O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali's "Ayyuhal Walad"

O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali&
O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali&
O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali&
O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali&
O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali&

O Son! A Translation of Imam al-Ghazali's "Ayyuhal Walad"

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This Short Text Provides A Rare Opportunity To Take Personal Advice Directly From Imam Al-Ghazali Himself.

One of al-Ghazali's advanced students wrote to the Imam with a question: From all the fields of knowledge, what will benefit us most in the grave? The student clarified that, while he could certainly find the answer to his question within al-Ghazali's longer works, such as the Ihya 'Ulum al-Din, he wished for his teacher to give him a formal legal opinion, short enough that he could keep it with him at all times and refer to it constantly.

Ayyuhal Walad is the great Imam's response: a personal note from al-Ghazali to his student, and by extension to anyone who desires to follow their way. Imam al-Ghazali elucidates the following for his student, and for the modern reader:

  1. The precise nature of the relationship between knowledge and action, and the role of each in one's striving for Paradise

  2. The significance of the night prayer

  3. Some advice from Luqman the Wise to his son, and its enduring meaning and importance

  4. A concise definition of obedience and worship, which al-Ghazali states is the quintessence of knowledge

  5. The four matters that are required of a spiritual traveler

  6. A single hadith that contains the entirety of the knowledge of the ancients as well as the men of latter days

  7. Eight lessons that are sufficient for deliverance and salvation

Ayyuhal Walad is designed to be read and reread, and referred to frequently throughout one's life. The reader must take note that the original recipient of this letter was a top student of Imam al-Ghazali, and therefore a scholar of the highest caliber himself. This book is thus invaluable simply as a record of the interaction between one of the Ummah's greatest teachers and his esteemed disciple. However, al-Ghazali's prescriptions are conveyed with such clarity that any Muslim of high aspiration will benefit from this text.

This edition includes Ustadh Moustafa Elqabbany's meticulous English translation side-by-side with al-Ghazali's original Arabic epistle. This arrangement allows the English-speaking reader to get a taste of al-Ghazali's unique style, while students of Arabic may peruse the Imam's masterful Arabic prose alongside Ustadh Moustafa's elegant English rendition.

The Approach

As with any translation work, the source material is critical. Anyone familiar with Arabic publishing would know all too well that publications vary greatly in both their accuracy and quality. For this reason, we often find ourselves in need of sourcing various manuscripts, a team of researchers, and editors. In the case of Ayyuhal Walad, the Jeddah-based publisher known as Dar al-Minhaj published a critical edition resulting from multiple years of research. Consistent with several previous translations, we found their Arabic work reliable and of high standard. May Allah bless the Dar al-Minhaj team for their service to the works of the ‘ulamā’.

In producing the Arabic critical edition, Dar al-Minhaj relied upon seven manuscripts and a commentary titled, Ayyuhā al-Akh. According to Dar al-Minhaj, they copied each manuscript and compared them all. This allowed them to identify and correct a number of discrepancies. Furthermore, Qur’anic verses were written in the ‘Uthmānī script in order to avoid mistakes, and all hadiths and reports were sourced as much as possible. On behalf of the team at Imam Ghazali Publishing, I ask Allah to accept their work and affirm their effort in acquiring the correct wording.

The Manuscripts

  • Manuscript A is from the archives of the Sulaymaniyyah Library in Istanbul, bearing number 1864. It was written in an easy to read and clear Persian style script with twenty-five lines on each page. Its transcriber is Ṭūr ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Āydaynī (d. 873 A.H).

  • Manuscript B is from the archives of King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh, bearing number 6434. It was written in a hurried Persian style script and has thirteen lines on each page. The year of its transcription is noted as 1004 A.H.

  • Manuscript C is also from the archives of KSU, bearing number 1547. The print quality is good and has thirteen lines on each page with around eight words per line. The year of its printing is 1123 A.H.

  • Manuscript D is from the archives of the Al-Azhar Library. It is a printed manuscript, and its quality is excellent. • Manuscript E is from the archives of the Al-Azhar Library, bearing the number 70 in the category of taṣawwuf, 4460 overall. The print quality was relatively good.

  • Manuscript F is from the archives of The University of Tokyo Center, bearing the number 2299.

  • Manuscript G is also from KSU, bearing the number 2400. It is included in a collection of eleven letters and comprises of eleven pages, starting on page four and ending on page fourteen. It is printed in normal script. The year of its transcription is 1090 A.H.

  • Manuscript H is a commentary from Al-Azhar library. It is an eighty-five-page book that was printed in normal script. The commentary was done by Shaykh ‘Abd alRaḥmān ibn Aḥmad ibn ‘Umar, known as al-Ṣabrī, called, Ayyuhā al-Akh, Sharḥ Ayyuhā al-Walad.

The Translation And Explanatory Notes By Imam Ghazali Publishing

For this translation, Imam Ghazali Publishing worked with Ustadh Moustafa Elqabbany, a Canadian translator and researcher living in Amman, Jordan. He is currently a translator-in-residence for the UK-based company Wordsmiths, as well as the Director of Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman.

While the vast majority of notes in our translation relied upon the commentary Ayyuhā al-Akh, many additional notes were added at the discretion of Ustadh Moustafa in order to facilitate a deeper and more contextualized understanding of the text. These footnotes should be regarded as clarifying notes rather than an actual commentary; this work should be studied with a teacher. Ultimately, while we recognize these counsels to be timeless, we have strived to add additional clarity on any terminology or phrases we felt may benefit a general audience. It is hoped that by including the vocalized Arabic text that:

  1. Students of Sacred Knowledge will be aided in learning the language of the Qur’an, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم ,and the ‘ulamā’,

  2. It will serve as a teaching aid for the ‘ulamā’ when teaching this text to reference the original work, and

  3. It will facilitate courses and seminars on this work with renewed interest within the English-speaking world.

Proper punctuation marks have been added to assist with the Arabic reading.

Anything indecorous in this rendering is from our ignorance, and anything of benefit is from Allah, the blessing of Imam al-Ghazālī, and those who transmitted this noble work. May Allah forgive us for our shortcomings.

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