The Jewels of the Quran by Al-Ghazali is an invitation to dive into the Book.
Jewels are not at the surface for everyone to pick.
Getting them requires efforts from mining to diving deep.
So what can we achieve by finding them?
Perhaps to bridge the distance between us and Allah.
But there is no distance to bridge in the first place.
As Al-Ghazali wrote:
“In this journey to God, there is movement neither from the side of the traveler nor from the side of Him to Whom he travels, since both are together. Have you not heard the words of God—We are closer to him than his jugular vein. [Quran 50:15]”
Finding gems help us polish our mirror: the more we remove the rust, the clearer the picture becomes.
By using different allegories, Al-Ghazali wants us to move from the Quran’s shell to the most precious.
The hope is to reduce the thickness of the veil standing between us and Allah.
From the Shell of the Quran to its Pith
For Al-Ghazali, the studies not related to the aims (Maqasid) of the Quran are considered sciences of the shell.
Basically, anything related to the reading of the Quran, its language, its structure, Arabic grammar, and the outward exegesis.
The shell has its function, but it’s not the jewel.
The pith of the Quran is in its six aims.
Al-Ghazali defines the first three as the most important and the other three as the enhancers:
1-Definition of the One.
2-Definition of the path that leads to Him.
3-Our condition when we reach Him.
4-Conditions of those who walked the path and those who deviated from it.
5-Conditions of those who deny God and their ignorance in arguing against the truth.
6-Definition of the obligations at the stages of the path.
Al-Ghazali details these six aims to become:
1-Essence of God
3-His works (visible and invisible)
4-Life to come
5-The straight path (purification of the soul)
6-The straight path (beautification of the soul)
7-Conditions of those who answered the call (ex: Prophets)
8-Conditions of those who rejected the call (ex: Pharoah)
9-God’s arguments with disbelievers
Knowledge of God
The knowledge of God is the highest form of knowledge.
The reason for this, as Al-Ghazali wrote, is that all other forms of knowledge are sought to know God.
Progressing in this knowledge requires starting from God’s works (ex: His creation), to God’s attributes (ex: His names), and ending with the divine essence (ex: there is nothing like Him).
The essence of God is the hardest to understand for most people.
The Prophet (pbuh) didn’t randomly praise some parts of the Quran more than others.
For example, he said that Surah al-Ikhlas (Purity of faith) is equal to one-third of the Quran despite its shortness.
“Say, ‘He is Allah the One,
Allah the Sustainer,
He has never had offspring, nor was He born,
And there is none comparable to Him.’ [Quran 112]
This surah is all about the knowledge of God.
The same goes for the verse of the Throne (Ayat al-Kursi) regarded as the greatest verse in the Quran [2:255]
Allah: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful.
Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him.
All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him.
Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His permission?
He knows what is before them and what is behind them,
But they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills.
His throne extends over the heavens and the earth;
It does not tire Him to preserve them both.
He is the Most High, the Tremendous.
This verse contains nothing but divine essence, attributes, and works.
Al-Ghazali used many allegories in his book.
He compared the knowledge of God to red sulfur, known in the West as the philosopher’s stone.
The knowledge of God is what transmutes our leaden souls into gold.
Knowledge of the Straight Path
After the knowledge of God and the life to come, Al-Ghazali placed in third position the knowledge of the straight path and how to traverse it.
If the knowledge of God has the power to transmute the leaden soul, it doesn’t happen without a personal struggle. Both are required.
The personal struggle consists of the effort of purifying the soul from destructive qualities and beautifying it with saving qualities.
Destructive qualities arise from the uncontrolled appetite of the soul.
Saving qualities like repentance and patience develop from God-consciousness.
Al-Ghazali’s forty books of The Revival of Religious Sciences are all about walking the path.
They are meant to move someone from a state of ignorance to the next stage—readiness for the life to come.
It starts with the book of knowledge and ends with the book of death.
For Al-Ghazali, the pith of the Quran has jewels and pearls.
The jewels are verses about the knowledge of God. The pearls are verses about the knowledge of the straight path.
The first is for the cognitive part; the second is for the practical.
Pearls are formed when an irritant enters the shell. A defense mechanism starts where the irritant is coated layer upon layer until a pearl is formed.
Similarly, if we respond properly to the irritants of our life, we’ll end up with pearls.
Final Thoughts on the Jewels of the Quran
Al-Ghazali wrote about 70 books in 40 years.
The subjects varied from theology and liberal arts to legal theory and inner path.
In his own words, he wasted a good chunk of his life writing about legal theory and its disputed problems.
With The Jewels of the Quran, he’s inviting us to not waste time and focus on the main purpose of existence—Knowing God.
Article published: July 28, 2022
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