By Imam al-Ghazzali & Translated by Shaykh Nuh Ha Meem Keller in “Sea Without Shore”


[1] He does not seek this world by his religious learning, for at [the] very least a scholar is someone aware of this world’s wretchedness, triviality, sordidness, and ephemerality; and the next world’s magnificence, permanence, blessings, and vastness – and that the two are opposites.

[2] His deeds do not belie his words, and he does not tell anyone to do something without himself being the first to do it.

[3] He is devoted to knowledge beneficial in the next world, that which increases desire for acts of worship, and he shuns branches of religious learning that are of little benefit, or mainly debate and gossip.

[4] He is disinclined to luxury in food and drink, enjoyment of clothes, and embellishment of furnishings and housing, preferring less therein, emulating the early Muslims (Allah have mercy on them), and inclining towards the minimum in everything.

[5] He keeps as far from rulers as possible, never going to visit them as long as there is any way to evade them.

[6] He is reluctant to give formal legal opinion (fatwa), refrains from verdicts about matters unclear, and avoids giving opinions whenever he can.

[7] His main concern is knowledge of the inward and keeping watch over his heart, knowing the path of the next world and traveling it, knowing the path of the next world and traveling it, sincerely hoping to be shown it by combating his ego (mujahada) and spiritual vigilance over himself (muraqaba), since subduing the ego leads to beholding the Divine (mushahada).

[8] He perpetually strives to deepen his inward certitude (yaqin), which is one’s capital in religion.

[9] He is somber, subdued, bowed of head, and spare of words, the awe of the Divine being plain in his manner and dress, movements and rest, speech and silence. No one sees him without being reminded of Allah Most High, his mien bespeaking his works.

[10] He mainly seeks knowledge of spiritual works and what vitiates them, what disturbs the heart, what raises baseless misgivings (waswasa), and what provokes evil, for preventing evil is the basis of religion.

[11] He relies in his branches of learning upon genuine insight and what he knows from the bottom of his heart, not merely upon what he finds by reading treatises and books, or blindly repeating what he has heard another say. For the only one unconditionally followed is he who brought us the Sacred Law (Allah bless him and give him peace), in what he commanded and stated. The prophetic Companions are but followed because their deeds indicate what they heard from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

[12] He shuns spurious matters in religion newly begun [such as, for Ghazali, purely speculative scholastic theology], even if a scholarly majority adopt them, being undeceived by what was inaugurated after the Companions (Allah be well  pleased with them); but rather dedicating himself to learning how they were, and what they did in their lives.”

(Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din [33], 1, 53-70])

Resources for Seekers:

Love & Balance: Following Our Scholars to Allah
The threat to religious guidance – the importance of Spreading Prophetic Light
Is the hadith: “The scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets” authentic? If so, what does it mean?

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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)