Moral Reflections on Economics

Reflections from Al-Ghazali

Reflections from Al-Ghazali

Excerpts from A Treasury of Ghazali

Published by Kube Publishing and Distributed in Pakistan by Institute of Policy Studies Press

Seek Felicity

The otherworldly felicity we are concerned with is subsistence without end, pleasure without toil, happiness without sadness, richness without impoverishment, perfection without blemish and glory without humiliation. In sum, it is everything that can [at the same time] be conceived of as sought and seeking, desired and desirous, eternally and forever, such that it is undiminished by the passage of time and successions of generations.

Indeed, if the whole world was full of gems and a bird was to pilfer one of them every one thousand years, then the gems would be exhausted, but everlasting eternity would not be diminished a bit.

Good Deeds Outnumbering Bad Deeds

And if he performs an act of obedience, he remembers it and takes pride in it, yet he is like someone who seeks [Allah’s] forgiveness with his tongue or glorifying [Allah] at night or during the day one hundred times or one thousand times, but then he backbites the Muslims and throughout the day utters that which displeases Allah, and only pays attention to the narrations on the merit of glorification [of Allah] while neglecting the reports on the punishment of backbiters, liars, tale-bearers and hypocrites.

This is pure self-delusion, for protecting his tongue from disobedience is more urgent than his glorifications.

Striving Beyond Justice

Allah Most High enjoins justice and excellence. Justice is the cause of salvation only and it is likened to capital in trade.

Excellence, on the other hand, is the cause of success and felicity, and it is likened to profit in trade. Anyone who is satisfied with only his capital when trading in worldly affairs cannot be considered a sane person. The same applies to all dealings in the Hereafter.

The religious person should not confine himself to justice and avoiding injustice, while shunning the doors of excellence.

And we mean by excellence, doing that which benefits the person one is dealing with, without this being obligatory on him, but rather out of courtesy, for that which is obligatory is addressed under the rubric of justice and abandoning injustice.

Degrees of Piety

Verily, the beginning of piety is abstaining from what is prohibited by Fatwa, and this is the piety of the upright ones, but its aim is the piety of the friends of Allah, which is abstaining from all that which is not done for the sake of Allah, including that which was taken with lust, or obtained through reprehensible means, or resulted in what is reprehensible, and these have various degrees of precautionary steps between them.

The stricter the servant is with himself, the lighter his load will be on the Day of Judgement, and the faster he will cross the Bridge-over-Hell, and the farther he will be from having his sins outweigh his good deeds. The ranks [of people] in the hereafter vary according to these degrees of piety.

Flames of Repentance

Repentance is defined as the inward’s aching over past sins. It is a fire that rages in the heart that cannot be shaken off.

And when taking into consideration the meaning of abstention, the definition of repentance then becomes: it is removing the attire of rejection and spreading the rug of loyalty. Sahl ibn ‘Abdullah al-Tustari said: ‘Repentance is replacing blameworthy actions with praiseworthy actions’.

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