‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani: On the Path to Allah in a Nutshell
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali opens his biography of the venerable saintly scholar, ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, with this highly profound and glowing tribute: ‘The worldly renuncient (al-zahid), shaykh of the age, exemplar of the knowers [of Allah] (qudwat al-‘arifin), sultan of the shaykhs, master of the people of the path in his time (sayyid ahl al-tariqah fi waqtihi) … possessor of spiritual stations and saintly miracles (sahib al-maqamat wa’l-karamat).’1 Further on, he quotes al-Sam‘ani saying: ‘Imam of the Hanbalis and their shaykh in his age … given to abundant remembrance (dhikr), continuous reflection (fikr) and swiftly brought to tears.’2 Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi’s famous words are also cited: ‘I have not heard about anyone from whom saintly miracles (karamat) are reported more than those related about Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir.’3 In fact, al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam went so far as to say: ‘No karamat from any of the mashayikh have been mass transmitted, save those of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir. His karamat have been related via mass-transmission (tawatur).’4
In the English language, an excellent biography of this exemplary and peerless scholar can be found in Shaykh Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali Nadwi’s hugely inspirational and modern classic, Saviours of Islamic Spirits. A more scholarly or academic account may be found in Hamza Malik’s excellent treatment: The Grey Falcon: The Life and Teachings of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani.
While his biographies make mention of his extraordinary, out of the norms karamat, they also relate accounts of his less obvious karamat. His biographies record how thousands of non-Muslims were inspired to convert to Islam at his hands and through his spiritual discourses; or even just by his presence. And tens of thousands of Muslims repented at his hand, rectified their lives due to being stirred by his exhortations, and committed themselves to a serious path of suluk under his scholarly guidance and spiritual instruction. And this, more than anything else, is perhaps his greatest charismatic miracle; given that the true Sunni, spiritual path holds: a‘zam al-karamah luzum al-istiqamah – ‘The greatest saintly miracle is clinging firmly to uprightness.’ The scholars of his times and later, as well as his biographies, are a testament to the uprightness of the Shaykh’s life and to his reforming the lives of countless others, so that they too took to the path of uprightness and made God their only goal.
Previous exhortations of the Shaykh can also be found on this blog. One of them discusses the true nature of The Soul’s Contentment; another about Turning to God After All Else Has Failed Us; the third about See[k]ing Allah in the Shopping Mall. Below is another visit to his majlis of spiritual exhortations:
In the second discourse of the Futuh al-Ghayb, his ‘Revelations of the Unseen’, the Shaykh, qaddasa’Llahu ruhahu, sums up the path to Allah in a nutshell. He said:
اتَّبِعُوا وَلَا تَبْتَدِعُوا، وَأَطِيعُوا وَلَا تَمْرُقُوا، وَوَحَدُوا وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا، وَنَزِّهُوا الْحَقَّ وَلَا تُتَّهَمُوا، وَصَدَقُوا وَلَا تَشْكُوا، وَاصْبِرُوا وَلَا تُجْزَعُوا، وَاثْبُتُوا وَلَا تَنْفِرُوا، وَاسْأَلُوا وَلَا تُسْأَمُوا، وَانْتَظِرُوا وَتَرَقَّبُوا وَلَا تَيْأَسُوا، وَتَوَاخَوْا وَلَا تَعَادُوا، وَاجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى الطَّاعَةِ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوا، وَتَحَابُّوا وَلَا تَبَاغَضُوا، وَتَطَهَّرُوا عَنْ الذُّنُوبِ وَبِهَا لَا تَدْنَّسُوا وَلَا تَتَلَطَّخُوا،
‘Imitate, do not innovate. Obey, do not renege. Single-out [Allah], do not ascribe a partner [to Him]. Affirm the truth, do not doubt. Be truthful, do not complain. Patiently persevere, do not grow impatient. Stand firm, do not flee. Ask of what you need, never grow weary. Wait and be watchful, don’t despair. Be brothers, not enemies. Unite in obedience, do not divide. Love one another, do not despise one another. Be cleansed of sins, not desecrated or stained by them.
وَبِطَاعَةِ رَبِّكُمْ فَتَزَيَّنُوا، وَعَنْ بَابِ مَوْلَاكُمْ فَلَا تَبْرَحُوا، وَعَنْ الْإِقْبَالِ عَلَيْهِ فَلَا تَتَوَلَّوْا، وَبِالتَّوْبَةِ فَلَا تَسَوَّفُوا، وَعَنْ الِاعْتِذَارِ إِلَى خَالِقِكُمْ فِي آنَاءِ اللَّيْلِ وَأَطْرَافِ النَّهَارِ فَلَا تَمْلُّوا،
‘With obedience to your Lord, adorn yourself. From your Master’s door, walk not away. From His acceptance, turn not away. In repentance, don’t delay. Offering sincere apologies to your Creator night and day, never dismay.
فَلَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ وَتُسْعَدُونَ، وَعَنْ النَّارِ تُبْعَدُونَ، وَفِي الْجَنَّةِ تُحْبِرُونَ، وَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُوصِلُونَ، وَبِالنَّعِيمِ وَافْتِضَاضُ الْأَبْكَارِ فِي دَارِ السَّلَامِ تَشْتَغِلُونَ، وَعَلَى ذَلِكَ تَخْلُدُونَ، وَعَلَى النَّجَائِبِ تَرْكَبُونَ, وَبُحُورِ الْعَيْنِ وَأَنْوَاعِ الطِّيبِ وَصَوْتُ الْقَيَانِ مَعَ ذَلِكَ النَّعِيمِ تُحْبِرُونَ، وَمَعَ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ تَرْفَعُونَ.
‘Perhaps then you will be shown mercy and be gladdened; from the Hellfire be far removed; in Paradise, bask in its delights; to Allah, finally arrive; amidst the paradisiacal joys in the Abode of Peace, be fully immersed; in that blissful state, eternally remain; on the finest steeds, mounted; in wide-eyed maidens, voices of songstresses and other kinds of pleasures, be joyous; and with the prophets, saints, martyrs and the righteous, be raised.’5
1. Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (Riyadh: Maktabah al-‘Ubaykan, 2005), 2:188-89.
2. ibid., 2:190.
3. ibid., 2:192.
4. ibid., 2:192.
5. Futuh al-Ghayb (Cairo: Dar al-Maqtam, 2007), 21-22; the second discourse.