Posted by: Dawud Israel | January 23, 2010

Selected Quotations from Ghazali’s Fear and Hope

Bismillah, alhamdulillah, wa salat wa salam ala Rasulullah

Know this no nobler means will you find, no knowledge of which you may master that will aid you more than Fear of God. Remind yourself of Him, your grave, that Day of 500 years with God waiting for the Judgment on the Plains, those 500 years of panic, and then the standing before your Lord in the face of Judgment. How can it not be, when, “there are rocks which fall down for the fear of Allah.” (Surah Baqara: 74)

Know that your Death is too close! It is imminent and near. And it is as if the Judgment is being rendered now and here. Know that you will be accountable for not just your sins, but also your glances, steps and gestures. And fear that even your good deeds will not be accepted. And know that Fear of Allah (at-Taqwa or khawf) is of 3 ranks: the fear of a bad deed, the fear of the Death (dying not in a state of Islam) and the fear of the Seal (fearing what was written as ones destiny in the womb of the mother).

‘ulkiha ulahi fin-nar wala ubari

I throw these into the Fire and I have no concern, (no emotion)

wa ‘ulkiha fi Jannah wala ubari

And I put these into Jannah and I have no emotion


The fear of God is the guide of the Sahabas and the Salaf and those Righteous who have followed them. Know that the fear of God is the foremost guide that has been forsaken by the teachers and students of our times. Instead they wait and seek in vain some illusive miracle, a shortcut to Heaven, as if the Sahabas were ignorant of this. Even in the search of God, they follow their desires.

Enclosed are a selection of quotations from Hujjatul Islam, Imam al-Ghazali’s Book of Fear and Hope. Of the 100 page English translation by William McKane, I have included only 10 short pages of excerpts below but it is recommended the reader read the entire text. Upon reading it, one should make note of key quotes, write them out by hand and memorize them and remind oneself of them often.

A WARNING: Know that this fear of God is manic, it will induce anxiety, chase away your sleep, forcing you to stand in prayer at night and chase away your appetite the more you consider it in your thoughts. You may chase after worldly thoughts and pleasures, but they will evaporate like a phastasm, a shadow that barely existed, gone with nothing of benefit remaining, with no attachment or care for you. And then you will find yourself left alone…with what is more real and more frightening and more present: the Fear of an All-Powerful God. Contemplate Him and you will find your fear of God will increase infinitely. Know then that what you read and hear of this fear of God, is not mythical, fantastic or vain tales but it is all the more real.

Embark for the time is short!

Entire text  16471358-Al-Ghazali-Bookof-Fear-and-Hope

Ghazali’s Fear and Hope Quotes
Keep your wits. God has never had a saint who was mentally deficient.
-Sahl at-Tustari speaking against excessive fasting

Yahya b. Mu’adh [G. 77, S. 61-2, d. 258/871] said: The person who magnifies self-deceit is, in my opinion, the one who prolongs his sins, while he hopes for pardon without repentance and expects to draw near to God without obedience, and expects the crops of the Garden with the seed of the Fire, and seeks after the dwelling-place of obedience with the deeds of disobedience, and expects the reward without the deed, and has wishful thoughts of God in company with remissness.

This then is the exposition of the state of hope and how knowledge produces it and how action is produced from it. And a tradition of Zayd al-Khayl [I.H., iv, 245 (Guillaume, 637).] is a pointer to its producing these actions; when he said to the Messenger of God: I have come to enquire of you about God’s way of identifying the person who aspires and the person who does not aspire. So he (Muhammad) said: How do you go about it? He said: I have made a practice of loving virtue and its people, and, whenever I have the capacity for anything belonging to it, I make haste towards it and I believe firmly in its reward. And, when anything belonging to it eludes me, I am grieved thereby and yearn after it. So he said: This is God’s identification mark in respect of the one who aspires, and, if He had desired you for other things, He would have prepared you for them; then He would not be concerned in which of their wadies you perished. So he (Muhammad) has mentioned an identification mark of the person by whom virtue is sought, and, consequently, whoever hopes that there may be the intention of virtue without this mark is self-deluded.

Sufyan [T.T. iv, III (199), d. 161/777; T. 190; E. 72 f.] said: Whoever commits a sin and knows that God has assigned it against him, and (yet) hopes for His pardon, God will pardon him his sin. He continued: For God upbraided a group of people saying: That then, the supposition which you have entertained with respect to your Lord has caused your destruction. (Q. xli, 22). And He said: And you entertained evil suppositions and you were a people of perdition. (Q. xlviii, 12). And he (Muhammad) said: Truly God will say to His creature on the Day of Resurrection: What obstructed you from loathing the hated thing, when you saw it? So, if God has given him a grasp of his defence, he will say: O Lord, I hoped in You and I feared the people. He (Muhammad) said: So, God will say: I have forgiven you it.

And according to the tradition God revealed to David: Love Me and love whoever loves Me and commends Me to My creatures. So he said: O Lord, how do I commend You to Your creatures? So He said: Mention Me for My gracious goodness and commemorate My bounties and well-doing and their recollection of that, for they know Me only as One who is gracious.

And Aban b. Abi `Ayyash [T.T., I, 97 (174), d. 138/755-6] had a vision in his sleep (he was in the habit of recollecting again and again the categories of hope) and he said: God halted me in front of Him and said: What is it that has spurred you on to this habit? So I said: I desired to commend You to Your creatures. So He said: I have pardoned you. And Yahya b. Aktham [T.T., xi, 179 (311), d. 142/759-60] was seen in a vision after his death and it was said to him: How did God deal with you? So he said: He halted me in front of Him and said: O Shaykh, you have repeatedly committed evil. He continued: Then trembling took hold of me with respect to what God might know. Then I said: O Lord, this is not the report I had of You. So He said: And what was reported to you about Me? So I said: `Abd ar-Razzaq [T.T., vi, 310 (608), d. 211/826-7; T. 331] related to me from Ma’mar [T.T., x, 243 (439), d. c. 153/770; T. 178], from az-Zuhri [T.T., ix, 445 (732), d. 124/742; T. 102], from Anas [T.T., i, 376 (690), d. c. 93/711; T. 42], from Your Prophet, from Gabriel, that You said: I am in accord with what my creature supposes about Me, so let him suppose about Me what he will. So I supposed of You that You would not punish me. God said: Gabriel has spoken the truth, likewise My Prophet and Anas and az-Zuhri and Ma’mar and `Abd ar-Razzaq and yourself. He continued: And I was fitted out with clothes and the two attendants walked before me to the Garden and I exclaimed: What joy! [Wright, ii, 53 d.].

