Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Spirituality: Selections from <I>The Forty Foundations of Religion</i>—Annotated & Explained

This first English publication of significant portions of Ghazali's foundational text offers helpful commentary and a modern translation to open up the wisdom of a great spiritual master, scholar and sage to seekers of a balanced understanding of Islam.

Translation and Annotation by Aaron Spevack, PhD
Foreword by M. Fethullah Gülen

5½ x 8½, 336 pp | 978-1-59473-284-3

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The wisdom of one of the greatest scholars of Islam can be a companion on your own spiritual journey.

Considered by many to be the all-time greatest scholar of Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058б111) was also one of the foremost sages of theology, philosophy and Sufism. His writings on the interrelation of law, theology and mysticism were central in establishing Sufism as a core dimension of orthodox Islamic practice. Muslim communities all across the world today still base much of their practice of Islam on Ghazali's writings.

The Forty Foundations of Religion, Ghazali's own summary of his magnum opus, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, serves as a brief and powerful summary of Islamic faith, worship, law and spirituality. It outlines the basis of Islamic belief, the foundational matters of ritual and practice, and the character traits a person must cultivate and avoid in the perfection of faith.

Now you can experience the wisdom of Ghazali even if you have no previous knowledge of The Forty Foundations of Religion or Islam. This SkyLight Illuminations edition—the first publication of significant portions of The Forty Foundations of Religion in English—provides original translations of selected highlights accompanied by insightful commentary that makes the core message of this great spiritual master relevant to anyone seeking a balanced understanding of Islam.

“Fascinating.... An enlightening and rich read.... A lovely read for any reader looking for spiritual inspiration.”

Publishers Weekly

“[A] gem of spiritual direction…. Clear and accessible … illuminates without overwhelming the text. It is going to the top of my ‘recommended books’ list.”

Ingrid Mattson, PhD, director, The Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations, Hartford Seminary; former president, Islamic Society of North America

“A groundbreaking event in Islamic publishing…. Gives this compact manual a new life in English translation by reviving the spirit and form of this classical text and by providing invaluable commentary on the original text.”

Muhammad Hozien, editor, Journal of Islamic Philosophy and

“Gift[s] seekers with a clear, cogent translation of—and invaluable commentary on—one of the greatest works of Islamic spirituality by one of its greatest masters. Highly recommended.”

Faraz Rabbani, executive director, SeekersGuidance (

“A long-overdue contribution to the growing body of translations of al-Ghazali’s writings and probably the best starting point for studying the thought of the man known as the Proof of Islam.”

Ken Garden, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Religion, Tufts University

“An excellent translation of a priceless book. There are few scholars whose writings captured the essence of Islam as Ghazali’s did. This book deserves to be read by everyone.”

Shaykh Hamza Karamali, Qibla for the Islamic Sciences (

“Professor Spevack’s translation will be of value not only to students interested in al-Ghazali and Islamic traditions, but also to students of global spiritual and ethical traditions who are seeking a concise introduction to Islam.”

Scott Girdner, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Philosophy, Randolph-Macon College

Foreword: Al-Ghazali and the Tradition of Islamic Renewal ix
Introduction xv
Al-Ghazali's Introduction 3

The Science of Belief

The First Foundation: Allahճ Entity 9
The Second Foundation: His Sacredness 13
The Third Foundation: Allahճ Omnipotent Power 17
The Fourth Foundation: Allahճ Omniscient Knowledge 19
The Fifth Foundation: Allahճ Will 21
The Sixth Foundation: Allahճ Hearing and Seeing 25
The Seventh Foundation: Allahճ Speech 27
The Eighth Foundation: His Actions 29
The Ninth Foundation: The Last Day 33
The Tenth Foundation: Prophecy 37
Conclusion 39

Outward Actions

The First Foundation: Ritual Prayer 43
The Second Foundation: Poor Tax and Charity 51
The Third Foundation: Fasting 59
The Fourth Foundation: Hajj, the Pilgrimage to Mecca 63
The Fifth Foundation: Recitation of Qurաn 69
The Sixth Foundation: Regarding Remembrance of Allah Mighty and Majestic in Every State 79
The Seventh Foundation: Seeking the Permissible 85
The Eighth Foundation: Establishing the Rights of the Believers and Keeping Good Company 91
The Ninth Foundation: Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong 99
The Tenth Foundation: Regarding Following the Sunnah 105
Conclusion: Regarding the Ordering of Your Litanies That Incline You Toward These Ten Foundations ɠ109

Purification of the Heart

The First Foundation: The Evils Related to Food 115
The Second Foundation: The Evils Related to Speech 121
The Third Foundation: Anger 131
The Fourth Foundation: Envy 135
The Fifth Foundation: Stinginess and Love of Wealth 141
The Sixth Foundation: Frivolity and Love of Prestige 151
The Seventh Foundation: Love of the World 163
The Eighth Foundation: Arrogance 171
The Ninth Foundation: Pride 181
The Tenth Foundation: Ostentation 187
Conclusion: The Entirety of [Blameworthy] Character Traits and the Places Where You Fall into Delusions with Regard to Them 205

Meritorious Character Traits

The First Foundation: Repentance 213
The Second Foundation: Fear 219
The Third Foundation: Abstinence 225
The Fourth Foundation: Patience 233
The Fifth Foundation: Gratitude 241
The Sixth Foundation: Sincerity and Truthfulness 245
The Seventh Foundation: Reliance on Allah 257
The Eighth Foundation: Love 267
The Ninth Foundation: Contentment with Divine Destiny 281
The Tenth Foundation: Remembering Death and Its Reality, and the Categories of Spiritual Punishments 287
Conclusion 295

Epilogue 296
Notes 297
Selected Bibliography 300