The Ghazali Children's Project

Al-Ghazali: The Banes of the Tongue (Book 24 of The Revival of the Religious Sciences)

Kenneth Lee Honerkamp, Muhammad Hozien, Valerie Turner
Michael Abdurrahman Fitzgerald, Mohamed Fouad Aresmouk


In the Banes of the Tongue (Kitāb āfāt al-lisān), book 24 of Imām al-Ghazālī’s 40-volume magnum opus, the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn), al-Ghazālī divides up the banes, or defects, of the tongue from the least to the most offensive, into twenty chapters. These include seemingly mundane acts, such as speaking about what is not our concern, superfluous chatter, pretentious speech, to more serious defects, such as using obscene words, cursing, ridiculing others, making false promises, lying, gossip, and backbiting (even with gestures and looks).

Al-Ghazālī carefully defines each defect and analyzes both its psychological and spiritual dimensions. He offers examples of how these banes manifest themselves in behavior, highlighting their effects on others, while outlining the consequences for the soul. Finally, he offers practical suggestions for eliminating these banes, and stresses the devastating nature of their consequences, both in this life and in the next.

Al-Ghazālī brilliantly explains the nature of the tongue itself. Of all the organs that we can directly move, the tongue is the most easily used, yet most difficult to control; while seemingly harmless, it is dangerous to ourselves and others. With our tongue, we can communicate the superficial and the profound; we can declare our faith and console our brothers or wound those around us risking our future in the Hereafter. The merit of the solution—often simply silence—can be enormously difficult

While the misuse of the gift of speech is not something new (as this work, composed nearly 950 years ago, amply shows), it is, perhaps, more critical now than ever before. In this age of internet-based communication, we can project anything that comes to mind, both positive and negative, in just a nanosecond. Yet the results of that split-second decision can continue almost indefinitely, causing both harm and regret. Thus, the Banes of the Tongue is highly relevant for our times.

Read the Introduction to ‘The Banes of the Tongue’ by Kenneth Lee Honerkamp, Professor, Department of Religion, University of Georgia, Athens.

Product Description

Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) was a leading jurist, theologian, and spiritual master of the golden age of Islam, and he remains its truest advocate in modern times. As a teacher of both inward and outward aspects of faith, he presented these practical teachings in systematic form, with eloquence and precision, in his forty-part compendium of Islamic knowledge.

Fouad Aresmouk grew up in a traditional Marrakesh family, the son of an Arabic teacher in the public school system and grandson of one of the most renowned Qur’an teachers in Marrakesh and muqaddam for the Tijani Sufi order. Fouad completed his degree in Islamic Studies and Arabic at Qadi Ayyad University, Marrakesh, also pursuing a personal study of Sufism in Morocco that continues today. He is the author of al-Rashad fi zabdati alawrad, a commentary (sharh) on the litany of the Habibiyya Sufi order of Morocco, and co-translator of four other of the books of the Fons Vitae Ghazali series into English, as well a number of other works from the Moroccan Sufic tradition. In addition to scholarly pursuits, Fouad is a husband, a father of three. and a co-founder and the human resource manager of the Center for Language and Culture in Marrakesh.

Originally from California, Abdurrahman Fitzgerald and his wife migrated to Morocco in the late 1970s. Since that time, he has been involved in education and the study of Arabic, Islam, and Sufism. He is the co-translator of Ibn al-Qayyim on the Invocation of God (Islamic Text Society, 2000) and, along with Fouad Aresmouk, has translated two portions of Ibn ‘Ajiba’s Quranic commentary, al-Bahr al-Madid, Ibn ‘Ajiba’s spiritual glossary The Book of Ascension, five other books for Fons Vitae’s al-Ghazali’s series, and Letters on the Spiritual Path by Mulay al ‘Arabi al-Darqawi, and the Diwan of Sidi Muhammad ibn al-Habib. Abdurrahman and his wife have two daughters and seven grandchildren. He is a co-founder and senior consultant for the Center for Language and Culture, Marrakesh

Kenneth Lee Honerkamp, a graduate of the Quarawiyyine University of Morocco and the University of Aix-en-Provence, France has worked extensively in the manuscript libraries of Morocco. His research interests lie in the fields of teacher/disciple relationships in formative Sufism and the study and translation of letters of spiritual guidance written by Moroccan Sufis. He is also interested in the area of formative Sufism and has edited and translated several previously unpublished works of Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami (d. 412/1021). His critical edition of the Rasa’il al-kubra of Ibn Abbad of Ronda (d. 792/1390) and other of his works are in print. He presently holds the position of professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Georgia at Athens.

On the Revival of the Religious Sciences (Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn):

“The Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn is one of al-Ghazālī’s best works.” —Aḥmad b. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm (d. 728/1328)

“The Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn is a marvelous book containing a wide variety of Islamic sciences intermixed with many subtle accounts of Sufism and matters of the heart.” —Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373)

“The Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn is one of best and greatest books on admonition, it was said concerning it, ‘if all the books of Islam were lost except for the Iḥyāʾ it would suffice what was lost.’” —Ḥājjī Khalīfa Kātib Čelebī (d. 1067/1657)

“The Iḥyāʾ [ʿulūm al‐dīn] is one of [Imām al-Ghazālī’s] most noble works, his most famous work, and by far his greatest work’” —Muḥammad Murtaḍā l‐Zabīdī (d. 1205/1791)

On Abu Hamid al-Ghazali r.a.:

“Al-Ghazālī is the second [Imām] Shāfiʿī.” —Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā l-Janzī (d. 549/1154)

“Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, the Proof of Islam (Ḥujjat al-Islām) and the Muslims, the Imām of the imāms of religion, [is a man] whose like eyes have not seen in eloquence and elucidation, and speech and thought, and acumen and natural ability.” —ʿAbd al-Ghāfir b. Ismāʿīl al-Fārisī (d. 529/1134)

“[He was] the Proof of Islam and Muslims, Imām of the imāms of religious sciences, one of vast knowledge, the wonder of the ages, the author of many works, and [a man] of extreme intelligence and the best of the sincere.” —Imām al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1347)

“Al-Ghazālī is without doubt the most remarkable figure in all Islam.” —T.J. DeBoer

“. . . A man who stands on a level with Augustine and Luther in religious insight and intellectual vigor.” —H.A.R. Gibb

“I have to some extent found, and I believe others can find, in the words and example of al-Ghazālī a true iḥyāʾ . . .” —Richard J. McCarthy, S.J.



The Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn is the most valuable and most beautiful of books.
Ibn Khallikān (d. 681/1282)
Any seeker of [felicity of] the hereafter cannot do without the Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al‐dīn
Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (d. 771/1370)
Al-Ghazālī is [like] a deep ocean [of knowledge].
Imām al-Ḥaramayn al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085)
If you wish for effacement [in God], knock upon the door of remembrance (dhikr) as one seeking shelter and in utter need, steadfastly abstain from speech (ṣamt) with both peers and others, and pay heed with every breath to the innermost soul (al-sirr) over the discourse of the lower self.
From the sayings of Abū al-Ḥasan as-Shādhilī (656/1258)