These are excerpts from Imam Ghazali’s Bidayatul Hidaaya :
About Avoiding Sinful Acts:
Know that the religion is of two halves:
1- One of them is: avoiding the prohibitions
2- The other is: performing acts of obedience
Avoiding the prohibitions is more difficult (than the opposite). For every one is capable of performing acts of obedience. But giving up (ones) passions is something that only the truly sincere (siddeeqoon) are capable of doing.
For that reason, he (the Messenger) – may Allah bless and grant him peace – said,
“The emigrant (muhaajir) is he who emigrates from evil. And the one striving (mujaahid) is he who strives against his lust.”
Be aware that you disobey Allah with your bodily limbs while they are Allah’s blessing upon you, and a trust given to you. So exploiting Allah’s blessing to disobey Him is the epitome of ingratitude. And your betrayal of a trust that Allah has deposited with you is the epitome of transgression. Your limbs are your shepherds. So watch how you guard them!
(The Prophet – pbuh said)
“So each of you is a shepherd. And each of you will be questioned about his herd.”
And be aware that all of your limbs will testify against you in the squares of the Resurrection with a free articulate tongue – i.e. eloquent. They will disgrace you with it in front of all created beings.
Allah – Exalted in Highness – says, ((That day their tongues, their hands, and their feet will testify to what they used to do)) [Noor: 24]
And He – Exalted in Highness – says, ((Today We place a seal over their mouths and their hands will speak to Us and their feet will testify to what they used to earn)) [YaSin: 65].
So guard your entire body, especially your seven limbs, for verily, Hell (jahannam) has seven gates. For every gate there is a designated portion of them (people). But none are specified for those gates except for he who has disobeyed Allah with these seven limbs.
And they are:
1- The eye
2- The ear
3- The stomach
4- The tongue
5- The private part
6- The hand
I. Protecting the Eye
7- The foot
I. Protecting the Eye
As for the eye, it has been created for you only so that you can find your way by it in the darkness, to use it for help in (acquiring) needs, to look with it at the wonders of the dominions of the Earth and the Heavens, and so that you’ll take a lesson from the signs found in them.
So protect it from three or four things:
1- From using it to look at one who is not forbidden in marriage (mahram)
2- Or (from looking) at an attractive image lustfully
3- Or using it to look at a Muslim with the eye of disdain
II. Protecting the Ear
4- Or (from using it to) become acquainted with a flaw in a Muslim
II. Protecting the Ear
As for the ear, protect it from giving attention to innovation (bid’ah), backbiting, vulgarity, indulging in falsehood (baatil), or the mention of peoples’ bad characteristics (masaawi).
For verily, it was created for you to hear Allah’s word (kalaamullah) – Exalted in Highness, the Sunnah of Allah’s messenger – may Allah bless and grant him peace, the wisdom of His friends (auliyaa), and to reach by the acquisition of knowledge to the permanent kingdom and everlasting bliss.
So when you turn its attention to one of the undesirable things (makaarih), what was for you is turned against you, and what would have been the cause of your success becomes the cause of your destruction.
So this is the epitome of loss. And don’t think that the sin (of the ear) applies specifically to the speaker to the exclusion of the listener. Because (it is stated) in the report that:
“I obey the order, when he says, \’silence!\’ I remain silent; For one day that king will explain this in person.” ~Rumi
“,1] ); //–> “The listener is a partner to the speaker. And he is one of the two backbiters.”
III. Protecting the Tongue from Eight Things
As for the tongue, it has been created for you merely to make ample mention of Allah – Exalted is He, to recite His book, to give direction to Allah’s creation by it to His way – Exalted is He, and to manifest by it what is in your heart concerning the necessities of your religion (deen) and your secular life (dunyaa).
So when you use it for other than the purpose it was created, you have shown ingratitude for Allah’s blessing regarding it – Exalted is He.
And it is the most dominating of your limbs over you and over the rest of creation.
And nothing turns people over in the Fire on their snouts except for the harvests of their tongues. So seek victory over it with all of your strength so that it doesn’t turn you over into the depths of Hell (Jahannam). And in the report (it states):
“Verily, a person will utter a comment to make his companions laugh, and he will fall by way of it to the bottom of Hell for seventy autumns.”
