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8 Benefits

Imam Ghazali (Alai Rahma) once received a letter from one of his disciples. In his letter, the disciple asked Imam Ghazali (Alai Rahma) to help him choose a branch of knowledge that would really benefit him. Imam Ghazali (Alai Rahma)'s answer to the letter is published as a short book titled, "Ayyuhal Walad" (Arabic). What follows is an extract from the same.

A TRADITION: It is said that among the students and mureeds (disciples who seek spiritual elevation/enlightenment through the attainment of purification of their soul from all evil desires and tendencies under the guidance of a spiritual guide who has in turn completely attained this purification and high station before Allah through training, guidance, and proximity of another spiritual guide) of Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma), was a student and disciple named Hatim Ism (Alai Rahma) who in turn later on became a great spiritual master through the training and guidance of Shaykh Shafeeq).

One day Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said to him:

“O Hatim! For how long have been in my company (spiritual proximity) and have been listening to what I have been saying (teaching)?”

Shaykh Hatim Ism (Alai Rahma) replied: “Thirty Three years!”

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) asked:

“In that [long] time period, what benefit have you derived from me?”  

Shaykh Hatim Ism (Alai Rahma) responded:  

“[I have] obtained eight (8) benefits [from you].”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) responded:  

“Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaeyhe Raji’oon.”

“To Allah we belong and to Him shall we return (it’s a supplication from Quran that is made at times of loss and grief).”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) then said:  

“O Hatim! I have spent my lifetime in teaching and training and you have just gained eight benefits from me!”  

Shaykh Hatim Ism (Alai Rahma) replied:  

“O my teacher! If you asked [me] for the truth then the reality is what I [just] told you. I do not need any more [benefits] and these benefits from knowledge are quite sufficient because I am certain that I will attain salvation [and success] in this life and in the life hereafter through these eight benefits.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) asked him:  

“All right! Tell me what are those eight benefits?”    


“O my teacher! The first benefit is that I looked at the people of this world and saw that everyone has a beloved. But these beloveds of the people [of the world] are such that some of them (i.e. the beloveds) are with them (i.e. the people) until their illness that brings death, some of them are with them until death, some of them are with them until they reach their graves, and after burial all the lovers return from there.. None of their beloveds go with them in their graves to live with them there and to provide their company [in the darkness, solitude, narrowness, and horror of the grave]. I contemplated on this and said to myself that only that is a good beloved who goes with them in the grave and lives with his/her lover, who will provide the company, who will illuminate the grave, who will be a partner on the Day of Judgment and its destinations (stations that one goes through after burial until the Day of Judgment). I saw that the only beloved who has these [good] qualities is my good (pious/righteous) deeds. After this [determination and awareness], I made my good deeds my beloved so that it goes with me in my grave [when I die], will provide me with its company, will become an illuminated candle in my grave, will be my partner in all stages of life hereafter, and never ever separate away from me.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“Bravo O Hatim! You have told a very good thing. Now narrate the second benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The second benefit is that I glanced at the people of the world and saw that everyone was following after the pleasures and desires from the Nafs (lower self that instructs one to commit evil) and [everyone] is subservient to the desires from the lower self. Upon seeing that, I deliberated on the following holy verse [from Quran]:  

‘Wa Amma Mun Khafa Maqama Rabbihi Wa Nahun Nafsa ‘Anil Hawa Fa Innal Jannata Heyal Mawa.’

‘But the one who has stood in fear of his/her Sustainer’s Presence, and restrained his/her inner self from the base (low and evil) desires, Paradise will the place of rest [for this person].’ (Quran, Chapter 79, Verses 40-41)  

I developed the certitude that the Wise Quran is correct and the book of Allah is the truth. Then I established a front against my Nafs (lower self) and became determined to oppose it. I molded it (i.e. my lower self) in such a shape that I did not fulfill any of its desires until it started to find peace [and satisfaction] in the worship of Allah, the Exalted.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) responded:  

“May Allah, the Exalted, provide His blessings in your good deeds. Now narrate the third benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The third benefit is that when I glanced at the people I saw that every person, with great pain and hard work, is busy in accumulating the possessions (money, wealth, goods) of this mortal world and is very happy that he/she has a lot of goods and material possessions. But when I contemplated on the following holy verse from the bounteous Quran:  

‘Ma ‘Indakum Yanfadu Wa Ma ‘IndAllahi Baaqin.’

‘All that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas all that, which is with Allah is everlasting.’ (Quran, Chapter 16, Verse 96)  

Then whatever [material possessions] I accumulated in the world, I spent it all in Way of Allah by distributing it among pious indigents and beggars so that it (the material possessions that I distributed in the Way of Allah) will get deposited with Allah, the Exalted, as my trust and will become source of immense good and ransom (i.e. salvation) in the life hereafter.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“O Hatim! May Allah grant you His Compensation (reward for your spending in His Way)! You said a very good thing and have done a very good thing. Now narrate the fourth benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The fourth benefit is that I looked at the people of the world and saw that some of them think that grandeur and honor belong to the nation or tribe (group) that is big and powerful, that’s why they are expressing pride in their tribe (nation or group). Some of them are such that they think that the grandeur is obtained through abundance of wealth, [material] possessions, family and relatives that’s why [some] people are expressing their pride in their wealth and children. Some [people] are such that they think that their grandeur and honor is in displaying anger, beating, killing, murder and pillage and they express their pride in that. Some [people] are such that they think that their grandeur is in wasteful spending that’s why they consider their wasteful spending a source of honor and express their pride in that. But I deliberated on this verse in which Allah, the Exalted, says:  

‘Inna Akramakum ‘IndAllahi Atqakum.’

