While at ISNA, we acquired two documentaries among other things. They were Occupation 101 and Ghazali: The Alchemist of Happiness. Both of them relate to each other. What you’re probably thinking is “what does Imam Ghazali have to do with the criminal Israeli Occupation of Palestine? Simple.
Imam Ghazali was alive during the Crusades and was well aware of the Jerusalem being taken. Like now, the Holy Sanctuary of Jerusalem was under control by a Western entity. Nevertheless, Ghazali did nothing because he knew that the Muslims were powerless to do anything even though they were the major power of the time. Instead, he began changing things from the bottom up. He was the intellectual and spiritual ancestor of the greatest of all of the Muslim heroes during the Crusades; Nur ad-Din. Though Saladin is usually regarded as the greatest hero of the Muslims during the period, it was actually Nur ad-Din. This is not to say that Saladin was insignificant. He was a great hero without any doubt but the one who set the board for Saladin to take Jerusalem was Nur ad-Din. Ghazali was Nur ad-Din’s teacher by four degrees and Saladin’s by five. It was his teachings that changed the spiritual landscape of the Muslim world that allowed the Muslims to regain Jerusalem. Thus Imam Ghazali’s revival of the Muslim Ummah (tajdid) was what brought Jerusalem back into Muslim hands.
Ghazali’s time period was also one of great confusion and fanaticism and misunderstanding of the religion according to Ghazali. There were groups who were too rationalistic, too exoteric, and too esoteric. Imam Ghazali refuted all of these groups and saved Islam with all of his books. I strongly suggest people put some of his books on your to read list, especially Deliverance from Error and the Incoherence of the Philosophers. While you’re adding books, add this one too. Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship is also invaluable because it explains the spiritual purpose behind our exoteric practices so it is not some traditional ritual.
What lessons can we take from this?
The current situation is similar to Ghazali’s time. Many people drone on about “ending the occupation” and “re-establishing the Chaliphite.” I hate to break everyone’s heart but that is not going to happen any time soon. Allah mentions in the Quran that He does not change a people until they change themselves and that He will give victory to whoever gives priority to Him. Our beloved Prophettaught us to rely on Allah. Ghazali understood from the Islamic texts how to change the situation of the Muslims and, in order to do so, we must follow Allah and His Messenger
The conclusion is that we need to return to Orthodoxy and hold to our great scholars who follow the line of Imam Ghazali and begin to change ourselves with emphasis on purifying our hearts with thikr. Then and only then can we change our condition. I strongy recommend everyone watch these two documentaries and try to consider the parallels. And Allah knows best.