in my humble opinion, mukashafatu’l qulub is not imam ghazali’s book.

don’t get me wrong, i like the book and i have been reading it for years.  i had seen inconsistencies in the book earlier, but i just blamed my own ignorance and moved on.  but on repeated readings, it became difficult to ignore some facts.  my contention is that it is a useful book but:

a) is not by imam ghazali and
b) has strange ideas and weird stories

the book could be a generous cut and paste from imam ghazali’s work, but is it his own? i seriously doubt it.

there are a few reasons:

anyone familiar with imam ghazali’s style will clearly see the difference. it is unlike imam ghazali’s speech. it is seems that the book is not the effort of one author, but three different people. at times, the author(s) is thinking aloud and sermonizing stating hadith without any reference and in another chapter mentions a list of hadith narrations without any commentary; and in another, simply goes into the details of hadith criticism describing the whole chain.

those familiar with imam ghazali’s work know that he doesn’t provide citations such that they overwhelm the discussion at hand…

pitiful lack of organization. one of the defining characterstics of imam ghazali’s books is the organization of topics and the progression of discussion with a well-defined: introduction -> subject matter -> conclusion. this book on the contrary, is but a hasty and haphazard collection of articles and the discussion ends abruptly in various places.

take a look at an abridged table of contents:

chapter 9. mahabbah /on love
chapter 21. on zakah (poor-due)
chapter 44. on the severity of death
chapter 48. on the merit of prayer
chapter 53. tawbah
chapter 63. merits of prayer
chapter 73. patience, being pleased with the Lord (rida) and contentment
chapter 74. tawakkul
chapter 82. merit of praying in congregation

it is an insult to attribute this kind of incoherence to the genius of imam ghazali. anyone who has read books of tasawwuf, will know that rida (being content with the Lord) should come after tawakkul (trust in the Lord); and prayer/zakat should be the earlier chapters – the actions of our external organs should come before talking about the deeds of the heart.

repetition: topics are repeated in an eye-jarring fashion, and one gets lost after a while. there is no structure to the book and one cannot help feeling déjà vu repeatedly (sic). for example, there is no point in spreading the discussion of iblis in half a dozen places in the same book:

chapter 5. on the enmity of satan
chapter 12. on iblis and his punishment
chapter 16. on the enmity of satan
chapter 79. on the enmity of satan
chapter 97. on the deception of the devil

chapter 8. on repentance/tawbah
chapter 17. on trust and repentance/tawbah
chapter 53. on the merits of repentance/tawbah

chapter 14. sincerety and humility in prayer/salat
chapter 19. on sincerety in prayer
chapter 48. on the merits of prayer
chapter 49. on censuring the person who omits/neglects prayer
chapter 63. on the merits of prayer
chapter 82. on the merits of praying in congregation
chapter 83. on the merits of praying in the night (supererogatory)
chapter 88. on the merits of zakah and prayer

self-referential.  while imam ghazali does mention his iHya and other works, he does not call himself ‘imam’.  however, this could be an insert by the copyist, so we can reconsider this objection.

‘as said in minhaju’l abidin..’ /ch.4

‘the imam said in his ihya’ /ch.9

anachronisms. there are various references to books and people who lived after imam ghazali.

(abdu’l azim) al-munziri: ch.51, ch.53 and ch.68

diyaddin (maqdisi) and his al-mukhtarah: ch.49

abu’l faraj ibn al-jawzi: ch.52

ibn qayyim al-jawziyyah: ch.106

imam dhahabi: ch.49

al-qurtubi : ch.13 and again in ch.51

qadi iyad: ch.16, though a contemporary, it is unlikely that imam ghazali was reading his books; the keyword here is ‘qadi’ and imam iyad became a qadi at age 30 (see siyar a’alam an-nubala); that is 506 AH; one year after imam ghazali passed away.

ibn asakir: ch.49, though he was a contemporary, it is unlikely that imam ghazali was quoting from him as ibn asakir would be 6 year-old at the time of imam ghazali’s death in 505 AH.

ch.6: rawnaq al-majalis / brockelmann: by al-nisaburi al-samarqandi, abu hafs umar. probably 840AH. (tokyo university manuscript notes)

strange narrations which contradict established aqidah. and given that imam ghazali was an ash’ari imam and well-versed in usul (of both fiqh and aqidah), it is incredible that he would narrate or circulate such ideas.

major biographers do not include this in their biographies of the imam. neither subki in his tabaqat, nor al-badawi in mu’allafat al-ghazali (PDF link: considers it an authentic work.

Allah ta’ala knows best.