A martyr was killed on the battlefield during the time of Allah’s messenger – may Allah bless and grant him peace, and someone said, “Congratulations to him! Paradise!” So Allah’s messenger – may Allah bless and grant him peace – said,
“How do you know? Perhaps he used to speak about what didn’t concern him, and (maybe) he was stingy with what would not enrich him.”
So guard the tongue from eight things:
I. The First is Lying (kadhib):
So guard your tongue from it in seriousness and in jest. And don’t habituate your self to lying in jest so that it calls you to lie in times of seriousness. And lying is one of the mothers of all major sins.
In addition, once you are known for that, your trustworthiness is eliminated, your words are denied, and eyes undervalue and hold you in contempt.
And if you’d like to know the ugliness of lying that comes from yourself, just reflect on the lying of others, your soul’s aversion to it, your disdain for its doer, and your disgust of what he has brought forth. And do likewise with all of the flaws of your self. For surely you don’t know the disgustingness of your flaws from yourself. Rather, (you know them) from others (who point them out to you).
So whatever you feel disgust for from others, then others inevitably feel disgust for it from you. So don’t be content with that for your self.
II. The Second is Breaking the Promise
Then beware to promise a thing and not keep it. Rather, your good treatment to people should be a deed without a word. Then if you are compelled to promise, then beware to break (it) unless it is out of inability (to do so) or an emergency.
For indeed that is one of the signs of hypocrisy and despicable conduct. He (The Prophet) said – may Allah bless and grant him peace,
“Three things: Whoever possesses them, he is a hypocrite even if he prays and fasts: 1- The one who when he speaks, he lies, 2- when he promises, he breaks (it), and 3-when he is entrusted (with something), he betrays.”
III. The Third is Guarding the Tongue from Backbiting
Backbiting is worst than fornicating 30 times while being a Muslim. Thus it has come in the report.
And the meaning of backbiting (gheebah) is that you mention a person with what he dislikes were he to hear it. So you are a wrongdoing backbiter even if you are truthful.
And beware of the backbiting done by the pseudo-scholars who are guilty of showing off (riyaa). It is for you to make your intention known without explicitly saying so. You’d say something like:
“May Allah correct him. What he did has hurt me and saddened me. So we ask Allah to set us aright as well as him.”
For indeed this is combining between two evil acts:
1- The first of them is backbiting, since the understanding was conveyed through it.
2- The other is self-praise (tazkiyatun-nafs) and extolling it with (the implicit indication that it experiences) difficulty and (it possesses) righteousness.
However, if your intent from saying “May Allah correct him” is prayer, then pray for him in secret. And if you are grieved because of him, then the sign of it is that you don’t desire to disgrace him or to make his flaw public knowledge. And in publicly showing your grief resulting from his flaw is making his flaw public knowledge.
And sufficient of a deterrent for you from committing backbiting is His (Allah’s) statement:
((And let none of you backbite others. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother while dead? You would abhor it.))
Allah has compared you to one who eats the flesh of carrion (dead animals). So how fitting it is for you to seek safety from it!
And there is a matter that would prevent you from backbiting the Muslims were you to reflect upon it. It is for you to look in yourself (and ask) if it has an open or hidden flaw? Do you commit sin in secret or publicly?
So when you realize that from yourself, then know that his inability to become innocent of what you ascribed to him is just like your inability (to do so). And his excuse is just like your excuse.
And just as you wouldn’t like to be humiliated and have your faults mentioned he also wouldn’t like it.
So if you shield him, Allah will shield your faults from you. And if you disgrace him, Allah will grant authority to sharp tongues over you who will rip apart your honor in the temporal world (dunyaa). Then He will disgrace you in the Afterlife in the presence of all creatures on the Day of Resurrection.
And if you’ve looked to your interior and exterior and didn’t find in them any flaw or imperfection in your religious practices (deen) or secular affairs (dunyaa), then know that your ignorance of the flaws of your self is the most disgusting form of insanity. And there is no flaw worst then insanity.
