Imam Al Ghazali realized that he had to set out on this journey. So he puts his family in a situation where they were taken care of; he had daughters, his only son died, and his wife was taken care of, and he said he was going on Hajj.
And he set out. He spends ten years of his life, pretty much just traveling in the Muslim world and not telling people who he was, and living in a total state of abasement.
His livelihood was done by copying books out, he used to copy books and sell.
He actually became a janitor at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus!
So Imam Al Gazali used to sweep the mosque and then he was given a room there and he used the room as a Khalwah. But literally nobody knew who he was. They were teaching his books in the mosque!
He came on places where they were teaching his books.
He was once in a Madrasah and one of the teachers was saying: “Well like the great Sheikh Muhammad Al Ghazali said…”, and Imam Al Ghazali said he had to leave because he feared the ‘Ujub (vanity) coming into his heart. He is just really an amazing person. For 10 years, that is what he did!
Actually at one point, there was a group of scholars sitting and a man came up and he asked a question, and Imam Al Ghazali was literally sweeping nearby and he heard this man asked this question and none of the scholars could answer.
So, Imam Al-Ghazali saw this man and he was worried that he wasn’t getting the guidance that he needed, so he went up to the man and he told him:
“You know, the answer to your question is this.”
And the man looked at him and started laughing. He said:
“All those scholars couldn’t answer me, and you think I would believe you. You’re just a janitor!”
And somebody called him over and he said: “What are you going on about?”
He said that: “He said that the answer the question was such and such.”
And all the scholars were amazed at that, and he said he had to leave. He left at that point again because he just didn’t want anybody to know who he was.
And that was his state.