Book Review: ‘The Attributes of God’ by ibn al-Jawzi + Preview of new al-Ghazali book
This morning I finished reading a book by the 12th Century Hanbali scholar of Baghdad ibn al-Jawzi entitled: Daf’ Shubah al-Tashbh. The English translation by Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is entitled ‘The Attributes of God’. Ibn al-Jawzi wrote the book as a response to the misguided Hanbalis of his time who purported anthropomorphistic beliefs with regards to the attributes and nature of God (Believing that He is confined to a space, He has literal hand and face, that He is a body sitting on a chair that moves in a direction etc.) An issue that has plagued the Hanbali school for centuries and still continues to do so till this day.
‘Ustadh Abdullah has translated and published this work into the English language as a response to the teachings perpetuated by extremists who subscribe to the Salafi/Wahhabi school, and he has done an excellent job at it. Ibn al-Jawzi in his book explains the meanings behind certain Hadiths and Qur’anic verses that were misconstrued by his contemporaries to support their heretical claims. These same ideas and beliefs are what are being churned out of the oil funded printing presses of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. On reading this book, it is clear for all to see what are the true beliefs of the Salaf and Ahl Sunnah in general with regards to God. A must read for anyone who is interested in intermediate Aqeedah, as this is not a book that should be approached by those who have not yet ironed out the basics in their Islamic creed.
And so after finishing the book I moved onto my next one. Recently released by the same publishers Amal Press, comes a new translation of Imam al-Ghazali’s Minhaj al-‘Abadin by the erudite scholar of our time Muhtar Holland, who wrote the widely published and read ‘Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship’, a collection of excerpts from the beginning of Imam al-Ghazali’s ‘Ihya ‘Ulum ad-Deen.
Minhaj al-‘Abadin or to give it its English title ‘The Path of the Worshipful Servants’ is seen by many as a quick guide to al-Ghazali’s work, a relatively short book that could be seen as the ‘Ihya condensed. I only read the introduction and the first few pages and it instantly blew me away. Read anything of Imam al-Ghazali’s and you will quickly see why they call him ‘The Proof of Islam’. Add to that Brother Muhtar’s style of classic eloquent English, and it truly brings out the inner depth and level of al-Ghazali’s work to a western audience. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wishes learn about Tazkiyya/Ihsan/Tassawuf/Sufism. A poignant read for us this Ramadan.