And if Allah were to desire good with you, He would make you see the flaws of your self. So your viewing yourself with the eye of satisfaction is the epitome of your stupidity and your ignorance!
Then if you are correct in your view, then thank Allah – High is He – for it. And don’t adulterate it by making explicit mention of peoples’ flaws and rinsing your mouth with their honor. For indeed that is one of the greatest of all flaws.
IV. The Fourth is Arguing, Disputing, and Debating People about Speculative Theology (Kalaam)
For indeed in it is an abuse of the one spoken to, an ascription of ignorance to him, and an attack on him. And in it is an extolment of the self, a praise of it by (ascribing to it) greater intelligence and knowledge (than the one being addressed). In addition, it is disturbance of life.
For indeed you never argue with a fool except that he does you harm, and you never ague with one of strong intelligence (haleem) except that he despises and resents you.
And he (the Prophet) said – may Allah bless and grant him peace,
“Whoever abandons argumentation when he is wrong, Allah will build for him a house in he suburbs of Paradise. And whoever abandons argumentation when he is right, Allah will build for him a house in the height of Paradise.”
And it isn’t proper that Satan dupes you and says to you:
“ Manifest the truth and do not be compromised in it.”
For indeed Satan is always attracting the insane to evil in the guise of good. So don’t be a point of laughter for Satan, so that he makes a mockery of you.
So manifesting the truth is done with he who accepts it from you. And that is by way of giving sincere advice in secret, not by way of disputation.
And sincere advice has a description and a form. It requires kindness. Otherwise, it becomes humiliation. And its bad become greater than its good.
And whoever mixes with the seekers of knowledge (mutafaqqihah) of this age, arguing and disputing becomes an outstanding part of his disposition, and silence becomes difficult for him, because the scholars of mischievousness (‘ulamaa as-soo) have presented to them (the idea) that that is what is virtuous, and that the ability to refute and debate it is what one should be praised for.
So flee from them in the same way that you would flee from a lion. And know that argumentation is the cause of hatred with Allah and with the creation.
V. The Fifth is Self Praise
Allah – High is He – says, ((So do not praise yourselves. He is more knowing of he who is god-conscious)) [Surat An-Najm: 32]
It was said to one of the wise men, “What is disgusting truthfulness?” He said, “A person’s praise of his self.”
So beware to become accustomed to that. And know that that detracts from your stature with people, and guarantees that you are hated with Allah. So when you want to know that your extolment of yourself does not add to your stature with others, then reflect on your peers when they extol themselves with virtue, status, and wealth, and how your heart condemns it from them, how your nature finds difficulty with it, and how you launch blame against them when you leave them. Then know that they too at the time that you are praising yourself they launch blame against you in their hearts at the present, and they will express it openly with their tongues when they leave you.
VI. The Sixth is Damning (People)
Beware to damn anything of what Allah – High is He – created, be it an animal, food, or a specific human being. And do not express certainty in your testimony against any of the People of the Qiblah about (an accusation you make against them of) polytheism (shirk), or hypocrisy (nifaaq). For indeed the one acquainted with secrets is Allah – High is He.
So don’t enter between the servants and Allah – High is He.
And know that you, on the Day of Resurrection, it will not be said to you, “Why didn’t you damn So and So? And why did you remain silent about him?” Rather, even if you didn’t damn Iblees (Satan) your entire life and if you didn’t occupy your tongue with his mention, you won’t be asked about it. And you won’t be demanded of it on the Day of Resurrection. But when you damn any one of Allah’s creatures, you’ll be demanded (of it). And don’t launch blame toward anything of what Allah has created – High is He. For the Prophet – may Allah bless and grant him peace – would never criticize bad food. Rather, whenever he had the appetite for something, he ate it. Otherwise, he left it alone.
VII. The Seventh is Praying Against the Creation
Guard your tongue from praying against any one of Allah’s creatures – High is He. And if he wrongs you, then entrust his affair to Allah – High is He. For in the hadeeth (it reads),
“Verily the one who is wronged will surely pray against his oppressor until he repays him. Then the oppressor will have favor with him that he will demand from him on the Day of Resurrection.”
