The lives of Muslim mystics and saints have fascinated Westerners and have served as spiritual models for Muslims. In the Islamic history we come across a number of great people worldwide who spent their whole life for Islam. Sheikh Muhi Uddin Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A.) is considered the patron Saint of the Kurds and is held in great veneration by the Muslims of the Indo-Pak sub-continent. He (R.A.) has been famous for centuries as the most popular and revered Saint of Islam. He (R.A.) was born in Naif in the District of Gilan, in Persia in the month of Ramadhan in the year 470 A.H. (1077 CE). He was an Arab by descent, being the tenth descendent of Hasan ibn Ali (R.A.), but belonged to Iran by migration of his ancestors. His father’s name was Hazrat Abu Salih, a God-fearing man and a direct descendant of Hazrat Imam Hasan (R.A.), the eldest son of Hazrat Ali (R.A.), and of Sayyida Fatima (R.A.). His mother was the daughter of a saintly person, Sayyid Abdullah Sawmai who was a direct descendant of Imam Husain (R.A.), the younger son of Hazrat Ali (R.A.) and Sayyida Fatima (R.A.). Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A.) lost his father at an early age. He was brought up and given elementary education by his venerable maternal grandfather and mother. When he was 17 years old he asked his mother if he could travel to Baghdad (Iraq) and seek knowledge there. Baghdad was a very big city. The mother was a good lady. She worshipped Allah day and night. Recitation of the Holy Qur’an was her hobby. She was delighted to hear that her son wished for learning. She thanked Allah that her son had no bad habits. This pious lady had only managed to save forty Ashrafis (Persian coins) but these she gladly gave to her son. She prepared some food for him to eat during his journey and sewed the money into the lining of his coat under the armpit, thus hiding it away. When everything was ready, she said to her son, “I must tell you one thing. Listen to it carefully, remember it always and do it. Whenever you speak, speak only the truth. Remember that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, ‘Truth is Salvation.’ You can save yourself from great worry by telling the truth. Truth will save your life.” In those days there were no motors, buses or trains and the only means of travel was by camel, horse or on foot. It was often very dangerous because travellers were attacked by robbers. So they travelled together in large groups called caravans. Luckily, there was a caravan going to Baghdad (Iraq). The youth went with it. They travelled for some time until one day a band of robbers came down from the hills. The robbers began to steal all they could. One of the robbers took everything from the youth and asked him roughly if he had anything else. The boy calmly answered, “Yes, I have forty Ashrafis.” The robber said, “You must be joking!” The youth replied, “No, I am not.” While the youth was talking, another robber came up to him. He pushed him and said, “What have you got?” The boy replied, “Forty Ashrafis.” This prompt reply made the robber stop and think. Everyone except the boy, who remained completely unmoved, seemed to be lost in amazement or terror-stricken. Indeed he must not be joking. Puzzled, the robber took him to his leader. “What is your name and town?” the leader asked. “My name is Abdul Qadir and I come from Gilan,” the boy said. “And where are you going?” “Baghdad.” “What will you do in Baghdad?” “I am going to be educated.” “Well, well! Have you any money?” “Yes sir, I have forty Ashrafis. Haven’t I already said so?” “Where are they?” enquired the leader. He looked closely at the boy. “Here, under my armpit,” the boy answered as he pointed to the lining in his sleeve. “My mother sewed them inside my coat.” The leader laughed. “You must be very simple. You don’t tell people such things.” “Muslims don’t tell lies,” the youth replied. The leader raised his eyebrows. “The boy is not so simple after all,” he thought. “What great faith in Islam has this young lad! Without it he would not have told the truth. We make our children into clever liars, we tell lies ourselves day and night and destroy Allah’s creatures by making them hide the truth. This life is not worth living. This boy knows more of Allah’s wisdom than I, a grown man.” He bent his head in shame. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He stood up, embraced the youth and asked his forgiveness. Greatly surprised, the youth exclaimed, “Pray to Allah for forgiveness, for he expects His creatures to ask Him alone for His mercy.” There, before him, the leader and his companions repented of all their sins and promised to live the lives of noble people, their first good action being that of returning all the stolen loot to the travellers. In Baghdad, a great centre of Islamic learning in those days, Hazrat became the favourite pupil of ALLAMA ABU ZAKARIYYA TABREZI (R.A.), Principal of the Jamia Nizamiah. He studied there for 8 years and acquired mastery in all branches of learning. Having completed his education, He (R.A.) set out to acquire spiritual training. He spent many years, undergoing the rigours of spiritual life, and passing his time in meditation and search of truth and Allah. He, at last became a disciple of HAZRAT SHEIKH QAZI ABU SAEED MUBARAK. After completing his education of religious sciences as well as the training in mystic disciplines, Abdul Qadir (R.A.) began his career as a teacher in the seminary of his teacher Qadi Abu Sa’eed Makhrami. In his sermons which were delivered in the premises of the same institution, there was soon such a rush of people that extensions had to be carried out in the building of the institution. It appeared as if the whole of Baghdad assembled in his congregations. Sheikh Muwaffaq ud-din ibn Qudamah, author of the al-Mughni, records that he had not seen a man more revered for his piety and religious learning than Abdul Qadir. The king, his chief and ministers attended his sermons along with the rank and file and used to sit in a corner without any fanfare. Scholars and jurists rubbed shoulders with the students. The enthusiastic devotion of the people coming to his lectures can be well imagined by the fact that often as many as 400 inkpots were counted, which were brought in to take down the notes of his sermons. Those who have seen Abdul Qadir have paid a glowing tribute to his moral excellence and large-heartedness, modesty and hospitality, generosity and goodness of his heart. He often left his work to attend to the needs of a child, a destitute or a slave girl. One of his contemporaries who have had the opportunity of enjoying the