Revival of Religious Learnings Vol-IV
Category: Islam
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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 Constructive Virtues is the fourth and the last volume of Imam Gazzali’s world renowned master piece Ihya Ulum-id-Din or the Revival of religious learnings. This work is an attempt to translate the fourth part of the Ihya not too literally but in substance from the original written in Arabic. It consists of two parts. ‘The Book of Constructive Virtues’ consists of two parts. Part II deals with love and attachment, will and intention, meditation and self examination, pondering over good, death and subsequent events, death of the Prophet and four caliphs and events before and after Resurrection and Paradise and Hell. A litteral translation is avoided in order to omit the unnecessary arguments of sects and sub-sects then prevailing in the world and also to omit the sayings of the sages of less importance. But it should be noted that no verse of the Holy Quran or the Hadis of the Holy Prophet has been omitted in this translation.

Translations of the other parts of Ihya will soon be out of press very shortly by the grace of Almighty God with full details of the Ihya and a short life and activities of Imam Gazzali, the greatest thinker and philosopher of the Muslim world.

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 (the 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.”




Tauba means repentance for a sin by taking promise not to do the same evil again and to return to God. Repentance is the beginning in the life of a person who intends to walk in the path of religion. It is the root of the fortune of those who are successful, the first step of a disciple, the key to guidance to the straight path, the weapon of purification of those who wish to come close to God and a dear thing of all prophets. So it is no wonder that man will commit sins. Hazrat Adam introduced the rule of repentance and he repented for the sin he committed in the past. It is necessary for man to return to God penitently after commission of sins. He who does good deeds is close to God and he who does always sinful deeds is close to the devil. He who does good deeds after commission of a sin is a real man.


Human nature is mixed up of two elements. Every man has got the nature of angel, nature of man and nature of devil. He who does always sinful acts keeps connection with the devil. He who does always good acts keeps connection with angels Nothing can give salvation to a man except the fire of repentance. So repentance or Tauba has got four cardinal principles.

(1) The first principle is form of repentance, its limit and its knowledge. It is the bounded duty of a man to make repentance after sin. If it is sincere, it is accepted.

(2) The second principle is to turn away from sins, to know the major and minor sins, to know the duties towards God and to men, to know man’s progress and retrogression for virtues and vices and to know the causes of minor sins turning into major sins.

(3) The third principle is to know the conditions of Tauba, search into past sins, expiation of sins and the classes of those who repent.

(4) The fourth principle is to know the causes of making Tauba and the medicines of persons addicted to vices.


Repentance consists of three elements — knowledge condition and action. Knowledge of Tauba is necessary for condition, as condition is necessary for action. God promulgated this rule in the physical and spiritual worlds. Knowledge is necessary for repentance that the harms of sin are very severe. When you will know it with faith and truth, you will then become repentant for losing an object of love. When repentance prevails over the mind, another condition arises in mind which is called will or desire. It has got connection with present, past and future actions. Its connection with the present means that he wills to give up the sin which he has committed. Its connection with the future means that he becomes determined to give up to the last stage of his life the sin for which he is to be separated from his dear ones. It connection with the past means that he wills to make expiation for not doing an action which he should have done.

So to know and search for doing good deeds as mentioned above is the first condition. This knowledge means faith and certainty of belief, as the meaning of faith is to know with truth that sin is destructive like poison. The certainty of belief means to believe as sure the immutable truths. The light of this faith is enkindled in the heart when the fire of repentance rises up. As a result his heart becomes dejected. He becomes then like a person who remains in darkness and then the rays of the sun shine on him or he sees his beloved if the screen is removed from him.

So knowledge, repentance and determination have got connection with the giving up of sin in the present and future and repentance of the past sins. If these three elements are united in person in an orderly manner, it is called Tauba or repentance but most people confine Tauba within repentance and do not consider the other two elements. The Prophet said: Tauba means repentance. It is such a fire of repentance as burns the heart and even attacks the back-bone. Hazrat Sahal Tastari said: To change bad habits into good habits is Tauba. Solitude, silence and eating lawful things are conditions of perfection of Tauba.


Tauba is Wazeb or compulsory. There are different classes of sojourners of religion.

(1) One class are short-sighted. They cannot cross their blind faith at every step. So the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet are necessary for them at every step.

(2) Another class of sojourners are fortunate. God expanded their breasts for Islam and they are upon light from their Lords and cross the impregnable stage of the path with care at the slightest hint. The light of the Quran and faith shines upon their hearts. A slight hint is sufficient for them owing to the brilliance of light. They know that repentance is compulsory in order to gain permanenet good fortune and security from permanent ruin. The meaning of Tauba is to give up sins and to determine to do good deeds.