‘Ali said: The knowledgeable person is simply he who does not make people despair of the mercy of God and does not make them feel secure from the strategems of God.

And according to certain traditions: The believer is preferred more than the Ka’ba. Also: The believer is good and pure. Also: The believer is preferred more than the angels in the sight of God. And according to the tradition: God created Gehenna out of the excess of His mercy as a whip. With it God drives His creatures to the Garden. And in another tradition: God says: I have created men solely that they might exploit me and I have not created them to exploit them. And according to a tradition of Abu Said al-Khudri [T.T., iii, 479 (894), d.c. 65/684; T.41] on the authority of the Messenger of God: God has not created anything but He has matched it with what dominates it, and He has made His mercy to dominate His wrath. And according to the celebrated [mashhur According to A. Guillaume (The Traditions of Islam, 1924, p. 181) a tradition vouched for by more than two Companions] tradition: Truly God inscribed mercy on His Self before He created men; truly, My mercy dominates My anger.

And he (Muhammad) said on a certain day: O generous Pardoner. So Gabriel said: Do you know what the interpretation of generous Pardoner is? It is as follows: Surely He has pardoned evil deeds in mercy; in His generosity He has substituted good deeds for them. And the Prophet heard a man saying: O Lord I ask You for the completion of blessing. So he said: Do you know what the completion of blessing is? He said: No. He said: The entrance into the Garden. The Scholars said: God has completed His blessing for us in His approving Islam for us, when He said: I have completed My blessing for you and have approved Islam as your religion. (Q. v, 5)…

And Muhammad b. al-Hanafiya [T.T., ix, 354 (586), d. 80/699; I.S., v, 66 f.] related on the authority of `Ali that he said: When He sent down His saying: Be magnanimous on a handsome scale, (Q. xv, 85) he (Muhammad) said: O Gabriel, and what is a handsome magnanimity? He (Gabriel) said: When you have pardoned whoever has wronged you and do not upbraid him. So he (Muhammad) said: O Gabriel, God is too magnanimous to upbraid the one whom He has forgiven. So Gabriel wept and the Prophet wept, and God sent Michael to them both and he said: Truly, your Lord sends both of you His compliments and says: How would I upbraid the one whom I have pardoned? This would not be like My magnanimity. And the traditions which have to do with the means of hope are more than can be numbered.

And Ibrahim b. Adham [T.T., I, 102 (176), d. 160/777; E. 73; S. 36-8] said: I was performing the circumambulation in solitude on a certain night, and it was a dark rainy night, and I halted at the obligatory place beside the gate and said: O my Lord keep me from sin so that I am never disobedient to You. And the voice of One unseen called out to me from the House [i.e. the Ka’ba]: O Ibrahim, you are asking Me to keep you from sin, and all My believing creatures seek that from Me. But, if I should keep them from sin, upon whom should I bestow My bounty and to whom should I grant pardon?

And it is said: There was a certain tippler who gathered together a party of his cronies and tossed to his boy four dirhams and bade him buy some fruit for his party. And the boy passed by the door of the sitting-room of Mansur b. `Ammar [K. 126-7], while he was begging something for a poor man and saying: Whoever tosses him four dirhams, I shall offer four petitions for him. So the boy tossed the dirhams to him and Mansur said: What is it you desire that I should ask for you? So he said: I have a master from whom I desire to be released. So Mansur prayed. Then he said: Next request. That God would replace my dirhams. So he prayed and then said: Next. He said: That God would bring my master to repentance. So he prayed; then he said: Next. He said: That God would pardon me and my master and you and the multitude. So Mansur prayed and the boy returned and his master said to him: What detained you? So he told the tale to him. He said: And what did he pray about? So he said: I asked freedom for myself. So he said to him: Go your way, for you are a free man. He said: And what was the second prayer? He said: That God would replace the dirhams. He Said: You possess four thousand dirhams. And what was the third prayer? He said: That God would bring you to repentance. He said: I have repented towards God. He said: And what was the fourth prayer? He said: That God would pardon me and you and the multitude, and him who spoke the prayer. He said: This one is not in my power. So, while he was passing that night, he had a vision in sleep, as if someone were speaking to him: You have done what was in your power, do you then think that I shall not do what is in My power? I have pardoned you and the boy and Mansur b. ‘Ammar and the crowd which was present, all of them.

And it is related on the authority of ‘Abd al-Wahhab b. `Abd al-Hamid ath-Thaqafi [T.T., vi, 449 (931), d. 194/809-10; T. 294. Hamid which appears in both the 1908 and 1939 editions is apparently a mistake for Majid] who said: I saw three men and a woman bearing a bier. So I took the place of the woman and we went off to the cemetery, and we prayed over the corpse and buried it. So I said to the woman: What was the relationship of the deceased man to you? She said: My son. I said: And did you not have any neighbours? She said: Yes, but they despised his condition. I said: And what was it? She Said: He was a mukhannith [A mukhannith is a male who dances so as to simulate a female]. So I had compassion on her and brought her to my house and gave her money and corn and clothes. That night I had a vision. It was as if someone came to me, like to the moon on the night when it is full, wearing white robes. And he began to thank me and I said: Who are you? So he said: The mukhannith whom you buried today. My Lord had compassion on me for that the people contemned me.

And Abu ‘l-Qasim al-Hakim [G. 63, d. 513/1119-20] said: Whoever fears anything flees from it, and whoever fears God flees to Him. And it was said to Dhu ‘l-Nun [E. 80 f.; S. 52-4, d. 246/861]: When is the creature a person who fears? He said: When he has brought himself down to the level of the sick man who is abstemious for fear that his sickness may be prolonged. In the attributes by stifling the lusts and blackening the pleasures, so that the disobediences beloved by him become abhorrent, just as honey becomes abhorrent to the man who desires it, when he ‘knows’ that there is poison in it. So the lusts are burned up by fear and the members are trained, and self-abasement and humility and submissiveness and lowliness obtain in the heart, and pride, rancour and envy abandon it.

