The Foundations of the Islamic Belief
-Al Ghazali

Chapter 1:The belief of the Sunni, The Way of the Prophet
The Belief of the Sunni, the way of the Prophet: The Exposition of the Belief of the Sunni, way of the Prophet, is embodied in two phrases of witnessing (Shahadah) which form one of the Pillars of Islam.

(A) The meaning of the first phrase of witnessing:

We say - our success is from Allah - praise be to Allah the Creator, the Restorer, the One who does whatever He wills. He whose Throne is glorious and whose Power is Mighty; who guides the select amongst His worshippers to the righteous path. He who grants them benefits once they affirm His Oneness by guarding the articles of belief from the darkness of doubt and hesitation. He who leads them to follow the way of His chosen Prophet Muhammad - praise and peace be upon him - and to follow the example of his companions, the most honored, by directing their footsteps to the way of truth. He who reveals Himself to them in His Essence and in His Works by His fine attributes which none perceive except the one who inclines his ear in contemplation. He who makes known to them that He is One in His Essence without any associate, Single without any equal, Eternal without a similar.

Nothing precedes Him, He is without any beginning. He is Eternal with none after Him, Everlasting without any end, subsisting without cessation, abiding without termination He has not ceased and He will not cease to be described by the epithets of Majesty. At the end of time He will not be subject to dissolution and decay, but He is the First and the Last, the Hidden and Apparent, and He knows everything.

i. Transcendence (Exaltation)

Allah is not a body possessing form, nor a substance restricted and limited: He does not resemble other bodies either in limitation or in accepting division.

He is not a substance and substances do not reside in Him; He is not a quality of substance, nor does a quality of substance occur in Him.

Rather, He resembles no existent and no existent resembles Him. Nothing is like Him and He is not like anything. Measure does not bind Him and boundaries do not contain Him. Directions do not surround Him and neither the earth nor the Heavens are on different sides of Him.

Truly, He is controlling the Throne in the manner in which He said and in the sense in which He willed - in a state of transcendence that is removed from parallel and touch, residence, fixity of location, stability, envelopment, and movement.

The Throne does not support Him, but the Throne and those who carry it are supported by the Subtleness of His Power and are constrained by His Firmness. He is above the Throne and Heavens and above everything to the limits of the earth with an aboveness which does not bring Him nearer to the Throne and the Heavens, just as it does not make Him further from the earth.

Rather, He is Highly Exalted above the Throne and the Heavens, just as He is Highly Exalted above the earth. Nevertheless, He is near to every entity and is "nearer to the worshipper than his juggler vein" and He witnesses everything since His nearness does not resemble the nearness of bodies, just as His Essence does not resemble the essence of bodies.

He does not exist in anything, just as nothing exists in Him: Exalted is He that a place could contain Him, just as sanctified is He that no time could limit Him.

For, He was as before He had created time and place, and just as He was, He is now. He is distinct from His creatures through His attributes. There is not in His Essence any other than Him, nor does His Essence exist in any other than Him.

He is Exalted from change and movement. Substance does not reside in Him and the quality of substance do not befall Him. Rather, He is in the attributes of His Majesty beyond cessation. And He is in the attributes of His Perfection. He is not in need of an increase in perfection. In His Essence, His Existence is known by reason (in this life).

In the Everlasting Life, His Essence is seen by the eyes of the righteous as a favor from Him, and a subtlety as a completion of favors from Him through their beholding His Gracious Face.

ii. Life and Power

He is Living, Able, the Conqueror and All-subduing.

Inadequacy and weakness do not befall Him; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; annihilation does not prevail over Him nor death. He is the Owner of the visible and invisible Kingdom, and of Power and Might. His are dominion, subjugation, creation, and command; the Heavens are rolled in His Right and created things are subjugated in His Firmness.

He is Single in creating and inventing. He is Alone in bringing into existence and innovating. He created all creatures and their deeds, and decreed their sustenance and their life span; nothing decreed escapes His Firmness and the mutations of the affairs does not slip from His Power.

Whatever He decrees cannot be numbered neither does His Knowledge end.

iii. Knowledge

He is Knowledgeable of all the known, encompassing all that happens in the depths of earth to the highest heavens. He is Knowledgeable in which there is not an atom that escapes His Knowledge in heaven and earth.

Rather, He knows the stamping of the black ant upon the solid rock in the darkest night. He perceives the movement of a particle of dust in mid-air. He knows the secrets and that which is more hidden.

He is the Overseer of the whispering of the self and the flow of thoughts, and the most deepest concealment of the selves.

With a knowledge which is ancient from eternity and by which He has not ceased to be described through the ages.

