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Al-Ghazali : Faith in Divine Unity & Trust in Divine Providence

  • Al-Ghazali : Faith in Divine Unity  &  Trust in Divine Providence
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 Kitab al-tawhid wa'l tawakkul      Paperback -  180 pages  

 

It is fair to say that the "Book of Faith in Divine Unity and Trust in Divine Providence " plays an axial role in Ghazali's Allah be pleased with himcelebrated compendium, the Ihya Ulum al-din. What is at issue is not Divine Unity itself, but the implications for the community arising from the idea that everything comes from God and that "there is no agent but God."  How can we trust in Divine Providence? Al-Ghazali Allah be pleased with himstates that "all that exists in creation--sustenance given or withheld, life or death, riches or poverty, and everything else that can be named" is solely initiated and originated by God Most High.  "If the gates of mystical insight were opened to you, this would be clear to you with a clarity more perfect than ordinary vision." But those gates are not opened to most of us, so the test of our understanding of divine unity will not come by direct insight into the ways of God, but through a life of trust in which concerted practice will bring each of us personally to the threshold of the only understanding possible to us. 

What sort of a practice is trust in divine providence?  It entails aligning oneself with things as they really are: in Ghazali's Allah be pleased with him terms, with the truth that there is no agent but God Most High-- a reminder that everything in the universe is created by that same God and so reflects something of God's majesty and beauty.  Yet the very thing that escapes our understanding is the secret connection of each creature with its creator.  This requires effort, which cannot be solely intellectual, for our relationship to the One Creator resists formulation.  If we truly believe that each created thing reflects God's majesty and beauty, then each event in our lives also reveals God's way of guiding us.  By trying our best to act according to the conviction that the divine decree expresses the truth in events as they unfold, we can allow ourselves to be "shown" how things truly lie. Faithtawhid and practice tawakkul reinforce one another.  The understanding we can have is that of one journeying in faith, a "salik," the name which Sufis appropriated for themselves. Al-Ghazali Allah be pleased with him selects stories of Sufi sheiks, offering them as examples to help point us towards developing specific skills of trusting:  habits of responding to different situations in such a way that we learn by acting how things are truly ordered, the truth of the divine decree.


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