This life or the afterlife? The advice of Imam Al-Ghazali. By Yoel Benhabib

“For true learning is that which leads to the knowledge that sin is a deadly poison and that the afterlife is better than this life.”  Imam Al-Ghazali


In today’s world, there are many trends regarding the correct path to follow. There are many religions and each one proposes and unique way for the individual to achieve happiness and transcendence. It is clear then that “knowledge” must be pursued in order to differentiate and know where lies the truth from falsehood.

There are some people who only pursue worldly pleasures and material fulfillment. Others, reject everything from this life and only contemplate the idea of a better existence in the “World to Come” or the “Afterlife.” I think that the solution to this puzzle is the middle way. We must live our lives in a decent way and strive to improve our world the best we can, fight injustice, poverty, diseases, and all kinds of evil; while ate the same time think about a future better world. The world of the future must be better than the present one. This is what the great Imam Al-Ghazali meant when he said, “the afterlife is better than this one.” But there’s are obstacles to achieving that ultimate and pleasant life. Sin or the failure to do what is right is one of those deadly obstacles. Sin, can clearly be understood as doing those things that God says are wrong but, also not striving for doing this world a better place can be considered as sinful. One cannot sit still and do nothing to improve our situation on a personal level or on a global scale. Although we must have always hopes for “the afterlife”, the “world to come” or a “better future”, we must never give up to combat injustices and evil. The work must be done now, in the present, that is the key to attaining the afterlife or a better future for all humanity. What we do in the present is what counts towards the future. We must start by changing ourselves for good, removing all sin (in all sense) from our lives; this is what Al-Ghazali means by “true learning.” We must change ourselves first before going out there and try to change the world. What is the point of changing others if we ourselves haven’t changed? If my life is chaos I cannot go and change the world because I’m one of those bringing chaos into the world. Let’s fix our lives first, cleansing ourselves from the “poison” brought by “sinful” or erroneous actions, as Al-Ghazali states. In order to be successful, we must elevate our levels of consciousness and understand that all human beings are connected one way or another and what we do can bring good or evil into the world.


Author: Yoel Benhabib (History and Religious Studies Major).

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