God says: O believers, be repentant to God all together that you may get salvation — 24:31. God says: O believers, repent to God with sincere penitence — 66:8. Sincere penitence means to return to God from sin in order to incur pleasure of God in a condition free from doubt. God says: God loves those who are penitent and pure — 2:220. The Prophet said: A penitent man is dear to God. He who returns from sin is like one who has got no sin.

The Prophet said: Think that a man went to a vast field with a camel loaded with food and fuel. He slept there after leaning his head. When he awoke, he did not find his camel there. Then he began to search for it running to and fro and said after getting tired of hunger and sun: I will go to my former place to sleep such a sleep that it may cause my death. Then he placed his head upon his hands and slept there to meet with death. When he awoke, he found his camel standing before him with food and water. His joy then knew no bounds. God becomes more pleased with the repentance of a believer than his joy in another narration, the Prophet said: He was beside himself with joy and said in an ecstasy of joy: I am your Lord and You are my servant.

Hazrat Hasan Basari said: When God accepted the penitence of Adam, the angels blessed him and Gabriel and Michael came to him and said: O Adam, God accepted your repentance and cooled you eyes. Adam said: O Gabriel, what will be my rank if after acceptance of this repentance some questions are asked? God then revealed to him: O Adam, there will come sorrows and difficulties over your followers and repentance will be open to them. Whoever among them will repent. I will accept his repentance as I have accepted yours. Whoever seeks My forgiveness. I will not be miser in accepting his forgiveness as I am near and accept invocations. O Adam, when I shall resurrect the repentant men, they will smile and enjoy and their repentance will be accepted.

Tauba is compulsory according to the unanimous opinion of the jurists. It means to have knowledge that sin and disobedience to God are harmful and remove the sinner away from God. This appertains to compulsory faith. Tauba is firm determination to give up sin in the present and future and repentance for past sins. This shows that Tauba is compulsory.

Question: His Man Got Freedom of Action?

Answer: Man has got freedom of action but it is not opposed to our opinion that everything is the creation of God and man’s freedom of will is also the creation of God. When man wishes, his wish has been created for him. For instance, God created hand, sound and delicious food. He created in mind this knowledge that the greed will be pacified by this food. He created also the contrary thought whether it would be good or injurious if the greed for food is satisfied and whether this kind of food is agreeable or not. He also created this understanding whether it has got any bar or not. If these causes are united there comes the will to take that food. As a result of two conflicting thoughts and the greed for food, will comes in and that is called freedom of will. When all the elements are fulfilled, there comes will. When God creates the will and makes it firm. He allows his sound hand to extend towards food, as the unification of will and strength leads compulsorily to action. These two things, will and strength, are the creations of God.

Out of these creation, one thing is guided to another according to a well arranged plan created also by God. There is no change of God’s plan. He does not move the hand to an well-arranged writing, till He creates strength in it, till He gives it life and till He creates firm will. He does not raise up firm will till He creates greed in mind. He does not create this greed fully till He creates this knowledge or understanding whether it will conform to nature in the present or future. He does not create this understanding without other causes which make movement of limbs, will and knowledge. So understanding and desire of mind follow firm will and strength. Will comes before movement of bodily limbs. This rule is prevalent in every action. So everything is created by God and one thing of His creation depends upon another thing. For instance, will comes after understanding, understanding comes after life, and body comes before life. So the creation of body is necessary for life but not life for body. Similarly creation of life is necessary for creation of understanding and not creation of understanding for life. Understanding does not come if there is no life. Understanding has been created to make will firm and not for creation of will. Will does not come without life and understanding.

When nature is subject to some condition, the condition is created to accept that nature. Then that nature can be acquired from the strength of fate and God-given gift. When nature has not uniformity owing to the cause of condition, so also there is uniformity for occurrence of an event owing to the action of God. Man should necessarily be fit for occurrence of this uniformity. God says: I have created everything according to a measure. With regard to the original fate, there is this verse: ‘My order is not but in a twinkling of an eye.’ Man is subject to his fate. Owing to the fate or pre-measurement. He created the strength of movement in the hand a writer after creation firstly of an attribute named strength, secondly after creation in his mind a firm determination and thirdly after creation owing to this determination in mind understanding and fourthly knowledge of cognition. When these four matters subservient to fate from the unseen world appear in the body of a man, the inhabitants of the world know it. But before it remains hidden in the unseen world. Then the inhabitants of this world say: O man, you have moved, you have thrown arrows, you have written, but proclamation comes from behind the screen: When you have thrown arrows, you have not thrown them. It is God who has thrown them. When you fought, you have not fought. It is God who have fought with them. God will punish them through your hands.


