Harbinger of The Universal Sufi Concepts: Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (R.A)

The world renowned Sufi saint Sheikh Muhiyuddin Abdul Quadir Jilani is known as Ghaus-e-Azam (the highest in the hierarchy of Saints). The Sufi-oriented Muslims, especially in India and Pakistan, flaunt great veneration and love to him as they believe he had reached the status of Siddiquin (the steadfast affirmers of truth), a great saintly epithet that the holy Quran has ascribed to the most righteous and the most God-favoured believers after the prophets (4:69).ghous-e-azam-53

Sheikh Jilani (r.a) was the founder of the most universally acclaimed Sufi order “Silsila Quadriya. Besides Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia and African, European and western countries, the Qadri Sufi order has deep roots in Indian subcontinent. The Indian devotees of Ghaus-e-Azam hold him in great esteem for his unparalleled spirituality, innate piety, deep humility, in-depth intellectuality and generosity of his high spirit. Scores of Sufi-minded Muslims the world over subscribe to his Tariqah (Sufi order) mainly in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and, of course, India. In his time, people of great positions including rulers and governors of states figured among his disciples venerating him as the pioneer of the noble Islamic mysticism.

Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani’s Sufi Writings and Oral Transmissions

Being a great Sufi saint, Islamic theologian, earnest preacher, Sheikh Abdul Qadir (r.a) was a veteran and well-versed mystical writer. He wrote and spoke quite a lot. Some of his major mystical works that have been serving the humanity as a great source of spiritual inspiration down the ages are:  (1) Sirr al-Asrar (The secret of secrets) (2) Ghunyat al-Talibeen (Wealth for Seekers) (3) Al-Fat’hu Rabbani (The Endowment of Divine Grace) and  Futuh al-Ghayb (Revelations of the Unseen).

Above all, the sheikh was a large-hearted humanitarian and, therefore, he would pray for all human beings irrespective of race, religion, caste or creed. This could be clearly seen in the spiritual discourses he regularly delivered in his Khanqah (Sufi seminary) on Friday mornings, Monday evenings and Sunday mornings. The book entitled “Futuh al Ghaib” (Revelations of the Unseen) is the collection of such 78 fabulous discourses on various topics palatable to the taste of every seeker of the spiritual path. It was compiled by the Shaikh’s son, Seyed Abd al- Razzaq and has been rendered into English by Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad, formerly Imam, The Mosque, London and the associate editor, Islamic Review, London and published by Kitab Bhawan, Darya Ganj, New Delhi.

“Futuh al Ghaib” (Revelations of the Unseen)

A look at some of the discourses in “Futuh al Ghaib” will reassure you that the Sheikh is addressing issues that are as pertinent in this day and age as the day he spoke about them so many years ago. These sermons speak volumes about the spirit of charity and philanthropy the Ghaus-e-Azam (r.a) breathed. The book is counted among the masterpieces of Sufi Islamic literature on account of its fascinating and candid exposition, marvellous flow, captivating contents and touching style that appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Anyone who reads them admits spontaneously that the writer was, indeed, a holy saint who epitomised Mujaddidiyya (revival of faith) and Wilayah (Islamic sainthood).

Sheikh 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. I am sure they would realise that Sufi literature such as this has enriched Islamic theology the most, not only in terms of spirituality and soulfulness but also in rational and intellectual taste. These historical documents of Islamic mysticism have substantiated the fact that Tasawwuf (Sufism) is neither a speculative philosophy nor a dogmatic theology, but an experimental science that has multi-faceted and deep-rooted influences on human life.

“Futuh al Ghaib” primarily contains Nasaih (spiritual sermons) and mawa’iz (discourses) that Sheikh Jilani preached to both Muslims and non-Muslims in the city of Baghdad in Iraq. They were written down by scribes as he delivered them and were compiled and handed down through centuries until it was preserved as a classical document of Islamic mysticism. The most captivating aspect of these discourses is that while reading them you would feel as if they were addressed to you directly.

