PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY: A Study of Ghazali’s ‘Beginning of Guidance’ with Ustadha Zaynab Ansari


Course Begins: Sunday: 10/1/2017-12 pm EST
Course Ends: Self-Study Course with 16 Sessions. Study at your own pace
Live Q&A Session: TBA
Cost: $120.00


Course Description

This course is a study of Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali’s work entitled The Beginning of Guidance (Bidaya al-Hidaya) on practical steps that a person can take in order to improve his/her spiritual state. The Beginning of Guidance represents an epistle being, as it were, a direct correspondence between Al-Ghazali and one of his disciples. In this gem-filled text, we learn that Islamic spirituality is eminently practical and practicable and is found in the everyday moments of worship and routines of life that all of us—on some level or another—experience. Spirituality in Islam is not an exercise in esotericism, but, instead, the manifestation of applying what we know in the context of who we are and what we do. In other words, spirituality is inextricably linked with our daily realities and is not divorced from our very human experiences and associations. The course will be taught by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, an accomplished teacher and member of the Lamppost Education Initiative board of directors.
This is a self-study course that has 16 weeks of instruction. Students are encouraged to complete at least one lesson per week but it is not mandatory. You study at your own pace. At any time during the course if you have questions, please email them to us at: and they will forwarded to Ustadha Zaynab. We will conduct a live Q&A session with Ustadha Zaynab within this 16 week period.

More about the Book

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali is most famous for his magnum opus, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, or Revival of the Religious Sciences, a massive compilation that addresses the epistemological and theological foundations of Islam and establishes a normative relationship between Shari’ah (outward praxis) and Tasawwuf (inner gnosis). However, the Imam, also known as Hujjat al-Islam, or Proof of Islam, also wrote shorter works aimed at students of sacred knowledge who wanted the core lessons of the Ihya, but in a form that was more practical for those with constrained schedules. The Beginning of Guidance represents one of these shorter and highly useful works.

Being concerned with the proper training and rectification of his student, Al-Ghazali reminds him (and us) that an essential part of taking the path of spirituality is identifying and understanding the role of knowledge—particularly, sacred knowledge—in our lives. As we know from the hadith tradition, seeking knowledge is a responsibility of every mukallaf (legally obligated) individual. Allah Most High says, ‘Say: Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?” The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “Whomever Allah wishes well for, He gives him understanding of the religion.”

However, we also acknowledge that the ocean of sacred knowledge is vast and deep. Therefore, before we attempt to navigate these life-sustaining waters, we must possess the necessary tools. The Beginning of Guidance is one of those tools. Intended as a compass for those just setting out on their journey, The Beginning of Guidance contains key lessons, exhortations, and points of etiquette, or adab, for those seeking to fulfill the duty of every Muslim.

Although the emphasis of this work is that we should begin at the beginning, this text has something for all seekers, no matter their level. Over the course of sixteen weeks, Zaynab Ansari will, insha’Allah, cover the main sections of the text while providing commentary directed to the concerns of today’s Muslim community, particularly women, youth, and new Muslims

Lesson Breakdown

  1. Lesson One: Introduction to the author & text
  2. Lesson Two: On the first dimension of taqwa; obedience & servitude; function of Sacred Law; classifications of human actions
  3. Lesson Three: Getting off to a good start, fiqh of purification, establishing routines
  4. Lesson Four: Structuring one’s day from sunrise to sunset, ending one’s day right
  5. Lesson Five: The etiquette of ritual prayer
  6. Lesson Six: The etiquette of congregational prayer and Friday
  7. Lesson Seven: The etiquette of Ramadan and fasting
  8. Lesson Eight: On the second dimension of taqwa; definition of disobedience; types of sins; relationship of disobedience & ingratitude
  9. Lesson Nine: Sins of the limbs and private parts
  10. Lesson Ten: Sins of the tongue
  11. Lesson Eleven: Sins of the heart
  12. Lesson Twelve: Introduction to social etiquette in Islam; etiquette with God the Exalted
  13. Lesson Thirteen: Etiquette with our teachers and students
  14. Lesson Fourteen: Etiquette with parents, children, and spouses
  15. Lesson Fifteen: Etiquette with friends, strangers, and acquaintances
  16. Lesson Sixteen: Conclusion

This session includes a LIVE Q&A Session to be announced!

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