Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Sprituality: Selections from The Forty Foundations of Religion-Annotated & Explained


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 (1058–1111) 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 ...

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Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Sprituality: Selections from The Forty Foundations of Religion - Annotated & Explained

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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 (1058–1111) 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[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

Library Bookwatch

Islamic spirituality can be a trying thing in the modern day. "Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Spirituality" is a translated and annotated study of the work of this eleventh century Islamic scholar who discussed much fo the faith's early philosophy and theology, and whose work remains quite relevant even to the modern day. Sufism is a major element of orthodox Islam practices, and presents a great deal to consider. "Ghazali on the Principles of Islamic Spirituality" is a core addition to any community and library Islamic and general religious studies collection.

The Maroon - Karl Gommel

Aaron Spevack, assistant professor of Islamic studies, has recently published a partial translation of an influential 12th century Muslim text. Spevack worked with SkyLight Paths Publishing to produce "Ghazalion the Principles of Islamic Spirituality." The work, published in December 2011, is a translation of selections from al-Ghazali's “The Forty Foundations of Religion."

Ghazali was an important Muslim theologian, jurist and mystic.Spevack said that Ghazali sought to harmonize Islam, law andSufism, a form of Muslim mysticism. “Ghazali was a great reviver of Islam in his time,” Spevack said.

Ghazali’s “Forty Foundations of Religion” were meant to help this harmony, according to Spevack. The text is broken down into four sections, each containing 10 foundations. These four sections focus on theology, practice, “blameworthy traits” and “meritorious traits.”

Spevack provides annotated commentary for each page of translation to provide a richer context to the work. He said he provided most of the commentary through previous research, as his studies focus on Islam, Islamic law and Sufism. However, Spevack said he had to edit out some of the commentary. "I planned to add commentary after I finished the text, but I started adding some in the book as I went along. When I finished the translation, I was already over the page limit,” he said.

Spevack’s interest in Islam stemmed from taking a class in Turkish music as a jazz guitar major in the New England Conservatory of Music. While taking time off from his studies, Spevack played with a hip-hop band for five years, meeting Muslim musicians and exploring his faith. He then resumed his education and received a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Intellectual History from Boston University in 2008.

Spevack has not yet gone on promotional trips for his book. However, he is finishing another book that started as his dissertation. It focuses on the works of al-Bajuri, a 19th century scholar of law, theology and Sufism and an intellectual descendant of Ghazali, according to Spevack. Spevack cited al-Bajuri’s words on Sufism to explain his own interest in Sufism.

“You can’t really study Islam without studying Sufism,” he said.Spevack will be leaving Loyola to take a position at Colgate University in New York next semester and said he is “sadly leaving Loyola and happily joining Colgate.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594732843
  • Publisher: Skylight Paths Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: SkyLight Illuminations Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 970,093
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Aaron Spevack, PhD, is assistant professor of Islam in the Religious Studies Department at Loyola University, New Orleans. He specializes in Islamic intellectual history, including law, theology and Sufism. He is also a founder and director of Boston's Bukhari Institute, which offers educational programs on the arts and sciences of the Islamic world.

M. Fethullah Gülen, is an authoritative and popular Turkish Muslim scholar, imam, preacher and civil society activist. He has extensive knowledge and teaching experience in Islamic scholarship, and is a prolific author with more than sixty books translated into many languages.

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Table of Contents

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

The Science of Belief

The First Foundation: Allah’s Entity 9
The Second Foundation: His Sacredness 13
The Third Foundation: Allah’s Omnipotent Power 17
The Fourth Foundation: Allah’s Omniscient Knowledge 19
The Fifth Foundation: Allah’s Will 21
The Sixth Foundation: Allah’s Hearing and Seeing 25
The Seventh Foundation: Allah’s 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 Qur’an 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 … 109

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

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