The Book of Poverty and Abstinence is the thirty-fourth chapter of The Revival of the Religions Sciences. It falls in the section dealing with the virtues. Ghazali gives definitions of what real poverty and abstinence should be and how the poor should conduct themselves. He goes on to describe poverty that has no virtue and which is based on greed and love of the world. For Ghazali, the virtues of real poverty and abstinence are closely linked with patience, contentment, lack of worldliness, asceticism, trust and surrender to God.
A Selection from the Table of Contents
The Reality of Poverty and its Different States
The Excellence of Absolute Poverty
Poverty’s Excellence over Wealth
The Reality of Abstinence
The Excellence of Abstinence
The Degrees of Abstinence
The Signs of Abstinence
Appendix: Persons Cited in the Text
Index to Qur’anic Quotations
Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (450/1058-505/1111) is widely known by the honorific, 'the Sultan of the Saints (awliya) of Allah'. In the history of the Saints of Islam, Shaikh Abd al-Qadir stands out as being unique, in the broad scope of perfection that includes his lineage, his complete development, piety, knowledge of the religion and adherence to the Sacred Law (Sharia), his intimate and direct knowledge of the Divine, and his establishment by the Lord of All the Worlds at the level of Reality (Haqiqa). Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir lived almost a thousand years ago, but his words transcend the time and place in which they were recorded to span the centuries without difficulty.
Revered to this day as the supreme spiritual helper (al-Ghawth al-A'zam) the Shaikh addresses his audience at a level that bypasses the heart and mind. His discourses are justly ranked among the most beautiful oratory the world has ever known.
He is justly described as a "towering figure" in the history of Islam. He was born in the Iranian town of Tus, studied Islamic law and theology at the Seljuq College in Nishapur, and became a distinguished professor at the famous Nizamiyya University in Baghdad.
Despite his glittering success, he was inwardly dissatisfied, so he abandoned his career for the life of hardship, abstinence and devotion to worship. During ten years of wandering, he experienced a spiritual transformation, in which the Truth came to him at last, as something received rather than acquired.
Blessed with an inner certainty, he then applied his outstanding faculties and vast learning to the task of revitalizing the whole Islamic tradition. Through his direct personal contacts, and through his many writings, he showed how every element in that tradition could and should be turned to its true purpose.
Dr. Asaad F. Shaker holds a PhD from McGill University and works on classical Islam.