And, for that reason, al-Fudayl b. `Iyad [T.T., viii, 294 (538), d. 187/803; T. 225; E. 74; S. 41-2] said: When it is said to you: Do you fear God?, keep silence. For, if you say: No, you are an unbeliever; and, if you say: Yes, you are a liar. And he indicated by this that it is fear that restrains the members from deeds of disobedience and binds them to deeds of obedience, and whatever does not take effect in the members is no more than an impulse [hadithul nafsi] and a fleeting motion which does not deserve the name of fear.

God said: And guidance and mercy to those who reverence their Lord. (Q. vii, 153). And He said: Only the knowledgeable among God’s creatures fear Him. (Q. xxxv, 25). He attributed to them knowledge in respect of their fear and said: God was satisfied with them and they with Him. This refers to whoever fears his Lord. (Q. xcviii, 8). And everything which points to the merit of knowledge points to the merit of fear, because fear is the fruit of knowledge. For that reason it has come down in a tradition of Moses: As for those who fear they possess the Highest Companion [i.e. God]. So observe how he has singled them out for the fellowship of the Highest Companion, and that is because they are knowledgeable and the knowledgeable possess the rank of the fellowship of the prophets, because they are the heirs of the prophets, and the fellowship of the Highest Companion belongs to the prophets and whoever overtakes them. And for this reason, when the Messenger of God was given the option during his mortal sickness of remaining in the world or going to God, he said: I ask of You the Highest Companion.

And Muhammad said: The head of wisdom is the fear of God [Cf. Ps. cxi, 10; Prov. ix, 10]. And he said to Ibn Mas’ud: [T.T., vi, 27 (42). d. 32/652; T. 13]. If you are desirous of meeting me then multiply fear after me. And al-Fudayl said: If a man fears God, fear points him to every good. And ash-Shibli [G. 35, 49, 127. d. 334/945-6] said: There is no day that I have feared God, but that I have seen in respect of Him a category of wisdom and admonition which I had never (previously) seen. And Yahya b. Mu’adh said: No believer performs an evil deed but two good deeds overtake it, namely, the fear of punishment and the hope of pardon, just like a fox between two lions. And in a tradition of Moses: As for the abstemious, there remains no one except the abstemious but that I make the closest examination of him and scrutinize what is in his hands, for I feel embarrassment on their account (i.e. on account of the abstemious) and have (too much) respect for them that I should halt them for the reckoning.

Yahya b. Mu’adh said: If Miskin b. Adam had feared the Fire as he feared poverty, he would have entered the Garden. Dhu ‘l-Nun said: Whoever fears God with his whole heart, his love to God is intense and his most inward part is right with Him. Dhu ‘l-Nun said again: It is fitting that fear should be more dominant than hope, for, when hope is dominant, the heart is disordered. And Abu’l-Husayn ad-Dirrir used to say: The mark of bliss is fear of being a reprobate, because fear is a rein between God and His creature, and, when his rein is severed, he perishes with those who perish. And it was said to Yahya b. Mu’adh: Who of God’s creatures is most secure for the morrow? He said: Those of them whose fear of today is most intense. And Sahl said: You will not experience fear, until you eat what is permitted. And it was said to al-Hasan: O Abu Said, how can we set about sitting down with parties who threaten us, so that our hearts almost fly away with terror? So he said: By God! if you mix with parties who threaten you until security overtakes you, it is better for you than that you should fraternize with parties who make you feel safe until fear overtakes you.

Abu Sulayman, ad-Darani [E. 76 f., d. 215/830] said: Fear has never abandoned any heart but a ruin. And `A’isha [T. 26, d. 57/676-7] said: I said: O Messenger of God: Those who give what they give and their hearts are fearful (Q. xxiii, 62). Does this refer to the man who steals and commits adultery? He said: No, but to the man who fasts and prays (the statutory prayers) and gives supererogatory alms and fears that it may not be accepted of him.

And `Uqba b. `Amir [T.T., vii, 242 (439), d. 38/658-9; T. 119] said: What is salvation O Messenger of God? He said: Keep a rein on your tongue, keep to your house and weep for your sins.

It was customary with Muhammad b. al-Munkadir [T.T., ix, 473 (767), d. c. 130/755; T. 119] when he wept to wipe his face and beard with his tears and to say: I have heard that the Fire will not consume a place which tears have wiped.

So the most ultimate objective of the believer is that his hope and fear should be in equilibrium, and the dominance of hope with the most of people would be a leaning on self-deceit and a dearth of ‘knowledge’. For this reason God has united both of them in the description of the persons whom He has eulogized. For He said: They pray to their Lord through fear and yearning. (Q. xxxii, 16). And He said: They pray to Us through yearning and awe. (Q. xxi, 90).

So Yahya b. Mu’adh said: Whoever serves God with undiluted fear is drowned in a sea of reflection. And whoever serves Him with undiluted hope goes astray in a desert of self-deceit. And whoever serves Him with fear and hope is established in a highway of recollection. And Makhul [T.T., x, 289 (509), d. 113/731-2; T. 101] of Damascus said: Whoever serves God with fear is a Kharijite [Haruri. Dozy, in loc., who says that the meaning is strong, generous, alluding to the Kharijites who fought under the name of Harurites], and whoever serves Him with hope is a Murjite [One who defers, that is, who postpones judgement, until it is pronounced by God on the Day of Judgement. See M.T., r22-7], and whoever serves Him with love is a free-thinker [Or, perhaps, Manichaean. See L.H.A., 375, n. 2, for observations on zindiq], and whoever serves Him with fear and hope and love is a Unitarian. Therefore these three conditions cannot but be united, and the dominance of fear is most salutary, except at the point of death. At death the dominance of hope and optimism are the most salutary, because fear has the effect of the whip which urges to action, and the time of action has passed away, and so the person who is at the point of death has no power over action. Then the means of fear do not avail, for they cut the sinews of his heart and assist the hastening of his death.

