al-Ghazali on blind religious conformism

Early on imam al-Ghazali questioned blind religious conformism. He recorded that “inherited beliefs lost their hold on [him] when [he] was still quiet young….For [he] saw that the children of Christians always grew embracing Christianity, and the children of the Jews always grew up adhering to Judaism, and the children of muslims always grew up following the religion of islam. [He] also heard the tradition related from the Apostle of God – God’s blessing and peace be upon him! – in which he said: ‘Every infant is born endowed with the fitra: [original disposition] then his parents make him Jew or Christian or Magian.'” Ghazali continues, “Consequently I felt an inner urge to seek the true meaning of the original fitra, and the true meaning of the beliefs arising through slavish aping of parents and teachers.” Later, of his coveted position directing the celebrated Nizamiyya school in Baghdad, he wrote,

I reflected on my intention in my public teaching, and I saw that it was not directed purely to God, but rather was instigated and motivated by the quest for fame and widespread prestige. So I became certain that I was on the brink of of a crumbling bank….Mundane desires began tugging me with their chains to remain as I was, while the herald of faith was crying out: ‘Away! Up and away! Only a little is left of your life, and a long journey lies before you! All the theory and practice in which you are engrossed is eyeservice and fakery! If you do not prepare now for the afterlife, when will you do so? And if you do not sever these attachments now, then when will you sever them?

At last he was resolved to go in search of an answer to the question deep in most human hearts; “How do I know religion is TRUE?

Taken from al-Ghazali’s Path to Sufism, his Deliverance from Error, al-Munqidh min al-Dalal.


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