Imām Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) wrote this work for one of his students as a simplified version of his magnus opus, the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' Ulum al-Din). In this short treatise Imām al-Ghazālī gives you steps on how to acquire God-consciousness (taqwā). He says, "If you then ask, `What is the beginning of guidance, that I may test myself thereby?' know that its beginning is the outward form of God-consciousness and its end is the inward reality of God-consciousness" and this can only be achieved by following the command of Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta'āla). Imām al-Ghazālī followed the Shāfiʿī School hence when he expounds the etiquette of ritual prayer; it is according to the Shāfiʿī School. The publishers however include notes for the difference in method in accordance with the Ḥanafī School where applicable which is really helpful. It also includes the original Arabic parallel to the English which is translated by Mashhad al-Allaf. Though this is one of Imām al-Ghazālī's shorter treatises, it is regarded as one of the most useful for seekers of a successful and organised moral life. It consists of three parts:
1) On Obedience 2) On Refraining From Disobedience 3) The Etiquette of Companionship with the Creator and Creation
The first part covers the etiquette of waking from sleep, using the lavatory, ablution, seeking knowledge, prayer and many more such aspects. For example, it tells you what duʿāʾ to make when waking up or during your wuḍūʼ and how to spend your time efficiently as well as how to conduct yourself during prayers and how to prepare for them and many other beneficial acts. The second part contains advice on how to refrain from committing sins with the limbs (eyes, ears, tongue, stomach etc.) as well as the heart (envy, arrogance, ostentation etc.). It's really helpful as sometimes we become creatures of habit and we don't even realise we're doing such things like listening or talking about the faults of others, it is a reminder that your tongue "is the greatest means of your destruction in this world and the next". The final part relates to etiquette with God, scholars, students, parents and others as well as advice on friendship. In these three sections the imām says, "This amount of advice should be enough for you, dear young one" and I couldn't agree more.
You can relate to the words of Imām al-Ghazālī almost as though he wrote the advice specifically for you. He makes you question and keep in check your intentions, whether that relates to seeking knowledge, performing your prayers or making friends. Personally, nothing spoke to me louder than when I read, "A prayer in congregation is twenty-seven times better than a prayer alone. If you are negligent of such a profitable act, then what benefit is there for you in the pursuit of knowledge? After all, the fruit of knowledge is acting upon it." The imām says, "You will never be capable of this unless you manage your time and organise your routine of worship from morning to night... A person who leaves himself without a plan as animals do, not knowing what he is to do at any given moment will spend most of his time fruitlessly... Every single breath of yours is a priceless jewel because it is irreplaceable... So do not be like fools who rejoice each day as their wealth increases while their lives decrease... If your lower self asks you to leave off the litanies and remembrance we have detailed earlier... then know that Satan the accursed has injected into your heart the hidden illness - love of prestige and wealth."
This really is a magnificent work for acquiring guidance through taqwā. If everyone abided by the counsel given here then the world would be a better place. Though the advice is from almost over a thousand years ago it is still relevant today as it was then and this is why Imām al-Ghazālī has so many works translated in to English, he transcends time. It will amaze you at how lightly things are taken today from backbiting to fasting. Even when you think you're doing something good your intention must be correct and even then it may actually be harmful as "Satan is always trying to entice foolish people to evil by presenting it to them as goodness". You are even reminded that if your nature is dominated by disputation and silence is difficult for you then you're associating with the "pseudo-jurists" of your time and "looking at yourself with an eye of satisfaction is the height of foolishness and the epitome of ignorance" for to "seek a place in the hearts of people by which you may attain fame and veneration" is hidden shirk and Imām al-Ghazālī sums up his advice (for section two) with the ḥadīth of the Prophet Muhammad (ṣallā Allāhu ʿalayhi wasallam), "Love of this world is the cause of every sin". This was one of Imām al-Ghazālī's final works hence as per the description by the publishers, "it embodies a lifetime of learning, experience, and spirituality." If you're in need of motivation, a spiritual increase or maintenance, read this work and it may give you the boost it gave me. The advice is timeless and beneficial.
In terms of postage and packaging it arrived swiftly in perfect condition. In terms of content, it is faultless. In terms of translation, it's one of a kind and for someone who wants to brush up their Arabic it is perfect as the English and Arabic text are side by side, I wish more traditional Islamic books also adopted this technique as the lack of Arabic in most translated books means that you lose out on a lot of hidden treasures that accompany the Arabic language. May Allah Subhanahu Wat'ala grant the translator and all those behind these amazing works with the greatest of rewards and tawfiq, bi'ithnillah.
This is a really simple and easy to follow book. It is full of wonderful virtues and benefits (the author, Imam Ghazali needs no introduction - Allah preserve him) was Shafi in fiqh and takes no difference in his approach covering in this book - he makes examples of all four madhabs.
The book is divided into sections. Example, how to do ghusl, wudu.. seeking ilm - what one should think and start - duas and things to do during wudu - it is simple book that covers a lot of in-depth principles - keeping to simplicity for the reader. A small read but you will benefit straight away - glady each section is categories and the Arabic translation is side by side page by page.. very good book..
One of the best books out there, a MUST for all Muslims or even non muslims to learn the foundations of worshipping the Lord and how to live within the community and what we should be offering. Essential reading, can not recommend this highly enough to all. Even though the Imam is from Shafi madhad the book has references to the Hanafi madhab aswell.