Sheikh Abd-al-Qadir Jilani (may God be pleased with him) begins his discourses with an exalted, lofty and detailed Durud (invocation of blessings on Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) in which he expresses his deepest love and gratitude for him. He goes on describing the bounties gifted to the beloved Prophet Muhammad, (pbhu) and tells us that he knew God as no one else did, that he praised God as no one else did and that he was inspired by God as no one else was. He also reminds us that the grandeur of the Prophet pbuh has already been reflected in this world and is yet to be manifested in its fullest glory on the Day of Judgment. He recites Durud beginning with the name of God and seeks the wasila (intercession) of the Prophet pbuh. In the same breath, he enumerates the Asma ul-Husna (the Most Beautiful Names of God) and His Sifat (attributes).

As I was turning pages of Futuh al-Ghaib, I stumbled upon a very beautiful and lofty piece of advice that if one adheres to one will give up living in despair and denial of divine bounties. Dwelling on how people encounter events and calamities, Sheikh Jilani explains that there are two kinds of people:

  1. Those who are endowed with good fortune.
  2. Those who are put in test by whatever Almighty God has destined in his favour.

“Both kinds of people should be aware that “Lo! thy Lord is Doer of what He will.” (11:107), and that He changes and transforms, sweetens and embitters, enriches and impoverishes, exalts and abases, honours and humbles, gives life and causes death, brings forward and puts back. Why should either of them be complacent about his good fortune, why would he be deluded by it, and why would he despair of happy relief while in state of affliction?

So be of good cheer!!”

To feel the instant impact of the Sheikh’s discourses that are an extraordinarily blessing to readers of all times and tastes, let us have a glance at some gems of his sayings:

Explaining the meaning of the divine saying “hearts broken for God’s sake” (as reported in a Prophetic tradition), Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani says:

“God has said: “I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.” So God will not be with you until you totally disown your desire and your will. When these are broken, and you contain nothing stable or useful, God will create you afresh and install in you a new power of will for you to exercise. If any element of self creeps into this newly created will, however, the Lord will smash it again. You will always be left broken-hearted, because He will repeat this process until the book of destiny ends with union. This is the meaning of: “I am with those whose hearts are broken for My sake.” When we speak of an element of self creeping in, we mean that you become sure and self-confident in relation to the new will.” (Discourse On PASSING BEYOND CREATION: ANNIHILATION, page 11)

Similarly, in the twentieth discourse, the Sheikh gives a beautiful explanation to the popular saying of the prophet: “Leave anything that makes you doubtful and stick to what arouses no misgivings in you.” He says:

“When a doubtful thing becomes mixed up with a thing of certainty, adopt the course in which there is nothing of any doubt and suspicion and discard what causes any doubt. But when it is the case of a doubtful thing which is not free from hesitation and a consequent disturbance of mind such as is narrated in a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) — “Sin creates disturbance in the heart” — wait in a case like this for the inner command. Then if you are commanded to adopt it, do as you like, but if you are forbidden, then refrain and let the thing be to you as if it had never been and never existed and turn towards the door of God and seek from your Lord your sustenance.”

Shedding light on the common attitude of people when in times of tabulations and trials, the Sheiks elaborates:

“When the servant of God is in the grip of a trial he first tries to escape from it with his own efforts, and when he fails in this, he seeks the help of others from among men such as kings and men of authority, people of the world, men of wealth, and in the case of illness and physical suffering, from physicians and doctors; but, if the escape is not secured by these, he then turns towards his Creator and Lord, the Great and Mighty, and applies to Him with prayer and humility and praise. So long as he finds the resources in his own self he does not turn towards the people and so long as he finds resources in the people he does not turn towards the Creator.” (Discourse On being tried and tested, page: 6)

Dwelling on the evils of the Nafs-e-Ammara (the lower self that incites people to indulge in wrong and vicious acts and thus leading them astray from the path of God), the Sheikh Jilani says:

“Verily there is nothing except God and yourself and you are addressed, and the self (Nafs) of man is opposed to God and inimical to Him and all things are subordinate to God, and the self of man really belongs to God as a creation and as a possession, and the self of man entertains presumptions from whence arise false hopes and passions and sensual pleasures. So ally your “self” with truth by opposing your “self” and become inimical to your “self”. Thus God said to Prophet David (peace be upon him), “0 David, I am your unavoidable resort, so hold firmly to this resort; true servitude consists in your becoming inimical to your own self for My sake.” (Discourse On the self and its states, page: 21)

Some important topics covered in the Sheikh’s discourses are: the nature of this world, Wisal-e-Ilahi (drawing near to God), passing beyond the creation, self and its states, removing the cares of the heart, disclosure and contemplation, fear and hope, trust and its stages, classification of the seeker’s state, pious caution (al-wara), honesty (Sidq) and sincerity (Nisah), dissension, concord and hypocrisy, blessings and trials (cheerful acceptance of misfortune, and being grateful for blessings), inner knowledge (Ma’rifa),  love, the beloved, and what is required in respect of both, death without life and life without death, struggle with the self and description of its nature, gratitude and acknowledgment of shortcomings, seeker and the sought. Thus, the book sheds light on the multi-layered essence of Islamic spirituality (Tasawwuf).

 

Written by Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
grdehlavi@gmail.com

The Revolution of Karbala and its Global Impact

Karbala

The spirit and revolution of Karbala require from us a pure heart, sincere soul and truth-seeking mind to understand its universal message and global impact. If we take a deep insight into this great revolution, we will see it unique and distinct from all historical revolts of the world. Throughout the history, there has never been a leader who predicted about his own death before even setting a foot in the march. But Imam Husain, quite willingly, goes on treading the path to his sacrifice and takes every necessary step towards achieving it. He says addressing to the people at Mecca:

“O people, even if my body be cut into pieces by spears and wolves between Al-Nawawees and Karbala, there is no question of the day, which was already written. Pleasing God is our aim, we the family of the Prophet (pbuh)”.

In a sermon while proceeding towards Karbala, Husain says to his followers:

“O’ people, The Prophet of Islam has said that if a person sees a tyrannical ruler transgressing against Allah and oppressing people, but does nothing by word or action to change the situation, then it will be just for God to place him where he belongs. Do you not see what low level the affairs have come to? Do you not observe that the truth has not been adhered to and falsehood has no limits? And, as for me, I look upon death but as a means of attaining martyrdom. I consider life among transgressors an agony and affliction.”

The assassination of Imam Husain came as a shock and serious setback to the whole Muslim Ummah. The way he was assassinated and the harsh treatment meted out to his noble family evoked rage and disorder among all Muslims who held the Prophet’s family in the highest esteem. As a result, Muslims the world over disassociated themselves with the tyrannical ruler of Yzeed and his Un-Islamic practices and policies. Everyone who loved the Prophet came out to curse upon the murderers of his family. Hence, the revolution of Imam had fulfilled the most urgent and pressing need of the time by unveiling Yazeed’s un-Islamic character to the general public and left no doubt in any Muslim’s heart about the Umayyad’s autocracy and atrocity. Thus, the revolution of Imam uprooted the Un-Islamic political concepts that Ummayyad regime was trying to indoctrinate into Muslim minds.

Today, Imam Husain’s revolution serves as a lively example of how we should combat the evils of autocracy, dictatorship, oppression, terrorism and injustice in their countries. It provides a stimulant to enliven their spirit and create an inner spark to attain peace, freedom, justice and democracy. Husain has been an epitome of tolerance not only for the Muslims but also for every human being with whom injustice is being perpetrated, no matter to which religion he belongs and in which form is the injustice.

Nearly each and every remarkable revolution of the world got inspiration from the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. Although his sacrifice occurred on Karbala some 1400 years ago, it still remains universal symbol of struggle for peace and justice and elimination of violence and terrorism. It also tells us those Muslim terrorists who make false claims of being Mujahidin (fighters in the path of Allah) and commit the barbaric acts of violence calling themselves Muslims, are just terrorists as these acts go completely against the true essence of Imam Hussain’s Jihad.

