12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Sufi classic from a highly regarded writer,
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This review is from: Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul and on Breaking the Two Desires: Books XXII and XXIII of the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' 'Ulum ... (The Islamic Texts Society's Ghazali Series) (Paperback)
Al Ghazali is regarded as a more cerebral and exoterically inclined Sufi, as a pose to the more esoteric practitioners such as Shibli, Ruzbihan and Bayazid.
As such he is regarded as the 'renewer' of the 5th Muslim Century and to quote the author 'the most influential thinker of medieval Islam'.
He provides a moral framework in this book for clean living that today finds form in many contemporary Sufi Masters writings. The essential thrust of this work is to lay open the anatomy of human weakness, the observations of which are as relevant today as they were in the 11 century when this treatise was written. Fundamentally mans weaknesses boil down to gluttony and sexual desire, out of the lack of disciplining these two urges, spring forth all the manifestations of depravity and moral degeneration.
The greatest mortal vice is gluttony of the stomach- the primer for sexual voraciousness and the provider of fuel for lusting after fame and wealth. Hence in Islamic thought, the great importance attached to fasting, as a means for consciously weakening these base urges, all of which find their well spring in gustatory greed. Al Ghazali does not forbid eating, but advocates moderation, the practice of sharing, and putting the needs of one companions ahead of oneself- this etiquette of feeding being a schooling in higher minded values way beyond the simple practice of eating.
This is a well written and highly readable book, interesting from a historical view and a spiritual view for people of any religious or spiritual tradition. It is stuffed with observations on spiritual shades of character that are simply not found in this detail in any other traditions writings that i can think of.
It provides real food for thought- no pun intended- on how one sets about moderating ones vices, giving clear insights into the spiritual significance of certain character failings, providing ample practical solutions and spiritual reasons for addressing and rectifying these vices.
For a thousand year old book this is timeless wisdom.