Not by a knowledge which is subject to updating by occurring and circulating in His Essence.

iv. Will

He is the Willer of all existence and the Planner of all contingent things. There is nothing that occurs in His visible or invisible world except by His prior planning and His execution whether it is little or plenteous, small or large, good or evil, benefit or harm, belief or unbelief, gratitude or ingratitude, prosperity or loss, increase or decrease, obedience or disobedience all is according to His Wisdom and Will, what He wills occurs and what He does not will does not occur. There is not a glance of the onlooker nor a stray thought that is not subject to His Will.

He is the Creator at first, the Restorer, the Doer of whatsoever He wills. There is none that rescinds His command, and none that supplements His decrees, and there is no escape for a worshipper from disobeying Him, except by His Help and Mercy, and none has power to obey Him except by His Will. Even if mankind, jinn, angels, and devils were to unite to try to move the weight of an atom in the world or to render it still, without His Will they would fail.

His Will subsists in His Essence amongst His Attributes. He has not ceased to be described by it from eternity, willing, - in His Infinity - the existence of the things at their appointed time which He has decreed. So they come into existence at their appointed times as He has willed in His Infinity without precedence or delay. They come to pass in accordance with His Knowledge and His Will without variation or change.

He directs matters not through arrangement of thought and awaiting the passage of time, and so no affair occupies Him from another affair.

v. Hearing and Seeing

He - the Most High - is the Hearer, the Seer. He hears and sees.

No audible thing, however faint, escapes His Hearing, and no visible thing, however minute, is hidden from His Sight.

Distance does not prevent His Hearing and darkness does not obstruct His Seeing. He sees without a pupil and eyelid, and hears without the meatus and ears, as He perceives without a heart, and seizes without limbs, and creates without an instrument, since His attributes do not resemble the attributes of the creation, and as His Essence does not resemble the essence of creation.

vi. Speech

He - the Most High - speaks, commanding, forbidding, promising, and threatening, with a speech from eternity, ancient, and self-existing.

Unlike the speech of the creation, it is not a sound which is caused through the passage of air or the friction of bodies; nor is it a letter which is enunciated through the opening and closing of lips and the movement of the tongue.

And that the Koran, the original Torah, the original Gospel of Jesus, and the original Psalms are His Books sent down upon His Messengers, peace be upon them.

The Koran is read by tongues, written in books, and remembered in the heart, yet it is, nevertheless ancient, subsisting in the Essence of Allah, not subject to division and or separation through its transmission to the heart and paper [by this he meant that the movement of the reciter's tongue and his management of the flow of air in his mouth and ear etc., or the writer's inscription upon paper, all of which are created. Whereas the logic of Ghazali addresses what is beyond this human quality and dimension of time and physic. Thereby he refers to the Koran before one's movement of the tongue or transcription onto paper. Most errors have come from our human dimensions, and that we try to describe Divine attributes through our own limited human attributes - Darwish]. Moses - Allah praised him and gave him peace - heard the Speech of Allah without sound and without letter, just as the righteous see the Essence of Allah - the High - in the Hereafter, without substance or its quality.

And since He has these qualities, He is Living, Knowing, Willing, Hearing, Seeing and Speaking with life, power, knowledge, will, hearing, sight, and speech, not solely through His Essence.

vii. Deeds

He, the Exalted, the High, there is no existence except Him, unless it occurs by His action and proceeds from His Justice, in the best, perfect, complete and just ways.

He is Wise in His verdicts. His justice is not to be compared with that of worshippers, because it is conceivable that the worshipper is unjust when he deals with properties of other than his own. But, harm is not conceivable from Allah - the High - because He does not encounter any ownership of other than Himself, in which His dealing could be described to be harmful.

Everything besides Him, children of Adam and jinn, angels and devils, heaven and earth, animals, plants, and inanimates, substance and its quality, as well as things perceived and things felt, are all originated things which He created by His Power and before they were nothing, since He existed in Eternity alone and there was nothing whatsoever with Him.

So He originated creation thereafter as a manifestation of His Power and a realization of that which had preceded of His Will and the realization of His Word in eternity, not because He had any need or necessity for it.

He is magnanimous in creating and inventing and in imposing obligations, not doing it through necessity.

He is Gracious in beneficence and reform, though not through any need. Munificence and Kindness, Beneficence and Grace are His, since He is able to bring upon His creatures all manner of torture and to try them with all kinds of pain and affliction. Even if He should do this, it would be justice from Him, it would not be vile, it would not be tyrannous.

He - the Mighty, the Glorified - rewards His believing worshippers for their acts of obedience according to generosity and encouragement rather than according to their merit and obligation. For there is no obligation upon Him in any deed towards anyone and tyranny is inconceivable in Him. For there is no right upon Him towards anyone.

