Afar the lure of fame!
Imam Gazzali was a miracle with extraordinary talent that Islamic world has witnessed. Blessed with a special skill for deep reflections, the great scholar in him opened up ceaseless vistas of expressions for Muslims. “Gazzali is an ocean with relentless waves of knowledge”, testified his master, Imamul Haramain. Imam Gazzali was a crucial saviour when the ark of Islam was tossed in the whirly winds of scientific and atheist movements. Imam Abdul Hasan Ash’hari was another great scholar treaded in the same path.
Ihya Ulumudhin is the masterpiece of Imam Gazzali. Hafiz Zainudhin Iraqi, who did a cross-examination of the validity of the Hadith in the book, says: “Ihya.. is the adornment of Islamic literature. No matter if all the lights in Islamic literature eclipse, Ihya will rejuvenate them.” (Tha’riful Ihya‘). The scholar Ibn al-Jaus, though disagrees with many points in this book, accepts its popularity and writes a précis for the book naming it Minhajul Khaasidhin.
Ihya is a collection of thoughts and tramples that he met with in a decade-long journey he carried out from Bagdad. Imam says, “Muslim world is plagued with an Imanic disease. Scholars with divine aspiration are found no more. Its all scholars with their eyes on material benefits. Thoughts about life-after has disappeared. Ihya was written to drag the community’s attention to this grave issue (AlGazzali 63,64).
The worst epidemic that ravages Muslims, Gazzali observes, is the pursuit after fame. To liberate onself from this entanglement is the ultimate success, he explains. Gazzali was a psychologist who had done an in-depth study on Islamic behavior. His reflections on craze for fame goes like this, “Fame has been made desirous for the same reason that made gold and silver desirous. Neither gold nor silver is edible. Nevertheless, for man, they are not equal to gravel. Man loves to win others’ impression. It’s a disease of mind, to like to hear people praising him. A real believer is the one who escapes people’s attention, while doing his duties. That is the true greatness. The mind that does not rejoice on shower of praises is admirable. That is the path of pioneers. One needs to put a great deal of effort to escape the trap of a fame-craving heart. We know ourself best, (therefore) we should be able to impress ourself first. You know only my outward life, I know the private side of me, well. The greatness lies in making one’s private life impeccable. But these are all trivial matters for people. They want to go famous and impress people. For those who have realized the value of devotion, understands this easily. I needed a lot of emotional control to blow out my crave for fame”.
In his almunkidu min dholaal, Imam Gazzali gives some autobiographical glimpse. He unspools the story of his entry into the straight path of religiosity, rejecting the crowns and credits of this worldly life. Many of his teachers, though genius extraordinaire, were not relieved of the tangles of crave-for-fame. When he was thirty four years old, Gazzali reached the most prestigious position in Madrasa Nizamiyya, Bagdad. An imperious position that could win him regard and respect of anyone. But he magnanimously declined that position. This is how Imam Gazzali climbed the echelons to be called hujjathul Islam (the canon of Islam). In the words of Abdul Gafir Farsi, a contemporary of Imam, ‘Gazzali had won places higher than the palaces, but he declined them all’.
Imam says, “resentment for the transient world, attraction to the after-life, and attention to Allah – these are the paths of pure devotion. I realized that I cannot get on that path until I leave off my track of pursuit after fame, fortune and material glory. I understood that I was drowning in the murky waters of material gains. Though I spent a lot of my time engaged in religious activities, my target was not solely Allah’s reward. I was on the verge of a spiritual collapse. That is how I declined those prestigious posts in Bagdad. It was after months long contemplation that I could take a decision of that sort. My mind was not at all happy with me to discard the credits of this world. Sat in prayers in front of my Lord, tears rolling down cheek, I won that strength. Now I get a spiritual satisfaction, concentration in my rituals, and good intention in my activities, at a level that I could never feel in my glorious days of fame….” (almunkidu min dholaal 71).
Imam Gazzali’s thoughts should push us into deep reflections. The crave for fame is a glaring stain of jahiliyya in our times. Its a venomous snake that can crunch even the activists of Islam. Only the careful and clever escapes it. Are we able to work freely, unaffected by the lure of lucre and lenses? Does the eye for eminence elevating its courts in our hearts? We like to be one among the many or one above the many? Let the following verse of Qur’an etch firmly in our heart;
” …Thus will Allah show them their deeds to be intense regret to them,..” (al-Baqara:167)
English rendering of article written by Abdul Wadud
Translated by Noufal PT