Sincerity & the People of Knowledge
By Imam al-Ghazzali
“The Messenger (sallahu alayhi wa sallam) said “No one’s punishment at the Resurrection will be greater than that of the learned scholar who did not act according to his knowledge.” Abu Darda, may God be pleased with him, says: “Woe unto him who does not know, once; and upon him who knows but does not act upon it, seventy times. That is, his knowledge will be evidence against him.”
Some have committed no fault in learning or practice, but their external deeds have brought them to the point that they have neglected the purity of their hearts. They have not exposed their internal bad characteristics, such as pride, envy, hypocrisy, office-seeking, and ill feelings toward their peers and taking delight in their troubles and being sorrowful at their ease. They have become neglectful of those Traditions which say that a little bit of hypocrisy is attributing partners to God; that the person who has one particle of pride in his heart shall not be admitted into heaven; that envy destroys faith as fire destroys wood; and that which says that God Most High does not look at your appearance – He looks in your heart.
Thus, these people are like the person who has sown something and cuts off the tops of the thorns and weeds which he should have uprooted from his field before they grew strong. He has left the roots in the ground; no matter how often he cuts them, they grow again. The root of bad deeds is a bad character; and its source must be pulled out by the roots. Indeed, the simultude of that is that one have a filthy interior and an embellished exterior, like a privy, the outside of which has been plastered; or like a decorated grave the surface of which is painted while inside there is carrion; or like a dark house on top of which a candle has been placed.”
“If one judges fairly and weighs (the matter), one knows that the welfare of religion is nothing more than that the people turn away from the world. Because of him more people who have become desirous of the world than those who have turned away from it. Therefore, Islam is dependent upon his non-existence, and the welfare of Islam does not lie with him or the likes of him. This and the likes of these vainglorious imaginings and conceit are false. We have discussed their treatment and true nature in the previous chapters; saying more would be prolixity. Peace!”
(p 16-18 of “On the Treatment of Ignorance Arising from Heedlessness, Error, and Delusion” from “The Alchemy of Happiness” by Imam al-Ghazzali)