My Dear Beloved Son/Daughter – Imam Ghazali RA
[An excerpt from Imam Ghazali’s RA reply to his disciple’s letter]
Those in whose hearts the pleasures of the world and following of their desires [from the lower self] dominate, they find the advice and guidance bitter. These people’s hearts are trapped in the worldly desires and pleasures. In this respect, this individual is worthy of special mention, which learns wisdom, philosophy and worldly learning like that and thinks that this knowledge will be a cause of salvation for him/her in the life hereafter along with earning for him/her fame and prestige in the world. He/she thinks that it’s not necessary to act on this knowledge and that he/she is exempt from acting upon it. This belief, which is wrong, is of those who study philosophy. All Glory and Honor to Allah the Great. This individual does not even know this much that the knowledge that he/she acquires on which he/she does not even act upon, will be a reason for punishment for him/her on the Day of Judgment. Does this person not know that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“Inna Ashaddan Nasi ‘Azabun Yaumal Qiyamati ‘Alimu Lum Yunfa’huAllahu Bi ‘Ilmihi.”
“On the Day of Judgment, the most severe torment will be given to the scholar (person of knowledge) to whom Allah had not benefited from his/her knowledge (i.e. he/she did not act upon the acquired knowledge).”
My dear beloved son! Do not be deprived of good deeds, do not be without the knowledge of the external matters (Shari’ah), and do not be without internal excellences (noble inner qualities). Have firm certitude that only knowledge without good deeds will not benefit you on the Day of Judgment. You can understand this [important] point from the example that if someone is passing through a jungle or desert holding ten sharp swords, good arches along with some other weapons, and knowing the art of war and method of using these weapons and all of a sudden is confronted by a lion. Tell me, can this person be saved without using these weapons? You know very well that this person cannot be saved. Likewise, you should know that if someone knows hundred thousand points of knowledge (or Fiqh/legal issues) but does not act on them then this knowledge will be of no benefit to this person. Second example is of a person who is sick and knows that his/her cure lies in such and such medicines but does not use these medicines, and then will the knowledge of medicines and of their ability to cure his/her illness is of any help in actually curing the illness [of this person]?
You can understand it quite well that merely having the knowledge of wisdom cannot cure the [spiritual/inner] diseases. A poet has said that even if you take (buy) two thousand pounds of wine you will not be intoxicated until you drink from it.
Acquiring a lot of knowledge and continually browsing a lot of books but not acting upon that knowledge will not be of any benefit to you unless and until you make yourself deserving of Allah’s mercy through deeds of righteousness. Until then, the Grace of Allah will stay away from you.