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From Chapter Seven of Volume XXII of The Revivification of the Sciences of the Religion by the Proof of Islam, Imam

al-Ghazali - may God sanctify his secret. The volume is entitled The Book of Disciplining the Soul, and the chapter is called An Exposition of the Way in Which a Man may Discover the Faults of His Soul

NOW that when God (Exalted is He!) wishes His bondsman well, He grants him insight into the faults which lie in his soul. The faults of a man of perfect insight are never hidden from him, and whosoever knows his faults is in a position to treat them. Most people, however, are ignorant of the faults of their souls, and might see the mote in their brother's eye but the beam which lies in their own. There are four ways by which the man who would know the faults of his soul may do so. Firstly, he should sit before a Shaykh who has insight into these faults and hidden weaknesses, and put him in authority over his soul, and follow the instructions he gives in connection with his struggle theirwith, as is the place place of an aspirant with his Shaykh; the latter will ascertain these faults, and explain to him the method by which they should be treated. However, such a man is hardly to be found in this age. Secondly, he may seek out a true, perceptive and religious friend, and appoint him to be overseer of his soul, so that he notes his circumstances and deeds, and brings to his attention the inner and external faults, acts and traits which he finds dislikeable in him. This was the practice of the wise men and the great leaders of the Faith: 'Umar may God be pleased with him) used to say, May God grant His mercy to a man who shows me my faults. And he used to ask Salman may God be pleased with him as well when they met, saying, What things have you heard about me that you find dislikeable? Salman pleaded to be be excused and answering this but when insisted, replied, I have heard that you once ate two kinds of food at one meal, and that you have two sets of clothing, one to wear at night, and the other for the day. Have you heard anything else? he inquired, and he said that he had not. These two things, he said, I now renounce. He used to also question Hudhayfa may God be pleased with him saying, You were the confidant of God's Emissary may God bless him and grant him peace in the matter of the Hypocrites. Can you see any of the signs of hypocrisy in me? In this way he used to accuse himself, despite his great worth and exalted position, for the greater a man's intelligence and position the less impressed will he be with himself and the more often will he engage in self-accusation. This too, however, is rarely to be found. Few indeed are the friends who do not resort to flattery, but tell one about one's faults instead, and who harbor no envy. Among your friends you must needs have one who is jealous, or who has an ulterior motive, who deems something a fault when it is not, or a flatterer who conceals some of your defects from you. It was for this reason that Daud a-Ta'i renounced all human company, and said, when asked why, What can I do with people who hide my faults from me? It was ever the desire of religious people to discover their faults through being told of them by others; however, things have come to such a pass with us that the most hateful of all people are those who counsel us and draw attention to our defects. This is almost expressive of a weakness in faith, for bad traits of character are vipers and stinging scorpions, and were someone to tell us that under our clothes their lurked a scorpion, we would account this a great favor, and be delighted, and would occupy ourselves with removing and killing the scorpion in question. Yet the injury and pain it could cause the body would last no more than a day, while ugly traits of character cause an injurt in the very core of one's heart, which, it may be feared, will endure even after death and for evermore, or for thousands of years. Nevertheless, we are not delighted when someone calls these things to our notice, nor do we busy ourselves with removing them; instead, we repay the one who thus counsels us in kind, and say, What about you? You also do this, that and the other! so that resentment towards him

distracts us from gaining any profit by his advice. This is a kind of hardness in the heart produced by many sins, which in turn are the consequence of weak faith. Therefore, we ask God (Exalted is He!) that through His grace and generosity He should inspire us with right guidance, show us the faults of our souls, occupy us with treating them, and guide us to thank those who reveal such weaknesses in us. The third way is to learn of the faults of one's soul by listening to the statements of one's enemies, for a hostile eye brings out defects: it may happen that a man gains more from an enemy and a foe who reminds him of his faults than from a dissimulating friend who praises and speaks highly of him, and hides from him his faults. Although human nature is inclined to disbelieve an enemy and to interpret his statements as the fruit of envy, still, the man of insight, whose faults must necessarily be noised abroad in the statements of his foes, will not fail to derive benefit. The fourth way is to mingle with people, and to attribute to oneself every blameworthy thing which one sees in them. For the believers are mirrors one to another, and recognize their own faults in the faults of others, knowing that temperaments are similar in the following of desire, and that every attribute in a man must be shared by his associate to some degree; thus one will come to scrutinize one's soul and cleanse of everything one finds blameworthy in others. This constitutes the highest degree of self-discipline. Were all people only to renounce the things they dislike in others they would not need anyone to discipline them. Jesus upon whom be peace was once asked, Who taught you? I was taught by no one, he replied. I perceived the ignorance of the ignorant man, and avoided it. All of the above are devices which may be resorted to be those who have no gnostic Shaykh, who is intelligent, insightful into the faults of the soul, and compassionate, who gives one counsel in the affairs of religion, and who, having completed the refinement of his own soul, occupies himself with counseling and refining the souls of other bondsmen of God. Whosoever finds such a man has found his physician, and should stay with him, for it is he who will deliver him from his sickness and the destruction which lies before him.