Then sperficial learned man becomes blind and understands it. From his standpoint, he says that man has got freedom of will. Some say that man has got freedom of will but he has got no connection with pre-measurement or destiny. Some adopt the middle course and say that man’s action is subject to efforts. If the doors of heaven would have been opened to them and they looked to the spiritual and unseen world, it would have surely been disclosed to them that every opinion is true from one standpoint or the other, but there is defect in it. God knows the open and secret words. He does not disclose it except to those prophets with whom He is pleased. He who has entered the limit of His pleasure knows only the things of this world and not of the spiritual world. But a man of spiritual world knows that God is the Creator of everything and there is no master of action except He.

Question: You have said that every opinion is true. Cite an example for clear understanding.

Answer: Know, O dear readers, that a party of blind men went to see an elephant which they never see it before. When they reached the elephant, they touched it. One blind man touched its feet, another, its ear, another its trunk. They at once exclaimed: We have known an elephant. When they went away, other blind men asked: How is an elephant? They all described its different forms. The blind man who touched its feet said that the elephant is like a post. The blind man who touched it trunk said: the elephant is not as the other blind man has described.

The elephant is a hard substance and not a post and it is long. One who touched its ear said: By God, the elephant is smooth like a seeve. The saying of each is true in some respect or the other, but none could give a full description of an elephant. The difference of many men over a single matter is like this. This gives clue to spiritual knowledge.

Tauba is compulsory with its three ingredients, knowledge of sin, repentance for sin and giving up of sin in future. Tauba is compulsory after commission of sin, as a believer can understand that sin is harmful. He who does not give up sin gives up a portion of faith. The following Hadis proves it. When a man commits fornication he commits when he is not a believer. That fornication is injurious like poison is not known to him. This is said with regard to the faith which returns to spiritual knowledge. At the time of committing of fornication, he loses faith that fornication is injurious and that it keeps him far away from God, just as when a physician says: It is poison and don’t take it. If inspite of this warning, a person takes it, it can be said that he has taken it as he disbelieved it. This does not mean that he does not believe in the existence of the physician or that he has got no knowledge of medicine, but it means that he does not believe that poison is harmful, as he who knows the effect of poison, cannot accept it.

BRANCHES OF FAITH: There are more than seventy branches of faith. The highest branch is “There is no deity but God” and the lowest branch is to remove injurious things from path ways. This truth is found from the following instance. A man is not composed with one thing only but with more than seventy elements. The highest element is soul and life and the lowest element is removal of undesirable things from the body, such as trimmning moustache nails etc. Faith is also like a man. The highest element of faith is Tauhid. Faith does not remain if Tauhid goes just as a body does not live if life goes out of it. He who has got only Tauhid is like a man chopped of hands and feet and he is near death. Similarly, if a person has got nothing except basic faith, his tree of faith is about to crumble down. If a great tempest attacks it, it faces the angel of death. The faith of one, if not established upon firm foundation and not expressed in actions does not stand firm at the great tempest or the attack of the angel of death. The condition of his end becomes fearful. The faith which is watered constantly by divine services remains intact at the time of death.


If a sinner says to a virtuous man: I am a believer as you are a believer, his saying is just like the saying of a creeping plant to a big tree: I am a tree just as you are a tree. The big tree says to the creeping plant: You will know soon how false is your claim. At the time of tempest, your root will be uprooted. The tree of a Refin or gnostics has got the fear to be cut off even at their advent of death. He who is a sinner does not fear to live forever in hell. His condition is like that of a sound man who remains immerged in harmful passions and low desires, as he does not fear death owing to his robust health. He should be said this: A sound man should fear illness and death may come to him if diseases attack him. Similar is the condition of a sinner. He should fear his end and the consequent punishment in Hell.

So he who commits sin having faith is like the eater who eats food injurious to health. Thus it continues till he meets with sudden death. Similar is the condition of the sinner. When you give up the food in this world mixed with poison as injurious, how much necessary is it for you to give up sins which are injurious in the next world. He who eats poison and becomes repentant, disgraces it from his stomach by vomiting it at once: When this is necessary in this temporary world, how much necessary is it to give up sins which are detrimental to the immortal soul? To repent for sins during life time is necessary because sin like poison will destroy the ever-lasting happiness of the next world. If the next world is destroyed, one shall have to enter burning fire and receive other punishments. Worldly happiness in comparison with that of the next world is very trifling. There is no end of time in the next world. Once poison begins to work, the physician cannot cure it. The sinner falls within the meaning of this verse (36:8): I have put a bar in front of them and a bar behind them and covered them up so that they cannot see — 36:91. Spiritual knowledge is the root and worldly knowledge is its branch.