One of the most inspiring words ever said is that of Imam Husain which he spoke while addressing the enemies in Karbala: “If you do not have religion, at least be a free man in your life of this world,” because a free man can differentiate between the good and evil more easily than a biased one.

Our father of nation, Gandhiji was highly inspired by Imam Husain. He used to say: “I learned from Husain how to achieve victory while being oppressed.”

According to our great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, Husain’s sacrifice indicates spiritual liberation. He writes: “In order to keep alive justice and truth, instead of an army or weapons, success can be achieved by sacrificing lives, exactly what Imam Hussain did. Such an everlasting victory can only be achieved by the one who totally believes and trust in the Almighty God.”

Edward G. Brown, the professor of Arabic and oriental studies at the University of Cambridge, praises Imam Husain in these words:

“… a reminder of the blood-stained field of Kerbela, where the grandson of the Apostle of God fell at length, tortured by thirst and surrounded by the bodies of his murdered kinsmen, has been at anytime since then sufficient to evoke, even in the most lukewarm and heedless, the deepest emotions, the most frantic grief, and an exaltation of spirit before which pain, danger and death shrink to unconsidered trifles.”

[A Literary History of Persia, London, 1919, p. 227]

 

Written By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

Tasawwuf

Definition of Tasawwuf

Tasawwuf-2Shaykh ul Islam Qadhi Zakarya Ansari {929 A.H./1509 C.E.}, said that: “Tasawwuf is the Science through which occurs the purification of the Nafs {Self} together with the development of morality and which also builds the physical being and inner selfwith a view to reaching eternal bliss.” (. Sharh ar Risalah al Qushayriah; p: 7; Mustapha Babi Halabi, Cairo)

Sayyidi Shaykh Ahmad Zarruq declared that: “Tasawwuf is a Science of which the aim is to improve the heart and detach it from earthly desires to such an extent that it channels itself solely towards Allah . Which brings to say that the heart belongs only to Allah .”(Qawaid ut Tasawwuf (Principles of Tasawwuf); Principle no. 13, p: 6)

Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ companions who prayed all night and daylong on a platform next to the Masjid al Nabvi {i.e. Ashab us Suffa}. Reference is also made to the word ‘Safa’ which means ‘Purification’. Whatever be the etymological root, Tasawwuf has won its credentials and its right of existence around the world very long ago. Some criticise Tasawwuf by saying that this terminology did not exist at the dawn of Islam. Yet, several definitions and concepts, like Fiqh, Hadith, Ilm-ut-Tawhid, which did not exist at that particular point of time and were coined in later years. Tasawwuf was infact present at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and was known as ‘Ihsan’.

The Development of Tasawwuf as Knowledge

Some people wrongly believe that Tasawwuf appeared withinIslam under the influence of Greek, Persian or Indian philosophy. This is devoid of any truth and is led by Occidental Philosophers and their followers. And these very persons are those who speak of Islamic Tasawwuf, of Hindu Tasawwuf, of Greek Tasawwuf and of Persian Tasawwuf as if there were different types of Tasawwuf. The truth is that they mix Tasawwuf with metaphysics and mysticism. Tasawwuf originates from the Holy Quran and from the Sunnah {Deeds and Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ} but also comes from the noble behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ Companions {Sahaba}. Tasawwuf is per se free from any influence, be it Persian, Indian, Greek or Chinese… It is a fact that at certain points in the history of Islam, there were attempts to adulterate or tarnish Tasawwuf by improper mystical or metaphysical wordings. But the Sufis never gave in. There is no other Tasawwuf than the one rooted deep in Islam. If Tasawwuf was not a widespread science at the dawn of Islam, it was simply because Muslims were living in an atmosphere of spiritual purity by the side of the Holy Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Their love for the Prophet ﷺ, the purity of their intentions and their keenness to follow him endowed them with levels of spirituality that remain unmatched. They did not need the knowledge of Tasawwuf; Tasawwuf itself emerged from their exemplary behaviour.