As for His right to be obeyed it is obligatory and binding upon all creatures because He made it obligatory upon them through the tongues of His prophets and not by reason. But He sent His prophets and showed their truthfulness through explicit miracles, and they conveyed His commands and prohibitions as well as His promises and threats. So it became obligatory upon all creatures to believe them and what they brought.

(B) The meaning of the second phrase of witnessing which is the witnessing for the messengers and their message.

Allah sent the unlettered, of Quraish, Prophet Muhammad - praise and peace be upon him - with His Message for Arabs and non-Arabs alike, to the jinn and humanity. Therefore Allah superseded other religions by the Religion of Prophet Muhammad - praise and peace be upon him - except that which He confirmed amongst them.

He favored Prophet Muhammad over all other prophets and made him the master of mankind, and declared incomplete any profession of faith which attests to Oneness, which is " There is no god except Allah, " unless it is followed by the witness to the Messenger, which is your saying, "Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." He obligated all nations to believe in everything he informed of the affairs of here and the Hereafter.

Allah will not accept the belief of any one (worshipper) until he believes in that which the Prophet informed of the affairs that occur after death, the first of which is the question of the angels Munkar and Nakeer. These are two awesome and terrifying beings who will make the deceased sit up in the grave, both soul and body; they will ask him about the Oneness of Allah and about the Message, asking, "Who is your Lord, and what is your Religion, and who is your prophet?" They are also known as the two examiners of the grave and their questions are considered as the first trial after death.

Again, one should believe in the punishment of the grave, and that it is real and that His Ruling is just over both the body and soul in accordance with His Will.

And one should believe in the Scale with the two pans with its indicator - the magnitude of which is like the stages of the Heavens and the earth - in it, the deeds are weighed by the Power of Allah, and its weights or measures are the mustard seed and the atom, in order to establish exact justice.

The records of good deeds will be placed in a fine image in the scale of light, and then the balance will be heavy according to its rank with Allah, by His Virtue.

The records of the evil deeds will be cast in an evil image in the scale of darkness, and they will be light in the balance through the Justice of Allah.

One should believe also that the Bridge is real; it is a Bridge stretched over Hell, sharper than the edge of the sword and finer than a hair. The feet of the unbelievers slip on it, according to the decree of Allah - the Exalted - and they will fall into the Fire; but the feet of the believers stand firm upon it, by the Grace of Allah, and so they are driven into the Everlasting residence.

And one should believe in the frequented pool, the Pool of Prophet Muhammad - Allah has praised and given him peace. From which the believers will drink before entering Paradise and after crossing over the Bridge. Whoever drinks a single mouthful from it will never thirst again. Its width is the distance of one month's journey; its waters are whiter than milk and sweeter than honey. Around it are ewers in number like the stars of the sky, and into it flow two springs from al-Kawthar.

And one should believe in the Judgement and the distinctions between those in it, that some will be closely questioned, that some will be treated with forgiveness and that others will enter Paradise without questioning - these are the nearest.

Allah will ask whomsoever He will of the prophets concerning the deliverance of the Message, and whosoever of the unbelievers concerning their rejection of the Messengers; and He will ask the innovators concerning the way of the Prophet (sunnah) and the Muslims concerning their deeds.

One should believe that the believer in the Oneness of Allah (if he enters Hell on account of his sins) will be released from Hell fire after he has been punished, so that there will not remain in Hell one single believer.

One should believe in the intercession of the prophets, of the learned, and of the martyrs, then the rest of the believers - each according to his influence and rank before Allah.

Whosoever remains of the believers and has no intercessor will be released through the Grace of Allah, the Mighty, the Glorified.

Therefore not one single believer will abide in Hell forever; whosoever has in his heart the weight of an atom of belief will be brought out from there.

One should believe the virtues of the Companions - may Allah be pleased with them - and their different ranks, and that the most excellent of mankind, after the Prophet - Allah praised and gave him peace - is Abu-Bakr, and then `Umar, and then `Uthman, and then `Ali - may Allah be pleased with them - and one should think well of all the Companions and praise them, just as Allah - the Mighty, the Glorified - and His Prophet praised them all - Allah has praised the Prophet and given him peace -. All these were reported in the news and witnessed traditions (of the Prophet). Therefore whosoever believes in all this and believes in it without doubting will be among the people of truth and the congregation of the Way of the Prophet (sunnah), and indeed has separated themself from the followers of error and party of innovation.

So we ask Allah to perfect our faith and make us steadfast in the Religion for us and for all Muslims through His Mercy. Truly He is the Most Merciful. And may the praise of Allah be upon our Master Muhammad and upon every chosen worshipper.

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