And, when death was present with Sulayman at-Taymi [T.T., iv, 175 (304), d. 172/788-9], he said to his son: O my son, tell me about the indulgences of God and remind me about hope, so that I may meet God supposing the best of Him. Similarly when death was present with ath-Thawri [Sufyan, p. 7, n. 3] and his pangs were intensified, the Scholars gathered around him lending him hope. And Ahmad b. Hanbal [H.A., 399, d. 241/855] said to his son at death: Remind me of the traditions which have hope and optimism in them. And the goal of all that was that he should commend God to himself.

`Ali said: Whoever longs for the Garden is diverted from lusts, and whoever guards against the Fire recoils from things forbidden.

Dhu’l-Nun said: The fear of the Fire in comparison with the fear of alienation is like a drop which is shed in a fathomless sea. And this is the fear of the Knowledgeable [See p. 10, n. 2] according as He said: Only the knowledgeable among His creatures fear God. (Q. xxxv, 25).

And Abu ‘l-Darda’ [T.T., viii, 175 (315), d. 32/652-3; T. 23] was in the habit of swearing by God: There is no one who thought himself secure because of his faith from being plundered by God at death, but He plundered him. And Sahl used to say: The fear of the Sincere at the evil of the Seal is present at every impulse and motion, and they are those whom God has described when He said: And their hearts are quaking. (Q. xxiii, 62). And, when Sufyan was at the point of death, he began to weep and be grief-stricken, and so it was said to him: O Abu `Abd Allah, keep hoping, for the pardon of God is greater than your sins. So he said: Is it then because of my sins that I weep? If I knew that I should die a Unitarian, I would not be concerned should I meet God with sins the like of mountains.

And Sahl used to say: The novice fears lest he may be tried by disobedience, and the Gnostic fears lest he may be tried by unbelief. And Abu Yazid [R.R., 90-103, d. 261/875] used to say: Whenever I repair to the mosque, it is as if a girdle were around my middle [i.e. the belt of a Christian monk], and I am afraid that it may lead me to the Church and the House of Fire, until I enter the mosque and the girdle is severed from me. And this happens to me five times every day [i.e. in connection with the five statutory prayers].

And it is related concerning the Messiah that he said: O band of disciples, you are afraid of deeds of disobedience, and we of the band of the prophets are afraid of unbelief.

And if you say: Surely the fear of many of these people goes back to the evil of the Seal, so what is the meaning of the evil of the Seal? Know that the evil of the Seal has two degrees, one greater than the other. As for the major degree which most inspires dread, it consists in the fact that at the throes of death and the appearance of its terrors, the heart is dominated either by doubt or apostasy, and the spirit is snatched away when apostasy or doubt is the dominant state. And so what has gained ascendancy over the heart on account of the binding of apostasy is a veil between it and God forever. And that decrees alienation in perpetuity and everlasting punishment.

And the second and lesser degree is constituted by a man’s heart being dominated at death by the love of some worldly affair and lust, and this is imaged in his heart which is swamped by it, so that, in that state,there is room for nothing else.

Nor have they inclined to the different kinds of systematic theologians, accepting on authority their divergent sayings; and, for that reason, he (Muhammad) said: The majority of the people of the Garden are simple folk. And, for that reason, the Fathers proscribed research and enquiry and the wading into systematic theology and the examination of these matters.

And, when the throes of death come, the weakness of that love is intensified in impotence, I mean the love of God, with reference to the terror of separation from this world which appears, since it is the object of desire which is dominant over the heart. So the heart is afflicted with the terror of being separated from the world, and sees that it is from God, and so its most inward occupation is the dislike of the power of death over it-and loathing of it in so much as it is from God. So he is afraid that it may arouse in his inner self a loathing of God in the place of love. Just as the person who loves his son with a weak love, when his son has seized his possessions which are dearer to him than his son and has consumed them, this weak love is turned into loathing. And, if the departure of his spirit should happen to fall at that instant in which he is affected by this impulse, then he has been sealed with evil and has perished with an everlasting death. And the cause which leads to a Seal like this is the dominance of the love of the world and reliance on it, and joy in the means to it, together with weakness of faith which determines the weakness of the love of God.

Hence whoever finds the love of God in his heart more dominant than the love of the world (even if he should be in love with the world also) is more remote from this danger. And the love of the world is the head of every sin and is the incurable disease, and includes in its scope different classes of people. And all of that is due to paucity of the ‘knowledge’ of God, since only he who ‘knows’ Him can love Him. And, in reference to this He said: If your fathers and your sons and your brothers and your wives and your clan, and properties which you have acquired, and trade which you fear may grow slack, and dwellings in which you find satisfaction, are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and spiritual combat in His path then wait until God brings His command. (Q. ix, 24).

Therefore everyone whose spirit is severed from him in a state when the impulse of distaste towards God was in his mind and the hatred of the action of God was visible in his heart in respect of its effecting a separation between him and his family and his wealth and the remainder of his objects of desire, his death will be an advance upon what he loathes and a separation from what he loves, and so he will advance upon God as would a runaway slave who is odious, when he is brought forward to his master by force. And there is no concealing what he deserves of chastisement and punishment.

As for him who dies in a state of loving God, he will advance upon God as would the well-doing servant who longs after his master; who has endured the difficulties of actions and the toils of journeyings out of a yearning to meet him. And there is no concealing the joys and delights which he will encounter simply from his reunion, apart from what he will merit in the way of kindnesses of preferment and new benefits.

For a man dies as he has lived and is gathered (to judgment) as he has died, and, for that reason, it is related concerning a greengrocer that he was concentrating at death on the Two Words [i.e. the two affirmations of the Shahada, there is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger. See Ihya’, i, 95-9] while he was saying five, six, four, and was preoccupied with counting with which he had long familiarity before death.

And, for that reason, Mutarrif b. `Abd Allah [T.T., x, 173 (324), d.c. 95/713; T. 60] used to say: Truly I do not wonder at the man who perishes how he perishes, but I wonder at the man who is saved how he is saved.