Someone used his tongue to assail Al-Hajjaaj (The Oppressor). Then one of the Salaf said,
“Verily Allah will exact vengeance for Al-Hajjaaj from he who thwarts him with his tongue just as he will exact vengeance from Al-Hajjaaj for those he has wronged.” 
VIII. The Eighth is Joking With, Making Fun of, and Mocking People
Guard your tongue from it in seriousness and jest. For indeed it spills out the fluid of the face, removes respect, produces unsociableness, and pains hearts. And it is the starting point of obstinate quarrelling, anger, violent break ups, and it plants resentment in hearts.
So do not joke around with anyone. And if they joke with you, then don’t respond to them. And turn away from them until they indulge in a different conversation. And be of those who when they pass by idol talk they pass by nobly.
So these are the gathering grounds of the defects of the tongue. And nothing helps you against it except for withdrawing (‘uzlah) and maintaining silence unless it is to the extent of necessity.
And Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq – may Allah be pleased with him – used to place a rock in his mouth to prevent it from speaking without need, and he would point to his tongue and say:
“This is what has brought me to all water-troughs.”
So take safety from it. For surely it is the strongest reason for your destruction in the temporal world and the Afterlife.
Statement About the Sins of the Heart
Know that the blameworthy characteristics in the heart are many. And purifying the heart from them their despicable traits is (a) lengthy (task). And the road to treatment in their regard is obscure. The knowledge of it and its application has completely disappeared due to peoples’ heedlessness (ghaflah) of their souls and their preoccupation with the allurements of the lower life (dunyaa).
We have spoken of all of that at great length in Kitaab Ihyaa ‘Uloom ad-Deen (Revitalization of the Religious Sciences) in the section dealing with The Destructive Behaviors (Muhlikaat) and the section dealing with The Behaviors that Rescue (Munjiyaat).
But we caution you now against three of the polluters (khabaaith) of the heart. They are those most prominently found among the seekers of knowledge (mutafaqqihah) of this age!
So take your precaution from them! For surely they are things that destroy (muhlikaat) by their essence. And they are mothers to a number of polluters other than them.
1- Envy (hasad)
2- Showing off (riyaa)
3- Conceit (‘ujb)
So strive in purifying your heart from them! Then if you gain master over them, you’ll know how to guard against the rest of them (listed) in the section dealing with The Destructive Behaviors.
But if you are incapable of doing this, then you are more incapable of doing it with others (i.e. with other behaviors).
And do not think that you are safe with a good intention in acquiring knowledge while in your heart there is something of envy, showing off, and conceit. And he – may Allah bless and grant him peace – has said,
‘Three are destructive: Stinginess obeyed, lust followed, and a man’s amazement with his self.”
As for envy (hasad), it branches out from stinginess (shuhh). For surely the bakheel (miser) is he who holds back what is in his hand from others.
And the shaheeh (another term for miser) is he who withholds Allah’s blessing from Allah’s slaves – while it is in the treasure chests under His (Allah’s) power, not in his (the slave’s) treasure chest –– High is He. So his stinginess (here) is graver!
The envious (hasood), he is the one whom Allah’s granting of favor to one of His slaves from the treasure chest under His power weighs heavy on him, (whether it is a favor) of knowledge, wealth, love (for the slave) in the hearts of people, or any good fortune – to the point that he’d like for it to cease with him (i.e. the one given favor) even if that doesn’t result in any benefit for him (i.e. the one without favor).
This is the epitome of evil (khubth). Because of that, Allah’s messenger – may Allah bless and grant him peace – said,
“Envy devours good deeds just as fire devours wood.”
And the envious, he is the tormented one who isn’t given mercy. And he remains in constant torment in the lower life (dunyaa). For surely the lower life is never free a multitude of his peers and acquaintances that Allah has granted favor to – with knowledge, wealth, or status.
So he remains in a constant torment in the lower life until his death. And surely the torment of the Hereafter is more sever and greater. Rather, the slave doesn’t arrive at the reality of faith as long as he doesn’t love for the rest of Muslims what he loves for his self. Moreover, he should be the same with them during comfort and displeasure (alike).