company of Abdul Qadir say that he had not seen a man more polite, large-hearted and charitable than Sheikh Abdul Qadir (R.A.). Despite his erudition and eminence, he respected his elders, met the youngsters with a good grace, always saluted first, bailed the poor courteously with deference but never stood up to welcome the grandees or nobles, nor did he ever pay a visit to any minister or governor. Abdul Qadir (R.A) took pleasure in feeding the poor and spending freely to meet the needs of the destitute. Ibn al-Najjar reports that Abdul Qadir often used to say: “If I were given treasures of the whole world, I would spend it all on feeding the poor”. He had given instructions to his servants that as many guests as possible should be invited for the dinner. During the dinner he always sat with the poor and lowly, chatted with his students or enquired about the welfare of those who did not happen to be present there. His behaviour was so affectionate that everyone who met him gained the impression that Abdul Qadir (R.A.) had the highest regard for him. He was, in truth, a blessing for the world of Islam for he renovated and revived the true content of the faith and tapped the sources of moral and spiritual strength for a religious renaissance. Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A) had a huge non-Muslim following especially from among Jews and Christians who would passionately attend his discourses and were deeply impacted by his charismatic personality. The reason was that he had adopted an entirely scientific approach in delivering his discourses that appealed to the intelligentsia of other faiths as well. Today’s theologians and religious scholars should read his discourses meticulously and benefit from his mystical enlightenment. Sheikh Amr al-Kaisani reports that there was hardly a sermon delivered by Abdul Qadir (R.A.) after which a number of Jews and Christians did not embrace Islam, marauders and robbers did not repent for their sins and heretics and apostates did not renounce their mistaken beliefs. He used to tell his disciples that if any action transgresses the commandments of God, then it is surely an imposition by the Satan. In such cases one should return to the tenets of the Shariah, inculcate an unflinching faith, and firmly reject the temptations of self-indulgence; for, whatever is not permitted by the Shariah is decidedly misleading. Abdul Qadir himself relates an incident that he once came across. He says : “Once I saw a dazzling light which filled the entire sky. Then a human frame appeared therein and said, ‘O Abdul Qadir, I am Lord, thy God. I have made everything prohibited lawful unto thee.’ I replied, ‘Get away from me, O Devil.’ As soon as I uttered these words, the luster in the sky turned into darkness and the human frame began to fizzle out into smoke. Then I heard someone saying, Abdul Qadir, I had misled seventy mystics with this device, but God saved thee on account of thy knowledge and piety.’ To this I rejoined, ‘No. It was simply a grace of God.’ After Abdul Qadir had related the incident someone asked, ‘How did you know that it was the Satan.’ ‘Since he told me’, replied Abdul Qadir, ‘that he had made the things prohibited lawful for me’.
The love of humanity, in general, and the affection for the Ummah, in particular, was symptomatic of Abdul Qadir sublimated soul and indicative of his close affinity to the successors of the Prophet (S.A.W). He saw the Muslims engaged in internal strife and bloodshed. The ghastliness of these feuds and forays, the cruelty, savagery and treachery of those who engaged in them, and the miseries they inflicted upon their foes for the transitory pleasures of power, position and riches made him extremely sad. Through his sermons, therefore, he endeavoured, with the seriousness of purpose and ardent zeal characteristic of him, to give a call for moral propriety and rectitude of the self: he vividly explained the transitory nature of the world and its fleeting pleasures, the need for coveting the eternal bliss and preparing for the life-to-come, and the importance of evoking faith and correct mental attitude consisting of right conduct in speech, livelihood and ethical behaviour. Abdul Qadir (R.A.) did not preach asceticism nor did he exhort to give up the worldly possessions. What he emphasised upon in his sermons was that these should be made use of by a man to the extent he needs them but he should never allow himself to become a slave of his desires and temptations, nor should he hold the earthly gifts dear to his heart. Explaining the purport of the Tradition which runs: Verily, the world has been created for you, and you have been created for the Hereafter, he says: “Do not try to obtain your share of the worldly gifts in a way that you have to keep standing before it like a beggar. You ought to be like a sovereign who keeps himself seated while the gifts are presented before him. This world acclaims those who stand and wait at the door of God Almighty but it demeans those who wait upon it. Therefore, get your share of the worldly benefits without demeaning yourself or compromising your dignity, and this is what Allah expects of you”. His writings are as effective and remarkable as his books. His ‘Fatuh Al-Ghaib’ (The Revelations of the Unseen), is a remarkable book on Tasawwuf. It was translated by Hazrat Shah Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlvi (R.A.) into Persian and by several scholars into Urdu and English. His other well- known book’Ghuny at – ul-Talibeen ‘ has also been translated into Urdu and English. It is a comprehensive book dealing with the principles of Shariah. His third book’Fath Al- Rabbani’ contains summaries of his lectures and discourses. Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A.) passed a simple, pious and regulated life. He spent his days in preaching the true principles of Islam and the nights in prayer and meditation. His life was a model of simplicity, selflessness and truthfulness. He was kind to the common people and translated into practice the saying of the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him.):”The best person is one who loves and serves mankind most.” The greatest of all divines and mystic saints of Islam breathed his last on the 11th Rabi-us-Thani, 561 A.H., 1166 CE at the age of 91 years. His death cast a gloom over the world of Islam but his life and teachings will ever illuminate the hearts of Muslims and non-Muslims even today when the whole earth seems to be filled with violence, cruelty, oppression and injustice.
(The authors write regularly on “Islamic topics” exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)