Exposition of the States of the Prophets and Angels in respect of Fear

`A’isha related that whenever the air was stirred and a tempestuous wind blew, the countenance of the Messenger of God would alter and lie would rise up and pace up and down the room and would go in and out. All that because of the fear of the chastisement of God. And he (Muhammad) recited a verse in the Sura al-Waqi’a and then he swooned. And God said: And Moses fell in a swoon. (Q. vii, 139). And the Messenger of God saw the form of Gabriel at Abtah [Y., i, 92], and fell in a swoon. And it is related that when he (Gabriel) engaged in prayer, there was heard in his breast a bubbling like that of a cauldron. And he (Muhammad) said: Gabriel never came to me but he was trembling because of his separation from the Almighty.

And Abu’l-Darda’ said that the bubbling of the heart of Abraham, the Friend of the Merciful, through fear of his Lord, was heard at the distance of a mile, when he engaged in prayer. And Mujahid [T.T., x, 42 (68), d.c. 100/718] said: David wept for forty days prostrate in worship, without lifting his head, so that the pastures sprouted because of his tears and his head was covered over. So he was addressed: O David, are you hungry? If so, you may eat. Are you thirsty? If so, you may drink. Are you naked? If so, you may be clothed. Then he wept so bitterly that he energized the lute, and he was burnt up with the heat of his fear. Then God revealed to him repentance and pardon and he said: O Lord, set my sin in my palm. So his sin was inscribed on his palm, and he did not extend his palm for food and drink or for any other purpose without seeing it, and it made him weep. He (the narrator) continued: And he was brought a bowl two thirds full, and, when he took it, he saw his sin, and would not put it to his lip until it overflowed with his tears. And it is told of him that he had not raised his head to heaven up till the time of his death out of reverence for God. And he used to say in his supplication: O God, when I recollect my sin, the earth, for all its breadth, hems me in, and, when I recollect Your mercy, my spirit is restored. Praise be to You O God, the physicians among Your creatures have come that they may nurse to health my sin, and they all point me to You. So may reprobation overtake them who despair of Your mercy.

And al-Fudayl said: I have heard that David recollected his sin on a certain day and bounded away shrieking, with his hand laid on his head, until he reached the mountains. And the wild beasts gathered to him [See G. 50-51] and he said: Return, I do not desire you. My only desire is for the person weeping because of his sin. So let no one confront me except weeping, and whoever is not a sinner let him not contrive sin for David. And he was chided for his prolific weeping and so he said: Leave me alone. I am weeping before the exit of the day of weeping, before the tearing apart of the bones and the burning of the intestines, and before the angels ordain severe penalties for me. They do not disobey God in respect of what He commands and they perform what they are commanded. And `Abd al-`Aziz b. `Umar [T.T., vi, 349 (670), d. c. 150/767] said: Whenever David committed a sin, his voice was diminished and he said: O Lord, my voice is hoarse among the pure voices of the Sincere. And it is reported that, whenever he wept for a long time and it did not benefit him, his power was straitened and his perplexity intensified and he would say: O Lord, will You not pity my weeping? And God revealed to him: O David, you have forgotten your sin and remembered your weeping. So he said: My God and my Master, in what way do I forget my sin? And yet, when I recited the psalms, the running water desisted from its flow, and the blowing of the wind was stilled, and the birds furnished shade to my head, and the wild beasts were intimates at my palace. O my God and my Master, what then is this alienation which is between me and You? And God revealed to him: That was the intimacy of obedience and this is the alienation of disobedience. O David, Adam was one of My creatures. I created him with My hand and I breathed into him of My spirit and I made My angels do obeisance to him; and I clothed him in the robe of My preferment, and I crowned him with the unique crown of My dignity and image, and I gave him to wife Eve, My handmaid, and settled him in My Garden. He disobeyed Me, and so I expelled him from My precincts naked and abased. O David, listen to Me and I shall speak the truth. You obeyed Us and We obeyed you; you asked Us and We gave to you; and you disobeyed Us and We showed forbearance to you. And, if you return to Us in your former state, We shall receive you.

And Yahya b. Abi Kathir [T.T., xi, 268 (539) d. c. 130/747] said: I have heard that it was David’s custom when he desired to engage in weeping to pass the time for seven days beforehand neither eating food nor taking drink, nor approaching women. And, when it was a day beforehand, the pulpit was brought out to him to the desert, and he commanded Solomon to cry out with a voice that would cross the countryside and its environs of thickets and hills and mountains and deserts and monastic cells and churches [Note the anachronisms]. And in it he proclaimed: Are there not those who desire to hear David’s wailing for himself? Let them then come along. He went on: And the wild beasts come from the deserts and the hills and the lions from the thickets and the reptiles from the mountains and the birds from the nests and the virgins from their bowers. And the people assemble for that day and David comes to ascend the pulpit, and the children of Israel surround him, and every kind according to its class surrounds him, and Solomon stands by his side.

So David launches into an encomium of his Lord and breaks into weeping and shrieking. Then he launches into the recollection of the Garden and the Fire, and the reptiles die together with a group of the wild beasts and the lions and the people. Then he launches into the terrors of the Day of Resurrection and into wailing over himself and a group of every class dies. And, when Solomon saw the large numbers of the dead, he said: O father, you have decimated your audience. They are all decimated and sections of the children of Israel and of the beasts and reptiles have died. So he launches into petition, and, while he is in this posture, one of the devotees of the children of Israel calls out to him: O David, you are over-hasty in seeking your reward from your Lord.

He went on: And David falls in a swoon, and, when Solomon noted what had overtaken him, he brought a mattress and carried him on it. Then he commanded someone to call out: Is there not someone who had a friend or relative with David? Let him then bring a mattress and carry him off, for the recollection of the Garden and the Fire has killed those who were with him. So a woman would bring a mattress and would bear away her relative saying: O you whom the recollection of the Fire has killed. O you whom the fear of God has killed. Then, when David revived, he stood up and placed his hand on his head and entered his chapel and locked its door, saying: O God of David, are You angry with David? And he communed ceaselessly with his Lord. So Solomon arrives and squats at the door and asks for permission to come in. Then he enters and has with him a barley bannock and he says: O father, build up your strength with this according as you desire. So he eats of that cake what God wills and then he goes out to the children of Israel and is in their midst.

