Kitāb al-Arbaʿīn fī Uṣūl al-Dīn by Imam Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī

كتاب الأربعين في أصول الدين
ط. دار االمنهاج 1439\ 2017

تأليف: حجّة الإسلام الإمام أبي حامد محمد بن محمد بن محمد بن أحمد الغزالي الطوسي الطبراني الشافعي

Image of the front cover.

Imām Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī needs no introduction to any Muslim. Popularly known by the title of ‘Ḥujjat al-Islām’ (the proof of Islām), Imām al-Ghazālī is one of the most phenomenal scholars and ṣūfi masters in the history of Islām who, till this day, continue to amaze humanity with the depth of their knowledge, wisdom and spiritual light that emanate from their works. Author of tens of major works – mostly in Arabic, and some in his native Persian – Imām al-Ghazāli’s magnum opus is without doubt his monumental Iḥyāʾ ῾Ulūm al-Dῑn (Revival of the Sciences of the Religion). [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn (Forty Chapters on the Foundations of the Religion) could arguably be described as a miniature version of his Iḥyāʾ – although, the Iḥyāʾ is what it is – it is huge and a very detailed and breath-taking work on the spiritual and inner dimensions of Islām. This current publication is a new and properly researched (muḥaqqaq) deluxe edition of the [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn by one of the more reputable publishers of the Middle East – Dār al-Minhāj (Riyadh/Jeddah). Measuring 222 x 152 mm, the book is compact. It comprises 543 cream-coloured pages and the text is in two colours – black and maroon. The paper is high quality and the text has been thoroughly researched and compared with several manuscripts of the book, with hadith references and other useful annotations added by the editors throughout the edition – all common features of Dār al-Minhāj’s publications, as we have repeatedly seen over the last several years.

Obviously and without doubt, the Iḥyāʾ is and shall always remain an unparalleled wonder of wonders, and it shall continue to astound academia of the East, as well as the West. The Iraqi-Indian master, Imām Sayyid Muḥammad Murtaḍā al-Zabῑdi’s (1145-1205/1732-1791) massive super commentary on the Iḥyāʾ,titled Itḥāf al-Sādat al-Muttaqῑn bi Sharḥi Iḥyāʾ ῾Ulūm al-Dῑn, has added another layer of astoundment to an already astounding masterpiece.[1] For a much quicker read and a comparatively very brief summary of many (but not all) topics covered in the Iḥyāʾ, Imām al-Ghazālī’s [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn is highly recommended. Indeed, the book was so much liked by the Al-Ghazāli of India, Imām Mawlānā Muḥammad Ashraf ῾Ali Thānwī, that he desired the book be rendered to Urdu to aid the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent in their character and spiritual reformation. When this was accomplished by Shaykh Muḥammad ʿĀshiq-e-Ilāhī, Imām Thānwī was impressed and delighted, and he expressed this in his foreword to the Urdu translation.[2]   

[Kitāb] Al-Arbaʿῑn fī Uṣūl al-Dῑn is actually not a book that Imām al-Ghazāli authored separately. It is in fact the third of three parts of his book Jawāhir al-Qurʾān. When writing this third part of Jawāhir al-Qurʾān, he had indicated that, should someone wish in the future to separate this third part of the book and publish it separately, that will be possible, and, should this happen, he (Imām al-Ghazālī) himself titled this separate book [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn.[3]

In his introduction, Imām al-Ghazālī states that [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fī Uṣūl al-Dῑn is composed of the following:

Ulūm (Categories of knowledge)

Amāl (Categories of actions)

Amāl (actions) are then categorised into ẓāhirah (outer/visible) and bāṭinah (inner/invisible).

The bāṭinah (inner/invisible actions) are then further categorised into tazkiyah (cleansing/ridding) and taḥliyah (adorning or inculcating/adopting).

Thus, there are four categories:

Ulūm (Categories of knowledge)

Amāl ẓāhirah (Categories of outer/visible actions)

Akhlāq madhmūmah, tajibu ‘l-tazkiyatu minha (Blameworthy traits, cleansing oneself from which is obligatory)

Akhlāq maḥmūdah, tajibu ‘l-taḥliyatu biha (Praiseworthy traits, adorning oneself with which is obligatory)

Every category (out of the four) is then divided into ten foundations (or roots).[4]

Thus, the book is in forty short chapters, from which it takes its title of [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dn (Forty Chapters on the Foundations of the Religion).

Abu Asim Badrul Islam
20 Jumādā al-Ākhirah 1440/26 February 2019

Images of just some of the manuscripts used for this edition.

Images of some pages.

[1]  For a fascinating window into the life and world of Imām Sayyid Muḥammad Murtaḍā al-Zabῑdi, see: Stefan Reichmuth, Murtadā az-Zabīdī (D. 1791) in Biographical and Autobiographical Accounts. Glimpses of Islamic Scholarship in the 18th Century in Die Welt des Islams, New Series, Vol. 39, Issue 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 64-102.

[2]  Titled Tablῑgh-e-Dῑn, the Urdu translation has been published by Idārat al-Ma῾ārif (now renamed Maktabah Ma῾ārif al-Qurʾān) in Jāmi῾ah Dār al-῾Ulūm Karachi (1420/1999) and other publishers in the Indian subcontinent.  

[3]  See: Jawāhir al-Qurʾān (p. 17), Dār Iḥyāʾ al-῾Ulūm (Beirut) (1405/1985).

[4]  See: [Kitāb] Al-Arba῾ῑn fi Uṣūl al-Dῑn, p. 50-51.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s