So the Muslims are like one edifice. Part of it strengthens the other. And (they are) like the one body. When a part (of the body) falls ill, the rest of the body falls ill.
So if you don’t come across this (feeling of brotherhood) in your heart, then preoccupying yourself with becoming free from destruction is more important than preoccupying yourself with the fine matters of the law (nawaadir al-furoo’) and the knowledge of disputation (‘ilm al-khusoomaat).
As for showing off (riyaa), it is the subtle idolatry (shirk khafi). And it is one of two kinds of idolatry. That is for you to seek a rank in the hearts of the creation in order to achieve by it status (jaah) and servants (hashmah).
And the love of status is part of Followed Lust. In it most people have been destroyed. So nothing destroyed the people but the people!
Then if people were truly fair, they’d know that in most of what they are involved in of studies (‘uloom), worship (‘ibaadaat) – in addition to the deeds of the acts of worship, the only thing that induces them to do them is showing off for people. And it invalidates deeds – as is mentioned in the report,
“Verily, the martyr – an order will be given for him (to be taken) to the Fire – on the Day of Resurrection. Then he will say: O Lord! I was granted martyrdom in Your path! So Allah – High is He – will say: You wanted it to be said: So and So is courageous! And that has been said. And that is your reward!”
And a like thing will be said to the scholar, the hajj pilgrim, and the (Qur’an) reciter.
As for conceit (‘ujb), pride (kibr), and boasting (fakhr), it is the chronic disease. It is for the slave to look at his self with the eye of esteem (‘izzah) and grandeur (isti’zaam) while (looking) at others with the eye of belittlement (ihtiqaar).
The result of it on the tongue is for one to say: I and I (did, said, etc.), just as Iblees, the accursed, said, ((I am better than him. You created me from fire and You created him from mud)) [Al-‘Araaf: 12]
And its fruit in gatherings is to be overbearing (taraffu’), placing one’s self before others (taqaddum), seeking to dominate conversation, and showing displeasure to having one’s comments rejected.
The Cure for Pride (Kibr)
The purse-proud (mutakabbir), he is the one who when admonished takes offense, or when he admonishes, he is harsh. And all those who view themselves as being better than any one of Allah’s creations is purse-proud. Rather, it is proper for you to know that the good person is he who is good in the sight of Allah in the Abode of the Hereafter. And that is an unseen matter (ghaib)! It is premised upon the state (of the soul) at the end (khaatimah).
So your belief in yourself that you are better than other than you is sheer ignorance! Rather, you shouldn’t look at anyone unless you view him as being better than you, and that superiority is his over your self.
So if you see a young person, you should say: This one hasn’t disobeyed Allah while I have disobeyed Him. So there is no doubt that he is better than me.
And if you see an old person, you should say: This one has worshipped Allah before me. So there is no doubt that he is better than me.
And if he happens to be a learned individual (‘aalim), you should say: This one has been given what I have not been given, he has reached what I have not reached, and he knows what I am ignorant of. So how could I be his equal?
And if he happens to be an ignorant person (jaahil), you should say: This one has disobeyed Allah while not knowing. And I have disobeyed Him while knowing. So Allah’s proof against me is firmer. And I don’t know of what state I will die upon or what state he will die upon (of iman or kufr).
And if he happens to be an unbeliever, you should say: I don’t know. Perhaps he might accept Islam and his fate will be sealed with the best of deeds, and his sins will be picked out of him because of his Islam just as the hair is picked out of dough. As for me – God forbid! – Perhaps, Allah might lead me astray so that I might reject faith, and then my fate will be sealed with the worst of deeds. Then he will be tomorrow be among Those Brought Near (to God), and I will be among the tormented ones.
So pride will not come out of your heart unless you acknowledge that the great one is he who is great in the sight of Allah – High is He. And that is premised upon the state upon death (khaatimah), while it is (still) the subject of doubt.
Then the fear of the state (of your soul) upon death will preoccupy you from becoming purse-proud against Allah’s slaves – High is He – in light of having doubt about it.
So your certainty and faith at the present will not contradict your deeming it possible to change in the future. For surely Allah is the Overturner of hearts (Muqallib al-quloob).
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