And Yazid ar-Raqqashi [T.T., xi, 309 (597), d. c. 115/733] said: David went out among the people on a certain day to preach to them and inspire fear in them. And about forty thousand went out and thirty thousand of them died and only about ten thousand returned. He went on: And he had two slave girls whom he had appointed, so that, when fear came to him and he collapsed and was agitated, they squatted on his breast and legs for fear that his limbs and joints would be dismembered and he would die.

And Ibn `Umar said: John, the son of Zachariah [i.e. John the Baptist], went into the Jerusalem temple (he was a lad of eight years) and looked at their devotees who were clad in shirts of hair and wool; and he observed their zealots who had bored through their clavicles and inserted chains in them, and fastened themselves to the extremities of the temple. And that filled him with awe. So he made to return to his parents and passed by two lads at play and they said to him: O John, come and play with us. So he said: Truly I was not created for play. He went on: So he came to his parents and asked them to clothe him in hair and they did so, and he returned to the temple, and served in it by day and kept the lamps trimmed by night, until he attained his fifteenth birthday.

Then he went out and haunted the lofty mountains and sub-terranean paths of the earth. So his parents went out in search of him and they overtook him by the river Jordan, and he had soaked his feet in the water until the thirst was almost killing him, saying the while: By Your Might and Majesty, I will not taste a cool drink, until I know where I stand with You. So his parents asked him to breakfast on a barley bannock which they had with them and to drink some of that water. So he did it and made expiation for the breaking of his oath and commended filial piety.

Thus his parents brought him back to the temple, and, when he stood praying, he used to weep so that the trees and clods would weep with him, (and Zachariah would weep because of his weeping) until he (John) would go into a faint. And he would weep without remission so that the tears pierced the flesh of his cheeks and his molars were visible to the onlookers. So his mother said to him: O my son would that you would permit me to fetch for you something to cover up your molars from those who look on! So he gave her permission and she procured two pieces of felt and stuck them to his cheeks. So it came about that, whenever he got up to pray, he wept, and, when his tears saturated the two pads, his mother came to him and wrung them out; and, when he saw his tears flowing over his mother’s forearms, he said: O God, these are my tears and this is my mother and I am Your creature, and of those who are merciful You are the most merciful. So Zachariah said to him one day: My son, I have asked my Lord to bestow you on me, that my eyes might be refreshed with you. So John said: O my father, Truly Gabriel has reported to me that between the Garden and the Fire there is a desert which only those who weep will cross. So Zachariah said: O my son in that case weep on.

And the Messiah said: O band of disciples, the fear of God and the love of Paradise produce patience in the face of difficulty and keep you at a distance from the world. In truth I say to you: Surely the eating of barley and sleeping on middens with the dogs is a small price in the quest for Paradise. And it was said: Whenever the Friend [i.e. Abraham] recollected his sin, he went into a faint and the commotion of his heart would be heard for miles. Then Gabriel would come and say to him: Your Lord greets you with peace and says: Do I see a friend who fears his Friend? So he would say: O Gabriel, truly, when I recollect my sin, I forget my friendship.

So these are the states of the prophets and see to it that you reflect on them, for they are the most ‘knowledgeable’ of God’s creatures concerning God and His attributes. May God’s blessing be on them all and on all the creatures of God who are brought near. And our sufficiency is God and the grace of the Trustee [i.e. Muhammad].

And it used to be the case with `Ali b. al-Husayn [T.T., vii, 304 (520), d. c. 94/712; T. 70] that, whenever he performed his ablutions, his colour became pallid and his family would say to him: What is this that has become habitual with you, whenever you perform your ablutions? So lie would say: Do you know before Whom I am minded to stand? (in prayer) And Musa b. Mas’ud [T.T., x, 370 (657), d.c. 220/835] said: Whenever we granted an audience to ath-Thawri, we were as if the Fire had surrounded us in respect of what we saw of his fear and grief. And Mudar [L. vi, 46 (178)], the Reader, recited on a certain day: This is our Book which speaks the truth against you – to the end of the verse. (Q. xlv, 28). And `Abd al-Wahid b. Zayd [T.T., vi, 434 (912), d. c. 170/786; T. 237. Ziyad in T.T. and T] wept until he swooned; and, when he revived, he said: By Your Might, I have never disobeyed You so far as in me lies, so assist me with Your furtherance that I may obey You.

And there was recited in the presence of Yahya al-Bakka’ [I.S., vii, 13]: If you were to see when they are halted by their Lord. (Q. vi, 30). And he gave a shriek and remained ill because of it for the space of four months, being visited from every corner of Basra.

And Malik b. Dinar said: I was circumambulating the House, when I came upon a little slave girl performing her devotions and clinging to the curtains of the Ka’ba, while she said: O Lord, how many a lust there is whose pleasure has departed, and whose consequences have remained! O Lord, do You not possess any other correction and punishment save the Fire? And she was weeping and maintained this her posture until dawn broke. Malik said: So, when I saw that, I placed my hand on my head, shrieking: I am saying may his mother be bereft of Malik!

And `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz [T.T., vii, 475 (790), d. 101/720; T. 112] said: It was for nothing but considerations of mercy that God set this negligence in the hearts of the creatures, in order that they might not die for fear of God.

And as-Sari [E., 39 f.; K 110-11. d. c. 253/867] said: Truly I look at my nose several times every day for fear that my face may have been blackened. And Abu Hafs [Probably al-Kahasaf, a friend of al-Muhasibi; E. 38; or Abu Hafs, al-Haddad of Nishapur, d. 266/879-880, Ta’rikh, ii, 213] said: For forty years my belief concerning myself has been that God will direct to me a look of severe displeasure and my deeds point towards that. And Ibn al-Mubarak [T.T., v, 382 (657), d. 181/797-8] went out among his companions on a certain day and said: Truly I took a liberty yesterday with God. I asked Him for the Garden.

