21: The Heart & Breaking Desires – Renewing Religion: An Overview of Ghazali’s Ihya – Ustadh Amjad Tarsin
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In this lesson, Ustadh Amjad Tarsin, gives an overview of three books from Imam Ghazali’s Ihya: Marvels of the Heart, Discipling the Soul, and Breaking Desires. Struggling against one’s lower self is an obligation that Allah talks about in the Quran, that whoever purifies their heart is successful and whomever doesn’t is at loss. The importance of this purification is displayed in the example of the Shaytan, despite his certitude of the existence of God, his lower self and ego still got the best of him and pushed him to disobey Allah.
Ustadh Amjad explains that by treating the diseases of the heart it becomes purified and by leaving it to its devices it becomes ugly. The path to purifying the soul is through beautiful character and that is why the Prophet was sent to perfect noble character. In addition, there are some characters that are naturally innate to a person and others that need to be cultivated. So one should be mindful of their innate good characters and cultivate others that they might not have.
Allah tells us that He sent us the Messenger to teach us the scripture and to purify us. As such the Prophet was able to teach the companions by example how to purify our souls and trained the companions how to do so as well. This is exemplified most in the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, responded to his enemies and those who have wronged him with beautiful character. Ustadh Amjad reminds us that the path to beautiful character begins with small consistent steps that will lead to larger changes in character.
The next book of Imam Ghazali’s is breaking the desire. Ustadh Amjad explains that this book can be summed up in not giving yourself everything it wants, even if that which is permissible. Such is the example of fasting, where one withholds from the permissible because of the command of God. Even then Imam Ghazali says that one should not give in to all it desires of food after you break your fast.
Ustadh Amjad concludes by reminding us that it will be a struggle to control our desires but we must start from where we are at right now and work slowly towards change. Our nafs may resist that change but it is important to be in control of it and not let it be in control of you.
In this brief overview of Imam Ghazali’s opus magnum, Ihya Ulum al-Din (Renewing the Religious Sciences), this series will serve as blueprint for how the believer can bring to life their religion. It will aim to help the believer to not just practice the form of the religion properly, but to also practice it with excellence.
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