Muhammad Al-Ghazali - II
A consistent line in Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali's career was his unwavering stand in support of what he believed to be right. He considered social justice one of the principal aims of Islam. He, therefore, wrote extensively about every aspect of social injustice, advocating a return to Islamic values which were certain to ensure justice for all.
Early in his career, when Egypt was under the monarchy, Al-Ghazali felt that the capitalist system imported by the British colonialists and managed by foreign businessmen left the masses in dire poverty. He also felt that the concentration of large agricultural areas in the hands of the few meant that the majority of rural people in Egypt were enduring clear injustice. He wrote his first book Al-Islam wal-Awdaa' al-Iqtisadiyah, or Islam and Economic Conditions. This is not a book to evaluate different economic theories or systems, but a study of general Islamic principles outlined by Islam, and how they relate to the modern world, ensuring social justice for all. At the time of its publication, it attracted much interest, because it showed the Islamic approach to economic realities and how they affect people's lives.
His second book followed in the same line, but this time he discussed socialist systems as viewed by Islam. His third book sought to establish Islam as clearly distinct from all economic philosophies, particularly communism and capitalism. Sheikh Al-Ghazali was a prolific writer. In this period, he wrote several books, prominent among which was one devoted to explain the Islamic attitude to political dictatorship. He also wrote Ta'mmulat fil-Deen wal-Hayat, or Thoughts on Religion and Life. This was followed by Aqeedat Al-Muslim, or a Muslim's ideological beliefs, and Khuluq Al-Muslim, or a Muslim's moral values.
At one stage, Al-Ghazali found himself taking a very tough attitude against one of his friends, Khalid Muhammad Khalid, who was also a graduate of Al-Azhar, a great speaker and a writer of very powerful style. Khalid went through a period of doubt which culminated in his writing of a book, Min Huna Nabda', or Our Starting Point, in which he advocated a highly secularist line.
He went against many central Islamic values. Sheikh Al-Ghazali felt he had to reply to his old friend, publishing several articles showing Khalid's deviation and erroneous understanding of Islam. What is important to realize here is that this was a duel between two refined writers with highly powerful styles, who greatly valued their independence and freedom of thought. Sheikh Al-Ghazali's articles were subsequently published in a book under the title Min Huna Na'lam, or Where to Acquire Knowledge. The distinctive characteristic of Al-Ghazali's reply to Khalid was that it steered away from personal abuse and ridicule, to which he himself was subjected at various times in his career. He wrote about the subject in contention, but never against the man himself. In fact, when some people advocated that Khalid should be deprived of his Al-Azhar degree, Al-Ghazali wrote objecting to that.
It took Khalid several years to realize his mistake but, with God's grace, he was able to revise his standpoint and abandon all ideas that were incompatible with Islam.
Sheikh Al-Ghazali was a passionate man who was constantly preoccupied with the concerns of the Muslim community. He keenly felt that the Muslims have the right medicine that was certain to cure all the social ills of humanity and was aware that their backwardness meant that they were unable to help themselves, let alone provide solutions for others. But he also realized that different quarters wanted the Muslims to remain isolated from their faith and the Islamic way of life. Therefore, he devoted all his efforts to promote Islamic revival in every way he could. He felt that the most important element in such revival was a better understanding of Islam, and a correct understanding of the realities of our present world and the forces that influence world events. He was very happy whenever he heard of anything that improved the situation of any Muslim community or individual, and shared in the sorrow of any Muslim who met with misfortune or hardship. This is best reflected in his attitude toward the military government in Egypt.
When the monarchy was overthrown, Al-Ghazali felt that the officers who staged the revolution intended to bring real reforms.
He trusted Nasser and felt that he was a good man who wanted to serve his people. Nasser was keen at the time to give an impression that he truly wanted Islam to shape the life of the Egyptian people. But what he really wanted was to draw some religious elements to his side while he leveled a sever blow to the Muslim Brotherhood. There were many who trusted Nasser, and one of these was Sheikh Al-Ghazali, forming his views on the basis of certain indications he might have personally seen or heard, or were reliably confirmed to him. But this was most probably what Nasser himself wanted Al-Ghazali to understand as part of his attempts to divide the Muslim Brotherhood.