And al-Fudayl said: Truly I do not covet the prophet who is sent or the king who is preferred or the creature who is sound in faith. Will not these encounter the resurrection? The only person whom I covet is he who was not created. And it is recorded that the fear of the Fire entered a stripling among the Helpers, and he was weeping to such an extent that it detained him in the house. So the Prophet came and went in to him and embraced him and he fell dead. So he said: Prepare your companion for burial, for separation from the Fire has crushed his liver.

And it was said to al-Farqad as-Sabkhi [T.T., viii, 262 (486), d. 131/748-9]: Tell us the most wonderful thing you have heard concerning the children of Israel. So he said: I have heard that five hundred virgins entered the Jerusalem temple, their attire being wool and hair-cloth; and they were recollecting God’s reward and punishment, and all of them died in a single day.

And `Ata’ as-Sulami [T.T., vii, 211 (391) d. c. 750 A.D. al-Aslami in T.T] was one of those who fear and he would never ask God for the Garden; all he would ask for was forgiveness. And it was said to him during his illness: Do you not desire anything? So he said: Surely, fear of Gehenna has not left a place in my heart for desire. And it was said: Truly he did not lift his head to heaven nor laugh for forty years, and he raised his head one day and was stricken with fear and collapsed, and a slit was made in his stomach. And he would feel his body on certain nights for fear that he had been metamorphosed. And whenever a gale or lightning struck them or dearness of food, he would say: This is striking them on my account, would that `Ata’ were dead for the relief of the people. And `Ata’ said: We went out with `Utba, al-Ghulam [Ta’rikh, ii, 211, a disciple of al-Hasan, al-Basri], and in our company were adults and adolescents, to pray the dawn prayer with the sunset purification. Their legs had become swollen through their long stand, their eyes were sunken in their heads, their skin stuck to their bones, and their veins stood out as if they were whipcords. They became as if their skins were the rinds of water melons and as if they had come out from the grave to report how God preferred the obedient and deposed the disobedient. So, while they were going along, one of them passed by a certain place and he fell in a faint and his companions sat round him weeping on a day when the cold was intense. And his forehead was dripping sweat, so they brought water and wiped his face and he recovered. And they asked him about his experience, so he said: Truly I remembered that I had disobeyed God in that place.

And Salih al-Murri [T.T., iv 382 (641), d.c. 115/733] said: I recited to a man who was one of the devotees: On the Day when their faces will be turned about in the Fire, they will say: O that we had obeyed God and the Messenger. (Q. xxxiii, 66). So he fell in a swoon. Then he revived and said: Give me more of it, O Salih, for I find it perplexing. So I recited: Whenever they wish to come out of it, they will be sent back into it. (Q. xxxii, 20). So he fell dead.

And it is reported that Zarara b. Abi Awfa [T.T., iii, 322 (598), d. 93/711-2] led the people in the morning prayer, and, when he recited: When the Trump is sounded (Q. lxxiv, 8), he fell in a faint and was carried away a corpse.

And Maymun b. Mihran [T.T., x, 390 (803), d. 116/734-5; T. 93] said: When this verse was revealed: Surely Gehenna will be the promised land for them all, (Q. xv, 43), Salman, the Persian [I.H., I, 233-42. T.T., iv, 137 (233), d.c. 32/652], gave a shriek and placed his hand on his head and went out as a fugitive for three days during which they could not contain him.

And it was said: Sufyan ath-Thawri was ill and his symptoms were disclosed to a Dhimmi [Ahl adh-Dhimma, people of the covenant or obligation; a term first applied to the Ahl al-Kitab, that is, Jews, Christians and Sabians, and later interpreted to include Zoroastrians and others. H.A., 170, n. 3.] physician and he said: Fear has severed the liver of this man. And he came and felt his arteries and said: I did not know there was his like in the Muslim community. And Ahmad b. Hanbal said: I asked God that He would give access to a gate of fear, so He opened up and I was afraid for my reason and said: O Lord, according as I can bear it. So my heart was quietened. And ‘Abd Allah b. ‘Amr. b. al-‘As said: Weep and, if you cannot weep make a pretence of weeping. By the One in whose hand my soul is, if any of you knew (what was in store) he would scream until his voice was cut off and would pray until his back was broken. And it is as if he pointed to the meaning of his (Muhammad’s) saying: If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and weep much.

And al-‘Anbari [T.T., x, 194 (324), d. 196/811-12] said: The Masters of Tradition were assembled at the gate of al-Fudayl b. ‘Iyad and he came suddenly into their view at a window. He was weeping and his beard was quivering and he said: Get down to your Qur’an and to prayer. Woe unto you, this is not a time for traditions. This is a time for nothing but weeping and entreaty and humility and prayer like that of a drowning man. Guard your tongue and preserve your mobility and discipline your heart and hold on to what you ‘know’ and let go what you abhor. And al-Fudayl was seen walking on a certain day and it was said to him: Whither bound? He said: I do not know. And he was walking about dejected with fear.

And Dharr b. ‘Amr said to his father ‘Amr b. Dharr [T.T., vii, 444 (731). d. c. 153/770]: Why is it that the theologians discourse and no one weeps, whereas, when you discourse, I hear weeping on every side? So he said: O my son, the weeping of the bereaved mother is not like the weeping of the woman who is hired. And it is related that a crowd of people halted by a devotee who was weeping and they said: What is it that makes you weep? May God have compassion on you. He said: An ulcer which those who fear find in their heart. They said: And what is it? He said: The fear of the summons for presentation to God. And al-Khawwas [K. 153-4 or E. 38 or E. 72] used to weep and say in his supplication: I am lifted up in pride and my flesh is too weak to serve You, so embrace me.