Ihsan or Tasawwuf is a basic element of Islam. Iman is the light of Faith. Islam is obedience and adoration. Ihsan is the state of observation and comtemplation. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ thus described Ihsan: “Adore Allah as if you see Him; and if you cannot see Him, be as if He sees you.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab ul Iman, narrated by SayyidunamUmar)

Necessity and Importance of the Tasawwuf:

The laws of Shariah which relate to mankind are two-fold. (i) Some relate to External actions and (ii) Some relate to Internal actions. In other words, some pertain to the body and the others pertain to the heart. Moreover, there are two types of laws attached to the body: (a) the orders to be followed and (b) the interdictions. (a) The orders to be followed include the Salah, Sawm, Zakah and Hajj etc. (b) The interdictions comprises murder, adultery, theft, drunkenness etc.

Similarly, there are orders and interdictions concerning the heart; Orders like Faith in Allah Almighty and his Prophets, the Belief in the existence of Angels, His Books, the Belief in the Day of judgement or Doomsday and also other orders in favour of sincerity, piety, trust in Allah Almighty etc. Similarly, there are interdictions over the heart like polytheism, atheism, pride, ostentation, arrogance, envy, contempt and concupiscence etc.

The Two (2) categories of Shariyah laws are important, but those that govern the heart are much more important than those that govern the body for the body depends upon the state of the heart. That is the reason why the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ attached such a great importance to the kindness of the heart and asked the Sahaba to nourish the virtues of the heart in order to protect themselves from hidden problems.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Beware! There is a piece in your body; if it is good, all your body is good; if it is bad, all your body is bad. Beware: it is your heart”( Sahih Bukhari, Kitab ul Iman & Sahih Muslim, Kitab ul Musaqat, narrated by Sayyiduna Numan bin Bashir)

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:

“: in truth, my Lord forbids from committing bad actions, be they visible or hidden.”

“Avoid visible and hidden depravity.” {Al Anam; 6: 151}

There are several Hadith concerning the prohibition of hidden actions and we shall make reference to only one. The Beloved Rasul Allah ﷺ said: “There are more than 70 levels of Faith {Iman}. The highest is the declaration of Laa Ilaha Illallah and the humblest is the act of removal of what is injurious on the path. Morality is also a level of Iman.”(Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, Kitab ul Iman, narrated by Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah)

Zikr

Zikr is at the very foundation of all Muqamat {Spiritual Stations} in the way to Allah Almighty just as each wall of a building stands on a very foundation. Allah Almighty has created Mankind and Jinn, as mentioned in the Holy Quran, for His worship. Az Zariyat (51: 56)

The word Zikr has been used in the Quran and Hadith for various meanings. Sometimes Zikr means the Holy Quran, as in Al Hijr (15: 9). Moreover, Zikr also means Jummah {Friday} prayer as in Al Juma (62: 9) Zikr also means Tasbih {Subhaan Allah…} Tahlil {Laa ilaaha illallah}, Takbir {Allahu Akbar}, Tamhid {Alhamduilillah} in the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty says:

“When you offer {congregational} prayer Celebrate Allah’s praises standing, sitting down or lying down on your sides.” {An Nisa; 3: 103}

“But keep in remembrance the name of the Lord and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly.” {Al Muzammil; 73: 8}

In The Holy Quran: Allah Almighty says:

“do remember Me, I will remember you….” {Al Baqarah; 2: 152}

The following Two Ayahs from Surah al Ahzab are also of significance.

“O who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah and do this often; And glorify Him morning and evening” {41-42}

TYPES OF ZIKR

It is allowed to read Zikr of Allah Almighty in Solitude or in a Group, in a low voice or loudly, secretly or openly. The Beloved Rasul Allah taught all these types of Zikr. The respected Sufiya generally prefer Zikr to be read loudly.