It is now clear to you that faith has got many branches and when a man commits fornication, he does not remain a believer. The screen which falls on faith is also a branch. At the time of death, it will fall from the basic faith as a man advances towards death if he loses one limb but still has got life. There is no existence of faith, without its branches if there are branches, they indicate that there is the existence of the root, but the existence of the root only does not indicate the existence of the branches. So spiritual knowledge is the root and worldly knowledge is its branch. Both are linked together. One cannot go without the other.

Repentance is compulsory on the part of every Muslim in every condition, as God says: O believers, be repentant to God all together so that you may get salvation — 24:31. By this verse, all are called to be repentant. Tauba means to come near God from a distant path and to return from the path near the devil. Wisdom does not become perfect unless passions, angers and all other vile vices which are the instruments of the devil and which misguide men are brought under full control. Wisdom becomes perfect at the advent of 40 years of age and it begins after the age of maturity and takes its root at the age of seven year’s.

Passion, anger etc. are the soldiers of the devil and wisdom is the soldier of angels. When there is union of passion and wisdom, clash begins as one does not look at another with pleasure. They are opposed to each other and the difference between them is that of day and night or light and darkness. Sexual passion remains strong in youth before perfection of intellect. The soldiers of the devil come forward at that time. He who is a soldier of God has got his intellect shining. God says: The devil said: I will destroy the children of Adam except a few. If the intellect is firm, strong and perfect, its first duty is to control the sexual passion and greed and take the self towards divine service. This is the meaning of Tauba. There is not other meaning of Tauba except this. In other words, to control the passions and low desires of the self, to return from the paths of the devil and to walk in the path of God. There is no such man whose sexual passion does not appear before his intellect. The evils of the devil appear before the natures of the angels and the former sits tight in heart before the latter. So it is the duty of every man to return from the evil tendencies. A poet says:

Think not that Hinda alone is guilty of treachery.
Every chaste woman has got sin owing to her beauty.


Greed is engrained in human nature from birth. It is the natural passion of man and it is not possible to go against it. So whoever remains an infidel at the time of maturity, he should turn away from his infidelity. If he is a Muslim at the time of age and follows the Islam of his parents, he should understand the meaning of Islam and turn towards real Islam as the Islam of his parents without understanding brings him no good. This is very hard and difficult. Tauba is directly compulsory on every man in every condition as he is not free from sins of his bodily limbs. There are traditions to show repentances and the wailings of the Prophets owing to their sins. If any man is free from sin, still he is not free from thoughts of sins. If he is free from thoughts of sins, he is not free from the machinations of the devil as many impure thoughts keep him forgetful of God. The object of Tauba is to return from sin. The Prophet said: The devil circles round my thoughts, for which I seek forgiveness to God seventy times. When such is the condition of the Prophet, how is the condition of others?

Question: There is no doubt that the evil thoughts that cross in mind are harmful and to be free from them is the sign of perfection. Perfection is not compulsory according to Shariat and to return to perfection, Tauba is necessary. So what is the meaning that Tauba is compulsory under all circumstances?

Answer: Man is not free from greed from the beginning of his birth. So Tauba is not to give it up, but it is complete when past sins are enquired into, and one in repentant therefore. If a man follows his passion, a smoke rises in his heart as a result. When there is layer of smokes in heart, rust fall on it as a mirror is filled up with smokes out of the breath of men. God says: Never. Rather rust has fallen on their hearts for what they acquired. When rust is gathered on it, there falls therein seal, as a mirror becomes ugly if dust after dust falls on it. If it lasts long, it enters into the iron of the mirror and destroys it. It is therefore not sufficient to give up only dust of passion in future but it is necessary also to remove the dusts already gathered. In order to see face in mirror it is not only necessary that there should be no smoke on it, but all smokes and dusts gathered in the past on it must be removed. The smoke of sins and passions on heart should be removed by the light of divine worship. The following Hadis hints at that — “Do a good deed after an evil deed. It will wipe out the latter.” It is only a good deed that can remove a bad deed according to the law of opposites. It is only cold that can remove heat. At first, heart remains pure. It assumes black colour for its opposite actions.

MEANING OF WAJEB: There are two meanings of Wajeb.

(1) One meaning is compulsory action which Shariat fixed as compulsory for all the people and the omission of which is great sin, such as prayer, fast etc.

(2) The second meaning of Wajeb is doing that duty which is outside the control of the ordinary men and with which search is made to be near the Almighty had to acquire the rank of the highest religious personalities.

To make Tauba from the faults mentioned above is necessary to acquire that rank, as to make ablution is compulsory for an optional prayer. Ablution is compulsory for a person who wishes to pray optional prayer to attain rank. He who remains satisfied being deprived of the rewards of optional prayer does not require an ablution, as eyes, hands and feet are not compulsory for a man to remain alive. He who desires to be a full and perfect man, compulsorily requires these bodily organs.

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