And Salih al-Murri said: Ibn as-Sammak [G. 43, 48. d. 183/799] came up to us once and said: Show me something of the marvels of your devotees. So I brought him to a man who was in his hut in a certain quarter of the town, and we asked permission to enter, and behold! a man who was working with palm fronds and I recited to him: See the shackles and chains upon their necks; they will be dragged into the hot (water), then they will be stoked into the Fire. (Q. xl, 73). And the man gave a gasp and fell in a faint and we went out from his presence and left him in this state. And we went off to another man, and we entered in to him and I recited this verse and he gave a gasp and fell in a faint. So we went off and asked permission to go in to a third man and he said: Enter, if you will not distract me from my Lord. So I recited: That is for him who fears My judgement-seat and fears a threat. (Q. xiv, 17). And he gave a gasp and blood appeared from his nostrils and he wallowed in his blood until it was dried up. So we left him in this state and went out, and I took him on a tour of six persons, from the presence of each we went out, leaving him in a faint. Then I brought him to the seventh and we asked permission to enter and behold! a woman from within the hut saying: Enter. So we entered and behold! a shaykh in a trance, sitting in his oratory. So we greeted him, but he did not notice our salutation, and so I said to him in a raised voice: Is there not a morrow appointed for the creature? So the shaykh said: In whose Presence? Alas! for you. Then he remained stupified, opening his mouth and, with a fixed stare, crying out with his weak voice: Alas! Alas! until the voice was cut off. So his wife said: Make your way out, for you will not benefit from him for the moment. And, when that was over, I enquired of the people, and behold! three had revived and three had attained to God. And as for the shaykh he remained in his condition, dazed and bewildered, for three days, without performing a religious obligation, and, when the three days had passed, he came to his senses.

And Yazid b. al-Aswad [T.T., xi, 313 (599)] used to be of the opinion that he was one of the Foundation Members [See Lane, in loc., certain righteous persons of whom the world is never destitute. When one dies, God substitutes another in his place. About forty in number-the same number as those who took part in the Battle of Badr. Hence abdal = Substitutes or Successors. See K. 214], and he had sworn that he would never laugh nor sleep in a recumbent position, nor eat butter. So he was never seen laughing nor lying down nor eating butter until he died.

A woman client [mawlat, a Muslim who was not an Arab. See H.A., 172, n. 6] went in to `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz and greeted him. Then she took up her stance towards the oratory in his room and she prayed in it with two bows and her eyes conquered her and she was lulled to sleep and was induced to weep in her sleep. Then she was roused and said: O Commander of the Faithful, by God! I have seen a miracle. He said: And what was it? She said: I saw the Fire and its flames were licking its people. Then a bridge [See p. 36, n. 4] was brought and was placed over the centre of it. So he said: Go on. She said: And `Abd al-Malik b. Marwan [H.A., 205 f., d. 705 A.D] was brought and he was borne on it, and he had gone only a little way when the bridge capsized him and he was flung into Gehenna. So `Umar said: Go on. She said: Then al-Walid b. `Abd al-Malik [H.A., 221, d. 715 A.D] was brought and he was borne on it, and he had gone only a little way when the bridge capsized him and he was flung into Gehenna. So `Umar said: Go on. She said: Then Sulayman b. `Abd al-Malik [H.A., 203 f., d. 717 A.D] was brought and he had progressed only a little way over it when the bridge capsized him and he was thrown in the same way. So `Umar said: Go on. She said: Then you were brought and by God! O Commander of the Faithful-then `Umar gave a shriek and fell in a faint. So she came up to his side and began shouting in his ear: O Commander of the Faithful, truly I saw you and by God! you were saved, truly I saw you and by God! you were saved. He (the narrator) went on: And she was calling out and he was shouting and scraping the ground with his feet.

And Tawwus used to roll out his mattress and lie down and toss about like a seed in the frying-pan. Then he would leap up and fold it up and would face the qibla [The direction of the prayer. H.A., 118] until morning and would say: The recollection of Gehenna has dispersed the sleep of those who fear.

And on the authority of Ibn as-Sammak who said: I preached on a certain day in a meeting and a youth in the crowd stood up and said: O Abu `Abbas, truly you have preached today such a word that I should not care were I never to hear another. I said: And what is it? He said: Your saying: The hearts of those who fear have grasped the duration of the two eternities, whether in the Garden or the Fire. Then he disappeared from my view and so I lost him in the meeting. Or, in another recension: I did not see him, so I enquired about him, and I was told that he was sick and was being visited. So I went to visit him and said: O my brother, what condition is this I see you in? So he said: O Abu `Abbas, it is the consequence of your saying: The hearts of those who fear have grasped the duration of the two eternities, whether in the Garden or the Fire. He went on: Then he died and I saw him in sleep and I said: O my brother, how did God deal with you? He said: He has pardoned me and shown me compassion and given me entrance to the Garden. I said: By what means? He said: By means of the word.

Truly the monk spoke the truth of whom `Isa b. Malik, al-Khawlani, (he was one of the most elect of the devotees) related that he saw him halted at the gate of the Jerusalem temple with the appearance of one grief-stricken through extreme dejection, his tears hardly ever dry, because of the profusion of his weeping. And `Isa said: When I saw him, his aspect terrified me and I said: O monk, lay an obligation on me to keep on your authority. So he said: O my brother, with what would I command you if you are able to occupy the place of a man whom wild beasts and reptiles have surrounded, and who is fearful and watchful, fearing lest he may be negligent and so the beasts will maul him, or distracted and the reptiles sting him. So his heart is filled with fear and terror, and he passes his nights in fear, even if those who delude themselves feel secure, and his days in grief, even if the empty-headed make merry. Then he turned his back on me and left me. So I said: Will you not tell me something more, perhaps it would benefit me? So he said: The smallest quantity of water satisfies the thirsty man. And he certainly spoke the truth, for fear will move soonest the heart which is pure, but every warning glances off the heart which is hardened.

And what he mentioned in his hypothesis is that wild beasts and reptiles had surrounded him. And so one ought not to suppose that it is (merely) hypothetical. No, it is reality, for, if you were to view your inner man with the light of insight, you would see it filled with different kinds of wild beasts and species of reptiles, like anger, lust, rancour, envy, pride, self-esteem, self-righteousness and the rest. And it is these which are constantly mauling you and stinging you, if you neglect them for an instant, except that your eye is veiled from the sight of them. So, when the cover is withdrawn and you are placed in your grave, you will encounter them and they will be imaged to you according to the forms and shapes which suit their respective meanings. So you will see with your eye scorpions and snakes and they will surround you in your grave. And these are nothing but the attributes present to you now whose forms have been disclosed to you. So, if you desire to slay and subdue them, you are able for it before death. So do it. But, if you do not, you will become habituated to stings and bites in the kernel of your heart, how much more in your outer flesh.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

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