But Al-Ghazali was soon to realize that Nasser was no friend of Islam or Islamic revival. Indeed, he felt that Nasser was only trying to exploit Islam and turn it to his own advantage whenever he felt that this served his goals. Hence, true to form, Al-Ghazali felt that his own stand was in opposition to the military dictatorship. He heartily grieved to hear of the torture and killings of Muslim Brotherhood detainees in Egyptian prisons. He did not hesitate to make his stand clear in several of his books, including the one which he called Haqiqat Al-Qawmiyah Al-Arabiyah, or the True Nature of Arab Nationalism. He also expressed his opposition when Nasser utilized Al-Azhar to award an honorary degree to Sukarno, the Indonesian President. He then pointed out that Nasser consistently stood against Islamic interests in every conflict involving Muslims against non-Muslims, although Al-Ghazali himself was present when Nasser and his colleague, Kamal Al-Deen Hussain, gave their solemn pledges to make their revolution a tool to serve Islam and Muslims.
In 1962, Sheikh Al-Ghazali and Khalid Muhammad Khalid were among 250 Egyptian personalities appointed by Nasser to discuss the future orientation of Egyptian government and society. The two old friends were still taking opposite lines, but both spoke out in clear opposition to Nasser's dictatorship. While Khalid spoke out in defense of freedom, Al-Ghazali emphasized the need for Egypt to show its clear and true independence, which could only be demonstrated through legislative independence. It must also have its own distinctive traditions, to be reflected even in its fashion and clothes of both men and women.
It could not be truly independent if it continued to be merely a distorted version of Western society. This led to a direct confrontation between him and Nasser, who at the time wanted to appear to listen to all sections of society. However, government supporters and Communists launched a sustained attack against Al-Ghazali. A Communist cartoonist, Salah Gahin, continued to publish in the leading newspaper Al-Ahram a cartoon ridiculing Al-Ghazali every day over two weeks. This caused a great deal of anger among many Egyptians. On 1 June 1962, a huge demonstration moved out of Al-Azhar after Friday prayer and marched to Al-Ahram. They tried to carry Sheikh Al-Ghazali over their shoulders but he refused. The publishers felt that their position was precarious and they ended this ludicrous attack.
My comment is, people often refer to 'returning to Islamic values'. My belief is that these values have existed for over 1,429 years. It is not a return to these values, it is RAISING ourselves up to this standard, to RAISE ourselves to meet the challenge of living our lives under these Islamic values.
Any man or woman can easily act un islamic. Any man or woman can do haram deeds and unpure acts.
I have met people who call themselves muslims, but do not have total faith in Allah's mercy to us, Islam. We have had major brainwashing over the decades from outside influences, and have left many of us not fully confident in our deen. Al Hamdu li llah, as long as Allah's words are amongst us, we will always have believers, and worshippers of Allah, Muslims. As this article points out, Islam is a complete way of life, as has the answers to all our problems. The rules given to us by Allah are to always remember our creator, worship him, and to protect us from ourselves. Interestingly enough, the first thing we do when we forget Allah is to start killing each other, and build arms of mass destruction. We cannot let ourselves be governed by those who have forgotten Allah, for they are destroying themselves, and us along with them. We have presently taken ourselves out of Allah's mercy. There is not one Islamic State, and we aren't really putting a lot of effort into building one. Some people want a 'democratic' state like the US, and seem to find a problem with an Islamic State, even though many want it. Isn't wanting your own state part of democracy? Isn't freedom of religion part of democracy? And what if my religion requires me to build an Islamic State? Not just only for the sake of being told to, but also for the sake of protecting us from shirk, deviations, immorality, eating forbidden foods and beverages, seeing and hearing forbidden things, that we are always forced to bear. Isn't it part of democracy to chose to protect myself from what is infringed on me? And isn't it also undemocratic to force me to see and experience all these things? Allah's rules were given to us for a reason as stated before, and in today's world, we are also being given the understanding behind these rules. It all comes down to seeking Allah's pleasure. May Allah guide us ALL. Ameen. Allah doesn't need us. WE need him. Al Hamdu Lilla