blowing in the days of your life. Beware and be prepared for it.” The meaning of this preparation is to remove the impurities that have fallen on soul as a result of commission of sins and to purify it. It can be understood from the following Hadis: God comes <