‘Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most deeply conscious (i.e. fearful) of Him.’ (Quran, Chapter 49, Verse 13) 

Therefore this is correct and is the truth and the creations’ thoughts are false and wrong conjectures. That’s why I adopted Taqwa (pious reverence, consciousness, awe, and fear of Allah) so that I get counted as the one with the highest rank in the sight of Allah, the Exalted.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“O Hatim! May Allah be pleased with you. You have said a very good thing. Now narrate the fifth benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The fifth benefit is that I looked at the people who were complaining about each other. It was found that they were doing all this because of envy, jealousy, and enmity and the main cause of that is [the desire and competition for] greatness, grandeur, [material] possessions, wealth, and knowledge. I contemplated on the following verse from the Holy Quran in which it’s said:  

‘Nahnu Qasumna Baeynahum Ma’eeshatahum Fil Hayatid Dunya.’

‘It is We who distribute their means of livelihood (sustenance) among them in the life of this world.’ (Quran, Chapter 43, Verse 32)  

Then I thought that Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, has appointed the possessions and ranks since the first beginning [of the creation] and no one has any control [or say] in this matter. Therefore, I did not compete or had jealousy with anyone and remained agreed to Allah’s distribution [of worldly bounties] and [His appointed] destiny and got along with the whole world [by giving up all jealousies and enmities against God’s creations].”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“O Hatim! You are saying the truth and you are doing the right thing. Now narrate the sixth benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The sixth benefit is that when I glanced at the people, I saw that every person is having enmity with someone else for some reason. Then I deliberated on the following verse:  

‘Innash Shaytana Lakum ‘Aduwwun Fettakhizuhu ‘Aduwwa.’

‘Verily, Shaytan (Satan) is your enemy so treat him as your enemy.’ (Quran, Chapter 35, Verse 6)  

After that, I developed the certitude that Allah’s saying is the truth, I should not have any enmity with anyone other than Shaytan (Satan). Since then, I considered Satan as my enemy and did not obey any of his orders. Instead, I developed obedience [of Allah] and followed the commandments of Allah, the Exalted and adopted only His worship and servitude. The correct way is the Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the straight path of guidance in which there is no crookedness) as Allah, the Exalted, has Himself said:  

‘Alam A’had Ilaeykum Ya Bani Aadama Al La Ta’budush Shaytana Innahu Lakum ‘Aduwwum Mubeen Wa Ane’buduni Haza Siratum Mustaqeem.’

‘Have I not obtained this promise from you that O you the Children of Adam! Never ever obey the Shaytan (Satan). No doubt, he is your avowed (open) enemy and worship Me alone [because] this is the straight path.’ ”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“O Hatim! You did a very good thing and said a very good thing. Now narrate the seventh benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The seventh benefit is that I looked at the people and saw that every person is preoccupied with his/her livelihood and search for sustenance and is involved in an intense effort. In this regards, he/she is not even differentiating between Halal (permissible) and Haram (forbidden) but instead, is getting humiliated with doubtful and Haram (forbidden) earnings. Then I deliberated on the following verse:  

‘Wa Ma Min Daabbatin Fil Arde Illa ‘AlalAllahi Rizquha.’

‘And there is no living creature on earth whose sustenance is not the responsibility of Allah.’ (Quran, Chapter 11, Verse 6)  

Then I developed the certitude that the Wise Quran is the truth and is correct and that I am also among those living creatures [of God] that are present on earth. So thus, I got engaged in the worship of Allah and developed the certitude that He will bring to me [my] sustenance because He has promised [to provide me with] sustenance.”  

Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) said:  

“You did a very good thing and told a very good thing.. Now narrate the eighth benefit.”  

“O my teacher! The eighth benefit is that when I looked at the people I found that every person’s reliance [or trust] is on someone or something. Some have trust [or rely] on their [material] possessions, some trust [or rely] on other people. Therefore, I pondered on this holy verse in which Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, says:  

‘Wa Maey Yatawakkal ‘AlalAllahi Fahuwa Hasbuhu.’

‘And for everyone who places his/her trust in Allah, He [alone] is enough [for him/her].’ (Quran, Chapter 65, Verse 3)  

‘Wa Huwa Husbi Wa Nai’mal Wakeel.’

‘And He is sufficient for me and He is the best Helper.’  

[Therefore, I adopted complete reliance on Allah in every matter.]”  

When Shaykh Shafeeq Balkhi (Alai Rahma) heard these [eight] benefits, he said:  

“O Hatim! May Allah grant you His Tawfeeq (i.e. enable you to do righteous deeds and to walk on His Path). You have told [us] very good things. I have seen in Taurat (Torah), Injil (Gospel of Prophet Jesus), Zabur (Psalms), and in the praiseworthy differentiator between right and wrong (i.e. the Holy Quran), that all these books [of God] mention these eight benefits, i.e., all four books in their teachings have told [us] these eight benefits. Whoever acts on these [eight principles] is like as if he/she has acted on all four [holy] books. 


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